My Epic – Ultraviolet: I think we’re all lost ’til we’ve lived in the wilderness.

Artist: My Epic
Album: Ultraviolet EP
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: A slow-burning but thoughtful set of songs about the implications of believing in the unseen, that serves as a compelling introduction to the My Epic sound even if it’s not 100% representative of the band’s range.

Continue reading

Band of Skulls – Love Is All You Love: A Better Title Is All You Need.

Artist: Band of Skulls
Album: Love Is All You Love
Year: 2019
Grade: B-

In Brief: Precisely zero wheels are reinvented on Band of Skulls’ fifth album. A decade into their discography, they’ve settled into a comfortable and largely predictable groove, trotting out their brand of garage band swagger with occasional dance-rock tendencies for a short but tight ten-song set. It’s fun stuff, with less filler than their last couple albums, but don’t go into it expecting anything even remotely deep.

Continue reading

Sleeping at Last – Atlas: Enneagram – I’m just trying to see myself through someone else’s eyes.

Artist: Sleeping at Last
Album: Atlas: Enneagram
Year: 2019
Grade: B

In Brief: While there isn’t as much interactivity between these songs as I had imagined there might be, the musical diversity and attention to detail in exploring each personality type makes it a worthwhile series of character studies. And with nine tracks exploring a consistent theme, it’s the closest thing to a traditional album that SAL has put out since the Space series during Year One.

Continue reading

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride: Why’s your heart grown heavy when things were feeling light?

Artist: Vampire Weekend
Album: Father of the Bride
Year: 2019
Grade: B+

In Brief: It’s been six years, and Vampire Weekend has made their long-anticipated fourth album worth the wait. In many ways the music is sunnier and folksier than their past stuff, yet their love of electronic sampling and worldbeat influences still strongly influences their sound, which has taken a notable stylistic leap forward. Not all of these 18 songs are winners, and there are a few sections of the album that drag as a result of its long-windedness, but that gives the band room to try a lot of different things and see what sticks, and I’m happy to report that the vast majority of it does.

Continue reading

John Paul White – The Hurting Kind: Don’t you dare kiss me goodbye.

Artist: John Paul White
Album: The Hurting Kind
Year: 2019
Grade: B

In Brief: White’s second post-Civil Wars solo album is a stronger showing than his first, demonstrating that he knows when to augment his songwriting with the strength of a backing band, and when to scale back to the bare bones approach that tends to be his default mode. The result is more of a full-bodied country album that knows when to play the classic tropes of the genre for full effect, and when to subvert them by throwing a curveball somewhere in the lyrics.

Continue reading

Andrew Bird – My Finest Work Yet: History Forgets the Moderates

Artist: Andrew Bird
Album: My Finest Work Yet
Year: 2019
Grade: B

In Brief: While the songwriting on this album certainly features some of Bird’s finest words yet, on a musical level it seems to be mostly in the same comfort zone he’s established on his last several albums. That’s not a bad thing, particularly when Bird gets more playful with his rhythms, or leaves space for a bit of his trademark whistling and noodling on the violin. But as always, there’s the issue of certain songs being too low-key to fully deliver on the virtuoso instrumental talent we all know Bird possesses. This has the side effect of helping us to focus more on the lyrics, perhaps… but I’d really love to see an album where Bird really goes for broke on both fronts.

Continue reading

Owel – Paris: How do I make you understand through words something that never truly could be heard?

Artist: Owel
Album: Paris
Year: 2019
Grade: B+

In Brief: Owel’s third album proves that their delicious blend of indie rock with classical/chamber pop sensibilities is both reliable and malleable. While many of the songs take a while to sink in, as they have on previous albums, I’m tempted to think that they’re stronger for it, as a lot of these songs have euphoric crescendos that make the payoff worth the wait. But it’s also good that they’ve learned how to not overdo that approach to the point where it gets too predictable, and thus a few of their best songs that might be considered “poppy” can be found here as well.

Continue reading