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The Seven Best Rock Albums Of 2016

Rock is not dead, but it's evolving as the year's best albums take a step back to move forward.

Patrick Greenby Patrick Green
Photo: James Armstrong

The Seven Best Rock Albums Of 2016 proved yet again that the reports of the genre’s death has been greatly exaggerated. Sure, new rock albums that move the needle are few and far between, with a majority of them coming from iconic artists who we grew up with rather than discovered. 

Also: The Six Best Electronic Music Albums Of 2016

This year was no different with the likes of David Bowie and Radiohead topping my Seven Best Rock Albums list, but there were also some new voices (Lucy Dacus, Car Seat Headrest) whom are giving new life to the genre by simply distilling it to its analog core, while others like Savages and The Kills take a step back to move forward.

David Bowie – Blackstar

Bowie’s 25th and final album was a fitting coda to the beloved musical icon who has influenced artists across many mediums for generations now and then. Produced with longtime collaborator Tony Visconti, Blackstar, came out on Bowie’s 69th birthday just two days before his surprising death. The space rock, jazz-infused album is Bowie in classic chameleon form that feels more like a “good luck” than a simple “goodbye.”

Lucy Dacus – No Burden

In this Digital Age when identities are manufactured on social media, the 21-year-old Richmond, VA singer/songwriter writes poetic songs that feel ripped from the pages of her personal Moleskin.

The Kills – Ash And Ice

Ash And Ice sounds like a band having fun again. Vocalist Alison Mosshart and guitarist Jamie Hince are two black leather-clad alphas whose combustible spirit seemed to be waning, but five years away and modern studio toys have shifted the dynamic duo in an exciting new direction that still kicks ass. 

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

The veteran British powerhouse are that rare rock band who still can break the internet with their short notice releases like this first full-length since 2011’s The King Of Limbs. Opting for more epic orchestral arrangements than the electronic dystopian landscapes of Kid A, A Moon Shaped Pool finds Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood in fine doom and gloom form that’s not warning us of the impending apocalypse, but providing a soundtrack to it.

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Will Toledo is a throwback who cranks out ragged rock tunes that show a sharp wit and mastery of guitar. Although the twenty-something singer/songwriter has released over a dozen albums worth of material on his Bandcamp, Teens of Denial is his first “real” studio album. You can call it “college, indie, classic” or all of the above, because it simply and positively rocks.

Savages – Adore Life

So many bands try to do the post-punk Joy Division thing that it could be a genre onto itself. Ironically, it’s this English all-female foursome that capture the spirit and sound of their British forefathers with dark and dramatic love songs bathed in black.

Daughter – Not To Disappear

Released in January of this year, this somber sophomore album from the London trio proved to set the tone for what has been a dreary year. Thankfully, modern torch songs have never sounded so beautiful thanks to a lush sonic landscape that’s cold, yet masterfully crafted.