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2015 was a pretty good year for rock music, but 2016 was outstanding for the genre. It's been several years since I've had such a good time discovering new talent, while rekindling my love for bands I already knew through their latest releases. It was such a strong year that I could probably take several albums from this year that didn't even make this list and make a "Best of" list that would give other years a run for their money.
This year, I enjoyed new albums from acts like Cage the Elephant, The Heavy, Airbourne, Filter, Kaleo, Young the Giant, The Virginmarys, Young Guns, Killit, Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, CRX, Kevin Max, Avenged Sevenfold, and David Bowie, and that list doesn't even count the ten I included in my list below. That's how unbelievably busy this year was for rock; I could barely keep up.
In addition, some great EPs released this year from artists like Nine Inch Nails, Goodbye June, Them Evils, and The Wrecks. I didn't include any of those in this list because I wanted to focus purely on the LPs that hit in 2016.
Check out my favorite full-length rock albums from 2016 below and sound off in the comments section about which ones I left out.
10. Sixx: A.M. – Prayers for the Damned
Sixx: A.M., the hard rock group formed by ex- Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx, ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist DJ Ashba, and phenomenal vocalist James Michael, released two full-length LPs in 2016. While they were both strong additions to their rapidly growing catalog, Prayers for the Damned, with its darker overtones, played slightly better into the style fans have come to expect from Sixx: A.M.
Hightlights: "You Have Come to the Right Place," "I'm Sick," "The Last Time (My Heart Will Hit the Ground)"
9. Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct
Though we’ll likely never hear another Metallica record like Ride the Lightning or Master of Puppets, 2008’s Death Magnetic signaled a return to the attitude and songwriting approach of the Metallica of old. This year’s Hardwired… to Self-Destruct continued that trend and gave metal heads a new album worthy of Metallica’s legacy.
Highlights: "Hardwired," "Atlas, Rise!," "Dream No More"
8. Rival Sons – Hollow Bones
This blues hard rock rock group from Long Beach, Calif. has consistently been among my favorites since I discovered them following the release of their superb sophomore effort, Pressure and Time, in 2011. Hollow Bones delivers on every front, and most importantly its writing improves over its heavy-handed (but still great to listen to) predecessor, Great Western Valkyrie. The power of Jay Buchanan’s soulful vocals shines through on every song.
Hightlights: "Hollow Bones, Pt. 1," "Tied Up," "Pretty Face"
7. July Talk – Touch
The contrast between the two vocalists gives July Talk a bit of magic. The pure, clean sound of Leah Fay being followed by the deep, gravelly voice of Peter Dreimanis never ceases to catch you off-guard, and it works to July Talk’s advantage across their great sophomore LP, Touch. The catchy tracks on Touch, which straddle rock, pop, blues, and alternative classifications, are strong enough to stand on their own, but I’m convinced you can’t have a full appreciation of July Talk until you catch one of their raucous live shows.
Highlights: "Beck + Call," "Push + Pull," "Lola + Joseph"
6. The Answer – Solas
If you’ve ever listened to The Answer before Solas, chances are you think you know what you’re getting going in. That’s because each album to this point has covered the same old school, hard rock ground to great results. When I heard the group was mixing things up for Solas, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned. Thankfully, The Answer’s heavy leaning on its Irish roots paid off, as while Solas doesn’t rock as hard as the rest of the band’s discography, it shows another side of the band and holds more depth than we’ve seen to this point in the band’s career.
Highlights: "Solas," "Untrue Color," "In This Land"
5. Alter Bridge – The Last Hero
Unlike some of the other bands on this list, Alter Bridge’s sound remained consistent for its latest effort, The Last Hero. The hard rock sound with heavy guitar, pounding rhythm section, and Myles Kennedy’s soaring vocals remain intact, but the inclusion of uplifting tunes like “My Champion” pushes this effort up there with the band’s more successful outings like Fortress and Blackbird.
Highlights: "Show Me A Leader," "My Champion," "The Writing on the Wall"
4. Dorothy – RockIsDead
From the very first time you hear vocalist Dorothy Martin sing, you know she has the gift. The sheer power behind her voice is nearly overwhelming, and she has ample opportunity to show it off in the band’s debut LP, RockIsDead. The album is full of infectious tunes that have the uncanny ability to get caught in your head for hours after you listen.
Highlights: "Raise Hell," "After Midnight," "Missile"
3. Bleeker – Erase You
Bleeker first caught my attention early this year with its EP on iTunes. I heard “Highway” and immediately loved the upbeat, adrenaline-fueled sound. That song was just the tip of the iceberg, as “Free” quickly became my favorite track on the album. The rest of Erase You is solid from start to finish, but a few standout tracks make this one of the best rock LPs of 2016.
Highlights: "Free," "Getting Out," "Erase You"
2. The Pretty Reckless – Who You Selling For
Who You Selling For is the third LP from The Pretty Reckless, but the music has the focus of a debut album. Hard and heavy in places with some heartfelt tunes for variation, Who You Selling For continues to showcase Taylor Momsen’s evolution as a frontwomen. With the album delivering The Pretty Reckless their fourth #1 hit on the U.S. Mainstream Rock charts, Who You Selling For could be the album that solidifies the act as a mainstay in the modern American hard rock scene.
Highlights: "Oh My God," "Take Me Down," "Hangman"
1. The Struts – Everybody Wants
Though most of Everybody Wants came out in the U.K. in 2014, the album was released for the first time (with a slightly different tracklist) in the U.S. in 2016. The entire tracklist is flat-out great. The Struts’ glam rock blends the perfect mix of pop and rock to form a catchy sound that calls back to classic, but underappreciated acts like The Sweet, New York Dolls, and T. Rex. The two lead singles, “Could Have Been Me” and “Kiss This” blew up and were heard everywhere from sports video games to movie trailers, but every single track on the album (and even the ones shuffled off from the original release to accommodate for the new tracks) is fantastically catchy and shows that this band could very well have what it takes to get to the next level in the industry.
The Struts released a non-album single, “Put Your Hands Up,” a few months after the release of Everybody Wants, but no further recordings have been released. With so much of the debut album recorded years ago, it’ll be interesting to see how fast of a turnaround the band has with its sophomore effort. I know I’ll be eagerly waiting for more after how much I listened to Everybody Wants.
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