I have high hopes for 2016. The past few years seemed to be a mix of explorations of new sounds and ideas and an underlying apathy, brought on by the uninspired trend of digital convenience. But with the past few years of vinyl growing in popularity and bringing on a renaissance of active music listening, music seems to be grabbing attention again, as opposed to being background noise. Here are few titles with 2016 release dates that we think are worthy of some active listening.

Aidan Knight – Each Other (out now)

Introspective and dynamic. Reminiscent of earlier folk rock artists like Bill Callahan and Grandaddy, the tones and timbre of the music tells just as much of the story as the words, which may explain why so much of this album is left alone as instrumental. The lyrics and vocals occupy less than a quarter of the songs, but that doesn’t detract from any emotional connections being made. Knight’s voice has that insecure, yet stylized sound, similar to Andrew Bird but perhaps a bit more reserved.

Your Friend – Gumption (out now)

There is an art to mastering the delicate balance of dream pop. Pop is all about the hooks and familiarity of rhythms, sounds and melodies, whereas dreams are unfamiliar and often vague. The beauty lies in the perfect blending of these two disparate elements, each able to exist on their own merits. Your Friend gracefully rides this line. The vocal melodies are as punchy and familiar as they are ethereal. The rhythm section drives the tunes at a steady, slightly hurried speed, with just enough ambiance to give them a distant, disconnected feel. I’m reminded of bands like The Books, Le Loup, Beach House and mid 70s Pink Floyd.

Radiation City – Synesthetica (Available 2/12)

This band is bursting with personality. It’s as if every melody, drum beat, guitar riff and keyboard hit is throwing finger guns and flashing pearly white smiles at you. Where the genius lies is in their ability to provide space for every instrument to lend its voice. Similar to the arrangements of the Talking Heads (as borrowed from James Brown), the momentum of the songs never waivers, creating a swirling effect of instruments chasing each other, round and round. Even above all of this technical what-have-you, Synesthetica shines though as just a lively, well-crafted pop album, without all the cavity-inducing sweetness. There is a range of emotion and dynamics, with just enough edge. Some of these tunes could have easily been on a Blondie record, where some sound like a ghostly, slightly synthesized apparition of Carole King.

Porches – Pool (available 2/5)

Pool is packed front to back with smooth and gentle pop gems comprised of wavering, airy synths, drum machines and honest lyrics. Switching from powerful instrumentals to haunting minimal verse arrangements, the entire album feels like it exists in an underwater lounge. Think Beach House, Twin Shadow, Youth Lagoon and Pure Bathing Culture.

Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger (out now)

There is never a shortage of new material from Ty Segall to sink your teeth into. I think this is why his career is so impressive to us. It is clear now, that Segall is a riff machine, with no signs of slowing down. Sure, his music at times sounds like a carbon copy of T Rex or Black Sabbath. But, to continue putting out album after album that can match the energy of these late greats, is surely no small task.