We’ve seen a lot of released this year from 90’s alternative rock legends that we cover on Alternative Nation, and we also wanted to give younger artists some representation this year, so below Alternative Nation’s top 10 rock songs of 2018. We’re also listing number 1 first so you can see it right away! Joe Hughes wrote the descriptions for numbers 9 and 10.
1. Chris Cornell – “When Bad Does Good”
Chris Cornell posthumously tops this list. “When Bad Does Good” gave me chills when I first heard, the lyrics especially are very sad with Chris now being gone. The song is powerful, and the fact that it was a track that it was a demo he did himself just shows how talented he was. I actually think this song is stronger than a lot of the material on Chris’ last few albums, though Higher Truth had some great songs. There’s an ethereal feel to it that harkens back to his prime work, while also having a maturity to it that fits on based on when it was recorded (2011 or 2012 based on the “By Crooked Steps” lyrics).
2. The Smashing Pumpkins – “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)”
“Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)” is definitely the standout on Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol. 1/LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. It is one of Billy Corgan’s catchiest and strongest singles since Zwan’s Mary Star of the Sea, and possibly his tightest radio song since “Tarantula”. Oceania had some good material, but it was an album lacking a concise pop song like this.
3. Dorothy – “Flawless”
Alternative Nation reporter Lauryn Schaffner definitely played a big role in this song making the list, as she has championed Dorothy since joining the site a couple of years ago. I’ll be honest, I kind of have no patience now for listening to new music after so much shit coming out in this decade, it’s why I let new reporters listen when it comes to giving new things a chance. I actually heard this song though on KLOS (classic rock station, not even modern!) earlier this year and thought it was really good, and when I looked up some of the lyrics I saw it was that Dorothy that Lauryn had written about. “Flawless” has a very organic sound, with a bit of a southern feeling instrumentally, and soaring vocals from Dorothy. The lyrics about insecurity are also very relatable, whether you are a man or woman.
4. Greta Van Fleet – “When The Curtain Falls”
I know Greta Van Fleet have kind of divided rock fans, and especially for the sake of editorial clickbait, they’ve been judged in the media from one extreme or the other: talentless Led Zeppelin ripoff hacks or the saviors of rock and roll. The truth to my ears isn’t quite that simple. They’re definitely a band with talent, I’ve seen them live now at two festivals surrounded by some big names and they’ve been very impressive, blowing away fans.
They clearly lift a lot from Led Zeppelin’s sound and haven’t yet completely formulated their own unique identity (though they have songs on their new album that venture outside of Zep territory), and they have a bigger spotlight on them based on the lack of rock bands who have crossed over to alternative radio in recent years, with more guitar centered rock only getting played on active rock stations. “When The Curtain Falls” rocks live, and Greta Van Fleet are a band that deserve support so they have the chance to grow into the unique band that even their harshest critics should want to see them become.
5. Alice In Chains – “All I Am”
“All I Am” is one of the standouts on Rainier Fog. With the loss of Chris Cornell, the story of the lead character in the song makes it hit close to home. Arrangement wise it sounds different from much of the album, with more of a classic rock feel than the plodding midtempo riffs heard on the last couple Alice In Chains albums.
6. Nine Inch Nails – “S**t Mirror”
Bad Witch can be a challenging listen for uninitiated NIN fans, as Trent Reznor continues to experiment and take risks into his 50’s, but the first track “S**t Mirror” is probably the most immediate song on the album. It sounds like vintage NIN and rocks, and Reznor sings about about how ‘mutation feels so right’ in the new world.
7. Pearl Jam – “Can’t Deny Me”
We definitely haven’t heard enough from Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder in the last 5 years, especially Vedder, who has only put out a few songs including “Out of Sand” for Twin Peaks in 2017. While “Can’t Deny Me” is nowhere near being one of Pearl Jam’s best songs ever, it feels nice to hear the band playing together again, with some crunchy lead riffs by Mike McCready.
8. Live – “Love Lounge”
Live’s original lineup returned with their first release on over a decade this year with the Local 717 EP. Despite the ‘deja vu’ lyric, “Love Lounge” feels fresh, and not like an attempt to recapture past glory like many reunion albums and comeback single. The chorus comes in early at around 37 seconds, it gives the song a sense of urgency that immediately makes it memorable.
9. Space Mafia – “Miss Lady”
Hailing from the Windy City, Space Mafia are a four-piece rock band guaranteed to kick your ass. With a sonic assault that combines sharp guitar work and a thunderous rhythm section. Space Mafia have no shortage of wicked tricks to pull from to create some of the wildest, exciting rock today.
With “Miss Lady”, the vocal melodies overpower you with an instantly addictive feel. Reminiscent of Tiny Music-era Stone Temple Pilots, the vocal work not only stands up to the aforementioned impressive musical stylings, but gives the it a run for it’s money.
if you could only take one thing from “Miss Lady”, it would be the intense immediacy Space Mafia makes look easy. The chaotic section during the guitar solo moves with an insane momentum and excitement that is one part classic 90’s yet so so much what rock music needs as we move onto the next chapter. Space Mafia make a pretty good case to be the leaders of the next rock movement. “Miss Lady” is a solid introduction to the band, but in case you needed that extra little bit of convincing, “Baby Goodbye” will convert you.
10. Guy Freedom English – “Burn”
If you ask me for three adjectives to describe Guy Freedom English’s latest single, “Burn”, I’d probably go with catchy, classy and corrupting. Catchy is the easy one here. Immediately, from that opening guitar riff, you are nodding your head in sync with that bass drum. The vocal melodies in the verse and the big beginning to the chorus vocal line are both equally catchy, addicting and were written with the demand you sing along.
Speaking of the vocals, you can hear a Bon Scott-era AC/DC influence and it’s glorious. It’s over the top in the best way possible and the energy in the vocals matches the fun intensity of the music and together it makes “Burn” really burn.
And lastly corrupting. The reason why “Burn” is corrupting is because this song will possess you. It will find a spot in your head and firmly lodge itself into your brain leaving you no choice but to hum this long after the third time in a row you listened to it initially. And you know what else- grab your air guitars fellas because you will be miming your finest impression of a lead guitarist along with the song’s solo. That one run- you’ll know what I mean as soon as you hear it- wild!
Guy Freedom English is simply a master craftsman of straight forward guitar rock with a garage-band vibe and one hell of a knack for writing crazy, infectious songs. “Burn” has also been entered into the 2018 Independent Music Awards; deservedly so.