Paramore: Remember when we wanted the future NOW?

Artist: Paramore
Album: Paramore
Year: 2013
Grade: B+

In Brief: Paramore’s self-titled record did what self-titled records are meant to do. It reintroduced listeners to a band that had experienced success in the pop-punk/emo scene, and was now eager to break out of it. What’s most surprising about this album is how urgent and in-your-face the drums are despite the then-recent departure of the band’s founding drummer, how the big pop hooks never seem to sacrifice the raw energy of a song, and how many different things the band is willing to try over the course of a seventeen-track, hour-long playlist. This was a transitional record for the band – and sure, not everything worked. But by and large, Paramore’s reinvention of themselves was a rousing success, giving us one of the best alt-rock albums of the 2010s in the process.

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Lucius – Wildewoman: We all scream upon realizing that’s not ice cream.

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Artist: Lucius
Album: Wildewoman
Year: 2013
Grade: A-

In Brief: What Haim is to early 90s pop/R&B nostalgia, Lucius is to mid-90s alternative pop and acoustic coffeehouse nostalgia. Don’t let the provocative cover fool you, because the two ladies who front this band (and the three men who back them up) don’t have to employ shock tactics to get your attention when they’ve got such irresistible rock grooves and delicious vocal melodies in their arsenal. This is an astounding debut from a band that sounds like they’ve got a long life ahead of them.

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Owel: No City. Just Owel.

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Artist: Owel
Album: Owel
Year: 2013
Grade: B+

In Brief: It’s probably unintentional, but in the course of creating an album full of epic, meandering progressive rock tunes with a few peppy pop tunes in between to break the tension, Owel seems to bring back the specters of several indie rock bands I used to love who have since vanished into the woodwork. They could use a band name that doesn’t result in their immediately being confused with a dorky synthpop outfit, but that would be a stupid thing for me to hold against them.

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The Good Mad – Strangeworthy: Why Should the Liars Die?

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Artist: The Good Mad
Album: Strangeworthy EP
Year: 2013
Grade: B+

In Brief: Imagine Nickel Creek with slightly more of a pop/rock bent, and you get this young and eager band, who delivers much better results on this EP than you might expect from a side project by an actress who used to be in a tennybopper girl group.

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Trails and Ways – Covers Tape: The Clandestine History of Oceans Lost and Found

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Artist: Trails and Ways
Album: Covers Tape EP
Year: 2013
Grade: A-

In Brief: Trails and Ways’ sunny, Brazilian indie pop sound, as applied to covers of songs I’ve never heard of, displays admirable versatility as they translate different genres into their own musical (and sometimes literal) language.

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Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt: I’m STILL still alive.

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Artist: Pearl Jam
Album: Lightning Bolt
Year: 2013
Grade: B+

In Brief: A triumphant “return to form” that manages to not be a rehash of Ten or of their previous “return to form” on the self-titled album. Despite a few slow spots, Lightning Bolt has a surprising amount of instant likeability that doesn’t diminish as you get deeper into the album.

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Five Iron Frenzy – Engine of a Million Plots: Lock and load, just like Jesus did!

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Artist: Five Iron Frenzy
Album: Engine of a Million Plots
Year: 2013
Grade: A-

In Brief: A triumphant comeback for a band who had one heck of a legacy to live up to. Where their previous records were mostly hit-and-miss, this one keeps delivering the goods all the way through.

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Hellogoodbye – Everything Is Debatable: I want to feel infinite, but I don’t think my heart’s that in it.

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Artist: Hellogoodbye
Album: Everything Is Debatable
Year: 2013
Grade: A-

In Brief: Just about the perfect combination of the first album’s “goofing around with synthesizers” and the second album’s “figuring out how to be an actual band more so than an Internet meme”. The results may not be revolutionary, but HGB makes some of the most intoxicating “power pop” music in existence.

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