Music: an expression of humanity, escape, a soundtrack to life, deep passion….
It’s that time of the year again where we focus on what was excellent! It’s time for my favorite 30 records of 2016. I could say “best of” but let’s be honest, this is just a list of what I loved. And I missed or just didn’t get around to listening to a lot of records this year. I listened to just about 120 records in 2016 and yet still missed new records from Every Time I Die, Dillinger Escape Plan, Metallica, Chevelle, Russian Circles, Killswitch Engage, Dinosaur Jr, Conor Obesrt, and a host of others. And yet I will declare that 2016 was a great year for music. Way better than 2015! New labels like Ronald Records and Broken World Media had impressive releases all year and some heavy hitting vets released some of their greatest work at date. Plus, the rise and ease of finding music on Bandcamp opened up a whole world of great new unsigned talent from around the world. So without further jibber jabber, let’s do this!
Feel Better – Feel Better
Matter of Time – An Honest Shot In The Dark
Blacksmith – Fall/Apart
No Better – Forget Me Not
Body Origami – Thermal Blue
Ethan Luck – Record Store Day Digital 45″
Mildura – With Change
To Live As Sons – beaten.broken.alive
Circle of Dust – Machines Of Our Disgrace
Heavenfaced – To Keep You Safe
30. Quieter – From Me To You
I was a fan of Quieter from the moment I heard their debut ep Won’t Call Back. The bands brand of emo, which they self describe as “jock emo,” harkens back to the early 90’s where emo blurred the line with punk and hardcore. Bands like Boys Life, Thursday, Texas Is The Reason, Rites of Spring, and Brand New come to mind while listening to Quieter. Tracks like Fall Semester and Still Throwing Shades are two of my favorites from From Me To You.
29. Hypoluxo – If Language
Hypoluxo is what I imagine Joy Division would have sounded like if Ian Curtis hadn’t taken his life and the band was inspired by the shoegaze movement. If Language is full of British inspired indie rock and the vocals fall somewhere between Ian Curtis and Matt Berninger of The National.
28. Joyce Manor – Cody
Long Beach punkers Joyce Manor can write a solid hook. Songs like Eighteen, Last Your Heard Of Me, Make Me Dumb, and Stairs are instant attention grabbers. Fans of Saves The Day will love Cody!
27. Nerve Clinic – Feel Better
Feel Better is feel good rock and roll. Hook driven, four on the floor, upbeat rock and roll! A perfect ep!
26. Honey – Better Luck Next Year
The opening track to Better Luck Next Year is a jangly indie rock tune about Halloween that includes brilliant lyrics like “I want to watch the Evil Dead and let it scare me.” Think Rainer Maria and Earlimart
25. Hope For The Dying – Legacy
Legacy is another gem in Hope For The Dying’s already stacked catalog! One of the best current metal acts!
24. Ivadell – For The Birds
Ivadell followed up last year’s brilliant Maybe Tomorrow with another ep full of emo goodness. The hook on Lavendar Mind is easily the best thing the band has written yet.
23. Owen – The King of Whys
Even though I love Mike Kinsella, I had never gotten into Owen. But something about The King of Whys clicked with me. It’s a beautiful collection of well crafted, heartfelt songs.
22. Toy Maker – Boy Kings
Boy Kings is another record that reminds you of that connection emo has to hardcore. Toy Maker makes the type of music that makes me fall in love with music again. The music is mathy and melodic while the emotive, yelled vocals add to the band’s depth. One of my favorite discoveries this year!
21. Balance and Composure – Light We Made
In the early 2000’s, British new wave made its mark on mainstream music once again. Light We Made took that hook driven, dancey vibe and darkened it with punk attitude!
20. Glacier Veins – Clear Your Head
Glacier Veins was my 2016 obsession. Best new band of 2016, without a doubt! Clear Your Head is full of fun punk inspired emo. As a huge fan of Denali, Pohgoh, and Rocking Horse Winner, Clear Your Head was an instant hit for me!
19. Friends In Theory – Friends In Theory
Sweden’s Friend In Theory’s self-titled ep explodes out of your speakers the moment you hit play on the record. It it the band’s self-described pop songs for rock kids or my description of angst ridden, sugary rock tracks, the ep is perfect!
18. Milemarker – Overseas
2016 brought us the return of Milemarker! Devo for a new generation? Maybe. Sadly, I didn’t see Overseas on a lot of “best of” lists, which I think means this record was missed. Sure, the record is a little quirky, but it’s also one hell of a catchy post punk/new wave record.
17. Nothing – Tired Of Tomorrow
Fever Queen, Tired of Tomorrow’s opener, might be my favorite song of 2016. The song never fails to bring a smile to my face. Tired of Tomorrow is shoegaze perfection!
16. Deer Leap – Impermanence
It was almost an accident that I discovered Deer Leap, but man am I glad I did. If any album reminds me of classic, late 90’s emo, it’s Impermanence. A modern classic!
15. Face to Face – Protection
Punk icon’s Face to Face returned with one of their catchiest records to date! Punk perfection.
14. For Everest – We Are At Home In The Body
Sometimes upbeat and punk but often times reflective, We Are At Home In The Body is one of those records that surprised me. The dueling male/female vocals are fantastic! Pure pop goodness!
13. Zao – The Well-Intentioned Virus
All hail metalcore Legends Zao! The Well-Intentioned Virus is a hard-hitting instant classic in a discography that isn’t short on classics!
12. Everything In Slow Motion – Laid Low
Between Hands and Everything In Slow Motion, Shane Ochsner has been at the helm of some of my favorite records over the last 5 years. Laid Low might be more rock oriented but it’s some of Shane’s most intricate and compelling work to date!
11. Glacier Veins/Quieter – Relationship Goals
Did I mention I was obsessed with Glacier Veins this year? I love Quieter’s songs on this split, but the moment I heard “It’s Best If We Run” I fell head over heels for Glacier Veins!
10. Anthony Green – Pixie Queen
So many records I picked up on a whim this year that blew me away. Pixie Queen is a true gem. I love Circa Survive (and I enjoyed Green’s return to Saosin) but Pixie Queen is the first time I’ve been blown away by Green’s songwriting ability.
9. Danae – Direction
I’m a sucker for great pop music and Danae had the best pop record I heard all year.
8. Comrades – Lone/Grey
I’ve been a fan of Comrades for a long time and Lone/Grey is easily the band’s most impressive work to date. I’m glad Facedown picked the band up and have given them a bigger platform!
7. American Football – American Footbal (LP2)
After 17 year American Football returned and it was every bit as good as I hoped it would be!The band followed up one of my all time favorite emo records with another gem.
6. Say Anything – I Don’t Think It Is
I only gave I Don’t Think It Is a listen out of curiosity and I’m glad I did. The collaboration between Max Bemis and Darren King is brilliant!
5. Into It. Over It. – Standards
It took nearly a dozen listens before I truly started to click with Standards and I’ve only grown to love the record more and more with each listen. From the mathy rhythms of No EQ and Required Reading to the slow jams of Your Lasting Image and Old Lace & Ivory, Standards is compelling through and through.
4. Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere
Thrice returned from hiatus and delivered what I believe is their best record to date.
3. Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues
Jimmy Eat World has been one of my favorite bands ever since I first heard Clarity in 99. And while I love each record the band has put out, Integrity Blues hits a lot of the same spots that Clarity first did. It feels fresh and inspired.
2. Field Mouse – Episodic
From the first notes of Episodic, I know that this was a special record. Shrugging off the dream pop/shoegaze of Hold Still Life, Field Mouse created an album full of new wave inspired power pop jams on Episodic.
1. The Hotelier – Goodness
I don’t even know where to start with Goodness. This was my favorite record of the year from the first time I hit play. This is what the emo revival is all about. Being inspired by something old and making it your own.