Our look back at the best tracks of the year continues with some fist-in-the-air shout-alongs.
Foo Fighters - Something From Nothing Despite being somewhat overshadowed by Dave Grohl’s rockumentary series of the same name, Sonic Highways sustained the Foos’ knack for widescreen immediacy and big melodies, and Something From Nothing led the charge with a rush of muscular elegance and a rather cheeky steal from Dio’s Holy Diver.
AC/DC - Play Ball After Malcolm Young’s unfortunate withdrawal due to ill-health and Phil Rudd’s almost comically public disintegration, AC/DC could have easily limped forward with a thwarted mojo and a whimper of surrender. Instead, Play Ball arrived like a jolting dose of adrenalin delivered straight to the hips and groin. Nothing’s changed: AC/DC still rule.
Rival Sons - _Open My Eyes _ With their customary swagger and an enhanced sense of timeless abandon, Rival Sons unveiled their third studio album in 2014 and made the rest of the retro rock hordes seem a little leaden and lazy by comparison. Open My Eyes doesn’t just groove, it glides. A superlative show of strength from true modern greats.
Black Stone Cherry - Me And Mary Jane Now firmly ensconced in the haughty higher echelons of the arena circuit, the BSC boys may still deal in earthy meat and potatoes, but songs like this instant classic from the widely lauded Magic Mountain pointed to an increasingly refined mastery of balls-out rock’n’roll with a heart of gold.
Slash - Bent To Fly The omnipresent chorus of demands for the original Guns N’ Roses to reconvene faded slightly in 2014, as Slash released another strong studio album and reaffirmed his ability to fill massive venues and charm the pants off the populace. With the added gift of Myles Kennedy’s sublime voice, Bent To Fly was just one self-assured highlight.
Blackberry Smoke - Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost (Live) Much more than exercise in hay-chewin’ nostalgia or a 21st century Black Crowes, Blackberry Smoke’s ongoing rise to glory has struck a chord with several generations of rock aficionados, not least because songs like Shakin’ Hands… crackle with urgency and relevance, particularly when captured in full live flow.
California Breed - Chemical Rain Glenn Hughes’ reputation as an unrelenting force of musical nature continued in 2014, with the unveiling of yet another new band and yet more infectious anthems from the deepest recesses of hard rock’s leathery soul. Quite how the great man wrings so much youthful verve from his songwriting after so long in the business is anyone’s guess, but the proof is in this strident, irresistible and thrillingly snake-hipped pudding. Second helpings, please.
Ginger Wildheart - Body Parts Few artists from the last 25 years have written as many brilliant songs as Brit rock’s one-man awkward squad. Body Parts owed a little to The Knack and Devo, but its incisive melody, air of punk mischief and simply outrageous catchiness marked it out as yet another triumph. No wonder people keep pledging to keep Ginger’s unique show on the road.
Black Keys - Turn Blue Once again collaborating with hip hop ingenue Danger Mouse, The Black Keys’ ability to subtly reinvent themselves with every step continued in 2014. The title track from the band’s eighth studio effort is an edgy shuffle through the psychedelic outskirts of modern Americana, replete with fistfuls of inspired sonic touches and a near-chewable sense that Dan Auerbach is gaining confidence all the while.
Ryan Adams - Gimme Something Good His decision to scrap an entire Glyn Johns-produced album may have suggested a restless mood, but Ryan Adams’ 2014 return was fiery, focused and typified by instantly memorable gems like this one. Full of analogue warmth and melodic suss, Gimme… is more than good: it’s pure rock gold.