Best Albums of 2016

2016 has been all about reinventing the wheel. Now more than ever, music fans everywhere are looking for something new, something different, and this year it has been easier than ever for listeners to discover new music for themselves. For artists, 2016 has been the year to flip the script and surprise their listeners by taking a risk and changing their sound entirely, charging headfirst into politics or becoming more open and vulnerable than ever. Whatever 2016 meant for you, there's no doubt that you had a great soundtrack to go along with it and so have we, which is why we're sharing some of our personal favorite albums of this year with you!

What were some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

The Griswolds - High Times For Low Lives

Picked by Dom Vigil

The Griswolds' High Times For Low Lives is a wild ride from start to finish. The band bends genre with ease and draws influences from R&B and soul all the way to pop and electronic, blending every sound together effortlessly throughout all fourteen tracks. Although that would threaten to make for a very choppy or inconsistent listen, the album is very smooth, with lyrical content and the overall theme of the highs and lows of relationships tying things together nicely.

The Hunna - 100

Picked by Shannon Shumaker

Although The Hunna saw quite a bit of success overseas this year with the release of their debut full-length, 100, they're still gaining momentum in the U.S., and they're one band you're going to want to know in 2017. There really isn't a boring moment on the album, and if that's not enough to sell you, then their stellar live sound will. 

Emarosa - 131

Picked by Dom Vigil

The first thing that comes to mind when discussing Emarosa's 2016 is undoubtedly their live performances. Frontman Bradley Walden could be found hanging upside down from the stage's rafters nearly every day on Warped Tour this summer, but even more impressive was the band's new album, 131. The spectacular vocals on the album are to be expected from the band, but coupled with a more polished sound than ever and incredibly raw and vulnerable lyricism, 131 is easily one of Emarosa's best releases to date.

One Republic - Oh My My

Picked by Gabrielle DB

OneRepublic's Oh My My has an eclectic collection of material that makes a venerable  playlist in of itself. This album showcases the versatility and talent of a band that has had many previous hits.  Oh My My exhibits growth in a band that is already tremendously talented through experimentation with different sounds coming across as authentic rather than sampling. OneRepublic  has built upon their incredible music repertoire with Oh My My. 

Balance And Composure - Light We Made

Picked by Jacob Spreng

The latest release by Balance and Composure has been the answer to many questions musicians are burdened by in the indie/alternative genre. The 10 song LP created a newfangled and wholly unique studio-heavy sound for the new wave grunge band and compiled a mosaic of the bands' most prominent influences within other genres and popular artists like Kayne West and Warpaint. What's most surprising about the sound transformation from prior works (the last being 2013's The Things We Think We're Missing) is how well-liked the album is by long-time fans. This album was immediately followed a month after its release with a nationwide tour debuting the revitalisation and reinvention of Balance and Composure as modern artists in the studio and on the stage. 

Empire of the Sun - Two Vines

Picked by Shannon Shumaker

Two Vines is as weird, wild and psychedelic as Empire Of The Sun's magical live performances, and I mean that in the best way possible. This album is timeless, but full of modern day hits. There isn't a boring moment on this album - instead, made up of eleven groovy, dreamy and catchy tracks.

Young The Giant - Home Of The Strange

Picked by Dom Vigil

Not only is Home Of The Strange full of hit after hit from Young The Giant, but this album also touches on a topic very near and dear to the band and many of their listeners: American and immigrant identity. During a time when America has been more divided than ever, Home Of The Strange gave fans something to connect with. 

Joyce Manor - Cody

Picked by Nina Schirmer

Cody found Joyce Manor more tender and vulnerable than ever. Despite this, the album is a chill and very fun listen with an upbeat vibe, leaving you feeling pretty happy all the way though.

Pup - The Dream Is Over

Picked by Jacki Vitetta

I chose shotgun on the very first drive of a tour I went on this summer. The driver handed me the AUX cord, we’re all excited and anxious to start what should be a really good run, I rolled up my (metaphorical, it was really hot) sleeves, put on “The Dream is Over” by PUP, and vocalist Stefan Babcock immediately lets everyone in this van know that “If this tour doesn’t kill you, I will”. 

We ended up listening to this album a lot that tour. It had come out about a month earlier, and quickly became one of our favorites in the van and out. “Old Wounds” might just be my favorite song to come out this year. A little faster and a little heavier than most Pup songs, but truly a great 2 minutes and 20 seconds that sounds like the love child of Pup and Single Mothers. 

What somehow manages to top this masterpiece of an album is the videos they’ve released with it. “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You I Will” has the boys, obviously, killing each other in some dramatic fashion - lighting each other on fire, hitting each other with the van, etc. DVP has a lyric video that pulls scenes from old video games and replaces the dialogue with the songs lyrics. Most recently, they released “Sleep In the Heat”, a sort-of sequel to the 2014 video for “Guilt Trip”, it features Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things and if you need a good cry, this is where to get it. 

Pup gave me some of my favorite shows this year, from their insane set at Fest to singing the words with just 75 other people at their show in Colorado Springs. "The Dream is Over" is fun and sad and wonderful, it's perfect when you're in a van full of people you sort of want to shut up forever but also love a lot, perfect for shouting the words with a bunch of kids you literally just met at a punk rock festival, and perfect for hugging/jumping on your life long friends when they play your favorite songs in a small room. 

Avenged Sevenfold - The Stage

Picked by Jordan Hyde

We were just as shocked as anyone else by the surprise release of Avenged Senvenfold’s seventh full length album The Stage. But after having the chance to listen to it, this scientifically charged album is phenomenal. Newly signed to Capitol Records, they had the freedom and guts to release a new record without any previous announcements. This album is epic, with ambitious tracks like The Stage and Exist ft. Neil Degrasse Tyson. There is no doubt this will be a favorite among their dedicated fanbase , and we can't wait to see how they bring these songs to life live.

letlive. - If I'm The Devil...

Picked by Shannon Shumaker

letlive. have never been ones to mask their emotions, nor have they been known to stand idly by or keep their mouths shut in the face of oppression or a corrupt political system, and If I'm The Devil... is a perfect marriage of the two. While frontman Jason Butler explores his own personal journey and emotional vulnerability on one hand, he's also quick to deliver passionate, rage filled political tracks on the other. "Foreign Cab Rides" and opening track, "I've Learned To Love Myself" will pull at your heartstrings will "Good Mourning America" and "Another Offensive Song" will make you want to change the world. This is letlive. better than ever. 

Knocked Loose - Laugh Tracks

Picked by Nina Schirmer

One of the most brutal releases this year, this album is incredibly intense but an overall fantastic debut for the hardcore band. Knocked Loose's deep, hard hitting riffs and chaotic vocals might not be conventional, but it's exactly what what they need to stand apart in their genre. 

All Get Out - Nobody Likes A Quitter

Picked by Dillon Crader

The beautifully blended harmonies and guitar tones on All Get Out’s Nobody Likes A Quitter will transport you to pure music heaven. This has been a long awaited release and it wasn't a let down at all. Members of Manchester Orchestra helped produce and even performed on this album, which makes it a whole a hell of a lot cooler. If you haven’t listened to Nobody Likes A Quitter yet, you are in for treat.

The Wild Feathers - Lonely Is A Lifetime

Picked by Shannon Shumaker

The timeless sound on Lonely Is A Lifetime is what makes it such a strong release. The Nashville-based band has everything it takes to be the next great American rock & roll band. With stunning three part harmonies, a little bit of twang and a high energy, guitar driven sound, they're here to stay, and I'm definitely not complaining.

Too Close To Touch - Haven't Been Myself

Picked by Shannon Shumaker

Haven't Been Myself was the perfect follow-up to Too Close To Touch's 2015 release, Nerve Endings, which coincidentally made it onto our list of best albums last year as well. What made the band's sophomore release even better than their debut though was the emotional vulnerability that can be found throughout the record. Haven't Been Myself is eleven tracks worth of anger, resentment, guilt and grief, made even stronger by vocalist Keaton Pierce's transparency and honest and the band's best songwriting to date. 

JINJER - King Of Everything

Picked by Jordan Hyde

Just when you think you’ve heard everything a genre of music has to offer a band emerges from the scene to prove you wrong. That’s just what Ukrainian metal outfit JINJER did with their new full length, King Of Everything released over the summer. Although JINJER are not new to the metal scene, they were recently signed to Napalm Records and released King Of Everything just months after. This is such a diverse and eclectic album ranging from absolutely crushing tracks like Sit Stay Roll Over and Words Of Wisdom, to incredibly beautiful tracks like I Speak Astronomy and Pisces. With such amazing performances from their charming but incredibly talented front woman Tatiana, and awe-inspiring instrumental performances. It's hard not to to make this one of our favorite albums of the year.

Mat Kerekes - Luna And The Wild Blue Everything

Picked by Nina Schirmer

A beautiful and soothing album cradled in emotion and raw talent, the Citizen vocalist's solo release listens like a children's storybook, painting a picture and evoking emotions with ease. 

Culture Abuse - Peach

Picked by Jacki Vitetta

I’ve tried a dozen times to make a “Top 10 of 2016 “ list. I usually get to about 5 and then realize that’s all I’ve got and give up. Somehow Culture Abuse’s Peach was the only constant on all of them. I wasn’t even going to write anything for this, and then I woke up this morning and Peach was flowing from my roommates room through the air vents into mine and I remembered that this is the only album that really, really mattered this year and no list is complete without including it. So don’t worry guys, I’m here to fill this void. 

I hadn’t listened to Culture Abuse before Peach. I’d heard of them, heard friends brag incessantly about them, even had an old acquaintance in the band, and yet I kept putting it off. I even waited like 5 days after “Peach” was released to see what all the fuss is about. 

I can proudly say that I was an idiot. I’m sorry friends, I should have trusted your judgement and listened to you earlier. I would like to reclaim those 5 days I waited and go back so I can have this album in my life 5 days earlier. I would like to erase my brain so I can hear this album for the first time all over again. I would marry this album, and support any children it had from previous marriages, and I’m sure all of those kids would be lovely because any offspring of Peach would have to be. 

Peach isn’t really a punk album, or a hardcore album or a rock album. It’s entirely it’s own magical beast and it’s exactly what I needed for 2016. This is something you can listen to driving home from a long day at work, that you’ll smile about when you wake up to it playing, muffled, through your walls from the other room, and that you’ll dog-pile your friends to while shouting the words at their next show. “Peach” is an album that will live long past 2016. 

The 1975 - I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It

Picked by Shannon Shumaker

The highly anticipated follow-up to The 1975's massive 2013 release is exactly what the band needed to keep fans happy while still exploring their sound. Although most would classify the band as simply pop, I Like It When You Sleep... is much deeper than meets the eye, with vulnerable songs such as "Somebody Else," "Nana" and "She Lays Down" pulling at your heartstrings. This year, The 1975 proved that they really can do no wrong.

Every Time I Die - Low Teens

Picked by Kevin Menendez

Low Teens by Every Time I Die is the perfect culmination of powerful drums, roaring guitars, and unmatched vocals. It's an instant classic for longtime fans and opens up the Buffalonians to a vast new audience with the appearance of Brendon Urie. Low Teens will go down as ETID's Black Album. 

Panic! At The Disco - Death Of A Bachelor

Picked by Jacob Spreng

Death Of A Bachelor is the 5th studio album by Nevada raised emo pop legends, Panic! at the Disco and it has certainly "thrown the first punch" and made it a good one. The remaining original member of the iconic group and lead vocalist, Brendon Urie has gone rogue and written the album without the assistance of his band mates (Dallon Weekes bassist/vocals, Kenneth Harris lead guitar player and Dan Powlovich drummer); however, that doesn't mean the influences in his writing style aren't prominent and present throughout each of the 36 minutes the album covers. The 11 tracks cover a range of emotions from a high energy radio smash hit like "Victorious" to a somber, Sinatra-esque track "Impossible Year." Following in the footsteps of emo giant and musical big brother, Fall Out Boy this is a well-rounded more "pop than punk" album that is well deserving of its place at the top of the Billboard 200 and its nomination for Best Rock Album at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.