Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams: Oh, I've been listenin' to books never written, I'm gonna read to the end.

Artist: Lord Huron
Album: Lonesome Dreams
Year: 2012
Grade: A-

In Brief: An astounding debut that immediately transports me back to the days when the indie folk revival was still going strong. Lord Huron’s unique habit of weaving together pieces of a story in anachronic order, told from the perspective of a not-so-reliable narrator, as well as their occasional use of electronic and worldbeat elements, helps to set their songwriting style apart from influences like Fleet Foxes and My Morning Jacket that they quite obviously wore on their sleeves at this point. The band has evolved a bit in the years since, but nothing they’ve done since then has hit me nearly as hard.

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Drive-By Truckers – The Unraveling: A Long-Awaited Resurrection

Artist: Drive-By Truckers
Album: The Unraveling
Year: 2020
Grade: B

In Brief: It’s surprisingly short for a Drive-By Truckers album, but it’s also much more focused than I’m used to from these guys. The politically charged lyrics and caustic criticism of the status quo graft incredibly well onto the band’s gritty alt-country style and their slice-of-life songwriting approach. This is the first time in a long time that a Drive-By Truckers album hasn’t either bored me or thoroughly grossed me out – when I do feel disgust, it’s because I know they want me to.

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Tall Tall Trees – A Wave of Golden Things: Together’s so much better than apart.

Artist: Tall Tall Trees
Album: A Wave of Golden Things
Year: 2020
Grade: B+

In Brief: Don’t judge this album by its meager eight-song tracklisting. These songs are jam-packed with delicious folk and indie rock instrumentation, mostly centered around the banjo, but clearly benefiting from Mike Savino’s talent on various instruments and his tendency to stack up a lot of layers in the studio. He’s trimmed the fat in a way that allows him to put his best foot forward with most of these songs, and the result is a delightful record that I’m likely to remember for being a welcome source of joy during a grim time in human history.

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Colony House – Leave What’s Lost Behind: I want to be original material (?) for once.

Artist: Colony House
Album: Leave What’s Lost Behind
Year: 2020
Grade: B-

In Brief: The young band’s third album finds them taking risks and stretching their musical horizons, but not always putting their best foot forward. They established themselves as such great entertainers with the boisterous live band sound of Only the Lonely that it’s kind of a bummer to hear them backing off from it a bit here.

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Miike Snow: These are NOT songs for no one.

Artist: Miike Snow
Album: Miike Snow
Year: 2009
Grade: A-

In Brief: With a sharp mix of club beats, idiosyncratic synths, and live drums and piano, Miike Snow had an intoxicating blend of sounds on their remarkably consistent debut record. I’m bummed that it took until this album was a decade old for me to fully realize that.

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Tool – Fear Inoculum: Warriors Struggling to Remain Consequential

Artist: Tool
Album: Fear Inoculum
Year: 2019
Grade: C+

In Brief: I hate to be so ho-hum about a band’s first album back after a 13-year hiatus, but Tool is far more simmer than boil on this one. The band’s jammy, exploratory side has taken over, but their ability to be hard-hitting and thought-provoking has mostly taken a back seat to their insatiable need to drag every track out to 10+ minutes. It’s exhausting, and not in the immersive and fascinating way that Lateralus once was.

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Darlingside – Extralife: A Future Ringing in My Ear

Artist: Darlingside
Album: Extralife
Year: 2018
Grade: B

In Brief: I’m pretty fascinated by Darlingside’s ability to bring together old-timey vocal harmonies, modest folk instrumentation, a willingness to experiment with instruments and effects uncommon to the genre, and a touch of sci-fi and speculative fiction that helps to set their lyrics apart from the norm. At times it’s like hearing what people from decades past might have anticipated folk music would sound like in in a future existence parallel to our own.

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