The 10 best rock songs of 2008 weren't all necessarily hits on the radio -- some of them were hidden treasures you had to dig deep to find. All in all, these 10 ballads, rockers, obscure picks and huge smashes represent the eclecticism of rock music this year. And hopefully they'll provide some good memories, too.
On this Chinese Democracy offering, Axl Rose rides a wave of piano and guitars to lay out his case to a woman who's left him behind. "I.R.S" is one of Democracy's most instantly catchy tracks, and Rose wields his anguished high-pitched wail to good effect. It's impossible to know if he's more angry or brokenhearted that she's walked out the door.
Yeah, I wish Disturbed singer David Draiman would drop the demonic-laughter shtick, too, but this hit single off of Indestructible succeeded despite such gimmicks. A perfect mixture of hard rock and metal that targets mainstream audiences without mercy, "Inside the Fire" goes a long way on the strength of Dan Donegan's buzzing guitars and Draiman's staccato singing style as he addresses a lover who has committed suicide.
"Happy" in Galoshes was Scott Weiland's attempt to make sense of his failing marriage, and this country-ish tune gets to the heart of the matter, wondering where their love went wrong. Don't let the breezy melody fool you: "Tangle With Your Mind" is all about the unbreakable melancholy that comes about when a love affair ends and you're trying to find your bearings.
Martial drums kicked off The Sound of Madness, leading into this furious guitar-fest. One of 2008's best political songs, "Devour" managed to dominate rock radio while at the same time delivering a staunch antiwar message: "Nobody wants to live like this/Nobody wants a war like this." Of course, "Devour" is so frenetically energetic it's possible that a lot of people have been using it for a workout song and had no idea about its message.
Recalling the spare musicianship of Metallica's 20-year-old hit "One," this first single off of Death Magnetic addresses an abusive relationship from the perspective of the victim. Frontman James Hetfield doesn't bother with specifics -- it could be about a battered wife or a bullied son -- but the song builds in intensity, suggesting a narrator whose willingness to be pushed around is about to come to an end.
Two classic tracks -- Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" and Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" -- come together for Kid Rock's celebration of lazy summer days off Rock N Roll Jesus. You can argue that Rock didn't do much more than steal from very recognizable sources, but "All Summer Long" so successfully conveyed the good times of his Michigan youth that it was hard to argue with his techniques.
The last track on Anberlin's New Surrender was a disturbing song about the end of the world that's all the more upsetting for how serene it sounds. Over a stately drum beat and soothing keyboards, frontman Stephen Christian sings about a grade school visited by a mysterious priest promising the Apocalypse. In Anberlin's hands, Armageddon feels both terrifying and inevitable.
It's a familiar songwriting technique -- antagonistic verses juxtaposed with a powerfully melodic chorus -- but Slipknot's "Psychosocial" demonstrates how much juice the formula still has. The lead single from All Hope Is Gone encapsulates what makes this masked band so potent: paranoid lyrics, metal riffs, memorable hooks that are both accessible and riveting. "Psychosocial" was also a highlight of the band's mind-blowing, face-melting summer shows.
Dig Out Your Soul failed to be the Oasis comeback a lot of their fans were expecting, but "The Shock of the Lightning" managed to harness some of the energy of the band's '90s peak. Heavy guitars and a driving rhythm section were the song's most obvious bright spots, but also check out both lead singer Liam Gallagher's sneer-heavy vocals and one of the most bracing solos of the band's career. As Oasis struggle to prove their continued relevance, the band's welcome display of rock 'n' roll urgency couldn't have come at a better time.
From the first minute this song debuted on the band's website back before the release of Scars on Broadway, "They Say" felt like a blistering call to arms and one of the most snarling slabs of hard rock defiance in quite some time. Scars on Broadway leader Daron Malakian stepped out of the shadow of his old band, System of a Down, and delivered this striking rebuke to the Bush administration and the superficiality of modern society. The anger in his vocals and jagged guitar are unmistakable -- and unforgettable.