Jennifer Knapp – Love Comes Back Around: Middle of the Straight Road

2017_JenniferKnapp_LoveComesBackAroundArtist: Jennifer Knapp
Album: Love Comes Back Around
Year: 2017
Grade: C+

In Brief: While it’s a thematically warmer record that opens up a little more about the long-term relationship that Jennifer has been in, I’m not finding a whole lot here that keeps me engaged on a musical level. She’s played it safe with her mid-tempo heartland rock/adult contemporary style for two albums in a row now, and that’s a bit frustrating given the unique perspective that she has to offer.

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John Mayer – The Search for Everything: I Still Feel Like You’re Bland.

2017_JohnMayer_TheSearchForEverythingArtist: John Mayer
Album: The Search for Everything
Year: 2017
Grade: C

In Brief: This album seems like an amalgamation of all of Mayer’s previous sounds and styles. It’s a smidge more interesting to listen to than the pair of folk albums he released during his “rural isolation” period, and far less infuriating than Battle Studies, but I gotta be honest, I still prefer his first three albums, and that’s not likely to change any time soon.

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The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody: Hey, it beats Slimy Miley.

2017_theflaminglips_oczymlodyArtist: The Flaming Lips
Album: Oczy Mlody
Year: 2017
Grade: C+

In Brief: This album is to The Flaming Lips what Hail to the Thief was to Radiohead. It’s a summation of past sounds, perhaps a bit of a breather after two of their most experimental and alienating albums, but a record whose overall flow and concept suffers due to the attempt to paste together sounds and styles that have worked for them in the past.

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Obsessive Year-End List Fest 2016: Dishonorable Mentions

Here’s the stuff that just didn’t do it for me this year. With one or two exceptions, I don’t listen to these artists expecting their music to be bad… I’ve heard at least a little something I enjoyed from everyone on this list in the past. Some of them just got lazy this year, while others seem aggressively committed to being the most obnoxiously lowest-common-denominator version of themselves that they can be. Neither of those things will land you on the good side of my year-end list-making bonanza. Having said that, I’ve made a good faith effort to embed a song I kinda liked from each of these albums, just to show that these records aren’t all bad.

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Bon Iver – 22, A Million: God, the Devil, and 13013

2016_boniver_22amillionArtist: Bon Iver
Album: 22, A Million
Year: 2016
Grade: C+

In Brief: Some call 22, A Million an astounding work of art, some call it a messy headache that’s been Autotuned to within an inch of its life. I land somewhere in between. Some intriguing ideas here and there, and I come back to the album a lot, but it’s too scattershot to really hold my interest.

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Obsessive Year-End List Fest 2015: Dishonorable Mentions

Before I get to the albums that got me most excited this year, I figured I should take a quick look back at the albums that were so disappointing that it was hard for me to even muster up the courage to give them a second listen. Of course I did eventually go back to these records to see if a little time and more carefully managed expectations would change my perception of these them, but for the most part, they failed to deliver. Not everything about these records is bad, and the worst of the bunch merits a D minus rather than a hard F in my book, so I’ve certainly heard worse in previous years. I’ve also heard something genuinely enjoyable from everyone on this list in previous years (or in one case, this year). But I can safely say that all of these artists fell short of their potential this time around.

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Jennifer Knapp – Set Me Free: I still love you, Jennifer, but this record? Not so much.

2014_JenniferKnapp_SetMeFreeArtist: Jennifer Knapp
Album: Set Me Free
Year: 2014
Grade: C+

In Brief: What starts off as a gutsy, confessional, and even mildly confrontational record sadly slips into the adult contemporary doldrums barely a third of the way in, and it never truly recovers. I’ve got nothing but love for Jennifer as a person, but Set Me Free plays it way too safe to be nearly as lovable as her classic albums or even Letting Go.

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