Overall, I sadly didn’t feel like 2016 was saturated with tons and tons of great music and found myself grasping at straws to pull this list together. With that said, there truly are were a few gems and I encourage you to check out each of the bands on this list. I’ve also included a sampler play list at the bottom for quick reference. Hopefully something on this list will connect with you!
1. Viscera – My Epic
There’s a reason these guys consistently make it onto “best of” lists. If you’re a consistent reader, you already know these guys. If you haven’t heard them yet, what’s stopping you? As one of their most mature (and perhaps even accessible) releases, the depth of these five songs is truly astounding.
2. Relativity – Archabald
Archabald released this powerhouse of a sophomore album early in the year and really managed to set the bar. It’s a nice mix of ambient, barebones tracks and mathy emo and post-hardcore that’ll make you feel all sorts of things.
3. Collective Memory – Cloud Caverns
Collective Memory is the sleeper hit of the year. Though it’s the second full-length they’ve released this year, Collective Memory is steeped in simplicity, honesty, and emotional intelligence.
4. Everything I See – In Dynamics
I’ll admit – In Dynamics was a recent find of mine. Nonetheless, their debut album definitely earned a quick high spot on my list. The album art is certainly captivating, and the music follows in true fashion. It’s an interesting blend of post-hardcore, indie, and ambient that’s akin to Circa Survive mixed with Coldplay.
5. Real Emotion – Paper Route
While I’m not generally a fan of pop (apart from bangin’ singles), Paper Route has crafted something special with this album. While it’s sure to be compared with The Peace of Wild Things, I think this is their best album yet, with plenty of modern and retro elements mixed well across sixteen tracks.
6. Prelude (.3333) – Adjy
Adjy is one of those bands that flew completely under the radar. Though they’re on Triple Crown Records, I think they definitely didn’t get the press of many other bands, though I believe it may be intentional. The band’s background is similarly mysterious. The music, however, is truly unique. It harkens to the now-defunct Anathallo, with the use of auxiliary percussion, keys, guitars, and so many people on stage you wonder how they don’t trip during live shows.
7. Hourglass Switchboard 1 & 2 – Sean McVerry
Is it cheating to combine two releases into ranking? Perhaps. Nonetheless, both EPs were released this year and nicely complement each other. McVerry employs an eclectic mix of indie, pop, piano, and who-knows-what-else for some good fun-time jams.
8. I Believe, Help My Unbelief – Rival Choir
As I get older, my taste in hardcore has changed a bit. I’ve largely abandoned metalcore, but part of me still craves heavy tunes every now and then. Rival Choir appeals to me more than Mouth of the South ever did and their debut under the new name is one of a few metal releases this year that stuck with me.
9. Stage Four – Touché Amoré
Touché Amoré sits nicely in the vein of hardcore that I do still enjoy; the reverby guitars, fry screams, and angsty lyrics have a place in my heart. The emotional content of the album is pretty draining, but proper catharsis is present as well.
10. American Nightmare – Bad Rabbits
One of my friends sent me the single, Original, a few weeks before the album dropped. I decided to give the entire album a spin later and wasn’t disappointed. It’s a very interesting mix of post-hardcore, almost-rap, R&B, and a number of other elements that are hard to identify.
11. In a Sea of Things Unsaid – Wyland
Wyland reminds me quite a bit of Keane and Windsor Drive, with a mix of piano, airy vocals, and pop sensibility.
12. American English – Tor Miller
Tor’s videos came up as suggestions from Sean McVerry. After a quick glance, it was evident that the two work together. Nonetheless, Tor certainly has plenty of skill on his own. Not every song is excellent, but Carter and Cash will definitely get you pumped.
13. Age of Swans – Oakhands
With some of the most abstract artwork I’ve seen in a bit, Oakhands’ debut EP is an interesting emotional hardcore release that shows promise for the group.
14. Opal, Luna, and Hymn – Altadore
Altadore’s newest release deviates from the previous indie tone, leaning more toward minimalistic folk. I do miss the guitar focus, but the album certainly has its strong moments.
15. Lap Dog – Weaver at the Loom
After losing a full album due to a harddrive crash, Weaver at the Loom returned with this fun EP that’s enticing but leaves me hoping that the “lost album” does make it into the public one day.
16. Nocturna – Hydra Melody
Nocturna is every bit upbeat, odd, and slightly-tropical as the cover would leave you to believe.
17. Forgiver – Yes We Mystic
Forgiver is another album that’s unfortunately a bit hit-and-miss in my opinion, but The Contest of Strength and Undertow are both so good that I can look past many of the flaws.
18. Fold – Motherfolk
Fold is a diverse album of ambient interludes, pop hits, honest lyrics, and plenty of good (and sad) times for all.
19. American Football (LP2) – American Football
American Football makes a decent return after many years of… hiatus? Honestly, I don’t know, I just needed to get this list to 20. The album is certainly in line with my taste, to some degree at least, but I could definitely give it more time.
20. Dealer – Foxing
Foxing once again brings a good mix of indie and emo to play. It’s definitely a strong album and a nice follow up to The Albatross.
Check out this quick sampler with highlight tracks from each of the artists above!