2016 was one of the best years for music in recent memory. Unique pop escapades, challenging experimental techno, tremendous hardcore outings… what isn’t there to like? Step into my top 48 albums of 2016.
Uniola, the latest effort by Florida indie-rock band Look Mexico, is the grown-up, matured iteration of their classic math-inspired sound. They’ve spent a while honing this record – it’s been five years since their last release. From the art to the sound, Uniola is a stark progression from awkward adolescence – everything’s tighter, more refined, and more nuanced than the band’s earlier days. Still, youthfulness and eccentricity peek out at points; notably the song titles, with witty one liners like “Ice? Yeah, You Could Chisel Some Off Your Heart, If You Could Find It.” among others.
This Is Your Brain On Love
Rare Futures are the newly-imagined descendant of now-defunct Happy Body Slow Brain, with a lineup essentially identical… and This Is Your Brain On Love is the long-awaited “follow-up” to HBSB’s phenomenal Dreams Of Water. Despite the name change, and all the uncertainty that comes with it, the soul and spirit of HBSB are still visible and wholly present within Rare Futures’ newest work. …Love is a gorgeous, rocking drive through an utterly blissful blend of funk, indie, and soul; exhibiting all sorts of jam-ready rock music.
Broken World Media
Deer Leap are one of those bands who never get enough recognition while they’re together. Initially going into indefinite hiatus shortly after their 2012 debut Here. Home., they gathered a small cult following, growing even without producing any music. 2016 gifted us the announcement of their sophomore LP, Impermanence: a spacious, comforting, wistful piece of emo-influenced indie and post-rock. Deer Leap created an album contouring the essence of evening nostalgia, the warm feeling next to a fireplace, and the odd longing while driving by the house of someone you fell out with years prior. Evocative and floating, Impermanence writes of memories, desires, and every other feeling that a warm summer night evokes after a day spent pruning over old photographs. Deer Leap may be back, but nothing beautiful stays forever – treasure them while they are still here.
Let Me Win Your Hearts And Minds
Dog Knights Productions
The debut album by South London UK band Rough Hands is a wild, crackling exploration of modern post-hardcore tendencies. Let Me Win Your Hearts And Minds is just that – a simple gesture, a call for the listener to engage with the album. It’s quite enticing; a very refreshing blend of hardcore influence alongside sharp guitars and rough vocals, perking the ears like a sharp lightning strike. It’s immediate, driving, and over quite quickly – though brief, it’s particularly gripping, and an excellent example of what post-hardcore can bring in 2016.
Into It. Over It.
Triple Crown Records
Standards is Evan Weiss’ third proper LP as Into It. Over It., written deep in Vermont wilderness. Intimate and intricate, Weiss showcases everything he’s always been know for: heart-on-sleeve vocals and shimmering backing instruments. It’s grand in a personal sense, feeling much like a soulful living-room session with low lighting. Standards is a bit of a slower record than previous LP Intersections; nevertheless, it feels more concise in its delivery, wasting little time inbetween verses and glittering chord progressions. Weiss made himself a classic here; Standards is his most essential work.
Joliette! Holy moly, these guys are absolutely wild. Their new EP (mini-LP in my opinion), Atáxico, is a defining step in the career of the band. With the release of the EP, Joliette pull ahead of their contemporaries in the Mexican hardcore scene, and crank themselves up a notch – touring with larger acts like Birds In Row and Tiny Moving Parts. It’s an absolute masterpiece of what the band themselves call “post-everything” music. In essence, Atáxico is extraordinarily invigorating; and, while having to translate the lyrics may be slightly frustrating, it adds an extra layer to the music not often present. You can enjoy it with or without the lyrics, honestly, that’s the beauty of it – the instrumentation alone is on-point. Violence and serenity blend into a discordant mix of sound, precisely enabling what it is that Joliette do so well: standing out from the crowd.
Mannequin Pussy are an eclectic bunch. Pairing the hard sounds of punk and hardcore with sweet pop hooks, they slammed the scene with their debut album GP in 2014. Now, with their succinct and spectacular sophomore LP Romantic, they’ve perfected their sound in the most beautiful and brutal way. Short, rambunctious punk bursts pair with sweet pop interludes, and vocalist Marisa Dabice provides a vocal and tonal range unparalleled. It’s such a seamless record, and the diversity of the lyricism and instrumentation create an unforgettable experience. Mannequin Pussy, despite the crass name, are turning out to be one of the most unique figures in modern-day punk rock.
Equal Vision Records
Owel are such a criminally overlooked band. Their debut self-titled album through Intheclouds was amazing, yes – but the band themselves just never seemed to gain enough momentum. It came as a very happy surprise when Equal Vision announced signing Owel, and the release of Dear Me is what hopefully will be a springboard to launch the band into the attention they deserve. Owel write sweet, lovely indie-pop songs with a post-rock twang; with vocals that soar through the sky. Dear Me is the culmination of such, mastering the art of beautiful indie rock. Songs like “Too Young To Fall In Love” and “I Am Not Yours” are catchy, enticing little nuggets of songwriting, beautiful in rhythm and seducing in melody. Dear Me solidifies that Owel are one of the most inspiring indie-rock acts to watch.
▶ Listen here: Alt Press
We Are At Home In The Body
Broken World Media
On their debut LP, We Are At Home In The Body, For Everest and vocalists Sarah Cowell and Nick Pitman open themselves up carefully to the world. We Are At Home… is a sensitive and intimate album, firing strong with “Reasons #2-7”. They open, “How long does it take to convince yourself it’s just a mistake?”. Cowell and Pitman write personal stories, painting their insecurities and daily observances in a personable, human way. It’s a tender, close to home, and honest exploration of self-doubt, insecurity, and trying to exist in whatever world we find ourselves in when we wake up. Through expressive vocals and fluttering metaphors, For Everest write songs for the human condition.
To think that it’s been three years since Bomb The Music Industry broke up… it’s amazing how time passes. Jeff Rosenstock knows it was a different time, too. With WORRY, he forms a potent statement of the current state of the world, and the state of those living anxiety-ridden within. It’s a very stark contrast to last year’s We Cool?; pacing frenetically through the brain, gaining anxiety itself as it progresses. The songs gradually form a massive blob towards the middle of the B-side, even, with short runtimes bleeding into each other while Rosenstock sings about hellholes, clouds pissing rainbows, and overbearing anxiety. Though that’s not to say the album doesn’t have composure, rather it holds it in such a way that the title – WORRY. – suggests is quite strenuous. Rosenstock sings exactly how we all feel right now – anxious, stressed, frustrated… and, well, worried.
Powell’s debut album, Sport, starts off with a screaming synth in opener “FiT_17” – quite the entrance to what is a powerful, apprehensive, and challenging record. Coming off the heels of some outright killer 12″s, Powell slams down the law, providing his first album and most complete work to date. Heavily experimental, and not afraid to break every boundary of electronic beat music, Sport really is its own beast. The record’s 14 tracks swing back and forth between harsh interludes, creating an incredible sense of progression not present in prior works. It’s best listened to as a whole, not skipping anything, as it was quite purposefully designed to engage the listener as much as possible. Sport defies genre expectations while definitely finding heavy influence within the classical techno scene, it’s all very much in a league of its own.
Right on the heels of his 2015 double-album Howl, London-based producer Ryan Lee West has put out a downright entrancing mini-LP under his Rival Consoles moniker. Night Melody is not an extension of his prior work, it’s a unit of its own, with a respectable 34 minute runtime. Across 6 songs he explores minimalist-inspired techno at its finest, with melancholy synth melodies dripping like syrup over smooth drums. Utterly stunning and personal, Night Melody bewilders and trembles, providing a hypnotic experience that’s not to be missed.