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Top 10 alternative albums of 2016

From Radiohead to Local Natives, don’t miss these 10 albums alternative bands released this year.

By Kaelyn Sturgell | Dec. 3, 2016

Tags: Music Reviews

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This year was one for the books between the election, the death of Vine and the mumps outbreak. However, new music releases didn’t let us down. Whether they were filled with fun, summer hits or politically-charged assertions, these 10 alternative albums of 2016 not only got us through the year but shone above the rest.

10) Kings of Leon, WALLS

Most people know a Kings of Leon song when they hear one. Caleb Followill’s voice is distinctive, the guitar almost always has the same tone and the mix is familiar. Although the band doesn’t try anything extremely new or experimental with their latest album, WALLS lulls the listener all the same with uplifting jams like “Waste a Moment” and soothing heartsongs like “WALLS.”

9) Local Natives, Sunlit Youth

Local Natives haven’t been around as long as Kings of Leon, but that doesn’t mean their album doesn’t deserve to be in the top 10. The release of Sunlit Youth was preceded by three singles that all became popular on alternative radio. Each song on the album has a different feel and a different story. If the music itself doesn’t hook you, heavy lyrics like, “And if we don’t care, then who cares?” definitely will.

8) Phantogram, Three

Not a lot of people are familiar with Phantogram. Before this album, the New York duo had only produced two studio albums and had a handful of popular singles including “Fall in Love” and “Black Out Days.” However, after the band released three singles off of Three (coincidence?) and played shows with big-name alternative groups, the band gained momentum. The album is filled with heavy hitting songs like “Same Old Blues,” “You’re Mine” and “Cruel World.” If you aren’t already familiar with the album, listen to it from the beginning to the end.

7) Weezer, Weezer (White Album)

Even though they’re getting pretty old, Weezer’s most recent album sounds a lot like their earlier work. After a few reprehensible albums (Raditude? Really?), the group finally realized their mistake in trying to produce music simply to produce music. Weezer began to show their change of heart in a previous song, “Back to the Shack,” but fully redeemed themselves with the White Album. The band began writing intelligent lyrics again, this time about science, love, feminism and California. Perhaps, years from now, people will view Weezer’s White Album much like the Beatles’.

6) Young the Giant, Home of the Strange

This album is different from the band’s previous work. The album sounds more airy and light hearted, and features more electronic elements than Mind Over Matter and their self-titled Young The Giant. Songs like “Titus Was Born” and “Art Exhibit” are slow, acoustic melodies while “Something to Believe In” and “Silvertongue” are heavier, drum-centric tunes. The variety of the album really shows the versatility of the band.

5) Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool

Radiohead is another band that has been around for a long time and is still producing quality music. After deleting themselves from the internet, a stunt done earlier in the year by The 1975, and sending cryptic flyers in the mail to fans, the band went back online with a claymation video featuring a new song titled “Burn The Witch.” They later went on to release the remainder of the album, which merited high grades from almost every review site. While the songs sound like sweet lullabies, the lyrics are a little haunting.

4) Panic! At the Disco, Death of a Bachelor

While I don’t personally like the musical direction Death of a Bachelor took, it’s hard to deny the massive impact Brendon Urie made with this album. Despite now being a one-man act, Urie has continued to write the P!ATD legacy with his crazy vocal range and stage presence. He attracted a younger audience with carefree songs like, “Hallelujah” and “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time,” which also revived “Rock Lobster” by the B-52’s. For more thoughts on the album, check out this MOVE review.

3) Glass Animals, How To Be a Human Being

Glass Animals have always been good at creating themes in their music. The band’s first album, ZABA, was inspired by the jungle and their sophomore album is all about different types of people. It’s more synth-heavy than their previous work, but that’s exactly how they were able to fine-tune every song to a specific character. If you want to know more about the inspiration for each song and for the album itself, check out this previous MOVE article.

2) Bon Iver, 22, A Million

After a five-year hiatus, Justin Vernon, the man behind Bon Iver, announced his return. When I say “he” announced it, I really mean his longtime friend Trever Hagen penned an essay for boniver.org about Justin’s experience with fame and with his latest album. The album is the result of years of introspection and exploration. It’s wild. Don’t believe me? Look at the track names and album artwork. As different as it is from his previous acoustic melodies, it’s beautiful all the same and gives you a new perspective to everyday interactions.

1) The 1975, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it

I don’t think anyone could convince me that The 1975’s sophomore album, ILIWYSFYASBYSUOI, shouldn’t be at the number one spot. To many, this album was a drastic shift from the band’s previous work. The group left behind their black and white aesthetic in a dramatic social media shutdown and returned boasting neon pink. Singles like “Love Me” and “The Sound” initially worried fans that the band went pop. However, after a couple of listens of the 17-song album and after reading along with the lyrics, fans quickly realized that The 1975 is still the same socially progressive, anti-culture British dude band. The album has spent 38 weeks and counting on Billboard’s 200 chart and peaked at the No. 1 position less than a month after its release. Really take the time to get to know this album and the inspirations behind it; you won’t be disappointed.

Edited by Katherine White | kwhite@themaneater.com

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