Check out my photos of Portugal. The Man and X Ambassadors, plus a live review of the show on Target Audience Magazine!
I intended on posting this on December 31st, but you know…life.
So even though it probably doesn’t need to be said, 2016 was not a good year for many people, but the music was still amazing. I mean, who didn’t release an album this year? It was hard to narrow down, but here are my top ten favorite albums of 2016. You might recognize some names, others not so much, but check them all out if you can. I promise it’s the best music you’ve never heard!
Peace, love & rock-n-roll,
Black Lab: A New World
Released: November 2016
Best Songs: I Fought The Law, A Matter of Time, Bring You Love
One of my favorite indie rock artists, Black Lab, wins best album of 2016 with the incredible A New World. Black Lab, mostly known for the 1997 hit “Wash It Away,” has released several amazing albums since then (most notably A Raven Has My Heart, a fully crowd-funded album released in 2014) but A New World takes things to a whole new level for the band. Front man Paul Durham has been open with his fans about suffering a devastating loss a few years ago, and that pain and sadness comes through in every song here, though there is also the hope and desire to push through that sadness and come out stronger for it. His voice is as aching, raw and emotional as its ever been throughout the album, most notably on the opening track “Bottomless Sea,” a song about the heavy weight of loss and how overwhelming it can be, against an electronic beat that the band does so well. (Again, listen to A Raven Has My Heart or the all-electronic album Technologie).
One of my favorites is the gritty, sexy cover of “I Fought The Law,” which takes the song to a completely new height and is one of the best cover songs I have ever heard. “Bring You Love” echoes “Bottomless Sea,” and is a beautiful and haunting close to the album, a plea to hold on and not give in to sadness. The best song on the album is “A Matter of Time,” with uplifting lyrics (“Keep holding on for more, keep holding strong in the storm…I’ll be here for you.”) and a fun beat and hand claps behind them. The overall feeling I get while listening to this album is that when life throws things at you that you can’t control, it is always possible to get through it all with a little help from friends, loved ones and time.
Buy A New World here
- AWOLNATION: Run
AWOLNATION (aka Aaron Bruno) became popular in 2013 with the song “Sail.” While that is a great song and I love it, “Kill Your Heroes” was the track that got me hooked on this band. I picked up Megalithic Symphony and was completely blown away by it. Every song was different and amazing in its own way, and Run is no different.
From the opening title track, reminiscent of the lo-fi sound of “Sail,” to the mellow closing track “Drinking Lightning,” this album takes you through just about every musical genre there is. There is music to dance to (“Dreamers,” “Windows”), music to head-bang to (“Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)”), music to zone out to (“I Am,” “Headrest for My Soul”) and music to sing out loud at the top of your lungs right along with Bruno (“KOOKSEVERYWHERE!”)
While I still don’t think it tops Symphony (which is one of my all-time favorite albums), Run is unique and refreshing (as is AWOLNATION as a whole) in today’s music scene and is my absolute favorite release of 2015.
Best tracks: “Windows”, “KOOKSEVERYWHERE!” “Dreamers”
2. Delta Rae: After It All
Delta Rae is one of those amazing, underrated indie artists that I wish more people knew about. I discovered them via Pandora a couple of years ago and got the album Carry the Fire. I must have listened to that album ten times a day, that is how amazing it is! “Bottom of the River” gained some popularity in 2012 when that album was released, introducing the world to Delta Rae’s incredible vocal harmonies and unique musicianship.
With After It All, the band broadens their horizons even further than they did with Fire, beginning with the opening track “Anthem,” introducing the listener to those harmonies they do so well right off the bat with vocalist Eric Holljes on lead. One of three siblings in the band, Eric’s vocals are smooth and flawless and perfectly set the stage for his sister Brittany’s powerhouse voice in “Run.” “Chasing Twisters” finds singer Elizabeth Hopkins on lead with her bluesy and soulful vocals.
Delta Rae’s sound has been described as everything from folk to southern gothic to blues, and they have been compared to Fleetwood Mac, but to me there is no one category for this band. They are truly unique and like no other band I have ever heard. One of my best musical discoveries of the last few years!
Best tracks: “Bethlehem Steel,” “I Will Never Die,” “Scared”
This four piece rock band from L.A. gets the gold this year, with their stunning self-titled debut album.
The first time I heard lead single “Weatherman” on the radio, it gave me chills. The kind of chills you only get when music just gets under your skin and makes you feel like it’s what has been missing from your life. Needless to say, I had to know more about this band. So I picked up the album and was completely floored to find that every single song was just as good (if not better than) “Weatherman”.
Vocalist Emily Armstrong could have been the love child of Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain. Her range is nothing short of legendary and she can howl with the best of them. Guitarist Siouxsie Medley nearly steals the spotlight from Armstrong, with her amazing skill. From the heart pounding chaos of “Monumental Holiday” to the stark, stripped down “Sorry For It All”, this album is simply incredible. One of my favorite tracks, “Face to Face”, a lovelorn confession, has the best climax I’ve ever heard in a song. Skip to around 3:00 and listen from there.
There is not one bad track on this diverse album. “We Are What You Say” is a rock anthem about never giving up. “Timed Blues” is a folksy classic rock-sounding track that really showcases Medley’s talent. “Test On My Patience” is another of my favorites, with exceptional lyrics (“I’m in love, I’m in love, no I’m not, oh my God, I’m a liar I can taste it.”)
My only complaint about this album is that it’s too short. I’m so excited to hear what’s next from them and I can’t wait to see them live. They’re about to go on tour with Muse in 2013, which I hope will expose them to many more people. If any band ever deserved fame and fortune, it’s Dead Sara.
The first time I listened to this album, all I could think was that I couldn’t believe how versatile they are. I had only heard “Kill Your Heroes” on the radio, so I was expecting an album full of the same sound. But every song has it’s own flavor on Megalithic Symphony, and it surprisingly works.
Lead single “Sail” is a moody electronic piece with dark lyrics (“Maybe I should cry for help. Maybe I should kill myself. Blame it on my A.D.D, baby.) and synth grooves. “People” is a feel good song that is borderline pop, while “Kill Your Heroes” sounds like something straight from ‘90s alternative. “Not Your Fault” showcases frontman Aaron Bruno’s screaming abilities while also being a decent dance track. “Knights of Shame” is the band’s foray into hip-hop while “All I Need” is downright gospel.
Somehow it all ties together to make one incredible album that I simply cannot stop listening to. I recently saw the band live and they were just incredible. I’m definitely excited to hear what is next from these guys.