Picking ‘End Of The Year’ lists is a weird process. Last year I struggled to find five worthy albums. Two of the records I ended up choosing wouldn’t even make my honorable mentions this year, a year that had so many great releases that I’m forced (well, not really forced) to ignore five or six albums that would have easily cracked my top five in 2015. Strange times indeed. So to start, let’s take a look at a few records that would make the list in most other years but couldn’t quite make the cut in a stacked 2016.
Honorable Mention: Gore by Deftones; Weezer (The White Album) by Weezer; Celebrate by Tiny Moving Parts; Tired of Tomorrow by Nothing; Standards by Into It Over It; Blush by Moose Blood; and the hardest one to leave off the list, Integrity Blues by Jimmy Eat World.
Now that that’s over…
10. Abendrot by You Blew It!
This album is great and the only reason it’s a bit low is that it just came out recently and I haven’t dug as deeply into it as I would have liked to by this point. It’s no secret that I’ve pretty much loved this band since their first record, and I love how this album is a progression that keeps true to the roots and never feels like a reinvention. You can definitely feel the influence of producer Evan Weiss on this as well, which works very well for the band on their third effort. Favorite Song: ‘Autotheology’
9. Promise Everything by Basement
Just damn near perfect alternative music that makes me miss my days skateboarding in the ’90s. I love where they have gone with each record. Favorite Song: ‘Aquasun’
8. Cody by Joyce Manor
I loved Never Hungover Again and with Cody Joyce Manor picks up right where they left off. The most significant change is that the songs are now longer – not so long that the LP isn’t still 45 rpms – but still. A half hour is damn near a double album for them. That being said, the songs are solid all the way through, and bonus points for ‘Fake ID’ referencing Kanye West, John Steinbeck and Phil Hartman all in the same sentence and making it work. Favorite Song: ‘Eighteen’
7. Stage Four by Touché Amore
This album is not only my favorite by TA musically – I love the fact that they have gone full blown melodic – but lyrically this is by far one of the most emotionally moving records I have ever heard. I won’t recount it all here but this record exposes an incredible amount of personal experience and it’s very, very powerful. To make the emotional release complete, Julien Baker guests right before that freaking voicemail (if you listen, you’ll know the one). Just thinking about it gives me chills. Favorite Song: ‘New Halloween’
6. Cardinal by Pinegrove
This is my super late addition to the list. I heard of this band in February from my friend Nole, checked it out, liked it and completely forgot about it. Then I unintentionally saw them open for IIOI, remembered how great this record was and bought the LP from the merch table. Then I promptly forgot about the record again (to be fair we were moving and my record player was packed) and didn’t think about it until my same friend declared that it was his album of the year by a long shot. Finally I gave Cardinal its due. It’s an album that truly sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard. Southern, emo-esque, alternative…I don’t know, whatever it is, it’s really good. Favorite Song: ‘Old Friends’
5. Turn to Gold by Diarrhea Planet
This album came out at the right time for me. I was ending a brutal school year teaching, and along came DP to shred my face off with non-stop rock and some of the best guitar solos I’ve heard in a while. For some reason I love the fact that everything about this band is excessive (the name, four guitars, songs about riding a motorcycle in heaven with baby Jesus, etc.) and yet nothing feels forced in any way. This album could be summed up in two words for me: incredibly fun. And at the end of that school year, I needed some fun. Favorite Song: ‘Life Pass’
4. To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere by Thrice
If you would have asked me in June what my No.1 record would have been this would have been it. It hit hard from the get go with one of the best riffs/songs I’ve ever heard from Thrice, and didn’t let up. Also throw into the mix is the revelation that Dustin decided to write an entirely political record. It was a true return to form from the boys from Irvine, and man is it good to have them back. ‘Black Honey’ might also be one of the best metaphors I’ve ever heard in a song. I got to see them live twice this year and each show was great. The fact that they are not my top album this year is just a testament to how much good freaking music there was this year. Favorite Song: ‘Black Honey’
3. Parallel Lives by Gates
I should note that Gates is pretty much my favorite current band. And this album for me was pure gravy. Let me explain. Back in 2012 I was talking with Gates’ vocalist Kevin Dye and he said that the band was contemplating either hanging it up after their two EPs or really going for it and giving absolutely everything to the band. I said a silent prayer right then and there to the patron saint of great-bands-who-perpetually-deserve-to-be-bigger (Saint Treos?) that if I could just get one full length from Gates and have the chance to see them live at least once, I would be eternally grateful. They went on to release Bloom & Breathe (an all-time top five record for me and my No.1 for 2014), and I’ve since seen them live four times. Praise be. So like I said, anything extra is gravy to me. When Parallel Lives was released, I really liked it but like all great albums, it took a few months for me to realize just how good it was. It could easily be at the top of my list. At first songs like ‘Eyes,’ ‘Shiver,’ and ‘Left Behind’ grabbed me because of their ability to rock, but the real growers were the mellow numbers ‘House & Home’ and ‘Fade.’ I’ll always love a band that is not afraid to go in new directions and Gates does so with vigor. They have truly begun to master their craft. I never expected to get so many songs from these guys, and I’m so glad I have. But seriously, just one more LP….please. Favorite Song: ‘Eyes’
2. Low Teens by Every Time I Die
How often is it that a band releases one of their best records – maybe even their best record – as their eighth album? Well ETID has done it. I will admit that I liked Ex-Lives but didn’t totally love From Parts Unknown. They were great, but their move towards way-faster drumming wasn’t a shift that I particularly loved. It wasn’t bad, it just made a few of the songs sound a bit similar. I liked the more mid-tempo, varied stuff from the trio of albums (Gutter Phenomenon, The Big Dirty, New Junk Aesthetic) that came before. But the addition of new drummer Daniel Davison has brought them back to that slightly slowed down sweet spot. There is tremendous variety on this record and yet it doesn’t sound disjointed at all. The riffs are insane, the bass pounding, the screaming/singing perfectly desperate and angry. Every song has a place. The sound is as brutal as ever and the band feels like it has new life. Also worth mentioning: like with Stage Four, the lyrical content is incredibly heavy-hitting, having to do with Keith Buckley’s near loss of his wife and newborn daughter in childbirth. Lines like “I can’t survive knowing love is not enough,” and “what I need is a cigarette, not more prayer” hit hard and hit home. Had this been released earlier in the year, it may have even edged out my top album of the year. Favorite Song: ‘Map Change’
1. The Dream Is Over by PUP
This record is a combination of pure punk genius and perfect timing. Like I said earlier, I was having a rough school year, and on top of that a rough year in general, and right in the middle of all that this album dropped. Listening to The Dream Is Over whilst in those depths was one of the most cathartic musical experiences I’ve had. I frequently changed the line, “If this tour doesnt kill you, I will” to “If this year doesn’t kill you” and grafted all manner of people into the song to fit my mood. Also, the music is bar none fantastic; there is some influence in the guitar playing that I can’t identify that separates PUP from the proverbial pack. Add into that the slightly bratty lyrics that combine the perfect amounts of self deprecation, profanity and some real piss-and-vinegar and you get an album that I listened to more than any other this year. Plus they were fantastic live and seemed like some genuine dudes. Favorite Song: ‘DVP’
There it is. Feel free to agree or disagree with a comment. What are your favorites?