Looking for a playlist of the year's top songs? You're in luck: I've started ranking the must-hear tracks of 2013. Grunge ballads, garage rockers, retro-rock delights, and alt-metal wonders are all on tap...
I'm still not sold on Slash as a solo artist -- his best work has come as part of bands -- but "Anastasia" from Apocalyptic Love demonstrates that the guy still has his moments. With Myles Kennedy on vocals, Slash goes for a six-minute epic that shows off his imposing guitar prowess.
Of late, Filter haven't enjoyed the popularity that marked their early years, but their unique style of industrial rock can show plenty of bite. Take "What Do You Say" from this year's The Sun Comes Out Tonight, in which Richard Patrick's barking vocals and a fleet of sleek guitars explode again and again.
Calling Australia home, Airbourne seem to have been genetically engineered to replicate the guitars-and-girls aesthetic of their countrymen in AC/DC. "Live It Up" has all the no-nonsense, party-hearty swagger of Back in Black, and if an album of such songs would seem like overkill, it works real well in one four-minute package.
Exquisite melancholy appears to be a permanent condition for Linkin Park, and on "Castle of Glass" they continue to show off their abilities to turn despondency into catchy, chilly rock songs. Chester Bennington sings about needing to be made whole again, but the band's music works much better when he's falling to pieces.
A standout on the Sound City soundtrack, "From Can to Can't" brings together Corey Taylor and Dave Grohl (not to mention former Kyuss member Scott Reeder and Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen) for a heavy, mournful ballad about the pain of separation. Taylor's work in Stone Sour has proved that he can sing with growing nuance and feeling, and this track is another career highlight.
On their recent trilogy of albums, Green Day celebrated the highs and lows of life from the perspective of veteran artists who have experienced plenty of both. Dos! closed with a farewell to Amy Winehouse, and Tre! has its own salute to the dearly departed. "X-Kid" was written by singer Billie Joe Armstong for an unidentified friend who committed suicide, and while the song has a rollicking pop-rock sound, the lyrics are all about the sadness of watching someone close to you struggle to pull themselves together.
Eels headed into the garage and turned up the guitars for Wonderful, Glorious, and the first single finds the Los Angeles indie collective embracing their pop and rock sides. "Peach Blossom" pays tribute to a lady who's enchanting frontman E, and the melody suggests the buoyancy of new love.
Muse often reach for the grandiose arena-rock ambitions of U2, but on "Panic Station" they really tap into that band's Zooropa/Pop era, delivering a slab of funky dance-rock. The 2nd Law may be concerned with societal collapse, but on this track they sound like they're celebrating rather than lamenting that fact.
The magnificently sludgy guitars that lead off "Hollow" are an absolute giveaway that this is the latest single from Alice in Chains. But it's not just that: It's the elegant heaviness that settles over the entire song, which is then juxtaposed with the striking guitars and cascading vocals. More than 20 years into the career, AIC still sound like no one else out there.
"Swerve City" spotlights all that makes Koi No Yokan such a superb album. Deftones serve up their reliable one-two punch of melodic assurance and musical muscle to keep the listener on edge, as sweetness and aggression battle for control of your ear. And as is often the case with this band, "Swerve City" is an ode to a bewitching woman whose power cannot be contained.