Kevin Max – AWOL: All the people from the past just want it to last.

Artist: Kevin Max
Album: AWOL
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: KMax once again proves himself to be more of a musical chameleon than a profound poet or a true innovator… but he obviously had a lot of fun taking a trip down memory lane on this heavily 80s-influenced album, and that makes the music quite infectious, even if it might not be terribly original.

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Umphrey’s McGee – It’s Not Us: Half Delayed

Artist: Umphrey’s McGee
Album: It’s Not Us
Year: 2018
Grade: B

In Brief: Another strong release from UM that effectively straddles the line between their jam band noodling and more progressive, exploratory song structures. As usual, the instrumental pyrotechnics and stylistic diversity are a much bigger draw than the lyrics. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

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I’m With Her – See You Around: Hey, it’s a better band name than “Make Americana Great Again”.

Artist: I’m With Her
Album: See You Around
Year: 2018
Grade: B-

In Brief: A smart but subdued folk/bluegrass record from an all-female trio that at times appears to be holding back the full power of their vocal harmonies and songwriting skills. This took a while for me to fully get into, but I can now say that I’m with I’m With Her.

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The Innocence Mission – Sun on the Square: Some lost things I will hope to find

Artist: The Innocence Mission
Album: Sun on the Square
Year: 2018
Grade: B

In Brief: Though it took a few listens to get over the initial “every song sounds the same” impression I had of this album, there’s more diversity in the color, tone, and instrumental textures to be found on the group’s tenth album than I can remember there being on those old Innocence Mission albums I listened to well over a decade ago. Now that the modest little vignettes in a number of these hopeful, innocent little folk songs have begun to sink into my subconscious, they seem to offer sublime glimpses of eternity despite their almost ephemeral nature.

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Dave Matthews Band – Come Tomorrow: Let the children lead the way. (And let the dads make the dad rock.)

Artist: Dave Matthews Band
Album: Come Tomorrow
Year: 2018
Grade: B-

In Brief: The DMB’s comeback after a six-year gap between albums may not be the most attention-grabbing entry in their discography, but there’s a subtle richness to a lot of the instrumentation that makes it easier to tolerate the usual bits of hedonism and outright nonsense that tend to crop up in the typical Dave Matthews lyric. The band is showing its age a bit at this point, but they also seem to be quite comfortable with that age.

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A Perfect Circle – Eat the Elephant: Keenan’s Ivory Wailings

Artist: A Perfect Circle
Album: Eat the Elephant
Year: 2018
Grade: B

In Brief: An unusual comeback for a long-dormant band that will require a fair amount of patience from listeners used to their old sound, but that delivers a pretty solid payoff once you make the adjustment. The new APC sound, which is part tranquil, baroque-inspired meditation, and part alt-rock fury, connects with me as a listener far more frequently than I would have expected it to. But it comes with a few frustrating rabbit trails as well.

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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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