Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold: Heavy Metal in My Bones

2017_FooFighters_ConcreteandGoldArtist: Foo Fighters
Album: Concrete and Gold
Year: 2017
Grade: B-

In Brief: Content-wise, it’s nice to have more to work with than on Sonic Highways, but a strong front half sets up far too lofty expectations for an anemic back half. Foo Fighters can still rock my face off with the best of them, but their softer/more experimental side doesn’t quite hold my attention like I wished it did.

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Josh Ritter – Gathering: When it finally rains, it pours.

2017_JoshRitter_GatheringArtist: Josh Ritter
Album: Gathering
Year: 2017
Grade: B-

In Brief: This one’s got some ramshackle romps, some haunting ballads that plumb the depths of the soul, and some laid-back country numbers. Yep, it’s a Josh Ritter album, alright – though I wouldn’t say it’s a career landmark this time around.

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Alt-J – Relaxer: Don’t do it.

2017_AltJ_RelaxerArtist: Alt-J
Album: Relaxer
Year: 2017
Grade: C

In Brief: Alt-J has gone from being a groove-laden, psychedelic indie band occasionally interrupted by dull ballads, to a band largely focused on ballads, some of them lushly orchestrated and some of them rather dull, occasionally interrupted by jarring rockers. It’s not a good look.

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The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful: And I shall give thee moderate cause to rejoice.

Artist: The Killers
Album: Wonderful Wonderful
Year: 2017
Grade: B-

In Brief: The Killers are probably always going to strike me as a highly inconsistent band. I can’t decide whether I want them to be more serious or more silly, and they often swerve in one direction when I’d expect them to go in the other. But they make a good case for both sides of their personality on their fifth album, which shows some genuine maturity in places without casting off their fun, glammy side. I’d say it’s their best work since Hot Fuss, actually.

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Iron & Wine – Beast Epic: Sorry, but I don’t think either of those descriptors applies here.

Artist: Iron & Wine
Album: Beast Epic
Year: 2017
Grade: C+

In Brief: Sam Beam is a skillful songwriter, his voice is always soothing, and his lyrics are always intriguing. But his decision to revert back to the simpler style of his earlier efforts makes for a rather underwhelming album. I like both the layered, experimental side of Iron & Wine and the hushed, laid-back, folksy side, and it seems like a step backwards to cast off one side for the sake of the other.

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MuteMath – Play Dead: My sympathies for the obsolete are climbing higher every day.

Artist: MuteMath
Album: Play Dead
Year: 2017
Grade: B-

In Brief: It’s chill and yet energetic, stripped down at times and yet very dense and “jammy” at others. A deliberate contrast to Vitals at times, yet the parallel writing process of both albums shows through occasionally. While I don’t think this is MuteMath’s best work, I have to separate my negative feelings about the recent departure of two band members from my opinion of the material on this album that was recorded while they were still very much a part of the creative process.

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Everything Everything – A Fever Dream: Shame About All of Our Neighborhoods

2017_EverythingEverything_AFeverDreamArtist: Everything Everything
Album: A Fever Dream
Year: 2017
Grade: A-

In Brief: With relentless, hypnotic rhythms, hypnotic guitar and synth melodies that sear into your brain, and politically-charged lyrics, Everything Everything has, well, just about everything I’ve been hoping to get out of an indie rock record in the year 2017.

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