It’s hard to believe that 2016 is already half over! With so many legends passing away in such a short period of time like Bowie, Lemmy, and Prince, it’s only right for nature to balance out the loss with good music! From an industry standpoint, it’s hard to pinpoint just what this year’s theme is. We’ve seen many up and coming artists break into the scene, recently established artists come into their own, and even a resurgence of experienced artists making somewhat of a triumphant return to the scenes they helped create. While I feel there’s no clear winner as to what defines the year, I can say that I can’t remember a year where so many great albums came out within a short six month period! I can’t wait for what surprises we may have in store leading up to 2017 but for now, here’s my personal Top Seven of 2016! – Aaron Cooper (Aaron The Audiophile)
7: PUP – The Dream Is Over
After played over 500 shows and the singer blowing her throat out, most bands would’ve called it quits. Instead of throwing in the towel, Canada’s finest punk band poured beer in their wounds and utilized the suffering along with a deadly combination of angst and self loathing to craft one of the snottiest albums in the past decade! Each song is performed with a sarcastic snarl of twisted with and blood letting violence, spinning tales of bad relationships, drinking too much and even inner-band turmoil. Pup isn’t too worried about a sophomore slump, nah, they kicked it in the teeth!
6: Bob Mould – Patch The Sky
With bands like Husker Du and Sugar, as well as a handful of incredible solo records, Bob Mould knows his way around an alternative song. Never being one to sell himself out for the sake of popularity, Patch The Sky is the perfect example of how I believe with every fiber of my being that Mould is one of the greatest songwriters of our time. The album has all the bittersweet angst and wall of guitars featured in just about everything he’s done over the years but this time it’s held together with deep introspective lyrics that tell the story of the darkest and saddest emotions people suffering with depression might deal with on a day to day basis. It might be emotionally heavy but it stick packs his signature punch of alt rock greatness.
5: Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
It fills my heart with sadness and fear when I think about how Iggy Pop is arguably the last living solo legend after the deaths of Lou Reed and David Bowie. Even though he has hinted this might be his final album, Iggy doesn’t exactly have a foot in the grave just yet. Although it’s touted as a collaboration album with Josh Homme, Post Pop Depression acts as a tribute to Iggy’s 50 plus year career, touching upon each phase in a story-time setting. Homme’s production is not only spot on but he has a special way of bringing out the best in a man who’s best years might be behind him. For the first time in his career Iggy sounds weathered but it adds to the majestic to the stories of lust and pain featured within each song.
4: Yuck – Stranger Things
In spite of the drama of the founding member and singer exiting the band, and a critically disappointing second album, Yuck have not only returned to form with Stranger Things but really come into their own as a band. Nostalgia is a hot ticket these days and it sure seems like the 1990s have been resurrected in the rock world but instead of flat out copying the vibe of bands of the decade, Yuck simply wear their influences like a badge of honor. There’s hints of Dinosaur Jr, Superdrag, Teenage Fanclub and even Fleetwood Mac but at it’s core it’s still a Yuck album and probably even better than their beloved debut album. No autotune, no trend chasing, no popularity contest, just a straight up rock band ignoring the naysayers and delivering one of the most authentic rock albums of the year.
3: Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
There’s a reason why Radiohead are the critical darlings of the music industry. Everyone can agree this band just may be one of the most important bands in the music industry. From their best (OK Computer) to their worst (King Of Limbs) you can’t deny these guys are full on legitimate artists. They do what’s satisfying to them and sacrifice popularity for what’s best for their art. This record has all of the famed pretentiousness of the last decade but boasts a little bit of back pedaling to the Kid A era for an album that will please the hipsters, casuals and diehards alike. Feelings of heartbreak, claustrophobia, insecurity, loss and hope, A Moon Shaped Pool just may be their easiest listen since The Bends.
2: David Bowie – Blackstar
What more can really be said about David Bowie? I mean really, the man pretty much invented what it means to be a rock star. There isn’t a genre he hasn’t conquered, a style he has defined, or a gender he has defied! There was no one before him, along side him, or after him. For his final album, the audience isn’t greeted with a welcoming self-serving tribute, but a dark ominous tale of cold loneliness with more questions than answers. The songs range from eerie and mysterious to bright and hopeful, but at the same time never once being predictable. I can’t say that it’s my favorite album from Bowie but it’s just so well made and beautiful that I can’t think of any other record like it. The first time I heard it, it broke my heart and news of Bowie’s death hadn’t even broke yet! It’s a fitting ending to the galaxy’s most interesting artist and a heartfelt goodbye to those of us who will never forget him.
1: The Lees Of Memory – Unnecessary Evil
After one of my favorite records of the decade Sisyphus Says and a string of outstanding vinyl-only EPs, I had no idea where the Nashville supergroup would end up on their second album. Would they expand upon the My Bloody Valentine meets Jesus and Marychain shoegaze of their first record? Would be more in tune with the Beatles-esque melodies of their EPs, or maybe even the trippy experimental direction of their most current EP All-Powerful You? The answer? None of the above and all of the above at the same time! In fact, I feel like Unnecessary Evil is a combination of everything John Davis has done from Superdrag through Epic Ditch. For the first time in each band member’s career, there’s no one to answer to. No managers, no labels, no preconceptions as to what the band should sound like or how many records they have to sell. It’s all just straight from their hearts, to tape, to the ears of the fans. Of course it’s straight up, honest to goodness rock n roll, (with a tad bit of experimentation here and there) but delivered in such an honest way, that it feels like the listener is hearing an album made solely for them and not a demographic. Real artistry delivering real music for a world that needs it.