The Top 30 Rock Songs of 2006

Jan 1, 2007

The Bottom Line Head over to iTunes and get out your wallet; this is mosh-inducing madness!

What a year it’s been for the rock world in 2006. Unlike what you may hear on your local radio station, this list below is where the quality of the music comes into play, and diversity is allowed to thrive. If you don’t believe me, there’s helpings of electronic, emo, metal, metalcore, adult alternative and one example of folk all contained in these thirty selections, so let me know if anyone finds them all. Seeing as I spent a long time compiling this, do me a favor and head over to whatever legal or illegal download method you use and check some of these funky pieces out: you might be surprised!

30. Shine On - Jet (Shine On)
Australia’s garage band aren’t getting any more original on their second album, but what they are doing is improving their ballads. “Shine On” speaks bearably through a more universal message than anything they’ve done previously, and is easily the best moment on their disc.

29. Breath - Breaking Benjamin (Phobia)
Coming off a third mediocre album this year, Breaking Benjamin prove their singles are head and shoulders above the rest of their wishy-washy material... and most other rock bands on the radio. What “The Diary of Jane” didn’t have in endearing melody or vocal chops, this thankfully does; working the loud/angsty verse down to soft bridge formula to a double B.

28. Zzyxz Rd. - Stone Sour (Come What(ever) May)
Gawd, Corey Taylor, I didn’t know you had so much as a melodic streak in your body. After rocking derivatively (but admittedly with enjoyable macho) on Stone Sour’s sophomore release, and with Slipknot (without the enjoyable), “Zzyxz Rd.” closes the disc with a completely throwing piano number. ‘Tell me I should stick around for you / Tell me I could have it all / I’m still too tired to care and I gotta go home...’ If it’s nothing truly spectacular, it earns its place here because of the piano: a whole new level of diversity from the man in the mask!

27. Through the Fire & Flames - Dragonforce (Inhuman Rampage)
Normally I wouldn’t recommend power metal on a year-end list for the usual reasons – you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it all, y’know. Dragonforce have, however, proved themselves to be that special exception, by unashamedly taking their ‘art’ to the next accessible level. This very song is seven minutes long, and full of cheesy conventions, including at least a half dozen really fast solos. Now that takes guts.

26. Sweet Sacrifice - Evanescence (The Open Door)
There may only be a couple of muddy chords-blended-with-bass-notes in the whole thing, but “Sweet Sacrifice” warrants a mention here because it’s not afraid to rock out. Wake up to yourself, Amy Lee; concentrate on soaring over aggressive fare like this rather than worrying about your breakups (I know, I know, it’s tough) and dressing like Little Red Riding Hood in the video for “Call Me When You’re Sober.”

25. Rough Landing, Holly - Yellowcard (Lights & Sounds)
Another instance with one really solid single thrown on the back of a hodgepodge album, Yellowcard’s “Rough Landing, Holly” sees them developing their strength for catchy, nifty hooks and not concentrating so hard on trying to sound so frickin’ emotional. Please note: violin player, I blame you for this, although in this track you blend with the screeching guitar incredibly well.

24. The Kill - 30 Seconds to Mars (A Beautiful Lie)
I don’t know if I should direct my anger at “The Kill” itself or the public for grossly misunderstanding 30 Seconds to Mars this year. On the one hand, it isn’t exactly convincing hearing a former actor rasping ‘Come, break me down / Bury me, bury me,’ but Jared Leto can work up a storm. There’s much better cuts from their album, to be sure; but the video to this slowburning hit is one of the coolest to be seen this year, and it’s definitely earnest. Make sure you check out A Beautiful Lie.

23. Redneck - Lamb of God (Sacrament)
Have you ever thought, perhaps, that some musicians are just manufacturing their anger because they think it’s what the public wants to hear? Not Lamb of God. If there’s one metal record above all to recommend in 2006, it’s this one. Preaching a tale of the double standards of record companies, it helps that it also hits like a jackhammer... and never lets up, complimented by frontman Randy Blythe growling in a rage. So what if it sounds like Pantera? ...They were never as direct as this.

22. Hate Me - Blue October (Foiled)
The only act to get two entries on the countdown, Blue October receive the honor with their hit single because they’ve brought something very special to the mainstream radio this year. They were an indie band from Texas, before they unexpectedly blew up on the charts with easily the weirdest entry since The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.” The song isn’t even that catchy, but releasing anything about your mother in a positive light has greater honesty than 98% of today’s dime-a-dozen groups.

21. Belief - John Mayer (Continuum)
The collection of laid-back tunes John Mayer presented to us this year was very pleasant. He doesn’t just work with a guitar anymore, either; “Belief,” a war protest underlined by something that sounds remarkably close to quiet anger, is here because it seems just that much more upfront and less cheery than single “Waiting on the World to Change.”

20. Ass-Shaker - Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (Don’t You Fake It)
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus are nothing if not wildly adrenalized. Their debut is a spin I have a love/hate relationship with, but in this track I like crisp production, particularly on the percussion, I like the harmonies in the hook-heavy chorus (‘Shake it! Break it! Get off your feet!’), and of course I like the energy, and that’s all that needs to be said, as far as anyone else is concerned.

19. Land of Confusion - Disturbed (Ten Thousand Fists)
Yeah, Ten Thousand Fists came out last year, but it took until 2006 for its strongest political statement to get noticed: a revamped cover of an old Genesis pop song called “Land of Confusion.” It’s no longer a fun charade of mainstream hookery suggesting something beneath the surface; the animated video, full of greedy politicians and street rebellion, confirms its a full-on attack, with jumpy power chords all the way. ‘This is the world we live in...’

18. Vicarious - Tool (10,000 Days)
Only Tool know if they wanted to be really fucking difficult on their latest album or if they’re running low on the creative juices. “Vicarious” is the most focused point of the disc, spouting ugly recitals of what you’re likely on the news each night, packed with syrupy progressions in sound, and containing one of the most nihilistic choruses in recent memory (‘I need to watch things die! Vicariously I live while the whole world dies!’) delivered by the mighty Maynard James Keenan. Analysis not required.

17. The Eraser - Thom Yorke (The Eraser)
Maybe this one’s a little out of place. It’s hard to find any one standout point in hindsight within Thom Yorke’s solo effort The Eraser, particularly when you consider a new Radiohead album’s due next year. He pushes his angelic, innocent voice capably on his own, contrasted by the iciness of the electronics behind him; but oboy, Radiohead’s next project better be mighty good after this.

16. Steady As She Goes - The Raconteurs (Broken Boy Soldiers)
It’s yet to be seen whether the Raconteurs will be a purely one-off project or a supergroup that never knows when to quit (much like Audioslave are becoming!). Predictions aside, they’ve got a market as long as they continue to record tracks like “Steady As She Goes.” Impressively mindless and with a chanting march pace, it’s even better than some of The White Stripes’ best work – although that prominent bassline still has some catching up to do to rank alongside “Seven Nation Army.”

15. Moth - Audioslave (Revelations)
Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine probably have more classics combined than you can rattle off the top of your head (“Killing in the Name,” “Rusty Cage,” “The Day I Tried to Live”, etc.), their supergroup were stuck in low gear until “Moth,” the last track on this year’s fairly average Revelations. Driving them into high ground with an explosive riff, it’s got all the power of a “Black Hole Sun,” and it’s one of the best ‘songs with a political metaphor’ of 2006.

14. Sowing Season (Yeah) - Brand New (The Devil & God Are Raging Inside Me)
Though this latest single by Brand New has yet to reach the level or airplay they attained a few years ago with “The Quiet Things That No-One Ever Knows,” it offers good voice to their excellent work of late innovating in the emo genre (The Devil & God... is stunning). Normally I’d be skeptical about including a suicide note in a song, but it’s made to work so well in “Sowing Season,” from the quiet, glum verse that leads it in to the turbulent ‘YEAH!’s of the chorus.

13. Here It Goes Again - OK Go (Oh No)
If only for the internet smash of the year, a video of them carrying out a routine on treadmills in time with the song’s bright texture, OK Go have earnt their place in 2006’s musical moments.

12. The Only Difference Between Martyrdom & Suicide is Press Coverage - Panic! at the Disco (A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out)
I think I’m getting to the stage where I actually believe the masses have some intelligence (actually I take that back, because Nickelback’s album is still selling). Who wants to hear Good Charlotte or Simple Plan trying to mature a sound that wasn’t that ground-breaking in the first place when Panic! at the Disco have the good sense not to take themselves seriously. They even play all their own instruments, so there.

11. Over My Head - The Fray (How to Save A Life)
This joyfully upbeat and listener-friendly pop-rock tune deserves all the success it got: it’s a spin that suits all moods. Seasoned with saccharine piano and Isaac Slade’s laid-back slurring, if inoffensiveness were a crime, the whole bunch of them would be rounded up and locked away. Luckily, it’s not, so we can all enjoy “Over My Head” ten thousand more times. A word to the wise, though... think carefully before buying their album.

10. The Crane Wife, Parts 1, 2 & 3 - The Decemberists (The Crane Wife)
No other group attempted a massive undertaking like this in the year 2006, so stuff it, I’m going to include all three segments of The Decemberists’ “Crane Wife” here. Recounting a Japanese folk tale through breathy swooning and steel-string guitars (now that’s what I call cultural relevance!), the title track runs for ten minutes in unabridged form, and though none of its parts have ever gotten any airplay anywhere, it builds dynamic spectacularly of its own guitar-vocals arrangement, reinforcing that - simpleness. is. effective.

9. As Daylight Dies - Killswitch Engage (As Daylight Dies)
Slickly produced and reliably melodic, Killswitch might now be closer to emocore than metal. However, that’s no reason to think any less of their work, especially the title track off this year’s album: roaring, jagged riffage and powerfully panging singing with a social subtext is the formula made to order for this Boston quartet.

8. Hole in the Earth - The Deftones (Saturday Night Wrist)
Nothing in this world could possibly express how much I love this unbelievably promising tune, or how much I despise the disposable work put out by The Deftones these last few months. The former is undoubtedly one of their strongest singles yet, blessed with a hard-hitting bridge and light chorus, while Chino Moreno’s voice is less and less like an off-key dog and more in his comfortable range. All in all, it’s an excellent radio-rock cut, which is why its a shame he couldn’t keep up the pace for the ultra-repetitive latter, Saturday Night Wrist.

7. Welcome to the Black Parade - My Chemical Romance (The Black Parade)
My Chemical Romance have given that phrase life and almost too much rotation this year. Regardless, “Welcome to the Black Parade” is ‘carrying on’ remarkably well on its own, a five-minute plus power ballad that vents Queen, the Smashing Pumpkins, AFI and Green Day all at the same time. What with its urgent, heart-on-sleeve message, its easily the best pop-punk single of the past 12 months, and the album its extracted from, seeing the band trying radically new things, isn’t half bad, itself.

6. You Make Me Smile - Blue October (Foiled)
It’s so hard to pick out any one song by Blue October for use here, because all of them sound so different to each other... and they all hold up as individuals. For the sake of convenience, let’s nominate the relatively radio-embracing opener “You Make Me Smile.” It’s a smooth, intimate lighter-waver, complete with lead singer Justin Furstenfeld’s Bono-esque fervor.

5. Sleeping Giant - Mastodon (Blood Mountain)
I feel bad for not pledging my undying allegiance to the Mastodon fan club after hearing Blood Mountain, hailed as ‘the metal release of the year,’ because they’re technically without fault. However, their album spends a little too much time showing this off through ungracefully-long tracklengths rather than putting it where it’s needed most: I’m talking about exemplary displays like this. It starts with some bleak acoustic technicalities, and ruthlessly progresses. It’s such a viable gem, capped with Troy Sanders’ fantastical descriptions of god-knows-what, that even those who usually stay far away from metal in any shape or form will find themselves impressed.

4. Anna Molly - Incubus (Light Grenades)
As My Chemical Romance above win the award for a stereotyped band sprouting an arty outgrowth to their sound, Incubus’ first album in three years is the best ex-nu-metal disc to hit stores in a long time. And nothing leads off Light Grenades better than this catchy-to-hell single, which I can’t see myself ever getting tired of: again packed with influences but with enough zip to keep it from sounding like a ham-handed imitation, Brandon Boyd owns the score with his pristine, likable voice.

3. Storm - Theatre of Tragedy (Storm)
Oh, what a year it’s been for female-fronted hard-rock; Theatre of Tragedy come out much better in the wash with their sixth studio album than Evanescence, despite losing their former lead singer. I only uncovered the Norwegians this year, but they’ve already proved to me that they have much of a future in my record player, this being the latest step in their continuing evolution. For the rest of you, “Storm” is a hauntingly beautiful, industrial pop-goth outing that uses a piano much better than Amy Lee. Listen to it now.

2. I’m So Sick - Flyleaf (Flyleaf)
Flyleaf round off the second female-fronted act in the top five; unlike Theatre of Tragedy, however, they’ve actually had a degree of success here. “I’m So Sick” is the number two song of the year not because they’re the new Beatles or because it’s better than some of the more melodic options on Flyleaf’s debut, but because Lacey Mosley really has the voice of a banshee. Never have I heard any frontwoman scream – yes, scream - like she does in the opening moments of “I’m So Sick,” and the sludgy guitar exhaust reinforces her compassion. “I will break / Into your thoughts / With what’s written on my heart / I will BREAK!” Kinda makes you wish she’d do it more.

And now, for the number one rock song of 2K6...

Lips of An Angel, Hinder

Just kidding. A dishonorable mention also goes to every Nickelback song this year for sounding exactly the same as every other one. Go figure.

The real deal...

1. In Regards to Myself - Underoath (Define the Great Line)
Strictly speaking, it’s not the best rock song to come out in 2006, but Underoath have, in a twist of fate, impressed me more than any other band this year, and little more than this very opener. This is the sound of a band refusing to fit into their genre, and expanding their music without dragging the floor (hello, the Mars Volta!) Continuous chaos reigns in the number... which fits the redemption-seeking lyrics; ‘It’s not too late to come clean, get it off your chest... There’s gotta be some stable ground left to walk on... Pull yourself together,’ delivered with fiery coherence by screamer Spencer Chamberlain and grunter –Aaron Gillespie. It writhes its way through several different transitions and a handful of metallic riffs in just over three minutes – don’t forget the crushing percussion! It’s determinedly a difficult tune, and hard to ‘get’ to be sure. But when you get it – hoo boy, it’s rewarding.

Here ends the Top 30 Rock Songs for 2006. Thank you for reading or glancing through, whichever applies. May 2007 be full of happiness for you and loaded with awesome rocking just waiting to be let out!

To quote every radio presenter in the nation; this is Black Star 40, signing out.

An entry into Demon & Drew's Year-End Write-Off - Always fun

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