Emily Famularo - 2016 Top 10 Albums

Owner & Editor of The Hook here, just hoping to share my top 10 albums of 2016! As far as music goes, I've listened to a lot this year. With The Hook's birthday right around the corner (March), I've spent most of my time listening to a lot of really good local music, so this list is representative of some of the best albums I've heard this year - on repeat all day, every day.

10. Curtis Cooper - Laughing In Line
Honestly, I heard Curtis Cooper back in March when I first started the magazine, and I begged them to let me write about them. Since then, we've had many conversations regarding shows and anxiety and civil rights. A good friend, and a talented musician who I can't wait to see more of in 2017. Laughing In Line was an expertly crafted album that showed of Curtis Cooper's impressive vocal and instrumental prowess - favorite track is for sure "Today L.A."

9. gnash - us
us is a perfect little diddy of an EP that brings together all of the reasons I loved gnash in the first place. gnash to me is the perfect mixture of electronic sound with singer/songwriter & R&B influences. gnash always knows the right way to say how I'm feeling, and that voice makes me melt inside. I saw gnash at firefly, right up front, and I only cried a little bit. Favorite track off of us is definitely "u just can't be replaced (ft. rosabeales)."

8. SWMRS - Drive North
While this album came out in February, I only recently got into about two months ago and it's everything I've been looking for since the end of summer. With gut punching, angst filled anthemic tracks - to stupid american punk themes, I spend most of my time listening to Drive North wanting to kiss people - maybe in 2017. Favorite track off of Drive North is "Lose It."

7. The Hip Abduction - Gold Under The Glow
This album was the first album I ever fell in love with in 2016 and I've been listening to it nonstop ever since. Gold Under The Glow is exactly what I want from indie - a softness that radiates an ethereal, almost ghostly, but happy sound. All of these tracks remind me of being in the sunshine, and that's why I have to make it one of my favorites for 2016. Gold Under The Glow kept me happy in some of the toughest times of the year, and I'm grateful. Favorite track off of the album is "Ka'iwi."

6. Halogens - Kitchen Sink
Halogens is another band that I had heard while in Brooklyn, and my first major triumph as a magazine owner. From NJ, my home state, Halogens have this great sound that sounds even better underground, in a basement. So much so that I made sure to have them on my very first gig in September! Kitchen Sink is an impactful EP for me because of it's pure rawness. Each track is guttural and hungry. Much like how I felt upon first listening. "Kitchen Sink" is my absolute favorite track off of the EP, so check it out!

5. Waterparks - Cluster
Another EP that I heard while seeing Never Shout Never and Metro Station (yikes) last spring! Waterparks really impressed me with their throwback pop punk sound. I swear it's like listening to music from 2009 - but with better lyrics and production. Cluster is a great little EP that is biting and unassuming. My absolute favorite track (hard to choose) is "Crave" despite a huge repetition of chorus.

4. the Weeknd - Starboy
Cause, duh. 

3. Hands Like Houses - Dissonants
This album gets me so pumped at the gym, honestly. The heaviness in the instrumental background highlights the lyrical power. Favorite track is "I Am."

2. Bon Iver - 22, A Million
Folktronica is alive and well thanks to Bon Iver. This album makes me thankful that they didn't ditch the project even though they left us all waiting for five years before this album came out! One of the strangest albums I heard this year, as each track was signature Bon iver-esque, but each was imploring a new technique, something different. My favorite track off the album is "33 'GOD.'"

1. The Neighbourhood - Wiped Out!
Okay, so what this album came out in the tail end of 2015. This album is still my all time favorite. An album that is a growth for The Neighbourhood, but does so in a way that keeps listeners happy by maintaining familiarities of the band! "Single" is a track I want imprinted on my skin for the rest of my life, but for now I'll just keep it on repeat.

Thanks for checking out my Top Ten for 2016, and maybe we had some agreements, or disagreements, either way I know I'm definitely looking forward to what 2017 has in store for us!

Mark Bryson - 2016 Top 10 Albums

Arguably, 2016 was mixed bag for music fans all genres. We lost such great music heroes as David Bowie, Prince, and most recently George Michael. While we've lost many great musicians this crazy year, music has continued to push on. Albums were still released, artists still played shows, and we kept the love for the musicians we still have with us.

In Metal, titans such as Metallica, Megadeth, Testament released very anticipated albums. I wanted to make my list this year as diverse as the music that I try and keep up with. Although Metal, Punk, and “Dad Rock” are my forté, I like to keep reaching for more sounds. This year I discovered artists like Charles Bradley (R&B/Soul) and Kacey Musgraves (Country), whose genres I never thought I’d cross over to.

My list primarily consists of highly anticipated records, new music I’ve discovered, and just damn good tunes! Check it out below!

10. Volbeat - Seal the Deal and Let’s Boogie
This album was about what I expected it to be. Although I still love Volbeat, their past few albums haven't done much for me. They have been less heavy and more melodic over the years, but their popularity has grown. Since Rob Caggiano of Anthrax joined the group, they have absolutely gained a better lead guitar section. This album is a mixed up group songs. They have a few covers (Battleship Chains, Rebound) with a bunch of great originals. They have pounding singles like “Seal the Deal” and “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown” which got a lot of radio play and attention on mainstream rock radio. They had some other tracks like “Goodbye Forever” and “The Gates of Babylon” which had very catchy choruses and great hooks. Regardless of my feelings on their minor change in sound, I still think this album is worth checking out.
 
9. Killswitch Engage - Incarnate  
This album was such a powerful force beginning with the first track “Alone I Stand.” I was reluctant to come to a Killswitch Engage fronted by Jesse Leach because I started listening to Killswitch while Howard Jones was their lead vocalist, but Jesse picked up right where they left off and this album shows it. All of these tracks can get get you up in the morning and pumped for the day, with a cup of coffee of course. One of the singles, “Hate By Design” speaks such truths of what 2016 was for a lot of people. Although this song is full of pounding tracks, it does not get in the way of showing us the talent these guys have. Tracks such as “Strength of the Mind” and “Reignite” get you right in the pit ready to tear it up. Disclaimer: neither Killswitch Engage or I take responsibility for any furniture broken in your house after listening to this record. It’s just that good. If you’re looking for an album that keeps Metalcore alive and well after 2009, this is it! 
  
8. Devilskin - Be Like The River
I discovered Devilskin while writing a news article about their single for this record, “Pray”. I really enjoyed the song so I decided to listen to more of them. They're a hard rock outfit from New Zealand so they do not get a lot of press in the states. This is their second album and it burns bright. With songs like “Mountains” and “Limbs” it shows the chemistry this family band really has. One of my most favorite tracks is “Animal”. It starts very melodic but brings the heat with a backbreaking rhythm. I hope these guys get more recognition in the states soon. 

7. Charles Bradley - Changes
This is an album I never thought I’d have on my list but I think it deserves some recognition. Charles Bradley is a soul singer who spent the early days of his career impersonating James Brown. Bradley was inspired by James Brown at a young age and their music styles could not be any more alike. This is Bradley’s third album and it caught my interest when it came out. On this latest record he covers the Black Sabbath song “Changes.” This is how I found Bradley. I read an article about a soul singer covering the Metal founding fathers. It is the title of the album and it is easily one of the best songs on the album. One of my favorite tracks is “Ain’t Gonna Give It Up” because it is such a raw and old style song. It gives me nostalgia for a time I never lived. Bradley’s powerful vocals push the emotional strength of each track. By the end of this record you will have gained a wise Uncle Charles in your life. I only wish this 68 year old man would have gotten his start earlier on. 

6. Red Fang - Only Ghosts
This is Red Fang’s 4th record and it was a good follow up to their last album, Whales and Leeches. The rhythmic strength of this album makes for catchy sounds and memorable lyrics. One of my personal favorites on this album is “Shadows” because the tone of the guitar and bass is just captivating. Red Fang always makes me want to get in my car and drive off into the sunset. This album really showcases the band’s chemistry especially with rhythmic tracks like “The Smell of the Sound."

5. David Bowie - Blackstar
This list would not be complete without David Bowie’s latest and last album, Blackstar. This album was released days before he passed away in January and it is truly a beautiful send off and last message from the cultural icon. The most haunting track on the record is the single, “Lazarus.” This melancholy track is Bowie’s way of telling you that he is dying and that he will be returning to the stars he was born from. This song is enough bring tears to the eyes of his fans. It is both sad and just so perfect that is last album would be one of his best. The Starman is now looking down on us from the skies, and I would not have it any other way. 

4. Kacey Musgraves - A Very Kacey Christmas
I know what you are thinking: “Mark, why is a country singer’s Holiday album on your list?” A friend of mine introduced me to Kacey Musgraves earlier this year and I fell in love with her. Her down to earth songwriting and charming voice are what got me hooked on her. This album is mainly covers of holiday classics with a few of her own. Songs like “Christmas Always Makes Me Cry” and “Present Without a Bow” give a very real picture of what the holiday season is like for some of us. The pop song “Ribbons and Bows” is one of my favorite on the album. She collaborated with Leon Bridges, Willie Nelson, and the Quebe Sisters. In a genre that I only assumed sang about trucks, girls, and cheap beer I found my own niche. I hope that in the new year Kacey brings us more of her own original tracks and a tour if we are lucky. 

3. Green Day - Radio Revolution
This was one of the most anticipated albums of the year and it delivered. For a lot of Green Day fans, this was redemption for the past few albums they have released. They have several pounding tracks like the title track and the single “Bang! Bang!”. I enjoyed the diversity of the album and that they did not try and recreate American Idiot but still keep the angst and anger. One of my favorite ballad jams on the album is “Outlaws.” I’ve always enjoyed Green Day’s songwriting ability. Billie Joe and the boys still got it as far as I am concerned. 

2. Metallica - Hardwired to Self-Destruct
This was the most anticipated album of the year in my opinion. Metallica released several singles from this album which gave us a taste of what it will be like. They seem to be going back to their roots with songs like “Hardwired” and “Dream No More”. The week the album was released, the band would upload a music video for each track on the album. This was an interesting but unnecessary touch to the album. There were a few songs on the album that were not all that great but I still really enjoyed it. My favorite track on the album is “Spit Out The Bone” which is powerful locomotive ready to run your ass over. They payed tribute to one of their friends and longtime hero Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead who passed away late last year. The fitting song and music video was a nice tribute to one of the kings of rock and roll. I’m hoping they have a great tour to support this record. 

1. Amon Amarth - Jomsviking
Last but not least this is was my #1 album of the year. Amon Amarth has not disappointed yet and I do not expect them to. At first I did not like the first single “First Kill” but I learned to love it with the rest of the record. One of the most popular tracks on the album is “Raise Your Horns” which has cemented its fate as one the most metal drinking songs ever. My favorite track on the album is “The Way of Vikings” for its melodic tone and pounding rhythm. Another great melodic track on this album is “One Thousand Burning Arrows.” If you love “Viking Metal” I highly recommend this album. It continues the great momentum the band has had for a long time.
 
Thank you for checking out my list! I hope that it opened up your curiosity and you will check out some of these albums. I hope 2017 brings us all great music and happiness. I know 2016 was a bit of let down, but we have great music to look forward to. Join me and The Hook as we come out of 2016 strong and ready for the music ahead. It will be a great year, I can feel it.   

Larry Iaccio - 2016 Top 10 Albums

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Our go-to rock writer, Larry Iaccio, gives us his take on this year's best albums! Check out his top ten below!

1.  Colors – House of Heroes
If you’ve never heard of House of Heroes, that’s ok. They are a fairly obscure alternative-Christian rock band from Columbus, Ohio. You know who else is from Columbus, Ohio? Twenty One Pilots. John Dun (Twenty One Pilots drummer) used to drum in this band and me, being quite the big ToP fan, was exposed to them through the grapevine, but I am so grateful I was. Do not let the fact that this band has some very overt Christian themes throughout their music distract you from some of the most well-written, catchy, and heavy rock songs of 2016. Aside from Colors featuring a wide range of musical influences, it tells a cohesive and engaging story throughout its 13 tracks. It is one of the few albums in recent memory that I can listen through in its entirety and not come across a single weak track.

2.  Everybody Wants – The Struts
The Struts have a very special place in my heart. Frontman Luke Spiller may very well be Freddie Mercury reincarnate and with Queen being my all-time favorite band, I instantly fell in love with his voice. Aside from Spiller having what I believe to be one of the best voices in rock right now, The Struts’ music is classic, stadium-pop rock with everything from verses filled with attitude to huge, anthemic choruses all of which is on full display in Everybody Wants.

3. Death of a Bachelor – Panic! At the Disco
Let’s face it, love him or hate him, Brendan Urie is one hell of a musician/singer/songwriter. Panic! At the Disco has basically shifted from a collaborative band to the Brendan Urie project, and if Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die, didn’t show it enough, Death of a Bachelor puts him entirely in the spotlight in the best way possible. With influences ranging from Sinatra, to the B-52’s and 80’s music, the album is as diverse as it is interesting and features some of what I believe to be the best production on a record in 2016.

4. This Unruly Mess I’ve Made – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Macklemore’s story is an inspiring one. A completely independent artist breaking it extremely big, and doing nothing in a way he didn’t want to do it. Yet the music business is a vicious and relentless one and can turn even the truest artists into corporate slaves. Enter This Unruly Mess I’ve Made which is basically Macklemore’s response to the industry, his sudden fame, and his current life. It’s a completely authentic record untouched by the hands of business and features the duo at the top of their musical and storytelling game.

5.    Big Mess – Grouplove
Grouplove came back in 2016 in a huge way. Big Mess not only remains true to the band’s signature sound while still showing signs of growth and maturity, but during a year that was somewhat crappy, it made me feel happy and forget about all the nonsense that was going on in the world. While it may not be their best songwriting, Big Mess is definitely a great time, and I’m sure we could all use more of that.

6.  Apostasy – Megosh
One of my very first articles for The Hook was doing an album review for some band called Megosh I had never heard of before. After seeing the album artwork combined with the name, and the extremely heavy breakdown intro on the first track in the album, I was quite hesitant about what I was getting myself into. My feelings could not have been more misplaced. What I was treated to was easily one of my favorite albums from an up and coming band. Featuring influences from Coheed & Cambria and Ice Nine Kills, Megosh uses these influences in a refreshing but familiar way to make a sound all their own. The songwriting, the production value, and the diversity kept me hooked through the entire album and even though the album came out last week, I still feel lucky to have gotten my hands on it before everyone else.

7. Nothing But Thieves – Nothing But Thieves
So technically this album came out in 2015, but I discovered it this year so I’m putting it on my list because it needs to be on my list. This album is incredible in every way. The band knows its strengths and plays to them perfectly. Mason’s vocals are honestly probably my favorite of the entire year, and the entire album is just beautiful ambient music playing and grooving along to his voice. This is definitely a mood album, so if you’re looking for heavy breakdowns or super catchy, dance-y choruses look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for some sweet beats and grooves and phenomenal vocals, then look no further.

8. VHS 2.0 – X Ambassadors
I think we all got to the point late last year/early 2016 that if we heard “Renegade” one more time that we would literally go insane, myself included. This doesn’t detract from the brilliance of what made X Ambassadors and VHS 2.0 a gem in 2016. Their electronic-pop music combined with Sam Harris’s beautiful, and real yet effortless vocals made X Ambassadors a band that defied genres and appealed to music lovers across the spectrum. Despite the radio playing it to death, the first time I ever heard their song “Unsteady”, I was completely and utterly captivated. While the rest of VHS 2.0 may not be as intimate as that track, it sure does completely capture my attention.

9. California – Blink-182
I never thought in a million years that in 2016 that I would be including Blink-182 in a current top 10 list, but here we are, and they rightfully deserve it. California is definitely a reinvention of sorts for the aging pop-punk band, but it was one I honestly thought they definitely needed. I won’t comment on the obvious change of members (which I still think was an amazing decision to this day) but rather how these are some of the tightest, catchiest, and most fun songs Blink has written in a good long time.
 

10.  The Getaway – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Time and time again the Red Hot Chili Peppers prove their staying power with each continual release. While these are far from their strongest set of songs they seem to try and take the best of Stadium Arcadium and I’m with You and combine it into one package and for the most part if definitely works. 

Mike Wood - 2016 Top 10 Albums

2016 is drawing to a close, and it's been a tough year for music. We lost a lot of greats, from Bowie to Prince, Emerson, Lake (Not Palmer!), Lemmy, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, the list goes on. But let's not focus on the tragedy. They say when one door closes another opens, so let's see what sounded great this year. I'll dig through some great stuff that I've found through my writing here at The Hook, as well as some stuff that's sure to make any list this year. Let's do it.

I'm bad at picking favorites, so these aren't in any particular order.

1. Ye11low Eleven Big Band - Have You Been Good?

The first article I wrote for The Hook was a review of this album. I still think it's the best original jazz album I've heard all year, and it more than deserves a top spot on my list.

2. Esperanza Spalding - Emily's D+Evolution

Eclectic rhythms, interesting harmonic work, and of course some badass basslines are all highlights of Esperanza Spalding's 5th solo release.

3. Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book

This album is just plain fun. Awesome hip hop with some great beats, rhythmically interesting, great samples, tons of features.... What's not to like?

4. The Ramparts Rebel - The Ramparts Rebel

Awesome pop punk, with some great lyrics. I'm still listening to this one.

5. Bumpin Uglies - Keep It Together

A kickass up and coming Reggae group from Maryland. Excellent musicians with great feel, and great lyrics.

6. Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love!

This album split Gambino's fan base in two I think. I count myself among the group that thinks it's awesome. My best way of describing it is if Tower of Power, Parliament Funkadelic, Etc, had access to today's music tech. If you're expecting a rap album, you're in for a surprise.

7. Local Natives - Sunlit Youth

This album takes a decidedly more electronic approach than Local Natives' past releases. They manage not to lose their indie pop spirit though.

8. Tomemitsu - Loaf Eye

Tomemitsu has an awesome dream pop sound. He uses his light baritone and minimalist songwriting style to great effect in this release.

9. Richie Taver - Thank You

I don't get around to a lot of electronic music (Not that I don't mean to), but this EP left a serious impression on me. Great songwriting, some really great sounds, just check it out.

10. David Bowie - Blackstar

We were all dumbstruck at the loss of a legend like Bowie, but he left us with a great parting gift. Blackstar is hauntingly awesome. Do yourself a favor and listen to it.

Well that'll about do it. I wish you a happy rest of your year, and a fabulous 2017.

Gene Meyer - 2016 Top 10 Tracks

Gene Meyer, lead singer for grindcore band, Bandit, and comedian, shares with The Hook his Top 10 Tracks for 2016!

1.    “Grind Hard With A Vengeance/Failure To Thrive” – Ground – Split w/Bandit
No other moment this year captured the animosity quite like these two songs do, specifically the seemless transition from the ending two-step of “Grind Hard” directly into the sweet mother of god badass opening helicopter breakdown of “Failure To Thrive”. That riff is pure merciless revenge and if you don’t immediately crowd kill everything in your living room when it comes on, then you are just a fucking poser, my dude.

2.    “Chihan Ki Pari” – Chepang – Lathi Charge
There are other songs of this album that I was considering putting on here but this is definitely one of the more “grindy” bangers of the sick LP from this Nepalese unit. Anchored by the beautifully disharmonic Discordance Axis-esque arpeggio, the whole 65 seconds of this song are just a stellar example of angular self-loathing writhing on the floor via guitar, drums and vocals.

3.    “Hollow Roots” – Wormrot – Voices
Grindcore bands just can’t seem to win. Either they release album after album of the same music and elitists call them “boring” or they try something new and elitists call them “posers”. I for one am amazed by the job these Singaporean grinders did incorporating Deafheaven style black metal influences into their music while also staying very true to the crusty grind that they had purveyed so successfully in the past. The entire album is beautiful, haunting and full of memorable moments yet it was this song that really captured their new dynamic perfectly.

4.    “Napalm Menth” – Dome – Demo
Grindcore is a divisive subgenre but I think one thing that people tend to forget about is that it can be, and sometimes should be, fun. The absurdist samples that bookmark the scummy, bonehead, idiot grind only highlight the glorified stupidity on display here. As soon as I turn this song on I can just smell the spilled bongwater and body odor of a basement grind show. Action Bass? MORE LIKE ACTION ASS!

5.    “You Will Never Be One Of Us” – Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us
The title track from the most polarizing album of the year from the most polarizing band of the moment. Yes, this one is ripe for parody and yes, the memes are great but at the end of the day this fucking song rips in a way most bands could only dream of. This is probably the first Nails album where I can actually tell what the guitar is doing and I think they are much better for it. Don’t even act like the helicopter breakdown during the second half of this banger doesn’t give you a sweat pants boner.

6.    “Hypocrisy” – Shitstorm – Split w/Radiation
Seven seconds to let everyone know what pieces of shit we all are. Love it. ;)

7.    “Dying Inside” – Blight Worms – I
Everything about this song just IS GRIND. It’s like this band was like “Let’s just sum up the entire early discography of Napalm Death into a fucking riff and open our song with it and maybe have the dude from ACxDC do vocals over it”. I contest that there was no better build-up/blast then this year than this song right here.

8.    “Face First Into Concrete” – Noisear – Split w/Days Of Desperation
It would not be a stretch to call most of this band’s output “redundant” but what they do, they do will. It is also not the easiest music to play, let alone create, so give credit where credit is due. This is easily the strongest song of their side of the split EP and it is quite the banger. Discordance Axis in a high school science lab with the dudes in Maruta as your teacher. Tight.

9.    “Des Bribes de Nuits” – Whoresnation – Split w/Chappa’ai
If you were looking for a stellar example of modern grind, then this one would be it. Just about everything is perfect here: the rough production that enhances the heaviness rather than detract from it,  the faux breakdown during the intro and of course the diminished  fifth evisceration that would make the dudes in Insect Warfare proud.

10.    “Assistance” – Gendo Ikari – Unit 1
The opening three seconds of this song really set the tone for the entire album: “full velocity spasms of bezerk insanity with intermittent brutal slam parts”. I think the MVP here has to be the vocalist, who’s piercing shrieks and guttural regurgitations take the affair to another level.

Jordan Lawrence - 2016 Top 10 Albums

 Photography: Adela Locsin 

Photography: Adela Locsin 

In no particular order, Jordan Lawrence, Co-Founder, Black Lodge Management (Bay Faction, Hiding Out, Vertigo), gives The Hook his top 10 albums of 2016!

1. Kanye West - The Life Of Pablo
Kanye's most frustrating work, but also his most brilliant. The energy on this record, the samples, and the features all make it hard to beat. The press and release mess around it made it all the more irresistible to enjoy and really take in. 

2. Frank Ocean - Blonde
A beautiful follow-up to Channel Orange, Frank's vocals over minimal yet lush guitar arrangements put you in his place in the driver's seat. Well worth the hype. 

3. The Weeknd - Starboy
Not a single bad song on this record. Perhaps his most commercial release yet while still maintaining his character. 

4. Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book
The brightness we needed in a fairly dark year. Between the optimism of the record itself and the incredible marketing done around it, Chance is a true indie staple in a major label-run industry. 

5. Drake - Views
While this record is longer than it needs to be and has a good few filler tracks, it also has some of my favorite Drake songs. Just solid. 

6. Bad Suns - Disappear Here
The band expanded on what they did with their debut in terms of songwriting, along with adding more of a rock edge to it. 

7. Joseph - I’m Alone, No You’re Not
Beautifully written songs and vocal arrangements from these three sisters, whose familial ties give the record all he more unity. 

8. Maren Morris - Hero
I'm normally hesitant with country, but these songs just scream pop records. Maren's performance and the diversity here set her up for a long, unique career. 

9. AURORA - All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend
Perhaps one of the most intriguing releases of the year for me. A singer-songwriter from Norway, singing honestly in English over tracks that perfectly blend sounds of nature and electronic minimalism. 

10. Pinegrove - Cardinal
A step in a different direction for a label and scene that tend to do the same stale things over and over again. Some great, dynamic, honest songs here with instruments and timbres not normally heard from bands on Run For Cover and similar labels.