Frank Ocean – Blonde
Out of all the albums that debuted in 2016, Frank Ocean’s Blonde had arguably the most anticipation out of any that was released this year. The album was the long awaited follow up to his debut Channel Orange in 2012. Ocean definitely did not disappoint his fans. The album still sticks true to the calm, soulful R&B sounds that he has made a name for himself from. If that wasn’t enough, Ocean also released a zine and a “visual album” alongside Blonde. Yes, it was a long time in the making, however, it’s clear that the majority of the time leading up to the release of Blonde helped make it the masterpiece it is.
LAYNE – The Black Hills
The Los Angeles based indie pop collective known as LAYNE put out an EP this year entitled The Black Hills that helped established their name in the indie rock scene. The five song is the best of two opposite spectrums by combining upbeat pop music with dark lyrics and atmosphere. Layne Putnam has always dove into what she calls “the power of emotion” as well as the theme of darkness in general. These same ideas and themes have found a home on the band’s new release. It is these two aspects of their music that have helped them stand out in the current wave of indie rock music. This album paved the way for a successful 2017 for LAYNE.
Dance Gavin Dance – Mothership
The history of Dance Gavin Dance before this album could be described as a revolving door, with a different lead vocalist on every other album, however, it seems the band has finally found their footing with their most successful album to date. Mothership charted at #13 on the Billboard 200 when it made its debut this year and since this moment, it hasn’t lost its momentum with the band’s loyal fans. Mothership is the perfect balance between the post-hardcore and progressive rock sounds the band has crafted for themselves. It’s a very smooth album to listen to with a lot of intricate musicianship working “beneath the surface.” Overall, this album is without a doubt the best material Dance Gavin Dance has put out since Downtown Battle Mountain II.
Architects – All Our God Have Abandoned Us
Architects have taken the metal community by storm over the past decade, however their most recent album is truly the crown jewel of their discography. So much energy, passion, emotion and political influence went into this release. The bittersweet truth to this is that this was also the last album former guitarist Tom Searle got to contribute to before his passing in August. The composition behind this album is pure genius. The guitar tones used on this album are the closest to perfection this band will achieve. This album is a solid listen from start to finish and quite possibly the best metal album to be released in 2016. Rest in peace Tom Searle.
Deftones – Gore
The hardest part of being a band that has a legacy such as Deftones is the challenge of raising the bar with each album that is released. Deftones didn’t shy away from this challenge when writing Gore. When the teaser for “Prayers / Triangles” debuted in early 2016, it was clear that this album was going to be a game changer that combined the intensity of Around the Fur with the beautiful composition of Koi No Yokan. The rest of the album flows in this sense with songs that hit hard such as “Doomed User” and other songs that play as ballads such as “Phantom Bride”. This is not to say this album is the best Deftones album to date, however, it does go to show that after all these years, the band still “has it” and they are more than the nü metal image from the ’90s most fans associate them with.
The 1975 – I Love it When You Sleep…
The 1975 had made such a name and image from their self-titled release that it was nearly impossible to top. The band proceed to do what any reasonable artist would do, completely change their image for this new release. If The 1975 don’t take home “Album of the Year” for this release, they definitely won the award for the longest album title to come out this year. All jokes aside, this album made waves in 2016 and was one of the defining albums of the year. The band left the indie pop and went for a more traditional ’80s sound that is reminiscent of acts in the vein of INXS. The album is an emotional roller coaster as the central themes revolve around love. Odds are you have heard the title track “Love Me” on mainstream radio and this in itself shows how far this band has come over the years.
The Weeknd – Starboy
Starboy came very late in the year, however this release date doesn’t prevent this album from being one of the best mainstream pop releases to debut this year. This follow up to the album Beauty Behind the Madness still features the catchy lyric hooks as well as heavy electronic beats that will make you want to dance the night away. Each song on this album is as catchy as the next and the release has made waves in mainstream music and pop culture despite only being out for a few weeks.
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Technically Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper isn’t an album, however, just because this release is a mixtape but that does not mean this isn’t a strong contender for album of the year. Chance the Rapper sh0ok the music industry this year by being one of the biggest names in hip hop/rap, all while not having the support of any record label. Chance the Rapper is a strong advocate of artist copyright rights and he made this one of his biggest messages this year as Coloring Book climbed the charts. The most interesting aspect about this album is that is is the first release ever to chart on the Billboard 200 solely by online streams. In addition, this hop hop/gospel release featured many prominent names in music such as Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Ty Dolla Sign, Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz. Despite differences of opinions about this release, this mixtape was one of the most important releases to come out this year, as it reinforces the power to independent artists of all genres and shows you do not need a fancy record label to be able to make it as an artist.
Heirsound – Merge EP
Former Love, Robot frontwoman Alexa San Roman musically reinvented herself with her new project, Heirsound, and their debut EP, Merge. The band is strickly DIY as San Roman wrote the music to this release with guitarist Dane Petersen, as well as produce the band’s music videos and other media. The six song release features well composed indie pop songs that span across a wide variety of themes, including heartache and independence. Each song is mesmerizing and the album itself was one of the best independent releases to debut in 2016.
Post by Matt Saunders
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