Arctic Drones’ 50 Favourite Albums of 2016

PALACE WINTER – WAITING FOR THE WORLD TO TURN

Waiting for the World to Turn was predestined to be this year’s greatest debut album, until it turned out that 2016 was actually a year of many great debut records. Nevertheless, Palace Winter’s bundle of strange textures and noisy keyboards turns out to be one of this year’s most ear-pleasing indie records. By Robert Westerveld

RELEASE INFO: 06 May 2016, Tambourhinoceros
TAGS: Alternative, Indie rock, Psychedelic, Denmark
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PINEGROVE – CARDINAL

8 songs. 30 minutes. Pure alternative rock bliss. This is the one new band I heard in 2016 that feels almost guaranteed to be hugely successful 18 months from now. Evan Stephens Hall is incredibly charismatic in a live setting. They have such a natural, fluid sound, as if they’ve been playing together for decades. It’s like what every indie rock band wants to sound like, until they have to settle for what they actually sound like. By David Zeidler

RELEASE INFO: 12 June 2016, Run For Cover Records
TAGS: Indie Rock, Alternative Rock, Roots Rock, United States
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PLINI – HANDMADE CITIES

Plini has been writing highly impressive prog-metal EPs for years now and it was about time he released his first full-length album. Handmade Cities is Plini through and through, and what a joy it is to listen to. The grass is greener, the sun shines a little brighter and the air is oh-so sweeter every time one listens to Handmade Cities. By Roberto Pereira

RELEASE INFO: August 26, 2016, Self-released
TAGS: Progressive metal, Fusion, Instrumental, Australia
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POLY-MATH – MELENCOLIA

Poly-Math have made a massive step up with Melencolia and became one of the most exciting bands in math. Melencolia flows with poise and explodes with invention; it’s as interesting and catchy as you could hope for in the genre, while maintaining an immersive prog element. More please. By Kane Power

RELEASE INFO: 08 April 2016, Superstar Destroyer Records
TAGS: Math rock, Instrumental, Progressive rock, United Kingdom
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PRAY FOR SOUND – EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL

Everything (about this album) is Beautiful. The composition of each individual track, the composition of the album as a whole, and even the vinyl’s packaging is gorgeous. The two sides of this album are like two sides of a coin, and I love them both equally. It’s one of the only conceptual albums that stands out in 2016. By Aaron Edwards

RELEASE INFO: 23 September 2016, IAMSHARK Records, AMFM Records, dunk!records
TAGS: Post-rock, Instrumental, United States
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PSYCHIC LEMON – PSYCHIC LEMON

The only caveat to Psychic Lemon’s debut is that they set the bar impressively high. On the other hand, that’s a brilliant problem to have. As far as psychedelic/progressive rock music goes, they seem to have nailed everything, starting with the concept, through vocal and instrumental execution, all the way to quality recording. A must! By Jacek Kozinski

RELEASE INFO: 4 March 2016, Drone Rock Records
TAGS: Rock, Psychedelic, Progressive, England
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RADIOHEAD – A MOON SHAPED POOL

One of the most anticipated albums this year from one of the biggest bands in the world and it doesn’t disappoint. Radiohead continually manages to innovate and impress, while maintaining incredible beauty throughout their work. A Moon Shaped Pool is a luxurious listen by masters of art. By Kane Power

RELEASE INFO: 08 May 2016, XL
TAGS: Art Rock, Electronica, Alternative Rock, England
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RANGES – THE GODS OF THE COPYBOOK HEADINGS

A reminder of all that post-rock can be when truly inspired. You can write an entire album in C major and still have an engaging listen that stirs the soul and conjures rich imagery with every note. With this album, you get nothing less than a profound masterclass in straightforward post-rock that pays homage to the genre’s less-theatrical roots. By Jonathan Spratling

RELEASE INFO: 26 February 2016, A Thousand Arms Music
TAGS: Post-rock, Instrumental, Rock, United States
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RUSSIAN CIRCLES – GUIDANCE

Packed with striking riffs and meditative melodies, Guidance explores conventional form but succeeds in finding balance, resulting in an emotional, crushing masterpiece. The band continues to impress and holds the crown as one of the masters of post metal. By Milana Jovic

RELEASE INFO: 5 August 2016, Sargent House
TAGS: Instrumental, Metal, Post-metal, United States
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SAVAGES – ADORE LIFE

Savages’ second album shines with the brightness of a decade’s worth of accumulated influence. Adore Life is sonically brilliant and artistically precise post-punk for fans of The Smiths, The Clash, PJ Harvey and Sonic Youth. Savages refresh the genre with conviction and passion. By Kane Power

RELEASE INFO: 22 January 2016, Matador
TAGS: Post-punk, Noise rock, Rock, London
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SHOW ME A DINOSAUR – SHOW ME A DINOSAUR

Show Me A Dinosaur has impressed me deeply with their masterful blend of Post-Rock and Black Metal. This pioneering album is important to me and important to this genre, and I sincerely hope that it heralds a new trend in Post-Rock. Even if it doesn’t, I will listen to this often. By Aaron Edwards

RELEASE INFO: 8 March 2016, Elusive Sound
TAGS: Black Metal, Post-rock, Post-metal, Russia
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SIOUM – YET FURTHER

A monumental instrumental album and a stellar return for Sioum. Coherent, expansive, courageous and elegant – all of these apply to Yet Further, in spades. The record never gets boring and is a masterpiece of compositional craftsmanship and artistry. By Mircea Laslo

RELEASE INFO: 20 May 2016, Self-released
TAGS: Instrumental, Progressive metal, Post-metal, United States
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SMALLMAN & IVAN SHOPOV – INNER OCEANS

I’ve been following the work of Smallman for some time now and when I heard they were bringing an electronic artist for the new EP, I was quite surprised. However, Inner Oceans turned out to be a perfect collaboration and one of my favorite releases this year. A dark, atmospheric ethno-metal approach meeting  unique, electronic ambient. A must-hear! By Milana Jovic

RELEASE INFO: 17 November 2016, Self-released
TAGS: Alternative, Folk, Atmospheric metal, Bulgaria
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STRANGE RANGER (FORMERLY SIOUX FALLS) – ROT FOREVER

Simply put, the “Lonesome Crowded West” of this generation. Sprawling, occasionally silly, with a slacker aesthetic, but never lacking in great songs, this album wanders a lot and often feels either improvised or not necessarily concerned with perfection during recording, but all of this ultimately benefits the final product. There may not be an album I listened to more this year. It rocks from front to back, but also has an intermittent melancholic backbone that helps it rise above the rest of the pack. By David Zeidler

RELEASE INFO: 19 February 2016, Broken World Media
TAGS: Indie Rock, Post-Punk, Yolo-fi, United States
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SUNNATA – ZORYA

Zorya is probably the heaviest album I have ever connected with, especially among non-instrumentals. Two interweaving lines of vocals, tons of heavily distorted guitars, and a drum line that beautifully composes with the overall atmosphere while ensuring that the outcome is melodic and thus not overwhelmingly heavy. “Just” extremely heavy and awesome. By Jacek Kozinski

RELEASE INFO: 11 April 2016, Self-released
TAGS: Metal, Doom, Stoner, Poland
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THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN – DISSOCIATION

The exclamation mark on the career of a hugely influential band; Dissociation pulses with clarity and focus. Every element is purposeful. The only predictable aspect of this album is that Dillinger can still constantly surprise the listener. Dissociation encapsulates everything The Dillinger Escape Plan has done and everything they represent. It’s utterly astounding. By Kane Power

RELEASE INFO: 14 October 2016, Party Smasher
TAGS: Mathcore, Experimental, Hardcore, United States
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THE MERCURY TREE – PERMUTATIONS

I remember when I was a teenager trying to figure out prog, I could never find anything both undeniably strange yet still palatable. Enter The Mercury Tree. Granted, I found King Crimson a bit late into the game, but this one goes to eleven! Polarizing, masterfully executed, and genuinely weird while not at all esoteric. Oh, and there are microtones – plenty of them. Insanely original songwriting that never, ever settles for the path of least resistance. By Jonathan Spratling

RELEASE INFO: 30 March 2016, Self-released
TAGS: Avant-Garde rock, Art rock, Progressive rock, United States
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THE MOST – AT ONCE

This album was everything to me this year. Guitars and saxes bounce a flurry of ideas off of each other like hot potatoes –  it’s like Schrödinger’s box, except the cat lives to tell the tale. Urbane sophistication meets restless small-town candor. The Most have obviously been around the block, and the cloudy skies and distorted frame of the album artwork suggest things back home can’t ever be like they used to be. But sometimes you go back anyway. By Jonathan Spratling

RELEASE INFO: 05 July 2016, Self-released
TAGS: Math rock, Emo, Indie Rock, United States
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THE PINEAPPLE THIEF – YOUR WILDERNESS

After two albums that were more on the alternative side of The Pineapple Thief, they are back with Your Wilderness, an album that confirms a return to their post-prog/art rock sound. There is much more variety, as Bruce Soord’s songwriting is at its best on what is amongst their greatest efforts. By Eloi Mayano-Vinet

RELEASE INFO: 12 August 2016, Kscope
TAGS: Progressive rock, Alternative rock, Art rock, United Kingdom
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TRNA – LOSE YOURSELF TO FIND PEACE

Lose Yourself to Find Peace is two massive tracks of sweeping guitars, blistering drums, and massive passages of celestial blackgaze. I get lost in it so easily. The sheer size of this album overshadows most all the other music I’ve listened to this year. By Aaron Edwards

RELEASE INFO: 23 September 2016, Elusive Sound
TAGS: Black Metal, Post-rock, Blackgaze, Russia
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UNIVERSE217 – CHANGE

Universe217 have been consistently amazing for a decade, but their 2016 album is a watershed moment in their discography, and one of the best metal records I’ve heard all year. The vocal work is simply chilling, as Tania has incorporated extreme metal vocals into her repertoire. Her growling feels primal, like a storm unleashed, and the composition is excellent on all songs, making Change a must-hear among this year’s releases. By Mircea Laslo

RELEASE INFO: 18 March 2016, Van Records
TAGS: Doom Metal, Experimental, Downtempo, Greece
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VEKTOR – TERMINAL REDUX

Perhaps not the most “interesting” metal record this year, but definitely the most well-written. Using technical playing and intelligent songwriting, Vektor manage to fascinate its audience for a full hour with stories about revenge, dominating the universe, and eternal life — talking about a nutshell. Awesome concept record with lasting power equal to other classics of the progressive genre. By Robert Westerveld

RELEASE INFO: 06 May 2016, Earache Records
TAGS: Progressive metal, Thrash metal, Metal, United States
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VIRTA – HURMOS

The Finnish trio’s new album Hurmos is not only one of the best albums of the year but already a contender for the best instrumental albums of the decade. Drawing influences mainly from jazz and first-wave post-rock whilst containing a dazzling coalescence of guitars, trumpet, percussion instruments and electronics, Hurmos offers a unique experimental sound that stirs the soul and spirit. By Aytac Denk

RELEASE INFO: 02 December 2016, Svart Records
TAGS: Experimental, Jazz fusion, Post-rock, Instrumental, Finland
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WANG WEN – SWEET HOME, GO!

A worthy successor and more stylistically coherent counterpart to 2014’s Eight Horses, Wang Wen are accomplished musicians who know how to extract every ounce of potential from the notes they play. For the most part, the album chugs along at a primordial pace, enveloping the listener with rich harmonies that accomplish so much with comparably little. While it may seem sparse at first, this album rewards repeated listens exponentially. By Jonathan Spratling

RELEASE INFO: 19 October 2016, Pelagic Records
TAGS: Post-rock, Instrumental, Experimental, China
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YNDI HALDA – UNDER SUMMER

After a long absence, Yndi Halda catapult themselves back into post-rock’s forefront with a sweet, delicate gem of an album that completely divests itself of the precedent set on the band’s ten-year-old debut. Prominent strings provide a foundation that lets each crescendo unfold at its own pace, never rushed in the slightest. By Jonathan Spratling

RELEASE INFO: 04 March 2016, Big Scary Monsters
TAGS: Post-rock, Emo, Indie, United Kingdom
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See the first part on the previous page: 1 – 25 (In alphabetical order)

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2 Comments

  • Gary, honestly, I think that some of us were also surprised that “Rheia” didn’t find its way onto this list. I think it probably would have shown up on a decent amount of our Top 10’s or Top 15’s had we expanded that far out, but at the end of the day it didn’t show up on any of our Top 5-6. Still a great record though, thanks for pointing it out.

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