It’s been an interesting year for rock music. Lots of excellent new music in the Indie and Alternative universe, but Active Rock seemed to be taken over by non-melodic screaming music which to me just isn’t music to my ears. So, as you will soon discover, this year’s list definitely leans to the Alternative side.
2014’s Best Rock Songs
It was one of those years where I found an increasing number of pop songs that truly appealed to me. You’ll still find a few harder tracks in here, but to me, the best songs from 2014, were often the ones that found their way onto radio.
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Maybe, I’m getting a little softer in my old age, or perhaps my kids are broadening my horizon a bit, but in any event, these are 25 excellent rock songs, all clearly deserving of the accolades I am about to bestow 🙂
(You can click on the song title to snag the song on iTunes)
25. Dangerous (feat. Joywave) – Big Data – Typically I don’t love electro/ drum machine tracks, but I love, love, love the bass in this song. It’s a space age alt-rocker that also boasts nice vocals, sweet harmonies and some cool sound effects.
24. I Bet My Life – Imagine Dragons – The first post-NightVisions single and a chance for us to see these talented Las Vegas rockers continue to evolve their sound. It’s a well-produced track with a big sound, and another song with great harmonies.
23. Centuries – Fall Out Boy – Pop-rock that sounds great loud, featuring typically excellent vocal prowess from Patrick Stump. The song has catchy hooks and predictably (and deservedly) has already become a staple on sports broadcasts and games everywhere.
22. Parachute – James Durbin – The American Idol star returned to the scene with his first album of self-penned songs. This track still features his fantastic voice, catchy guitar riffs, and if anything, more of a pop rock feel than we had heard previously.
21. Fever – The Black Keys – This song is just catchy as hell as we hear The Black Keys throw in an extra serving of keyboards to this previous uber-successful recipe. Do you think Alt-Rock radio played this one enough in 2014? Still, a song worthy of another listen or twelve.
20. Got to My Head – Waters – Addictive gang vocals, and dreamy hooks, this is what Grouplove should still sound like. Fortunately, Waters worked with Ryan Rabin to deliver one of the years catchiest, foot-tapping rockers.
19. This Is the Time (Ballast) – Nothing More – Great, hard rocker with a fresh sound from one of this year’s breakout metal acts. As much as I like this song, it doesn’t do justice to their fantastic live performances.
18. Black River – Wolf Gang – This release was a long-time coming, but worth the wait. As always, Max McElligott’s vocals are compelling, but on this track, we really hear the full five-piece band shine. A sweeping, vibrant rocker.
17. Freak Machine – Fit for Rivals – Our first of two “freak” songs. this is a local band destined for big things. Renee Phoenix’s vocals are gritty and urgent, and the song is a hard-driving introspective blast.
16. Freaks – The Hawk InParis – I just love this cool, slinky, Twin Peaks-esque rocker and its hip vibe. Dan Haseltine’s (Jars Of Clay) vocals and lyrics are compelling but the unique, diverse music is just oh so cool.
15. Everywhere I Go (Kings and Queens) – New Politics – Another band that’s even better live, but this Danish trio has mastered the upbeat, aggressive Alt-Rock niche. It’s raucous surf/hip-hop/dance/hard rock, and just a damn good party to listen to.
14. I Am Machine – Three Days Grace – When Adam Gontier split after 20 years, the future looked shaky for these Canadian vets, but Matt Walst has stepped in nicely, and his vocals dominate this hard-driving track, which shows a rejuvenated band moving forward with powerful rock.
13. My Sweet Summer – Dirty Heads – This Huntington Beach group evolves constantly, and every incarnation sounds just a bit better than the last. This one is probably their most mainstream offering, but they still retain their cool indie California ska vibe.
12. Cecilia and the Satellite – Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness – Mcmahon is a creative guy, and this wonderfully produced track shows how far his career has progressed. It’s a fantastic ode to his newborn daughter, in a song punctuated by great piano and beautiful vocals.
11. Beware the Dog – The Griswolds – Pure addiction, featuring tribal beats and cool guitar riffs, this debut from these high energy Aussie’s is an absolute blast to listen to. It’s a fun rocker that is guaranteed to get you moving, and just the tip of the iceberg from their Be Impressive album.
10. Deadbolt – Skaters – A talented NYC-based trio who remind me of the best parts of the eighties: The Clash, Jesus Mary Chain, etc…, but with a sound all of their own. This fast-paced rocker features clever guitar riffs, freight train drums and great vocals.
9. Cut To the Chase – Fort Lean – Chances are you haven’t heard this one yet. Do it soon, you’ll be glad you did. It’s more mellow than the typical Cretin favorite, but it’s a tremendously well-arranged song. Keyboard driven, but plenty of slinky guitar, and fantastic vocals, and a chorus that is catchy as hell.
8. High – Young Rising Sons – OK, this one is a bit of a guilty pleasure. A foot tapping, head nodding with wonderful vocals. It’s an optimistic rocker that is guaranteed to bounce around your brain for hours.
7. I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore – Rise Against – I actually heard one of my peers call this the band’s worst song ever. That’s asinine. The socially conscious punk rockers are growing, and this is a perfect example. Still a hearty dose of angry punk, combined with soaring guitar rock, and it works damn well.
6. Gotta Get Away – The Black Keys – If nothing else, this finally gave Alt-Rock radio a chance to take “Fever” out of their uber-tight rotation. But the song is special for so many other reasons, and they become abundantly clear within 15 seconds, a great guitar hook, clever keyboards from Danger Mouse, topped with the drums and vocals that make Auerbach and Kearney so special. This one is a breakneck rocker that’s a blast to listen to.
5. I Wanna Get Better – Bleachers – Jack Antonoff is an ingenious music talent and proves in this song that Fun. was a lot more than a Nate Reuss project. This one is an optimistic declaration from an introspective guy, wrapped in a delicious, lush keyboard-driven rocker that will bring back pleasant big-eighties memories.
4. Same Damn Life – Seether – It’s a more melodic Seether, and that’s just fine with me. Shaun Morgan’s lyrics are deeply personal, and his vocals better than ever. Their guitars are more clean than previous efforts, but it works wonderfully. I think it’s the band’s best track ever, and that’s saying quite a lot.
3. Geronimo – Sheppard – My favorite new artist of 2014, and this track epitomizes why. Excellent boy/girl vocals and elegant harmonies, perched atop a diverse creative musical backdrop. Listen to this one on headphones, and it gets better with every listen. The music is flawless and absolutely addictive.
2. Noises – Mike Mains & The Branches – My favorite punk rock track of the year, and it’s from a band that is clearly not punk rock. Mains and his crew are fantastically talented, and boast a diverse sampling of music on their excellent Calm Down Everything Is Fine release. This one finds the band pushing their limits and it’s a lightning-paced rocker that’s a fitting showcase for Mains’ vocal prowess. If this stuff is the future of rock ‘n roll, everything is fine.
1. Figure It Out – Royal Blood – Two guys! Drums and a bass – that’s it, and the song delivers an amazingly complete and powerful musical experience. These guys have been together exactly one year, and they’ve provided a much needed jolt of optimism to rock fans worldwide. This track features two musicians already considered near the top of their craft. Drummer Ben Thatcher, is technically polished, adeptly switching from freight train drums to more tender interludes, and the things that Mike Kerr does with his bass are impossible. Oh, and the vocals, they don’t suck either. It’s just a great song, and a perfect choice for song of the year.
Thanks for checking out the list, and if you have a few extra minutes take a quick peek at our Top 25 Rock albums of the year – you’ll see a lot of familiar artists over there, too.
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