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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.