2016 has been super exciting with the release of tons of music including some popular favorites by Angel Olsen, Anderson .Paak, Frankie Cosmos, Blood Orange, Beyonce and many more. In addition to these well known artists, we felt there were dozens of incredible releases by emerging musicians who we are not as familiar with. Below, we've posted our top 50 albums of 2016.
All words are written by the What The Sound team unless otherwise noted.
*RIYL = Recommended If You Like
50. MANGO LANE - TV FEELINGS
Location: Detroit, MI
Favorite track: "Miami Madness"
RIYL: Miniature Tigers, Steely Dan
49. PARK STRANGERS - PSMXTP
This alternative rock n’ roll band from Los Angeles released their feel good indie album PSMXTP in September. Their sound highlights comforting guitar riffs accompanied by easy to follow drum patterns. The six-minute track ‘Eileen’ is a personal favorite for it’s familiar and soothing push and pull cadence. Driving down the Pacific coast? This is your album. - Dana Nathanson
48. MY GIRLFRIEND BERU - PEACHES
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Favorite track: "Corrine"
RIYL: Franz Ferdinand
47. THE LANDMARKS - CHALLENGE
After a string of singles, The Landmarks long awaited sophomore EP was released in 2016. Challenge works with a more "indie" style sound perhaps among the likes of Vampire Weekend and Everything Everything. Rooted behind it all is still their signature sound that undoubtedly reminds any listener of The Strokes. Impressively enough, Challenge was produced by Gordon Raphael, an early producer of The Strokes themselves. - Mathew Wiesman
46. NAVY GANGS - SPECIAL GLANDS
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Favorite track: "Mondays"
RIYL: Acid Dad, Spinning Coin
45. COLD FOAMERS - MUSKETBALL
Cold Foamers’ Musketball was originally released in 2015 as a single 12 minute track before an unexplained controversy resulted in its removal from the Internet soon thereafter, pushing the official release to February of this year in a more traditional five song format. This series of events leading up to the EP seems fitting for Cold Foamers’ brand of emo: unpredictable, experimental, and occasionally irreverent. Peppered throughout the EP is feedback, music played backwards, and unintelligible distorted voices that have always been a part of the band’s sound (see: 2014’s All Cold Everything), but take a front seat in Musketball. The listener is given a taste of the fully-charged, heavy, and thumping rhythm featured on All Cold Everything in the first few seconds of the opening track, “Cooper,” before the EP descends into a slower, softer riffs, with lead singer Cameron Kennon’s vocals often sounding closer to someone singing under their breath in their room rather than the full-throated wailing that defined All Cold Everything and is a staple of the genre. Equal parts harsh experimentation, riffs that defy categorization, and punks messing around in the garage, Musketball confirms Cold Foamers’ place in a vibrant Philly scene, even as the band’s own future remains uncertain. - William Burstein
44. THIN LIPS - RIFF HARD
Thin Lips’ record Riff Hard is a 27 minute espresso shot of angry pop punk that feels like a throwback to some of the most fun that Blink 182 ever had. Coming out of Philadelphia, and fitting right in with some of the other bands coming out of that scene, the sound of the record is fast and loud with hard guitar riffs driving the songs forward. The song writing is emotional, without slipping into the sappiness that defined the worst of the mid-2000s emo scene. It’s only Thin Lips’ first record, and it promises even better things in the future. - Ben Sabath
43. JORDAN MACKAMPA - PHYSICS EP
Location: London, England
Favorite track: "Open Arms"
RIYL: Etta James, Lianne La Havas, Oh Wonder
42. THE STELLARS - INTERTHESTELLARS
Ann Arbor natives Erez Levin and Dan Sagher brought The Stellars to life this year with the release of their debut LP, Interthestellars. As current students at the University of Michigan, these guys have a lot of rocking ahead of them but have already opened for Vulfpeck’s Theo Katzman and have headlined the Blind Pig. Our favorite track is “Don’t Wanna Sit Around” and we recommend hearing their music if you like Weezer or Vampire Weekend.
41. gobbinjr - vom night
vom night swirls into your ears from the first note with chorus-heavy guitar and dreamy high pitched vocals. The music itself feels mournful, but like the end of mourning, when the idea of happier days is just starting to come back. The record is only 19 minutes long, but feels more substantial than that as it begs to be listened to over and over again. - Ben Sabath
40. FRANCES LUKE ACCORD - FLUKE
Location: Chicago, IL
Favorite track: "Something Moving"
RIYL: The Milk Carton Kids, Simon & Garfunkel, Sufjan Stevens
39. twig twig - normal feelings
Through our friends from Seattle, when looking for housing in NYC this past summer, we learned about Zubin Hensler a.k.a the solo human behind the experimental pop project “twig twig”. With the spring release of his debut EP normal feelings, Hensler made time while he doubled as the trumpeter and co-founder for up-and-coming brass quartet, The Westerlies. While not working on these two projects, Hensler has recently contributed his trumpeting to albums by Son Lux, Sylvan Esso, Daniel Rossen, My Brightest Diamond, and many more. With a killer debut EP and a rad 2nd EP released this November, we’re looking forward to hearing more of twig twig in 2017. With The Westerlies still in form and growing, we hope that Hensler will continue with twig twig in order to vocalize his inner-yahoos. Our favorite track is “Tryn Out” and we recommend you listen if you like Ev Ree Wuhn, Absofacto, or TV Girl.
38. UNI IKA AI - KEEPING A GOLDEN BULLSEYE IN THE CORNER OF MY MIND
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Favorite track: "Make You Better"
RIYL: Majical Cloudz, Julia Holter
37. SISTER SPECIES - CLOSER NOW
Minneapolis-based sisters Abby and Emily Kastrul stunned us this summer when they released Closer Now, a sweet-sounding 9-song album consisting of brass, accordion, double bass, and a whole lot of love. We’re hoping the curators of Eaux Claires pick up their hype and book this 7-piece orchestral pop group this year. Our favorite track is “Jacob’s Ladder” and you should definitely tune in if you like Fiona Apple, Dark Dark Dark, or Phox.
36. HALF WAIF - PROBABLE DEPTHS
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Favorite track: "Nest"
RIYL: Circuit Des Yeux, Wye Oak, Pinegrove
35. EERIE WANDA - HUM
When Marina Tadic recorded her first full-length album as Eerie Wanda, the Amsterdam musician enlisted a percussion section made indie-world-famous by Dutch compatriot Jacco Gardner. Tadic's bright, breezy tunes take on the tranquilizing groove of Gardner's psychedelia with the warm, eclectic rhythms of her newfound bandmates, and the result is a compellingly sweet record called Hum. Across the LP's thirteen tracks, Tadic connects melancholic themes with conflictingly charming melodies and tones, bridging a field of emotions with fluent, unfeigned songwriting. - Quinn Donnell
34. BOULEVARDS - GROOVE!
Location: Raleigh, NC
Favorite track: "Move & Shout"
RIYL: James Brown, Prince, Michael Jackson
33. MASS GOTHIC - MASS GOTHIC
Location: New York, NY
Favorite track: "Mind is Probably"
RIYL: Hooray For Earth, Sufjan Stevens, The Strokes
32. BIG SEARCH - LIFE DOLLARS
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Favorite track: "Please Do Not Explain"
RIYL: The War on Drugs, Cass McCombs
31. SAD13 - SLUGGER
On Slugger, the angular melodies that identify Sadie Dupuis’ other project, Speedy Ortiz, are still there. But Sadie, as Sad13 (get it?) covers new territory. Where Speedy Ortiz buzzes, Sad13 shimmers. The lyrics still have that fun feminist fury, and the attitude is still playfully tough, but Dupuis’ experimentation only further demonstrates her immense talent. - Ben Sabath
30. HALA - SPOONFED
Ian Ruhala the Michigan native and Detroit resident, released his 12 track, soft rock n’ roll album Spoonfed in May. With a similar sound to Mac Demarco, Spoonfed is a smile inducing album that makes me want to dance. ‘Club Soda’ is my favorite off the album for standing out from the other laid back summer tunes with its consistent and strong background guitar strum. - Dana Nathanson
29. MANATEE COMMUNE - MANATEE COMMUNE
Location: Bellingham, WA
Favorite track: "What We've Got" (ft. Flint Eastwood)
RIYL: Slow Magic, Star Slinger, Valley Hush
28. CAMP COPE - CAMP COPE
With clever meditations on binge watching old television shows in bed and medical desensitization to bodily functions, Camp Cope joins fellow Melbourne native Courtney Barnett in the modern Australian singer-songwriter tradition. While the lyrics cover topics from lonely ex-induced anxiety on “Trepidation” to political issues on “Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams,” everything is held together by a clean 3-piece band playing energetic folk punk as a counter point to Georgia Maq’s soaring vocals. The self-titled record ultimately serves as a healthy serving of catharsis much needed in 2016. - Ben Sabath
27. WEYES BLOOD - FRONT ROW SEAT TO EARTH
Weyes Blood gives a front row seat to the future of folk music. Standout tracks like, "Seven Words" and "Be Free," highlight the A.M. radio sounding production paired perfected on an album that made for cruising down the California Coast. - Kevin Herman
26. THE CHAIRMAN DANCES - TIME WITHOUT MEASURE
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Favorite track: "Augustine"
RIYL: The Decemberists, The Mountain Goats, Yo La Tengo
25. NAP EYES - THOUGHT ROCK FISH SCALE
Location: Halifax, NS
Favorite track: "Mixer"
RIYL: Kevin Morby, Jeff Mangum
24. RAY BLK - DURT
Location: London, England
Favorite track: "5050"
RIYL: NAO, Stormzy, Charlotte Day Wilson
23. FAWNN - ULTIMATE OCEANS
Location: Ferndale, MI
Favorite track: "Nosebleed"
RIYL: The New Pornographers, Speedy Ortiz, Earlimart
22. CHRIS CHEVEYO - DREAM HOUSE
Chris Cheveyo may not be a familiar name, but what about Rose Windows? They were a Seattle-based psych rock group who were signed to Sub Pop. They broke up this past March and guitarist/songwriter Chris Cheveyo quickly stemmed out of their collapse to create the project Draemhouse. Sometime after the new band formed, Cheveyo changed “Draemhouse” to a self-titled project. In June, Cheveyo released a 10-track album titled “Dreamhouse”. Since the release, Cheveyo supported Cave Singers on a few of their West Coast tour dates. Most recently, he opened for HIBOU in Seattle. Do yourself a favor and hear some satanic jazz from one of our favorite Northwest emerging artists. Our favorite track is “Hard Times For Good Days” and we recommend listening if you like Portugal. The Man, Jonathan Wilson, or Real Estate.
21. WATCHING FOR FOXES - UNDONE BIRD
"Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Favorite track: "Two Lovers"
RIYL: Noah Gundersen, Gregory Alan Isakov, The Accidentals
20. SPRINGTIME CARNIVORE - MIDNIGHT ROOM
Midnight Room could be the soundtrack to a melancholic but Tarantino-esque western -- dreamy and kind of surreal like Beach House, but with Lucinda Williams's twang. Springtime Carnivore sings possibly the most personally relatable lyrics I've ever heard in "Wires Crossing" (a fav line: "We made this whole city / An island of our love / And now it's just a cube of sugar / Melting on my tongue.") Would absolutely recommend, especially for a solo road trip after a particularly rough break up. - Caitlyn Brennan
19. PAVO PAVO - YOUNG NARRATOR IN THE BREAKERS
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Favorite track: "Ran Ran Run"
RIYL: Grizzly Bear, Porcelain Raft
18. MAYBIRD - TURNING INTO WATER
Location: Rochester, NY
Favorite track: "Nocturne"
RIYL: Tame Impala, Todd Rundgren
17. CYMBALS EAT GUITAR - PRETTY YEARS
“E Street Band songs played by a punk band.” This is how bassist Matt Whipple drew the perimeter around CEG’s latest effort, Pretty Years; a liberating 10-track record from a band constantly tangled between critical acclaim and the pretense of breakthrough success. From the opening track, aptly named “Finally”, it’s clear CEG has shed any concern for this deadlock, as frontman Joe D’Agostino howls a cathartic narrative over booming instruments. The following tracks match the same sentiment, finding the unmistakable CEG sound wielded in new directions. Catchy pop licks, bright keyboard melodies, clear-cut rock, etc. Overall, a breakthrough album from a breakthrough band. - Benjamin Dirkse
16. LANEY JONES - LANEY JONES
Based in Mount Dora, Florida near Orlando, Laney Jones released her 3rd album and first since 2013 this past spring. Following the release, Jones headed off to the Midwest and the West Coast as the support act for The Milk Carton Kids. From there, Jones and band supported Parsonsfield and hit their own headline shows throughout the country. We were sold to Laney Jones’ self-titled LP immediately and it grew on us after that. If you get a chance to catch Laney Jones and the Spirits live in 2017, please do so. Our favorite track is “Who Could Love”. If you like Sara Bareillis, Lake Street Dive, or Regina Spektor, we think you may like Jones.
15. TV GIRL - WHO REALLY CARES
TV Girl’s Who Really Cares is described on their Bandcamp as “An album about Sex / Or lack thereof / And its consequences / Or lack thereof.” While at first this quip may just seem like frontman Brad Petering acting like a bit of a smartass, one listen to the February release reveals the odd truth behind the description. While Petering’s colloquial lyrics and laid-back vocals suggest a lack of consequence (not to mention the album’s title, notably missing a question mark to fully emphasize that nobody really cares), songs like “Heaven is a Bedroom” (perhaps the record’s best track) convey the deep and personal importance behind the story being told (after all, what could be more consequential than being compared to divinity?) Ultimately, the listener is left with a nagging sense of longing and nostalgia for the experiences and feelings detailed over the album’s ten songs, despite having not lived it themselves. Who Really Cares leaves you missing someone you’ve never met, and that is a mark of great art. - William Burstein
14. KEVIN ABSTRACT - AMERICAN BOYFRIEND: A SUBURBAN LOVE STORY
Kevin Abstract’s American Boyfriend is emotional, angsty, and not surprising at all that it was made by a 20-year old, but simultaneously, very good. Mr. Simpson (real name), a part of Brockhampton, dedicates the album to issues surrounding his sexuality, homophobic mother, and race. The music is somewhere in-between hip-hop and rock, with tracks that are distinctly neither. American Boyfriend makes it very clear that Kevin Abstract is a talented music maker that we will be hearing from in the future. Our favorite tracks are “Empty” and “Echo” and you we recommend you listen if you like new Frank Ocean or old Kid Cudi.
13. DRUGDEALER - THE END OF COMEDY
Excellent Elton John and Billy Joel inspired 70s piano rock made for the Mac DeMarco loving millennials. Filled with phenomenal features from Weyes Blood on "The End of Comedy" and Ariel Pink on “Easy to Forget” gives the album a level of coziness of days gone by. - Kevin Herman
12. MAL DEVISA - KIID
Deja Carr self-released her debut LP as the no-nonsense soul singer bynamed Mal Devisa in March. Titled Kiid, the album's backbone is a jazz-laden bass guitar and lifts from a range of genres and emotions, weaving dark, electro-beat blues with deep, beautiful folk and crushing, anthemic hip-hop. It's the product of an artist whose independence allows for an entirely singular vision, projected straight from Carr's heart and landing untouched in her listener's ear. - Quinn Donnell
11. JOHN K. SAMSON - WINTER WHEAT
Location: Winnipeg, MB
Favorite track: "Postdoc Blues"
RIYL: The Weakerthans, The Rural Alberta Advantage
10. GENERIFUS - PEACE SIGN RISING
With the release of Peace Sign Rising, Spencer Sult's discography under the collaborative musical moniker, Generifus, finds itself in the double digits, building upon a body of work noteworthy well beyond Sult's home base of Olympia, Washington. Since 2005, Sult has made folk-driven music with countless other artists, experimenting with genres and recording styles, and landing with Peace Sign Rising in the vast space between alt-country and pop-focused rock music. Considering the broad scope of Sult's consistently solid releases, this most recent record is a fantastic culmination of influences and experience, ending in one of the best outputs from an already significant career. - Quinn Donnell
9. HAMILTON LEITHAUSER + ROSTAM - I HAD A DREAM THAT YOU WERE MINE
Location: United States
Favorite track: "Sick as a Dog"
RIYL: The Walkmen, Ra Ra Riot, Vampire Weekend
8. GABRIELLA COHEN - FULL CLOSURE AND NO DETAILS
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Favorite track: "This Could Be Love"
RIYL: PJ Harvey, The Dutchess & The Duke, Mitski
7. PETITE LEAGUE - NO HITTER
Location: Queens, NY
Favorite track: "Raspberry Seeds"
RIYL: Black Lips, Wavves, Allah-Las
6. WORN-TIN - THANATOPHOBIA
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Favorite track: "Thanatophobia"
RIYL: Petite League, The Virgins, Tijuana Panthers
5. KYLE CRAFT - DOLLS OF HIGHLAND
Location: Portland, OR
Favorite track: "Future Midcity Massacre"
RIYL: Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, The Helio Sequence
4. ALEX CAMERON - JUMPING THE SHARK
Location: Sydney, Australia
Favorite track: "Take Care of Business"
RIYL: Father John Misty, Future Islands, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
3. BIG THIEF - MASTERPIECE
Masterpiece's twelve detailed stories transport listeners across the vast expanse of America's highways and small towns via lead singer-songwriter Adrianne Lenker's experiences. Each track, be it the melodic ballad, 'Paul', or the folk-rock riff heavy title track, takes advantage of Lenker's voice to nostalgically recall stories of love and heartbreak. These two concepts are, in a sense, equated as one to formulate brutally human experiences, which although might have taken place in another world from the beholder, are deeply relatable. 'Real Love' displays this best, framing "real love" through domestic abuse and heart attacks over softly sung verse to a hard punching chorus with flaring guitars. It is memories like these that call to mind a classic conversation between Louie C.K. and his chiropractor about love, where the doctor tells him "This is love: missing her..., wanting to die... This is the good part... the bad part is when you forget her." Masterpiece exemplifies this by showcasing the cocktail of joy and pain in love. - Max Goldstein
2. KAMAIYAH - A GOOD NIGHT IN THE GHETTO
Location: Oakland, CA
Favorite track: "Out the Bottle"
RIYL: YG, Drake
1. CAR SEAT HEADREST - TEENS OF DENIAL
Location: Seattle, WA
Favorite track: "Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales"
RIYL: NE-HI, Naked Giants, Skinny Teeth