Editor Ken’s Top Ten Albums of 2016
Rock and roll has returned with an all-out vengeance, with many veteran bands on my Top 10 List of 2016. Epic comeback albums by the Dan Reed Network and Foghat really made this year worthwhile. New bands such as Waterparks and Out Came The Wolves surely go above and beyond what’s normally expected from the pop-punk and metalcore/post hardcore genres. And then there’s the absolutely mesmerizing final album by David Bowie entitled Blackstar – a brilliant masterpiece destined to haunt the listener for an eternity.
As it is with any year, visit my Top EP list to discover incredible new talent destined to break on through in 2017 and beyond. In addition, rock solid EP’s were unveiled by the hard rocking Autograph as well as from Chris Green, the supremely gifted guitarist from Tyketto.
And so here is the Highwire Daze Top Ten Albums and EP’s of 2016 brought to you by Editor Ken (in alphabetical order)…
L.A. Darkness by AOR (Perris Records)
AOR is the masterwork project of guitarist Frederic Slama and L.A. Darkness marks his 16th glorious magnum opus. Each and every song contained within could be all over the worldwide radio airwaves, including such gems as The Smartest Girl In L.A., Blueprint For Love, One Foot In Heaven, and Why Girls Say No. And stick around for the end to hear a dazzling instrumental entitled Burning Rainbows. Also featuring the participation of Jeff Scott Soto, Steve Overland of FM, Jesse Damon of Silent Rage, Tommy Denander and whole lot more, L.A. Darkness pays tribute to all things legendary with radio friendly rock from the City of Angels. A timeless classic features songs that will blissfully spin in your head for ages!
AOR on Facebook
Fight Another Day by Dan Reed Network (Frontiers Music)
Back in their major label beginnings, the Dan Reed Network was one of the most scandalously underrated bands on the planet. Their three albums were phenomenal exercises in socially conscious rock and roll laced with a playful amount of soul and funk. And now in 2016, the story continues with Fight Another Day, and it’s certainly Dan Reed’s Network’s most gripping and inspiring album. Featuring 13 brand new tracks that will make you want to take on the world at large, Dan Reed Network is back with a striking recording that is nothing short of an all-out triumph. This sonic battlefield of the heart and soul features such powerful tracks as Infected, The Brave, Save The World and a whole lot more!
Dan Reed Network on Facebook
Blackstar by David Bowie (ISO/Columbia Records)
2016 has been an absolutely devastating year for the arts, with many iconic entertainers leaving us way too soon. David Bowie meant a lot to music fans of all ages. Two days after his masterwork Blackstar was issued, the world would find out that David Bowie had passed away from cancer. Blackstar suddenly took on a whole new meaning as a self-epitaph for a musical visionary, and is an absolutely gripping work of sheer artistry. Tracks such as Lazarus, Tis A Pity She Was A Whore, and the stunning title cut are mesmerizing compositions that dazzle the senses. And now nearly a year after his passing on this Earth, while one has to imagine and accept a world without David Bowie, Blackstar and his other classic recordings will live on for an eternity.
David Bowie on Facebook
Make Some Noise by The Dead Daisies (Spitfire Records)
The Dead Daisies are Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio), John Corabi (Mötley Crüe/The Scream), Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy/Whitesnake), Brian Tichy (Ozzy Osbourne/Billy Idol), and David Lowy (Red Phoenix/Mink)! If the epic lineup of musicians is not enough to seal the deal, their dynamic album Make Some Noise is destined to send you into the auditory stratosphere. With all members at the very height if their craft, The Dead Daisies will rock your world with raging selections such as Long Way To Go, We All Fall Down, and Song And A Prayer. Also featured within are dazzling covers by CCR (Fortunate Son) and The Who (Join Together With The Band). Whether opening for KISS, or selling out The Whisky and other venues while headlining all around the world, The Dead Daisies and Make Some Noise are a massive 2016 and beyond hard rocking highlight.
The Dead Daisies on Facebook
The Defiants by The Defiants (Frontiers Music)
The Defiants is a new band put together by Paul Laine, Bruno Ravel and Rob Marcello of Danger Danger fame, and it’s certainly a rock and roll spectacular! Songs such as Love And Bullets, When The Lights Go Out and Waiting On A Heartbreak are dazzling AOR perfection – just about any song of The Defiants’ debut artillery of tunes could be played all over classic rock radio. Produced with skillful precision by Ravel, The Defiants is an absolute triumph for all involved! Here’s hoping we see a few shows from the band in the brand new year! In the meantime, check into the new project from the various members of Danger Danger and prepare to be thoroughly captivated.
The Defiants on Facebook
Under The Influence by Foghat (Foghat Records)
Under The Influence is the 17th mammoth recording by the legendary rock and blues band Foghat, and it shows a collective still at the very height of their creative blues rocking energy. From the tasty lead guitar licks and powerhouse vocals of former Ted Nugent/Victory vocalist Charlie Huhn, the sliding axe work of ex-Molly Hatchet member Bryan Bassett, the pulsating low end bass of longtime participant Craig MacGregor, to the driving beats of original member and drummer extraordinaire Roger Earl, Foghat sounds like a band ready to rock and roll you for another dozen albums or so! In addition to the wickedly catchy title cut, highlights include Knock It Off, Hot Mama, Upside Of Lonely, two memorable Savoy Brown covers and a rip-roaring updated rendition of the almighty Slow Ride!
Foghat on Facebook
Strange Fate by Out Came The Wolves (Roadrunner Records)
Based within the metalcore/post hardcore side of the spectrum, the inspiring sonic adventures presented by Out Came The Wolves unveil an epic and cathartic jolt to the senses. And now with a debut album Strange Fate being unveiled through Roadrunner Records, Out Came The Wolves is sure to seal the deal with all music fans looking to be thoroughly enraptured by a thrilling new band on the rise. Featuring wildly charismatic front man Cameron Burns, and tremendously solid musicianship from all members including ex-Youth In Revolt member George Shrouder. Whether it’s the dark romanticism of Bleed, the anthem like refrains of Baby Blue or the fiercely brutal ILoveHateYou, Strange Fate is a captivating work of artistry surely signifying even greater glories ahead.
Out Came The Wolves on Facebook
InVader by Reckless Love (Spinefarm Records)
InVader by Finland’s merry metallers Reckless Love could easily be the soundtrack to your hot and decadent summer. Combining hard rock and roll with the vibrancy of wildly infectious sleaze, Reckless Love is destined to heat up listeners even beyond the elusive borders of the Scandinavian countries. InVader is their fourth magnum opus to date, featuring eleven supremely tasty cuts that will remain embedded in your love/lust starved head for ages! The thrills and spills of the late 80’s and early 90’s have now returned with a vengeance, ready to corrupt a whole new generation of music fans. Revel to the rollicking sounds of We Are The Weekend, Hands, Rock It, and the wickedly wonderful Pretty Boy Swagger.
Reckless Love on Facebook
Double Dare by Waterparks (Equal Vision Records)
After spending a summer of the Vans Warped Tour performing songs from their stand out Cluster EP released earlier in the year, Waterparks concluded 2016 with a wickedly sensational full length slice of pop punk goodness entitled Double Dare. Very much on par with classics from bands such as Good Charlotte and Yellowcard, Double Dare is brimming with pop-tastic anthems such as Hawaii (Stay Awake), Gloom Boys, and the vivacious dancehall inflections of Take Her To The Moon. Made In America then hints at social commentary that is as bitterly ironic as it is rocking. Waterparks features the rapturous talents of Awsten Knight on guitars and lead vocals, Geoff Wigington on guitar, and Otto Wood on drums – and with Double Dare, they more than cement their place within the “Pop Punk’s Not Dead” manifesto.
Waterparks on Facebook
Reunion by Whitford/St. Holmes (Mailboat Records)
The return of Brad Whitford (Aerosmith) and Derek St. Holmes (Ted Nugent) has produced one of the very best rock and roll albums of the year – featuring nine solid tracks that should be all over the worldwide radio airwaves. Reunion is the name of album, and the newly reformed collaboration of Whitford/St Homes is absolutely on fire! And as an extra treat to fans old and new, CD versions also contain a brand new remastered edition of the very first Whitford/St. Holmes release from 1981! Let’s hope it’s not another 30-plus years before we hear from this dynamic duo again! Top cuts include Tender Is The Night, Rock All Day, Hot For You – the whole album actually is ace!!!
Whitford/St. Holmes on Facebook
Editor Ken’s Top Ten EP’s of 2016
Louder by Autograph (Self-released EP)
Autograph is a melodic hard rocking collective best known for their massive hit Turn Up The Radio, a wildly infectious song that made its way onto the worldwide airwaves in 1984. The Southern California band would release three major label albums in the 80’s before practically disappearing off the face of the Earth. With their glorious comeback EP Louder, Autograph is sure to intrigue their longtime fans as well as bring newer converts in for the rock and roll party. The next great chapter of the band has indeed begun! Soon to be Autograph classics contained within are You Are Us We Are You, Every Generation, and I Lost My Mind In America. The new lineup features Simon Daniels from Jailhouse on vocals.
Autograph on Facebook
Unveil EP by Chris Green (Self-released EP)
Best known as the lead guitarist in Tyketto, Chris Green has issued a solo work of sweeping sonic artistry that is absolutely epic in scope. The Unveil EP is a fully instrumental recording – an ambitious, deeply emotional work performed by an obviously underrated guitar virtuoso. Tracks such as Undefeated and Once Forgotten display a grand amount of passion and intrigue. And concluding the EP on a profound note is Welcome For A Soldier – clocking in at over seven minutes in length, showing guitarist Green at the very height of his creative prowess. Once you encounter the dazzling refrains of Green’s stellar work on the superb Reach by Tyketto, take further exploration into the auditory adventure of Unveil and prepare to be swept away into hydrasonic bliss!
Chris Green Official Home Page
Alligator Tears by The Downtown Fiction (Self-released EP)
So what does a band do after exiting a contract with a fairly big record label? Record their very best music ever of course! In 2016, The Downtown Fiction are on fire, delivering a compelling EP that should really make an impact as they embark on the next great chapter of a brilliant career. Judging by the timeless songs found throughout Alligator Tears, the talented musicians of The Downtown Fiction are definitely in it for the long haul. Alligator Tears by The Downtown Fiction is an exhilarating collection of pure sonic bliss that you’ll want to revisit incessantly. Top songs on the EP include Let’s Fade Away and Hepburn Shades.
The Downtown Fiction on Facebook
Written Off, Moving On by Dreamer & Son (Self-released)
In a world of lackluster bands looking to emulate whatever is currently popular, it’s terrific to encounter an enlightened collective such as Dreamer & Son looking to change the world with their refreshing visions of ambient rock. Written Off, Moving On is a gorgeous and poignant collection of songs that will certainly set the imagination in flight. Fans of bands such as Tides Of Man and Codeseven should thoroughly enjoy the passionate songs Dreamer & Son has to offer. Intimate yet emotionally devastating, Dreamer & Son is sure is sure to enchant all types of music aficionados looking to be swept away on a powerful auditory journey.
Dreamer & Son on Facebook
The Draft EP by My Heart To Fear (Luxor Records)
After a tenure with Solid State Recordings followed up by a self-imposed hiatus, the almighty My Heart To Fear explodes back into metalcore/post hardcore arena with an all-out vengeance. The Draft EP possesses a grand amount of dynamics and is sure to thrill all types of music fans looking to be enraptured by the best of rapturously independent heavy music. The perfect amalgamation of melody and intensity, The Draft EP by My Heart To Fear is a captivating relaunch for a collective ready to rage on once more. Here’s hoping we encounter a lot more from My Heart To Fear as they remain one of the most exciting yet vastly underrated metal bands in the US of A and beyond.
My Heart To Fear on Facebook
Night Argent EP by Night Argent (Self-released)
Night Argent played the Vans Warped Tour over the summer, and the Pasco, WA-based collective surely made a good amount of new fans in the process with their cinematic anthem-like rock and roll. With a Self-Titled EP that will thrill the senses and send your imagination soaring, Night Argent’s captivating songs include the glorious Nothing More Beautiful, the starry-eyed inflections of Comet (Light It Up) and the wickedly ominous yet insanely infectious Widowmaker. Warped Tour has always been the place to discover new bands to enjoy for a lifetime, and those who ran into Night Argent and secured a copy of their EP already know how tremendously talented this up and coming band is.
Night Argent on Facebook
Illhearted by So Far Left (Self-released EP)
So Far Left is a post hardcore collective from Orange County who has been flying under the radar since their inception in 2009. Featuring the participation of Brandon Espinoza – who spent some time within the membership of both Spineshank and Snot – So Far Left is about to unleash their third auditory epic entitled Illhearted. It’s been a few years since we’ve heard anything from within the ranks of So Far Left, but Illhearted is infinitely worth the wait. Each member of So Far Left delivers the goods with imagination and flair, bringing their own vast influences to the table, unveiling a distinctive sound that is ferociously compelling. So Far Left is sure to crash into the big leagues in the brand New Year.
So Far Left on Facebook
I’m So Dead by The Stolen (Self-released EP)
The Stolen is a Pop Rock band from Old Bridge, NJ, consisting of Dom Cuce (Vocals), Rob Chiarappa (Guitar/Vocals), Kevin Smart (Bass), and Mike Chiarappa (Drums). Presenting heartfelt songs that swirl warmly into your senses, The Stolen present a unique sound that is wondrous to behold. Tracks such as White Dress and Can’t Get Enough tantalize the listener with their gorgeous refrains and bittersweet lyrics. With a universal appeal that should entice the indie crowd as well as the pure pop fanatics, The Stolen is destined to run away with the hearts and ears of many a music aficionado. It will be exciting to hear new material from this exhilarating collective in the months ahead.
The Stolen on Facebook
Waking The Neighbours by Such Strange Arts (Standby Records)
Any pop punk bands singing about listening to “Mötley Crüe on the radio” while channeling genre greats such Blink 182 and Yellowcard is destined to rank high on anyone’s playlist. Waking The Neighbours by Such Strange Arts from the UK is pure pop punk perfection that you’ll want to spin incessantly until the end of time. Whether it’s the scandalously catchy Criminal, the rambunctious title tracks, or their superbly emotional ballad Stay, Such Strange Arts is sure captivate the world with their blissful soundtrack of your summer (or any time of year.) At press time, Such Strange Arts announced they would be breaking up with a final show at Chinnerys, Southend on December 23!
Such Strange Arts on Facebook
Cluster by Waterparks (Equal Vision Records)
Fans of Blink 182 and Good Charlotte were over the moon when hearing Waterparks’ debut EP on Equal Vision Records. Cluster is jammed packed with five wildly infectious songs that will jangle on in your head forever and a day. Crave is diabolically catchy as hell and the four songs that are absolute sonic bliss for all pop punks and punkettes. After their local LA debut opening for Good Charlotte, Waterparks spent the summer blasting the eardrums of pop rocking fans on the Vans Warped Tour. Released back in January, Cluster has been on a constant spin cycle here at the Daze ever since! A terrific pre-cursor for their debut full length Double Dare.
Waterparks on Facebook
A sampling from the very best releases of 2016. Now bring on the music classics of the New Year!
(Compiled by Ken Morton)