Staff List: Sean’s Top 30 Albums Of 2016

Posted: by Sean Gonzalez

Over the next few weeks, The Alternative will be publishing numerous EOTY staff lists leading up to our site-wide ‘Top 50 Albums of the Year’ article. Why so many lists? Well, we believe in giving as many bands/artists exposure as possible, and with so many great releases in 2016, more lists will cover more ground. Our goal is to help you find something new. Thank you for reading.

The amount of music I have been exposed to this year has been almost overwhelming. I spent a good portion of this year letting myself wander the United States and finding music that emotionally struck a vein in me. It’s been difficult, but this list has been created to what I listened to the most this year, and still enjoy to this day. I am about to get a giraffe tattoo’d on me, enjoy.

stars hollow

30. Stars Hollow – I’m Really Not That Upset About It

If twinkly emo had a basement anthem group that played the opening credits of a small town sitcom show, this trio would be that band. Stars Hollow’s debut release is a bright look at how fun music can be.


29. The Avett Brothers – True Sadness

Hey! Look! An album that represents the outcome of life! Haha, just kidding. I’ve been a fan of The Avett Brothers for years and they still continue to release music that helps me forget a lot of the inner horrors in my mind.


28. Plini – Handmade Cities

Progressive metal has kind of been falling off the realm of enjoyment in my day to day listenings, but this album is gorgeous. I imagine all the animals wandering a city in the cover after humans fucked up, but instrumentally they help rebuild. P.S. the giraffe tattoo already looks great.


27. Taking Back Sunday – Tidal Wave

The boys are back in town! It was a pleasure listening to this record. Tidal Wave has been a surprising small comfort, at least some of the songs. Honestly, it’s just nice to have them in my active listening again. Oh nostalgia.


26. Look Mexico – Uniola

The opening line to “Well, Kansas Ain’t What It Used To Be.” is really good. Actually, the whole song is just well written. Actually, just use that last sentence and replace “song” with “album.”


25. Touché Amoré – Stage Four

Here is the thing, this album is riveting in a different kind of way. It hits home for plenty of people, and I think I let that get to me while listening back on it. The subject is brutally honest, and holy shit that makes it have such a big impact. Even though I can barely get through it without feeling at a total loss, I still appreciate it.


24. The Dillinger Escape Plane – Dissociation

When one decides to make sure their final hits like a ton of bricks, do this. Also, The Dillinger Escape Plan blew up a brick wall to obtain said bricks.


23. Joy – Of Nothing

Under ten minutes. I would also like to take this time to say that I love Kurt Cobain and the definition of joy of music being able to get to the point and abrasively crush through one’s emotions. Joy does that well here, also I am really overjoyed by this tattoo.


22. You Blew It! – Abendrot

For an album that searches itself to find growth, Abendrot’s subject matter sparkles with realism. I have a problem feeling like myself, and I think You Blew It! captured that with incredible song writing.


21. Tancred – Out Of The Garden

Tancred has something innate in its familiarity that makes it an incredibly fun release. Each song has its own mood, but it still makes me bounce my head in pure joy.


20. PUP – The Dream Is Over

This band makes punk rock fun. Personally I think “Can’t Win” is one of the best songs of the year, and I think the raw nature of the dream being over helped lend this to be such a furious release.


19. The Hotelier – Goodness

There’s this one distinct place I go when listening to the final five tracks of this record. It involves every ounce of my goodness seeping into the soil. We are laying in the sun, and the ghosts of old are there to provide an extra layer of warmth. Take me back.


18. Mitski – Puberty 2

This is an important release, an important listen and honestly deserves to be mentioned by everyone. 


17. Tiny Moving Parts – Celebrate

The joyous nature outlined in parts of this record are as big and flashy as Dylan’s smile. It’s infectious, and when the subject matter gets darker the music is just as gnashing. Also, “Headache” might be one of the most incredible music videos shot this year. 


16. Henrietta – Paper Wings

I still find myself humming parts to these songs out of the blue. The seven songs embedded into this short record are full of gigantic hooks and beautiful, roaming melodies. Not to mention the drums still impress me. Just a solid, feel good comfort collection of songs. Also, the artwork really matches how this album feels, and it’s something I would get tattoo’d on me, probably next to this giraffe.


15. TTNG – Disappointment Island

This album has proven to be one of my favorites to just lay back and enjoy the music. I don’t have to be anymore, I just lay and listen. At times I imagine the idea of an island being filled with such disappointment that this is the soundtrack, and I am the island.


14. OWEL – dear me

This album’s soundscape is defined by one word: gorgeous. I think this is the type of record that many indie bands seek to write, but never capitalize on all of their talents without sounding entirely over the top. “Too Young To Fall In Love” is an impressively constructed song, utilizing such a distinctive plethora of melodies, instruments and rhythm accents to bring home one of my favorite offerings from any band this year.


13. Frameworks – Smother

The driving pace of this album helps blend its visceral nature into a full throttle, frantic pleasure. The vocals shred over the instruments, which often time take really delicate swings, and then there’s the crushing weight of the world to not be smothered by. Look what I did there!


12. Emma Ruth Rundle – Marked For Death

Talk about instrumental layering, Emma Ruth Rundle has a knack of creating wonderful atmospheres, even if its gritty and unapologetic. Even with all of that, finding the strokes of beauty in an album such as this really show that having a sense of hope can grow out of utter despair, or at least I hope.


11. Oathbreaker – Rheia

This album fucking rips. It’s packed with some of the gigantic mood swings in music, from soft, loving echoes to piercing, destructive cries in seconds. The scale of these falls are something not many other bands captured this year, especially when it comes with the most emotional crashes ever to be heard. This one time a tree fell in the forest and I heard it, and Rheia was its name.

009 001

10. Dangers – The Bend In The Break

A dear friend told me to reproach this album and take a dive at the album’s (their words) incredible lyrics. I did, and it opened my eyes to an entirely different world. These songs and content represent a lot of how I feel in the world with my own concepts of sexuality, emotional distress and trying to understand if things will ever be alright. I’d like to think so.


9. Norma Jean – Polar Similar

Norma Jean lit a fucking fire with this album, and I believe it is still out there melting the glaciers of abuse in the world. An incredible release full of purpose — rooting out the layers of emotional abuse and destroying it for the better of ourselves. Also, the riffs are pretty fucking powerful as well. This is just a well constructed album full of furious songs.


8. letlive. – If I’m The Devil…

Hellbent on finding a way to smooth out the ugly, Jason Butler and company wrote a very pretty album. letlive. created a record that captures a sense of punk but polishes it a bit with some soul. Each song really breathes with a unique pace, and the pop tendencies makes sense. Maybe I just understand this bands roots. I can appreciate all the stages of Butler’s soul searching and eventually lighting the torch and saying “fuck it, this is me, and here I am.”

bon iver

7. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

I picked this album up on its release day and I am still incredibly happy with my purchase. I still do not think there are many people that can crash through such gorgeous music with that amount of delicacy. It puts any room to a halt.


6. Pinegrove – Cardinal

We all knew it was bound to happen. The amount of excitement for the release of this record was astounding. I remember when I first heard this band and being jaw droppingly captivated. There’s just something about their blend of lyrical conscience and captivating orchestrations that make the story lying in this record that much more meaningful. Also, “Cadmium.” I think I sneezed.

obrother endless-light

5. O’Brother – Endless Light

The fact that I still feel awestruck when this album moves particles in a room is amazing. The big sweeps of thick distortion is sandwiched by stellar, captivating soft pieces. At times the amount o space that is created is like a vacuum, being able to expand and contract at the flick of a switch, and O’Brother sure as hell know what they are doing when it comes to dynamics.


4. Andy Shauf – The Party

I still have to have a sit down with myself and understand what it is that makes this album knock me unconscious on the floor. Maybe it is the confusing antics of constantly being in altered states of mind, maybe it is the sway and attraction I have to particular people and all I want to do is be with them. Maybe it is the circling instrumentals that are beyond infectious and easy to remember. Maybe I am everyone in this story and I don’t know where I am supposed to belong in said story. As this album breathes, I sit and ponder. I am full of memories and outlines of situations like the ones described by the brilliance of Andy Shauf, but not often do I find my answer. I miss you.


3. Lucy Dacus – No Burden

I remember the first time I heard this album, and I was in awe at the lyrical brevity. “Map On The Wall” has a crescendo that rumbles along to the pulse of the drums, and its resolve is in the comfort that we have to go out in the world and see it. We have to find joy in discovering parts of ourselves that can live. I have to stop staring at the wall and move past it. I hear you Lucy, I do. At the same time, this album breaks down the darker parts of ourselves and breathes with the idea that now that they are gone, it feels a bit more hopeless out there. Actually, this is one of the best albums I have heard in a long time. It moves like a conversation, and I hate that one day I will have to entirely shed my skin, tear down my walls and show that filthy map to someone, and when I do, there will not be a downfall. 


2. Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

The incredible wit put into the lyrical lines of this record is what people have come to expect from Aesop. This album is no shortcoming. The fact that he took time to really dive into himself, comprehend his inner workings and then translate them to a handcrafted piece of art is beyond impressive. It is the entire definition of inspiring. The stories woven into this record are gripping. I have been destroying my inner conscious for years trying to figure out any way to perfect my ticks, yet thanks to Aesop Rock I understand that things don’t have to be normal for life to make any kind of sense. I can scrape by just fine knowing my inner workings, I just have to find which cog goes where and what isolation can offer to people. It’s not entirely impossible, I think.


1. Every Time I Die – Low Teens

I should just rewrite my draft for my review of this album for this spot. Low Teens has the emotional weight of an anchor in the Marianas Trench, and there’s nothing to stop the inevitable feelings of insignificance and being in hell come all the way up and surface. In the come down of this album, Every Time I Die wrote the best release of their career, the best album of this year and the most emotionally gifted album about where heartache really lies. In the event that everything starts to unravel, rip apart and feel like the sun is never going to provide you with anything, at least there is some kind of way to understand how to bottle those feelings into some kind of threshold. I love you, and if there was any way I could turn around this universe and bring our pieces together, I really would. I would break down the gates of heaven to bring the slightest feelings of “peace” back. I wish myself good luck, and I hope we can dance together again.