Beach House – 7: You try to hide it, so I dive to find it.

Artist: Beach House
Album: 7
Year: 2018
Grade: B

In Brief: Removing some of the self-imposed limitations on their hazy, intentionally un-commercial dream pop sound works wonders for Beach House on several of these new tracks, especially the singles. Even though they fall back on old habits by record’s end, this is still a more diverse and dynamic record than anything I’ve heard from them thus far, and I’m finally starting to feel like it’s worth peeling back the obscuring layers of sound to get in touch with the mood and meaning of their songs.

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Kimbra – Primal Heart: I’m a foreigner everywhere I roam.

Artist: Kimbra
Album: Primal Heart
Year: 2018
Grade: B-

In Brief: Kimbra’s third record doesn’t lay on the nostalgia and experimentation quite as thick as her last two, but it’s still a unique and worthwhile modern pop/R&B record, in its own low-key way.

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Andrew Peterson – Resurrection Letters, Volume 1: The last enemy to be destroyed is Death.

Artist: Andrew Peterson
Album: Resurrection Letters, Volume 1
Year: 2018
Grade: B-

In Brief: In celebrating the resurrection of Christ, which is the middle part of a three-part story he’s been working on since 2008, Andrew Peterson delivers an upbeat and triumphant set of songs, which can sometimes be rather middle-of-the-road and mildly corny, but I still appreciate the thematic resonance it has with the first (last?) entry in the trilogy.

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Kindo – Happy However After: What I’ve Found Is Golden

Artist: Kindo
Album: Happy However After
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: With the name change comes an even stronger commitment to jazzy complexity, Latin rhythms, elaborate torch songs, and apparently a newfound love of electronic keyboards. It’s not my favorite variant on the Kindo sound, but it’s certainly a unique way for them to go against the flow in the current rock music climate, and they’re clearly still at the top of their game performance-wise.

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Calexico – The Thread that Keeps Us: Love in the Age of the Extremes

2018_Calexico_TheThreadThatKeepsUsArtist: Calexico
Album: The Thread that Keeps Us
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: What this album lacks in special guests, it makes up for with its slightly more aggressive and exploratory sound. Calexico still balances their dusky desert folk, indie rock, Latin, and jazz influences pretty well, with this album coming out a little stronger on the “rock” side of the spectrum, but not alarmingly so. It’s a welcome change after the sleepier vibe of their last few records.

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Spoon – Hot Thoughts: TheyfinallytalkedmeintolisteningtoSpoon

Artist: Spoon
Album: Hot Thoughts
Year: 2017
Grade: B+

In Brief: The band’s ninth album is a kaleidoscope of colorful sounds befitting its cover art. I love how the urgent, raspy vocals of Britt Daniel collide with the inventive percussion grooves, the jangly guitars and layered keyboard sounds, and the occasional atmospheric bits as well. They’ve got a streamlined indie pop aesthetic that keeps the songs mostly concise and flowing from one into the other with laser-guided accuracy, but they also leave space for the occasional experimental or “jam band”-type indulgence, which works out a lot better than it probably sounds like it should. It’s hard to believe it took me THIS long to get into these guys.

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Katie Herzig – Moment of Bliss: The Beauty is in the Motion

Artist: Katie Herzig
Album: Moment of Bliss
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: Another strong entry from Katie that deftly balances immediate, hook-driven, fun-loving pop singles with more intricate and unusual arrangements on some of the deep cuts. It’s not quite the home run that her previous two albums were, but it’s pretty darn close, and her message of self-determination and pride in one’s identity feels like it’s needed more now than ever.

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