Artist: Lewis Del Mar Album: Lewis Del Mar Year: 2016 Grade: B
In Brief: An interesting blend of Latin-inspired rhythms and guitar parts with indie/experimental rock sensibilities that are equal parts ambient and abrasive. Not every experiment works, but the effect of these unique ingredients coming together can be quite alluring when they get it just right.
Artist: Tim Be Told Album: Friends and Foes Year: 2016 Grade: B-
In Brief: I admire Tim’s vulnerability as he takes a peek into broken relationships and tries to figure out where things went wrong and how to take the first steps toward reconciliation. But while Tim is a fabulous singer, the music on this record is often a bit too pretty and pristine to really match the conflicts that have led him to bare his soul.
Artist: Various Artists Album: Hidden Figures: The Album Year: 2016 Grade: B-
In Brief: The rare movie tie-in album that I enjoy both as a listening experience in and of itself, and as a strong reminder of key scenes in the film that inspired it. Despite a few moments that fall flat or don’t seem to relate directly to the film’s plot, Pharrell Williams did a pretty good job writing and arranging these songs, and picking the right female voices to bring most of them to life.
Artist: KT Tunstall Album: KIN Year: 2016 Grade: B
In Brief: It’s not as bold and inventive in the production and songwriting department as Tiger Suit, but KT wanted to make another pop album after the stark, downbeat Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon, and I’ve got to admit that this side of her is more my speed.
Artist: Phantogram Album: Three Year: 2016 Grade: B
In Brief: A remarkably solid electronica album with a bit of a trip-hop twist that strikes a deft balance between immediate pop hooks and sonic experimentation. If not for the embarrassing misstep at the end, this could easily be an A-grade record.
Artist: Regina Spektor Album: Remember Us to Life Year: 2016 Grade: B
In Brief: Song-for-song, this is a more consistently well-written album than her last one, with more of a unified feel from track to track, but leaving room for a few fun surprises as well. Regina hasn’t totally reinvented her sometimes-cutesy, sometimes-creepy piano pop style, but she’s certainly honed her craft a bit since we last heard from her.
Artist: John Paul White Album: Beulah Year: 2016 Grade: B-
In Brief: White continues to demonstrate strong songwriting chops as a solo artist, though the bare-bones folk sound sometimes undersells that skill. A few more full-bodied, up-tempo tracks help, but since I know him as the guy from the Civil Wars, I can’t help but think that he shines brightest when he has another vocalist in the mix to play off of.