11 of SD's Best Rock Albums of 2016 (So Far)

We highlight 11 of the best rock albums to come out of San Diego in the first half of 2016

Since we're at the halfway point of 2016, it seems like as good of a time as any to look back over the last six months and revel in the best rock/pop music that came out of San Diego. While, of course, it's tough to listen to absolutely everything that's been released (and I'm sure there's plenty of great stuff I'm missing) -- if you think I've made a glaring oversight by omitting a record you think should be included here, post a link to it in the comments below and it'll definitely be checked out. And, hey, if the first half of the year is any indication, the rest of 2016 should be outstanding. [Selections listed alphabetically]

AJ Froman, "Phoenix Syndrome" (released Jan. 26): AJ Froman's new album does a good job of capturing the band's raw, considerable in-concert power. Channeling equal parts Mars Volta, King Crimson and Led Zeppelin, they easily maneuver through endless twists and turns in difficult time signatures and intricate song structures only they would imagine. If untamed psychedelic experimentalism (think Yes, not Tame Impala) is your thing, AJ Froman's your guy, er, band. [Listen/buy it here]

The Donkeys, "Midnight Palms" EP (released Feb. 12): The Donkeys don't pull punches: What you see is what you get. And simply put, "Midnight Palms” -- the band's new five-song EP -- will undoubtedly delight listeners. Its straight-ahead blue-eyed soul/pop goes perfectly with the upcoming summer months and rocks all the chill, retro vibes you could ask for. Cue it up, kick your shoes off and crack a cold one. [Listen/buy it now]

Hexa, "Bata Motel" EP (released Feb. 8): The debut EP from Hexa is a wondrous exploration into experimentally forged "darkpop." At their core, the album’s four songs are pop songs -- verses generally precede bigger choruses and so forth -- but there's an underlying gothicness to it all, a creeping and ethereal sorrow pervading through even the most straightforward melodies. Sit back and let it wash over you. [Listen/buy it here]

Mrs. Henry, "Vol. 1" (released June 20): Every now and then, someone somewhere proclaims rock & roll to be dead. If you put on Mrs. Henry’s "Vol. 1," you’ll discover that, quite to the contrary, rock is still kickin' and very much living it up. This four-piece band does free-flowing, '70s-style blues-based jams in the vein of the Band or the Allman Brothers that you'll have to invest some time in to get the full effect (scope the couple eight/nine-minute epics on here). Turn on the lava lamp and ease your soul. [Listen/buy it here]

Mrs. Magician, "Bermuda" (released May 20): The highly anticipated proper studio follow-up to Magician's 2012 debut album, "Strange Heaven," sure doesn't disappoint. The "dismal-pop" quintet deliver ooey-gooey punk-infused rock we've come to love them for, but this time, it's peppered even more with '80s-era synths and an unsettling, yet very welcome, campiness throughout. Even though the songs' melodic surface sound sugary enough -- just wait until you get to the mouth-puckering sour center. [Listen/buy it here]

The Soaks, "Loser" EP (released Feb. 19): There's "garage rock" -- and then there's the sweaty, insulation-tearing, cigarette-butts-smoldering-on-the-floor, PBR-cans-strewn-about garage rock. On their seven-song "Loser" EP, the Soaks channel the reckless, anything-goes abandon of the Ramones or the Clash and the scrappy, pop sing-along melodies of bands like Best Coast and FIDLAR. Which is to say, "Loser" is a complete and utter champion. [Listen/buy it here]

Spooky Cigarette, "As Loud As I Can" EP (released May 20): Spooky Cigarette's debut four-song EP nails that whole '80s New Wave revival thing to a T but with a few upgrades -- namely, lead singer Frank Mindingall's wild energy. Most importantly, there's a fun, chaotic buoyancy about them that belies a general melancholy, which kinda sums up life pretty well when you think about it. Looking forward to hearing more from these guys. [Listen/buy it here]

Tiny Telephones, "The Sleep of a Dreamer" (released June 16): If M83, the Album Leaf or Explosions in the Sky float your boat, don’t be afraid to dive into this 10-song album of ambient electro/post-rock magic. Skittering electronic flourishes, serene guitars and huge crescendos provide the backbone to these instrumental tunes -- which would be best appreciated with quality headphones in a distraction-free zone. Set aside some time and immerse yourself in the waves. [Listen in here]

Trouble in the Wind, "Lefty" (released April 26): It’s almost hard to believe how great this record is. Shades of pop, alt-country, folk and good ol’ fashioned rock & roll burst out of this 13-song masterpiece by these North County lads, where each song is more delectably tasty than the next. Sweeping back-porch ballads hang alongside buzzing barnyard rompers with ease, alternating quite nicely between "Harvest"-era Neil Young love letters and old-school Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers-esque power-pop gems. I thought the band's 2014 album “Slide Rock” was good -- turns out it was just an appetizer. [Listen/buy it here]

The Verigolds, "For Margaret" (released March 26): We finally got an album from our favorite Ocean Beach bohemians this year and have had it on repeat since it dropped. Even though it's taken a while, the result was very much worth the wait: On "For Margaret," the band takes majestic strides across blissed-out psychedelic soundscapes -- in turn fusing the best parts of rock, pop, chillwave and subtle electro together for a Technicolor journey that's nearly impossible not to get lost in. [Listen/buy it here]

Western Settings, "Old Pain" EP (released April 15): If gritty indie-punk anthems are your thing (my buddy calls 'em drunk punk -- which also fits), Western Settings deliver them in spades. On "Old Pain," the La Escalera Records band throws down in a six-song knockout bout, landing rock-solid punch after rock-solid punch. These guys somehow just keep getting better and better. Oh, and by the way, their newly dropped EP of acoustic songs, 8-bit renditions and covers, "WS," is available now. [Listen/buy it here]

Dustin Lothspeich books The Merrow; plays in Diamond Lakes and Boy King; and runs the music-equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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