The 50 best rock songs of 2017 so far
2017 has been an absolutely brilliant year for rock music - here are the songs most worthy of your attention so far
Forget what Gene Simmons says – rock music in 2017 is in as fine a fettle as it's ever been. With brilliant new music being released from each and every corner of the rock world, bands old and new have used the first half of 2017 to inject a veritable slew of innovative and enlivening new sounds into the world.
Below, cherry-picking the best new music from the pages of Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog and more, we compile the 50 songs which have really grabbed our attention this year. From hot young things Employed To Serve cementing their place as a vital and vibrant new chapter in rock's story, to Roger Waters proving he still has the chops to genuinely move us through song, these are the best new tracks to have come from 2017 so far.
Afghan Whigs - Demon In Profile
Gorgeous highlight from the Whigs’ new album In Spades, which came out via Sub Pop in May. At once melodiously mournful and deliciously dark – with enveloping layers of keys, guitar and brass – it’s Greg Dulli and co on lush form.
AFI - Still A Stranger
AFI stood out in the emo-rock scene of the early 2000s thanks to their dark, lush sound, their gothic glamour and a literary lyrical intelligence that elevated them above the identikit punks surrounding them. This track from new album The Blood Album continues that trend, propped up by gang vocals and heart-wrenching anthemic choruses.
Amplifier - Kosmos (Groove Of Triumph)
Recorded over a three-year period between 2014 and 2016, Amplifier's new album Trippin’ With Dr Faustus is an immersive experience and quite possibly their finest album to date – this space-age slice of psychedelia an album highlight.
Anathema – Springfield
Taken from Anathema's new album The Optimist, this song is simply the latest examples of the Liverpudlians’ unerring ability to make grown men cry, those now trademark vast crescendos and moments of spectral calm still hitting the target with masterful precision.
Bash & Pop - Unfuck You
The jubilant Unfuck You, from ex-Replacements and Guns N' Roses man Tommy Stinson's all-but-abandoned side project, is a joyous reminder of the ramshackle brilliance of Stinson's creative abilities.
Benjamin Booker - Right On You
Last year the New Orleans-based singer/guitarist went on a soul-searching trip to Mexico. He came back with identity-stamping second album Witness, including this dynamic opening track – a blend of psychedelic hoodoo, summery T.Rex-esque vibes and noisy garage rock.
Bent Knee - Terror Bird
This track from the Boston art-rock sextet "is about fighting our natural inclination to become indifferent toward the world around us," and is underpinned by a telegraph rhythm as urgent as an SOS, defibrillator jolts of guitar in the chorus, and a piano melody that rolls like a ship in heavy waves.
Big Big Train - Experimental Gentlemen
Marking a slight change in direction musically, Big Big Train's 10th album Grimspound caused the band to push themselves, "as progressive rock bands should". This track is a smooth, but complex, slice of British prog.
Biters - Goin' Back To Georgia
Biters are a great rock band. They look the part, they act the part, Tuk is a proper star, and they can toss off tunes as easily as Gordon Ramsay plates crab cakes: Goin' Back To Georgia is one such masterful ballad.
Blackfield - From 44 To 48
“From 44 To 48 is a song about growing older and letting go of dreams,” says prog maven Steven Wilson of Blackfield's new track – a melancholy ballad with a nagging guitar phrase that threatens to burst into Rush’s Closer To The Heart.
Blackwater Conspiracy - Monday Club
Blackwater Conspiracy specialise in southern-fried roots rock that's all about the songwriting and musicianship, and that's exactly what you'll get from this single, taken from new album Shootin' The Breeze and recently included as part of the TeamRock+ Singles Club.
Bloodclot - Manic
A track from new hardcore punk "supergroup" Bloodclot's new album Up In Arms, Manic is a 140-second thrash-punk workout laced with unhinged cries and yelps, and, according to frontman John Joseph, tells the story of "people mistaking kindness for weakness – big fucking mistake".
Body Count – No Lives Matter
Fantastic single No Lives Matter is a powerhouse political sermons with a topical edge, underpinned by Ice-T's savage delivery, proving him every bit as vital as he was in the 90s.
Chon – Waterslide
Exuberant sun-kissed prog plucked straight from the beaches of California, CHON's new single Waterslide is a lesson in how to make instrumental rock fun, and was recently added as the latest instalment in the TeamRock+ Singles Club.
Code Orange – Bleeding In The Blur
Wrongly dismissed as just another hardcore band, Code Orange's Bleeding In The Blur brings melodic, alt-rock vocals from guitarist Reba Meyers, an Ace Frehley-style guitar solo and the kind of dark, swirling sounds that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Soundgarden album – and you quickly realise all bets are off when it comes to second-guessing this band.
Creeper – Black Rain
Kicking off with an angsty spoken-word vocal and gothic, choral backing vocals, the intro to this song is about as Creeper as Creeper have ever been. The rest of this horror-punk banger tears through Alkaline Trio-esque riffs and the sorts of anthemic chorus that continue to elevate Creeper to household name status.
Deep Purple - All I Got Is You
This track, taken from new album InFinite, is a slightly softer, more contemplative take on the classic Purple tone, but with enough high-octane bursts to merit some healthy head-bobbing.
Electric Eye – Turn Around, Face The Sun
This track, taken from the Norwegian psych-rocker's upcoming third album, is inspired by "the blues, India and the ever-expanding universe", blends hazy guitars with a mesmerising, thrumming bassline, motorik beats and is inspired a preoccupation with world music that would make Revolver-era Beatles proud.
Employed To Serve – I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away)
Inspired by the feeling of being "stuck in a bad job without any real direction, constantly counting down the hours until you don’t have to be there anymore", this erratic slice of metallic hardcore is a brilliant and stirring tonic for the young and pissed off.
Esprit D'Air - Guiding Light
Taken from J-Rock trio Esprit D'Air's recently-released comeback album Consellations, lead-single Guiding Light mixes meaty guitar riffs with delicate vocal harmonies and twinkling optimism.
Full Of Hell – Trumpeting Ecstasy
Less reliant on the power electronics and grating soundscapes than previous efforts, this track from Full Of Hell's still entirely savage fourth album is augmented by a haunting and angelic feminine voice.
Hellbound Hearts - Broken Hearted
If the Wildhearts spent more time listening to 00s metal, they might have sounded like these guys. This new tune (all about “when you realise the world is not a beautiful place”) from the Yorkshire-based alt rockers is both brooding and fantastically catchy.
Hunter & The Bear - DRK
Modern, riffy rock from Britain’s most ruggedly named guitar-wielding foursome. They’ve ingested a lot of classic influences (Skynyrd, Clapton etcetera), which now come stirred with contemporary, metallic punch and hints of soaring ‘arena rock’ scale. Think Wasting Light-era Foos with a touch of Soundgarden, propelled by their own good ideas.
Inglorious - Faraway
As brazenly and unashamedly old-school as fringed leather jackets and Flying V guitars, Inglorious' second album prompted producer Kevin Shirley to dub them the best British band since Led Zeppelin. This standout track is a particular album highlight.
Kim Seviour - Chiasma
Inspired by – and written in spite of – Seviour's ongoing struggle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, this is a glistening piece of modern prog, and a great example of why she's widely-heralded as "the greatest female voice on the prog scene" right now.
KOYO - Tetrachromat (Pts 1 & 2)
Classic Rock writer Mark Blake described this lot as “the possible missing link between 70s-era Pink Floyd and My Bloody Valentine.” Based on this atmospheric, intriguing piece of progressive rock, we’d say he has a point. Tetrachromat, Pts 1 & 2 is long and indicative of a varied musical palate (Radiohead, Floyd, jazzier influences…) but still comes together in melodious, enticing fashion.
Lonely Robot - Sigma
Some soaring ‘nu prog’ here, courtesy of (ex-It Bites man) John Mitchell’s ambitious outfit Lonely Robot – to all intents and purposes a solo project (Mitchell plays all instruments aside from drums on forthcoming album The Big Dream). Moving, contemplative yet ultimately uplifting stuff.
Louise Distras – Outside Of You
So-called nu-punk pioneer Louise Distras has been widely touted as the "new face of British punk-rock", and single Outside Of You is a pretty good indicator as to why. Telling a story of "fighting to be yourself in a world that wants you to be something you're not", the track channels the heritage punk of The Clash and the Pistols, pairing it with slick production and a decidedly modern bent.
Low Cut Connie - Revolution Rock N Roll
LCC have a wide-eyed love of rock'n'roll to match the E Street Band or the Faces, mixed with the streetwise suss of the Replacements or Marah. But that doesn't mean they're safe and boring whitebread family entertainment – the video for this stunning single alone is a riot of drunken debauchery and shagging.
The Magpie Salute – Omission
Ooooh that riffage is lush. The younger Robinson brother/ex Black Crowes man has struck gold with the Magpie Salute, and their proverbial star continues to grow with this bluesy rock’n’roll belter. Fuelled by rugged, hearty guitars, and stellar vocals from rock n’ soul wonderman John Hogg, this track is all good kinds of heavy.
Mastodon - Steambreather
The MVP award for the best track on Mastodon's new album goes to Steambreather. Backed by a cosmic downtuned groove, the bellowing chorus and heavyweight instrumentals fuse together into a Herculean beast that earworms its way into your brain, and is guaranteed to become a set staple.
Mew - In A Better Place
Off-kilter and synth-heavy, this bright and breezy track from Mew's seventh studio album, Visuals, represents a different, but equally-pleasing musical direction from the Danish alt-rock collective.
Milk Teeth – Owning Your Okayness
This joyous combination of punk rock and lo-fi grunge is an infuriatingly-catchy and deliciously jubilant earworm which will, if you've any sense at all, become the foundation of your 2017 summer soundtrack.
Mostly Autumn - Native Spirit
This track is timely a reminder that Mostly Autumn remain one of the most consistent and passionate prog bands these isles have produced, taking many of the familiar elements of classic prog and transmuting them into something fit for our uncertain 21st century.
Thee MVPs – Fossor
This track, taken from the "Thames-pop" pioneers' upcoming EP Receiver, blends riotous punk with distorted psychedelic guitar licks for a satisfyingly-punchy two-minute punk rock workout.
Oxbow - Cold & Well-Lit Place
The opener from the first album from this Californian art-rock quartet in over a decade, Cold And Well-Lit Place sets the scene for frontman Eugene Robinson’s latest trawl through reality’s blackest shadows, veering from spidery, lopsided lo-fi rock to unnerving Beatles-esque crescendo stabs, his harangued diatribe taking him from horrified whisper to incensed howl.
Pallbearer – I Saw The End
I Saw The End sets the tone of Pallbearer's third album, opening it with a baleful lead to resonate through ages, soon bolstered by sonorous riffs of equal weight to anything from their last outing. A catchy intro draws you into the heart of the track’s consternation, setting you up for the solos. Dear god, the solos...
Part Chimp – Bouncer’s Dream
Fans of Australian soap operas of the 1990s will find much to enjoy in Bouncer’s Dream, an excellent example of the foreboding, bonerattling but endlessly creative noise-rock pedalled on Part Chimp's latest album IV.
Prophets Of Rage – Unfuck The World
Released earlier this year alongside a video directed by longterm RATM collaborator Michael Moore, Unfuck The World takes all the best bits of Rage's furious alt-metal and Chuck D's ever-prescient and razor-sharp lyricism for a politically potent and satisfyingly blunt rallying cry to "all who see it [as] their [job] to unfuck this world".
Public Service Broadcasting - Turn No More
Taken from the fifth album by these previous Prog Award winners, Turn No More features a cameo from the Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield – pointedly from the mining community of Blackwood which the album is about – who sings touching lines from Idris Davies’ poem Gwalia Deserta.
Roger Waters - Déjà Vu
Taken from Roger Waters' first studio album since 1992, Déjà Vu is a contemplative, soulful study on the melancholy of the passing of time, and the standout track from an album which has been said to "serve as a natural successor to classic Pink Floyd albums such as Animals and The Wall".
Royal Thunder – April Showers
April Showers might not be the most instant or accessible song from Royal Thunder's brilliant new album WICK, but it’s a satisfying slow-burner (brooding and sultry) and the perfect intro to an album we've been raving about all year.
Stone Sour - Fabuless
The standout track from Stone Sour's otherwise mixed-bag new album Hydrograd, Fabuless is a radio-ready hard rock anthem which takes its cues from both Slipknot and the Rolling Stones for a sound that borders on the schizophrenic – in the best possible way.
The Virginmarys – Sweet Loretta
From old icons to new flag-bearers (albeit flag-bearers who’ve been laying down killer chops and tunes for about eight years now), the Virginmarys are back with one of their most upbeat tracks yet, and it's ace. Summoning the grit and gall that’s always propelled their music, Sweet Loretta has a monstrously catchy chorus and a generally ‘bigger’ feel all-round.
Voyager - Ascension
This track was best summed up by singer Daniel Estrin himself, when he claimed it "Sets the mood for Voyager's new album – clean and polished yet raw and organic, progressive yet catchy, modern yet quintessentially Voyager. The song is upliftingly melancholic and plays with major and minor keys to give a sense of unease and the constant struggle of trying to achieving the trivial, yet seemingly impossible."
Wear Your Wounds – Goodbye Old Friend
The latest project from Converge's Jacob Bannon, WYW channels his adoration for the likes of Pink Floyd and Swans, and is vastly removed from Jake’s day job as a result. The album is layered in chilling sonic palettes, hypnotic whirrs and sombre acoustics, and this track is a rousing anthem that will tug on your heart strings.
The Weeks - Start It Up
This track, taken from the Nashville-based indie rockers' new album Easy, blends riotous Southern-tinged rock with the sorts of hooks which would've turned a young Springsteen green with envy.
Weirds – Phantom
Pedalling "amphibious doom-pop" and blending moody, muscular guitar with experimental, reverb-soaked psych rock, this track cemented Weirds' place as part of the growing wave of innovative underground music coming from Leeds' underground.
While She Sleeps – Silence Speaks
When Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes turns up on the anthemic Silence Speaks, you get the feeling that the metalcore five-piece might be back on the same path as their fellow former Sheffield scene buddies to mass acceptance.
Wire - Diamonds In Cups
Described as "T.Rex undergoing euphoric electroshock therapy", this tracked helped prove that frontman Colin Newman’s melodic impulse has never been sharper, nor drone pop more relevant and uplifting.