Our Favorite Albums In 2016 So Far

Our Favorite Albums In 2016 So Far

David’s Picks

Goodness, by Hotelier

Goodness by Hotelier

The Hotelier, Goodness (Revolver Music/Three Lobed)

Critics call The Hotelier an “emo revival” act, and though I don’t know what that means, I do know that Goodness—the band’s third LP—rocks with an urgency and intensity unlike anything else I’ve heard this year. It reminds me of Japandroids’ Celebration Rock, but instead of the exploding fireworks that launch that record, Goodness opens with lead singer Christian Holden introspectively reciting “I See the Moon,” a lullaby that introduces some of the album’s recurring themes—death, rebirth, self-examination, redemption, and the interconnectedness of nature (Holden has described Goodness as a “Taoist love record”). Poetic lyrics, big guitars, heavy kick drum, and hooks galore, calling Goodness an impassioned, inspiring record may be an understatement. Recommended if you like: The Get Up Kids, Japandroids, Centro-matic, Cloud Nothings, hook-centric punk rock.

Teens of Denial, by Car Seat Headrest

Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest

Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Denial (Matador)

On Teens of Denial, prolific singer/songwriter Will Toledo renounces self-centered, party-hearty “Teens of Style” (the title of his previous record, itself a compilation of 11 albums previously released on Bandcamp). Additionally, he candidly articulates his own painful struggles with depression, at one point comparing his spiraling life to that of the maligned captain of the Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship that sank in 2012. Teens of Denial is painful proof that the best art is often produced by people in anguish, and I expect it to top a number of year-end lists. Recommended if you like: The Strokes, Teen Suicide, Pavement, Teenagers, Comfortable Brother, lo-fi slacker fuzz rock with serious soul.

Is The Is Are, by DIIV

Is the Is Are by DIIV

DIIV, Is the Is Are (Captured Tracks)

Sprawling, discordant, and bass-driven,Is the Is Are is the ambitious, drug-induced follow-up to DIIV’s critically acclaimed Oshin (2012). I love Sky Ferreira’s contributions, and those dissonant minor chords on “Mire (Grant’s Song)” are the kind of music I want to make. “Dopamine” is a song-of-the-year candidate. My only criticism of the album is that the instrumental called “(F- – -)” should’ve been expanded into a full song; as is, it’s a 12-second Krist Novoselic-esque tease. Recommended if you like: Wild Nothing, Real Estate, Day Wave, The Cure, bass-heavy indie pop.

You Know Who You Are, Nada Surf

You Know Who You Are by Nada Surf

Nada Surf, You Know Who You Are(Barsuk)

It’s been twenty years since Nada Surf’s teen-angst anthem “Popular” dominated alternative airwaves, and the band has never been stronger. At this point, Matthew Caws and co. must be mentioned alongside J. Mascis and Bob Mould as the rock fogeys still keeping it real. You Know Who You Are is Nada Surf’s best record since 2005’s The Weight is a Gift. Former Guided By Voices guitarist Doug Gillard is now a permanent member of the band, and the tasteful texture he adds to these songs takes them to new heights. Recommended if you like: Weezer, The Lemonheads, Teenage Fanclub, 21st century power pop.

Jet Plane and Oxbow, by Shearwater

Jet Plane and Oxbow by Shearwater

Shearwater, Jet Plane and Oxbow (Sub Pop)

This Austin-based Okkervil River offshoot has been around for 15 years, and I’m sad to say I’m late to the party.Jet Plane and Oxbow is a fantastic collection of protest songs that codedly critique American militarism, dumbed-down religion, material culture, and Islamophobia to the arena-ready sounds of dulcimers, synthesizers, driving percussion, and various stringed instruments. Recommended if you like: Okkervil River, Arcade Fire, David Bowie, Midlake, art rock that actually rocks.

Nick’s Picks


Singing Saw, by Kevin Morby

Singing Saw by Kevin Morby

Kevin Morby, Singing Saw (Dead Oceans)

Kevin Morby is a veteran indie rocker from bands like Woods and The Babies, and now he’s making his mark as a solo artist. His style is certainly singer/songwriter in nature, but the music sounds almost post-genre; jazzy sections, choirs, mariachi horns, whistling synths and beautiful orchestras. Just in production alone, this album is a feat. Then you listen to what he’s got to say and it’s obvious this is a stellar record. “Dorothy” and “Water” are just lovely. Recommended if you like: Andrew Bird, Bob Dylan, Ryley Walker, mesmerizing indie folk-rock.

Masterpiece, by Big Thief

Masterpiece by Big Thief

Big Thief, Masterpiece (Saddle Creek)

Adrianne Lenker, the singer/songwriter of Big Thief, published a volume of vivid, sensual personal stories set to jangly, reverb-laden indie rock music. Of course, it wouldn’t be a great songwriter’s album without several immensely intimate acoustic tracks, such as “Lorraine.” E.g. “you started to move me from fact into fable/There I let you take me under the table.” The songs are adeptly structured, with new musical ideas within each song expressed often keeps things interesting. If you just want to embrace all those feelings you’ve got, you can’t do much better than to listen to the croons of Big Thief. Recommended if you like: Water Liars, Pavement, Julien Baker, Billie Marten, mellow indie rock with potent songwriting.


Wake Up Laughing, by Music Band

Wake Up Laughing by Music Band

Music Band, Wake Up Laughing (Infinity Cat)

With a tongue-in-cheek name that’s immune to Google search, I only found out about these guys when I went to SXSW this year when they opened for Diarrhea Planet. They soon became an obsession of mine. The trio demonstrates a thorough knowledge of rock n’ roll hooks, meaty guitar riffs and catchy melodies. They run the gamut on the genre, and even if it isn’t paving the way for the future of music, they’re easily one of the better garage rock acts to grow out of the Nashville scene. The jazzy intro to “Money,” the Sabbath-esque riffs in “Scarab Music” and the messy Sonic Youth-style meltdown in “Fortune Guns” should make you want to stick around. Recommended if you like: Pujol, A Giant Dog, Black Sabbath, unapologetic rock n’ roll.


Nonagon Infinity, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

Nonagon Infinity by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, Nonagon Infinity (ATO)

What isn’t there to say about this group of insanely talented Australian weirdos? The band puts out an average of two or so great albums a year, and at this point they’re all concept albums. Their last album featured only acoustic instruments, before that they did an album of four 10 minute, 10 second songs and Nonagon Infinity is a seamless, perfect loop. Every song perfectly moves into the next. This is their hardest rockin’ album yet, and it’s just bursting with energy. I mean, it’s just rad. Most of the lyrics are nonsense stream of thought, but who cares? Definitely one of the most exciting and creative albums released this year. “Gamma Knife” is the clear stand out. Recommended if you like: Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, King Tuff, heavy psychedelic rock.

Changes by Charles Bradley

Changes by Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley, Changes (Daptone)

The “Screaming Eagle of Soul” returns and ain’t this just the sweetest sounding album I’ve heard in some time. Bradley’s band of young hipsters, the Extraordinaires, absolutely nail the soul/R&B of the 60s and 70s and still push the genre to new heights. The album features a lively, sorrowful cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes.” I’m a sucker for true-blue soul music, and you can’t get bluer or true-er than this record. It’s a rare treat we get to see a new artist who’s in his 60s emerge with such style like this. His story is one of struggle and adversity, and once you read about it, the way this man sings makes sense. Recommended if you like: James Brown, Sharon Jones, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, soul music.

Categories: Music
Tags: 2016, Best Albums