Porcupine Tree – Closure/Continuation: Find yourself a better way to meet the future.

Artist: Porcupine Tree
Album: Closure/Continuation
Year: 2022
Grade: A-

In Brief: Any band returning to the spotlight after a 13-year absence is bound to be met with larger-than-life expectations from a hard-to-please fanbase. Whether Closure/Continuation meets those expectations for longtime Porcupine Tree fans, I couldn’t say. What I can say is that it’s a striking record for me to take in, as a relatively new listener. I like my prog rock to maintain a balance between the aggressive and the atmospheric, and to surprise me from one track to the next. PT walks that tightrope so well throughout this record, while never once striking me as over-the-top, cheesy, or dull. That’s pretty great, considering my hit-and-miss track record with a lot of bands in this genre.

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Radiohead – The Bends: A Classic for Regaining My Attention

Artist: Radiohead
Album: The Bends
Year: 1995
Grade: B+

In Brief: This is peak “guitar rock” Radiohead, from a time when they were starting to assert their artistic identity in a way that was leaps and bounds beyond their debut, but they hadn’t yet gone all experimental and dystopian like they would on OK Computer and Kid A. I get why a lot of people miss this sound, and also why the band will likely never return to it. What surprises me about The Bends is just how darn long it took me to really get into it, despite it being their most accessible record by a long shot.

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Everything Everything – Raw Data Feel: Not OK Computer

Artist: Everything Everything
Album: Raw Data Feel
Year: 2022
Grade: B+

In Brief: A return to more upbeat, dance-y electro-rock seems like a shift in a happier direction for Everything Everything, but anyone who’s listened to this band before knows there’s something dark and sinister lurking underneath. Somewhere in between the catchy chorus hooks and the AI-assisted rhymes, there’s real human trauma, deliberately obscured by the unfeeling technology trying to process it all. This bizarre relationship is at the core of Raw Data Feel, which makes it a fascinating concept, even though it’s not an easy album to understand by a long shot.

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Belle & Sebastian – A Bit of Previous: Necessary Drama

Artist: Belle & Sebastian
Album: A Bit of Previous
Year: 2022
Grade: B+

In Brief: This record feels a bit like a return to Belle & Sebastian’s comfort zone, and after a decade of less conventional (though generally pretty great) album releases, I’m OK with something that feels like they conceivably could have made it somewhere in the mid-2000s. It’s a smartly written, melodically satisfying effort that shows the Scottish indie outfit still has plenty of creative energy left to expend.

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Arcade Fire – WE: I Re-Subscribe.

Artist: Arcade Fire
Album: WE
Year: 2022
Grade: B

In Brief: I suppose you could consider this a “return to form” after the electronic excesses of Everything Now, but WE really feels more like a consolidation of past eras of the Arcade Fire sound into a more concise package. I think they still manage to be relatable with the shorter conceptual arc on this record, even if it isn’t anything revelatory. They’ve certainly learned that “less is more” in terms of the time they ask the audience to invest in the process of getting from A to B, and I can definitely roll with that.

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Jeff Buckley – Grace: The baffled king reimagining “Hallelujah”

Artist: Jeff Buckley
Album: Grace
Year: 1994
Grade: B+

In Brief: This might just be the most noteworthy example of a 90s artist who was massively underrated until after he passed away. Considering how long it took me to get into Jeff Buckley, I’ve got no stones to throw. Grace is one of those classic genre-busting records that is probably going to need a lot of time to grow on you, and that can startle you all over again even years after you think you’ve got it figured out.

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Lucius – Second Nature: Like Dancing with a Broken Heart

Artist: Lucius
Album: Second Nature
Year: 2022
Grade: B-

In Brief: Lucius seems to occupy a weird space somewhere between rock band, pop group, and singer/songwriter duo. There’s no denying that Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig are a dynamic vocal pair who can lay the beautiful melodrama on quite thick, but as time has gone by, the arrangements on their records seem to have become more economical and synthetic. The music on this record is often danceable and catchy, and a few of the slower ballads are quite arresting, but the songwriting isn’t quite hitting me as hard as it did on their first two records, which is bothersome considering how much grief and anxiety these new songs are trying to encapsulate.

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Lo Moon – A Modern Life: I’m over here obsessing, oh God it’s so depressing.

Artist: Lo Moon
Album: A Modern Life
Year: 2022
Grade: B-

In Brief: Lo Moon is one of those bands whose throwback 80s pop vibe, mixed with shades of experimental indie rock, is more aesthetically soothing than it is outright amazing. Their sophomore album is a mild improvement on their sleepy debut at best, but every now and then it does manage to surprise me.

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