2016: Tom's Best Of

by Tom Haugen


Hudson Bell – Yerba Buena

A San Francisco band and person, Bell's crunchy college rock is on a level of greatness running parallel with Built To Spill or Matthew Sweet. Though their inception was as a bedroom pop outfit recording onto a 4-track, this one's a giant alt-rock masterpiece.


Haley Bonar – Impossible Dream

Proof that Minnesota is still home to plenty of essential rock, Bonar's lengthy career reaches a high point here with soft, indie folk as well as fuzzed out alt-rock anthems. Truly one of the perfect albums of 2016.


Echo Bloom – Red

Self-described as “country/shoegaze,” the plucked banjos meets orchestral, psych-haze on this disc may seem like an unlikely formula, but here it unfolds with an innovative and cozy mood that's atypically charming.


Dilly Dally – Sore

If you miss the days of turbulent, grungy, confrontational post-punk from the early '90s, these Canadians will fill that void. Sonic Youth, Babes In Toyland, and Pixies are all reference points here, and while it's powerful and distorted, front woman Katie Monks offers some soft moments as well.


Bad Luck – Noise In Your Head

Florida continues to be a hotbed of young punk activity, and these six tunes are packed with gruff and raspy vocals and the sort of melodic guitar work we tend to associate with Gainesville bands (Against Me, Hot Water Music). They even unexpectedly toss in some whistling – now that’s punk (well, it sure was when Crimpshrine did it).


Crushed Out – Alien Ocean

With their ambient and psych-rock textures blurred with surf rock and analogue synth, this husband and wife duo isn’t afraid to dabble with doo-wop and rockabilly amid these dreamy and eclectic songs. This is a very original and fun listen.


Deftones – Gore

Already luminaries in the alt-metal scene, Deftones delivers their best work many years. Recovering from the loss of their bassist Chi Cheng, they make use of replacement bassist Sergio Vega's (ex-Quicksand, Collapse) six strings to the highest degree. Those who previously condemned Deftones will be surprised by the electronics, New Wave, and crunchy post-punk in the group’s powerful, cathartic tension.


The Yawpers – American Man

Proto-punk and blue-collar rock collide on this rowdy adventure of recklessness and restraint. Both fiddles and mandolins are on hand, and while this listen is occasionally bare and vulnerable, the timeless, often charged rock channels icons like Westerberg and Springsteen.


Wayne Hancock – Slingin' Rhythm

Hancock's tunes are worthy of not only being covered by the best of the best (i.e. Hank Williams III), but his throwback country and warm pedal steel will even resonate with the anti-country ears. A road warrior who literally slings rhythm for his livelihood, Hancock gives us a front row seat to his life, via help from blues and honky tonk, too.


Bum City Saints – Bum City Saints

This one has all the hallmarks of a great punk album. Quick-packed and melodic with gang vocals and sing-alongs, it's 30 minutes of anthemic, memorable, and gritty tunes from one of the most reliable labels of the genre (Pirates Press).

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