Top 25 Albums of the Year

Top 25 Albums of the Year

By Glen Bushell

Dec 16, 2016 14:59

2016 has been quite the year, hasn’t it? It's certainly not been easy on anyone. A year of divisive politics and social unrest. The passing of many influential musicians and artists. Bands have broken up, and everything feels like it’s changing. Many people will be glad to see the back of this year.

If there has been one saving grace for 2016, it’s the amount of solid music that has been released over the last twelve months. Bands have been pushing boundaries more than ever, and the swell of creativity has made this year one of the best for music in recent memory. That does, however, mean that compiling a list of our favourite albums has been incredibly tough.

By taking votes from the Punktastic team, our list is based entirely on what we have enjoyed the most. Some of the results were unexpected, but we believe it gives a true representation of the diverse taste of the team. With the gargantuan amount of high quality releases, we probably could have made this a top 50, or even 100, but we wanted to make this special.

So without further ado, our Top 25 Albums of the Year, 2016

25. Renounced – ‘Theories Of Despair’


The world of metalcore has changed drastically in recent years, but Renounced take things back to the start, to the true origins of the sound. ‘Theories Of Despair’ saw them refine their sound and come into their own. It has all the makings of a classic metallic hardcore record with jagged metallic riffs colliding against melody and aggression. ‘Theories Of Despair’ also has a deeply personal, introspective theme of depression and mental health issues that hit home with the listener. It may only be their second LP, but Renounced have already carved out a legacy for themselves. Death to false metalcore. [Glen Bushell]

Read our interview with Renounced from earlier this year

24. Metallica – ‘Hardwired… To Self Destruct’


More than 8 years since their last studio release, Metallica returned in 2016. There had been talk of new music for years, and the band released the single ‘Lords of Summer’ back in 2014. Fast forward two years and that single didn’t make the cut for ‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’. What we did get, however, is a double album nearly 80 minutes long of brutal riffs and some of James Hetfields best lyrics to date. Reaching the top of the album charts in over 50 countries, and arguably one of the best metal albums out this year, ‘Hardwired… To Self-Destruct’ is more than just a return to form for one of the world’s biggest bands, but also deserving of its place among our albums of the year. [Chris Lee]

Read our full review of ‘Hardwired… To Self Destruct’

Read our review of Metallica’s intimate show at House Of Vans

23. The Coathangers – ‘Nosebleed Weekend’


They may have been a band for the best part of 10 years, but The Coathangers really made their impact felt in 2016. ‘Nosebleed Weekend’ saw these ladies hit their stride and put out the most solid, accomplished record of their career. Its got rock ‘n’ roll swagger, punk rock passion, and 60’s pop charm. But for all the raw elements, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. How many other record made you want to shake your hips as well as start a bar fight this year? If the answer is none, then you better take a ride with The Coathangers.[Glen Bushell]

Read our full review of ‘Nosebleed Weekend’

Read our live review of The Coathangers only UK show this year

22. Black Foxxes – ‘I’m Not Well’


The speed with which the tracks on ‘I’m Not Well’ move from melodic calm to frantic desperation and back again does a brilliant job of demonstrating the speed with which anxiety can overtake a mind with no warning. There’s an honesty running through these songs, you don’t need to read the interviews to know Mark Holley is singing about his own personal experiences with mental and physical illness, it comes through every note and pained word with an affecting intensity. The three tracks taken from the ‘Pines’ EP; ‘Home’ ‘River’ and ‘Pines’. They are used as the building blocks for ‘I’m Not Well’ and the common threads running through leave you with one of those albums that must be listen to from start to finish, on repeat. [Helen Messenger]

Read our full review of ‘I’m Not Well’

Read our interview with Black Foxxes from earlier in the year

21. The Dirty Nil – ‘Higher Power’

The Dirty Nil’s debut LP, coming about a decade into the band’s existence, started 2016 with a bang. It’s chock full of rowdy raucous rock’n’roll music, loud and furious, ready to fuckin’ punch you in the jaw and then in the gut with a one-two combination that you’ll never see coming. Luke Bentham’s vocals sound like he’s ready to rip you apart while the band sometimes seems like they’re about to explode. The band distills the best qualities of punk, grunge, and powerful rock to create some of the most exciting music you’ll ever hear. [Paul Silver]

Read our full review of ‘Higher Power’ back in February

Read our interview with The Dirty Nil from earlier this year

20. Lonely The Brave – ‘Things Will Matter’


There’s no one quite like Lonely The Brave. The most modest and understated bunch of guys you could meet, creating some of the most expansive, emotion-stirring songs you’ll ever hear, they’re one of the UK’s most interesting bands. This year’s ‘Things Will Matter’ had a difficult job following up the anthems of 2014’s ‘The Day’s War’ but, rather than try and replicate what came before, the release delved deeper and darker into a world of ‘Rattlesnakes’, ‘Dust & Bones’ and ‘The Jaws of Hell’. There’s light in the shadows, however, and lead singer David Jakes’ soaring vocals cut through the (black) mire. Reminding us anxiety doesn’t mean failure, it’s another important release from an increasingly admired band. [Kathryn Black]

Read our full review of ‘Things Will Matter’

Read our review of Lonely The Brave live in London

19. The Dillinger Escape Plan – ‘Dissociation’


One of the most shocking announcements of 2016 was The Dillinger Escape Plan announcing that they plan to call it a day following the release of one final album. Naturally, this unique band found a way to bookend their career in the only way they know how; pure, unbridled chaos. ‘Dissociation’ harks back to some of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s more frantic work of bizarre time signatures and jazz-fusion breaks, while retaining the melody that gradually seeped into their sound over the years. They had no choice but to make a statement with this record, and have closed the door on their legacy perfectly. [Glen Bushell]

Read our full review of ‘Dissocation’

Read our live review of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s intimate show at The Old Blue Last

18. Panic! at the Disco – ‘Death of a Bachelor’


When Brendon Urie was left as the original member of Panic! At The Disco we were a little bit concerned that meant the beginning of the end for the scene kid’s favourite performers. How wrong we were! ‘Death of A Bachelor’ – packed with the theatrical, the camp, the weird and the wonderful – has provided perfect alternative party anthems and exciting, exuberant songs for dancing along to. It’s a moment of joy and frivolity in an otherwise terrible year; an album for throwing aside your inhibitions and enjoying life. Nominated for a Grammy Award, and rightfully so, it’s the most fun, elaborate and downright ridiculous release of 2016. [Kathryn Black]

Take a look at our gallery of Panic! at the Disco from earlier this year

Read our full review of ‘Death of a Bachelor’

17. Big Jesus – ‘Oneiric’


After doing the rounds on the underground for the last couple of years, it was finally time for the world to take notice of Big Jesus, and ‘Oneiric’ is a modern classic. Drawing from their love of fuzz and melody, harking back to the dawn of 90’s alt rock, the Atlanta quartet put a refreshing spin on the sound. The crisp production and honest execution brings each track to life, making it cohesive, inviting, and filled with heart. ‘Oneiric’ was one of the stand out debut’s in 2016, and the start of something very special for Big Jesus. [Glen Bushell]

Read our interview with Big Jesus from earlier this year

Read our full review of ‘Oneiric’

16. Petrol Girls – ‘Talk Of Violence’


Wearing their politics unabashedly on their sleeves, mixing technical proficiency with an ear for infections melody, and possessing an absolute fearlessness in bringing their political messages to the consciousness of as many different audiences as possible, Petrol Girls burn the furious fuel of righteous civil disobedience alongside progressive political stances. Coalescing onto the stunning debut ‘Talk Of Violence’, Petrol Girls have created a solid work of art that pushes the boundaries of post-hardcore in both musical and lyrical content. Whether it’s the mixture of voices caught up in systematic violence on ‘Treading Water’, the rebuttal of historical violence towards women in ‘Harpy’ or using anger as a tool to overcome depression in ‘Fang’, Petrol Girls ambitiously tackle difficult subject matters with a musical ferocity to back it up. It’s a shot in the arm for political punk in an era that’s going to need more engagement than ever. [Matthew Wilson]

Read our full review of ‘Talk Of Violence’

15. Pinegrove – ‘Cardinal’

Pinegrove - Cardinal album art

One of the biggest discoveries of the year was a collective from New Jersey. Their sophomore effort, ‘Cardinal’, entrenched everyone with an easy going, heart wrenching sound. This band’s name is Pinegrove. Released by Run for Cover Records at the start of the year, ‘Cardinal’ has remained on a lot of people’s minds since it dropped. And who could blame them? The country-esque indie rock style they craft is pure anthemic perfection. The likes of ‘Cadium’, ‘Then Again’ and ‘Waveform’ have the ability to resonate profoundly with everyone regardless of background. Having seen them play in a sold out compact room in Manchester, performing to a captivated crowd, Pinegrove will deservedly become a popular sensation going forward. This album well and truly signifies the start of this rise, making it one of 2016’s terrific stand outs. [Aaron Lohan]

Read our full review of ‘Cardinal’

Read our interview with Pinegrove from earlier this year

Read our live review of Pinegrove in London

14. Boston Manor – ‘Be Nothing’


Boston Manor were on the cusp of something big and delivered that something in form of their debut album, ‘Be Nothing.’ They released a vibrant and bold album that contained sentimental lyrics and some incredibly tight musicianship – it was a perfect, perfect chapter in their career. A few tours later, including a headline tour and support slots with Moose Blood, and these guys have signed off the year very, very well. [Jess Tagliani]

Read our live review of Boston Manor in London

Read our full review of ‘Be Nothing’

13. PUP – ‘The Dream Is Over’


‘The Dream Is Over’ was the bombshell that Stefan Babcock’s doctor dropped on him on the first day of a gruelling tour. Discovering vocal polyps on the vocalist’s throat threw everything into disarray. As the band spiralled into the mid-twenties introspection that threatened to consume their project as a whole. Instead of self-destructing, however, PUP roared back into life with an uncompromisingly unhinged album that throws two fingers up in the air against anyone who doubted them, dragged them down or hung on along the way. The one-two opening punch of ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You’ and ‘DVP’ is one of the strongest openers to an album this year, revelling in the destruction of those around you and yourself, whilst ‘Old Wounds’ is a gnarly hardcore ripper of defiance in a world of kneejerk reactions. And on downtempo track ‘The Coast’ Babcock’s murmuring “I couldn’t spend another winter here, in this desolate fishing town, counting the months as they wear me down” reveals a necessity to not let dreams die. There’s dreams on the one hand and death on the other. PUP knows which one they’ve backed. [Matthew Wilson]

Read our full review of ‘The Dream Is Over’

12. Muncie Girls – ‘From Caplan to Belsize’


With a brilliant front woman in Lande Hekt, an accessible lo-fi punk sound, and the most relevant social observations a band has made in years: Muncie Girls have got it made. From the fight against sexual assault culture in ‘Respect’, to the frustrated rebellion in ‘Gone With The Wind’ and the political call to arms of ‘Committee’, ‘From Caplan To Belsize’ proves that sometimes less really is more and the greatest of messages can be heard in the simplest of songs. They might be reluctant to admit it but Muncie Girls are fast becoming one of the most important bands of a generation and their debut full length has proved it. [Kathryn Black]

Read our full review of ‘From Caplan to Belsize’

Check out our gallery of Muncie Girls live in Birmingham

11. Against Me! – ‘Shape Shift With Me’


This year saw Against Me! release their second studio album since vocalist and guitar player Laura Jane Grace publicly announced her gender dysphoria. Their previous record ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’ was received with much critical acclaim and in September this year, the follow up ‘Shape Shift With Me’ was released. Similarly to ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’ the new album varies in musical styles, featuring both fast, punchy punk anthems as well as much poppier and melodic tracks that are packed to the brim with catchy choruses and singalongs. Against Me! have proved themselves to be an unstoppable force recently, raising awareness for various charities and touring consistently they are a band at the top of their game. ‘Shape Shift With Me’ is outrageously catchy and only needs one listen to see why it’s been selected for albums of the year list. [James Davenport]

Read our full review of ‘Shape Shift With Me’

Read our live review of Against Me! in Manchester

10. Moose Blood – ‘Blush’


After the release of their debut ‘I’ll Keep You In Mind From Time to Time’, everyone waited with bated breath for the release of Moose Blood’s second album ‘Blush’. And what an album! Likened to heavyweight champions Brand New, the Canterbury quartet brought back their winning formula of emotional, heartfelt lyrics and soaring vocals, coupled with melodic slabs of sweet guitar work. Numerous headline tours later, both in the UK and in the US, and it’s safe to say that this band have done very, very well off the back of their second album. [Jess Tagliani]

Read our interview with Moose Blood from earlier in the year

Read our full review of ‘Blush’

Read our live review of Moose Blood in London

09. Beartooth – ‘Aggressive’


Beartooth’s second album, ‘Aggressive’, saw vocalist Caleb Shomo work through his demons. It is more positive than their debut, and the band has come out better for it. The band expanded on the heavier element of their sound, while retaining the melodic hooks that invite you in. ‘Aggressive’ is going to support them on their way to taking over bigger venues and a brighter future. [Penny Bennett]

Read our full review of ‘Aggressive’

08. Every Time I Die – ‘Low Teens’


Of the great early 00’s metalcore set, almost all of the leading lights have at some point in the last decade decided to hang their studded belts up by the door and move onto pastures new. Though the last couple of years have seen high profile reunions from the likes of Poison The Well, UnderOath and, most recently, Hopesfall, that movement of bands mostly exists now as a moment in time that has long since passed. One glaring exception to that rule is Every Time I Die, who unlike most of their peers never threw the towel in, and since 2001’s full-length debut ‘Last Night In Town’ have only continued to grow and evolve past the narrow scene from which they were spawned, this year’s ‘Low Teens’ having set a new high watermark for the Buffalo, NY quintet. From the Southern Rock riffing of ‘Two Summers’ to the hardcore stomp of ‘I Didn’t Want To Join Your Stupid Cult Anyway’, via the Brandon Urie-assisted creep and crawl of ‘It Remembers’, ‘Low Teens’ is arguably ETID’s most sonically varied release, feeling more textured and nuanced than the band ever have previously. The neck-snapping riffs of Jordan Buckley and Andy Williams continue to pulverise, and ex-Norma Jean sticksman Daniel Davidson makes a fine recorded debut with the band, though as ever the MVP is Keith Buckley, whose pointedly sardonic lyrics continue to paint him as one of the most important voices in heavy music. This is the record Every Time I Die have always been threatening to make, as brutal as it is smart, as tongue-in-cheek funny as it is tongue-bitten-off vicious. [James Lee]

Read our full review of ‘Low Teens’

07. Martha – ‘Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart’


A small village in the far northeast of England seems like the least likely place to breed one of the most exciting bands of today, let alone a vegan-queer-anarcho indie punk band. But when the town is called ‘Pity Me’ it starts to make sense. The band’s songs range from the political to the personal, with an air of uncertainty and often teetering on a sense of resignation or even despair, though sometimes with bits of hopefulness. The music, on the other hand, is almost universally sparkly and optimistic. It’s right on the border between pop punk and indie pop, with more hooks, complexity, and gorgeous melodies than your typical pop punk song, but with more edge and less self-conscious grandiosity than many indie-pop songs. This dichotomy of happy jangly music and serious downbeat lyrics is part of the genius that is Martha. They can take the darkest topics and set them to the sunniest melodies, so you don’t know whether to jump for joy or sink into despair. Maybe that’s the lesson of the album: you can’t have one without the other. For every bit of happiness we have there is going to be some sadness, too. And no matter how bad things might seem, there’s always something to learn and things will get better. [Paul Silver]

06. Apologies, I Have None – ‘Pharmacie’


‘Pharmacie’ moves through gut-wrenching despair to hopeless desperation via small moments of euphoric crescendos that make it impossible to stop listening. This isn’t a record you put on in the background. There’s something about the honesty in these lyrics, a lack of easy fixes and solutions leading to dull acceptance placed over such an large atmospheric sound that can’t help but leave you reflective. It manages to be intensely personal yet relatable, raw, yet grandiose as that post-rock wall of sound pushes into the penultimate track ‘Killers’. It’s not an easy listen, it’s not suppose to be, but the most rewarding activities never are. [Helen Messenger]

Read our full review of ‘Pharmacie’

Read our interview with Apologies, I Have None from earlier this year

05. Nothing – ‘Tired Of Tomorrow’


Nothing stunned audiences with their debut album, ‘Guilty Of Everything’ in 2014. However, their world near fell apart in its wake. Yet somehow, from triumph to tragedy, through scandal and sorrow, the Philadelphia band was able to create ‘Tired Of Tomorrow’. Firmly putting the nail in the coffin of the stagnant “shoegaze revival”, it is a dynamic, accomplished record. It soars in the right places, with treacle-thick layers of guitars shrouded in lush reverb. With the driving rhythm of ‘Vertigo Flowers’, the colossal riffs of ‘A.C.D (Abcessive Compulsive Disorder)’, and the sullen, piano-led title track, Nothing raised their own bar with ‘Tired Of Tomorrow’. It cemented their place at the forefront of alternative rock music. [Glen Bushell]

Read our interview with Nothing from earlier this year

Read our full review of ‘Tired of Tomorrow’

Read our live review of Nothing in London

Check out our gallery of Nothing in London

04. Architects – ‘All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us’


Architects latest release ‘All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us’ became all the more poignant after the death of Tom Searle; his last offering to the world before passing away after a long battle with cancer, it showcases some of the Brighton group’s finest work to date. It was a no holds barred album that exploded with a powerful energy and dynamic riffs, and was the best celebration of Tom’s last work. [Jess Tagliani]

Read our review of Architects live in London

03. Touche Amore – ‘Stage Four’


Cancer is the great adversary of the human race. As emotionally devastating on those left behind as it is physically ravaging on its victims. Whilst science continues to march towards a way to finally confront the beast and win, we as a species continue to find ways to cope with its torturous effects. ‘Stage Four’ is the crushing account of Touche Amore frontman Jeremy Bolm’s attempts to reconcile with his own mother’s death at the hands of cancer, and the crushing guilt he felt at missing her final moments whilst onstage with his band, and it is without a doubt the greatest thing the band have ever committed to tape. Touche Amore’s heartfelt mix of screamo, post-hardcore and indie rock has never felt warmer, the shimmering guitars and agile drums wrapping the listener in a comforting blanket of sound. This album lives or dies by Bolm’s lyrics and gut-wrenching performance though, and what a performance it is. The singer’s mix of sadness and anger is palpable on tracks like ‘Flowers And You’ and ‘New Halloween’, and on ‘Palm Dreams’ and ‘Skyscraper’, Bolm has made attempts to evolve his own vocal style beyond his signature earnest yelp. Though he will likely never win any awards for being a great ‘singer’, the heart and pure emotion in these songs smooths off any rough edges that Bolm’s voice itself can’t work beyond. What could have been a morose and depressing listen in less skilled hands is instead one of the most celebratory and spirit-lifting albums of 2016, and is carved-in-stone proof that Touche Amore deserve the love and attention gifted to them. [James Lee]

Read our full review of ‘Stage Four’

02. Letlive. – ‘If I’m The Devil…


When ‘Good Mourning, America’ was released, everyone knew that Letlive. were going to unleash metaphorical hell with the release of ‘If I’m the Devil…’ and indeed they did. Politically-charged, it was a more somber affair than their earlier noisy and chaotic work, but it was needed in a year of massive change and upheaval. An incredibly soul punx album if there ever was one. [Jess Tagliani]

Read our full review of ‘If I’m The Devil…’

Read our interview with Letlive. from earlier this year

01. Oathbreaker – ‘Rheia’


Sometimes a heavy record comes out of nowhere, taking you by surprise at every turn. Perhaps it’s due to the frenetic aggression of the album. Maybe it comes from unwavering beauty that sends shivers down your spine. For Oathbreaker, both of these things made their third album, ’Rheia’, untouchable in 2016.

Oathbreaker had already asserted themselves as a dominant force in aggressive music. But at the same time, ‘Rheia’ shows that they still have everything to prove. They have taken their furious blend of metallic hardcore to the next level; made it heavier, more abrasive, and caustic. Yet within their wretched world, a newfound sense of harmony flickered through the darkness. Serene passages and acoustic breaks appear out of nowhere , and the way in which they transition these styles with cohesion is effortless.

The sheer force of ‘Second Son Of R.’ makes you uncomfortable with its visceral blast beats and volatile hues of black metal. Caro Tanghe’s haunting vocals on ‘Being Able To Feel Nothing’ lure you in, and then bring you to your knees on the monolithic ‘Needles In Your Skin’. It’s a challenging, yet rewarding aural endurance test.

Few aggressive records in recent years evoke the emotion, anger, and intensity of ‘Rheia’. It is the sound of a band exploring the endless possibilities of their art, and a landmark release in heavy music that opened up Oathbreaker to a whole new audience.

‘Rheia’ is, without a doubt, the most deserving release of 2016 to be named our album of the year. [Glen Bushell]

Read our full review of ‘Rheia’ here