1. The Whiles: Mercury Ghost -- Parenthood is often framed as something that restricts freedom - a rewarding but confining endeavor.

1. The Whiles: Mercury Ghost

Parenthood is often framed as something that restricts freedom - a rewarding but confining endeavor. But on the Whiles' first album since 2012's Somber Honey, Joe Peppercorn sounds utterly freed by his role as a father, happily discarding the ways of his youth for a more selfless present and future. Even though Whiles performances are few and far between, the band's decades of musical chemistry (not to mention the months of Beatles Marathon practices) give this crew a vitality and synchronicity that comes through on this essential album.

2. Earwig: Pause for the Jets

2016 was the year long-awaited Columbus releases finally saw the light of day, with Earwig's Pause for the Jets coming after many months of promises from Lizard McGee. Fortunately, this dream-inspired, sci-fi rock opera was well worth the wait. Months after its release, I routinely revisit the delicious power-pop of "Silverheels."

3. Mary Lynn: My Animal

At one point in the making of My Animal, Mary Lynn Gloeckle was sitting silent in a basement, frustrated by the recording and mixing process and wondering if she should just give up on the follow-up to 2013's Familiar Things & Places. Fortunately she and her bandmates persevered through the mental breakdown to finish 11 near-perfect pop-rock songs.

4. Glenn Davis: Waves & Webs

In some ways, this is a tough album to listen to. Davis wrote much of Waves & Webs as he was grappling with a divorce, and the wounds are still open and raw. Amid synthesizers, keyboard and guitar, Davis pleads ("Please come back, please don't go"), tries to salvage ("I'm willing to give up everything, just tell what it is you need") and eventually moves on. It's a sad, beautiful bloodletting.

5. Natural Sway: Sweet Life

The parts of Sweet Life that stick with me (other than hooks aplenty) are the ways in which Delay's Ryan Eilbeck expresses common emotions in uncommon ways - like wanting to hug your loved ones, to hold them close and protect them. "I had a dream last night my dad was runnin' 'round downtown with a propane tank," he sings on "Line." "I ran and caught him, put my arms around him; I was tryin' to stop the explosion."