My Top 10 Albums of 2016

Best albums of 2016

2016 has proven to be a year to forget in respect to my reviews. The amount of albums I accepted and committed to reviewing completely overwhelmed me to the point of practically hiding myself and only coming out every once in a while. This includes writing reviews for the other two great sites that I love writing for. I’ve accepted considerably less albums to review this year and really just stuck with reviewing what I wanted to review, and for all of those emails that I never responded to and to the one or two reviews that I never wrote, I sincerely apologize and I hope that 2017 will bring me back to my old self.

That being said, 2016 was perhaps the best year in a long time for new albums, and as I so love to do every year, I want to talk about my top ten album picks of 2016. There are surely a lot of great independent albums that I passed up that could deserve mentions, and even a major release or two that could have stood a chance. For instance, had I listened to Kaleo‘s A/B in full I’m sure it would probably be on this list, considering how great everything I’ve heard from it is, but I haven’t heard the full album and thus can’t really assess it. But here are the ten picks that I know are great.

And please check out my past top 10 lists here.

 

#10 – A Rebel Few “As The Crow Flies”

Original review found here.

The only independent album to make my list is one of the best independent hard rock albums I believe I’ve ever heard. With the attitude of a groove metal band mixed with a little bit of blues, As The Crow Flies delivers punch after punch. Toronto’s A Rebel Few are one of few independent bands that don’t actually sound independent. The production quality of As The Crow Flies gives it a professional sound, which only helps emphasize the fantastic writing and arrangements that I don’t know many up and coming bands to be capable of.

 

#9 – Scorpion Child – Acid Roulette

Original review found here.

One thing that sucks about this year’s list is how hard it is to rank each album. Numbers 4 through 9 could have gone either way, but I took a LOT of time thinking through where each album should fall. Acid Roulette falls here because I feel I went a little too easy on it in my initial review. The album is clearly fantastic enough to have made the list, but I’ve noticed in the listens since writing the review that it’s not the best hard rock album to come out all year, which I thought upon my first listen. Four or five of the songs, including but not limited to My Woman In Black and Moon Tension, are so dynamically good that they stand out as some of the best songs to come out all year, and many of the albums that come after this on the list don’t have songs that compare.

 

#8 – Blink-182 “California”

Original review found here.

I’m actually surprised with the amount of pop punk, or rather the amount of bands who have been considered pop punk at some point in their careers, that have made my list. California sees the pop punk pioneers return their listeners to their youth with much of the album’s catchy hooks bringing back memories of the late 90s and early 2000s when everybody who was anybody had Enema of the State. Plus, Blink-182 add in a modern sounding rock song or two reminiscent of their previous album Neighborhoods, which keeps them from being considered some sort of nostalgia act. The addition of Matt Skiba and subtraction of Tom DeLonge doesn’t hurt the album either. There are actually some times that I feel the singer/guitarist change makes the album better than it could have otherwise been.

 

#7 – Avenged Sevenfold “The Stage”

Original review found here.

After my first listen of The Stage, if you told me that my near future self would be including the album anywhere on this list, I would have been happy to know that the album would eventually grow on me. The very progressive and somewhat futuristic approach Avenged Sevenfold take on this historical album continues the trend of the band not releasing the same or similar album twice. How long can they keep that up? I don’t know, but I sure am enjoying it while it lasts. After I get past the two worst songs on the album, Sunny Disposition (which I sometimes feel is growing on me) and God Damn (which has yet to grow on me) my only complaint of the album is the sound of the vocals at times. But that doesn’t take away from the fantastic compositions by these leaders in modern hard rock.

Most importantly also is the amount of people I’ve spoken to who have admitted to not being fans of the band but concede in proclaiming their love (yes, they use the word “love”) for this album. I think the addition of Brooks Wackerman only helped all of this happen.

 

#6 – The Pack A.D. “Positive Thinking”

Original review found here.

I don’t know what it is about this rock duo that stands out to me over literally every other duo I’ve ever listened to. I certainly enjoyed The Pack A.D.‘s previous album Do Not Engage, but the leap the band took between that and Positive Thinking is immeasurable. The perfect blend of the garage rock sound that earned them a very respectable fan base mixed with a significant improvement on songwriting and arranging easily makes this one of the best albums of 2016. Take your pick of just about any of the first five tracks, or Gold Eyes, and you’ll probably hear why.

 

#5 – Volbeat “Seal The Deal & Let’s Boogie”

Original review found here.

I don’t think I’ve ever had such a drastic change of opinion regarding an album the way I did with Seal The Deal & Let’s Boogie. From the first listen up to just about the day I finally had time to write a review, the album went from being one of the year’s disappointments to being perhaps Volbeat‘s best album to date. I think everything lied in The Devil’s Bleeding Crown. I still think the song is one of the band’s worst and one of the most (if not, the most) boring songs of 2016. But when I really listened beyond that song, I found that it’s that song and that song alone about which I have anything bad to say. Everything else, including but not limited to the semi-epic The Gates of Babylon, the power ballad The Bliss and the should-have-been lead single Seal The Deal, goes together to make an album completely worth making my top five.

 

#4 – Megadeth “Dystopia”

Original review found here.

The last of the albums that was ridiculously hard to rank, Dystopia tops said albums mainly because it set the course early on in 2016 to be the album to beat. Though many of these albums came close, and obviously I think three albums did beat it, Dystopia stood high all year. I don’t have very much negativity towards any of their last few album. That being said, Dystopia put Megadeth completely back on the map as metal heavyweights by making a new album with actual purpose and not just to please fans. The secret weapon is certainly new guitarist Kiko Loureiro, who has made a statement as probably the most complete guitarist Megadeth has had since Marty Friedman. Listen to the guitar playing on the title track or the instrumental Conquer or Die and you may agree with me. This is the closest Megadeth has been to perfection since Rust in Peace.

 

#3 – Kvelertak “Nattesferd”

Original review found here.

I pursued this album heavily after I heard just a few seconds of lead single 1985, and boy was I right to try and get my hands on it. I’d never heard a “black ‘n’ roll” band before finding out about Kvelertak, and I’ll admit that ever since falling in love with the Nattesferd album I haven’t explored any other of the relatively few bands that blend hooky hard rock music with Norwegian black metal vocals and lyrics. With that confession aside, Nattesferd proved to be perhaps the most pleasant surprise of 2016. This album made the list almost strictly based on its music, as it’s pretty challenging to be an album with almost all screaming vocals and make my list.

 

#2 – Billy Talent “Afraid of Heights”

Original review found here.

Billy Talent are one of those bands who always make me wonder with the coming of every album if they can top the last one. Then when the next album comes out, I wonder why I doubted them. Well I can never really doubt them. If there is one thing Billy Talent has shown with every single album it’s their ability to mature in the best way possible. Mind you, this was never a band of kids in the first place, with the band members being around the age I am now when their first album dropped in 2003. I’m not saying I’m old now but I’m certainly no kid. Anyway, long gone are the days when they classified as a punk band, and that’s okay. Afraid of Heights continues their venture remaining one of Canada’s top rock bands with no signs of decay.

I should also note that I regret the highlight I initially picked for the album, and instead this should have been the song I chose as the highlight.

 

#1 – Green Day “Revolution Radio”

Original review found here.

I wouldn’t say I’m surprised a Green Day album topped my list. There are a few albums in their past that I think I would consider naming the best albums of their respective years, with American Idiot topping my list of best albums of this millennium. If I were surprised, it’s because Revolution Radio comes after a few albums that showed a bit of decline in the band’s sound. I’m talking about the trio of albums in 2012 of course. All I really hoped for was that Green Day could at least release another album that sounded like a lot of thought and effort went in to it. What I got was one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. It is no American Idiot, but that’s okay. There probably never will be another. Revolution Radio is, however, a perfect display of the band embodiment of a band remembering what it was like to be on top of the world and making music that has a similar magic. Still Breathing, Outlaws and the title track are three of the best songs to come out all year, and they’re blended in with other terrific songs that collectively make this an easy choice as my top album of 2016.

 

Honorable Mentions

Like every year, there were a few disappointments, but uniquely in 2016 there were two albums that I rated high despite considering disappointments. Monster Truck‘s Sittin’ Heavy didn’t prove to have the same momentum that their debut album had and thus I really thought that the band was capable of doing better than what they did. However the organic classic rock catered to a modern rock audience still glistened the album into something I still think other modern bands should take note of. Alter Bridge‘s The Last Hero, just like every one of their previous four albums, shows the band displaying superior songwriting and a camaraderie that is unmatched by most bands in history, and while the album is still superior to others around it, The Last Hero is certainly the band’s least significant album, and their past has proven that they are much better than this output.

As for other honorable mentions, usually they are easy to pick out because they are the albums that almost made the top ten list but ultimately didn’t make the cut. This year, unlike all of my past years doing this, I knew exactly what my top ten albums would be. It’s just the order that required a lot of time and thought. There are a few albums I’d like to mention though. Metallica‘s Hardwired…To Self Destruct really is the most organically pure album that the band has released in a long time. Testament‘s Brotherhood of the Snake is the band’s best album since their debut album The Legacy was released back in 1987. Canadian indie super group Tuns released a very enjoyable and mellow self titled album. As for bands that aren’t fortunate to be under a record contract, Warme’s songwriting on Council House Opera stood out above the rest of the (admittedly few) independent rock bands I reviewed this year.

Thanks for reading! Remember to please check out my past top 10 lists here.

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