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2016 is still rolling by, and the albums are getting more diverse. Here's what I've listened to over the last three months (April - June) and links to the albums I've reviewed.
5-Star Albums (8.5 - 10)
- Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool - 10
- Deftones - Gore: 9.5
- Gojira - Magma: 9
- Thrice - Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere: 8.5
- Architects - All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us: 8.5
- Weezer - Weezer (White Album): 8.5
- LIGHTS - Midnight Machines: 8.5
- The Last Shadow Puppets - Everything You've Come To Expect: 8.5
- letlive. - If I'm The Devil...: 8.5
4-Star Albums (6.5 - 8)
- Beyoncé - LEMONADE: 8
- Issues - Headspace: 7.5
- Drake - Views: 7.5
- Swans - The Glowing Man : 7.5
- Meadowlark - Parraffin: 7.5
- Yeasayer - Amen & Goodbye: 7
- Against The Current - In Our Bones: 7
- Ariana Grande - Dangerous Woman: 7
- PUP - The Dream Is Over: 7
- Jon Bellion - The Human Condition: 7
- Modern Baseball - Holy Ghost - 7
- Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas - Mariner: 7
- Death Grips - Bottomless Pit - 7
- BABYMETAL - Metal Resistance: 7
- Melt Yourself Down - Last Evenings On Earth: 7
- Dark Suns - Everchild: 7
- DJ Shadow - The Mountain Will Fall: 7
- Band Of Skulls - By Default: 7
- The Algorithm - Brute Force: 7
- Flume - Skin: 7
- Olaf Stuut - Run: 7
- Katatonia - The Fall Of Hearts: 6.5
- Nick Jonas - Last Year Was Complicated: 6.5
- Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Getaway: 6.5
3-Star Albums (4.5 - 6)
- JMSN - It Is.: 6
- FAWNN - Galaxies: 6
- Skepta - Konnichiwa: 6
- Islands - Taste: 6
- Mogwai - Atomic: 6
- Beartooth - Aggressive: 5.5
- Explosions In The Sky - The Wilderness: 5.5
- The Goo Goo Dolls - Boxes: 5.5
- Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book: 5
- Desiigner - New English: 5
2-Star Albums (2.5 - 4)
1-Star Albums (0 - 2)
Top Albums Of 2016 (so far)
- Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
- AURORA - All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend
- Panic! At The Disco - Death Of A Bachelor
- Deftones - Gore
- Dream Theater - The Astonishing
- Foxes - All I Need
- Daughter - Not To Disappear
- Gojira - Magma
- Thrice - To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere
- Architects - All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us
Top Songs Of 2016 (so far)
- AURORA - 'Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) (Acoustic)'
- Radiohead - 'True Love Waits'
- Deftones - 'Hearts/Wires'
- Radiohead - 'Daydreaming' *
- Panic! At The Disco - 'Emperor's New Clothes'
- Foxes - 'Better Love'
- Lacey Sturm - 'Rot'
- AURORA - 'Through The Eyes Of A Child'
- Deftones - 'Phantom Bride'
- Thrice - 'Black Honey'
There isn’t anyone that sounds quite like Issues does. Their self-titled debut record from 2013 set them on the course of success, landing them on big tours and a developing cult fanbase. Their follow up record Headspace shows their growth from their first album, and while is overall more creative and diverse, has a small lack of cohesiveness that, at times, makes the album more left-field than it needs to be.
Right off the bat, you’re dropped into ‘The Realest’, a groovy, jazzy, djent-influenced banger. You might have to question whether or not this is the same band from their first record. ‘The Realest’ has so much color and groove, and it just overall so definitively different from their other material, it’s a real refresher for those going in expecting their scene trends to skyrocket with their sophomore release. The trend of originality doesn’t last long, though, with ‘Home Soon’ feeling a bit safer. It feels like they tried to capture the sound they had trademarked and flip it up with more soul and the progressive vibes of ‘The Realest’, the transitions between verse and chorus feeling like to lack cohesion and sound almost detached. ‘Lost-N-Found (On A Roll)’ has a similar problem, though it isn’t detached, it still sounds too safe.
Remember the mention of the scene sound not skyrocketing? Well, that wasn’t entirely true. There are some very cringey songs on this album that try way too hard to sound edgy and relatable to the stereotypical scene teenager. Even the title of ‘Yung & Dum’ is so cringey (which speaks for the rest of the song) that you can tell that the band tried way to hard to be rebellious. ‘Flojo’ has so much nu-metal angst in it, though the chorus is pretty groovy. Interestingly enough, the band’s DJ Scout Acord even contributed vocals here, though it really doesn’t add much. In other spots, they seem to have sacrificed quality for the “wow” factor, such as in ‘Blue Walls’, which is, admittedly, a huge heavy jam, but the guitar riff is as far as the song goes. The heavy factor took place of the quality of the track.
Negatives aside, this album does have its fair share of great moments. ‘Coma’ is basically the quintessential Issues song. Fantastic and driven instrumentally, with samples thrown in there to cover the nu-metal side of their sound. Tyler Carter and his fantastically soothing and pure voice create epic verses and choruses, and Michael Bohn even takes a stab at clean vocals in the pre-chorus before delivering his brutal screams in the absolutely massive bridge. ‘Someone Who Does’ continues with the wonderful melodies found scattered throughout the album, before the album concludes with the combo of the out-of-place instrumental ‘I Always Knew’ (that just doesn’t transition well into the final track) and ‘Slow Me Down’, which closes the album on a huge note, the instrumental being massive and the bridge having a particularly great melody.
Issues have definitely come a long way from their self-titled album. There were some pitfalls in this album, but nothing that can’t be grown from. This album would’ve been near perfect had the bad tracks (theme-wise, such as ‘Yung & Dum’) been replaced by meanings with more substance. Issues need to hone their ability to write stronger songs, since they have their sign down pat. The only growth from here is maturity, and they’re already on the steady road there. This band has big things in their future.
Favorite Tracks: Coma, Slow Me Down, The Realest, Someone Who Does
Least Favorite Tracks: Yung & Dum, Flojo
Dylan’s Top 10 Albums of 2014
Seems hard to believe such a life changing year is ending, for me, anyway. Friends were made, lives were changed, dreams fulfilled. Who could care less, though? This is about music, not dreams. Well, in reality, the two go hand in hand. Music is made of dreams. 2014 was a great year for music on all fronts. Pop saw new efforts from Katy Perry, Ariel Pink and iamamiwhoami. Rock obtained new titles including Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways and Slipknot’s .5: The Gray Chapter. Metal saw new releases from Epica and Skyharbor. I can’t name a single genre that didn’t see an exceptional release this year.
Among the hundreds of albums released this year, these are a few that stuck out to me. Keep in mind, it is nothing more than opinion. I couldn’t possibly name EVERY album I enjoyed (I’m too lazy AND I’d probably break multiple character limits), though there were a myriad of such. Without further adieu, here’s number 10:
10) The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - Between Bodies
It’s hard to even generalize what these guys are all about. Combining a bit of punk, indie and emo rock into their songs, they bring a very notable sound to the table. This album is all about speaking their thoughts. It’s pretty evident that they couldn’t give less of a shit about what they’re doing; they’re doing it because they can. From the haunting recollections of ‘Lioness’ to the enraged chants of ‘Autotonsolarialist,’ this album covers a lot of ground. Upon the resonating drums and pulsating guitars, the vocals feel like just another instrument in this whole. The album feels perfect for both politically angry adults and middle-fingers-to-the-establishment teens, all the while making sure they don’t seem caught up in being overly dramatic. All in all, an incredible release from an exceptional band.
Favorite Tracks: Lioness, Autotonsolarialist
9) Slipknot - .5: The Gray Chapter
Truth be told, I wasn’t a fan of Slipknot until this year. I considered ‘Snuff’ one of the greatest works of art ever produced, and ‘Vermillion Part 2’ trailing in its footsteps, yet I never enjoyed their heavier material. That was, of course, until I heard this record. I remember hearing ‘The Negative One’ upon its release and being a bit uncertain of whether or not I would enjoy this album. It wasn’t until I heard ‘The Devil In I’ that I was sold on hearing this record. Despite not being a fan of Slipknot, I’m huge on Stone Sour, so this was a very inviting sound to me. The album is introduced with the eerie ‘XIX,’ in which Corey Taylor effectively claims that he has had enough. The album has its incredibly intense moments, namely ‘Custer’ and ‘AOV,’ but nevertheless delivers some truly meaningful moments that the band has proved they are capable of, namely in the chorus of ‘The One That Kills The Least’ and ‘If Rain Is What You Want.’ The satire of ‘Killpop’ and the brutality of ‘The Negative One’ keeps the album original every step of the way, as any good album should be. From barely being a fan to head banging along with the jams, this album has proven to me to be one of the best of 2014.
Favorite Tracks: The Devil In I, XIX, The One That Kills The Least
8) IAYD - I Am Your Destruction
Nowadays, it’s risky to venture into certain genres, especially one as presumed as chiptunes. 8-bit music has always been a minority in the overall gist of things in the music community, only shining within retro games such as Castlevania and most games in the early phases of the Mega Man series. The guy has changed the bar. I Am Your Destruction, abbreviated to IAYD, released his eponymous album this year, and made sure it packed a punch. Full of thick beats and huge drops, this album is Mega Man taken to the next level, no pun intended. The album opens up strong with ‘Intro AF’ and the monster that is ‘No Closure’, continues to bring the power with tracks like ‘Too Turnt’ and ‘Get Death,’ concluding it all with the journey that is ‘Dolores.’ In a questionable genre such as chiptunes, this album has proven to be one of the reasons why it should not be ignored.
Favorite Tracks: Dolores, Kurai Heya
7) Pianos Become The Teeth - Keep You
It’s always interesting when a heavier band takes it down a notch. Pianos Become The Teeth have toned down their post-hardcore sound to take up a more approachable, alternative rock sound comparable to a fusion of Incubus and Framing Hanley. While not being too big a fan of their earlier work, I can play this album on repeat for hours upon hours. Something about it is so infectious, I can’t exactly put my finger on it. Perhaps it’s the atmospheric, understated instrumentals that intertwine throughout the album, or the flowing melodies of Kyle Durfey. Alternative Rock being my favorite genre, it’s hard for me not to enjoy an album. It is similarly as hard for me to truly love an album like I do with this one. The album opens up with ‘Ripple Water Shine,’ one of my favorite tracks of the year. ‘April’ continues the minimalistic energy whilst all the while keeping my attention, which can sometimes be proven to be a hard thing (I tend to multitask whilst listening to music). Overall, an incredible release.
Favorite Tracks: Ripple Water Shine, April, The Queen
6) Issues - Issues
The hype surrounding this album upon its release was definitely warranted. Issues took the post-hardcore world by storm, essentially creating a fusion of pop and scream in an elaborate way. The album features hits like ‘Late’ and ‘Stingray Affliction,’ which are definitely some monster tracks. The seamless mix between Oli Sykes-esque screams and Justin Timberlake-esque vocals leave you questioning what you really think about this. After all, it’s almost like Justin Bieber over metal (before you get offended in some way, just listen to ‘Late’ - there’s SOME truth to it). When your jamming to the likes of ‘Personality Cult’ and ‘Sad Ghost,’ however, those thoughts will make little influence on the overall quality. They don’t forget to mix it up, either - ‘Disappear (Remember When)’ features a choir to conclude the album on a high note. The power the band displayed in this album earned them a guest spot on Linkin Park’s Warped Tour performance earlier this year in Ventura, California during ‘Faint’ - you can’t get much better than that!
Favorite Tracks: Personality Cult, Disappear (Remember When), Late
5) You Me At Six - Cavalier Youth
Everybody loves a good anthem. Cavalier Youth is packed with these. You Me At Six is known for their relatable songs, packed with a punch and tons of emotion. This album is no exception. The idea of this album is that you should never let age stop you. Always let that childish desire burn within you and never let it die. A powerful thing to know. With songs like ‘Fresh Start Fever’ and ‘Wild Ones,’ that passion won’t be too hard to achieve. Truth be told, there’s not much left to say about this one. This album brings all the power, motivation and happiness that it does in such an unfathomable yet undeniable way, which is why it deserves the number five spot in this list.
Favorite Tracks: Fresh Start Fever, Wild Ones
4) Elk Road - Waiting For Your Waves To Pass
Understated and sophisticated, Elk Road’s Waiting For Your Waves To Pass is probably the best dubstep album to be released this year. While receiving relatively big attention amongst the Soundcloud and underground-dubstep community earlier this year, this album has only gotten some of the rightful exposure it deserves. Combining elements of jazz, blues, and funk into infectious beats and intense drops in a magical way. After shutting himself out from music for 3 months, he comes back and manufactures all of this from scratch. A truly incredible record, definitely worth a listen if you haven’t already heard it.
Favorite Tracks: Diamond, Pool On My Mind
3) Royal Blood - Royal Blood
Forget Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea, Royal Blood is THE breakout artist of the year. They took the rock world by storm with their eponymous debut earlier this year, earning them rightfully deserved attention across the globe. The duo brings an interesting treat to the table - bass guitar as lead guitar. Questionable on paper but incredible in execution. Hailing jams like ‘Little Monster’ and ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton,’ this album ROLLS. One of the hugest rock sounds I’ve heard this entire year? ‘Better Strangers.’ In today’s day and age, in an industry dominated by pop, it’s very refreshing to see such a pure and experimental rock album such as Royal Blood reach the levels of fame that it has.
Favorite Tracks: Better Strangers, Ten Tonne Skeleton
2) Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways
Foo Fighters are probably one of the biggest, if not THE biggest rock bands to have ever existed. Well, maybe not as well known as the next, but I digress. They’re huge. This record is a testament to that. Recorded in eight different cities of musical historical importance, Sonic Highways explores the interconnectivity and stories behind certain themes and places. Each song packs its own punch - everything between ‘Something From Nothing’ and ‘I Am A River’ promises to be huge, and delivers in a perfect way. Truly bringing out the best of the Foo Fighters, this album will definitely be one for the records. It’s made a powerful mark in my books, and its sure to leave a lasting memory in yours.
Favorite Tracks: Something From Nothing, In The Clear
Before I get into my favorite album of the entire year, here are some albums that I adored that were released this year but didn’t quite make the cut, in no particular order. Definitely worth checking out.
iamamiwhoami - Blue
Anberlin - Lowborn
Banks - Goddess
Memphis May Fire - Unconditional
Of Mice & Men - Restoring Force
Hanz Zimmer - Interstellar: OST
Against The Current- Infinity EP
Within Temptation - Hydra
Panopticon - Roads To The North
1) Linkin Park - The Hunting Party
Ah, Linkin Park. The biggest rock band the world knows today. Whether or not you like them is out of the question - they are undeniably the biggest band on the planet. Everyone knows them, whether it be for ‘In The End’ or ‘Numb’, or ‘Burn It Down’ or ‘One Step Closer.’ The fact is - they still exist, and they still kick ass. The Hunting Party is a testament to the current ideology that “rock is dead.” If this year has proved anything, it’s that rock is certainly not dead. Rock is bigger and stronger than ever - The Hunting Party, Sonic Highways, Royal Blood and more all prove that. From beginning to end, Linkin Park lays down relentless walls of noise that melt your face off while leaving you with a pleasant aftermath of wanting more. Opening heavily with the distorted screams of ‘Keys To The Kingdom’ to the heavy chorus of ‘All For Nothing’ featuring Page Hamilton from Helmet, this album opens up huge. Heading into the monstrous six minute ‘Guilty All The Same’ featuring hip-hop legend Rakim, the energy does not let up until the short reprieve that is ‘The Summoning,’ which immediately bursts into the punk rock, Bad Religion-influenced ‘War.’ The energy gets you jumping with the powerful verses of ‘Wastelands’ which transitions into the giant ballad that is ‘Until It’s Gone’ (which has one of the best instrumentals the band has ever performed). After that, the band jumps straight in to the heavy demon that is ‘Rebellion’ featuring Daron Malakian from System Of A Down (characeristically the only Linkin Park song in Drop C tuning) and into ‘Mark The Graves,’ which will throw curveballs at you left and right. The last moment to recover from what bombs just went off on you from the massive noises you just heard: ‘Drawbar’ featuring Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, a beautiful piano-driven track which transitions into ‘Final Masquerade,’ arguable one of the best songs the band has ever written. The album concludes with the odyssey called ‘A Line In The Sand,’ exploding with riffs and powerful screams.
This album topped off the list because it exhibits the raw, distinct need that music needs today. Too many bands have begun to abandon their rock sounds in order to cater to the more accessible crowds of the pop world. While many of these bands do manage to pull it off, rock is undeniably the most influential genre out there, and Linkin Park will continue to be at its head for years to come.
Favorite Tracks: Final Masquerade, A Line In The Sand, Guilty All The Same, Rebellion
And so, my list has come to an end. Sorry for wasting your time, and I do hope you enjoyed reading my silly opinions. What did you think of 2014 album-wise? Next on my Top 10s list will be my top 10 songs of 2014, which will be followed by my top 10 songs overall. Until next time.