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2010's Best Rock Songs

The Year's Top Tracks

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2010 contained a wealth of great songs, including brokenhearted ballads, underrated gems, and a stellar comeback single from a reunited band. In a year when frontmen from veteran bands explored solo careers and new groups made their move toward the mainstream, these are the tunes that defined a colorful 12 months in the world of rock.

18. Soundgarden - “Black Rain”

soundgarden black rain
Photo courtesy Total Assault.

This reworked Badmotorfinger track may not be primo Soundgarden, but how can you deny the bellowing force of Chris Cornell’s voice? Or the creepy power of Kim Thayil’s guitar?

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17. How to Destroy Angels – “The Space in Between”

how to destroy angels the space in between
Photo courtesy Nasty Little Man.

When listeners heard “The Space in Between,” nobody was surprised that the band that made the song, How to Destroy Angels, was fronted by the same guy who used to be in Nine Inch Nails. Yes, Trent Reznor’s fingerprints are all over “The Space in Between” -- the slow, droning keyboards and the menacing, stripped-down percussion are his hallmarks -- but with new wife Mariqueen Maandig handling the vocals, the song becomes more sensuous and seductive, without sacrificing any of its quiet intensity.

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16. Taproot – “Fractured (Everything I Said Was True)”

taproot fractured
Photo courtesy Victory.

Taproot’s latest album, Plead the Fifth, may have been a bit of a misfire, but the first single was a solid blast of alt-metal anger. Frontman Stephen Richards lays into a disloyal girlfriend, balancing between a potently melodic chorus and some galvanic guitars. It’s too bad the rest of Plead wasn’t this memorable and urgent.

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15. Linkin Park – “Waiting for the End”

linkin park waiting for the end
Photo courtesy Warner Bros.

As rap-rock falls out of favor, how can Linkin Park balance a genre that made them popular with a more mature modern-rock sound? A Thousand Suns doesn’t always find the right answer, but “Waiting for the End” certainly does. Balancing rapped and sung vocals, the hopeful, resilient track builds to a beautifully rousing finale.

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14. The Black Keys – “Tighten Up”

black keys tighten up
Photo courtesy Sacks & Co.

The Black Keys are a blues-rock duo, but for this single off Brothers they’re downright poppy, nailing a jaunty groove with a pretty accessible hook. Still, the duo’s penchant for gritty guitar textures remains, making this that rare hit that seems to be adapting mainstream radio conventions for the band’s singular purposes.

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13. Chevelle – “Letter From a Thief”

chevelle letter from a thief
Photo courtesy Epic.

Starting off with the anxious strumming of an electric guitar, “Letter From a Thief” soon expands into a furious, energetic rush of power-trio momentum. Chevelle’s second single off Sci-Fi Crimes is a compelling, angry ode to betrayal and mistrust, and Pete Loeffler’s tense vocals fluctuate from snarled whispers to full-on anguished screams.

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12. Green Day – “Last of the American Girls”

green day last of the american girls
Photo courtesy Reprise.
A tribute to someone who follows the beat of her own drum, “Last of the American Girls” is but one of the many rousing songs off Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown. The object of frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s affection still listens to vinyl and is “a hero for the lost cause,” resulting in a love song that’s so buoyant and lively you’d never accuse him of being sappy.

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11. Breaking Benjamin – “Give Me a Sign (Forever and Ever)”

breaking benjamin give me a sign
Photo courtesy Hollywood.

Breaking Benjamin frontman Ben Burnley has a gift for crafting loud, pretty tunes about his miserable love life, and “Give Me a Sign (Forever and Ever)” is one of the strongest off the band’s Dear Agony. Unafraid to embrace the melodramatic, Burnley sings about eternal darkness, permanent scars and death on this power ballad, but the song’s expert construction and melodic assurance are so complete that you can’t help but get sucked into its vortex.

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10. Brandon Flowers – “Only the Young”

brandon flowers only the young
Photo: Jim Dyson/Getty Images.

Echoing some of the spacey, melodic tendencies of the Killers’ last album, Day & Age, Brandon Flowers gets melancholy and epic on “Only the Young,” one of the strongest tracks from his first solo record, Flamingo. Singing about the desire to recapture the optimism and promise of youth, Flowers sounds reborn himself, stretching out from his band’s New Wave-inspired rock.

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9. Alice in Chains – “Lesson Learned”

alice in chains lesson learned
Photo courtesy Virgin/EMI.

One of the signature sonic trademarks of Alice in Chains was their buzzing, ominous guitar riffs, and Black Gives Way to Blue certainly doesn’t disappoint in that department. “Lesson Learned” in particular is all high-octane intensity, with Jerry Cantrell and William DuVall’s vocals wrapping together into a vortex of dread and melodic beauty.

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