Owel – Paris: How do I make you understand through words something that never truly could be heard?

Artist: Owel
Album: Paris
Year: 2019
Grade: B+

In Brief: Owel’s third album proves that their delicious blend of indie rock with classical/chamber pop sensibilities is both reliable and malleable. While many of the songs take a while to sink in, as they have on previous albums, I’m tempted to think that they’re stronger for it, as a lot of these songs have euphoric crescendos that make the payoff worth the wait. But it’s also good that they’ve learned how to not overdo that approach to the point where it gets too predictable, and thus a few of their best songs that might be considered “poppy” can be found here as well.

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Polychrome: Hear the colors. See the sound. (Taste the rainbow?)

Artist: Polychrome
Album: Polychrome
Year: 2018
Grade: B

In Brief: A strong start for a promising synthpop act, in a genre where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out. Their reliance on vocal samples, bright pop hooks, and occasional more eerie/atmospheric passages to serve as a contrast, showcases diversity across this playful set of songs. But it also becomes apparent toward the end that there’s a bit of filler here – all pleasant ambient and instrumental stuff, but a bit lighter on the big, bright pop songs than I might have preferred.

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Copeland – Blushing: “Do I come off crazy?” No, more like colorless.

Artist: Copeland
Album: Blushing
Year: 2019
Grade: B-

In Brief: While all Copeland records require patience at first, this one just isn’t standing out to me nearly as much as the similarly slower and more experimental material on Ixora or You Are My Sunshine. The better tracks certainly establish a mood of being in a dream/state existential crisis that permeates the album, but for every beautifully textured slow-burner, there’s another track that feels like its melody never gets off the ground. Blushing is a reasonably good artistic statement, but a bit of a difficult listen.

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Myles Kennedy – Year of the Tiger: Just a man and his will to survive.

Artist: Myles Kennedy
Album: Year of the Tiger
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: A surprising detour into folk and blues-influenced rock territory that demonstrates a more personal and eclectic side of the Alter Bridge frontman. Though the subject matter on his solo debut is often quite dark, it’s also cathartic, and a refreshing change of pace from what I would have expected.

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Lovebites – Clockwork Immortality: I won’t become a doll you control.

Artist: Lovebites
Album: Clockwork Immortality
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: This all-female power metal band from Japan may not have reinvented the genre in any meaningful way, but they play the hell out of their instruments and have a ton of fun doing it. At the end of the day, I can’t fault them for that – especially when the end result puts such a massive smile on my face.

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Django Django – Marble Skies: I guess the title “Marble Madness” was already taken.

Artist: Django Django
Album: Marble Skies
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: A powerhouse synthpop/electronic rock album that knows when to ham it up and when to peel back the layers a bit for more of an organic performance. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, something different happens. This is my kind of band for sure.

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Switchfoot – Native Tongue: My Lord, we forgot our sound.

Artist: Switchfoot
Album: Native Tongue
Year: 2019
Grade: B-

In Brief: Eh… it’s another Switchfoot album. A little heavier on the ballads and programming than I would like, but it’s not terrible. Every now and then, the band tries something inventive here that updates their sound just enough to not seem like it’s old hat. But a lot of it is Switchfoot by the numbers, which admittedly is kind of a tricky thing for them to avoid now that they’re 11 albums deep into their career.

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