Top 20 Best Rock & Alternative Rock Albums Of 2016

From David Bowie to Dinosaur Jr., from Skating Polly to Balance And Composure, it was again hard to pick just 20 albums, but here’s our Top 20 (in no specific order whatsoever) Rock & Alternative Rock albums of 2016 along with our thoughts on them.

Our main non-genre-specific ‘albums of the year’ list arrives on December 30, we want to give it some more love and make sure we don’t miss out anything. Stay tuned, more lists are going to be unveiled in the following days… Enjoy!

Balance And Composure – Light We Made (Big Scary Monsters)


Light We Made is thrilling ambitious and surprisingly inventive, sounds clean and more polished but at the same time is able to be efficiently raw and hypnotic. The 90’s alternative rock is once again their beach, from The Cure to Radiohead, from Nirvana to Brand New, their palette of influences is vast and they show no signs of hiding that. Sometimes it sounds all familiar, but Light We Made is truly unique, exquisitely dark, sounds elegantly organic, transcending any kind of genre and brave enough to explore new grounds. Produced by the great Will Yip, Light We Made sheers audacity and creativity, it’s great to see that Balance And Composure took their artistic statement to a whole new level.

(Fausto Casais) // Listen at Bandcamp.

All Get Out – Nobody Likes A Quitter (Bad Timing Records)


Nobody Likes A Quitter is All Get Out’s second full-length and the follow up to cult classic and highly influential 2011’s The Season. Produced by and co-written with Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull and Robert McDowell, Nobody Likes A Quitter is an album of articulate and poetic beauty, full of rip-roaring emotive vocal lines and bursting creativity. Introspective and mature, almost an auto-discovery journey and let’s say that it’s quite cool to see Nathan Hussey’s coming to terms with himself and discovering his own persona. Nobody Likes A Quitter is full of colours and textures, it’s strong, passionate and way too good. It’s a winner and utterly essential.

(Fausto Casais) // Listen at Bandcamp.

The Coathangers – Nosebleed Weekend (Suicide Squeeze Records)


Eclectic, blistering and unexpected, Nosebleed Weekend goes beyond their irreverent punk garage rock. Full of contagious singalong hooks, loud-fast-quiet-loud-noisy repetitive vocal refrain, with influences ranging from Bikini Kill to Kim Gordon’s Free Kitten sing alike, the result is a heavy dose of stripped-down pop anthems, 70’s garage and 90’s messy grunge. Songs like “Squeeki Tiki” and “Excuse Me?” are delicious different and get stuck in your head for days, “Perfume” and “Make It Right” are pure rock anthems. The Coathangers level up their game and these fourteen in-your-face songs are a shining triumph.

(Fausto Casais) // Listen at Bandcamp.

Pinegrove – Cardinal (Run For Cover Records)


Indie rock evolves into 2016 as Pinegrove releases their latest record Cardinal. The New Jersey based group leads you through eight soft and emotional songs with simplistic guitar tracks and catchy lyrics. The vocal melody flows with an almost flawless touch as the music lies tightly under it. At certain points in the album, there are country-like guitar licks which add to the album’s diverse influences. Indie, pop, rock, country and everything in-between blend perfectly in this creative, unique album. I’m very excited to see how Pinegrove will follow-up this release.

(Justin Kunz) // Listen at Bandcamp.

Muncie Girls – From Caplan To Belsize (Specialist Subject Records)


Muncie Girls are the kind of band that just make a statement quite effortlessly. Their music approach invokes names like Sleater-Kinney or even Screaming Females, not only for their classic punk rock songs, but also for their ability to speak out their minds through the lyrics. Vocalist and bassist Lande Hekt is massively inspired by what surrounds her, such as rape culture, immigration policies, and other social and personal issues. The result is ten songs created with consciousness and thorough delivery to such important subjects to us and of course to them. An impressive and catchy as hell record.

(Andreia Alves) // Listen on Bandcamp.

Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression (Loma Vista)


Iggy means rock n’roll and rock n’roll means Iggy. If you disagree… well, fuck you! When Lemmy died Scott Kelly from Neurosis wrote, “I had a few heroes. All the others turned out to be frauds or thieves. Lemmy was the only one who stayed true ’till death’”. In that line of thought, one likes to think Iggy, along with Tom Waits, are two of those who deserve full admiration and respect. Post Pop Depression is the old and experience mentor and the talented good hearted disciple proving us that one is just as old as he feels. The album sounds like the real collaboration that it is, with Josh Homme being definitely the most legit heir of Iggy’s throne. Musically speaking, expect to be surprised!

(Ricardo Almeida) // Listen at Spotify.

David Bowie – Blackstar (Columbia / RCA / ISO)


Blackstar is a revelation of mood, emotion, honesty and musicianship. Its lyrics are a searing peephole into the mind of a man who knew he had little time left, had come completely to peace with his illness, and he poured his all into this incredible album. From the ten minute odyssey of the title track, that spirals and twists and contorts in fantastical dark ways, from backward synth to muted and phased guitars, through to Bowies bitten, sometimes bordering on screeched vocals to the lynchpin track “Lazarus” which employs a clearer rock sensibility, and is closer to Bowie of old – touching upon the Heathen sound, or even that of the Berlin trilogy. It’s my favourite track on the album, among eight songs which could at any time be my favourite.

(Andi Chamberlain) // Listen at Spotify.

Weezer – Weezer (Atlantic)


The ‘90s was, both musically and socially, a unique time. As Nirvana infected minds and Rage Against The Machine hit the radio, three kids in their 20s found a different response to the new decade. On a warm, foggy Los Angeles day in May of 1994, The Blue Album (though officially titled Weezer) was released to an overwhelmingly positive response. Over two decades and 10 albums later… Weezer’s still got it. With classy guitar riffs and fun hooks, The White Album is where pop antics meets modern day rock. For a band that is been together for 24 years, their ability to progress and adjust with time has never failed. Without a hint of doubt, The White Album will shape and mold the pop rock world in years to come.

(Justin Kunz) // Listen at Spotify.

Teen Suicide – It’s the Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir the Honeypot (Run For Cover Records)


Billed as the last official Teen Suicide album before they return under a new moniker, still TBA, It’s The Big Joyous… is certainly one way of ending things on an extended high. Running at 26 tracks total, nailing down exactly where this record would belong in your collection is tough. With tracks that flirt between genres, from sax laden soft rock numbers, shoegaze indie through to somewhat electronic dance, it’s safe to say this is far more of a greatest hits of genres than it is for Teen Suicide, though they’ve made sure that the last hurrah is certainly unforgettable. If the 26 tracks feels it could be daunting, give it a go, there’s enough variety so that it doesn’t become torturous and you might find an aspect of Teen Suicide that you love, and there’s more than enough to go around.

(Steven Loftin) // Listen at Bandcamp.

PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project (Island)


The Hope Six Demolition Project will probably be PJ Harvey’s most divisive album. She decided to spend time in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington, D.C. over a four-year period to experience, first hand, what was going on. The lyrics create the image of “slum tourism” and the shit hits the fan, because we still don’t know how to feel about it – lack of perspective and even honesty? If musically PJ Harvey’s new album is an extremely intricate and anthemic collection of songs with a brutal force of nature that hardly lets anyone indifferent, then lyrically is a mere recollection of what she has experienced, with the flaws and limited scope that naturally come with it. THSDP walks without a safety net and is never afraid to fall.

(Tiago Moreira) // Listen at Spotify.

Mannequin Pussy – Romantic (Tiny Engines)


Romantic is undeniably impressive as it only takes 17 minutes and 11 songs to make you fall in love with it. It’s short but fucking effective. Irresistibly confrontational, Romantic is fast, chaotic and introspective as hell, showcasing Mannequin Pussy’s diverse sound, from their erratic hardcore tunes to their expansive non-stop noise rock and bubblegum saccharine pop. Intelligent, liberating and engaging, Mannequin Pussy’s latest album is a gem, a captivating record for challenging times.

(Fausto Casais) // Listen at Bandcamp.

Dinosaur Jr. – Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not (Jagjaguwar)


Dinosaur Jr. are back with something that’s way more than just “business as usual.” Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, their 11th full-length album, is undoubtedly the best of the post-2005 reunion and quite possibly (time will tell) a great highlight in their discography. The trio led by J Mascis delivers on this album an extremely satisfying experience that involves tons of amazing riffs, astounding solos, and the pop sensibility and a witty songwriting that most people can only dream about. Sure, they are not reinventing their sound, not even creating something unique/unheard, but the fact that they’ve managed to refine the winning sound they had – and that influenced countless artists – on an exciting-all-the-way-through album is as admirable as welcome. True legends.

(Tiago Moreira) // Listen at Spotify.

Shearwater – Jet Plane And Oxbow (Sub Pop)


Straight-forward, lush and powerful. Jet Plane and Oxbow, the band’s second full-length for Sub Pop, is an inventive and loud pop art-rock effort. Shearwater’s frontman Jonathan Meiburg said that this is a protest record, songs like “Quiet Americans” and “Only Child” are clearly a perfect example of that, everything sounds urgent and angry, there is a deep sense that something is breaking and we desperately need a change. Jet Plane and Oxbow sound is strong and well-crafted, everything sounds bigger and brighter.

(Fausto Casais) // Listen at Bandcamp.

Tacocat – Lost Time (Hardly Art)


If you want an album full of songs about millennial life and pop culture surrounded by melodic, angst ridden music then look no further. Lost Time, the third outing from Seattle based Tacocat contains all of the above and so much more. As righteous as their previous efforts, if showing they’re maturing slightly, Tacocat certainly have a voice they aren’t afraid to vocalise. The same framework for the past two efforts is still here, but there is a definite evolution to the Tacocat mindset, something that can only bode well for the future of the four piece.

(Steven Loftin) // Listen at Spotify.

Skating Polly – The Big Fit (Chap Stereo)


Bearing the torch for the Riot Grrl scene, Skating Polly are getting more vicious and charming as the years go on. The Big Fit sees them going from strength to strength, taking the work that bands like Hole started and giving them a new snarl through smirking lips. Even more surprising is the dynamics they take on, with the tracks ranging from full on assaults to even subdued acoustic numbers such as “Picker of His Words”, a powerful feminist song that isn’t an immediate giveaway, but works toward it. Skating Polly are a strong role model for the coming generations and could quite easily fall into cult status. Catch them at this level while you can.

(Steven Loftin) // Listen at Spotify.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed Ltd)


Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree has taught us that the sting of the grim reaper’s scythe never dulls. Heavy with the overbearing weight of grief, these are songs that provoke the temporal lobe and refuse to be taken lightly. Lyrically, Cave has surpassed anything written by himself, or anyone else for that matter, in recent years. Each syllable he wrenches from his soul is poignant and essential. His words are at the forefront of every song; The Bad Seeds linger in the shadows.

(Teddie Taylor) Listen at Spotify.

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (XL Recordings)


If you still long for guitar detonations with Radiohead, then it really istime to move on elsewhere. With 2000’s Kid A and tracks like “Treefingers”, Radiohead were regarded as a group taken leave of their collective senses. Instead, they have refined themselves into a musical entity which is translucent, opaque, shimmering without borders or restraints and spinning endlessly in and out of reach. Radiohead help us understand the times we live in, not by appealing to our base instincts, but by showing us what we could be.

(Euan Andrews) // Listen at Spotify.

Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial (Matador)


The new LP, and the project’s 13th full-length, sees CSH move forward sonically and in its ambitious efforts it makes more than reaffirm the quality of the past. The musical vocabulary used on Teens of Denial is awe-inspiring. Taking cues from acts that represent some of the best that’s been done in terms of songwriting – Nirvana, Pavement, Wire, Pixies, etc. – Toledo and company deliver a rock LP able to fulfill even the maddest expectations in almost every level. Beware because Car Seat Headrest might well be the next pinnacle of rock songwriting.

(Tiago Moreira) // Listen at Spotify.

Gates – Parallel Lives (Pure Noise Records)


Parallel Lives, Gates’ new effort, tackles life’s series of altering paths and it’s easy to relate to, we’re all the theme of the album. Charming and beautifully complex, Parallel Lives’ combinations of sounds reaches new heights, everything sounds bigger and every song is stylistically connected, but wildly different from each other. Stunning, honest and powerful.

(Fausto Casais) // Listen at Bandcamp.

Kevin Devine – Instigator (Procrastinate! Music Traitors)


Personal in every single way, Instigator is also a sharp and enlightening look about the whole messy direction the world is going to. From the current US Presidential election to climate change, from the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore police officers back in 2015 to the global social injustice, Instigator is exactly that, an album that totally instigates to push forward the listener and to dig deeper into several and serious issues. Extraordinarily sane and deeply intelligent. Simply magnificent!

(Fausto Casais) // Listen at Bandcamp.
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