The Gems of Fuck Mountain: Top 10 Albums of 2016

2016 devolved into a putrid, tired meme of a year, and I’ll double down and confidently say 2016 was far and away the worst year of my life. With 2016's near-mythological swirling shit typhoon pillow-smothering happiness out of every single day, I fell back on music as my coping mechanism — a thing no 20-something in history has ever done before. Check out these top 10 releases from the past year, because they’re what kept me alive during this vile period of life, and are 10 of only 11 good things to come out of 2016.*

10. Cauldron — “In Ruin”

The next evolution of Cauldron’s throwback metal sound (or New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal [NWOTHM], whatever), In Ruin is top to bottom a simple delight of an album packed with nostalgia you didn’t even know you had. The album’s theme, lyrics, and ethos are the feelgood aural embodiment of every heavy metal poster on the bedroom wall of an ‘80s adolescent.

Recommended tracks: No Return/In Ruin, Burning at Both Ends, Santa Mira

Explore Cauldron: Apple Music / Site / Merch / Bandsintown / Facebook / Instagram

9. Imarhan — “Imarhan”

The “little brothers” of Grammy Award-winning Tinariwen, Algeria’s Imarhan packed their self-titled debut album full of their predecessors’ desert-rebel soul and infused it with youthful vibrance and movement, driven by addicting funk guitar riffs, thumping pan-African percussion, and thick, passionate vocals. The result is a soulful, goosebump-inducing psychedelic trip into the desert to hear the story of the modern Tuareg experience.

Recommended tracks: Tahabort, Imarhan, Assossamagh

Explore Imarhan: Bandcamp / Apple Music / Site / Merch / Bandsintown / Facebook / Instagram

8. Anaal Nathrakh — “The Whole of the Law”

After hearing the single “Depravity Favours the Bold,” this instantly became one of my most anticipated releases of the year — and Anaal Nathrakh delivered. The Whole of the Law is a robust, well-rounded, bludgeoning album that fulfills the band’s ethos as “the soundtrack for armageddon, the audial essence of evil, hatred and violence, the true spirit of necro taken to its musical extremes.” The album’s hellish and violent nihilism feels vital for such a dark and hopeless year.

Recommended tracks: Depravity Favours the Bold, Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion, We Will Fucking Kill You

Explore Anaal Nathrakh: Bandcamp / Apple Music / Merch / BandsintownFacebook

7. Bayonne — “Primitives”

The best way I can describe Primitives is that it sounds like what I imagine it feels like to be inside a crystal. The one-man, multi-instrumental Bayonne layers looping electronic and keyboard tracks over driving, rhythmic drums, topping it with light and whimsical chimes and reverbing vocals to create an intimate and deeply personal record that’s as touching as it is catchy. This will make you feel feelings.

Recommended tracks: Spectrolite, Waves, Appeals

Explore Bayonne: Apple Music / SoundCloud / Site / Merch / Bandsintown / Facebook / Instagram

6. Nails — “You Will Never Be One of Us”

I felt conflicted putting this album on the list because I first wrote it off as a guilty pleasure, but excluding it would’ve been solely for political reasons, so I’m going to live my truth: You Will Never Be One of Us crushes from start to finish and deserves to be considered among the top albums of 2016. Yes, frontman Todd Jones is a scene bully. Yes, Nails perpetuates meathead metal culture. Yes, this is music for assholes by assholes. But the album itself is three years’ worth brutal riffs with absolutely zero fat, and fulfills such a raw, middle-school type of unrefined rage that ironically begets the band’s elitism. It’s the perfectly lean diet of powerviolence and grind to match the violent grind that was 2016.

Recommended tracks: You Will Never Be One of Us, Savage Intolerance, Violence Is Forever

Explore Nails: Bandcamp / Apple Music / Merch / Bandsintown / Facebook / Instagram

5. Opeth — “Sorceress”

As Opeth began the steady drip of new lyric videos ahead of the release of Sorceress, I was skeptical of their deeper lean into the proggy “JethrOpeth” sound that Heritage started, but after a few listens I could not keep this album out of my head. As early as the title track’s second movement, this album brings a reassuring and crushing dose of the doom sound that first made Opeth who they are. Well-rounded and catchy, Sorceress is a robust body of work comprising prog muscles built on a doomy skeleton, with a heart only frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt can provide.

Recommended tracks: Sorceress, Will O the Wisp, The Wilde Flowers

Explore Opeth: Apple Music / Site / Merch / Bandsintown / Facebook / Instagram

4. A Tribe Called Quest — “We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service”

Tribe could’ve chosen any of the 18 years prior to 2016 to make amends and get back in the studio, yet they chose the most necessary year ever to drop their final album, and unknowingly the last year of Phife Dawg’s life. We Got It from Here… is a beautiful collection of vintage Tribe flow and beats informed by 2016’s racism, gentrification, technology, politics, youth, and more, all through the lens of Tip and Phife as adults and parents. As a longtime Tribe fan who was 3 years old when The Low End Theory dropped, I felt emotional and connected even hearing Phife Dawg spit about surge pricing on Ubers. With countless features old (Busta Rhymes, Consequence) and new (Kendrick Lamar, Jack White), this album is an incredible Big Fish-esque swansong for one of hip hop’s most iconic groups. Ending their storied career on 1998’s The Love Movement would’ve been a pride of lions going out with an awkward and forgettable whimper, but with We Got It from Here…, the kids from Queens sent their careers — and brother — out with an emotional and thundering roar.

Recommended tracks: We The People…, Whateva Will Be, Enough!!

Explore A Tribe Called Quest: Apple Music / Site / Merch / Bandsintown / Facebook / Instagram

3. Tiger Army — “V”

Tiger Army’s first release in nine years was an absolutely pleasant surprise in a miserable year, and hearing Nick 13’s voice over slap bass in 2016 feels like a comforting homecoming. V is a rich, simple, and sturdy charmer that’s more “billy” than “psycho,” and features perfect kisses of love, regret, surf, maltshop nostalgia, and twang, with bits of Mexican love-ballad influences on tracks such as “I Am the Moth” and “Knife’s Edge”. This feels like Tiger Army’s most mature album to date, and if it turned out to be their last, it would serve as an exceedingly worthy capstone to the band’s incredible 20-plus year career.

Recommended tracks: Firefall, Prisoner of the Night, Train to Eternity

Explore Tiger Army: Apple Music / Site / Merch / Bandsintown / Facebook / Instagram

2. Vektor — “Terminal Redux”

Vektor’s third album is a beautiful, layered spectacle of musicianship and songwriting deserving of the band’s highest production value to date. Each song’s multi-movement structure, most notably in “Charging the Void” and “Recharging the Void,” makes every track an engaging journey into the interstellar world lead singer David DiSanto has created across Vektor’s discography. Terminal Redux is both thrash and concept album at their finest.

Recommended tracks: Ultimate Artificer, Charging the Void, Pillars of Sand

Explore Vektor: Bandcamp / Apple Music / Merch / Bandsintown / Facebook / Instagram

1. Night Moves — “Pennied Days”

Pulsing, smooth, twangy, warm, emotional, perfect — there are not enough words to describe Night Moves’ sophomore release Pennied Days. The Minneapolis group, led by hearthrob John Pelant, managed to compose an album on which every track could be the one you and your lover deem “your” song, or the one tune that makes you reflectively decide to get your life together. Building off their amazing debut, Colored Emotions, Night Moves weaves feelings and addictive hooks into the nostalgic and twangy classic-rock fabric of Pennied Days in a manner that feels comfortingly familiar yet astoundingly new. To reiterate my intro, 2016 was the worst year of my life, and this album made me cry and feel and hope and smile and sing along more than any other, and quite literally saved my life. Pennied Days did wonders for me at my worst — give it a few spins to see what this special band and album can make you feel.

Recommended tracks: Border on Border, Hiding in the Melody, Carl Sagan

Explore Night Moves: Bandcamp / Apple Music / Site / Merch / Bandsintown / Facebook / Instagram

*The 11th being Bernie Sanders, who would’ve won by the way.

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