My Favorite NJ Releases of 2016

By Luke Morsa | Posted Wednesday, December 28, 2016

These are my personal picks for the top 9 releases (in no specific order) that NJ artists put out this year.

#1. Parkwood - Selfish

Parkwood - Selfish.jpg

4-piece Emo-Rock outfit Parkwood from Hammonton, NJ put out “Selfish” this year, their longest release to date.  From the opinion of someone who has been listening to this band since they were writing their first songs, I think this is the release that could potentially put them on the map.  The lyrics are mature but still easy to relate to.  The music is very well written and kept me focused during the instrumental parts of the songs.  In “Deathbed” the band explores the “Emotional Hardcore” side of their sound; while “Heavy Daze” has modern day Pop-Punk influences.  The other 3 tracks represent what I think is a perfect middle ground for the band’s sound.  The title track “Selfish” beautifully ties up the EP.

Favorite Track: "Deathbed"

FFO: Basement, Microwave, Balance and Composure


I think this release would be best described as chaotic and emo.  “Am I Alone” gets downright nasty and is such a musically driven and emotional track.  Track 2, “The Ocean,” is very heavy both musically and emotionally.  The lyric “Do you think that God will save you” is a special kind of lyric that hits you in the chest and stays there for some time.  Although it’s only two tracks long, “nothing scared us enough” is a very unique release and deserves its spot on here.

Favorite Track: "The Ocean"

FFO: Pianos Become The Teeth, Circa Survive


Space Cadets makes some of the catchiest math rock jams I’ve heard in a long time.  With relatable “emo” lyrics worked in over impressive instrumentals, there are several reasons to like Space Cadets and their debut EP “That Part of Me is Gone.”  I think this is a stellar first release, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Space Cadets becomes a regional act very soon.

Favorite Track: "Disbelief"

FFO: Free Throw, Tiny Moving Parts, Joie De Vivre


Tie Goes to the Runner’s sophomore release “Entaglement” offers many sounds for many tastes.  Entanglement is the kind of album that will fall pleasantly on the ears of fans of post hardcore, emo, sing along jams, post rock, and every other genre of the like. “Waterslide,” my personal favorite of the album, encompasses many of the band's powerful sounds into one track.

Favorite Track: "Conflagaration"           

FFO: Microwave, Free Throw, Have Mercy


Pinegrove had an amazing year in 2016.  Their release of “Cardinal,” a full length with their most popular song “Old Friends,” had an insane amount of downloads/purchases on Bandcamp.  The entire album is easy to listen to and fun to sing along to.  These Montclair natives are quickly turning into a national act, and this is the album that is helping them do so.

Favorite Track: "Old Friends"

FFO: good catchy music with banjo


Made up of 4 members with significant experience in being in bands, playing shows, writing and recording, Better Machines wasted no time between becoming a band and releasing their first EP.  "Honesty" introduces Better Machines as an in your face post-punk band with chaotic post-hardcore tendencies.

Favorite Track: "Temple"

FFO: Saosin, The Hotelier


Save Face released a 6-song EP titled “Folly” earlier this year.  Folly was a game changer for this band and their fan base is rapidly growing because of it.  Save Face brought with this EP a sound that I haven’t heard like this since the mid 2000’s with bands like Taking Back Sunday and Cartel.

Favorite Track: "Preoccupied"

FFO: WATERMEDOWN, Head North, Cartel


Ben Greenblatt is a young acoustic musician from South Jersey.  With this release, he immediately matured from his debut EP and also gained more fans in the process.  Ben stuck to his emo roots and put out 4 great tracks that are so relaxing and what I like to call “easy listening emo.”

Favorite Track: "You Make Me Okay"

FFO: Any acoustic track by Ice Nine Kills, Modern Baseball, Free Throw


Two of my favorite younger bands in the New Jersey music scene teamed up for a split, and I couldn’t be happier.  Crash Landing is energetic and downright punk, while Old City Revival is heavily driven by their guitar work and vocals that fit very well over the atmospheric music.  Crash Landing’s “Fighter Jet” is one of my favorite local songs of the year.

Favorite Track: "Fighter Jet"

FFO: Joyce Manor, Balance and Composure, Weeze

About the Writer

Luke Morsa is a musician and writer from Hammonton, NJ.  He is the guitarist and one of two vocalists in Clearview, an Emotional Post-Hardcore band.  Luke began writing music articles and conducting artist interviews two years ago for his own music blog.  He is currently in college working towards a degree in Psychology.  Luke has booked under Grandaire Booking and is a supporter of the music scene in NJ.