‘Tis time. My annual music review has been something I have put together for several years, but I have generally limited it to a personal Facebook post. That seems a little silly, considering these vast tools at my disposal to reach at least 5-10 additional people who might care. So, I’m expanding the reach this year. Here we go: my favorite albums of 2016 (and late 2015, if I did not get to it by 2015, but it counts because I make the rules). The first few entries here are interchangeable in my rankings – they are all albums I have listened to incessantly since I discovered them.
1. Tacocat – Lost Time
I was way late to the game on Tacocat. Then, I was listening to extensively curated female-singer-indie-rock channel on Pandora, and Pandora and I had a discussion, which essentially amounted to Pandora saying, “Um, you like Tacocat, dumbass. No, really. Get on that,” and me saying, “Mmhm.” We had that conversation about three times before I paid attention. Pandora was correct, and I have remedied the problem. I am now caught up. The good news is this happened at the perfect time: about a month before the release of a new Tacocat album, followed by not one, but two rare DC tour appearances. It’s true: I Tacocat and you should, too. Their newest album, Lost Time, covers all kinds of fun topics, but I will leave that to you to work through.
2. S P O R T S – All of Something (2015)
Heartfelt, energetic, solid indie rock with a distinct hint of a midwestern sound. This album grabbed me immediately…I just didn’t hear it until early 2016. I read a review of All of Something shortly after I heard it that made it sound as though this band had all the makings of one that was not long for this world (some members – but not all – graduated from college and moved from Ohio to Philly). It hasn’t done them in yet.
3. Bloodboy – Best of Bloodboy EP
No, Bloodboy is not a hardcore or metal band (at least not yet) – just solo singer/songwriter Lexie Papilion. I am still trying to figure out how I found my way to this EP. It contains sounds one would normally expect to find exclusively in ’80s songs (and for those of you saying, “I love ’80s songs!” I did not mean that as a positive). It works, though. It really works. These are phenomenal songs. Intense, biting, and infectious – I have been listening to this EP repeatedly for the past couple of months. If only there were a physical product so that I could give her money for her music… Anyway, this EP is a stellar debut and I look forward to what is to come.
Highlights: Keep Your Disease https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxH5DNIF9uU
Hey Kid https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUkFgXCV5fQ
Fuck Yourself (I find it endlessly entertaining that Amazon refers to this one as “Fuck Yourself [Explicit]”…y’think?) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6nXvLLdVDQ
Mom, I’ve Changed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Uiq8Q9XgJE
Oh, just listen to the whole thing. It’s all good. The last track doesn’t hold my attention quite as much as the first five, but it’s still good.
4. Blowout – No Beer, No Dad
Blowout sounds like early Lemuria…I mean they REALLY remind me of early Lemuria. This is a fantastic development – I miss early Lemuria. It’s catchy indie-punk songs at their finest. This is their first full length, and it has also been occupying my stereo with great regularity in the latter part of this year.
Highlights: Guts Grown Up https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psoYmtqACxU
Cents Cents Money Money https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq2tzjgAjhc
Green Couch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Q1WwxjuQ0w
5. Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
The guys in Modern Baseball are starting to be confronted with problems in life that stretch beyond relationships, and their songwriting has begun to reflect this. The two songwriters, Jake and Brendan, each wrote one side of the record. I feel as though this actually detracts from it a little, as their styles are distinct, but complementary. I think the album would have had a better flow if they were mixed up a little – doing it this way makes it sound more like two EPs. Also, the band released a surprise EP, The Perfect Cast, last year – if they had instead included some of those songs on here, I would view this record as spectacular (total aside, but the 2015 EP contained the song, “The Waterboy Returns,” which I think is one of the most powerful songs I have heard in a very long time. According to an article/interview I read, the lyrics are taken from texts that Jake was sending Brendan when Brendan was in a suicidal depression). But I digress. Any small issues I have with Holy Ghost amount to nitpicking – it’s an excellent record overall. I don’t find myself listening to it quite as much as their last full length, You’re Gonna Miss It All, but I still give it a great deal of attention.
6. The Joy Formidable – Hitch
I need to preface this one by saying that I really enjoy this album. It took me a little while to start listening to it regularly, but I got there, and it is a solid effort. I think every song on it is quality, with one exception, The Gift – it is harder to take that one seriously, as it sounds to me like the song that would be playing behind the brooding ’80s action hero during the mid-movie montage after everything falls apart. My quandary is more what to do with the Joy Formidable as a whole. The band has an affinity for the rock epic. They always have. As time has gone on, though, they seem to have gravitated toward this model more and more, and this is reflected in their live sets. They are good at it. It is definitely entertaining. I have just always found their songs that feature fewer blaring guitar solos to be MORE entertaining. I feel as though their live shows have leaned on the guitar-solo-heavy material a little too much and have felt a bit formulaic ever since they started touring for their last album. Hitch came out in March on Caroline in the U.S. (previous efforts had been on Atlantic)…I think that change was really obvious, as this one really didn’t seem to have a lot of label support behind it. That’s a shame, as Hitch is a very good album. It was, unfortunately, plagued by vinyl pressing problems – the band quite clearly did everything in its power to remedy those issues, but the ultimate result was a massive delay in delivering the product to the customers – I got mine last week, and again, it came out in March. I do still highly recommend this band to people who are looking for a big guitar rock sound with a mainstream, early-’90s feel.
7. Lutheran Heat – Louder from the Other Side
Full disclosure: my sister, Sara, is in this band. All that means is that I heard of a band that I otherwise would not have. Anyone who knows me knows that if I didn’t legitimately really like it, I wouldn’t say anything about it. And I do like it. A lot. This album is a seriously fun batch of energetic indie rock cuts. Dance/shout along as you see fit. Oh, and apparently, you can buy the record via Walmart, which I am sure my sister finds as hysterical as I do (https://www.walmart.com/…/Lutheran-Heat-Louder-Fr…/124825507 ).
8. The Slackers – S/T (2015)
I have had a hard time getting excited about a lot of the ska albums that have been released in the past few years. I haven’t lost a taste for the genre at all…I still listen to first and third wave ska as much as anything else. Something has been missing in a lot of the newer efforts that I have heard. The Slackers avoided that trap with their self-titled record that came out late last year. When I did my write-up for 2015, I had not yet digested this album sufficiently. I have now, and it is quite good. Do yourself a favor and go see the Slackers when you have a chance (and you will have a chance…these guys must tour 250 days a year…when I read their tour itineraries, I get exhausted just sitting in my chair imagining it).
9. Dressy Bessy – Kingsized
This one caught me entirely off guard in a number of ways. I always had peripheral interest in this band – each album of theirs had a couple of songs that I absolutely loved, but I never totally loved listening to their full albums. I’m not sure what it was exactly. When I got a Bandsintown notification that they were playing near me a couple of months ago, my reactions were: 1. Dressy Bessy is still together? 2. They are playing five minutes from my house? Tonight? The decision was clear – it was time to see Dressy Bessy. They played maybe two songs I’d ever heard before, and you know what? It didn’t matter. They are excellent live, and their sound is a bit of a different experience than their recordings. It’s harsher and more energetic. I dug it. I also bought their newest album, Kingsized, while I was there, and came to realize that they have managed to capture that live energy on their newest studio recordings. With Dressy Bessy, you generally know what you are getting – catchy pop/indie rock songs. There are some serious standouts on this record.
10. Skating Polly – The Big Fit
Skating Polly are really developing as songwriters. Their newest album a really intriguing listen. Overall, it’s a little uneven mix of styles, some of which are still works in progress…but, seriously, these two are 16 and 20 years old and just released their FIFTH album, so who am I to say anything? I am a little torn with Skating Polly…they have fully captured the harsh sound of early ’90s Babes in Toyland and similar female grunge bands. I do love that energy – they really do it well, and few can do it well. However…I think their superior songs are the softer ones. I think they have the potential for greatness, and am eager to see where their career takes them.
11. The Interrupters – Say It Out Loud
This is a fun one. About three notes in, I said to myself, “Well, I know who wrote that.” It sounds exactly like vintage Rancid ska songs. I was partially correct – Tim Armstrong did not write the songs on this album. He did produce them, though, and is quite obviously the major influence for this band. The thing is..it’s pretty good. It doesn’t sound like recent Rancid ska-punk. It sounds like maybe a late-’90s Rancid album. It’s a guilty pleasure, but this is a fairly fun album.
All of these (plus a couple of other tracks I liked, but the corresponding albums did not grab me) are on a Spotify playlist, if you are interested:https://open.spotify.com/…/…/playlist/4sd1RE0cactGgxSOgMEchB