I found putting this list together a little difficult because I feel like this year I have discovered more bands than ever before but they’ve not all necessarily had albums out this year. That said, there have been some excellent albums that were released in 2016 and so here is my top ten…
I was slow to getting into MakeWar. Colin told me about them well over a year ago but it wasn’t until he put together a playlist for Fest 15 (and he somehow managed to put everything by MakeWar on the playlist multiple times so it always came up on shuffle – perhaps it was deliberate) that I properly listened to them. Developing A Theory Of Integrity wasn’t released until a few weeks before Fest so it was mostly the self-titled album that I had listened to. I didn’t end up even seeing MakeWar (full band) at Fest as I was watching another band but I did catch them in London a few weeks later. Since then I’ve been listening to the new album a lot – it is full of emotion and excellent melodies.
Shape Shift With Me is the follow up to 2014’s revolutionary Transgender Dysphoria Blues and Against Me!’s seventh (!) studio album. It didn’t hit me instantly in quite the same way that TDB did and it has certainly not beaten As The Eternal Cowboy to be my number one Against Me! album but it definitely has some brilliant songs on it. My favourite tracks include Boyfriend, Crash, Haunting Haunted Haunts and Rebecca – with the latter in particular being a love-at-first-hearing song for me. I can also vouch for the new songs as sounding great as part of an Against Me! live set.
Probably the quietest and saddest of the albums on my list, The Lion And The Wolf announced his signing to Xtra Mile Recordings earlier this year and released his second album The Cardiac Hotel in October. I reviewed it for this blog and so got to listen to the album a few weeks before its release. I remember lying on my bed and just listening at one point – rather than trying to write at the same time – and it was a very meditative experience. There are sad songs, atmospheric songs and melodic songs but all of them are beautiful.
I’ve always liked Muncie Girls but I was blown away by their (at long last) debut album, From Caplan To Belsize. With a combination of pounding drums and bass plus Muncie Girls’ classic catchy melodic indie punk guitar, the music is overlaid with a gorgeous voice and some brilliantly inspiring lyrics. Respect is without a doubt one of the standout tracks on the album and I would urge everyone to listen to it. As I said in my original review of the album, we need more songs, and albums, like this one in the world.
Two in a row for Specialist Subject! One of my favourite brand new discoveries of 2016 – and on one of my favourite record labels too, Specialist Subject Records – Austeros’ debut album, Painted Blue, was released in May. It’s a lively and fun pop punk album with some great guitar riffs and excellent lyrical content – which I suppose isn’t so common with poppier punk music. My absolute favourite song from Painted Blue is Superpowers but In Orbit, Shit Sticks and Don’t Wanna Know are also great tracks. I liked to think that they’ve helped to fill the void that Bangers’ break-up left in my life – not that Austeros are really at all like Bangers but Specialist Sub, y’know.
Joe McMahon was one of my Fest 15 favourite artists but earlier in the year I didn’t actually know who he was. Sure I’d heard of Smoke Or Fire (his band) and listened to the odd song of theirs in the past but it was only when Colin told me he had an album for me to review – and one that he knew I would love – that I first listened to his solo material. From my first listen to Another Life and the first track, It All Went Black, I was in love with Joe McMahon. The album has a very Americana-style sound, although there’s also plenty of hardcore punk influence on Another Life as well. Canadian Graffiti is my favourite track but I’d also recommend listening to Neon Lights which was originally a Smoke Or Fire song (I much prefer Joe’s solo version).
My most recent discovery to make this list but definitely one of my absolute favourites of 2016 – fourth favourite you could say! I came across Keep Bleeding accidentally and decided to give it a listen based on the fact it was recommended for fans of Bruce Springsteen and The Gaslight Anthem. I’m not sure The Doublecross really sounds much like either of those but it made me want to listen and I’m glad I did. This Americana-tinged alternative rock is definitely my cup of tea. The Doublecross is the only artist from this list that I haven’t seen live this year but hopefully next year I will.
I know that Fizzy Brain was technically first released in 2015 through a pledge campaign but I was late to the party and only heard it for the first time this year – when the album was released on Xtra Mile in March. For this reason I think I’m allowed to include it in my 2016 list. Ducking Punches have got to be one of my most played artists of 2016. Dan Allen is known for his lyrics about friendship, metal health, life and death and the songs on Fizzy Brain are no different. Some songs make me happy and some songs make me want to cry but the whole album is brilliant.
I can’t state enough just how good this album is. At only 8 songs long, Self-Portrait by Andrew Cream is the shortest album on my Top Ten Albums of 2016 but every one of those 8 songs is wonderful. Andrew has a way of writing incredibly down-to-earth and relatable songs with inspiring lyrics. I loved Self-Portrait on first listen, back in June, and it is still a much loved and much played album for me. I would definitely recommend listening to the album in full – there’s only 8 tracks after all – but, if I had to pick just a handful, I would say First World Problems, My New Goal and More Than A Dream are my go-to songs.
Given the amount of acoustic or folk-based artists on my list, it may come as a surprise to some that I’ve picked a ska band for my number one spot. When I was a teenager in Milton Keynes, home of Capdown, I went to a fair few ska punk shows. When I met Colin last year he rekindled my love of ska punk and my favourite ‘new’ band that I’ve discovered within the genre is Faintest Idea. Increasing The Minimum Rage is definitely the one album of 2016 that has got me dancing like no other – and I really love dancing (and skanking) to ska music. Lyrically the album is politically charged and informative but musically it is one big party. The artwork, by Luke Johnson of Dismay Design, is also excellent.
Honorary mentions also go to Love And Other Crimes by Masked Intruder, Paper Thin by Paper Thin and Misery + Disaster by Shit Present. I was informed that I was only allowed full length albums and not EPs for this list! All-in-all, as crappy as 2016 has been in other aspects, it has been a great year for music and I can’t wait to see, or hear, what 2017 has in store for us.