2016 Album of the Year

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1- Lacuna Coil – Delirium
2- Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
3- Opeth – Sorceress
4- Katatonia – the Fall of Hearts
5- Heaven Shall Burn – Wanderer
6- Garbage – Strange Little Birds
7- Those Poor Bastards – Sing it Ugly
8- Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct
9- Eric Clapton – I Still Do
10- Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker

I’m genuinely proud that I’ve been able to announce my 2016 Album of the Year is going to Lacuna Coil’s Delirium. I have wanted to give this award to Lacuna Coil before, and I came close with 2012’s Dark Adrenaline , but they were just edged out by Katatonia’s Dead End Kings, and I mean JUST edged out.  I ranked Lacuna Coil’s 2014 album, Broken Crown Haloat number 10. It was okay, but not great. When I first heard tracks on Delirium, I was taken aback a bit. I was surprised by the sound. With a slightly modified lineup, the album was louder, heavier, and more aggressive than Lacuna Coil had been in years. Their male singer, Andrea Ferro was performing growling death metal style vocals for the first time since their early demo tapes, while their female singer, Cristina Scabbia’s voice was hitting ranges I hadn’t heard before.

Not long after the album came out, I saw Lacuna Coil perform live. I got to see some of the new songs in person for the first time and was BLOWN AWAY. That’s when I realized that Delirium was really the Lacuna Coil album I’ve been waiting for. It just fits perfectly. While other bands, such as Paradise Lost, have also embraced their death metal beginnings , so has Lacuna Coil, and both bands have blended those sounds together flawlessly with what they had done in since those days. Again, this is the album I’ve waited for from them. And having been friendly with members of the band for a few years, I’m so proud to finally be able to say they’ve got my Album of the Year.

Tracks I recommend listening to from Delirium include “the House of Shame,” “You Love Me ‘Cause I Hate You,” “Blood, Tears, Dust,” “Ghost in the Mist,” and the title track “Delirium.” I also seriously recommend their cover of Madonna’s “Live to Tell.” But, if there’s one song on the album stands out to as unique, it’s “Take Me Home.” That one definitely threw me off at first, but easily stood out as a favorite quickly.

I’ve said this before, but bands in the “Gothenburg Sound” genre have all fallen by the wayside and have mostly become impossible to listen to. Except one:
Dark Tranquillity has not only not fallen by the wayside, they’ve remained consistent to what their sound is and put out album after album of quality music. Atoma is another example of a great album from them. Before the album came out, they flooded YouTube with new videos from the album. As I heard each one, I got more and more excited about the album. And, like Lacuna Coil, I got to see songs from this album performed live early on, and they fit perfectly into the show. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re one of the most fun bands I’ve ever seen live. I’ve said they’re the “Happiest Death Metal Band” ever. Go see them live and you’ll understand.

Songs that stand out to me from Atoma include the title track, “Encircled,” “Forward Momentum,” “the Pitiless,” and “Our Proof of Life.”

I’ve always liked the ride that Opeth albums took me on. Their brutal death metal sound and their more mellow approach during songs were often a roller coaster for me. When they started to downplay the death metal and then outright abandon it on their albums, I felt I didn’t go on that ride anymore, ot at the very least, it was a different ride. Sorceress is their third album without any death metal vocals on it, and I feel it’s the first one that successfully takes me on the ride I’ve wanted from them without that style of vocals. And they’ve pretty much said the same thing, this is the album that they’ve found where they want to be now. And also, like the new Lacuna Coil songs, I saw some of the new Opeth songs performed live and they fit right into the show. Opeth may be where I want them to be again.

Songs I recommend from Sorceress include the title track, “the Wilde Flowers,” “Will O the Wisp,” and “Strange Brew.”

In all of the years that I’ve been doing these lists, I’ve never ranked at Katatonia album lower than third. That is, until now. Katatonia’s the Fall of Hearts is my 4th Best Album of 2016. The album is very good. The songs that stand out are great songs. But, there’s a few factors in them being ranked at only 4. The first one is that the albums ahead of them are THAT good. The second is that while the songs that are good are very good, the other songs are not as good. I said that seeing Lacuna Coil, Dark Tranquillity, and Opeth perform some of their new songs live helped win me over if it was necessary. Katatonia hasn’t toured the United States for this album yet. I think it’s possible I would have thought more of this album if I had seen songs done live. 4th Best Album of the Year isn’t bad, by any means. But, for a band that I’ve given Album of the Year to in 2009 and 2012, I have certain expectations. They weren’t necessarily met here.

The songs that I feel are the real good ones from the Fall of Hearts include “Takeover,” “Serein,” “Sanction,” “Last Song Before the Fade,” “Decima,” and especially “Old Hearts Fall.” And if you get a chance to hear their cover of Judas Priest’s “Night Comes Down” I definitely suggest you do.

Not only had I forgotten about Heaven Shall Burn, I didn’t even know they had a new album out in 2016. I hadn’t heard anything new from them since 2008. I looked them upo one day and saw they had a new album called Wanderer. I saw the video for “Bring the War Home” and had to heard more. I ordered the album and when I got it, I heard some of the angrist, most agressive, brutal, and good new music I’ve heard in a long time. I got the special edition which had a second disc over cover songs. Some of the songs on that were some of my favorite songs from some of my favorite bands. I was completely won over. I’ve never seen Heaven Shall Burn play live. I had tickets to see them back in maybe 2008, but for various reasons, they canceled the show. Maybe one day I’ll tell that story in a blog.

If you feel the need to listen to some angry music, listen to “the Loss of Fury,” “Bring the War Home,” “Downshifter,” and “Save Me.” If you want to hear some interesting takes on Paradise Lost and Life of Agony songs, listen to the “True Belief” and “River Runs Red.”

I like Garbage. What can I say? Before you make any snide remarks, I’m talking about Garbage, the band. Strange Little Birds is the second album they’ve put out since they got back together in 2012 and it’s a solid record. It is definitely Garbage. And when I say that, it’s a good thing. The opening track is “Sometimes.” It reminds me a lot of their early b-sides and rare songs, which immediately made me excited to hear more. And from that song, the album goes right into “Empty,” which is a solid candidate for a “best of” album one day. Garbage is consistent. They’re Garbage. That’s what I like about them.

In addition to the songs I’ve mentioned, I really like “If I Lost You,” “Even Though Our Love is Doomed,” and “So We Can Stay Alive.”

Those Poor Bastards are a band with a unique sound. I don’t have many albums from their library, but the two that have come out since I’ve been listening to them have both been ranked in my Top 10. 2014’s Vicious Losers and now, 2016’s Sing it Ugly at number 7. I haven’t ever seen this band live, and without question, they’re at the top of my list of acts I would like to see. I find whatever I’ve heard from them to be unique and seriously different for a modern band.

“No Light,” “Unwanted,” “Headed Nowhere,” “Ten Ton Hammer,” and “Sorry for Everything” are the songs that I listen to the most from this record.

Sometimes I just want to hear a good straight-up Blues album. I don’t want fancy Blues with lots of bells and whistles. I feel that takes away from what I’m supposed to feel with the Blues. Eric Clapton has been guilty of putting out albums with bells and whistles, but in recent years he’s returned to the roots of the Blues. And his album, “I Still Do” is a good example of that and is my 8th Best Album of 2016. There is much more I can say to talk about with this album. It’s just a good Blues album, which should be a good enough description.

I like “Alabama Woman Blues,” “Spiral,” and “Cypress Grove” on this album as the standouts.

I am not the biggest Metallica fan and I probably never will be. But, I do like them. To be clear, I like them when they put out a good album. Their critics are right, they’ve put out some bad ones over the past 20 years. But, they seem to have found themselves again. The 9th Best Album of 2016 is Metallica’s Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. It sounds like Metallica. It doesn’t sound like Metallica trying to be Metallica again. It just sounds like Metallica. That probably makes sense to some of you.

“Hardwired,” “Moth into Flames,” and “ManUNkind” are my favorite tracks from this record.

The 10th Best Album and the last one on my list is Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker. Sadly, Mr. Cohen died right after this album was release. But, if you listen to it, he was aware his days were coming to an end. He’s always been very aware of depression and darkness, which was why I liked him. This album is a great farewell for him and from him. He went out well.

The title track, “Treaty,” “Steer Your Way,” and “If I Didn’t Have Your Love” are the songs I would play to someone to hear the best from this album.

Some albums that didn’t crack my Top 10, but were close include Let Me Get By from Tedeschi-Trucks Band, Dion’s New York is My Home, and Michael Kiwanuka’s Love & Hate.

Steven Wilson put out 4 1/2 in 2016 and it probably would have been ranked high, if it wasn’t just unreleased and re-done versions of some of his older songs. But, because it’s not necessarily new material, it wasn’t eligible.

Mike Patton joined a few other people as Nevermen and put out an album. Like much of what Patton does, I don’t know what to make of it. It’s good, but I don’t know how often I’ll ever think of a song from this album I need to hear.

And I have to make a note of David Bowie’s Blackstar. Like Leonard Cohen, Bowie knew he was dying and released one last album, which happened to come out two days before his death. I don’t know how much attention this album would have received if it wasn’t for the sad circumstances. There’s a few songs on it that I really like, but I just couldn’t rank it. Die-hard Bowie fans may feel differently, and I respect that, but it just didn’t do it for me.

2016 was a pretty good year for new music. My Top 5 albums could all have been #1 in other years. I don’t know of many new albums coming out in 2017, but I’m looking forward to a new one from Clutch. I also can’t wait to hear what the new Life of Agony album, which should be very interesting. I’m also very anxious to hear Anneke Van Giersbergen’s new band, VUUR. We’ll see how these all rank next year.

A note about eligibility for my 2016 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2016
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist)
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material

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