Elbow – Giants of All Sizes: I’ve the heaviest heart jackhammering in me.

Artist: Elbow
Album: Giants of All Sizes
Year: 2019
Grade: B-

In Brief: After the relative lightness of Little Fictions, it made sense for Elbow to go in a darker, more brooding direction, especially considering the personal losses the band has endured over the past few years. Only problem is, it feels like there isn’t a whole lot of meat to this album since it only has nine songs, and barely half of them are striking me as memorable.

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Had to walk the rocks to see the mountain view: My Top 20 Caedmon’s Call Songs

The mid-to-late 1990s seemed like an absolutely fantastic time for just about any Christian rock band with an acoustic guitar. At least that’s how it looked to me, a college kid eager to broaden his musical horizons, who at the time still limited himself to only Christian music, but who was hungry for more “alternative” forms of it than the straight-up pop/rock he had mostly gotten into at that point. While Jars of Clay was definitely the band that kicked off my fascination with more folk-influenced forms of alternative pop and rock, another band soon followed, with a huge folk/rock sound driven by no less than three lead vocalists and a formidable rhythm section, and some incredibly thoughtful and literate lyrics, and they managed to almost as big of a household name within the CCM world. That band was Caedmon’s Call.

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Robert Randolph & The Family Band – Brighter Days: Calling all crazy, come get in line!

Artist: Robert Randolph & The Family Band
Album: Brighter Days
Year: 2019
Grade: B-

In Brief: You know what you’re listening to these guys for – explosive pedal steer guitar playing, feel-good Gospel, soul and funk choruses, and the occasional chill slow jam. Don’t go in expecting anything profound from the lyrics – in fact, pay no attention to them all if you like! – and you’ll probably have a blast.

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Meg & Dia – happysad: Don’t you ever try to calm down that flavor.

Artist: Meg & Dia
Album: happysad
Year: 2019
Grade: B+

In Brief: Think of this less as a reformation of Meg & Dia the band, and more as a rediscovery of Meg & Dia the sisters who loved making music together, and who now make sharp, witty pop songs with engaging riffs and rhythms. It’s sad that all the music industry B.S. ever split them up in the first place, but it feels so good to have these two back together again.

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I’m not sure all these people understand: My Top 20 R.E.M. Songs

If I were to make a list of favorite bands, and sort them by the amount of time it took me from first hearing them to realizing they were one of my favorites, R.E.M. would easily be one of the farthest entries down on that list. It took me forever to truly feel like I was a fan, and not just one of those casual listeners who knew a few of their hit singles and wrote the rest off as largely uninteresting. Sadly, right around the time I finally realized I was falling in love with a myriad of songs from all across their discography, was when the group decided to disband. I guess the old adage “better late than never” is still true… but man, if I had the chance to go back in time and experience some of their best songs and albums when they were still new, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

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Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold: I need something muddy to cover up the stain.

Artist: Sleater-Kinney
Album: The Center Won’t Hold
Year: 2019
Grade: C+

In Brief: While I’m all for hearing Sleater-Kinney attempt to reinvent the sound they’ve had for 20+ years, the pop and electronic influences on this record don’t really mesh well with the righteous anger and irreverent commentary of their old punk rock sound. This leads to some unfortunate side effects as the group’s lyrics and hooks have been simplified, the vocal interplay between the two singers has been scaled way back, and the percussion has become so well-mannered that it was apparently a rather joyless record for their now-former drummer to participate in. This isn’t a career-destroying record, but it could turn out to be a legacy-damaging one.

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