Everyone would agree that twenty sixteen was a year that brought upon us newfound self-pity, self-doubt, and self-reflection, all with a loss of how to react or cope with the current state of things. No matter your personal opinions with whether we are in an incline or decline of western civilization we all can come together and agree that we are living in the first days of a new world. How you interpret those first days of the rest of our life is up for interpretation.
Politics provide a framework to divide. Social issues, largely, are defined as being a separating line between us all. The simplest way that I have found to manage my collective frustrations, or celebrations, have been through the art of music. I have not perfected the craft of creating music, so I have, for some time, resorted to finding the music that best speaks to me to interpret the words and feelings that I have inside. Whether it be through the melodies or the words, each of these albums have helped me through this trying year.
The following albums are ones that I have enjoyed and wanted to share with those that care to listen.
First, my five honorable mentions:
The Lumineers | Cleopatra
YG | Still Brazy
Juvenilia | Juvenilia
Cymbals Eat Guitars | Pretty Years
Nice As F*ck | Nice As F*ck
Now, here is the countdown of my favorite records of the year:
20 Ultimate Painting | Dusk
This is a record from some guys from the UK bringing us rock music in tune to the 1960s. The most enjoyable moments in music are when you can witness someone recreate something old and make it new again, and I like the cover art font choice.
stand outs: Bills, Monday Morning, Song For Brian Jones
19 Communist Daughter | The Cracks That Built the Wall
The stumbling upon Communist Daughter is solely the responsibility of my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist. If you are confused by that opening statement then do yourself a favor and Google it. You can thank me later…and, your welcome. The melancholy tone to the stripped down emotion within this record is difficult to forget. The tattered wellbeing of the singer is front and center in the lyrics of the songs on The Cracks That Built the Wall and I hope that future Communist Daughter records start to reflect the positive progress to the mental state of the lead vocalist.
stand outs: Hold Back, Balboa Bridge, Sunday Morning Again
18 Sioux Falls | Rot Forever
Sioux Falls is for when you want to listen to some classic Modest Mouse or Built to Spill, but with new perspective and fresh blood. There are several epic 6 to 7 minute tracks on Rot Forever that easily become the soundtrack to the background of your afternoon. The ambition of this record are admirable and definitely worth checking out.
stand outs: 3fast, Dom, In Case It Gets Lost
17 Milk Teeth | Vile Child
If the XX ditched the DJ and adopted an actual drum set, infatuation for the 80s, and some screamo then you end up with Milk Teeth. The UK still knows how to breed good punk bands.
stand outs: Brickwork, Brain Food, Get A Clue
16 The Lowest Pair | Fern Girl & Ice Man and Uncertain As It Is Uneven
Banjo’s, a beard, and that trendy guy/girl dual vocal. This kind of music reminds me of my late grandfather. Not because he played a banjo or that he had a beard (he did not), but because his love for music represents to me the foundation of music that this record builds upon. I used to seek this genre out for the sake of remembrance, but now it has easily become part of my taste in music. I call it a win-win, and with 2 records released by The Lowest Pair this year it helps solidifying them as one of my favorites.
stand outs: Sweet Breath, Mason’s Trowel, The River Will
15 Hope Sandoval & the Warm Intentions | Until the Hunter
I should preface this with saying that I wouldn’t have thought to like or listen to Hope Sandoval if it weren’t for my incredible wife. I tend to dominate the speakers at home with my fairly annoying selections, but sometimes I’ll forfeit control for the sake of a good recommendation. Thanks, Nicole, this was a good listen. To summarize, it would benefit to include that with a guest vocal of my favorite singer of 2015 on one of the tracks helps with my liking of this record as well.
stand outs: Let Me Get There, A Wonderful Seed, Into The Trees
14 Third Eye Blind | We Are Drugs
Personally, it is simple to write about Third Eye Blind. It is comforting, for some reason, to listen to Stephen Jenkins lispfully sing over tracks that take you back to 1998. The ironic part here is that there really hasn’t been a good album since Kevin Cadogen left the band in 1999. With that being said, and with the addition of some new 20somethings to the band’s lineup, 3eb has finally put together a record that is good again. After listening to it, my first thought is: “I’d totally purchase a Steph Jenkins rap album!” Jenkins can’t sing, but he can write a killer pop record.
stand outs: Cop vs Phone Girl, Company Of Strangers, Isn’t It Pretty
13 Michael Kiwanuka | Love & Hate
I’m super white. Ask my wife. My overcompensation this year to be more musically diverse has been very refreshing and has come with a more diverse list of favorites. The future of music has offered the ability to expand yourself as a music fan as you digitally explore artists similar to those that you already listen to. Kiwanuka is one of my favorite self-discoveries and this record that brought me to him will remain a personal favorite of mine.
stand outs: Love & Hate, Black Man In A White World, Father’s Child
12 Saint Motel | saintmotelevision
To represent my absolute whiteness, Saint Motel has become part of the soundtrack of my life in 2016. “Gotta get up, gotta get up, MOVE!” has become the single lyric to keep me going. Dancing with my kids to LA2NY in the living room while my wife shakes her head and laughs has given new reason to enjoy indie dance pop music again.
stand outs: Move, Born Again, Local Long Distance Relationship (LA2NY)
11 Wye Oak | Tween
Tween happens to be that abbreviated record that takes you to a place where you want to be when you are somewhere that you don’t. The quilted musical atmosphere within Tween will be doubled down as you find yourself instinctually starting the record over when it suddenly ends.
stand outs: Watching The Waiting, If You Should See, Trigger Finger
10 Starflyer 59 | Slow
Bands from my adolescence always seem to sneak themselves into my current playlists, and it only benefits the playlist when those bands release new music that is good. I started to lose interest in SF59 for awhile, but came back when I heard Slow. It’s nostalgic in every sense of the word, and even Jason Martin admits to his enjoyment of losing himself in that euphoric feeling.
stand outs: Wrongtime, Slow, Retired
9 Future of the Left | The Peace & Truce Of Future of the Left
If you know me at all you are aware that I like to make bizarre comparisons of the up-and-coming to those that have already been; Future Of The Left is basically a hardcore Ted Leo. Being a fan of the latter I have found it satisfying to listen to post punk versions of Me and Mia with fists pumping.
stand outs: Back When I Was Brilliant, Miner’s Gruel, The Limits Of Battleships
8 DIIV | Is The Is Are
Getting lost in music happens to be a favorite pastime of mine. DIIV gives us an overly ambitious effort of a record with Is The Is Are. As their second release, it feels like they have maintained a permanent position in the corner of the mainstay of post-shoegaze. I’m pretty certain that the Roman Numeral for how many times this record kicks ass is DIIV.
stand outs: Dopamine, Under The Sun, Healthy Moon
7 The Lippies | The Lippies
This debut is reminiscent of last year’s Imaginary Life by Worriers; punk rock at it’s least common denominator. During the latter weeks of 2016 I found myself in a car a lot and the tracks on this record helped the dashed yellow line on my left pass a bit quicker. Fans of punk rock need to be listening to The Lippies.
stand outs: 302, As We Fall, Fuck The Customer
6 NoFX | First Ditch Effort
NOFX is one of those bands that helped define who I am as a fan of music. They were one of the first punk bands that I got into and paved the way toward the slippery slope. Fat Mike, as offbeat and strange as he may be, will always have dibs with a place in the answer of the question “who are your top 3 favorite musicians?” First Ditch Effort rips off the scabs and exposes the scars and pains that previous records have not. The passing of another one of my adolescent favorite punk rock vocalist, Tony Sly, has helped contribute to Fat Mike’s introspective nature on I’m So Sorry Tony. The usual play on words still exist on this NOFX record, but the overall revelation of the importance of expressing the feelings that are inside seem to be calling shotgun in Fat Mike’s joy ride of juvenile delinquency.
stand outs: Oxy Moronic, Six Years On Dope, I’m So Sorry Tony
5 The Hotelier | Goodness
At this point it doesn’t even matter if a good rock band is emo or not. Sometimes good music is just that – good. On the coattails of bands such as Thrice, Brand New, and Jimmy Eat World is seems that being considered relevant beyond the established realm of the genre of emo is a difficult achievement to hold. The Hotelier, with Goodness, have made the genre relevant again by exposing the bare elements of the music they embody with their music as well as with some revealing cover art that embodies the bare elements of an aging generation.
stand outs: Goodness Pt. 2, Piano Player, Soft Animal
4 Car Seat Headrest | Teens Of Denial
This year Car Seat Headrest seems to be the critic’s choice for best underground indie pick for their own “best-of” lists. Turns out that they are correct with this one. A short Google search will help you find out that this is Car Seat’s 12th album since 2010, and the first one released on a label. At 23 I was delivering pizza, and this guy is delivering songs written and performed better than his peers and influences are. There is so much record to get lost in while listening to several of the tracks that feel like what could have been a couple different albums entirely. Regardless, in the end it feels good to know that there is a bright side to an aging Bright Eyes (refer to a later installment).
stand outs: Fill In The Blank, (Joe Gets Kicked Out Of School for Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t A Problem), Vincent
3 Conor Oberst | Ruminations
Last year one of my favorite records was from the Desaparecidos led by Conor Oberst fueled by the fire lit beneath his ass. This year he surprises with a somber return with a collection of intimate songs sung over a single guitar, an occasion piano, and harmonica in a way that only would be suitable for an aging Bright Eye. As the music industry fades and becomes relatively unnecessary, the indie voices that just missed their opportunity are reaching their middle ages. Conor Oberst, here, opens up himself with intimate subjects of depression, self-mutilation, and giving up presented on display with quiet renditions of subdued musical arrangements. This is easily my favorite Oberst album so far.
stand outs: Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out, Counting Sheep, Tachycardia
2 L.A. Salami | Dancing With Bad Grammar
The vivid storytelling ability within the lyrics of Dancing With Bad Grammar is enough to include this as one of my favorite records. Salami has a unique way with words that could be given a humble comparison to Elliott Smith and Bob Dylan. Tracks needing attention due to the exposition of words are Day To Day (For 6 Days A Week) & Loosely On My Mind. While most records nowadays pack a swift punch in just over 30 minutes this one is almost three times that long, but after listening you will understand why it was necessary. The dense prose that are sung over music so soothing you fail to realize the weight of the topics being sung about. This is singer-songwriting at it’s finest!
stand outs: I Wear This Because Life Is War!, The City Nowadays, Day To Day (For 6 Days A Week)
1 Da’ T.R.U.T.H. | It’s Complicated
It’s a hard time to be religious right now. 2016 has surprised me with the complications that it brought. Questions that I thought were answered have come back at me with second guesses. Everything from theology, to social issues, and political parameters have drafted the pages that have defined my second guessing. This record has provided me new hope in the meaning of what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be real. It reminds me that I am not the only one questioning things wondering if what I believe is what should be. Judging by the state of the world I doubt that things will get easier, but I stand here with raised hands hoping that with troubled times comes a new awakening. Not only is my favorite record this year from a Christian artist, but it is also rap. Each one of the tracks on It’s Complicated speaks so true within me that it was without struggle to decide that this was my favorite of 2016. May God Bless America and have mercy on us all.
stand outs: Religion, Judge, Color Purple