So it’s December again. 2017 is right around the corner. Another year come and gone. With it brought—surprisingly, I know—a year’s worth of music. Even though the year isn’t quite over yet, now is the time that I make my top 10 albums of the year list. Nothin’ amazing is gonna come out for the rest of this month, right? If it does… well, I’ll probably be like, “Aww man, I wish that’d come out a few weeks earlier…” Regardless, the following are my top 10 albums of 2016. You might read many other top 10 albums of 2016 lists, but this one is the only one you will read that will be written by me. Undeniably, therefore, these are the albums released in 2016 considered the best by me, and are the top albums of the year, based on the highly scientific criteria that I liked them the best.
Something wrong, Todd?
Maybe you should run some water over ‘em. Anyway, here we go…
TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2016
- Face to Face: Protection
I had some difficulty with this one; it was a really close call between this and Useless I.D.’s “State is Burning.” In the end, I gave “Protection” the nod, based on a very important piece of criteria; I listened to this album more, and this album is more uniquely Face to Face than “State is Burning” is uniquely Useless I.D. When you listen to “Protection,” you hear Trever Keith’s vocals, and you’re all like, “this is Face to Face.” If you are me, that is. I could sit here and pretend that I know much more about this band, but my knowledge of them goes as far as: they were one of the first bands on Fat Wreck Chords; they come from the desert somewhere in southern Cali; my eldest brother had a few of their albums and they sounded pretty cool; I have a split they did with the Dropkick Murphies back in the mid noughts. So really, I don’t know shit about them. I do recognize their lead vocalist’s voice, however. Also, this album is their quickest, most upbeat offering that I’ve heard, and it was recorded in the Blasting Room. Bill Stevenson is the guy. So yeah; I wasn’t inspired to buy their last offering, but I picked up this one, and I liked it a lot. Standout track: 14:59.
- kriegsmammut: polybius
So this dude’s album was put out by the record label “Pterodactyl Squad,” a British label that puts out chiptune music. I think I read back when this album came out that this dude used Atari sound effects and loops to make this album, hence why it is considered chiptune. There are points on this album when it sounds more like experimental or noise music, however… It gets pretty abstract and weird. That’s why I like it, though. I find myself more and more liking stuff that pushes the boundaries of what is considered “music.” Also, I like to piss my friends off with stuff like this, sometimes. There’s a 9 minute track on here called “monster resurrector” that I really like, but it’s too long, so… standout track: defiance
- Pup: The Dream is Over
When I picked up this album, I think I was thinking that these guys were the band “PEARS” that the scene has been giving some attention to as of late. When I last heard anything by “PEARS,” I was like, “eh, this is pretty good, but… I’m not super inspired to listen to anymore or buy it.” So when I got this album, I was surprised by how fun and upbeat this was. Right away, these guys drew me in with their opening lyrics: “If this tour doesn’t kill you, then I will. I hate your guts, and it makes me ill,” etc. There’s singing, there’s shouted lyrics, and there’s some unusual, changed-up rhythm—almost like math rock—thrown in, too. There are a few slower tracks that I skip sometimes, but overall, I really like this album. Think I might have to check out their first album, too. Standout track: Asleep in the Heat
- Nerf Herder: Rockingham
Ah, Nerf Herder. It had been quite a while since they came out with their last album, I believe; like, 10+ years? Their first album is a classic, regardless, makes me feel super nostalgic for like 1996 or whenever. …20 year ago, holy shit. They also did the theme song for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You might recognize the name “Perry Grip,” as he’s been doing stuff on youtube in the interim, “Dramatic Chipmunk,” “Young Girl Talking About Herself,” etc. Anyway, this album is gold. Some goofy, funny shit, as per usual. Stephen Hawking even shows up at one point! They got a song about cons, a song about Star Wars, a song about Ghostbusters, a song about Doctor Who, a few songs about people I’ve never heard of, but most importantly… Standout track: Portland
- Aesop Rock: The Impossible Kid
Not to be confused with the mainstream sellout a$ap rocky who basically stole his name (I don’t really know anything about that other guy, but I was annoyed when some coworkers knew who he was but didn’t know AESOP ROCK). Ian Matthias Bavitz has been doin’ this for quite a while longer than that poseur; since like the mid 90s, in fact. The first thing I heard from Bavitz was his track “None Shall Pass” off the 2007 album of the same name, and his vocals were hypnotizing. Half a decade later, I picked up the first release of his collab with Kimya Dawson, “the Uncluded,” which had a very unique blend of folk and rap. “The Impossible Kid” is “just” hip-hop, but it’s some pretty awesome hip-hop; the tracks are really interesting and unique-sounding, and once again, Aesop’s got a hypnotizing way with his vox. A lot of it doesn’t follow a conventional rhythm, so that’s pretty cool. I don’t listen to much rap, but what I do listen to tends to stand out in some way to me. I don’t like listening to the same ol’ shit, not even with punk music. Aesop Rock definitely isn’t the same ol’ shit. Standout track: Lotta Years
- Richmond Fontaine: You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing to Go Back To
Allegedly (according to my brother… also Wikipedia), this is to be Willy Vlautin and co.’s final project together (maybe Vlautin’s gonna go write some more critically-acclaimed novels? Only one I’ve read is Lean on Pete, and it was pretty awesome). They’ve been around for 20+ years, so it’s kinda understandable that they feel it time to move on, now. If ya don’t know, Richmond Fontaine is an alt country act. Their latest offering follows 2011’s “The High Country,” which was a concept album with spoken word tracks interspersed throughout. This one is more straightforward music, but as with most of their past material, most songs tell a story, anyway. The second track is about a guy going back to his home town, to find that there’s nothing to go back to (hence the title of the album), another one’s about a guy who swindled the narrator of some horses, but when he meets him again, he’s so pathetic and lost that he can’t really be mad at him anymore, and so on (a lot of Vlautin’s characters are often of questionable character, or at least put in questionable situations). If you’ve never heard of them, but like songs that tell a story, you should check ‘em out. Standout Track: Three Brothers Roll Into Town
- Jimmy Eat World: Integrity Blues
Y’know, I think Jimmy Eat World have been consistently putting out an album every 3 years ever since 2001, when “Bleed American” came out (before that, their first three albums came out within like 2 or 3 years of each other). Some people say this is their best album since 2001. I disagree, because I really liked “Futures,” which came out in 2004. However, this is their best album since Futures, by far. A lot less filler than some of the albums between then and now, I can’t think of a single track off the album that I get bored of or don’t really care for. It’s a bit of a mix of everything from their past 3 albums that worked for me, with some upbeat, poppy songs, some slower, mellow songs, and a track that goes from rather synthy to ending with a super sludgy, heavy breakdown at the end. Both their singles are solid, though I prefer “Sure and Certain” to “Get Right.” That said: Stand out track: You With Me
- Descendents: Hypercaffium Spazzinate
These guys are the godfathers of pop-punk; they’ve been doing their thing since 1978 (well, Bill Stevenson has, but Milo Aukerman joined in 80, and Karl Alvarez and Stephen Egerton joined in ’86, so that line up’s been around for 30 years). It’s been 12 years since their last album; Milo has a habit of disappearing into the academia for long periods of time for some silly reason. In the interim, Stevenson and crew were doing “ALL,” “the Descendents” with a different singer, but ALL hasn’t had an album since 2000, and it never got the same attention that the Descendents got (which I think is a shame; I think I tend to like ALL songs better than Descendents songs, even though I think Milo is also the guy, in addition to Bill, as are Karl and Stephen). I think it’s telling that ALL probably won’t do another album, because there are quite a few tracks on here that sound like they would’ve been ALL tracks. There’s some more serious subject matter here that Descendents didn’t used to do, and I really dig it. At the same time, everything’s upbeat and fun; the band sounds like they’ve always sounded like, and they sound like… the Descendents. No one does it quite like them (well, aside from ALL). Standout track: Victim of Me
- Avett Brothers: True Sadness
Quick breakdown, the Avett Brothers are a folk rock/alt country band from North Carolina, consisting of brothers Scott and Seth Avett, along with a couple other dudes (and maybe now a chick?) These guys were starting to worry me, because I was not all that into their last offering, “Magpie and the Dandelion.” It had a lot of slow, long, mellow, and boring tracks. I can do a track like that here and there, but it was literally almost the entire album; I think there were two upbeat, energetic songs on the entire thing. With “True Sadness,” they’ve vindicated themselves. The album starts out with the super upbeat, catchy, happy “Ain’t No Man,” followed by a couple slower songs, but then picks up again after that. There are one or two more slower songs, but they’re evenly spaced and good songs. The most upbeat track after “Ain’t No Man” is probably “Victims of Life” (suppose that title doesn’t sound too upbeat, though), but the whole album reminds me why I like this band so much. The brothers are talented singers, the band is a talented group of musicians, and quite a few of the songs really speak to me (I must confess that I love when they sing about drinking too, and there’s at least two songs in which they do this). So yeah; this is comparable to 2009’s “I and Love and You,” and reminds me of why I like them so much. Standout Track: Smithsonian
- Jeff Rosenstock: Worry
“Jeff Rosenstock” is a name of a person who has been in a few ska, punk, alternative, etc. bands spanning some 20 years; he’s founded a couple record labels, is friends with Mike Park, and he opens his mouth REALLY wide when he shouts his lyrics (just watch him do it). Back in the day, I discovered his old ska band “The Arrogant Sons of Bitches” because someone on AlbinoBlacksheep.com made a flash video of their song “Go Ska!”. I remember people saying “this isn’t what they’re usually like,” and I was like, “why does that matter? Is this bad? I like it.” I owned their whole album at one point, but now I only have 3 of their tracks. I didn’t really pay attention to “Bomb the Music Industry!” for whatever reason, but now I wish I had, because it seems they were pretty awesome. I rediscovered Rosenstock when he followed my Tumblr account (and I followed his, and he unfollowed mine, the dick). His album last year, “We Cool?” was a lot of fun too, and had the awesome song “Hey Allison!” on it. This year’s offering is even more awesome. Some people compare it to the Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” because there’s a bunch of short songs in the second half that lead into each other. In a recent interview, Rosenstock said he never listened to the Beatles. Anyway, it’s a punk album, it’s also got keyboards and a xylophone I think, and it’s pretty sweet. Based on my criteria for writing my list, it is the best album that has come out this year. Standout track: Wave Goodnight to Me
2016 HONORABLE MENTIONS
Mac Lethal: Congratulations; The Dillinger Escape Plan: Dissociation; Modern Baseball: Holy Ghost; MC Chris: is Dreaming; Delerium: Mythologie; TMBG: Phone Power; Useless I.D.: State is Burning; Switchfoot: Where the Light Shines Through
TOP 5 EPs OF 2016
5.King Punch: Burger on the Orient Express. This is like a British ska band or something. A lot of their stuff might be closer to rock with horns, but they’re pretty awesome; really catchy music.
4.Corey Valentine: The Glow EP. Some kinda British synth pop act. Very catchy, very poppy. All the poppiness, in fact.
3.Matt Wixson’s Flying Circus: About Time. This is some indie pop punk dude. He put this record out on Community Records, a label you should check out. Someone said something about him going to shows he isn’t featured in and playing outside as loud as he can with an accoustic guitar. That sounds awesome.
2.Boy Meets Robot: The Robots Will Kill Us All. I’m not sure if this is a guy or a band. Either way, this is a really fun chiptune rock EP. Very catchy, and also funny, a la Jonathan Coulton.
1.Jontron and the Gregory Brothers: Love is Like Drugs. Jontron did a video with the guys who do the “Songify This” thing. It’s very catchy, poppy, and funny. Jontron is the guy. You can tell he puts a lot of work into whatever he does. People say he’s really nice, too. He seems like it.
BEST COVER ALBUM OF 2016 (THE ONLY ONE TOM LISTENED TO):
Ninja Sex Party + TWRP: Under the Covers. I enjoy Danny Sexbang and Ninja Brian. Also, the TWRP guys are pretty cool. They like to do some kinda funk/synth/rock type of music. This album introduced me to Rush’s “Subdivisions,” and it also has the best cover of Boingo’s “We Close Our Eyes,” (though unfortunately, that’s not really saying much… most covers of that song are shit. Sorry to say it, RBF.)
That’s pretty much it. I haven’t listened to everything there is to listen to this year, but I don’t think anything else would’ve interested me as much as the stuff I listed above. I have a system for buying new albums; if the sample I’m listening to doesn’t immediately interest me, I move on. I can be highly temperamental and moody, too, so there’s probably at least a few albums I’ll discover a few years from now and be all like, “…this is really good. I should’ve listened to this the year it came out.” At the same time, I don’t seem to like a lot of things other people like. *shrug* Not really a hipster; just a weirdo.