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2012's Best Rock Songs

Celebrating the Top Rock Tracks of 2012

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We've come to the end of another great rock 'n' roll year, so it's time to look back at the songs that made 2012 so memorable. Both cutting-edge and old-school sounds made the cut. Let's dive in...

20. Nickelback - "Lullaby"

nickelback lullaby
Photo courtesy Roadrunner.
Dismiss Nickelback as cheesy and overblown all you like -- and heaven knows their latest album, Here and Now, isn't very good -- but the undeniable truth is that Chad Kroeger and his crew have a way with a power ballad, milking it for its maximum emotional wallop. Such is the case with "Lullaby," which really ought to come with a complementary lighter and 15,000 fans to sway alongside you.

19. Slash - "Standing in the Sun"

slash standing in the sun
Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.
While Axl Rose held on to the Guns N' Roses band name, Slash has been the guy to really keep alive the group's '80s spirit. "Standing in the Sun," which features Myles Kennedy on vocals, has plenty of Sunset Strip swagger and air-guitar heroics.

18. The Offspring - "Days Go By"

offspring days go by
Photo courtesy Columbia Records.
Days Go By, the latest from the Offspring, works best when it's trying to channel the alt-rock exuberance of the 1990s, and that's perfectly encapsulated in the title track. "Days Go By" mixes wistfulness, soaring melodies and some tasty guitar riffs for pure summer bliss.

17. How to Destroy Angels - "Ice Age"

how to destroy angels ice age
Photo courtesy Columbia Records.
Trent Reznor warned fans that How to Destroy Angels wouldn't necessarily sound the same as Nine Inch Nails. Their song "Ice Age" proves he wasn't bluffing. A hypnotic, low-key seven minutes, the track glides along on Mariqueen Maandig's sultry, despairing vocals. This isn't a head-crusher like "March of the Pigs" or a slinky, sexy number like "Closer." But, all the same, it's incredibly unnerving and beautiful.

16. The Black Keys - "Little Black Submarines"

black keys little black submarines
Photo courtesy Nonesuch.
The first two singles off El Camino were barnstorming rockers. But "Little Black Submarines" is the curve ball: a stripped-down ballad that only later turns into a furious guitar shredder. By varying their approach, the Black Keys tear the walls down in new, invigorating ways.

15. Seether - "No Resolution"

seether no resolution
Photo courtesy Wind-up.
Post-grunge is not a very beloved genre, but Seether demonstrate how to make those sludgy guitars resonate. On "No Resolution" from Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray, the trio channel their rage into dreamy riffs and revved-up aggression.

14. Chevelle - "Hats Off to the Bull"

chevelle hats off to the bull
Photo courtesy MSO.
It's such a familiar formula: Start with a subdued verse and then let fly with an explosive chorus. But who cares if it works, right? Chevelle rock plenty on the title track to their 2011 album, Hats Off to the Bull, pulling out the guitars for a salute to those who never give up, no matter the odds.

13. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Look Around"

red hot chili peppers look around
Photo courtesy Warner Bros.
Beyond their ability to rhyme "it's my nature" with "nomenclature," Red Hot Chili Peppers deserve props for "Look Around" for their ability to bring together breezy guitars, tight hand claps and rapped verses into a delicious mix.

12. Deftones - "Tempest"

deftones tempest
Photo courtesy Warner Bros.
Deftones returned this year with the dazzling Koi No Yokan, and one of its highlight moments is "Tempest," a swirling six-minute tune that starts off gently but quickly builds in volume and intensity. In other words, typical Deftones brilliance.

11. Shinedown - "Unity"

shinedown unity
Photo courtesy Atlantic.
For Amaryllis, Shinedown swing for the fences, going for big, stirring anthems that occasionally pull out string sections for heightened effect. One of the album's highlights is "Unity," an unabashed call to connect with the band's fan base, but its us-against-the-world spirit is so purely expressed that it's impossible to resist.
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