Coldplay – Everyday Life: Music is the weapon of the future… and this is NOT how you wield it.

Artist: Coldplay
Album: Everyday Life
Year: 2019
Grade: C+

In Brief: Coldplay didn’t make an album here, so much as they made a sound collage that occasionally includes the full band performing together on an actual Coldplay song. The overbearing theme of unity in diversity is admirable, but the way the record continually tries to drive it home is redundant and honestly a bit superficial. The record as a whole doesn’t provide enough of a payoff to make all of the half-finished vignettes and the stylistic jumping around worthwhile.

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And then I will be something perfect in your eyes: My Top 20 Falling Up Songs

Here’s an absolutely awful pitch for a band you’re trying to get someone into: “Hey, these guys were childhood friends of another band that you hate with every fiber of your being!” It’s no small miracle that I became a fan of Falling Up in the first place, given how much that little fun fact was bandied about in their promotional details and by Christian radio deejays when the band first debuted. Even for a Christian rock band that was trying to do something more creative and conceptual than their own marketing gave them credit for at the time, I definitely couldn’t have predicted that these guys would have gone on to become one of my favorite bands. Or that they would break up not once, but twice, both times right after delivering one of their weirdest and most wonderful records. Strange as it may seem, the more niche this band’s audience became, the better off they were.

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Coyote Kid – The Skeleton Man: Death comes free of charge, but I want to look the part.

Artist: Coyote Kid
Album: The Skeleton Man
Year: 2019
Grade: A-

In Brief: A deliciously dark and righteously ragged song cycle about beating Death at his own game. It certainly won’t be for everybody, but I can say with all honesty that the band formerly known as Marah in the Mainsail has surpassed my already high expectations by delivering the most exciting rock record of 2019.

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Jimmy Eat World – Surviving: Do you want the work more than the reward?

Artist: Jimmy Eat World
Album: Surviving
Year: 2019
Grade: B

In Brief: The sound of this album may be straightforward and reinvent zero wheels for Jimmy Eat World, but I can’t argue with the results. They’ve recommitted themselves to being loud, passionate, and unapologetically catchy, with a little room on the side for the occasional ballad or experimental track, and a handful of songs near the end that definitely go the extra mile in terms of delivering the rawk. It’s a strong album in a day and age where solid, straight-ahead rock records are getting harder and harder to come by.

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I’m not sure all these people understand: My Top 20 R.E.M. Songs

If I were to make a list of favorite bands, and sort them by the amount of time it took me from first hearing them to realizing they were one of my favorites, R.E.M. would easily be one of the farthest entries down on that list. It took me forever to truly feel like I was a fan, and not just one of those casual listeners who knew a few of their hit singles and wrote the rest off as largely uninteresting. Sadly, right around the time I finally realized I was falling in love with a myriad of songs from all across their discography, was when the group decided to disband. I guess the old adage “better late than never” is still true… but man, if I had the chance to go back in time and experience some of their best songs and albums when they were still new, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

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My Epic – Violence: I hope you hate it!

Artist: My Epic
Album: Violence EP
Year: 2019
Grade: A-

In Brief: The follow-up to Ultraviolet is a more visceral, adventurous, and sometimes downright abrupt and startling record that puts the focus on human relationships and the awful things we’re capable of doing to each other in the name of God. It’s not an easy listen, but it’s one of the year’s best recordings precisely because of it.

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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.

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