MuteMath – Play Dead: My sympathies for the obsolete are climbing higher every day.

Artist: MuteMath
Album: Play Dead
Year: 2017
Grade: B-

In Brief: It’s chill and yet energetic, stripped down at times and yet very dense and “jammy” at others. A deliberate contrast to Vitals at times, yet the parallel writing process of both albums shows through occasionally. While I don’t think this is MuteMath’s best work, I have to separate my negative feelings about the recent departure of two band members from my opinion of the material on this album that was recorded while they were still very much a part of the creative process.

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Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins: It’s chaos, but it works.

2017_GrizzlyBear_PaintedRuinsArtist: Grizzly Bear
Album: Painted Ruins
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: While Grizzly Bear’s sound generally doesn’t excite me on first listen, I’ve grown to really appreciate how the colors and moods in their songs slowly reveal themselves as I listen for the details beyond just a song’s tempo, melody or riff. I’m coming back to this album a lot more than I would have expected based on my history with the band.

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The Secret Sisters – You Don’t Own Me Any More: Love is not possession.

2017_TheSecretSisters_YouDontOwnMeAnymoreArtist: The Secret Sisters
Album: You Don’t Own Me Anymore
Year: 2017
Grade: B-

In Brief: A solid third effort from the Alabama country/folk duo. It doesn’t quite have the same edge as Put Your Needle Down, and as a result the songs can feel a bit samey after a while, but I get that pop/rock crossover appeal might not have been the intent here.

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Arcade Fire – Everything Now: It goes on and on, I don’t know what I want.

2017_ArcadeFire_EverythingNowArtist: Arcade Fire
Album: Everything Now
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: While I really enjoy the disco-rock sound and the theme of media oversaturation, it’s a genre exercise that has its limits, and the repetitive choruses make those limits painfully clear. I enjoy this one more than a lot of Arcade Fire’s fanbase seems to, but I think they need to change things up and truly surprise us again when they get around to making album #6.

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Coldplay – Kaleidoscope: I want something just like about 40% of this.

2017_Coldplay_KaleidoscopeEPArtist: Coldplay
Album: Kaleidoscope EP
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: While I feel like this EP’s release was a bit overhyped, and I’m not inclined to trust rumors of the band having recorded their final album, there are some genuinely exciting new directions taken here that I’d love to see the band explore a little further… and also some embarrassing attempts at pop culture relevance that I wish they’d bury once and for all.

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Haim – Something to Tell You: Baby, it’s about time!

2017_Haim_SomethingtoTellYouArtist: Haim
Album: Something to Tell You
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: No shocking changes here – the Haim sisters stick largely to what worked on their first album. There might be a few more slick R&B grooves and guitar solos that sneak up on you, and that helps to keep this from feeling like a total retread of Days Are Gone. Still, that album is slightly better song-for-song than this one.

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Lisa Hannigan – At Swim: My Place of Clear Water

2016_lisahannigan_atswimArtist: Lisa Hannigan
Album: At Swim
Year: 2016
Grade: B

In Brief: A mellow, soothing, and at times hauntingly beautiful collection of songs. Lisa’s hushed indie folk approach is subtle enough, and her lyrics are abstract enough, that her songs might not impress you right away, but they set the perfect mood for a rainy day spent curled up with a book or a late night de-stressing session.

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