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2011's Best Rock Songs

The Top Rock Tracks of 2011


15. Foo Fighters - "These Days"

foo fighters these days
Photo courtesy RCA.
Foo Fighters were the big story in rock music this year, and "These Days" encapsulated their ability to concoct utterly flawless radio-ready rock that was equally melodic and compelling. And, of course, the song's chorus was an absolute monster.

14. Kings of Leon - "Back Down South"

kings of leon back down south
Photo courtesy RCA.
In case you worried that mainstream success would strip away the Southern elements from Kings of Leon's sound, the band swept away those concerns with "Back Down South," a beautiful lap steel-enriched track about the comforts of home. It's gorgeous and melancholy at the same time -- and it's a pity it wasn't a bigger hit than it was.

13. Radiohead - "Lotus Flower"

radiohead lotus flower
Photo courtesy Ticker Tape Ltd.
Radiohead's latest, The King of Limbs, wasn't one of the band's strongest, but this track was a nicely haunting, down-tempo number. Even so, it's probably going to be forever remembered more for its striking/goofy video than anything else.

12. Death Cab for Cutie - "You Are a Tourist"

death cab for cutie you are a tourist
Photo courtesy Atlantic.

On "You Are a Tourist," Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard offers hope to a friend who no longer is happy with his or her life. Backed by a catchy guitar melody, the single off Codes and Keys argues that we can always change our situation, resulting in a song that's both extremely comforting and impressively tuneful.

11. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie"

rain dance maggie red hot chili peppers
Photo courtesy Warner Bros.

At first, this lead single from Red Hot Chili Peppers' latest platter, I'm With You, sounded too much like a lot of their earlier hits. And while there definitely is a familiarity to the cut, the freshness of its melody and rhythm make it fiendishly catchy. For a band whose principal members are nearly 50, they've still got a lot of bounce left in them.

10. Seether - "Tonight"

seether tonight
Photo courtesy Wind-up.

Seether proved on their last record, Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces, that they knew how to write inspiring up-tempo rock tunes. They do it again on Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray, particularly on this track where frontman Shaun Morgan vows to stop complaining "about a beautiful life" and embrace those small moment of happiness.

9. Blink-182 - "Up All Night"

blink 182 up all night
Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images.
On their comeback album Neighborhoods, Blink-182 showed some maturity without abandoning their youthful urgency. This was no better demonstrated than on "Up All Night," where the trio rode a powerful guitar riff to ponder all the anxieties that eat away at grownups like them.

8. Kid Rock - "God Bless Saturday"

kid rock god bless saturday
Photo courtesy Atlantic.

You have to tip your hat to Kid Rock: Yes, he writes shamelessly populist everyman songs on Born Free, but you can't deny that they work extremely well. "God Bless Saturday" is a very simple "weekends rule" single, but its mix of country and rock sticks to your ribs.

7. Cage the Elephant - "Shake Me Down"

cage the elephant shake me down
Photo courtesy Press Here.

A Cage the Elephant song is usually marked by two qualities: a loose garage-rock energy and Matthew Shultz's nasal-whine vocals. Both of those come to the fore in "Shake Me Down," a nicely ramshackle tune about trying to find a better tomorrow when everything around you is terrible.

6. The Black Keys - "Howlin' for You"

black keys howlin for you
Photo courtesy Sacks & Co.

The Black Keys get funky on "Howlin' for You," a sexy, swaggering blues song about one of the oldest lyrical themes in all of music: lust. But frontman Dan Auerbach seems more frustrated than enchanted by his latest crush, who doesn't seem to share his feelings. But while "Howlin' for You" may have been inspired by an unsatisfying romantic attraction, the super-catchy track is pure pleasure for the rest of us.

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