Wow, it’s a bit late to post this, but here we are.
I listened to a lot fewer albums than I normally do this year. I didn’t love any albums this year but I liked a lot. This list ended up being which of the albums I liked more than the other albums I also liked. This year my criteria was less “which albums is artistically superior” and more like “which albums will I want to listen to in a few years.”
Bear’s Den Red Earth & Pouring Rain Like a summer sunset this album goes down smooth and burns slow. It wasn’t until the third or fourth listen that I realized I was a Bear’s Den junkie. That’s partly because a few of the tracks on the album sound a bit too much like bad 80’s AM Radio fluff and it initially turned me off. But those tracks are the exception to the album’s syrupy, nostalgia-fueled, heartbroken-with-a-chance-of-hope that carries each track along. The tracks “Roses on the Breeze”, “New Jerusalem”, “Broken Parable”, and “Fortress” are some of the year’s strongest from any band. “Love Can’t Stand Alone” is one of the most haunting tracks I’ve heard in years (thanks Brig!).Comfort Food! First cheat: three albums get my favorite for the year. I combined them because they seem like such embarrassing, nostalgia-fueled choices. But, if I’m honest with myself (and I rarely am), these are the albums I listened to most and most likely will continue listening to in the upcoming years. And they are: Weezer—(White Album), Panic! at the Disco—Death of a Bachelor, and Blink 182—California. Man, these three acts really stepped up their game for their latest releases. Weezer is on their 67th album and it may be their best yet (neck to neck only with the Blue Album—settle down Pinkerton fans). The song “Jacked Up” is worth the price of admission alone and the falsetto conjures memories of Matt Sharp and what could have been. Panic!’s single “Victorious” that haunted the airwaves is not a very good song. Luckily the rest of the album sounds little like it and ranges from traditional pop-emo to crooner. Blink 182 proved that Tom was apparently the weak link with the addition of Mike Skiba. They made a pretty great album (but a few dumb songs too long).Bat for Lashes: The Bride Who would have thought a concept album about a mourning bride who lost her groom on their wedding day and subsequently honeymooned alone to find herself could not only avoid campiness but be one of the most sincere albums of 2016? Bat for Lashes thought so and made it so. I do wish a few more songs had a bit more pep, but the morose tone works better for my ears than any of her previous albums. The album really comes to a fantastic climax in “I Will Love Again”. Twin Atlantic: GLA As my brother-in-law Ryan points out, when an accent is so audible it’s unmistakable then it’s good music. Twin Atlantic is the Scottish band you didn’t know you needed in your life. It’s like 90’s alternative mixed with blues rock mixed with 00’s indie rock slathered in brogue. Check out “Gold Alligator: Cherry Alligator”, “Ex El”, “I Am Alive”. Nevermen: Nevermen Many terrible things happened in 2016; the world not giving two damns about Nevermen is on the low scale of impact but it still stings. It’s a supergroup consisting of Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio), Mike Patton (Faith No More), and Adam Drucker (Doseone) and sounds a lot like what you’d imagine if those three artists mingled. At times it feels more like demos then songs and more like a mixtape than an album, but it’s strong and unique enough that I kept returning to it. Check out “Mr. Mistake” and “At Your Service”.BABYMETAL: Metal Resistance The world is a beautiful place because albums like this exist. What should be a ridiculous mashup joke (J-Pop mixed with Metal) actually sounds amazing and rocks harder than most albums I listened to this year. An additional bonus is unlike most metal, my kids love this crap and I hear them singing double-talk Japanese-esque words around the house. Check out “Karate” and then listen to it five more times. My two-year old recently asked for it by saying “daddy play the say-ya! song”.Bon Iver: 22, A Million I guess we’ve reached the experimental phase of Justin Vernon. But even in the electronic departure from the Bon Iver genre it still sounds like Justin Vernon, which means it’s really damn good. That said the song titles are so pretentious that I don’t even want to list them here. But go listen to the album.Dance Gavin Dance: Mothership Since at least three people read my year-end lists, I felt bad last year when I realized that Dance Gavin Dance was a much better album then I gave it credit for last year (which was no credit). So I was delighted when I found out DGD was releasing another album this year so I could repent to my two readers (I lost one since last year). I was even more delighted when their new album was even better than their last! (Well, there is no standout single like “On The Run” on the past album but each song is good.) Think At the Drive In mixed with chunkcore/post-hardcore/metalcore/apple core.Pop Music!: Phantogram: Three and The Naked and Famous: Simple Forms Cheat number 2: two albums! These are solid pop albums by solid pop artists who–for the most part–make top 40 pop seem sad in comparison (because popular = bad, right?). The former is a bit more angsty the latter is a bit more friendly!Avatar: Feathers and Flesh Such crazy cool Swedish concept melodic metal (since I’m not a card-carrying metal fan I do not know the proper names of the five-hundred subdivisions of metal). Apparently it’s about a bird. But don’t let that deter you. Songs like “” and “” should make your teeth quake with distortion while those same teeth can’t help but smile. Genre Studies!: Hotel Books: Run Wild, Stay Alive and Crown the Empire: Retrograde I’ve been arguing for the title speechcore for bands like Me!WithoutYou, Hotel Books, and Touche Amore. It’s not taking. I liked Hotel Books’ album Run Wild, Young Beauty last year and was surprised with the subsequent release of Run Wild, Stay Alive this year. In every way it’s a more complete, melodic, more balanced lyrically album. Sometimes the lyrics are a bit on-the-nose but with so many good lyrics not all can hit. And Crown the Empire! Every year there seems to be a “not all metalcore” type of band that shows what the genre can’t achieve. This year it was Crown the Empire for me. Soundtrack Special!: Cloud Cult: The Seeker & Andy Hull and Robert McDowell: The Swiss Army Man Soundtrack Some great scores this year! Cloud Cult never disappoints and their newest album was solid (albeit a bit weaker than the last few). But it serves as a score to a movie they made by the same name. I haven’t seen the film, so it might make the music even better. The creative force behind Manchester Orchestra made one of the most unique and haunting scores in recent memory (it’s mostly all their voices) that serves as a bonus Manchester Orchestra album and an elevation of one of my favorite films of 2016.
Everything Everything: Get to Heaven If it weren’t for three or four clunkers this would have been in my top. Check out “”
Owel: Dear Me Good, sweeping emo-esque music that makes you feel good things.
Against the Current: In Our Bones corporate pop-mo that shouldn’t be as good as it is.
Various: La La Land And a third soundtrack! This is just aces.
Radical Face: The Family Tree: The Leaves My friend Brig once said he doesn’t like Radical Face as much as he should. I agree. But this one made me see the potential.
Metronomy: Summer 08 Like Hot Chip but with better vocals!
Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 3 Probably the most important album of the year but was also released on Christmas Day so I haven’t given the proper vetting.
Thrice: To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere solid with a few songs that were some of this year’s best.
Sturgill Simpson: A Sailor’s Guide to Earth How country should sound! That voice is unearthly.
Regina Spektor: Remember Us to Life Pretty impressive really that her quirkiness has sustained for over a decade. A few tracks are just spectacular.
Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool A good album! But not as good as critics all seem to echo chamber. I mean, change the band name and make a double-blind study with critics and this album wouldn’t surpass a B for most.