It's that time of year where Best Of lists are being cranked out, and we kick off that yearly tradition with my rundown of the top albums of the past year. 2016 was a breakout year for some acts, including Boston Manor who arrived with their debut release "Be Nothing", Pierce The Veil continued to excite longtime fans with their new once "Misadventures", and Two Door Cinema Club went into a dance frenzy on their disco inspired effort "Gameshow" that showed the evolution of their style. Local acts including Surf Vietnam released their much talked about effort "Funambulism", and Oh Malo dazzled listeners with their stunning and breathtaking effort "As We Were" that cemented their status as an act to watch in the coming years. And without further ado, here is my list of the top albums of the past year:
Boston Manor - Be Nothing
Blackpool, UK based Boston Manor made their arrival on American shores this past year with the release of their full length debut "Be Nothing". The act have been talked about endlessly here on the site over the past few years, dating back to when they were first featured on the 2013 Bandcamp compilation "Towering Over London" that cemented their style that evokes the passion and creative ingenue of Brand New and Taking Back Sunday while maintaining their British charm and sensibility that runs rampant throughout their music and in person as well. Getting to meet them this past year was a dream come true and long time in the making for me, and I'm so glad to call these guys my best mates and members of my extended musical family.
Key tracks: "Lead Feet", "Burn You Up", "Forget Me Not"
Oh Malo - As We Were
Boston based indie rockers Oh Malo stunned listeners with their beautiful and splendid blend of indie rock on their landmark effort released back in April titled "As We Were". The beautiful and majestic melodies of the soundscapes emanating so strongly resulted in one of the most hypnotic records I've had the opportunity of listening to. Frontman Brandon Hafetz greets listeners with his warmly lit voice and the lush, intricate guitar licks follow through with such a hypnotic and mesmerizing beauty that it almost feels like you've walked into a dream. A groundbreaking effort that shows the unique bond and chemistry that Oh Malo has and how far they've come along and have grown as musicians also.
Key tracks: "As We Were", "Burn", "Happy Birthday"
Viola Beach - Self Titled
One of the more tragic and heartfelt entries this year was Viola Beach, who released their posthumous debut this past summer after all members of the band were killed in Sweden back in Feburary when their vehicle crashed into a raising drawbridge, killing all members of the group plus their manager. The band were relative unknowns here in the U.S., and were planning to make their stateside debut at this past year's SXSW music festival in Austin, TX. Their sound was reminiscent of Vampire Weekend with beautiful, majestic harmonies and a strong lyrical progression that was beyond beautiful in the scope of the imagination, and showed a promising future for these brilliant and talented lads who had a deep love and passion for music and each other.
Key tracks: "Swings & Waterslides", "Go Outside", "Call You Up"
Sweet Cambodia - Tasty
Based out of Orlando, FL comes the indelible funk rock stylings of Sweet Cambodia. This fearless foursome had a knack for playing party ready anthems based along the vein of Sublime, and with the personality of Red Hot Chili Peppers instilled within them due to their knack for playing shirtless most of the time. The sight of seeing their exposed flesh most certainly aroused everyone there, and the band know how to plant their musical seeds deep within you, pumping through endlessly and leaving wanting you more and by the time everything has concluded, you're left going for seconds. An outstanding act that provides endless amounts of musical satisfaction.
Key tracks: "Cold Copper", "Anxiety", "Sky"
Biscuits & Gravy - Young Love
Boston based funk/soul/R&B outfit Biscuits & Gravy made their presence known this past year with their outstanding effort "Young Love". With a bevy of Motown inspired rhythms and a funk-soul fusion unlike no other, it made fans of other genres want to hop in bed with them and join in on the fun that was omnipresent throughout. Checking them out in concert this past summer was quite the thrill for me, and it allowed me to gain a better understanding of the genre as I'm more geared towards indie/alternative, and pushed me to expand my musical horizons and bask in the warmth and passion that still exists in our local scene today.
Key tracks: "Twenty Five", "Girl So Fine", "Down With You"
Manic Pixi - Iron Heart
Brooklynites Manic Pixi embraced their musical identity on their brand new effort "Iron Heart". The foursome have bonded together tremendously over the last couple of years, and have this innate ability to stay cohesively on the same page musically time and time again, and still give 110% of their energy live each night. Known for the hypnotic presence of frontwoman Kat Hamilton and the endlessly shirtless and sweaty drum stylings of Emmett Ceglia, this band is well on their way of achieving long lasting success in the future and beyond.
Key tracks: "Newly Ordered World", "Childhood Self", "Pearls"
Airacuda - Daydreaming
The now defunct Airacuda made a hell of a sendoff on their diverse collection of tunes put out back in February titled "Daydreaming". The collective put out a diverse, succinct, and straight to the point cut on tunes that reflected the band's extensive catalog of influences that runs the gamut of classic rock and R&B, but are able to stay within the realm of their capabilities to keep things in the mix and on track. Frontman Matt Menges had a penchant for exposing his hot bod to concertgoers on occasion while performing, while guitarist Matt Fernicola turned into quite the sex symbol with his beautiful beard deserving to be stroked, all while the band relished in the spotlight and decided to call it a day before their time.
Key tracks: "Daydreaming", "Paper Candy", "What Is Real?"
Surf Vietnam - Funambulism
Allston natives Surf Vietnam put out their most anticipated and talked about effort for some time called "Funabmulism". Recorded over the span of a year and a half, frontman John Godfrey sticked to his word and put out a quality effort that runs a line between indie rock and Ben Folds mashed into one to create a full bodied texture and flavor that offered up something different for the crowd, and continued the stratospheric rise of a group that are starting to come into their own as musicians. Drummer Adam Salameh and bassist Joe Campbell delight crowds along with the equally handsome Adrian Aiello delivering his stylings on guitar that shows the camaraderie and talent emanating within the group at any given time.
Key tracks: "October Baseball", "Max (Doesn't Play Guitar)", "Fallingwater"
Pierce The Veil - Misadventures
San Diego hardcore delights Pierce The Veil failed to disappoint listeners on their much anticipated follow up to "Collide With The Sky" called "Misadventures". Frontman Vic Fuentes was driven relentlessly not to let down fans and count them out when delivering this effort, and is equal to if not greater than their predecessor and shoots them straight up into superstar status with their sound making it accessible to fans across a wide spectrum of genres. Vic's little bro Mike slays it as always on drums, while Tony Perry on bass and Jaime Preciado delivers the goods as promised on guitar. It's only a matter of time before their name is ubiquitous worldwide.
Key tracks: "Circles", "Dive In", "Texas Is Forever"
Two Door Cinema Club - Gameshow
Ireland based indie rockers Two Door Cinema Club went into a dance rock direction on their stunning new effort "Gameshow". Following in the direction of The Royal Concept, Two Door Cinema Club were able to go into a new route without alienating their fans and maintain a sleek and sexy image all in the process of doing so. Alex Trimble continues to swoon listeners with his trademark fiery red hair glistening in the distance, while the group heads onto the dance floor strutting like John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever" and continuing to tweak their image and remain relevant in this day of age which is hard to come by.
Key tracks: "Bad Decisions", "Gameshow", "Are We Ready? (Wreck)"