30. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
Someday, when books are written about Kanye West’s career and all his artistic decisions are carved open, The Life of Pablo will come to be seen as an enduring pseudo-autobiotragedy – a modern day Station to Station or Astral Weeks. Already, The Life of Pablo has attained a flagrantly unnatural and unholy state; West may no longer be hyperventilating or screaming, but the demons he faces are still real. That opening verse of “Ultralight Beam” – “Deliver us serenity, deliver us peace / Deliver us loving – we know we need it” hints at a genuine desire for salvation, yet he still can’t go five minutes without threatening the school coach or somehow embarrassing his extended family. The man is fire masquerading as ice; a hammer in a nail-free world. But name me one genius that ain’t crazy. –Irving Tan
29. Yellowcard – Yellowcard
There’s something to be said for knowing when to hang up the mic. We’ve all seen bands age poorly, releasing tired-sounding efforts that neither expand upon their repertoire nor satisfy the craving for a return to “the glory days.” Sensing that their days were numbered, especially due to the burgeoning personal lives of each respective band member, Yellowcard made the extremely difficult but honorable choice to bow out gracefully. Their self-titled tenth and final album is just about everything that a fan of this band could ask for: it’s catchy as all hell, consistently upbeat, and it delivers some of the hardest hitting emotional moments of the group’s two-decade run. The lyrical content wraps up a lot of the open-ended themes that popped up as motifs going as far back as Ocean Avenue: unrequited love finds a family (“On these shelves I keep my family / In this bed I watch them fall asleep”), peace is made with the evasive concept of home (“I don’t have much that I can give to you / But I love the way you make me feel / Like I’m at home and I am not alone”), and growing up finally goes from an infinite concept to a present reality (“Change comes for you / Even if you’re hiding out”). It’s as if a lot of the reasons that Yellowcard set out to make music in the first place ran their natural course, and now they’re ready to fade peacefully into a past memory. The finality of Yellowcard is both sad and nostalgic, but it’s also immensely satisfying. With this album, they’ve done right by their fanbase as well as their own legacy and have written the final chapter to one of the most successful stories in pop-punk history. RIP Yellowcard, you will be missed. –SowingSeason
28. Saor – Guardians
Banners proudly flapping in the wind. Bagpipes playing morale-boosting hymns. Wind frolicking down the mountainsides. A calmness before the storm shrouds everything for the moment. You take it all in. You see the possibilities in front of you – you’ve been in this position before – yet it’s always different, the results always unknown. Still, there is nowhere you’d rather be than among friends, ready to overcome with them everything the world has to throw at you. Ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for what you love and believe in.
The martyrs of Scotland that now are away
For home, for those dearest to you, for fatherland, once more. This is the modern soundtrack to it all. –Magnus Altküla
27. Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts
Being one of the finest heavy metal acts out of Sweden, Katatonia have made an impressive amount of material over the years, streamlining their sound more recently. One element that has remained intact throughout their various transformations is their masterful use of atmosphere, with The Fall of Hearts striving for a more ambitious sound overall. Bold musical explorations are abound while keeping with the doom and gloom that makes up the marrow of Katatonia’s sound. Dreary, melodic guitar riffs and melodies transform beautifully over Jonas Renkse’s sorrowful vocals throughout album highlights like “Serein”, “Serac”, “Decima”, and “Residual”. The Fall of Hearts is the band’s most sonically expansive release in over a decade, further establishing Katatonia as masters of their craft: always achieving, changing, and exploring. –Ben K.
26. Deftones – Gore
Deftones are one of the most impressive bands of this century, having distanced themselves from their peers a long time ago. Like a gold mine, the more you dig, the better the music gets. With an amazing string of magnificent records under their belt, the guys continue their forays into a trademark style. Combining dirty, metallic riffs and shoegazing epics, there has always been a competition between Stephen Carpenter and Chino Moreno. Whether a healthy, energizing one or more aggressive and descending into conflict, this complicated chemistry lies at the heart of their charm. Much like Saturday Night Wrist, but in a friendlier context, Gore shares an easily-observable dichotomy. As one of their more volatile LPs, it quickly switches between heavy and soft moments, offering engaging tunes like “Geometric Headdress”, “Doomed User”, the title track, and “Prayers/Triangles”. Still, a larger part is dedicated to moody cuts that bring out a lovely, blissful vibe within a surrounding dark context. “Hearts/Wires”, “Phantom Bride”, “Xenon”, “Acid Hologram” and “(L)MIRL” all will sway you in the gentle breeze, then drop you from 100 feet up in the air. While it isn’t Deftones’ definitive album, Gore feels more vulnerable in an alluring way. Several parts will remain stuck in your head, so you’ll repeatedly return to it. –Raul Stanciu
25. A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service
Comeback albums rarely work the way they’re intended to, eh? But given the scale and ambition of A Tribe Called Quest’s oeuvre, it came as no surprise that they pulled no punches when they finally made their much anticipated return with We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. The record is classic Tribe: a stomping union of old school hip-hop, vital jazz beats, and Q-Tip’s unerring flow. Owing to Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s commitments to the Luke Cage soundtrack, the rapper also finds himself doubling up as co-producer alongside longtime hip-hop engineer Blair Wells, and the pair’s meticulous attention to detail is one of the finest aspects of the record, with multi-layered songs like “The Space Program” and “We the People…” feeling like condensed out-of-body experiences. For sixty glorious minutes, the solid wall of sound was indeed here on tour, and I can honestly think of no better way to bookend what has truly been an awe-inspiring and trailblazing career. RIP MC Phife Dawg. –Irving Tan
24. Architects – All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us
The culmination of a portfolio. A realization of maturity. Something old, something new. Architects’ latest offering is many things, all of which speak fondly of how far a once-little metalcore band full of hungry teenagers have come in the last ten years: from the basement to massive, packed concert halls. All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us is musically measured but emotionally raw, deeply personal but with the aim to unite, technically proficient but instantly captivating. An enviable match between gripping music and poignant social commentary, it’s an album that grabs you by the neck, thrusts you into a chair, and makes you listen. To the aches, the sounds of struggle, and the things that we should all aim to improve.
In a time where metal media at large has already condemned metalcore into a state of irreversible downfall, All Our Gods… stands defiantly, ready to take on the test of time. The chances are on its side, I reckon. Where do Architects go from here? Who knows, but judging by the character the band has shown until now, they will find a way to, somehow, build something beautiful out of the ashes of their main composer’s passing, to whom All Our Gods… will forever be a swansong, and a bloody beautiful one at that. What if the gods haven’t abandoned us and the band, but are just constantly testing us, sometimes in the harshest of ways possible? The only right thing to do is to take all challenges head-on, no matter how insurmountable they may seem, and try to fight through the obstacles, and to create. R.I.P Tom Searle. –Magnus Altküla
23. Trophy Eyes – Chemical Miracle
Making a case for being the greatest revelation of 2016, little-known Australian outfit Trophy Eyes take a big step forward on their second LP Chemical Miracle. It takes all of about three seconds for the quintet to display their growth, as usually-gruff vocalist John Floreani croons, “I’m still breathing” in a hooky, melodious manner. The band’s melodic hardcore roots are far from forgotten, however, making for an extremely diverse album that also remains very cohesive. What’s most impressive about Chemical Miracle is how its mature songwriting and dynamic instrumentation make it such an engaging listen. From many emotion-filled lyrical nuggets to some riveting genre explorations, this is not only an LP that has great staying power, but one which leaves listeners excited to hear what this forward-thinking band will release next. –DaveyBoy
22. Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch
Language might lie at the heart of Jenny Hval’s oeuvre, but desire makes a heartbeat. In true Hval fashion, Blood Bitch is a challenging pastiche of avant-garde pop, a continuation of Hval’s evolving ideas of ownership and self-possession (the former arguably a social construct; the latter, a matter of will) paired with a nimble deconstruction of gothic industrial and trip-hop music, refashioned into pop hooks, and knitted ambiance. Co-produced with Norwegian noise musician Lasse Marhaug after last year’s Apocalypse, girl (again playing against type and coming up gold), Hval takes inspiration from exploitation and horror films of the 1970s, where the artistic rendering of amoral attitudes allow for an empathetic language in representing the taboo, and creates, in her own words, “a poetic diary of modern transience and transcendence.” The effect is of comfort, of doing what is desired, but bad for one through the abstractness of art, and finding such an action is good. Of finding in vampires a kinship to know life without death, to control, to devour, to know oneself through a powerful desire or many; of being ostracized, of being “invited in,” of being banished out of fear, distrust, waning lust. Here is a work, like all of Hval’s albums, of many great contradiction and questions (“How do I desire? / I don’t think anyone ever talked to me / using the word ‘desire’ at all”), but the first to address so pointedly the prejudices that prevent us from clarity (“Don’t be afraid / it’s only blood”). At the very least, Blood Bitch might be the most resplendent pop album to ever be written about the benign sanctity of menstrual blood. –plane
21. Frank Ocean – Blonde
“Nights” is an annunciation in three acts, a wide canvas onto which Frank Ocean can splash the most ominous gradients of his personality, a bed where he might finally sleep. The first act of the song vibrates with plangent slaps of electric guitar, fertile testing ground for Ocean’s chunks of serrated, brazen lyricism: “I been out here head first / Always like the head first” follows from “You were from a past life / Hope you’re doing well, bruh.” Ocean clearly has an ear for transgression, but his instincts betray a conundrum of psychology that runs deep, deep as his queer experience and identity — expressed through and with them, so deep you could call it endless. The basic problem of psychology in Frank Ocean’s music and lyrics is where all this emotional material comes from: whether Ocean is, as it were, delving into some stable interior locus of personality, or whether he is grabbing at bits and pieces of behavior and thought helter-skelter without regard for the pleasantness or consistency of the shape they take on when juxtaposed.
One notes, to this end, that some elements of “Nights” actually look quite shapely next to each other. Take, for example, the antisocial cast of “I don’t trust ’em anyways” and “I ain’t tryna keep you” in the first act matched with the refrain “Shut the fuck up I don’t want your conversation” — not to mention the chorus itself, sung once over swelling synths and once over Drake-like piano scraps and ambiance. Certain elements, on the other hand, clearly grate, like the thrown-off “Did you call me from a séance?” indicating the death of its speaker. Or try out the unconscionably moving yelp of “All my night / Been ready for you all my night,” sung with such candid yearning that I could have sworn he was saying “All my life” until Genius told me otherwise. This little break presents a discontinuity in the emotional texture of the song, running entirely perpendicular to the queer bad-boy persona Frank Ocean threw together in the early going. Such a move allows the listener to receive both the surface pleasure of Ocean’s soul-baring (the kind many were expecting Blonde to overflow with –remember “Thinkin Bout You”?) and the considerably more knotty indulgence of absorbing this sudden emotional development into our ever-wavering picture of Frank Ocean as a living, breathing, human being. Blonde is like this, a jigsaw puzzle in which the pieces themselves stop us in our tracks with their misshapen beauty, our pleasure simultaneously undercut and affirmed by our inability to place them together, make them whole.
There’s a narrative to “Nights” too, about Hurricane Katrina, a subsequent relocation to Houston, and the entropy enforced on a relationship by the long nights our narrator is forced to work. This story is important; it opens the gates for the stunning recapitulation of the chorus that serves as Ocean’s structural coup de grâce. But then there’s the welter of details which can serve as background or foreground depending on where you focus your gaze. One mustn’t forget, for example, that Ocean deigns to link the second and third acts of the song with an abstract arrangement of dueling electric guitars, laying down a carpet of sound in their steady melodic descent. Clearly some sort of act of rebellion against the structural limitations of the pop song, it might very well signal the troubling emptiness of spirit with which Blonde‘s detractors charge its creator. In the end, though, who among us can pretend not to have been temporarily unseated by such a gesture, forced to live with the emptiness in unusual ways? Might one even make a friend of it? Love the emptiness for what it is? If only we were all imbued with that kind of courage. –Alex Robertson
20. Moonsorrow – Jumalten Aika
The success of Jumalten Aika can be boiled down to one critical facet: Moonsorrow understand that the riffs come first. That does sell short the importance of atmosphere in folk metal, but since we’re trying to be honest with ourselves here, what keeps most of us coming back for more are the slicing guitar licks that this record delivers in droves. The abrasive edge to Jumalten Aika is the central part of why it is so incredible: it is, first and foremost, a heavy metal record. The album blends harsh, riffy black metal with airy folk fanfare in such a way that it comes across as masterfully layered and nuanced rather than heavy-handed and cheesy. Songs like “Mimisbrunn” and “Ihmisen Aika (Kumarrus Pimeyteen)” are so flawlessly composed that they immediately propel Jumalten Aika to the upper echelons of folk metal masterpieces, even towering over Moonsorrow’s many other classics that reside there. The band does this through honest-to-goodness songwriting talent, taking extreme care to eschew the telltale genre follies and instead focus on wherever inspiration leads them. Once again, Moonsorrow put to shame every band in the folk metal game by showing them what real talent and vision can produce. –Kyle Ward
19. Dorisburg – Irrbloss
It’s been a good year for multifunctional tech-house; many producers have found a comfy balance between club-worthy grooving and expansive, provocative listening fodder. Dorisburg’s Irrbloss is one of 2016’s best examples of this, and with plenty of unique textures to boot. Nearly any given song could be cleaved into several layers, each with its own interpretable sound. “Kassiopeia” has a top layer akin to an ant-colony metropolis, a primal rhythm that could be the pulse of deep sexual urge, and an eerie synth reminiscent of the Warriors soundtrack. The moody melodicism of “Cirkla” captures the several seconds of anticipation prior to a love interest kissing you for the first time, and stretches them to fill eight minutes. Elsewhere, tracks like “Insvept” seem to transform the sounds of the jungle by ways of timbral metamorphosis, marrying tribal rhythms and textures with the bustle of the city. I could keep going, but hopefully you get the gist. Irrbloss is a transportive work, with just enough uncertainty to keep things interesting, like stopping a spinning globe with one finger and pressing play. –Tristan Jones
18. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation
I feel a little bit ripped off. I know I shouldn’t, as I’ve never been too invested in The Dillinger Escape Plan’s sound, but that’s precisely the point. Just as my complicated relationship with their music appears as though it’s about to click, they pull the rug from beneath me and say, “That’s it, we’re done.” Well, fine. I can’t say I’m thrilled with that decision, but hey, at least they were kind enough to leave behind an aptly-titled parting gift. Dissociation is everything you’d expect from the New Jersey five-piece in 2016: intermittently intense, ostensibly fragmented but ultimately cohesive, as well as mindbogglingly tight from a technical standpoint. I’ll probably find myself at odds with most of the Dillinger Escape Plan’s devotees when I say that this is their best album, but that’s what it is. The choice to have a song like the Venetian Snares-esque “Fugue” immediately preceding the jazz-imbued mathcore-isms of “Low Feels Blvd” is a brave one, but the band pull it off with conviction the likes of which we haven’t heard from them before. It’s for this reason that I was hoping to hear them repeat such a feat in the future, but alas, they’ve decided to quit while they’re on top. –Jacquibim
17. PUP – The Dream Is Over
While punk rock has always been more at home on stage than on record, Toronto quartet PUP deliver the best of both worlds on their second LP The Dream Is Over. They’re the type of band who, if given a large stage to play on, would probably take up only half of the available space, and then invite their audience up to shout along to their energetic anthems. And yet, the passion, wit, intensity, and self-deprecation evident here also give this album life on record, bursting through headphones or speakers to have listeners yelping, “Well guess what, I never had one!” as soon as the “Don’t quit your day job” prompt is heard. Barely crossing a half-hour in duration, The Dream Is Over is a rowdy, yet tight, set of ten tunes that satisfyingly builds on the melodies, musicality, and relatability only hinted at on PUP’s promising 2013 self-titled debut. Most importantly, it’s as fun as it is accomplished. –DaveyBoy
16. Insomnium – Winter’s Gate
If you were to take the spirit of Homer’s The Odyssey and coalesce it with Edge of Sanity’s revered Crimson, your synthesized homage might be a close approximation of the soundtrack to bassist/vocalist Niilo Sevänen’s award-winning short story Talven Portti (Winter’s Gate). I’m certain that it’s no coincidence that Insomnium’s seventh studio offering and the aforementioned Crimson are each approximately 40 minutes in length and that Dan Swanö just happened to be involved with both records. Rather than sirens and suitors, though, Winter’s Gate‘s protagonists – vikings in search of a fabled island northwest of Ireland – must face off against the elements: a glacial blizzard looms at the album’s outset, serving as a treacherous harbinger of future peril.
The record is steeped in Scandinavian lore. Presented with three narrators, it’s somewhat unfortunate that the 40-minute epic is divided into seven acts on online streaming services, but the transitions are seamless and make it pretty easy to identify the album’s numerous highlights. Parts I, V, and VI (“Slaughter Moon”, “The Gate Opens”, and “The Final Stand”) are expertly-crafted black metal, with drummer Markus Hirvonen’s blast-beat onslaught augmenting the bone-chilling atmosphere. Similarly, Sevänen’s guttural growls are ferocious, rivaling the savage gales and blinding snow that assail the protagonists in their quest. Part II (“The Golden Wolf”) is the best example of Insomnium’s integration of progressive and melodic death metal. While they can run long on occasion, Winter’s Gate‘s softer sections, such as the opening moments in Part IV (“At the Gates of Winter”), are welcome folk-tinged reprieves and feature the ever-improving clean vocals from guitarist Ville Friman. Meanwhile, Part VII, the album’s denounement, is impeccably melodic — the dueling acoustic guitars and delicate piano serve as serenity after the brutal storm. Swallow The Sun’s Aleksi Munter is masterful in his melancholic keyboard arrangements, which consistently elevate Winter’s Gate‘s fluctuating atmosphere.
Speaking of melodies, Winter’s Gate is rife with them. The album’s recurring themes (simply put, a nice touch in what should be a proper concept album) are oftentimes accompanied by an ethereal choir, some of Insomnium’s best riffs in their discography, or both during the album’s zeniths. Winter’s Gate could have collapsed under its own ambition; however, the final result is truly a saga of dynamic proportions, making for unmistakably essential listening. –Jom
15. case/lang/veirs – case/lang/veirs
case/lang/veirs is the eponymous first offering from the neko/k.d./laura who have, individually, been churning out powerful magnificence for the past thirty or so years. The record is chill af, oozing crisp vibes of “alt country” or “folk rock” or “Americana” or whatever words you might use to describe the first ice-cold glass of anything after coming in from the hot summer sun.
Like many of their solo offerings, Case, Lang, and Veirs gracefully weave a particular American (or Canadian) modesty into the melodies of their songs. Lyrically, the trio hit hardest on artistry of the past and present, as well as the power of the human spirit. The record’s most vivid imagery conjures the complementary beauty and power of the world around us. What stands out about this project, however, is how well-executed the collaboration ends up — and how wonderfully the three titanic voices complement one another. These fourteen songs represent a shared reflection on three magnificent discographies, and it is certainly not one to be missed. –Academy
14. Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues
When you’re feeling a bit sentimental about life or just need a pick-me-up after a grueling day, nothing quite hits the spot like some enthusiastic rockers from Jimmy Eat World. They’ve been crafting their brand of emotive alt-rock for so long now, it’s safe to say many of us have grown up with their music to some degree. Hell, I still remember headbanging to “The Middle” when it first exploded on the radio, and it was in a house that has since become nothing but a distant memory to me. Twenty plus years into their career, it’s this ongoing sense of connection with their audience that keeps Jimmy Eat World going strong. Integrity Blues adds to this trend with another batch of sweeping melodies and personal lyrics that have Jim Adkins’ familiar imprint all over them. Yet, that’s not exactly giving it enough credit.
Despite some expected familiarity, Integrity Blues is truly exceptional during its best moments. “The End Is Beautiful” is a prime example of this, with a more restrained, gentle approach that recalls the atmospheric highs of Clarity. Several other tracks feel like a nostalgic throwback to the band’s early days as well, but that doesn’t stop them from letting their creative juices flow on songs like the experimental “Pass the Baby”, – a gorgeous and spacey number that unexpectedly shifts gears for a funky Rage Against the Machine-esque breakdown towards its ending. In addition, “Pol Roger” continues the band’s tradition of sealing their albums with a powerful closer, as Adkins reveals heartfelt confessions about learning to be completely alone and comfortable in his own skin: “Thanks for the offer, but I’m not scared / Spend my birthday alone / Miles of water, sun and sand / A gift I give myself.” Needless to say, it’s not just another Jimmy Eat World album, but a confident and triumphant reminder that some of the band’s best material is still yet to come. That’s saying a lot for a band this far into the game. –Atari
13. Kevin Morby – Singing Saw
There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about Singing Saw, the third record from former Babies/Woods member Kevin Morby. That Morby has steadily improved with each album, with experience and confidence strengthening his consistently generous songwriting, is undeniable. The bold flourishes that give Singing Saw its lived-in feel, the sinewy saxophone on “Destroyer” or the mystical motif that curls inward and down on the title track, are, some might say, window dressing on what is essentially a well-produced bit of classic Americana. That’s fine — not every record can change the world. Morby seems to realize this; the best song here, “Dorothy”, is a paean to his own guitar, a rollicking narrative that cascades across decades with an insistent tempo and rich lyrical color. Yet to dismiss Morby’s songwriting is to ignore one of the most insightful song cycles in recent memory from a genre usually derided as the recycled clichés of nostalgic white men. The tribute to slain arrestee Eric Garner, the rousing “I Have Been to the Mountain”, is fascinating in how it cloaks a sort of irreversible desperation into a galloping, horn-filled anthem. “Black Flowers” captures Morby’s fascination with water and transportation tropes, flowing up and down frets and a gorgeous female chorus, and serves as a fine counterpoint to the straightforward honky-tonk of “Water”. This last track completes a sort of redemptive arc for Morby, all the tragedy and horror narrated earlier washed clean. It’s a classic folk tradition, bemoaning the present while holding out hope for the future. With Singing Saw, Morby hasn’t reinvented the wheel, but he never needed to. Making this timely, warm, and incredibly textured record merely justifies the considerable promise he’s shown all along. –Rudy K.
12. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
Arthur Cave fell sixty feet to his death from the Ovingdean Gap in Brighton, England while on a bad LSD trip. A final inquest with regards to his death revealed that he “couldn’t feel what was real and what wasn’t real anymore” and that his final message, to a friend, was “Where am I? Where am I?” At fifteen years of age, he is now a memory to the father he left behind: Nick Cave. While I can’t begin to imagine how he has felt since that horrific evening (and I don’t want to), Skeleton Tree is probably an accurate barometer of just how torturous it’s been. There’s an old adage that goes something like “No parent should ever bury his child,” and that tragic aura pervades this record. Everything is so bare and forsaken-sounding. Nick mumbles through verses, sounding either grief-stricken or inebriated; possibly both. At times, it’s as if his mind is on other things, and it often sounds as though a great deal of Nick’s effort on this album is spent merely fighting back tears. This album is way more important than the music that represents it; it’s Nick Cave’s outpouring of depressive thoughts and memories related to Arthur. There’s a moment on “Girl In Amber” in which Cave laments, “The phone, it rings, it rings, it rings no more” and one can almost visualize him sitting in the corner, waiting for a call he knows he’ll never receive again. Towards the end of the record, Cave – known and documented as religious man – essentially says there’s no God: “They told us our gods would outlive us / But they lied.” In that gorgeously sad duet with Else Torp, she closes out the song by singing, “This is not for our eyes.” One can’t help but feel that Skeleton Tree is not for our ears, either. This wasn’t made to be enjoyed or consumed, it was released by Cave as a coping mechanism. All we can do is stand by and empathize, hoping we’ll never have to go through the same thing. –SowingSeason
11. Touche Amore – Stage Four
Sometimes an album just strikes a chord with you. Maybe it’s because I’ve lost a few loved ones to cancer myself without truly getting a chance to say goodbye. But more likely, it’s because Jeremy Bolm’s depiction of his mother sounds so like my own – entirely devout to a god I don’t believe in to the point where we butt heads about it. It’s not a relationship I’d necessarily characterize as strained, but the strain is there, and Stage Four made me feel the guilt I should feel about that strain.
Throughout the record, Bolm explores that strain along with the pain of coping with his mother’s death through intensely personal moments of fear, conversation, grief, and inner feelings of selfishness. The message of “taking inventory of what I’ve taken for granted” comes over loud and clear, while “Palm Dreams” wonders what it is our parents dreamed for themselves and why they chose to settle where they did – something many of us, myself included, neglect to even think of when these choices are clearly critical to who our loved ones are at their very core.
The balance between melody, aggression, and somber tone is handled perfectly here, capturing and reinforcing every little detail. But I know that’s all ancillary to my experience with the album. I connect to Stage Four because I can so easily visualize Bolm’s mother as my own, and the pain that the album makes me feel is made that much more real through that connection. I adore Stage Four because it makes me want to be a better son, and after just one listen, it made me want to hug my mom and try to take less of her presence and her story for granted. –Thompson D. Gerhart