At this point I really wish I would have just locked myself in my room with the music full blast listening to these albums and forgetting all of the troubles that make up the United States in 2016. Sorry if that was a lot, however I am sure that most can agree that this year music dominated everything else. Artists came together and took a look around and thought, “let’s fix this shit”. The following list is an accumulation of albums that really managed to change the game in my perspective. Warning, I like to keep things real and stay open minded. Just to give you a glimpse my last three months has involved jumping around at shows in DIY Pomona, to crying at Gary Clark Jr. shows, to grinding at YG concerts. So here goes my list, sorry if it leaves you spinning.
10. Grouplove – Big Mess
Grouplove is one of those bands that keeps the colors alive in their work. If you are from southern California there is a high chance that you have seen them around once or twice giving free shows on the beach and in record stores. They embody the high tempoed spirit and vitality of indie rock. I personally thought this album didn’t get as much attention as it deserved being that this year it was easy to get overlooked, however they are living the life with their new baby and are surely going to bring some more inspiration to the music industry.
9. Touché Amoré – Stage Four
Jeremy Bolm made my heart ache with the power of Stage Four and the live performance was an even more cathartic experience. It is an album that deserves praise for its bravery and vulnerability. Listening to it makes your heart ache but gives you a message that is lasting, which is to appreciate and value everyone you love. Being one of the first projects I really worked on when I started at Epitaph, I found a quick bond with the power of Bolm’s voice. Seeing them live for the first time this year was what really made me believe this band is one of the strongest groups of the post harcore scene yet.
8. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
I never really paid much attention to the aesthetics of Kanye West until 2016 post TLOP. I always knew the words to his past work mostly from over play on the radio or because some of them make great workout songs. However, this album really blew me away. Criticized for being his most sloppy and unorganized work yet, TLOP had me feeling Kanye because unorganized is my middle name. Every listen gave me a fresh feeling towards the songs and the back and forth gospel vs. dirty rap kept me spinning. I was intrigued enough to even listen to his past work and fall in love with The College Dropout and Graduation. He likes attention and with this album – he got mine. It was a fun and quite a long listen that let me understand Kanye a little better as well as some of the great features he had on the track.
7. Joyce Manor – Cody
Joyce Manor and Blink 182 were back this year and make some good music with some great production. Cody was something the scene has been waiting for since they last set the stage with “Never Hungover Again”. You will never experience pure pop punk unless you are in a small ass venue with a full mosh pit and Barry belting his razor sharp lyrics that have brought us “Constant Headache” and “Last You Heard of Me”. Can’t wait to catch them next year in LA with their new setlist.
6. Deap Vally – Femejisim
I found the girl version for the Black Keys this year in Deap Vally, except they riff harder and are probably more real. Caught off guard by their power, it made me pull a double take and ask, “who is this?” and this is the question we are always hoping to ask when it comes to hearing new music. I sense great things from this duo next year and hope to see them live soon.
5. The Frights – You Are Going To Hate This
The Frights are lighthearted and fun and are actually relatable “Do you like my style? Do you like my shoes? Cuz they’ve been ripped to shit from walking the world for you.” Produced by FIDLAR’s very own Zac Carper, the beach riffs match nicely with the pop punk style the band carries. They reminded me of the guys I wish I had as friends in high school and actually make for a really nice drive up PCH.
4. J Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only
Sliding into this year almost as if he wanted it to go unnoticed, J. Cole has given us a masterpiece. Paralleling his life with a friend’s, he tells a story of life, love, incarceration, and the toxic culture of masculinity all in a dreamlike state. His love for his daughter shines through the words and he questions some of the most important things. “Am I strong enough to live?” The piano and violins give his 2Pac like poetry a strength that takes your breath away.
3. Angel Olsen – My Woman
MY WOMAN was a tracklist that came out of nowhere for me because Angel was not on my radar. She goes so hard and does it with such power and elegance. She got me through the last leg of 2016 every time a boy hurt my feelings because it was like she was right there next to me, feeling the same way. She is an underrated and beautiful human being.
2. Frank Ocean – Blonde
Contemporary music will never be the same. This album opens up with the sweet water of “Nikes” and moves through you. I can’t imagine a bad day when I listen to this album. Coming away from my beloved punk rock, Frank Ocean caught my attention again since Channel Orange. His pop ups in LA made me feel closer to him somehow, which is rare for him being basically a unicorn. He did a great job getting this album into the hands of his fans and even though my best friend and I still disagree about which album is better Endless or Blonde the entire strike on our culture he made really left a lasting impact this year.
1. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
This year I transformed a lot as a person as well as my taste in music. The The Life Of Pablo came out in February and the first thing I remember was stopping dead in my tracks and taking in Ultra Light Beam. “Who is this?! It’s Kanye West?” Chance the Rapper and Kanye West gave me something to smile about that day. That lesson translated nicely over to the summer when Chance schooled me in hip hop and reminding me to throw up my praises. My shades came down and for the first time after this album. I looked hip hop in the eye and saw what I had been missing this whole time. Never has there been such an album that can combine the purest happiness with religious motivation and positivity. Chance took my breath away this year with Coloring Book and still saves me when I am feeling sad and alone.