Best of 2013 (Part 1): Top 15 Rock Singles

I understand that this blog has been inactive for some time now.  Between various life events, finals, and a crashing hard drive, remaining consistent to my writing has been next to impossible, until now.  Unfortunately, a lot of great material from noteworthy artists has come out (and ultimately gone unrecognized by the blog) since my last post.

In an attempt to compensate for this matter, I have decided to bring the blog back into action with a three-part retrospective on 2013.  This year was a really good one where rock music was concerned, and it’s important that we look back on the songs, albums, and artists that helped define it.

Expect parts 2 and 3 between now and New Year’s Day.  As always, I greatly appreciate your interest and feedback.

Now then, let’s kick things off with my top 15 rock singles of the year:

1. Alice in Chains- “Stone”          

Alice in Chains’ “Stone” is one of those rock songs that makes you remember where you were when you first heard it.  This is mainly a result of its bellowing, ferocious guitar riff- one of the best Jerry Cantrell has ever penned.  The song exemplifies AiC’s talent for innovating their sound, all while keeping in contact with the kinds of evocative blunt force that has kept their work so powerful to this day.

2. Black Sabbath- “God is Dead?”        

The first indicator that Black Sabbath was BACK, “God is Dead” quickly exceeded any expectations fans had about the band’s comeback effort, “13.” The song dances over a haunting guitar arpeggio, periodically exploding into madness before finally climaxing with a classic Toni Iommi guitar solo.

3. Pearl Jam- “Sirens”      

If “Mind Your Manners” was a reminder of Pearl Jam’s angst and aggression, then “Sirens” was a testament to their mastery of sensitive emotion.  “Sirens,” a ballad of uncertainty and loyalty, is a moving accomplishment that could only be topped off by the wavering, cathartic voice of Eddie Vedder.

4. Volbeat- “Lola Montez”      

“Lola Montez” stands as a defining moment on Volbeat’s “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies, drawing strength from a catchy chorus and a collection of upbeat lead runs from new member, Rob Caggiano.  The song boasts a made-for-radio sound that juxtaposes its clear sense of creative pride.

5. Paul McCartney/Dave Grohl- “Cut me Some Slack”      

First debuted during last year’s iconic “12/12/12” benefit concert, “Cut me Some Slack” finds Paul McCartney teaming up with the remaining members of Nirvana to deliver a jam reminiscent of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”  Collaborations don’t get much better than this.

6. Queens of the Stone Age- “If I Had a Tail”

It’s hard to pick one track to represent Queens of the Stone Age’s splendid “…Like Clockwork,” one of the year’s standout rock albums.  However, “If I Had a Tail” is simply too infectious to deny.  The song grooves along at a steady pace and benefits from a strong, moody vocal performance from Josh Homme.

7. Nine Inch Nails- “Came Back Haunted”      

Where good Nine Inch Nails songs are concerned, “Came Back Haunted” does it all:  swirling layers of chirping synthesizers and crunching guitars, battered, anxiety-tinted vocals, and a collection of dark themes.  The song draws from a lot of NIN’s notable past works.

8. Korn- “Love and Meth”      

After Korn re-united with former guitarist, Brian “Head” Welch, fans were initially put off by “Never, Never,” a song that favored electronic mixing over guitar work.  “Love and Meth,” the band’s follow-up single, quickly eased these anxieties.  The song features the kind of groaning, pulsating riffs and breakdowns that helped define the popularity of Korn’s late 90’s releases.

9. Ghost- “Secular Haze”      

Ghost are a band based heavily on spectacle, and this spectacle is what fuels “Secular Haze,” one of 2013’s most mesmerizing rock songs.  The track is a slow-paced death waltz centered on a haunting blend of organs, guitars, and the band’s signature tongue-in-cheek satanic imagery.

10. A Perfect Circle- “By and Down”      

They finally did it:  A Perfect Circle unveiled new material in 2013, much to the joy of the band’s eager fanbase (who had been waiting since the release of 2004’s “Passive”).  “By and Down,” an eerie trip through the darkest confines of Maynard James Keenan’s brain, is not a new song per say; it had been performed live for years prior to its studio release in October.  Still, APC’s presence on the charts was refreshing, and continued to fuel hope for a new album.

11. Avenged Sevenfold- “Hail to the King”      

Avenged Sevenfold’s “Hail to the King” takes a modern approach to classic Maiden-style metal and sprinkles it over top themes of medieval war.  Many viewed the song as an acquired taste, but its fresh, catchy impact on 2013’s rock charts proved to be more than evident over time.

12. Arctic Monkeys- “Do I Wanna Know”      

The Arctic Monkeys are a band that deserves more recognition.  “Do I Wanna Know,” may be the major segue track they have been looking for; Alex Turner plays off the song’s defining dirty, bluesy riff with a series of smooth alliterations that are comfortable on the ears and rough on the soul.

13. Rob Zombie- “We’re an American Band”      

When you take the mind of a brilliant modern metal act and apply it to a vintage rock favorite, great things are bound to happen.  Rob Zombie achieved success in putting a fun, gritty twist on a Grand Funk Railroad classic.

14. Filter- “What Do You Say”      

Filter made an unexpected comeback in 2013, blazing a trail for themselves with “What Do You Say.” The hard-hitting track that could easily be viewed as a sequel to the band’s mid-90s classic, “Hey Man, Nice Shot.”

15. Deftones- “Swerve City”      

On “Swerve City,” Deftones stay true to their method of layering entrancing vocals atop a brutally heavy guitar section.  The song is a great cut from “Koi No Yokan”- which received high amounts of praise upon its release in 2012.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Chi Cheng, Lou Reed, Jeff Hanneman, and all the other wonderful and irreplaceable rock musicians we lost during 2013.

10 Rock Artists Who Could Potentially Play a Superbowl Halftime Show

A major part of every Superbowl is its corresponding halftime performance;  it is during this time that millions of viewers are kept entertained by a high-profile musical artist.  Over the years, fans have been treated to a multitude of impressive performances ranging from The Who to ‘N Sync.

Specifically, the rock genre has been well-represented during recent Superbowls.  Generally, the NFL’s selections have been very good, but here are ten more rock acts that should at least be considered for a future halftime slot:

Foo Fighters– The Foos are clearly an ideal choice for any live performance, let alone the Superbowl.  Picture Dave Grohl and the boys belting out “My Hero” and “The Pretender” to legions of raving football fans; the image seems too perfect.

Van Halen– Despite their inevitable aging, Van Halen could still bring a lot of energy to the Superbowl with their library of timeless, hard-rocking hits.  Rumors of a Van Halen halftime show have been rising and falling for several years, and it’s easy to see why.

Red Hot Chili Peppers– The Chili Peppers have been at it for several decades now, but their live performances have only gotten better.  With a versatile catalog of hits, iconic stage presence, and a very large fan-base, the band would be a great fit for a major event like the Superbowl.

UPDATE: The Red Hot Chili Peppers are set to join Bruno Mars during the Superbowl XLVIII Halftime Show on February 2, 2014.

Eric Clapton– The legendary “slowhand” rocker may not be the most eccentric live performer, but he would bring a good show to the Superbowl in the same vein as Tom Petty or Paul McCartney.  Viewers could cool-down from the game’s first quarter action by observing a master craftsman at work on the fret board.

Elton John– Considering the classic rock trend of recent Superbowl halftime shows, it’s not unlikely that Elton John may eventually be considered to follow suit.  John could handpick just about any of his singles and still be guaranteed to have the entire stadium singing along.

Bon Jovi– Bon Jovi are one of those rare bands that appeal to a large mix of classic rock and modern rock fans.  In addition, next year’s superbowl is, in fact, set to be played at the New Meadowlands.   This almost seems unavoidable.

Pearl Jam– Pearl Jam would provide one of the, for lack of a better adjective, coolest halftime performances of all time.  “Alive,” “Even Flow” and “Life Wasted” would rock a football stadium to its feet, all while remaining accessible and bearable for a family audience.

Coldplay– Yes, the initial thought is sleep-inducing, but it would be ridiculous to not consider Coldplay in the running for an eventual halftime slot.  The British quartet are one of the most popular modern rock bands of the past decade and typically play high-profile television events anyway.

UPDATE: Coldplay served as the headlining act for the Superbowl 50 halftime show – performing alongside Beyonce and Bruno Mars.

Green Day– Whether you like or hate them, Green Day have developed themselves into an arena rock band with an impressive live show.  Up-tempo songs like “Basketcase” and “Know Your Enemy” would make a Green Day halftime show a lot of fun (assuming Billie Joe Armstrong would be able to handle the strict time constraints on the set).

Led Zeppelin– Okay, I decided to include a fantastical scenario.  Odds are, Zeppelin will never play the Superbowl, but nothing is impossible.  The band’s surviving members have reunited several times, even as recently as 2007.  Eventually, it will happen again.  As for the Superbowl, again, nothing is impossible.  One thing is for sure:  Roger Goodell would be paying a lot of money in exchange for what would most likely be the greatest music-related televised moment of the year.