19. Gojira, “Magma”

18. Tacocat, “Last Time”

Coy and clever with contagious melodies, Tacocat’s third album is their breakout. The wisely positioned lead-off track “Dana Katherine Scully,” an ode to Gillian Anderson’s “X-Files” character, sets the tone for an album that never hits a sour note.

17. Blood Ceremony, “Lord of Misrule”

“Lord of Misrule” probably shouldn’t work as well as it does, but Blood Ceremony have managed to mix psych-rock with a healthy dose of flute. Yes, the flute. On the Canadian band’s fourth album, it all comes together in spectacular fashion. While Alia O’Brien’s flute has been compared (she, herself likened it to) Ian Anderson. That is where the comparisons end, “Lord of Misrule,” dabbles in what some have called ‘witch rock.’  The term maybe too generic for the band’s work, or too lazy of a description. “Lord of Misrule,” is challenge, dark, complex and well worth the time the listener is willing to spend with it.

16. Rachael Yamagata, “Tightrope Walker”

Rachael Yamagata’s second fan-funded album, it is, also, her first independently distributed record.  “Tightrope Walker” is Yamagata’s first album since 2011’s “Chesapeake Bay.” During those intervening years, she spent a lot of time touring the world.

“Tightrope Walker” harkens most back to her 2008 release “Elephant… Sinking Teeth Into Heart,” if one is looking for a basis of comparison. “Tightrope Walker” does walk a nice, fine line between Yamagata exploring new territory and sticking close to the familiar.

15. Epica, “The Holographic Principle”

In this dumbed-down age, how daring is it that a band puts out an album named after a principle of string theory?

The titles might be the only things in common, but while the Dutch symphonic-metal band might not be dealing with the physics of black holes, they are diving into an equally heady topic; What is reality?  A not-so-concept concept album, “The Holographic Principle” tackles what if the universe is a digitally-generated hologram. Think “The Matrix,” only with impressive hooks and a choir.

Two words laymen don’t ever expect to see together and those words are: smart and metal. Gojira’s sixth studio album “Magma” is just that and is the best straight-up metal album of the last year. Yes, Metallica fans, it is far and away better.

Gone are the epic songs that populated early Gojira releases. The band has opted for a more stripped-down sound. By stripped down, don’t think unplugged, no. It is more just to-the-point metal. No frills or bells or whistles.

14. Hotelier, “Goodness”

Gone are the emo elements of their two prior releases, with “Goodness,” Hotelier has found a sound that is new and, oddly, familiar. There is now a jangle in the guitars that recalls but doesn't ape, early R.E.M.

13. Ginger Wildheart, “Year of the Fanclub”

Truth be told, Ginger Wildheart would more than likely be in the top-five of the year’s best list every year. There are few musicians/songwriters that are capable of the prolific outpouring of quality material as Ginger. 2016 saw the stateside release of “Year of the Fanclub,” a collection curated by the man himself. A collection of 12 songs that pull from the launch of the previous year’s G.A.S.S. or the Ginger Association Secret Society, a sort of fan club for fans of Ginger where he would release a new single a month, along with unreleased tracks, B-sides and more.

“…Fanclub” is a nice mix of Ginger at his finest. Whether it be rock, pop, metal or what, the man has an ear for melody that is extraordinary and vastly under appreciated in the states. 

12. Diarrhea Planet, “Turn to Gold”

The name of the band may not lend itself to the best visuals, but socially Diarrhea Planet is one of the better American rock bands working today. The six-piece hails from the Country Music Capital of the World, which makes their work all the more impressive as there are not many bands emerging from Nashville that aren’t tingled with alt-country or Americana.

“Turn to Gold” is their first album in three years (since 2013’s “I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams”). The band returns with a more muscular sound thanks in part to the support of four guitars.

11. The Monkees, “Good Times”

The Monkees were Beyoncé before Beyoncé was ever cool.

The band celebrates 50 years in music with one of, if not their best album to date. Back in their beginning, The Monkees were entertainers, not musicians (well, except for Mike Nesmith). Much like Beyoncé, they were a front for some of the 60s best songwriters like Neil Diamond, Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart, Gerry Goffin/Carole King, Harry Nilsson and Niel Sedaka/Carole Bayer Sager.

After rebelling and becoming musicians the band evolved from their bubblegum roots to 1968’s “Head.”

“Good Times” is the band’’s first album in 20 years, since 1996’s “Justus,” is well worth the wait and a fitting 50th anniversary gift.

“Good Times” sees the remaining members of the band (Davy Jones died in 2012) collaborating with both songwriters of the past as well as those of today. Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) contributed tracks as well as the band pulling from the well with Nilsson, Goffin/King and Diamond.

20. Matt Pond PA, “Winter Lives”

Give a listen to: “Force of Nature,” Used To Be,” Winter Lives”

Give a listen to: “Silvera,” Stranded,” Magma”

Give a listen to: “Dana Katherine Scully,” I Hate the Weekend,” You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit”

Give a listen to: “The Devil’s Widow,” Old Fires,” Things Present, Things Past”

Give a listen to: “Over,” Let Me Be Your Girl,” I’m Going Back”

Give a listen to: “Universal Death Squad,” Beyond the Matrix,” The Holographic Principle - A Profound Understanding of Reality”

Give a listen to: “Goodness, Pt I,” Piano Player,” Sun”

Give a listen to: “Down the Drain,” Only Henry Rollins Can Save Us Now,” Don’t Lose Your Tail, Girl”

Give a listen to: “Life Passes,” Let It Out,” Hot Topic”

Give a listen to: “She Makes Me Laugh,” Me & Magdalena,” Birth of an Accidental Hipster”

Due to the MLK Holiday, 10-1 or Part III

will be live on Jan. 17

We talked with Matt Pond PA about “Winter Lives,” check out what he had to say here