Best of 2016

Let’s face it this year has sucked. 2016 has brought a lot of us more misery than we cared for.  The music industry suffered a massive death toll. Iconic names that shaped most of our music tastes are now no longer with us.  It was a hard year to face, even if you took out the politics and the current events. So, it’s a damn good job that there has been some great tunes to keep our minds at ease whilst the world falls apart and society crumbles. I’ve always tried to ensure that my end of years lists are filled with the music that I feel is worth talking about.  The music that I have returned to time and time again throughout the year that has brought a smile to my face.

This year I took a massive departure from my usual music taste.  After 2015 brought me such little joy in the world of rock and metal. I looked to other places this year.  I took a step back from the loud guitars and grunted (and usually incomprehensible vocals) to look for something purer.  I wanted to challenge myself.  Of course I’ve not abandoned the genres, I have just taken a step back to realise that there is so much more. So I’m left with these 30 albums.  No, I don’t think the list should be shorter because if there are 30 album worth talking about, then I’m going to talk about 30 albums.

My ground rules for this list are, the album has to have been released in the UK in 2016. Also, these are the albums that I have returned to time and time again in the year.  Other than that, these are my Best Albums of 2016.

30. Artist: Temperance   Album: The Earth Embraces Us All   Released: 16/09/2016

     via: Scarlet Records   Genre(s): Power Metal, Symphonic Metal

Temperance, really impressed me this year with a strong follow up to the brilliant ‘Limitless’. ‘The Earth Embraces Us All’ is a passionate and stunning sounding album with a clear amount of effort put behind it. Genuinely thrilled me to hear them with some passion and fire.  I enjoyed every song and I loved the massive sounding production to make every member feel important. The technicality of the shines through and the vocals are simply amazing. I have to say this is a great album and I’m really looking forward to seeing them this year at Quinphonic Festival in Birmingham.

29. Artist: The Agonist   Album: Five   Released: 30/09/2016

     via: Napalm Record   Genre(s): Metalcore, Metal

When Vicky Psarakis took over on vocals I had my reservations and even with the previous record ‘Eye of Providence’, I still thought it was only OK.  However, ‘Five’ is the next level for the band.  The music is tight and all the songs feel well put together.  ‘Five’ just has more of a controlled presence to it. Definitely something I would recommend, The Agonist have really come into their own now.  The more focused a direct sound is welcome and I’ve really loved it this year.

28. Artist: Ming City Rockers   Album: Lemon   Released: 25/03/2016

     via: Mad Monkey Records   Genre(s): College Rock, Alt. Rock

I’ve had a bit of a fascination with these guys for a bit. Ever since I saw them in Manchester I was waiting for a full length album. ‘Lemon’ was exactly what I was looking for. I gave it a little bit of a stinker of a review upon release.  Yet, I’ve listened to it more and more over the year and I’ve found that this is an enjoyable listen. The tunes are catchy and the production is a charming throwback to the old school. If you like the 80’s college rock, like The Replacements, Husker Du or You Am I…  Then I would recommend giving them a listen.

27. Artist: Shura   Album: Nothing’s Real   Released: 08/07/2016

     via: Interscope Records   Genre(s): Synth Pop, Electro, Pop

Shura is an exciting young talent that is gaining a lot of traction quickly.  Seriously, the buzz she’s been getting is really good to hear for an artist that has just come out with their first record. ‘Nothing’s Real’ is beautiful with a lot of gorgeous and rich sounds.  I got a real kick out of it and I did give it a glowing review.  I really hope to see her live soon. If this album is any indication of how awesome she is, then sign me up.

26. Artist: Counter-World Experience   Album: Pulsar   Released: 18/03/2016

     via Hänsel & Gretel   Genre: Progressive, Jazz Metal

A super creative and fantastic sounding album. It came as a little surprise to me as I wasn’t really into this type of music. However, I was blown away by the musicianship, style, production and creativity that Counter-World Experience brought to the table here.  The intricate layer to this album should serve as blueprint for future bands that want to perform this style of music.  An expressive progressive jazz metal album.  Something to check out.

25. Artist: Bowling For Soup   Album: Drunk Dynasty   Released:14/10/2016

     via: Brando Records   Genre(s): Pop Punk

For me Bowling For Soup are always one of those bands that I know will never disappoint.  Would you look at this, they’re on my “best of” list. No surprise, they’re a band that have incredibly consistent releases.  ‘Drunk Dynasty’ is yet another enjoyable romp with one of the best pop-punk bands around.  They have a way of painting pictures in your head, whilst making you laugh. They bring up some great points in their music, whilst keeping their music tight and well controlled. Their lyrics entertaining and the melodies, catchy. A fun album for sure.

24. Artist: Alter Bridge   Album: The Last Hero   Released: 07/10/2016

     via: Napalm Records   Genre(s): Hard Rock, Metal

One of my favourite bands of all time. Yet, this album is so low.  Although this is a great album… certainly better than the last album ‘Fortress’.  I just didn’t find much replayability in this. However, in this album.  Still it is fun, there are some excellent songs that are fully realised.  I never felt bored or tired of it for a second. Songs like “My Champion”, “Poison in Your Veins” and “Crows on a Wire” have amazing melodies that get stuck in your head.  Having seen them live in 2016 and hearing some of these songs live gave me a deeper appreciation.  Also, this album felt more like an Alter Bridge album than Fortress. Excellent record for fans that were hungry for more radio/stadium rock.  If you’re looking for more rock in that style, then definitely check this one out.

23. Artist: Todd Whitener   Album: Hold Your Ground   Released: 04/11/2016

     via: Self-Release   Genre(s): Rock

So this is an interesting entry.  I wouldn’t have known about this album, if it wasn’t explicitly told to me that this was coming out.  Let me say, I am so happy I heard this. Todd Whitener was the guitarist in my all time favourite band Tantric.  He left the band after the second album to pursue something else. It turns out he’s been making solo albums since leaving the band and this is his most recent. ‘Hold Your Ground’ sound simply superb. It’s a rock album with a southern twist. The bluesy, country tones give this album a nice edge and Todd’s voice is wonderful and matches the music perfectly. This is really one that you need to check out.

22. Album: Sick Puppies   Album: Fury   Released: 20/05/2016

     via: DrillDown Entertainment Group   Genre(s): Hard Rock, Post Grunge

This was yet another album I was slightly worried about.  With the exit of Shimon from the band. All Sick Puppies fans were wondering how they were going to continue. But with the entry of Singer/Guitarist, Bryan Scott the band were ready for another round. ‘Fury’ keeps a lot of the same intensity and even some of the same songwriting choices as the previous records. I was thrilled to hear this new album.  It’s exciting with a lot of atmosphere and energy, Sick Puppies have made yet another winner.

21. Artist: Sonic Syndicate   Album: Confessions   Released:30/09/2016

     via: Deptoz Records   Genre: Rock, Melodic Metal     

Wow, this is really weird. After years of making melodic metal and heavy music. Sonic Syndicate have made a pop-rock album.  And it’s fantastic!  No, seriously. I thought this was going to bomb. I even had to double check it was actually them. Everything about this album sounds massive, the production is excellent. The melodies will get stuck in your head, I still hum the chorus to “Start A War” and “It’s A Shame”, they’re just so good. The music sweeps you up majestically and not a second of time is wasted on the this album.

20. Artist: Katy B   Album: Honey   Released: 22/04/2016

     via: Virgin EMI   Genre(s): Electronica, Dubstep, House, R’n’B

Something slightly different.  To be honest this is a really interesting album. Katy B has always had my attention since the first album. Her music is always quite fascinating and her vocals are lovely and pure. With this album she works with a whole bunch of producers that add different things to every song. The electronic tones worm their way into your ear whist Katy’s voice lulls over the top.  I’ve loved this album since the release. The production is really good, with full sounds and well mixed.

19. Artist: The Clan   Album: All In The Name of Folk   Released: 18/03/2016

     via: Bakerteam Records   Genre(s): Folk Rock, Punk

Another surprise for me this year. ‘All In The Name of Folk’ Is a bit rough around the edges but it all fits together quite nicely. The production highlights every instrument in the best way. I still say it’s not as good as the first album but it does have a charm to it. The shanty style singing works well with the folk instrumentation and the hard rock tones blend well making a fun and balanced album. The Clan work really well as a band and I’m really looking forward to new music from them and I hope to see them on UK shores soon.  If you like your folk-rock then this is one to check out.

18. Artist: Sonata Arctica   Album: The Ninth Hour   Released: 07/10/2016

     via: Nuclear Blast   Genre(s): Power Metal, Symphonic Metal

Sonata Arctica have proven themselves time and time again and the kings of power metal. Everything about this album is fantastic. From the stylistic music, to the soaring vocals they make every minute count. The songs are beautiful and thought provoking with some amazing guitar and keyboard parts thrown in.  They sound incredible. I love their music so much and yeah this was going to get a spot.

17. Artist: Lisa Cuthbert   Album: Hextapes   Released: 13/05/2016

     via: Self-Release   Genre(s): Neo-Soul, Celtic, Experimental

This is one of the weirdest yet most beautiful sounding albums I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. I’ve loved Lisa Cuthbert’s music for a while and with this new album I fell more in love with her sound. The haunting melodies and hazy atmosphere gives this album and fantastic sense of presence. Hextapes is superb for every second it plays and takes so many elements of different genres and mixes them into a pleasurable mixture of wonderful sounds.

16. Artist: Against The Current   Album: In Our Bones   Released: 20/05/2016

     via: Fueled By Ramen   Genre(s): Pop Punk

To something a little more conventional. Against The Current grabbed my attention this year thanks to the upbeat melodies, catchy choruses and fun tunes. The vocals of Chrissy Costanza are amazing and give them a true edge.  Every time I’ve been down this year, you better believe that In Our Bones went on the playlist. Hopefully they won’t become victims of overhype and overplay. That last I’d want is for such a promising band to get boring.

15. Artist: The Narrative   Album: Golden Silence   Released: 02/12/2016

     via: Self-Release   Genre(s): Indie, Pop, Rock

The last big release for me this year and an album I’ve been waiting a long time for. I discovered The Narrative back in 2011 with their debut.  After waiting for their second album for a long time ‘Golden Silence’ is a gorgeous sounding album and I’m happy it’s had a decent amount of publicity. The duo make shockingly poignant and simply beautiful music. The songs are well written, well composed and masterfully produced.  Bringing out the best in their sound.  

14. Artist: Volbeat   Album: Seal The Deal & Let’s Boogie   Released: 03/06/2016

     via: Vertigo, Republic, Universal    Genre(s): Hard Rock, Heavy Metal

One question why aren’t these guys ruling the rock world. Their music is a loving tribute to pretty much all guitar based music.  With elements of Rock, Metal, Country and Punk, Volbeat just sound great and I don’t think they’ve made a bad album.  ‘Seal The Deal…’ is a booming album the monstrous riffs mixed with well written and catchy choruses. I’ve seen them a few time live now (twice this year alone) and these newer songs really click with a live setting. Volbeat continue to be an exciting rock band to listen to and I’ll always look forward to more.

13. Artist: The Shires   Album: My Universe   Released: 30/09/2016

     via: Decca   Genre(s): Country

The country duo have really made a stamp this year in the country music world.  They have pretty much become the biggest country act from the UK. This album was a mile marker for them and it definitely shows.  Every song sounds excellent the some of the most beautiful vocal harmonies I have ever heard. They complement each other amazingly. Also, there are 3 songs written by Nina Nesbitt on this album. (look her up if you’re don’t know who she is) So that was a bonus.  All in all this is an excellent album worthy of your time.

12. Artist: Black Stone Cherry   Album: Kentucky   Released: 01/04/2016

     via: Mascot Label Group   Genre(s): Southern Rock, Hard Rock

After my disappointment with Magic Mountain, I was hoping for better things from Black Stone Cherry.  Well, I got it. Kentucky felt like a breath of fresh air with sharp riffs, top notch production values and some great social commentary thrown in too. This was a big step up from them in my opinion. Every song hits you with full force and feels like the king of music they should have making. I mean, I liked “Between the Devil and The Deep Blue See” but I would say Kentucky really is a true follow up to “Folklore and Superstition”. It has that real southern vibe to it and continues their ideas made in that album. So yeah I loved this album.

11. Artist: Kate Voegele   Album: Canyonlands   Released: 28/10/2016

     via: Communikate, Inc.    Genre(s): Pop, Country

Having been a fan of Kate Voegele since my teenage years and beyond.  I think it’s fair to say I was pretty damn excited for this one. I mean, it’s been 5 years since her last full length album and I was kind of concerned that she could still make music on the same level. However, I have to say ‘Canyonlands’ is a pleasant and enjoyable album with some soulful and beautiful songs. Kate’s voice is on par as ever. Let me say it’s so nice to hear a new Kate Voegele album, her material has matured and the production is as good as it’s ever been. The majority of the album is acoustic material, but once the album gets going it’s truly wonderful.

10. Artist: Grace   Album: FMA   Released: 01/07/2016

     via: RCA Records   Genre(s): R’n’B, Soul

This year I found one of my favourite new artists in the form of R’n’B Singer, Grace. When I heard her performing in Manchester, I knew that she was going to be special. When her debut album ‘FMA’ hit I was pretty much first in line to get it (well I preordered it on Amazon). It’s an amazing listen. With a smooth and toned voice, Grace presents a beautiful album. It actually makes for a pretty good story telling album. All the aspects of this album are nice and flowing and I’ve really enjoyed the bass. This has been one album that I’ve consistently returned to throughout the year. It’s brought me relaxation and smile to my face.

09. Artist: Matty James   Album: The Road to No Town   Released: 29/04/2016

     via: Pirate Heart Records   Genre(s): Country, Rock

This is an excellent album. I discovered Matty James on a random gig night in Manchester and as soon as I got home I downloaded everything the guy had to offer from BandCamp. I was really impressed by the folksy charm and the simple melodies. Yeah the guy doesn't play a million notes a second, but the album is simplistically beautiful and brutally honest. The delivery of the lyrics are solemn and deep making for a wonderful time whilst listening. I will say that album is just so charming. It hits you in the heart with great lyrics and superb performances. This one is highly recommended.

08. Artist: Joe Bonamassa   Album: Blues of Desperation   Released: 25/03/2016

     via: J&R Adventures   Genre(s): Blues, Rock

So after a couple albums of generally non-impressive music. I mean I’ll always like like Bonamassa’s music. But for the last few albums, it feels like he’s been coasting a little. That has changed with this album. ‘Blues of Desperation’ has changed that for me. This album is really damn impressive. The riffs are as tight as ever and the solo’s a simply excellent. The lyrics are deep and wonderfully written. The passion and emotion in this record just made me love it even more.  This is genuinely one of the best listen of the year.

07. Artist: KT Tunstall   Album: KIN  Released: 09/09/2016

     via: Caroline, Sony/ATV Music  Genre(s): Indie, Pop

It’s so nice to hear KT making fun pop music again. After “Tiger Suit”, a weird romp of an album where she stretched her creative legs and “Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon” a deep dark acoustic album. ‘KIN’ is an upbeat fun record with positive messages. The theme of the album is, a problem presented in the verses with a solution created in the choruses. Which gives you a warm feeling. KT’s lyrics are alway so wonderful.  However, for the last few albums her music has been so good you’ve not really been able to focus on the lyrics. Now the music on the album is a lot more simple, the lyrics shine through even more. I have enjoyed these songs so much since the release.

06. Artist: Black Pistol Fire   Album: Don’t Wake The Riot   Released: 20/05/2016

     via: Modern Outsider   Genre(s): Blues, Rock

It’s amazing, the music you can find whilst just randomly browsing online.  When just browsing on ReverbNation, I came across a Canadian rock duo, Black Pistol Fire.  I’ve constantly returned to the album throughout the year.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s the low production value, giving it charm or the sheer passion and intensity of the band. I’ve just really loved this album the year.  The solid riffs and catchy choruses are enough to keep me hooked. If you’re looking for something fun and creative but on a small scale definitely one to check out.

05. Artist: The Naked and Famous   Album: Simple Forms   Released: 14/10/2016

     via: Somewhat Damaged   Genre(s): Electronic Rock, Synth Rock, Indie

I have been entranced by The Naked and Famous since their first album. Now they’ve hit their third full length album and all I can say is wow. It’s everything that you would want from these guys by now. The atmosphere, the weird sounds, the beautiful harmonies it’s just excellent. Although, I would argue this is their best yet. I know it’s cliche to say that the latest is the best but this one just feels like an epic. I hope more attention gets focused on these guys as they are really freaking talented and deserve your ears.

04. Artist: The Rumjacks   Album: Sleepin’ Rough   Released: 05/08/2016

     via: Four|Four Records   Genre(s): Folk Punk, Rock

Oh, what do I say about The Rumjack. I’ve harped on about them enough this year. I’ve interviewed them and I’ve now finally seen them live. Well, I guess I could say that the new album ‘Sleepin’ Rough’, is excellent. It’s a lot of the older style mixed with the newer production and sounds really good. Going from all out punk to super melodic folksy music is a nice contrast. I think some of their best songs are on this album. ‘Fact'ry Jack’ and ‘A Fist Full O’ Roses’ are by far my favorite tracks and songs worth looking up.  Again, I’ve spoke about them enough this year but my final stamp is that this album is awesome.

03. Artist: Christopher Shayne   Album: Turning Stones   Released: 12/08/2016

     via: Redlyne Records   Genre(s): Southern Rock

I was completely blown away by the sound of Christopher Shayne this year.  The southern rock tone of this guy is excellent. I have to admit the dulcet tones mixed the distortion of the heavy rock mixes really well.  I've already gone over this in my review on Valkyrian music, and my opinion is largely unchanged from that review. It’s good that a lot of attention has been given to him this year but I would still like anyone that reads this to go pick up this album. Or at the very least go listen to it. The songs a well written and for a small southern rock act it’s wonderfully produced. It’s an excellent album that has given me hours of enjoyment this year.

02. Artist: The Erik Chandler Band   Album: The Truth   Released: 19/08/2016

     via: Self-Release    Genre(s): Rock

I said right from the get go that this would be in my top ten at the end of the year.  Well yeah, number two seems like a decent place to put it.  Erik Chandler, most known as the bassist from pop-punk act Bowling For Soup, has lept out of the shadow of that band this year with his first full-length LP. This album is simply brilliant.  The music is well written and emotional.  You can tell that Erik had a lot to say and I hope he has more in the tank as I would love to have a follow up to this. The music is fun and the melodies are really ear-wormy. Trust me once some of these songs get in you head you’ll be humming them for a while.  I think the reason it’s on this list though is because it’s just such a happy album with a feel-good tone.  Just a fun rock album, really worth checking out.

01. Artist: Reckless Love   Album: InVader   Released: 04/03/2016

     via: Spinefarm Records   Genre(s): Glam Rock, Metal

I was really surprised by this being at number one. Yet, it makes too much sense to me.  It’s the album I’ve listened to most this year, every time I put it on I just smile and the songs sound absolutely amazing live.  After seeing them at Hammerfest this year it was clear that these songs were going to be with me for the year. It’s actually really well thought out album. A lot of the songs sound simple on the surface but have clever hidden meanings. Whether the band intended on these alternative messages I couldn’t say, but it’s been fun interpreting this album in the year.  The production is top notch as well. With fun riffs and killer guitar solos. The songs are super fun. It may seem a bit brainless and just a bit of party rock music.  However, after the terrible things that have happened this year in the news, don’t we all just need some fun glam style rock music. I have loved this album this year and it is my number 1 of 2016.