2016 has been a hell of a year. In a lot of ways, really.
- In January, I got fired from my job for what, quite frankly, seemed like a pretty bogus reason.
- Throughout the year, my wife and I both dealt with some annoying health issues.
- Then, in November, our country elected an adolescent, narcissistic, orange bigot to be President.
But, it’s also been a hell of year for music.
- We got a new record from Kanye, however lackluster it may be
- Beyonce changed the game, again, with her stunning album and accompanying visuals Lemonade.
- Blink-182 released their (grammy nominated) first record without Tom Delonge.
- Chance The Rapper blew us all away with his brilliant mixtape Coloring Book.
- We also lost several icons of the music community: Prince, Bowie, Merle Haggard, Leonard Coen.
All that being said, making my list was really hard this year. The top 3 have been solid for a while, but the rest has fluctuated a ton. Because of that, this year I decided to do a top 15 instead of a top 10. My wife said I should stick to 10, but its my blog and not hers, so I’m going with 15. There are just too many records I want to tell you about to limit it to 10. So, here it is, my top 15 favorite albums released in 2016.
15. Standards-Into It. Over It.
A delicately crafted, lo-fi emo album recorded straight to tape shows Evan Weiss at his best. Favorite track-“Required Reading”
14. The Dream Is Over-PUP
A raucous punk-pop record through and through, you’ll find yourself shouting along to each blistering chorus.
Favorite track- “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will”
13. Low Teens-Every Time I Die
Every Time I Die is the pretty much the only heavy band I still keep up with, and it’s because they consistently put out killer music. With devastating lyrics and bonecrushing breakdowns throughout, this one is sure to get the blood flowing.
Favorite track-“The Coin Has A Say”
12. Stage Four-Touché Amoré
A beautifully heartbreaking depiction of lead singer Jeremy Bolm’s mother’s death, Touché continues to stretch themselves and raise the bar with each release.
11. Goodness-The Hotelier
(Sorry about the album artwork) Call them emo, call them indie rock, call them whatever you want, but there is no disputing that The Hotelier are a force to be reckoned with. Dynamic and layered in more ways than I can count, Goodness is a record that can’t be missed.
Favorite track-“Soft Animal”
10. Much Love-Microwave
Microwave make me proud to be from Atlanta. Their debut full length in 2014 Stovall was good and showed potential, but Much Love takes the band to another level. They are helping lead the way for a new wave of aggressive emo and I’m excited to see where their future leads.
9. Nobody Likes A Quitter-All Get Out
All Get Out exploded onto the scene with 2011’s masterful The Season, then essentially disappeared for a number of years. Now, five years later, the follow-up proved to be well worth the wait. The band managed to capture the magic and dynamics of The Season while building and expanding into an entirely new sound.
8. The Light We Made-Balance & Composure
B&C’s 2013 release The Things We Think We’re Missing took me from a casual fan of this band to a raving fan. With Light We Made, Balance have taken their well-loved, grunge tinged version of emo and introduced drum machines, psychedelic style riffs, and even a touch of auto-tune to stretch themselves to places I didn’t think possible for them. And it totally works.
7. Coloring Book- Chance The Rapper
My first taste of Chance came when he absolutely stole the show with his verse on Kanye’s “Ultralight Beam.” It’s one of my favorite rap verses in quite a while. After hearing that, I dove into Chance’s back catalog and began getting super stoked for Chance 3. His quirky but hard-hitting lyrical content mixed with a bevy of collaborators brewed up a perfect storm of hip-hop that caught everyone off guard. I also love Chance’s DIY attitude. Coloring Book is his 3rd mixtape, no record labels involved, and to this day 6 months after it’s release is still only available to stream, cannot be purchased. It’s also the first album to chart on Billboard 200 solely through streaming, and it made it all the way to number 8. With young guys like Chance (only 23 years old) blossoming out of the hip-hop scene, we have a bright future ahead of us.
Favorite track-“Summer Friends”
6. To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere-Thrice
Thrice is a legacy band, they are truly one of my favorite bands of all time. This record is their first after a 5 year hiatus, and is exactly what I wanted it to be. It is a straightforward Thrice record. The guitar riffs hit just as hard as they ever have, and vocalist Dustin Kensrue’s voice is at its finest. Lyrically, it has some of their best work. In the 5 years that the band was gone, Dustin was on staff at Mars Hill Church in Seattle and appears to have been pretty jaded by the mega-church’s collapse. We also get to see a more political side of Thrice than we have ever seen, something that I welcomed with open arms considering the mess we are in now. The band shows why they are such a respected act with this album, they didn’t try to reinvent the wheel or alter their sound too much. They just gave us what we wanted, and I, for one, am glad they are back.
Favorite track-“Black Honey”
I recently tried to describe this album to someone, and what I landed on was ‘twangy, lo-fi emo.” This came out of nowhere for me this year. I hadn’t even heard of this band until I saw this record getting talked about all over chorus.fm, a music website i frequent. When I finally gave it a listen, I was completely enthralled. There is something so familiar about it, but also totally fresh. The music has great dynamics, often forcing the lyrics to take a back seat. That’s not to say, though, that the lyrics aren’t fantastic. In fact, the record has one of my very favorite lyrics of the year. “I should call my parents when I think of them, should tell my friends when I love them/maybe I should have gone out a bit more, when you guys were still in town/ I got too caught up in my own shit, it’s how every outcome is such a comedown” If you like any type of country music, or any type of indie/emo music, give this a listen. You won’t be disappointed. Well, you might be disappointed, but at least you would have heard something new.
Favorite track-“Old Friends”
4. Holy Ghost-Modern Baseball
Modern Baseball is a band that has kind of lit a small portion of the world on fire over the last few years. Their fan base isn’t massive, but they are devoted. People are endeared to to their quirky songwriting style and personalities. Over their past few releases we have watched them mature in real-time. Now, with Holy Ghost, the band has taken a huge leap forward. Their songwriting has matured in a major way, both lyrically and in song composition. They have retained their quirky attitude, while shedding off a lot of things from their earlier records that were holding them back. The band has 2 main songwriters, Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald, that normally work together on songs. For this record they took a bit of a different approach; the first half is written by Ewald, the second half by Lukens. When this was first announced, I was a bit skeptical it would work. I was worried it would feel disjointed, more like 2 EPs than an album. I am glad to say I was wrong. The 2 halves of the record fit together perfectly, and it is cool to see how different, but at the same time similar, their songwriting styles are. I really think Modern Baseball have a bright future ahead of them.
Favorite track-“Note To Self”
3. Integrity Blues-Jimmy Eat World
Jimmy Eat World is another one of those legacy bands I mentioned earlier, though their legacy likely has a much bigger footprint than others. Almost every time this band puts out a record, the general consensus is that it is yet another masterpiece. Granted, there is some disagreement about the previous 2 releases, Invented and Damage, but for the most part people expect greatness when JEW announces an album. Thankfully, with Integrity Blues greatness is exactly what we got. From the first time i heard lead single “Sure and Certain” I was floored. My expectations went through the roof. Honestly, I marked the record has an AOTY contender before I even heard it, which is always dangerous. But I truly do love this record. Jim’s vocals and lyrics are just as good as they’ve ever been, and the guitar tones are spot on. It has the catchy hooks that we’ve come to expect in songs like “It Matters,” “You Are Free,” and “Through”, and the brilliant post-rockesque guitar driven instrumentals in “Pass The Baby” and “Sure and Certain.” Futures is still, and will likely always be, my favorite JEW record, but Integrity Blues comes in at a close second.
Favorite track-“Sure and Certain”
2. Stay Gold-Butch Walker
There isn’t much for me to say about this record that I haven’t already said here. It really is just fantastic. Catchy songs, well told stories, twangy guitars, rock n’ roll attitude, what else do you need? I’m not going to write much, because I already did, just listen to the record. And stay gold.
Favorite track-“Stay Gold”
1. I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It-The 1975
I know, big surprise. If you know me, read this blog, or follow me on twitter then you know how obsessed I am with this record and this band. I wrote a post about it when it first came out, but that was back in March. When it first came out, I knew this was going to be my favorite album of the year (the only thing that stood any hope of besting it was if Brand New put out an album, but we all see how that went…), and it has managed to grow on me even more since. Part of what helped grow my love and appreciation for the record is that I saw the band perform twice this year. They are very careful and particular about crafting their aesthetic, which is something I love. That came through tenfold in the live shows. Having a strong visual image to pair with such an enthralling album really helped me connect more and dive deeper into it. I am aware that over the past year The 1975 has gained a bit of a reputation for their fanbase, the main complaint being that there are a large number of young girls who are fans of the band solely because of lead singer Matt Healey. I personally haven’t seen that to be true, but even if it is I am OK with it. As long as they are hearing high-quality pop music like this instead of some of the other options out there, that is a good thing. The 1975 are helping create a generation that craves quality music and knows it when they hear it. So, how can that be bad? All that being said, and all that I have already said about it here, I truly think it is a great album. Similar to Batman at the end of The Dark Knight, this record is not the album 2016 deserved, but it is the album that 2016 needed. Yeah, you should be loving someone.
Favorite track-“The Sound”