This piece originally published on Jeff’s Medium. Check it out here to read along with links.
While we’re all still reeling from the nightmare that was 2016, give a listen to some albums that didn’t make a huge splash in the moment.
#1: 3-way Split — Lions; Perspective, a Lovely Hand to Hold; Sports
When this EP dropped, I was only a fan of PALHTH. Now, I’m a fan of all three of these bands. Lions’ “Frankie ‘The Enforcer’ Stencchino” opens the album with that mathy-emo-indie-rock sound that’s become so popular as of late. I applaud Lions for breaking away from the mold and throwing in an ethereal pitch-shift at the end of the track. PALHTH holds down the middle of the EP with two tracks that are my new favorites from them, and Sports closes the one-sided EP with “Ranch” and the objectively cooler “Cool Ranch.” You know how sometimes you can tell an artist didn’t really put any effort into a track? That never happens on this split. Far from it.
#2 Treasure Pains — Slow Mass
The first Slow Mass song I heard was the live version of “Nice But Not Kind” uploaded by Puddle Splashers back in August of 2015. More than a year later, Slow Mass debuted with “Treasure Pains” on September 9. The album weaves elements of post-hardcore, grunge and emo effortlessly into 25 minutes of well-crafted punk. On “Bruce Lee,” Dave Collins’s voice cuts through the thick guitars to warn us that “If you lay a hand on her / I will end you / in the sewers.” If you miss Pity Sex, or wish they were a smidge more aggressive, give this album a listen. You won’t be disappointed.
#3 Else — Solids
While we’re on the topic of thick guitar tones, Solids put out Else; an EP so thick you couldn’t cut it with a knife. Else is the first release from the band since their LP “Blame Confusion,” and is filled to the brim with the sound. From the soaring riffs on “Wait It Out” to the never-static drums on “Shine,” Else deliver punch after punch of riff-heavy rock that’ll grab your attention for its entire 19-minute runtime.
#4 Not Once, Not Never — Yes Yes A Thousand Times Yes
There’s no doubt YY1KXY are four of the most talented dudes making “mathy punky indie pop” in 2016. On “Not Once, Not Never,” they offer the cure to the short attention span with a seemingly never-ending cache of riffs and vocal patterns that come at you faster than you can process them. I love this album so much that I forgot it came out this year. In the four months since it’s release I’ve listened to it so many times that I assumed it had been in heavy rotation for my entire life.
#5 Home — The Exquisites
The third full-length release from the Exquisites is a powerhouse of perfectly-assembled rock that can only come from 20 years of experience. Thankfully, the Exquisites’ Jason Clackley and Gavin Tiemeyer have been writing songs together since they were 10 years old. The horns really pull this album together, accenting chord changes and lead guitar solos as if there couldn’t be any other way. Clackley’s voice cascades up and down across “Home,” piloting the album through quick kickers to it’s peak at “Climbing Down at the End of the Day,” and then swimming back through a B side that couldn’t stop if it wanted to.
#6 Shapeshifter — IAN SWEET
IAN SWEET’s strength lies in what makes them different from anything else I’ve heard this year. James Rettig of Stereogum calls this album “syrupy” and humans will struggle for generations to come to find a more accurate description for the way Jillian Medford’s lyrics drip and slide out of her mouth and into your ear drums.