Emertainment Monthly’s Best Albums of 2016 (So Far)

Jacob Cutler ‘19/ Emertainment Monthly Assistant Music Editor

The Hotelier – Goodness

“I see the moon and the moon sees me. That’s enough,” says frontman Christian Holden on the album’s opening monologue. Following the self-destruction, guilt, and anguish permeating their previous effort Home, Like No Place is There, Holden’s relief bleeds through the entire record. Goodness doesn’t ignore the darkness from before, but instead of embracing the sorrow that resulted in Home, it opts for a warmer tone and an “I’m just glad we’re still alive” mentality in an attempt to move forward. It’s still a Hotelier record at its core, with all the jagged indie/punk and emotionally complex lyricism that style implies. Even if the bite and potency from Home has faded, The Hotelier remain as sharp as ever, and for us that’s enough. Also, naked elderly!

Phillip Morgan ‘18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

I Love Your Lifestyle – We Go Way Back

Brought stateside with the help of NDE (Non-Denominational Emo) Records, I Love Your Lifestyle paint themselves as the spiritual successors to underground emo favorites like Algernon Cadwallader and Marietta, foregoing moody atmospherics in favor of winding, mathy guitar lines wrapped around gale-force indie rock. Despite their socially conscious lyrics rallying hard and fast against the ignorance and folly of those around them, We Go Way Back vents out its frustration through the music rather than at any one object, resulting in a sunnier vibe than most of its contemporaries. It’s a breath of fresh air from the more depressive indie rock out there, if you can get past the suspiciously MS Paint-looking album art.

Phillip Morgan ‘18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Into It. Over It. – Standards

Taking a break from his 4000+ side projects, emo Grand Poobah Evan Weiss returns with his third full-length as Into It. Over It.. Recorded in the woods with longtime Mountain Goats producer John Vanderslice, Standards loosens its grip on the meticulous math-rock guitars ever so slightly, enabling Weiss to revisit the punkier side of Into It. Over It. that often felt submerged in the cerebrality of Intersections. The record compliments his mindset of having recently turned thirty, calling on grim reflection and last gaps of youthful exuberance in equal measure. However, rather than lamenting his age, Standards embraces his status as an veteran emo kid, synthesizing all his strengths into the strongest Into It. Over It. album to date.

Phillip Morgan ‘18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Pierce the Veil – Misadventures

After four years of no new music, Pierce the Veil’s Misadventures came as a great relief to fans of the San Diego rockers. After being teased since early 2015 with the single “The Divine Zero” and later with follow-up 2016 singles “Circles” and “Texas is Forever,” supporters were unsure of what the album would bring. But promptly after its release it was proven to be just what we all wanted: great storytelling through lyrics, captivating drum beats, and guitar riffs/bass lines that make you want to dance. From opening tune “Dive In” where you are literally diving into their album and sound, to the ending ballad “Song for Isabelle,” each song brings you through the life stories of the band members. You listen to their breakups, you feel the beats of their heartaches and you get to wrap yourself up in their “Floral and Fading” blankets as you cry over the perfect tunes. Plus you get to learn a little bit more about a band you’ll definitely learn to love.

Jennifer Dill ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Ra Ra Riot – Need Your Light

Beta Love, released in 2013, posited a poppier trajectory for Syracuse’s Ra Ra Riot, and it seems that they’ve chosen to follow it through their latest release, Need Your Light. With the aid from Vampire Weekend’s (former) multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij, the album is explosive and adventurous. The leading single, “Water,” is full of chunky synth riffs and appropriately mellifluous melodies. Although their older work focused on sweeping orchestrals to create a grander overall sound, and Beta Love’s departure from that felt a little off-color, Need Your Light embraces the new direction and wrings all it can from it.

Anna Marketti ‘17 / Head Music Editor

Hinds – Leave Me Alone

Leave Me Alone is Hinds’s attempt to give back to the roots they undeniably draw from. “Castigadas En El Granero” is one of two tracks on the album with a title in the band’s native Spanish, showing a desire to leave a trace of their culture. This is reflected in the syncopated rhythm and twinkling Spanish guitar. The track fades gently into “Solar,” which embraces its nomenclature with sweeping guitar riffs that take flight. These songs offer a taste of what the rest of the world has to offer the music industry. Leave Me Alone, as a whole, knows its boundaries and uses them to its advantage. Not being fazed as outsiders, Hinds’s uniformity throughout the album establishes their place in the rock industry.

Anna Marketti ‘17 / Head Music Editor

Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp

Jagged and jaunty, Michelle Zauner’s latest project tackles the microcosm of grief and transforms it into something fluid and tangible. Cancer is difficult territory, even for art, but Zauner uses her mother’s loss to cancer as a beautiful motif in her music. “Heft” wanders into an existential plane, minimal in lyrics but carrying its weight in meaning. “What if it’s the same dark coming?” Zauner asks before releasing a resigned, guttural “fuck it all.” “Everybody Wants To Love You” takes the title of Psychopomp’s poppy, radio-friendly single while still maintaining the air of complexity that colors Zauner’s music.

Anna Marketti ‘17 / Head Music Editor

Frightened Rabbit – Painting of a Panic Attack

The anthemic melodies that meander their way throughout Frightened Rabbit’s latest album raise the stakes on a band that insists they not be forgotten. With clear influence from Painting of a Panic Attack’s producer, The National’s Aaron Dessner, Scott Hutchinson’s vocals have taken a swan dive into moroseness, exchanging moody, sweeping hooks for pensive riffs that exercise restraint. Where “Keep Yourself Warm” filled the hole in our collective broken heart, “Death Dream” worms itself into the listener’s brain and acts as Frightened Rabbit’s declaration that they’re a serious band. So long to the melancholy indie sad boys. Panic Attack shows a promising trajectory for the Scottish group’s sound.

Anna Marketti ‘17 / Head Music Editor

David Bowie – Blackstar

David Bowie’s death only days after the release of his last album Blackstar was one of the heaviest blows to the music industry this year. However, Blackstar stands as one of the best albums of the year so far. Bowie faced his death head-on, creating a haunting and complicated record about loss and facing the end. In classic Bowie fashion, the album is unlike anything he did before it, and it’s a great reminder of the talent we lost and the amazing wealth and work we are lucky he left us with.

Casey Nugent ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Weezer – S/T (White Album)

After a few years of mostly hit-and-miss work, it’s nice to see Weezer back in top form. Weezer (White Album) goes back to the band’s roots, but not in a way that feels reductive. It’s not a desperate attempt to catch their old sound, but a return to their old attitude and vibe, which creates a more natural sounding Weezer album than they’ve put out in years. Weezer (White Album) feels like a nostalgic summer record — a band remembering the height of their party life and reveling in the fun of it all.

Casey Nugent ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

It’s hard to a imagine an artist who lives up to the hype quite as much as Chance the Rapper does. The Chicago rapper’s third mixtape infuses gospel songs and sounds into his already brilliant rap skills. It’s a wonderfully joyous album, which seems appropriately reflective of this time in Chance’s life — he celebrates his young daughter, his growing fame, and his hometown in equal measure. While Coloring Book is definitely a religious album, it’s not alienatingly so — it takes the spirit and soul of church and invites us all to stand and celebrate.

Casey Nugent ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Tegan and Sara – Love You to Death

Tegan and Sara started making the switch into full-blown pop music on 2013’s Heartthrob, but Love You to Death shows how they’ve perfected the sound. Infectiously catchy and danceable, Love You to Death is a peak for the Canadian sisters. Their progression into pop music à la Robyn and Sia feels natural, and their lyrics are just as raw and powerful as ever. Look no further than the album’s single “Boyfriend,” a track about the blurred lines between friendship and romance between two women. While other artists might have made this tune somber and reflective, Tegan and Sara made it a dance track, perfect to rock out to. Love You to Death is something different for pop music, and it’s a much needed and appreciated shakeup.

Casey Nugent ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Musicians across every genre have tried to capture the mixture of hope, angst, and energy that exists naturally in your teens and early twenties. Car Seat Headrest’s latest album attacks these emotions with lyrical poignancy that’s hard to top, exemplified on the album’s standout track “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales.” A song that tackles both post-drinking melancholy and the ability to pull yourself out of bad situations, “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” goes from somber to triumphant in such a natural way that you can’t help but relate. The rest of the album follows the same course, switching from the party to the post-party sadness to the unstoppable desire to get up in the morning and do it all over again.

Casey Nugent ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Zayn Malik – Mind of Mine

When a singer leaves a boy band to go solo, it’s either going to turn out really well or really badly. Fortunately Zayn Malik, who left One Direction last year, has pulled off an impressive debut album. Mind of Mine feels like the introspective he never got to write. He goes from sultry bedroom songs to wistful laments, and he does it with a voice that makes even the explicit phrases sound like they’ve floated down from the clouds. This sounds like Malik truly coming into his own and finding his place in the contemporary R&B soundscape.

Keely Chisholm ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

The Strokes – Future/Present/Past

Future/Present/Past is the Strokes’s newest release since The Comedown Machine in 2013. This EP is also their first release with Cult Records. Now that The Strokes’s five-album contract with RCA is up, the band has the freedom to create music without worrying about record sales. This EP showcases the This Is It era sound as well as the sound from newer releases like The Comedown Machine. The EP’s third song is very similar to the music that Julian Casablancas has been releasing with Julian Casablancas and Voidz. This new EP has fans wondering whether or not the Strokes will return to their roots or go in a completely different direction. Until The Strokes release their next full length album, fans will just have to speculate and come up with as many absurd theories as possible.

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