474theMiX Rock Radio Blog Archive

Thursday, January 19, 2017

My Top 8 Albums of 2016: by Sarah Mueller

Hey, y’all. My name is Sarah and I’m new to the 474theMiX Rock Radio family. I look forward to writing for and getting to know all of you. For starters though, what better way to get to know me than to read about my favorites from 2016? The consensus seems to be that 2016 was one of those years that just overstayed its welcome, but even so it was a great year for music. This past year some interesting newcomers made waves like always, but I think some the more exciting releases came from artists who returned after years away. Without any more stalling, here are my top albums of the year:

Number 8: The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance.
In an elaborate stunt, the band that every formerly emo kid born in the 1990s still mourns the loss of teased us all with a video and a release date. Was it a new album? Did MCR really get back together? Do we get a Black Parade Part II? Nope. We got a 10 year anniversary re-release that simultaneously made us feel deceived and old. Regardless, the original album was their best and deserved the attention and a re-release, just maybe without all the hype…

Number 7: California by Blink-182.
This was an album that it’s safe to say no one really saw coming. After 5 years without releasing anything, the band could count its successes: “All the Small Things,” “What’s My Age Again,” “I Miss You.” This album was a game changer. With two singles: “Bored to Death” and “She’s Out of Her Mind” they tried to reclaim their former fame with their former sound. However, much like Green Day, they were just a little out of touch with the millennial youth. Or perhaps their original fans were a little too old to care.

Number 6: A Pentatonix Christmas by Pentatonix.
The band’s annual Christmas album brought us more covers of holiday favorites, but also included more originals than their previous Christmas albums. “Hallelujah,” a cover of Leonard Cohen’s hit quickly went viral before the album’s release. This came right before the artists passing.

Number 5: Joanne by Lady Gaga.
In true Gaga fashion, she shocked everyone with her fifth studio album. The artist, classically trained as a jazz singer and known as a pop superstar, strips off all the glitz and glam and returns to what are apparently her roots. This album is named after her grandmother and is a tribute or perhaps more an exploration of country music. While many of the songs, with lyrics about cowboy boots, hats, line dancing, and drinking, feel like mere caricatures of the genre, a few gems lay hidden in the mess. The title track, not surprisingly, is one I would challenge anyone to listen to and not cry. A perfect blend of sentiment and twang, the song takes a hopeful outlook on life, death, and memory. Single “Perfect Illusion” is the closest to the Gaga that we know, and also the most we get to hear of her incredible singing chops. Another track worth a listen is “Angel Down” written as a chilling tribute to Trayvon Martin and other victims of police brutality. On the whole, the album left a few things to be desired, but is definitely not a wash.  

Number 4: Ladywood by Tove Lo
She’s back! The Swedish artist who had three hits in 2014 and 2015 (“Stay High”, “Heroes”, and “Talking Body”) released her second album in 2016 and it did not disappoint. In Ladywood, the artist once again brings a grunge edge to the pop music genre along with lyrics that do not shy away (the album title itself is a sexual innuendo). Single “Cool Girl” is an upbeat instant hit while other tracks like “Fire Fade” take little slower and more haunting pace. Lo has said herself she sees this album as being two parts and this structure is very similar to her previous album Queen of the Clouds which is a narrative in three parts. Whether or not you’re a fan of her sound, you can count on a listen worthy story in Tove Lo’s music.

Number 3: Revolution Radio by Green Day
The first success since 21st Century Breakdown (we don’t talk about Uno, Dos, Tre) Revolution Radio is a feeble attempt to relive the glory of American Idiot. The two title tracks are even in the same key… That being said, the album still offers some good lyrics. Think of it as American Idiot’s younger, less popular brother. “Revolution Radio” and “Bang Bang,” the best on the album, both look at the world with a cynical lens. At least for Green Day, they seem to have impeccable timing. With all of the political drama and division happening all over the country and the world, and the upcoming presidential inauguration this is the album we need. Most definitely intentionally, Billie Joe has never been shy about his opinions, the songs play off of the frustrations and anxieties that anyone, regardless of political affiliation, can relate to. Questioning the media and our news sources as well as our systems and the people we choose to put in power. They rode the wave all the way to the Billboard chart. Good job, Green Day, and welcome back. We missed you. And your sass.

Number 2: Collage/Bouquet – The Chainsmokers
I know that this is technically two different EPs, but for arguments sake, we’ll put them together. Of the newcomers in 2016, it’s easy to argue that The Chainsmokers made the biggest splash. “Roses,” and “Closer” are the kind of tracks that are victims of radio station overplay, but like many others in this category they become songs we love to hate. Because the sound is just so overwhelming. Afterall, who doesn’t need an electronic induced distraction coma every now and then? Besides the group’s commercial success, they also made headlines when they took on Lady Gaga’s single “Perfect Illusion.” Perhaps more of a publicity stunt than anything else, the incident did little to mar the name of either artist. Proving once and for all that the masses may actually care more about the music of an artist than their opinions? Not a chance. Other tracks worth a listen include “Setting Fires”, and the newest single, “Paris.”

Number 1: Death of a Bachelor by Panic! at the Disco.
 This is an album worth talking about. Although released at the end of 2015, Death of a Bachelor found success in 2016. It is the fifth studio album of the band and despite frontman Brendon Urie being the remaining original member, the group stays afloat by continuing to take on new genres. So far they’ve done everything from alternative, jazz, and folk to electronic, punk, and hard rock which has helped them keep and earn new fans across an ever-evolving sound. Bachelor offers multiple genres just by itself with the title track and “Impossible Year” taking softer, jazz and piano approaches as well as “Halleujah” which combines alternative rock with gospel (something we started to see on Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die). Panic! did not disappoint long-time fans with “Emperor’s New Clothes” a continuation of previous single “This is Gospel” as well as “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time” which keep their original flavor around. Overall, flexibility timelessness, and dedication to making music earned this group the top spot. Cheers, y’all.

Sarah Mueller
474theMiX Rock Radio
Station Promoter/Blogger

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