The New Pornographers – In the Morse Code of Brake Lights: Where we're going, we don't need Rhodes.

Artist: The New Pornographers
Album: In the Morse Code of Brake Lights
Year: 2019
Grade: B-

In Brief: This album brings back some of the sonic diversity that Whiteout Conditions lacked, especially with violinist Simi Stone upgraded to full membership. But song-for-song, it just doesn’t hit nearly as hard, and I think part of the problem is that despite all the singers in this band, we’re really only hearing the artistic voice of Carl Newman. No longer having Dan Bejar around kind of exposes his limitations as full-time band leader.

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Metric – Art of Doubt: Help, they’re still alive!

Artist: Metric
Album: Art of Doubt
Year: 2018
Grade: B

In Brief: Metric comes back strong with a bit more rock energy than heard on 2015’s Pagans in Vegas, without losing the electronic flourishes that have always made them stand out. A handful of songs here are formidable not only due to their strong choruses and riffs, but also their sheer length. But what starts out as a good thing threatens to weigh the album down by midway through, making the last third of this hour-long disc a bit of a chore to finish. Trimming a little of the fat would have made this album a home run, but it’s still a solid outing for Metric that shows they’ve got plenty of gas left in the tank.

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Barenaked Ladies – Fake Nudes: Relax, this isn’t Breitbart porn.

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Artist: Barenaked Ladies
Album: Fake Nudes
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: I’m not gonna pretend any of this is super deep, or that the band could ever replace the unique voice of Steven Page, but it’s time for us to get over that. Fake Nudes, despite the awkward title, is a lighthearted, fun, and occasionally even beautiful pop/rock record with just enough curveballs to remind me that the group’s still got some of that old creative spark left.

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

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Artist: 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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The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions: Got so hooked on a feeling, I started dealing.

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Artist: The New Pornographers
Album: Whiteout Conditions
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: The supergroup’s first album without Dan Bejar is one of their most stylistically consistent and enjoyable… and also perhaps one of their least offbeat and exploratory. I definitely enjoy it, but I can’t help but feel like something’s missing.

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Metric – Pagans in Vegas: Just keep going strong with whatever it is that’s compelling you on.

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Artist: Metric
Album: Pagans in Vegas
Year: 2015
Grade: B

In Brief: For the first eight tracks, it’s a solid synthpop/indie rock record, easily as strong as some of the best material on Fantasies. Unfortunately things go south for the last four tracks, especially on the closing instrumental suite.

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Kathryn Calder: Come show me something I can’t see.

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Artist: Kathryn Calder
Album: Kathryn Calder
Year: 2015
Grade: B

In Brief: A far mellower set of songs than Bright & Vivid, but it’s not without its noisy surprises. Kathryn’s voice is like a refreshing drink of cool water, and she has a gift for melodies that are simple and yet breathtaking. The slight bits of exotic instrumentation really help to elevate even this record’s sparsest songs above the ordinary.

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