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It’s that time of year for us to count down each of our top ten favorite albums of 2016. Check out Chez’s list below!

10. Dollys - Low Year

Dollys are a trio from New Brunswick, New Jersey composed of members Natalie Newbold (drummer and singer), Jeff Lane (guitarist), and Erik Kase Romero (bassist and producer). This indie pop band is heavily influenced by The Beach Boys and The Beatles.

Low Year was released in early March featuring fun harmonies and orchestral undertones-- putting a different spin on what you might expect from an indie pop band. This is the kind of album I would listen to on an overcast day when I am not quite ecstatic, but still have an incentive to be happy.

9. Lucy Dacus - No Burden

Lucy Dacus is another fabulous musician from Richmond, Virginia. Her and her band have an indie rock sound with folk roots, and there is nothing quite like it.

No Burden, which came out towards the end of February, is a mixture of acoustic ballads and harder rock songs. Her complex and wordy lyrics discuss the ideas of self fulfillment and the quest for love. Dacus has a very humbling presence in her music, which makes for much more relatable music. Her deep, warm voice is incredibly welcoming. When I listen to Lucy Dacus, I feel like I can peacefully take over the world and no one will really question it. I feel empowered.

8. Young Scum - Zona

Young Scum describes themselves as “jangle fuzz pop fun from Richmond, VA” and let me tell you, jangle fuzz pop fun is the only way to describe them.

Their fifth album titled Zona came out this July and it sounds like July. With Zona comes in rushing feels of summer, a laid back friday night with six of your acquaintances, and really cold beer. This album is a staple of feel good music. Roll-down-the-windows-of-your-car-and-pretend-your-hand-is-a-dolphin-even-though-it’s-December-now kind of music.

7. Jawbreaker Reunion - Haha and Then What ;)

Jawbreaker is an all femme punk band from Annandale in Hudson, New York. Their album haha and then what ;) was released in late February. The punk trio attends Bard College.

Haha and then what ;) takes me to the deepest parts of my teenage angst, it makes me want to start a riot, and I mean that in the best way. You can hear the anger in every strum of the guitar with sweet and power stricken vocals. The lyrics explore past relationships and anger. The line “the nasuea in my stomach is more feeling than you ever, ever gave” from Patches is a perfect summarization of this album.

6. Hello Shark - Delicate

Hello Shark is a bedroom lo-fi project of Linc Hallorans based out of Philadelphia. Delicate was also released in late September. Getting to see Hello Shark live was an experience I will not forget.

Delicate creates a relationship with the listener that is intimate and brutally honest. Calming synth, lo-fi guitar, and soothing harmonies construct everything that is Delicate. The best way to listen to this is sitting on an uncleaned carpet in your bedroom with only partially lit string lights and chinese take out on a Saturday night when all your friends are out doing things except for you. Bask in the delicacy that is Delicate then and only then.

5. LVL UP - Return to Love

LVL UP is a lo-fi rock band hailing from Brooklyn, New York. The band formed in 2011 and Return to Love, which is their third album, was released in late September. I was lucky enough to see them play at Crayola House the day before the album was released.

This album has me nonchalantly headbanging in public, with nothing more than a soft smile. The guitars are a part of some beast that is very much alive. The jams in "Pain" and "The Closing Door" are unparalleled, it feels like you are there even when you’re listening to the music through seven dollar headphones.

4. Camp Howard - Camp Howard

Camp Howard is a grunge, fuzz pop band from Richmond, Virginia. The band also has a heavy Latin and Spanish influence which is blissfully refreshing for grunge music. They released their self titled debut album in March of this year.

This album draws a picture of a vacation that I am desperate to go on. This album makes me feel like I am walking through a desert, but oddly enough, I am well hydrated. The bass lines in "Heavy Blow" and "Llorando Y Fumando" will make your ears smile and your mouth hear. I am left hungry for more and cannot wait to hear what's next.

3. Sha Shakusky - XX (EP)

Sha Shakusky is a lady loop cutta, a beat smith, and a badass from Richmond, VA. Sha’s music is experimental looping that has you grooving in ways you did not know you could.

As for XX, you better close your eyes because you are on a journey that waits for no one. In ten relatively short tracks (clocking in at about a minute and a half each), she constructs a different vibe in each song. There is a cohesive blend of synth, hip-hop, funk, and ambiguous voices. This blend is cut and layered into a creation not like anything I have ever heard.

2. Dogwood Tales - Dogwood Tales

Dogwood Tales is a duo local to Harrisonburg, Virginia. Their self-titled debut EP was released in late summer. This Neo-Folk band will make you wake up at the crack of dawn and drive 30 miles into the middle of nowhere with these five songs on repeat. I know that’s what this EP made me do.

Recurring themes of love, struggle, and childhood provoked intense lows and euphoric highs for me. The harmonies in every song have me blown away. Get ready to sit back and fall into a nostalgia that you may not even have lived.

1. Pinegrove - Cardinal

Cardinal has me laughing and crying in awe at the size of the moon. This album hands down takes first place in my top ten. Wow. Pinegrove hails from Montclair, New Jersey and puts the most personal spin on emo-tinged alt-rock I have ever experienced. The eight track album has themes of extreme introspective examination and self reflection. It’s just so personal. Beyond that, each song has its own unique groove.

I had the pleasure of meeting Evan Stephens Hall (lead guitar and singer) and Nick Levine (guitarist) from the band in August at Crayola House. The two performed an acoustic set of Cardinal as well as a few off of their previous album titled Everything So Far. Evan sang with so much emotion and was so genuine about what he was communicating in his songs. Cardinal is soulful, heart-wrenching, and head-banging.

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