Top Albums and Singles of 2016
2016 was an excellent year for music. There were some truly fantastic bands that have released albums this year and below you can check out some of my favorites. With groups such as Blink 182, Parachute, and Shawn Mendes releasing new material, I was never bored hearing what came out of the music industry this year. There were some great singles released as well, which I’ll mention below too. Happy New Year!
Blink 182, California:
When Blink 182 recorded their 2011 record Neighborhoods, members Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker had a strained relationship with then front man Tom Delonge, and it seemed after its release that it would only be a matter of time before the group fell apart once more. Fast forward a few years later and in comes Matt Skiba of the Chicago rock band Alkaline Trio. Originally introduced to fans as a fill-in for Delonge after he pulled out of a few scheduled performances, Skiba turned out to be the best choice for a lineup change. By the time that they announced Skiba as a permanent member of Blink 182, the band was ready to record California, their best record since 2005’s self-titled album.
With songs such as “Bored to Death” and “She’s Out of Her Mind,” Blink 182 could get back to their Southern California roots and play the type of music that they were meant to play, with a style that sounded more like the Descendants than the U2 type vibe of their past few records. Apparently, the Recording Academy thought so too, as the band is now up for a Grammy for Best Rock Album. If this your first introduction to Blink 182 in their 20 plus years as a band, start here.
Parachute, Wide Awake:
After discovering Parachute a few years back after surfing on YouTube, I have always enjoyed the genuine and emotion filled pop music the band puts out, and their latest record Wide Awake is no exception. With the opener, “Without You” and acoustic love songs such as “When You Move,” Parachute are the kind of band where fans say “you are able to put into words what I cannot.” With every LP they drop, the future seems to get a bit brighter for this band, so hopefully 2017 will be their year!
Shawn Mendes, Illuminate:
At only 18 years old, Shawn Mendes has managed to sell out Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall only a month apart from each other, with only two records under his belt. While 2014’s Handwritten was a strong debut for a 16-year old, it is Illuminate that brings Mendes and his singer-songwriter status way up. Bringing a John Mayer vibe to tracks such as “Ruin” and “Lights On” we can’t wait to see where Mendes will end up in ten years. While he won’t be the same musician then, he has plenty of room to grow and change. The last five years or so has seen a surge in young singer-songwriters whose music has a chance of standing out for many years to come, and we are hoping that Mendes is one of these writers.
Greyson Chance, Somewhere Over My Head:
Finding himself on Ellen at the age of 12 after his cover of the Lady Gaga tune “Paparazzi” went viral, Greyson Chance became a sleeper sensation from Oklahoma. Releasing the modestly popular track “Waiting Outside the Lines” from his 2012 album Hold on Till the Night, Chance seemed poised for stardom. However, things didn’t turn out the way he had hoped. After taking a hiatus to write new material, he was dropped by his record label and management and faded into obscurity. In 2016, he came back with a new song titled “Meridians” at the age of 18, showing off a much deeper vocal tone and polished piano skills. After a few years of silence, he released his latest EP Somewhere Over My Head, a five song EP that highlights Chance’s changes as an artist and one that is intensely satisfying. Check out the songs “Afterlife” and “Back on The Wall” to get a feel for this incredible vocalist.
When they released their debut EP SWAAY last year, Los Angeles funk-dance band DNCE became one of the most talked about new bands of 2016. Fronted by Jonas Brother Joe Jonas, it was interesting to see the response to Jonas’ new project after the Jonas Brothers breakup and a few false starts as a solo artist. The EP’s lead single “Cake by The Ocean” became one of the biggest songs of the year and with the success of the EP, it was no surprise that the band’s debut record would do well. With tracks such as “Body Moves” and “Pay My Rent,” fronting a new band was the right move for Jonas to be taken seriously as an artist, while the rest of the group has the chops to make it as musicians on their own terms.
*video is NSFW
Nick Jonas, Last Year Was Complicated:
When Nick Jonas released his second solo album Last Year Was Complicated earlier this year, it didn’t display a ton of growth, however the album did cement him as being an incredible pop artist. With songs such as “Voodoo” and “Chainsaw,” it’s clear that Jonas knows the direction that he wants his music to go in. While his 2012 self-titled LP felt liked an experiment with coming into his own, Last Year Was Complicated presents a clear vision with plenty of heart.
The Lumineers, Cleopatra:
With the release of their new album Cleopatra, Denver folk band The Lumineers have released another solid LP that reminds their fans why they love this folk inspired group so much. With tracks such as “Sleep on The Floor” and “Gun Song,” we get an honest album that seems to stand out among those that we’ll be listening to years from now. Sticking to the same bare bones feel of previous records, Cleopatra plays like a great singer-songwriter album, something that digs deep into the writer’s soul and pulls out every emotion possible, creating something that is deeply moving and memorable.
Singles In 2016
When Coldplay released their record A Head Full of Dreams at the end of last year, the album received mixed reactions from critics, though there are several gems to be heard throughout Dreams, one of them being “Everglow.” While the record version is beautiful, it’s the single version of the track that really brings out what makes Coldplay so special and mesmerizing, as well as what has kept them so popular for so long. After being forced to play the song acoustic due to technical difficulties at a show in Australia, the band decided to recreate the intimate feeling of an acoustic performance for the single. The music video features front man Chris Martin in black and white sitting down at a piano recording “Everglow”. There has always been something so haunting and calming about Coldplay’s ballads and “Everglow” feels very representative of their appeal. Couple that with a sound bite of a few inspiring words from Muhammad Ali addressing a crowd in England, and we’ve got one of the best singles of the year.
Niall Horan, This Town:
When One Direction went on hiatus last year, it felt like everyone was watching and waiting to see what member would make the leap to becoming a solo artist first. Except for Zayn Malik, no one would have ever thought that Irishman Niall Horan would be the first to give it a go. After Radio Disney accidentally tweeted that Horan was going to be releasing a new single, the One Direction fandom went nuts. The next day, Horan dropped the song without warning, and the result was beautiful. Heavily inspired by the music of his childhood which includes Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, along with more modern influences such as The Lumineers, “This Town” is a simple ballad that stuck with you. Singing about when you go home and see the girl you “fell” for when you were young, the track ended up being relatable and a taste of what was to come on Horan’s debut. Vocal wise, the song fits his voice perfectly, creating a song you want to listen to for hours, and even after that you still can’t stop listening.
Third Root, Soul Force:
While the music scene in Austin, Texas has run into a few financial speed bumps in 2016, its love for music is still very much alive, with its hip-hop scene exploding nicely. There were some amazing hip hop acts releasing tracks this year, though Third Root was the one who stuck out among them all. Collaborating with various emcees and local act Riders Against the Storm, the group gave us “Soul Force.” One of the most infectious tracks we’ve heard from any Austin act this year, it’s a shame that it’s not featured on Spotify as its bass line makes the song worthy of needing to be heard everywhere. And let’s not forget about that beat, which only adds to its addicting and punchy style.
Good Charlotte, Life Can’t Get Much Better:
While Good Charlotte’s popularity has faded over the past few years, the band recently came back from a hiatus to release their seventh album Youth Authority. While the record was a throwback to their pop punk popularity (think their 2002 release The Young and The Hopeless,) the album had a few reminders of what made the band so special way back when. Throughout their career, brothers and front men Benji and Joel Madden have always been strong writers, and “Life Can’t Get Much Better” reflects this. The song has the siblings trademark vocals which have always blended together so flawlessly, while also not forgetting the biographical bent of being thankful for everything you have, as family has been a consistent theme throughout the bands career.
With a chorus that wants to live inside your head for a while, it’s the strongest song the group has written, making you interested to hear more about what Good Charlotte have been up to.
In 2015, One Direction fans were hit with the news that Zayn Malik was leaving the group to live a normal life away from the spotlight. Instead, fans got a new solo album from Malik (who now goes by the mononym Zayn) titled Mind of Mine, a R&B drenched record full of songs that Zayn had dreamed of recording for years. While there has been no tour to support the release and Zayn pulling out of several appearances due to anxiety, Mind of Mine includes some of his best vocals to date.
The largely unnoticed single “BeFour” brings together all that Zayn wants to express on his first solo release: that he has enough talent to go out on his own and that he’ll be just fine doing it. Featuring Malik’s trademark falsetto, the track proves that he has that pop edge while adding a bit of smokiness to its slick beat and groove. If you only have a chance to listen to one song on Mind of Mine, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Do you have an album or single that you think should have made this list? Head to the comments to share your thoughts.