I didn't expect this year to be such a big year music-wise. There were too many good records to list in a top 20. To top that, Riot Fest 2016 was one of the best experiences ever. Saw bands I grew up with like Jimmy Eat World and Thursday and got into some newer ones: smaller and more indie like Violent Soho and Microwave. In terms of meeting people and seeing the punk culture mix and match with so many others was another big plus for me this year. So to all the publicists, bands, record labels, artists, designers and everyone who has a hand in making these albums a reality, keep rocking and stay classic. That means you too, Chicago. You were a riot!
Honorable Mentions (made kickass tunes but like I said, too much to fit):
La Sera (Queens EP); Single Mothers (Meltdown EP); Canâ€™t Swim (Death Deserves A Name EP); Violent Soho (WACO); A Tribe Called Quest (We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service); Denzel Curry (Imperial); Get Dead (Honest Lives Elsewhere); Tiger Army (V); Dowsing (Okay); All Get Out (Nobody Likes A Quitter); Plow United (Three); Broken Beak (Some Nerve); My Iron Lung (Learn To Leave); Departures (Death Touches Us, From The Moment We Begin To Love); Deftones (Gore); Arms Aloft (What A Time To Be Barely Alive); Alcest (Kodama); Mogwai (Atomic); Slingshot Dakota (Break); Explosions In The Sky (The Wilderness); Muncie Girls (From Caplan to Belsize); Camp Cope (Camp Cope); Fucko (Dealing With The Weird); Laura Stevenson (Cocksure); Big Eyes (Stake My Claim); Thin Lips (Riff Hard); Chris Farren (Canâ€™t Die); PEARS (Green Star); Thrice (To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere); Frameworks (Smother); Posture and the Grizzly (I Am Satan).
Modern Baseball continue to merge indie, punk and emo together in the most telling of manners -- which will surely continue to stick them with an 'emo-revivalist' tag for years to come. This record's much more intimate as it's split into two; detailing the trials and tribulations of vocalists, Brendan Lukens, and Jacob Ewald, which serves as a stark reminder of keeping hope alive in trying times.
They were one of the best things at Riot Fest, Chicago. Not to mention awesome dudes in person. They have a style that touches on neo-grunge/post-hardcore bands like Sainthood Reps, Citizen and Balance and Composure but then they mix it up with a contemporary vibe a la new era Taking Back Sunday. They also have some jams that take influence from fellow Atlanta peeps, Manchester Orchestra as well in their early days. Loads of energy and melody here.
Broken World Media
Another highly diverse record melding together quite a few sub-genres of rock such as grunge, post-hardcore, folk, twinkly emo and post-hardcore. It's also one of the most guitar-intricate albums I've heard this year, throwing nods to bands like Kid Brother Collective, Built to Spill and Manchester Orchestra. "3fast" alone will hook you and once you get past that, things just get better. No two tracks sound the same.
I've been a fan for a long time and expected the album to be good but this totally blew all my expectations away. This album was jammed with indie/emo/pop-punk bangers that would take you back to the old-school days of TBS and Brand New. Vibrant. Fizzy. Bouncy. Anthemic. Addictive.
It was worth the 10 year wait. One of their most crushing and soulful albums ever. Every loud decibel painted such a vivd picture of life that it had you wondering how you ever survived without these guys over the last decade. They mix metal, hardcore, punk and post-hardcore like no other to produce an unrelenting noise that is truly beautiful chaos. Could well be their best to date for me.
It was pretty sweet hearing the boys mashing together melodic punk, power-metal and hardcore once more to make such an emotive and powerful statement of an album. Zoli Teglas is back in full force, over those Pennywise days, and hitting high notes about xenophobia, refugees and migrants -- all personal points for him. This album packs a strong message of love and acceptance but more so, the hard work outsiders put in when they cross borders. Ironic, given that USA trumped up.
These Brits shape a beautiful, atmospheric mood through dense layers of post-punk -- rich, lush and hazy that paint an emotional picture. One which deconstructs the decline of mental health, the eroding relationships associated as well as the will to survive these suicidal moments. It's a brutally honest listen and a musically-cinematic dive that needs to be embarked upon.
You've got to be doing something right if you get the call to tour with Green Day right? They continue to weave shots of catchy, upbeat pop-punk but this time it's more mature, edgier and aggressive. Feels like they've come of age with attitude for days on end. The restlessness and frustration really work here as they do away with the mid-tempo essence of the past in a pretty bold move that pays dividends. Melodic, energetic and tunes you'll keep on repeat.
These Aussies really a knack for churning out melodic-hardcore jams but this year's effort sees them shift gears a bit. They wander into territory that's best described as pop-punk, done edgier and faster. Think After The Fall, Great Lakes USA, with some Brutal Youth thrown in. They keep the essence of old on a couple tracks but they also follow a soft-loud post-hardcore dynamic that gives the record more space, technically and for storytelling. Surpassed all expectations.
Evan Weiss is at it again, producing a record that emphasizes that the old stigmas of emo are long gone and the new wave is here. YBI is melodic, twinkly but jamming out with a sense of urgency. The songs are sharper and feel like they pack more punch. There's some '80s, some shoegaze, some emo and mostly, indie. But for all the Into It. Over It. and American Football comparisons that's come with this album, it's Tanner Jones' vocals that wrap you up in a big blanket of comfort. Life sucks but people along the way help you through it: his message.
This record continues to show why they're one of punk's best-kept secrets. In just 17 minutes, you go from slow burners to hectic jams. Garage bangers, included. They've got bigger, angst-filled stories to tell and appeal to punk fans, grunge fans and sludge-rock fans who want to hear rock taken to abrasive, emotional levels. It's an inner-turmoil that emerges in spades under an incessant and chaotic batch of songs that analyze the romance of life more than with people themselves. The dissonant melody of Marisa Dabice paints a volatility, aggression and madness that you need to experience to understand. Fucking brutal.
Another indie/emo gem produced by Evan Weiss. If you loved the records that The Hotelier, Sorority Noise and Annabel put out over the last few years, then this is for you. The band's stepped up the burn of their Midwest emo style and stretched their stories out deeper and with so much more meaning on this album. There's a lot more rhythm as well but besides being more upbeat, more polished and more engaging, there's a distinct character and personality (and dare I say, flair) that Max Stern brings out in his vocals like never before. So raw, real and relatable. Their best work.
Every time you think Mish Way as a creative and storyteller can't outdo herself, she goes and proves you wrong. Caught them banging out these jams in Riot Fest as well and fuck, they're even better live. "Below" is one of the best songs this year and White Lung show an exceptional consistency that really begs for them to get more notoriety on the punk circuit. These Canadians aren't as aggressive as before but don't think they diluted their sound. Softened but still loud, brash and in-your-face. Very close to flawless.
Topping their last album was never going to be an easy feat and while this doesn't do it, it makes a fucking valiant attempt. "DVP" is another contender for song of the year but its video is geek-perfection as well. This sums the band up. In a nutshell, they make music and tell personal stories of Canada so well that the kid from Stranger Things keeps coming back for more. Seriously though, their aggressive take on pop-punk is nothing short of phenomenal and you can feel the breeze, smell the air and hear the noise of the areas they sing about. Stefan Babcock's doctor was utterly wrong when he told him the dream was over due to shot vocals. Wonder what he has to say now...
One of the most versatile rock albums this year. They live up to the promise of old and hammer out songs that'd catch the ear of fans who're into Joyce Manor and Posture and the Grizzly. This time though, it's not as poppy and catchy but more aggressive and fleshed-out. It oozes charisma amid a variety of tempos, which are all amplified on the backs of strong songwriting and catchy, pulsating melodies. This album is a huge payoff for those who've been following them from the start because it feels like the start of bigger things and deservedly so, at that.
Their best since Bleed American. It canvases every era of the band and takes the best songs from them and adapts the style for here. It's like a greatest hits album of songs you've never heard before because the structures and musical styles all feel so familiar. Yet they're never predictable. They keep making pop-punk hits, no matter who hates on them, and this record feels like JEW of old where they were unafraid to make music filled with heart and soul. Such a pleasure seeing them at Riot Fest and with charming jams like this, I can't wait to dig in again at a next show.
Never Hungover Again was perfect. Joyce Manor do a helluva job in its wake though with songs that are slightly longer but similar in vein. It's tailored more towards melody and pop appeal as opposed to the grit of the last album, which was steeped in fast-paced punk. They keep similar tempos here but what they do is dial things back and try to fuse all their albums together so they meet the garage-anger of old midway with the more polished and produced sound of new. It's a great middle-ground to be honest and one that's as foot-tapping and head-bobbing as I could have asked for.
This is a record that you can listen to, front to back, and you won't regret not skipping a single tune. It's still on repeat since I heard it in February and each song resonates for hours on end. "Birdhouse", "Good Enough" and "Happy Birthday" are prime examples of why you need to be kicking this. It's indie/emo/math punk at its finest and ups the ante from their old music. It's just as technically intricate but the lyrics are more mature and hit home harder. It breaks all their songwriting cliches, sticks to their riffy essence and brings their take on Minnesota to life like never before. Their best yet.
It's tough picking singles to highlight off WORRY because itâ€™s so surreal. Everything Jeff Rosenstock touches turns to gold and here's another example why. The album's comprised of so many sonic signatures, it's damn hard to pin down. It's all over the place but in a good way as it prides itself on attributes and characteristics that can best be described as rushes of earnest shoutalongs, candidly told and catchily brought to life musically. All with a songwriting vulnerability like he's never shown before. When it ends, you want more of Jeff's snarky take on punk.
Their last album questioned mortality but this one finds vocalist, Jeremy Bolm, staring it in the face as he details the grief over his mother's passing due to cancer. It's a guilt-ridden testimonial of how he avoided her last days, trying to cope through music while shutting the world away. It finds him singing on a couple jams but more so, the band's shifting away from the rough-and-tough post-hardcore/screamo of old and saying goodbye to The Wave. It's more melodic and direct, as their last LP hinted, and finds them in a more mainstream light. It doesn't take away how profound and endearing this album is. One of the best pieces of rock art of the last decade.