My Top 10 Favorite Albums Of 2016
by Kevin Richard White
I won’t say the obligatory opening line I want to say, since I’ve seen it a dozen times already on other sites. But now I guess I have to – yes, okay, 2016 was a fucking dumpster fire, and it needs to go away. There. But there is some silver lining to it. Hear me out. 2016 was a great year for music. Scratch that, I’ll try again. 2016 was a fucking AMAZING year for music. And as we always do, we concoct our “favorite” lists to help us organize all the awesome songs that we managed to hear over the last twelve months. So. Here’s what helped me get through the muck and mire from day one.
Note: This is not best. This is favorite. There’s a difference. A big one, in fact. Remember, we are allowed to have opinions.
10. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Hardcore Radiohead fans will surely want to contest the listing of this album, but this is favorite, not best of the year. I’m a big fan of the British quintet as much as anyone (and if you’re not, you should be, you’re missing out), and although such tracks like “Burn The Witch”, “Daydreaming” and “True Love Waits” showcase how talented and deep they are, it still isn’t enough to go back on repeated listenings. It’s meant to be taken like medicine – carefully, when you need it. Having it on auto repeat doesn’t keep the charm.
9. Holy Fuck – Congrats
That’s not a typo – the Canadian electronic group definitely call themselves that. And when they make music as good as they do, they can call themselves whatever they want. Congrats, their fourth LP, is just as deadly and full of bite as their other recordings. It’s great music for any occasion – try listening to “Chimes Broken” while speeding down a highway in the middle of the night. You’ll see what I mean then. And if you don’t, that’s okay too, because there’s a little something for everything here. Electronic industrial at it’s finest.
8. Touche Amore – Stage Four
Listed here more for sentimental reasons than actual album strength, Stage Four is another important document in this band’s history. Written after the death of vocalist Jeremy Bolm’s mother, we are privy to an 11-song touching albeit screaming tribute to the loss of a loving parent. For example, “Palm Dreams” is about his mother when she was younger, knowing he will never know why she did certain things when she did, and “Displacement” touches on the cancer that took her. Having gone through a similar situation when younger, I feel the heartache, the stabbing pain, and it’s why this album lingers after it’s done.
7. Emma Ruth Rundle – Marked For Death
Having recently discovered Rundle and listening to her previous album Some Heavy Ocean, I was very much looking forward to hearing this follow up. Not as strong perhaps as the former, but just as haunting and melodious. Rundle’s voice, combined with the droney soundscapes and brutally honest lyrics, makes for a tremendous slow journey through the things that continue to plague us – love, doubt, confusion. If you haven’t heard of her, take the time and do so – she’ll be on your playlist quite often afterwards. Try out the song “Medusa” and you’ll go back right after it’s done, guaranteed.
6. Tim Hecker – Love Streams
There’s something to be said about turning on an album as background noise while you do something else – and then stopping what you were doing completely just to sit and get lost in the echoes. That’s what Tim Hecker is like. His eighth studio album, Love Streams is perfect in its ambience in that his created world lifts you out of the one you’re in. You get lost quite easily, but it’s okay – it’s meant to be an album to just drift with ease. Not one track stands out, which is good. It’s meant to be a full experience, one where you don’t have to worry about any lyrics or anything else. Definitely worth checking out, if you like the experimental-drone-ambient type of thing.
5. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Disassociation
Yes, Virginia, it’s true – the mathcore (metalcore? Whatever the label is these days.) giants have called it quits after this record. And after hearing the blistering drum
beats, the searing guitars, and the guttural death-croons of Greg Puciato, they gave us a sendoff that will eventually go down as legendary. They are not afraid to let it all hang out here – “Limerent Death” naturally is a shining point, as it was their single – and Puciato himself said they were going to “go out while we’re still on top”. Truer words have never been spoken. If you like your music loud, hard, and without apology – start here. And see what all of us are already starting to mourn.
4. Chevelle – The North Corridor
Having already covered this album for Manifesto Of Sound previously in the year, it’s obvious my feelings on it have not changed. Even after taking a few months and not going anywhere near it, it’s clear the Illinois alt-rockers have made their best record in quite some time. Their experience definitely shows, as such tracks like “Last Days” and “Enemies” are enough to get your blood pumping in no time. Sometimes there’s just nothing like a healthy dose of anger in your music and Chevelle knows how to supply it.
3. Deftones – Gore
I finally had the opportunity to see Deftones in concert back in July of this year, having waited thirteen long years. I left bloody, reeking of beer (drank some, wound up wearing most of it from other concertgoers) and with ringing in my ears that lasted days. It says everything when a band can invoke this kind of reaction, and they’ve done it with Gore. Moving on now fully after the death of beloved band member Chi Cheng, Chino Moreno (one of the best rock vocalists on the planet), rips his way through these eleven songs like a bullet through paper. “Doomed User” and “Acid Hologram” are more prime examples of a band that knows what the fuck is doing. These guys are not going anywhere and thank God for it.
2. Every Time I Die – Low Teens
I’ll admit, I never really got into Every Time I Die until a few years ago when From Parts Unknown was released (I know, for shame, for shame). Brian Fallon had a guest vocal on it and that’s all that mattered to me (at the time). Waiting patiently for Low Teens to drop was one of the better musical decisions I ever made. Keith Buckley, saying this with reserve of course, is a god among men. I don’t think you can find a better vocal performance this year than on the single “The Coin Has A Say”, which also gets my vote for song of the year. Mix and match that with some ear-bleeders, throw in the absolutely awesome closer “Map Changes”, and you got yourself an album that has no qualms about who it leaves in its sonic wake.
1. Norma Jean – Polar Similar
My love for Norma Jean has been documented twice on Manifesto Of Sound, so my thoughts will be brief. I’ll tell you why it’s my favorite of the year. It came at a very dark time of the year, when I had been screwed over quite a bit by certain people. Needing to hunker down with a pack of cigarettes and a couple bottles of Woodford Reserve for the weekend, I took Polar Similar with me to help cope. I wound up more than coping. I wound up healing. I wound up knowing that the Earth was still going to go on, I wound up knowing that I was only going to get better from such destruction. The song “Reaction”, in particular, hit home hardest, as it said everything I needed to tell myself at the time. It only proved the theory that music is love, that the noise is meant to help, that is not meant to distance you, that it is meant to keep watch over you and keep you from harm. It may sound a little corny, but I don’t care. Polar Similar wins as my favorite of the year, and I implore, with every fiber of my being, that you should hunker down and do the same. Only don’t smoke. Drinking’s okay, though.