2016 was a good year for music and – despite how it might have felt – a pretty good year for movies too. 2017 is looking pretty bright already, with a lot of good releases. Here’s to hoping the year continues just as well.
Now that a quarter of 2017 has passed, I want to take the time to reflect back on 2016 and recognize five albums and five movies that I believe were underrated and/or overlooked.
5 Underrated/Overlooked Albums of 2016
Artist: The Shelters
Genre: Blues Rock
Release Date: June 10, 2016
Length: 39 min.
Label: Warner Bros.
If you like The Black Keys, Cage the Elephant, The Kinks, or the Beatles, you are bound to like the debut from a new roots rock group, The Shelters. These guys have soul and are pushing some seriously infectious bluesy music into the ear drums of anyone who listens. This is not a perfect work, but it really grew on me. It is a fantastic debut. If you like this sort of music, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. The Shelters obviously love what they do, and they do it well. The entry I recommend is their tune “Rebel Heart.”
Genre: Hard Rock
Release Date: February 19, 2016
Length: 35 min.
Brendan O’Brien (producer of the great new Mastodon record) produced Victorious and helped Wolfmother – one of the many quality hard rock acts currently coming out of Australia – achieve a fine return to form. If you haven’t yet heard this mostly one-man act, Victorious is a good place to start. As for musical referential points to know if Wolfmother is for you: 70’s hard rock, like Led Zeppelin and The Who, but also 70’s metal like Black Sabbath, and modern blues and folk groups like The White Stripes and The Lumineers. A joyous, fun, and retro hard rock band and album.
Artist: The Struts
Genre: Glam Rock
Release Date: March 4, 2016
Length: 36 min.
Label: FreeSolo, Interscope
Like Wolfmother, The Struts are retro, but their influences are quite different – primarily Queen, Aerosmith, and The Stones. These guys are ecstatically glam pop rock at a level you won’t find anywhere else. However, they also maintain a rare listenablity, a cheerful catchiness, and a strong rock swagger. Though reports that this band will save rock ‘n’ roll are exaggerated, The Struts have something to offer everyone. Glam like crazy and over the top as heck, without being as parodic as something like Steel Panther. Also updated and improved. At the very least, they’ll plant a smile on your face.
Genre: Thrash Metal
Release Date: January 22, 2016
Length: 47 min.
Yeah, yeah. I know it won a Grammy. Please don’t hold that against it. (Cue the Simpsons meme.) Many rock and metal critics gave this album “meh” reviews, but I loved it! Even after I recently completed a study of Megadeth’s entire discography, Dystopia still came out near the top. In the areas of production values, technicality, consistency, and overall instrumentation, ‘Deth really only has 5 of 15 albums that compete. The album also contains what is the third best Megadeth lineup. I highly recommend this one. I go back to it time and time again and still love it.
Get Out of Your World
Artist: King of the North
Genre: Hard Rock
Release Date: August 5, 2016
Length: 51 min.
Also hailing from Down Under, King of the North is the least known band of the five on this list, and their sophomore album flew pretty far under the American radar. That’s a shame, because King of the North is one of the very best new hard rock bands today. They have an awesomely energetic, guitar-driven sound that you may be surprised to find is made up of only two guys: Steve Tyssen on the drums and Andrew Higgs on the guitar, with his unique, 3-in-1 pedal, which he invented. By far, one of my top favorite albums of 2016.
5 Underrated/Overlooked Movies of 2016
Director: Todd Phillips
Genre: Crime Drama/Comedy
Release Date: August 19, 2016
Cinematography: Lawrence Sher
Music: Cliff Martinez
War Dogs might not be perfect, but few people saw it, and many critics seemed to dislike it. But that’s more hate than this movie deserves. Yes, it has pacing and editing issues, a bit of an inconsistent tone, and some oddly placed music. However, War Dogs redeems itself by being decently shot and deriving some nice black comedy from the true story it’s based on. It also offers us good performances from Miles Teller and Bradley Cooper and a fantastic performance from Jonah Hill, who comes across as an occasionally lovable, manipulative, and dangerously volatile a-hole. Check it out!
Director: Bryan Singer
Release Date: May 27, 2016
Cinematography: Netwon Thomas Sigel
Music: John Ottman
If you are not an X-Men fan after nine other movies, two popular TV shows, and countless comics, you won’t like Apocalypse. What surprises me is how much of the target audience also seemed to dislike it. Some of this could be due to the fact that it followed two of the best X-Men movie entries to date. Regardless, though Apocalypse is not a perfect movie by any means, it retains that trademark X-Men charm and the spirit and style of its characters, both in the comics and the movies. It’s also considerably better than Origins: Wolverine and Last Stand.
The Magnificent Seven
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Release Date: September 23, 2016
Cinematography: Mauro Fiore
Music: James Horner, Simon Franglen
Soundtrack fans should see this movie if only to hear James Horner’s last score before his unfortunate death, but there are other reasons too. For one, this is a fast-moving, fun Western adventure with plenty of gruff cowboy types, shootouts, and standoffs. Sure, if you’ve seen a few Western classics, you’ve seen this movie, but that’s OK, because this movie is a blast for certain. Maybe it is slightly forgettable, but you’ll have a great time with it, especially because Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, and Chris Pratt turn in good performances, and the ever reliable Fuqua directs action consistently well.
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Genre: Action/Crime Thriller
Release Date: October 14, 2016
Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey
Music: Mark Isham
Pulpy? Yes. Also fun, acted well, and directed well. Yet another movie from O’Connor about family amidst violence and dysfunctionality from the guy who directed Pride and Glory and Warrior, it plays out at a somewhat slow pace for the sort of film it is, but I felt it moved effectively and enjoyably, though not perfectly. Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal (The Punisher himself), Jeffrey Tambor (from Arrested Development), and John Lithgow all turn in fine acting, but especially notable is Ben Affleck’s performance as an unusual numbers man with high functioning autism and a special set of skills.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Director: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Release Date: June 3, 2016
Cinematography: Brandon Trost
Music: Matthew Compton
It’s unfortunate that this scathing satire on music industry celebrities went largely overlooked, because it was, by far, one of 2016’s best comedies. Put together by the Lonely Island guys, you know that at least you’ll get some quirky, raunchy, hilarious content, and you do in Popstar without a doubt. It’s a lambasting of pop stars in a way only these guys can pull off. Injected with a mocking self-seriousness and plenty of perfectly implemented cameos, and the music is great too! Samberg’s character may have no idea how to produce great pop and hip-hop, but the filmmakers sure do.
So what do you all think? What are some albums and movies from 2016 that you feel were underrated and/or overlooked? Or even from 2017?