Best of 2016: Brandon Jones
This Top 30 list is a collection of tunes I spun in 2016 and found myself revisiting. Feel free to pick through and find a new band to appreciate. Be warned though, some of these albums/eps feature language a few of you might not appreciate.
1. Ignite “A War Against You”
Ignite returns for their first album since 2006 and it’s one heck of an explosive, in your face blend of fiery punk rock and fast paced hardcore. This is everything I appreciate in a good punk rock album and this band has been at it for over 20 years now. They show no signs of slowing down the momentum and the energy felt on this release is enough to sway any cynic into appreciating this orange county, CA. powerhouse. I encourage, no I PLEAD you to give this record a listen. There is a reason “A War Against You” ranks so high on my end of year list.
2. Thrice “To Be Everywhere is to Be Nowhere”
Another band that returns after an almost 5 year recording absence and they come back in a BIG WAY. This album shows a band in their prime and with the experience necessary to beat back all the sound a likes and clones out there. “TBEITBN” is quite frankly one of the finest Thrice records of all time. I was anticipating this album highly and when it hit I was instantly drawn in to it’s moody tone and grand atmospherics. This is the record everyone needs to get into and again, I plead you not to sleep on this release.
3. DENS “From Small Seeds Come Giant Trees”
This band literally came out of nowhere for me. I had forgotten how good the members prior band (Our City Sleeps) were back in the day and so when I heard they had this great new band by the name of DENS, I was instantly drawn in and felt the influence radiate through my body. There is just something utterly fantastic about the music and tone of this record. It’s spiritual and altogether grand in scope leaving the listener captivated from start to finish. This isn’t a one song “single” type of album, this is an entire listening experience. You absolutely have to listen from first song to the last. The best part of all is that their CD packaging was some of the most inventive one of a kind and limited that you’ll probably see all year long. I’m not typically a CD aficionado anymore but I really enjoyed their layout for it. Get into this!
4. My Epic “Viscera” / Everything in Slow Motion “Laid Low”
I had to split the 4th position between these two excellent Facedown Records releases. I just couldn’t decide which one ranked higher than the other.
My Epic “Viscera”
Oh my gosh, this band! They continue to inspire for over 10 years now. Since I first heard their debut CDep back in 2006 I knew they would be on to something truly grand in the future ahead of them. Boy was I right. They inspire in ways that is tough to put down in written text. There is something just captivating about their albums and this ep is certainly no exception. “Viscera” continues the band’s long tradition teasing the senses with music so powerful that it’ll leaving your hungry for more. “Viscera” is one of those Eps that packs such a punch you’d forget that it’s only 6 songs long. Filled to the brim with melody, post-hardcore semantics, and a tone that no other band comes close to replicating. This is a one of a kind rock band and one I truly appreciate for everything they do.
Everything In Slow Motion “Laid Low”
EISM continues to push boundaries of just what a “rock” act can accomplish in such a short amount of time. “Laid Low” continues where “Phoenix” left off and takes a more melodic, moody turn. Gone is the constant screaming and rage, in place a certain atmosphere of melody and subdued aggression. I just love the drum sound and guitar/bass sound so much fuller than on Phoenix. As much as I loved the “screaming” on the Hands albums and first EISM releases, there is just something that connects with me on a personal level and entirely original that I don’t even notice the lack of rage fueled yelling. There is a time and place for vocal aggression but “Laid Low” certainly doesn’t need it because Shane (Vocals/Guitar) has created an environment to be completely enjoyed by the masses. Yeah, this isn’t music to be enjoyed by a select entitled few, this is music for the mass public to consume. I hope EISM gets massive respect for this new EP and that 2017 will be the year this band explodes. Shane is a prolific songwriter and deserves all the respect and admiration floating his way.
5. Theocracy “Ghost Ship”
Melodic power metal from a band that shall remain influential for years to come. Theocracy blends the perfect combination of power and melody into one tasty metal morsel. “Ghost Ship” was the album I was eagerly anticipating for years since “As The World Bleeds” nearly 5 years ago. I love every song on this release and fully enjoy the music. I even bought the white vinyl because of my admiration for the band and their music. If you’ve never heard a power metal band and are just a casual Theocracy listener, give this album a shot, you won’t be disappointed. Crank it up and play this record with pride!
6. TRAMPS “TRAMPS Ep”
Everything about this little band spells success and heaps of praise are on the way in 2017 without a doubt. From the first single I heard “Nashville”, I was an instant fan. I love that gritty punk fueled rock n’ roll sound and these gentlemen pull it off like well-seasoned veterans. All 4 songs (and intro) pull the listener in to a world of grit, fatigue, longing, and lost love while searching for meaning. These former members of the bands The Wedding and The Overseer are certainly no strangers to the game of rock n’ roll and their talent is clearly evident on this debut Ep. If no big time label picks them up in 2017 or they don’t hit it big in a successful sense, then I’ll be struck to the core in disbelief. This is a band for the masses to enjoy and not some small time act meant to hover around scene kids and the like. You’re going to hear about TRAMPS without a doubt.
7. Saosin “Along the Shadow”
Being a fan of the band’s last two full lengths and Cove’s unmistakable voice, it was going to be an uphill battle to convince me to get into new music by these guys again. I am not the biggest Circa Survive fan and didn’t know what original vocalist Anthony Green would bring to the table on this new full length effort. WOW, I am blown away by the full on aggressive, rage fueled melodies this band creates. This record is the perfect blend of melody and aggression. Anthony’s voice is on the upper spectrum of higher sounding voices but that attributes to this bands original sound. As much as I appreciate Saosin’s first major label ep with Anthony on vocals, there was something purely magical about Cove’s vocals and recorded contributions. However, let me just stop there for a second. Where Cove’s voice ends with a subdued mood, Anthony’s sing/scream aggression carries the band one step further. This album really brought the game and made me a fan once again.
8. Jimmy Eat World “Integrity Blues”
“Damage” was great, “Invented” not so much. For me their 3 records released after the new millennium were some of my favorite releases both by the band and by any band for that matter. I thought “Damage” was a fine return to form but then realized it was the perfect setting point for this new record which has blown away all expectations. This new album reminds me quite a bit of why I fell in the love with the band in the first place. Solid melodies, somber yet rockin’ guitars/bass and driving drums. What leads this band though is Jim Adkins unmistakable voice and penchant for writing a catchy song. This is one of those records that you aren’t “surprised” you enjoy but rather an experience that’ll shake you to your knees. The emotions flow through so readily while spinning this album. So many great releases this year and it’s tough to rank this one lower than the ones above but just realize this album and all the ones above are simply amazing!
9. Face to Face “Protection”
I’m a long time fan and expected nothing but the best after the failure of their last album (Three Chords and a Half Truth). That last album didn’t have the memorable hooks and melodies that this record has. I’m so glad Face to Face returned to Fat Wreck because the obvious label melodic punk influence rubbed off on this band in the right way. The fact that the band has recreated their best 90’s work while incorporating modern production has pushed this release in a direction that can best be described as nothing short of incredible. Every song on “Protection” comes off like a hit radio should notice but we all know underground music won’t be given that opportunity. Screw the mainstream this is music that everyone likes and knows will be a hit in their hearts. Face to Face are just one of those bands bubbling beneath the surface and continuing to write one hit after another while the general public lives with blissful ignorance. Get into this record now especially if you’re a fan of melodic punk rock with a slight 90’s influence. All those bands you grew up with, this is one of them, don’t forget your roots.
10. The Hotshot Freight Train “Self Titled”
You knew it would happen didn’t you? Anytime there is a new THSFT release in any given year, their record will hit my list. With so many great releases in 2016 this one fell a little further down the list but don’t let persuade you to put your wallet back in the pocket. This is a record that needs to be heard. I was filled with great despair upon learning of the end to this great mostly unheard band but was struck with so much admiration for their work and this album is a fitting reminder of just how much talent they had that was never experienced by the general public. From their (a few of the guys including lead vocalist Josh) time in Joey’s Loss, a band that should have been so much bigger than they were, I knew these guys were on to something truly grand. THSFT has been making solid Americana infused rock n’ roll for over a decade now and this release is nothing short of extraordinary. A righteous farewell and all 4 of their full lengths, especially the last 3, will be closely regarded to me as true independent diy music that didn’t get it’s time in the spotlight but did gain a firm foothold in my heart.
11. Blink 182 “California”
The elephant in the room is Tom DeLonge’s absence and whether Matt Skiba could fill his shoes. Obviously the transition and ultimate result has happened without a hiccup. This album is the best Blink 182 album of the past 10+ years and one of my favorites by them. People aren’t usually in love with band member swaps but in this case it worked out just perfectly. Tom was getting weird and we all know that. The electronic emotional music influence of his work with Angels and Airwaves was beginning to rub off on ole Blink (see: Neighborhoods) and it wasn’t for the best. “California” is a return to form for the band and embracing their pop-punk roots. This album would have fit perfectly between “Enema of the State” and “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket”. There is even a nod to “What’s My Age Again” in their latest music video with girls in place of the guys (watch with caution). This album is like the best combination between Blink 182 old music and the best music of Alkaline Trio. I don’t take celebration lightly but in the case of “California” this album should be “celebrated” and praised for bringing in the nostalgia but embracing the future. If Tom ever returns I hope he continues the progress made with this record and doesn’t return to the arms crossed, stare at your shoes emo of his side project.
12. Davii “Evermore” Ep
Where did this release come from? Who the heck is this artist and where have they been this whole time in my faves list? Someone shared this music with me and so I checked it out. I realized instantly that this was solid and positive underground music with a certain mainstream pop sound that could fit right on any radio station. This is another one of those independent artists that will surely blow up in 2017. Taking cues from The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, etc. and even reminds me a bit of the music from SPZRKT. If you like the new school blend of R&B/EDM you’ll love this.
13. Sum 41 “13 Voices”
Oh my have Sum 41 returned and with a vengeance. “13 Voices” marks a decidedly welcome return to form. Bringing back Dave “Brownsound” on guitar and songwriting duties was the best thing this band ever did. His guitar playing was always a central part of the band’s early recordings and some of my favorite things about Sum 41. “13 Voices” packs a punch into the 10 tracks on this album and never lets you forget the punk rock power chords this band continues to push to the forefront. This album reminds me a little bit of the best work on “Chuck” and that my friends something to be proud you listen to.
14. Yellowcard “Yellowcard”
The fact that Ryan is dissolving this band and packing their bags to depart on new adventures saddened me a bit. The fact that they decided to go out with a bang and release this fine “final” album was a delightful piece of news. Every track on this album is classic Yellowcard. I think we can collectively pretend that “Lift a Sail” never happened and instead remember this band for their unmistakable, signature sound found on this album. Without a doubt this final album will serve as a reminder of just how much power there is in a simple melodic pop-punk radio friendly band. Never be ashamed of your favorite music and don’t let the cool kids sway you from forgetting your roots. I was around 22 years old when I first heard Yellowcard music and in my youth their music guided me on my path through the music spectrum and pop-punk in general. There was always something special about this band’s music that brought me to a happy place. I would never feel down when listening to a Yellowcard song and that my friends is testament to their longevity.
15. Starflyer 59 “Slow”
Independent music has never been the same since Starflyer 59 first graced our ears over 20 years ago. The fact that Jason Martin continues to churn out music this incredible, this powerful, and still mostly unheard is a travesty. Let’s never forget the songwriting talent this gentleman possesses. Jason has created music for the fans for nearly 3 decades now and continue to influence new people with each and every album. “Slow” is one of those releases that just inspire you to kick back, put up the shoes, close your eyes and dream, dream of sweet memories and special longing for the ones you love. “Slow” isn’t an album that will earn constant radio play and front page admiration but that doesn’t matter because Starflyer 59 is one of those instantly liked bands, a band so easily enjoyed.
16. Moose Blood “Blush”
A relatively new band with a sound that harkens back to the youthful longing and crusin’ with the windows down. “Plush” is an album that borders on both early “emo” and modern alt rock. Post-grunge is a term that could loosely tossed towards this band but don’t let it completely describe the talent of this band. These guys are a band that can be appreciated by both old and new fans alike. “Plush” is one of those special albums that fills you with blissful sentimental love for music. This release brings me back to the early part of the new millennium and that influence radiates throughout this record. Hopeless Records has been on a roll lately with awesome releases and this album is no exception.
17. Some Dark Hollow “Destination Unknown”
This band is relatively new with just a prior Ep released a few years back. Featuring a few members of Overcome, I never knew what to expect. This is the farthest thing from hardcore metal that you could go and it’s for the best. I’ll have to be honest, I didn’t exactly dig the last Overcome record but this album erases any dissatisfaction for that record and replaces it with great admiration. “Destination Unknown” is a release that would be any long running Americana/country/bluegrass band’s grand comeback with an emphasis on achievement. What I am trying to say is that this band has years of talent behind them and although they are “new” you wouldn’t know it by listening to this debut full length. Some Dark Hollow is a special band and their Americana influenced country music is something to be enjoyed by anyone with an ear to lend. Great music period and I look forward to hearing much more from these guys in the future. It’s going to be tough to top this album and but sometimes sophomore releases are the best, am I right?
18. Seeker & Servant “Sojourner Ep”
Another Ep on my list and it’s for good reason. I’ve followed this band since a few members were in Topherman years ago. I was instantly drawn to their demos, debut recordings, the last two full lengths and now this new Ep. This indie worship band creates music to be enjoyed by the masses and encouraging us to bow our heads with our hands raised towards the heavens. I would much rather listen to this “worship” music than the heaps of forgettable records the CCM industry churns out each year. Cameron and Chandler Wood know how to tug at the heart through the power of music and this ep is perfect proof of that fact. I mean even Mark Nicks (Cool Hand Luke) plays on this ep, how amazing is that?
19. Relient K “Air for Free”
Following up “Collapsible Lung” would be a tremendous responsibility and hopefully they did it right? Well yes my friends they created the perfect followup to “Forget and Not Slow Down” (2009). This record is filled with 16 great songs, perfect for this past summer. Matt really channels Brian Wilson on this record and it’s for good measure that he does. This album sorta borders the divide between indie pop and the punkier version of rock. It dabbles a bit in pop-punk and then kicks it back into a mellow mood on other tracks. “Air For Free” is the record Relient K was destined to make. This is the same band that wrote the fabulous “5 Score and Seven Years Ago” album years ago.
20. Comrades “Lone / Grey”
This is still a newer record for me but that certainly doesn’t stop it from completely shaking me to my core. This “list” is turning out to be a difficult one to write down especially considering so many incredible albums met 2016 head on and were each influential pieces of work. In Comrades case they have released their 2nd full length and first on Facedown Records with nothing but the best in musicianship. The talent, the recorded output, the vocals, everything just hits it right for me. I love the sing/scream combo and Laura’s sung vocals. So great. “Lone / Grey” is one of those special, unique releases that only comes every once in a while. I even bought the vinyl of this album (something I did quite a bit of this year with the artists on my list). Comrades are a remarkable band not just for their instrumentation and vocals but also in their overall songwriting.
21. Descendants “Hypercaffium Spazzinate”
Descendants, where have you been all my life? For whatever reason I didn’t follow this band much in the past 30+ years. My first album by them was “Cool to Be You” back in 2004 but this one blows it out of the water. Solid songwriting, catchy choruses, and just the right amount of aggression to keep it interesting. I’ve always been a fan of melodic punk and this album falls right in line with my tastes. Now the goal is to rediscover the band’s early work and dive deep into their discography.
22. MUTE “Remember Death”
This band is just plain cool. The Quebec, Canada band has a drummer as the lead vocalist and I mean that literally, he plays the drums and sings! It has been 5 years since their last full length, “Thunderblast” and I think the band needed that break so they could end up releasing the best album of their careers. This is fast paced, in your face, aggressive melodic punk rock. Full of guitar solos, hard hitting drums, and melodies sure to please fans of all those great bands like Rise Against, Dogwood, Craig’s Brother, Ignite, Good Riddance, and Pennywise.
23. Kayjez “Kayjez”
This indie pop group featuring an artist I’ve been hyping for years, Jess Penner, is nothing short of a dream songwriting team. This duo makes pop the way it should be played. This record is a better collection of songs than Icona Pop and Carly Rae Jepsen could ever come up with. Best part of all is that they are an indie diy group. If you have sort of been an on/off again Jess Penner fan, you’ll love this record even more.
24. Future of Forestry “Awakened to the Sound”
This world music influenced new outing by Eric and Future of Forestry is nothing short of incredible. It’s like a better Sting record. I love everything about this album from the low key instrumentation and upfront vocals to the world music influence. This is still sort of a new release and I’ve listened to it but a few times but it already ranks as a favorite in this list. Give this album a listen even if you’ve never heard of Future of Forestry before.
25. The Altar Billies “Long Long Road”
Mike Stand (Altar Boys) and company have made a full on rockabilly/countrybilly album worthy of praise. I’ve been a fan of Mike’s work since I was a wee little one and heard “Against the Grain” for the first time. This album is nothing like his past work and it’s for the better. This completely unique record is like NOTHING in the Christian music scene and for that I commend them. Don’t age influence your line of thinking when enjoying a good record and this my friends is just that, a GOOD RECORD! The production is top of the line, the vocals sound good and the music especially that stand up bass, sound one of a kind. There are many other rockabilly groups out there in the market place but The Altar Billies stands tall among the pack, persevering with every ounce of their souls. I love the passion in their songwriting and for that, “Long Long Road” ranks in my list. It’d be higher but it’s still a relatively “new” release for me.
26. One Republic “Oh My My”
This is one heck of a “hit” record and it’s not at all surprising considering frontman/guitarist Ryan Tedder, also writes a number of hit songs for other records. When fronting his own group, their songs come off like a freight train of melodies and pop sensibilities while embracing the rock side. This is the perfect combo of pop and alt rock, enough to influence countless people among the masses. I just love that song “Kids” and even my children seem to enjoy it asking me to play it over and over again. There is something special about that parent-child-band connection that makes it a unique listen. This I think is my favorite One Republic record next to their debut major label release.
27. Light The Way “Grace”
“Grace” is one of those pop-punk records that ranks as favorite of mine. I found this kinda late but I am so glad I did. I am a bit biased considering this is a band I am personally working with now but that shouldn’t stop you from at least checking them out. They take the influence from Set Your Goals, New Found Glory, A Loss For Words, Blink 182, old Over It, and set it all ablaze with one catchy chorus after another. This band on the rise is an unstoppable force to be reckoned with and “Grace” is that perfect once in a great while Ep. I am completely floored by the production and musicianship of this short ep and I know this band has a bright future ahead in 2017.
28. One Way Home “Front Porch”
I discovered this band kinda late in the year. It was during the time of assembling the Hearts Bleed Passion Vol. 6 compilation and a friend who writes for JesusFreakHideout recommended them to me. I checked out their Bluegrass/Americana and immediately fell in love with them. This band creates the perfect combo of melody and catchy sing-a-long tunes worthy of praise. So many songs on “Front Porch” could be big hits, especially in the CCM realm but often times independent groups are ignored by the suit and tie elites over in Nashville. This group needs to be heard and “Front Porch” is the perfect example of a band on the rise.
29. Islander “Power Under Control”
This nu-metal influenced rock group made another record a few years back that was harder and more aggressive but “Power Under Control” in my opinion, blows it out of the water. Islander sounds a lot like P.O.D, Blindside, Sevendust, Breaking Benjamin, and even Project 86 but keeping some of their hardcore street level roots in tact. Islander makes music for the masses to enjoy but also keeping their hardcore cred and being one of those new school influential bands to be reckoned with. “Power Under Control” is just one of those special records that is both catchy and a definitive step in the right direction.
30. Killswitch Engage “Incarnate”
Well my friends we have reached the end of my official Top 30 list, can you believe it? So many great releases in 2016 and it’s tough to rank them all fairly. I didn’t listen to a ton of metal/hardcore/metalcore in 2016 but this is one of the bright spots I did listen to. I love the sing and scream tug o war this band continually creates. The combination of straight up metal and singing choruses is enough to make a fan of any heavy music listener. “Incarnate” may just be the best Killswitch record with Jesse on vocals.
The B-Listers “Riots to Soundtracks”
Phinehas “Fight Through the Night Ep”
K. Gautier “The Prevailing”
To Live As Sons “beaten.broken.alive”
Church Tongue “Failure”
House of Heroes “Colors”
May Weather “Spring Forward”
Sherwood “Some Things Never Leave You”
Heart Like War “Fired Up”
A Day to Remember “Bad Vibrations”
Basement “Promise Everything”
Jordan Feliz “The River”
David Curtis (Run Kid Run/Sidewalk Slam) “One Voice”
Zach Bolen “1001”
Bastille “Wild World”
Circle of Dust “Machines of Our Disgrace”
Wolves at the Gate “Types & Shadows”
Good Charlotte “Youth Authority”
Balance and Composure “Light We Made”
Dinosaur Jr “Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not”
Brian Fallon “Painkillers”