Best Rock Songs of 2017 (So Far)
2017 is turning out to be quite a year for rock and we’re just getting started. The year has seen some long awaited returns, a number of supergroup-type projects and the emergence of some new forces on the scene with songs you’ve just got to hear.
In addition, we have some of the driving forces of today’s rock scene who continue to add to their impressive resumes with new songs to stand alongside their stellar catalogs. It’s a veritable cornucopia of great rock songs, some which have dominated radio and others that are deserving of more attention.
So join us as we showcase some of the best rock that 2017 has to offer and check back throughout the year as we’ll continue to add to this list as great music passes through our ear canals.
AFI‘s self-titled disc was subtitled The Blood Album, but the band also poured some sweat and tears into one of the disc’s many standout tracks, “White Offerings.” A welcome addition to the band’s catalog, it accentuates the immediacy of Davey Havok‘s voice against a driving backdrop. Jade Puget helps build the suspense on guitar, plucking away just ahead of the aggressive chorus. And lyrically, it’s as emotionally heavy as the music that matches it.
Welcome back, At the Drive In. We had some pretty solid options to choose from here, but “Hostage Stamps” feels indicative of the frenetic energy that made us first fall for the band around the turn of the millennium. It’s an aggressive gut punch right out of the gate with crashing guitarist and a forceful beat that eventually give way to Cedric Bixler-Zavala‘s passionate vocal. The singer says that “Hostage Stamps” is “like walking through the hallway in some war-torn ghetto and reading the writing on the wall.” If that writing indicates a victory, then we’re all on board with that assessment.
After making a name for himself in Gallows, Frank Carter has resurfaced with Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, seemingly winning over crowds on a nightly basis. Not only do they have the live chops, but Modern Ruin is a solid album led by the driving rocker “Vampires.” Simply put, this one’s going to get stuck in your head and if you’re not foot-tapping or head-nodding along with the beat at some point during the song, we’d be surprised. Remember the name, because it’s looking like a breakout year for Carter and his crew.
Foo Fighters surprised us all at the beginning of June with “Run,” the lead single from their Concrete and Gold album. Starting off with a hypnotic, melodic guitar part, the song kind of sneaks up on you as it builds toward a full-on rocker. Though never fully losing its melody, by the end you’ve got a fury and rebellious spirit reminiscent of the punk roots that launched Dave Grohl‘s career. It’s time to “wake up.” Foo Fighters still have some rock left to give.
“I’m Shelving Stacks (As I’m Stacking Shelves)”
Australian punks Frenzal Rhomb just keep getting better at writing addictive cuts. The entirety of Hi-Vis High Tea begs to be replayed over and over, but “I’m Shelving Stacks (As I’m Stacking Shelves)” is Frenzal at their very best. The double entendre is strong in this one, telling the story of a grocery store clerk who makes it through shifts by piling ecstasy into his bum, but you can’t help but connect with the young man in his plight to make it through the work day.
What do you get when mix Mastodon‘s Troy Sanders, Queens of the Stone Age‘s Troy Van Leeuwen, At the Drive In‘s Tony Hajjar and multi-instrumentalist Mike Zarin? You get Gone Is Gone, one of the more intriguing supergroups of recent years. Their Echolocation album is chock-full of crushing, atmospheric tracks but it’s the slow burn awesomeness of “Slow Awakening” that struck a chord with us. The plucky, guitar open gives way to tribal stomp beats and increasing intensity as it chugs along, pushing forward toward an ominous ending. “Last thing I say to you don’t turn around / You’ve got the world to lose” is a warning you don’t soon forget.
That voice, those licks! No, you’re not seeing the return of Led Zeppelin, but the young Kiszka brothers and their friend from school have garnered plenty of Led Zep comparisons and generated a whole lot of buzz for their band Greta Van Fleet. These upstarts deliver one of the year’s most infinitely catchy tracks in “Highway Tune,” a song that feels like it could have just as easily existed in 1971 as it does today. The sibling rockers were highly influenced by the British Invasion’s appropriation of the blues and “Highway Tune” offers a stellar start to what looks like a promising career.
After releasing the late 2016 hit “My Name Is Human,” Highly Suspect continued to generate solid selections from The Boy Who Died Wolf album. Our pick here is “Little One,” a reflective “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” lament about a past relationship. The initially sparse backing allows for the emotion of Johnny Stevens’ raw wound vocal to connect, setting the stage for the story to unfold once the instrumentation picks up. The slow build accentuates Stevens’ growing tumult over his loss, until, like the open, it’s all stripped back to reveal the shell of what’s left in the aftermath.
After churning out mid-tempo melodic fare in recent years, Incubus recapture a bit of their heavier roots with “Nimble Bastard.” The song pushes the pace while offering a showcase for the power of Brandon Boyd‘s voice. Jose Pasillas gets more of a workout on this track, with the drums really keeping things moving forward. The energetic song was penned about someone who overcomes the harshest of circumstances and ends up landing on their feet. We’re just glad to see Incubus’ feet back in more upbeat territory.
“Black Is the Soul”
Though Korn were generous with new music teasing last fall’s The Serenity of Suffering album, they did save a true gem for a 2017 single. “Black Is the Soul” starts off chugging along on a dark and tortured vibe. Jonathan Davis pointed out that the track is about “being pulled away from the right path” and the emotions that come with it and he is at his most vulnerable during a highly percussive mid-song breakdown reminiscent of some of their earlier works in which he bellows, “Just give me back my life!” Kudos to Korn for this one!
You better grab hold of something! The trio of dUg Pinnick, George Lynch and Ray Luzier, better known as KXM, are ready to take you on a frenetic ride with the title track from their “Scatterbrain” album. The sludgy start-stop dynamic grabs your attention, but once Lynch starts his guitar gymnastics along the fretboard, this is one of the more chaotic, pulse-pushing songs you’ll hear this year. Pinnick manages to leave an at-times dreamy, other times forceful vocal over all the frenetic energy, but by the time the song concludes you feel as if all involved — the players and the listeners — have been spent.
“Go to War”
Nothing More have mastered the quiet-loud dynamics to a “t” on “Go to War,” their first musical statement from the band’s The Stories We Tell Ourselves album. Listeners get to hear Jonny Hawkins’ dynamic range on the track, while the drums give the song a powerful swing reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.” Where Highly Suspect’s “Little One” digs into the reflection of a relationship gone wrong, “Go to War” is a relationship song still in the raw wound stage from the point of view of someone struggling to come to terms with the behaviors of both parties in a seemingly inevitable split. It’s a raw, almost tribal vibe emanating from Nothing More and a certain 2017 standout.
What would Of Mice & Men sound like without their longtime vocal leader, Austin Carlile? The guys made sure we didn’t have to wait long to find out, with Aaron Pauley assuming lead vocals on the triumphant new track “Unbreakable.” Pauley, who had often provided the clean vocal counterpart to Carlile’s screaming in recent years, showed himself capable of handling the heavier moments. Meanwhile, the band delivered a heavy-hitting rocker about having the spirit to continue in the face of adversity. It was a solid first step in the next stage of the band’s career.
Papa Roach are keeping things fresh with their latest album Crooked Teeth, and that includes taking more of a world view in their lyrical content. The group isn’t what you would typically consider a political band, but “American Dreams” does take on a more serious tone while analyzing the concept of the “American dream” in today’s world. It’s all set to music, with Jacoby Shaddix rapping through the verses before accentuating the message in a catchy sung chorus. While the album could go deep with singles, this one has the power to stick with you long after the radio airplay has died down.
“Unf–k the World”
While Papa Roach may not be a political band, Prophets of Rage certainly are one, and the first musical statement from their self-titled full-length debut certainly hits its mark. The song is titled “Unf–k the World,” opening with a danger siren and thumping away with drums, bass and guitar. A steady opening build leads to the unleashing of fury on a number of societal ills. Chuck D. and B-Real trade off vocals, urging a societal revolution against hatred, racism and war while holding our politicians accountable. The song and video point out more ills than you can count, but the revolution has got to start somewhere and this song is definitely a rally cry moving people to action.
“The Way You Used to Do”
“Dancy” is not a term often used to describe Queens of the Stone Age, but the fuzzed out, incredibly infectious feel of “The Way You Used to Do” should get even the most hardened listener moving. However, the catchy music rolls over somewhat darker lyrical approach as Josh Homme reflects on a love that has evolved over time with pressures from the outside world and the family life with “monsters who terrorize normalcy.” While things are destined to change, he begs of his mate to get back to that place where she loved him “the way you used to do.” With a beat this catchy, it wouldn’t be hard to get your groove back.
“Ghost of a Chance”
Rancid’s hot streak of never-compromised punk rock remains strong in 2017. The Bay Area legends introduced fans to their ninth album with “Ghost of a Chance,” an infectious skanker clocking in at just over 90 seconds. Tim Armstrong’s cement throat still does the job with the singing of his more melodic bandmates while Lars Frederiksen’s guitar work keeps the track moving with no dull spots to be found.
Rise Against are back with a new album in 2017, and “The Violence” feels just like a song that’s been part of the band’s catalog for years even though it’s a new track. Tim McIlrath‘s distinctive vocal style plays over buzzing guitars and marching drum beats. Lyrically, the band raises questions about our natural inclinations, wondering if we are predestined for a violent nature or can wake up from a dream. Self-awareness is the first step, so rock along and perhaps the message sinks in.
Royal Blood love their fuzzed out guitars! And it works for them once again here, building toward a blast of a chorus in the new song “Lights Out.” Singer/bass guitarist Mike Kerr lays down a somewhat repetitive lick against Ben Thatcher’s steady drum beat, setting up the listener for a more muscular chorus with sharper licks and attention grabbing bang-crash beats. Sophomore slump? Not when you’ve got a track this hot introducing your new album.
“The Sinking Chair”
Psych / folk rockers Royal Thunder have delivered one of the most emotionally pained records of the year in WICK. While most of the songs wade in hazy atmospheres, drowned in the agony of Mlny Parsonz‘ impassioned voice, “The Sinking Chair” reverses the central notions of the album as an uptempo, door-smashing breakaway jam. By far the speediest track on the album, the sense of urgency is a welcome relief in the pacing of the album.
“Let You Down”
Seether have been quite adept at turning out radio-ready rock with hooks the reel you in, and the chart-topper “Let You Down” continues in that vein. The slow-chugging open portends a darker vibe, one that permeates the opening verse as singer Shaun Morgan belts about his powerless feeling wanting to share with others, but feeling numb to do so unless moved and urging the listener to do say something that will break the cycle. The chorus goes more melodic, but remains on point. It’s a darker, more sinister vibe for the band, but one that suits them well.
What remains after a relationship turns sour and is there anything left to save? In Starset‘s major hit “Monster,” that question is at the center of the equation. Sings Dustin Bates sings of the hurt inflicted and the feeling imprinted, begging, “You’re the pulse in my veins / You’re the war that I rage / Can you change me? / Can you change me? / From the Monster you made me? / The Monster you made me?” The melodic lament plays out over a steady beat and muscular synths, expressing the regret over the current state but the hope that there is something to be salvaged.
Strap in! Stone Sour have come to rock, and rocked you get with the band’s single “Fabuless.” A muscular guitar lick and forceful Roy Mayorga drums lead into Corey Taylor‘s verbal assault on the social media celebrities who, as Taylor told us, are “about as heavy as Tupperwear.” There’s an ebbing energy to “Fabuless,” delving into tension-building, quieter moments, exploding with rage and washing it away with a soaring refrain. There’s plenty of aggression funneling through the chorus, with Taylor lifting rock adages from Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones before issuing a stern warning.
Thrice have entered the eye of the storm and found something beautiful with their song “Hurricane.” The song portends an upcoming conflict between lovers as they attempt to navigate their way through the forthcoming storm. Meanwhile, the music soundtracks the discussion, ebbing and flowing the journey with buzzing guitars and crashing drums before ultimately the storm passes. It’s just one of many standout cuts on Thrice’s To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere album.