It’s been awhile… Here are my Top 10 Albums of 2016

Has it really been since December since I last published a post? Well, well. I am so very sorry, both to my blog and to anyone who reads it. I’ve had this 75% done post in my drafts since December now so I finally decided to polish it and share it with you all. What was your favorite album of 2016?

It’s possible that my opinion of some of these albums were influenced by the live performance, and of course I didn’t see every artist on my list last year. 2016 was an almost painfully long year highlighted by political drama and violence, but looking over the albums that came out made the year seem a little less terrible. My top 5 albums were definitely the ones that I played the most last year, which is why they are at the top (bottom? since I’m going from 10 to 1). I also took in to account which bands surprised me the most (SWMRS, Waterparks, ADTR) and the comeback bands that didn’t disappoint (Anarbor, blink-182, Green Day).

10. Anarbor // Anarbor

Shoutout to this Phoenix local band! They are most definitely one of my favorite local bands after discovering their album Burnout a few years back. The self-titled album is their third LP and was released after a three year gap of no new music. The album shows growth, but it remains on the same level of sound and style as previous albums. It was an independently released album and stayed under the radar for the most part to my disappointment.

Burnout featured more ballad-like songs while Anarbor focuses on catchy guitar melodies and a pop-rock theme that feels clearer in this album. It’s the combination of the lead vocalist Slade Echeverria’s occasionally high-pitched voice and the instruments providing the rock vibe that makes the sound of this band unique – and uniquely Phoenician. The more I pay attention to my local bands, the more of a distinct sound I hear in all of them, especially those that began in the 2000s. I’m afraid I’m going to go off into tangents, and I still have nine other albums to write about. Overall, this is record that showcases the band’s ability to create a well-produced and catchy album all on their own. I hope we hear more from them in 2017 (tour??).

My favorite track? “Josie”  

9. Bad Vibrations // A Day To Remember

This is definitely an album I listened to a lot this year solely because I saw them open for blink-182 more than a few times. I’ll admit they aren’t the kind of band I would have initially gravitated toward. I had given Common Courtesy a chance when it first came out but it just didn’t appeal to me. Bad Vibrations on the other hand has a great variety of songs that I quickly gravitated toward, especially after hearing them live in concert.

This was the first taste of new music from the band since taking a break in 2013 after releasing CC. The latest album is definitely a punk/metalcore sound with themes of battling anxiety and stress. I found that I like the songs on this album the most when I’m hearing them live because of the energy that it brings out. However, it would also make a pretty good work-out album.

My favorite track? “Naivety”

8. Joanne // Lady Gaga

I can honestly say I don’t know if I have ever listened to an entire Lady Gaga album before. I know I’m familiar with the hits and some other songs because my sister would always play them, but after Lady Gaga reimaged herself and took some time off to regroup I became interested in her music. I always thought of her as the one with the crazy outfits, but Joanne is truly a new era of this incredibly talented artist.

The album is more mature and personal compared to her other songs which sounded to me like pop hits and nothing else (not saying I didn’t like them because you know I’ll break out in song if I hear “Alejandro”). As Gaga referred to it, the album is a “soul-searching experience” and she wanted to surprise fans with a new sound. There are fun dance-along songs like “A-Yo” and “Grigio Girls” as well as the powerful ballad songs like “Million Reasons.”

My favorite track? “Sinner’s Prayer”

7. You Are Going To Hate This // The Frights

The first time I ever listened to The Frights was when I saw them open for Fidlar in the fall. I hadn’t even heard of this band much to my dismay because as soon as they started to play I was asking myself where have they been my whole life. You Are Going To Hate This is a coming-of-age album that the band put out on a more serious note. Their previous material is a lot of the heavy punk songs that aren’t really deep and are good for moshing. The new album has songs that give me chills when I hear the lyrics. Songs like “Of Age” were recorded after a long night of just the vocalist and producer. Mikey Carnevale, the singer, had been drinking and taking about a past relationship when the producer threw him into the studio to capture that raw emotion and it transcends beautifully into the song. If I only had two words to describe the album? Beach punk. Listen to the album and you’ll know what I mean.

My favorite track? “Afraid of the Dark”

6. I Like It When You Sleep, for Your Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It // The 1975

After such a successful debut album, I only expected greatness from I Like It When and that’s exactly what I got. It has a much more polished and produced feeling to it then the self-titled album. I feel that with the first album, they included every song whether they thought it was going to be a hit or miss (there were 24 songs when you include the deluxe editions). With the 17-track white and pink aesthetically pleasing album, it’s definitely not a short record but they honed in on what their sound is and how they planned to present it. It also took taking the band more seriously without taking yourself too seriously. When I saw them in concert last year, Matty Healy, the frontman, still drank and smoked on stage but it was under control. When I first saw them in 2014, Healy had drank so much that he was slurring every lyric. I’m looking forward to what’s in store for the future of the band.

My favorite track? “The Ballad of Me and My Brain”

5. Death of a Bachelor // Panic! At The Disco

Just reading the title of the album, I want to break out in song – “The deaaaaath of a baaachlooor, oh oh oh.” Panic has gone through so many phases as a band, it would be early impossible to recognize them if it wasn’t for the frontman’s (Brendon Urie) unique charisma and unmistakable wide-ranging voice. While I miss the cohesive band feeling from the earlier days, Urie is such a fantastic singer and musician that I honestly can’t complain. More than any other album, Urie shows off his vocal capability the most in DOAB. He summons a soulful Frank Sinatra vibe in the title-track that leaves me speechless every time I hear it. There are fun radio hits like “Victorious” and, a personal favorite, “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time,” then there are slow ballads like “Impossible Year” and “Golden Days.”

My favorite track? “Impossible Year”

4. Drive North // SWMRS

I featured SWMRS as an Artist to Watch earlier in the year and for good reason. Drive North is equipped with slow songs with an almost bored tone like “Hannah” (one of my favorites) to loud headbangers like the title track. The Becker brothers, Max and Cole, take turns as the leading vocalist which emphasizes their separate styles and voices. It takes you through a roller coaster of emotions from angsty punk to lovesick teenager. Every time I listen to this album, I feel like I’m listening to it for the first time which is a unique feeling that I’m dying to know how they captured.

This band also puts on quite the show. Cole will often stage dive into the lively crowd. They aren’t afraid to speak their minds while trying to spread equality and voicing their frustration with the government. The crowd will be moshing one minute and holding lighters in the air in the next. The band seems like they’re always on tour so they’re destined to visit your city sooner or later and I promise you don’t want to miss them.

My favorite track? “Ruining My Pretending”

3. Revolution Radio // Green Day

Rev Rad is currently fresh in mind because I just witnessed this legendary act perform two nights ago in Phoenix. The album is reminiscent of American Idiot because of the references to the social injustices and problems with the government. It touches on the Black Lives Matter cause but you’ll have to pay attention to the lyrics to understand the clever lyrics and metaphors. The first single “Bang Bang” is a sung from the point-of-view of a deadly gunman bragging about playing with his “toys” and being one of the “soldiers on the screen.”

There are heavy songs (both lyrically and instrumentally) like the previously mentioned “Bang Bang” and “Still Breathing” that have taken over alternative radio stations. Then there’s the sweet love song to Billie Joe Armtrong’s wife “Youngblood” and the acoustic track “Ordinary World.” You may have forgotten about the band considering the last album was released four years ago and they’ve stayed relatively quiet except for joining the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. It’s hard to believe this band is 30 years old because they still rock like 20-something-year-olds but with pricier gear and a greater showman vibe.

My favorite track? “Still Breathing”

2. Double Dare // Waterparks (MY BREAKTHROUGH BAND OF THE YEAR)

I can’t emphasis how great I think this band is and the only reason they aren’t #1 on this list is because my favorite band of all time released a new album. Waterparks is not a band to sleep on. They’re being mentored by Good Charlotte and currently on tour with All Time Low, so their talent hasn’t been going unnoticed.

This was Waterparks’s first album after a handful of EPs here and there. They tend to stray away from generalizing themselves in a certain genre which is pretty obvious in the album. One song will be a goofy Britney Spears-esque pop jam and the next second they’re yelling the lyrics in “Little Violence.” The latter song has a mocking tone that jokes about not being punk enough (I think it’s dumb I need to strain when I sing / Or else dudes won’t like me cause it’s just not their thing). The choruses from every song on the album will no doubt be stuck in your head after only hearing it once. There are a few slower love songs on the album like “21 Questions” (a huge fan favorite so the band included it on their first headlining tour in early 2017) and “Powerless.” From the lyrics to the production, I can go on and on about how little time it took me to fall in love with this record.

My favorite track? “Gloom Boys” and “Dizzy” and “Royal” DON’T MAKE ME CHOOSE ONE

1. California // blink-182

One of the biggest highlights of my year was seeing my favorite band, blink-182, more times than I can wrap my head around in only one year AND the fact that they were touring because of new album. It was a long five years (four when you include the Dogs Eating Dogs EP) with a lot of will they/won’t they in regards to blink releasing new music. Despite losing an original member and gaining a new one, blink rocks on.

Produced by my favorite producer, John Feldmann, the album included some powerful radio hits like “Bored to Death” and new pop punk jams like “Kings of the Weekend” and “Left Alone.” There were some titles that reminded me of the self-titled days like “Los Angeles” with its quick drum beat and deeper vocals. “San Diego” specifically stands out because it’s definitely a nod to the former member, Tom DeLonge. It’s like the modern day “Man Overboard” which was about blink’s first drummer, Scott Raynor. Of course it wouldn’t be blink if there weren’t joke songs like “Brohemian Rhapsody” and “Built This Pool.”

Matt Skiba stepping in as the guitarist and co-vocalist was an extremely noticeable change – a change loved by some and hated by others. I thought Skiba did a fantastic job both on the album and on stage, fitting seamlessly with the flow of the rest of the band. His voice is a good foil to Mark Hoppus’s and their chemistry on stage is just wonderful and hilarious.

My favorite track? “San Diego” and “Sober”

It really upsets me that it’s taken me until March 3 to finally publish this. It’s not that I haven’t been writing because trust me I have been, it just hasn’t been for my personal spot on the interweb. In December and a little into January, I went to South Africa and I journaled some of my adventures. In January I began my internship with Phoenix Magazine. So far I have some pieces in the March issue and the April issue that will be coming out soon. I’ve also written for their blog. All of my clips can be found over at my other website. That’s a decent summary of what I’ve been to.

If you made it this far, thank you for reading!!! Thanks for being patient with me, I have plans to blog more this year.

Nikole

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