The Best Rock Albums Of 2016

12.13.16 3 years ago 19 Comments

Editor’s note: The point of more extensive genre lists is to help give shine to albums that wouldn’t make it into the overall best albums list. So, despite the rap-specific list — where ranking is still next to godliness — we’ve opted to leave the albums that appeared on the overall best list off the genre-specific lists. But even for rap, some albums made the cut for their impact on the that sphere without cracking the best of list. After all, the point of these lists is to examine the way music has changed or moved throughout the year, and our year-end framework will continue to reflect that impetus. Though it is meant to highlight the best work in this genre, hopefully, you can also make some discoveries through this list.

20. Descendents, Hypercaffium Spazzinate
A new Descendents album after fourteen years should not have been good. But somehow, Hypercaffium Spazzinate exceeded all expectations. The band is tighter than ever, frontman Milo Aukerman perfectly delivering vocals so raw that they should not be allowed for a 53-year-old scientist. That said, the band is no longer comprised of four kids, and they know that. There are no songs about farts, replaced instead with heartbreaking tales of parental struggles and the plague that is unrequited love, which apparently doesn’t just disappear with adulthood.

Over the nearly 35(!) years that Descendents have been kicking, they have undergone several sonic overhauls. Hypercaffium Spazzinate captures the best of all those sounds, with songs like “Limiter” and “We Got Defeat” having a sound closer to hardcore punk that they perfected on 1982’s Milo Goes To College, while “Without Love” and “Beyond The Music” embracing the more melodic overtones found on 2004’s Cool To Be You. The result is a record that will have something for fans of every era of Descendents, making Hypercaffium Spazzinate an overwhelmingly successful comeback album for the legendary California punks.—Zac Gelfand

19. Cymbals Eat Guitars, Pretty Years
If you’re going to use a Lou Reed quote to name your band, you better live up to the hype. Luckily, this Staten Island quartet does more than that — their music actually manages to sound like the act they’re claiming. Pretty Years is full of shimmering, dreamy guitars and squalling vocals, making it the perfect representation New York’s endlessly beautiful and gruesome dichotomy. When the percussion swallows the melody on “Mallwalking” or album opener “Finally,” remember, they already warned you. Which doesn’t mean they’re opposed to slowing things down either, like on “Dancing Days,” where lead singer Joseph D’Agostino’s falsetto borders on downright Springsteen and the chorus erupts in a firework of synth explosions.

D’Agostino, who went to high school in Manhattan, is also the band founder, forming the group back in 2007 with his high school friend (and drummer) Matthew Miller. But D’Agostino is currently the only member of the group who has been there while the band’s lineup changed around him. Still, Cymbals Eat Guitars never sounds like a soloist backed by a random assortment of musicians, but a group dedicated to creating smeary, spaced-out scuzz rock that builds on New York’s post-punk legacy from the outskirts of its most isolated and suburban island. With John Congleton’s production, Pretty Years sounds streamlined even when it veers off the map, reminding 2016 that New York rock hasn’t gone anywhere.—Caitlin White

18. Iggy Pop, Post Pop Depression
In one of the most unlikely rock collaborations of the year, Iggy Pop teamed up with Josh Homme and the Queens Of The Stone Age to return to his brutal, bitter proto punk roots. Post Pop Depression sounds like the work of someone who has seen his fair share of sh*t, and while it isn’t downright depressing, it taps into the darker, brooding thoughts of a 69-year-old aging rockstar.

The former Stooges frontman has put out his fair share of albums, and has even done a collaborative album before, but what is fascinating about listening to Post Pop Depression is the way Homme, Stone Age’s Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys’ Matt Helders came together to help Iggy deliver his menacing 2016 pop vision. Despite the formidable resumes of his younger collaborators, Pop’s vision is the one that comes through loud and clear here, and he has even cited working on the record as playing a role in how he coped with the Bataclan attacks in 2015.

Homme and Pop self-financed the album, recording most of it in Joshua Tree, and working on it in secret prior to the world tour they began this spring. But, unlike plenty of albums about grief, aging, or death, Pop refuses to be sentimental. Instead he’s a sneering, sharp narrator as ever, steering punk, soul, and rock along the careening cliff of aging with the kind of braggadocio that will makes him live forever. On Post Pop Depression Iggy Pop reminded a whole new generation that he’s immortal. In a year where we lost a lot of legends, it is a salve to hear from one who is still creating on this level so late in the game.—C.W.

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