I’ve listened to 100s of hours of music. I’ve listened to the same albums over and over again. After many hours of agonizing deliberation here are my top 10 albums of 2016. There were so many good albums this year that I contemplated doing a top 15 or 20 but no. No, I said. I must whittle them down to 10. Although, stay tuned I’m doing an article about my honorable mentions and why they didn’t quite make the cut.
This year I’ve switched from Spotify links to Apple Music links. Sorry, if that’s an issue but we’re an Apple household and Apple Music makes more sense. I’m sure you can figure out how to listen to these albums on Spotify. After each album you’ll get the link to the album and at the end you’ll get a link to the playlist of one song off each album. Alright, got it? Here we go!
10. Solange – A Seat at the Table (Columbia Records)
While her sister is busy racking up number one spots on every other best of list I vastly preferred this album. At 21 tracks and 50 minutes this album seems like it might be pretty daunting but it is downright breezy. The album features many interludes that start out appearing every few songs and then end up being between every song. And each one fits the track it’s about to introduce perfectly. I found myself enjoying every second of the album and actually being shocked when it was over. I couldn’t believe 50 wonderful, soulful, daring minutes had passed.
9. Joyce Manor – Cody (Epitaph)
Joyce Manor quietly released their best album back in August. So quietly that I only listened to it twice and then…..kind of forgot about it. When I went to go make this list I saw Joyce Manor and couldn’t for the life of me remember what I thought. I was sure it wouldn’t make the top 10 but I ended up listening to it twice in a row. By the end of the second listen I was in love with it. Joyce Manor has grown up and made their most mature album yet. All while still retaining all the things you love about Joyce Manor.
8. Newmoon – Space (Mayfly Records)
In 2014 Newmoon released their criminally under-appreciated debut EP Invitation to Hold. After that I assumed that maybe they had called it quits. But now here we are over two years later with their stunning debut album. Space is everything you wanted it to be. Delivering on the promise of Invitation… but expanding and refining its sound into one of the best rock records of the year. No one did reverb better in 2016 than Newmoon.
7. Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost (Run for Cover)
Speaking of pop-punk bands getting mature. No one embraced that this year more than Modern Baseball. Their last album was a mostly light-hearted romp about girls breaking your heart. This album is centered around missing loved ones both alive and dead, depression, suicide, and hopefully getting better. The only question now is whether or not these guys are going to cheer up by their next album.
6. Sioux Falls – Rot Forever (Broken World Media)
Rot Forever the debut album by Sioux Falls (now known as Strange Ranger) makes zero sense on paper. 72 minutes of music that is supposed to sound like the entire range of indie rock in the 90s. Miraculously the band pulls it off flawlessly. Rot Forever sounds like an album you found in your older brother’s car. Something formative, exhaustive, that you could listen to every day without getting bored of it. How they could ever follow this up I have no idea but it’ll definitely be exciting.
5. The Hotelier – Goodness (Tiny Engines)
In one fell swoop The Hotelier cemented their place in the Emo revival with their incredible 2014 album Home, Like Noplace is There. Just a little over two years later the band returns with the grandiose Goodness. Everything from the announcement of the album to the packaging is infinitely more intricate than Home. And that goes for the music too. The band effortlessly weaves from spoken word interludes to tight chaotic indie rock jams. It’s the bands first attempt at inching towards something epic and they nail it. It’s clear that The Hotelier didn’t want to be pigeonholed as just another Emo band and they deftly dodged that tag with Goodness.
4. Balance and Composure – Light We Made (Vagrant)
The first time I heard Postcard the lead single from Balance and Composure’s third album it made me a bit weary. First of all it ripped off Radiohead’s I Might be Wrong and second of all…..it didn’t sound anything like Balance and Composure. Had the band gone off the deep end? We’re they trying to commit career suicide? Nope, turns out they made their best album. The album in full doesn’t sound that much different from the band’s previous work. They just added new layers on top of their existing sound. Light We Made is one of the most refreshing original sounding rock records of the year.
3. Into It. Over It. – Standards (Triple Crown Records)
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Standards is the best Into It. Over It. album. The album is filled to the brim with rock solid pop-rock with just enough embellishments to make things interesting. These songs are easy to listen to and I don’t mean that as a negative. I mean that the album feels like its over before it begins and then you just want to start it again. After the first listen I knew this was going to be a top 3 album of the year. Without hesitation one of the best albums of the year.
2. Touche Amore – Stage Four (Epitaph)
By now you probably know the story behind Stage Four. An album that documents the journey of singer Jeremy Bolm after his mother dies of cancer. But listening to it is another beast altogether. The first time I heard it I could not believe some of the lyrics. They aren’t just honest they are so intensely personal you will cringe. Some of the lyrics aren’t even relatable they are straight up just lines from someone else’s diary. It is very hard to listen to at times. Luckily Bolm is backed up by his more than capable bandmates who continue to combine bracing hardcore with increasingly more jangly indie rock. The closing track Skyscraper is mandatory listening in 2016. I always think there’s no way Touche Amore could outdo themselves and they continue to defy my expectations at every turn.
1. Frank Ocean – Blond (Boys Don’t Cry)
Frank Ocean spends the first three minutes of one of the most anticipated albums in recent history with his voice pitched up so high he sounds like an alien. And quite frankly he might as well be. Every four years Frank Ocean descends from the Heavens and blesses us with an album. An album that never sounds like anything else. Something that sounds like it came from another planet or even another solar system. Something so groundbreaking that no one even attempts to duplicate it. There is no one else that sounds like Frank Ocean. There is nothing else that sounds like Blond. Every time I listen to this album something new unfurls. A sound I never heard before. Wordplay I never thought about before. I look forward to the next four years between this album and the next. As I continue to uncover all the little treasures this album has buried in it. Maybe one day Frank Ocean will make an album because so far all he’s made is masterpieces.
Playlist Link: Coming Soon
Honorable Mentions, EPs, 7″s, Etc.
Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Kevin Devine – Instigator
Planes Mistaken for Stars – Prey
Super Unison – Auto
Self Defense Family – Colicky
Self Defense Family/Null – Split
Dangers – The Bend in the Break
Oathbreaker – Rheia
American Football – American Football (LP2)
Hesitation Wounds – Awake for Everything
The World is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Long Live Happy Birthday
Wilco – Schmilco
Deftones – Gore
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Bon Iver – 22, a Million