Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go: Not as bad as she wants to be. (In fact, she’s quite good.)

Artist: Billie Eilish
Album: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Year: 2019
Grade: B+

In Brief: Billie’s full-length debut rather boldly defies my expectations of what a pop album, whether indie or mainstream, should sound like in 2019. She also busts some of my stereotypes about teenage singer/songwriters in general, and how they can communicate both lyrically and sonically in a way that comes across as authentic while still drawing in a huge and diverse audience. I didn’t expect to like this album nearly as much as I did, and now I can’t stop listening to it.

Continue reading

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride: Why’s your heart grown heavy when things were feeling light?

Artist: Vampire Weekend
Album: Father of the Bride
Year: 2019
Grade: B+

In Brief: It’s been six years, and Vampire Weekend has made their long-anticipated fourth album worth the wait. In many ways the music is sunnier and folksier than their past stuff, yet their love of electronic sampling and worldbeat influences still strongly influences their sound, which has taken a notable stylistic leap forward. Not all of these 18 songs are winners, and there are a few sections of the album that drag as a result of its long-windedness, but that gives the band room to try a lot of different things and see what sticks, and I’m happy to report that the vast majority of it does.

Continue reading

Sucré – In Pieces: In which a side project gets shoved suspiciously into the spotlight

Artist: Sucré
Album: In Pieces EP
Year: 2018
Grade: A-

In Brief: These three new songs hint at an exciting “next level” for a side project of former Eisley and MuteMath members Stacy DuPree-King and Darren King that is now apparently the main musical gig for each. I’m really hoping this exciting little morsel is just an appetizer for a full album to come, because I’d hate to think they left their other respective bands only to put out stuff like this on rare occasions.

Continue reading

Kimbra – Primal Heart: I’m a foreigner everywhere I roam.

Artist: Kimbra
Album: Primal Heart
Year: 2018
Grade: B-

In Brief: Kimbra’s third record doesn’t lay on the nostalgia and experimentation quite as thick as her last two, but it’s still a unique and worthwhile modern pop/R&B record, in its own low-key way.

Continue reading

Katie Herzig – Moment of Bliss: The Beauty is in the Motion

Artist: Katie Herzig
Album: Moment of Bliss
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: Another strong entry from Katie that deftly balances immediate, hook-driven, fun-loving pop singles with more intricate and unusual arrangements on some of the deep cuts. It’s not quite the home run that her previous two albums were, but it’s pretty darn close, and her message of self-determination and pride in one’s identity feels like it’s needed more now than ever.

Continue reading

St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION: A spoonful of sugar helps the pills go down.

2017_StVincent_MASSEDUCTION

Artist: St. Vincent
Album: MASSEDUCTION
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: In between the startling moments and the serene ones, there’s a really idiosyncratic pop record eager to come out and play. It’s taken me a few albums, but I’m finally starting to warm up to Annie Clark’s off-kilter mix of the trashy and the transcendent.

Continue reading

Mumford & Sons – Johannesburg EP: I wish there had been time for a full album.

2016_MumfordSons_JohannesburgEP

Artist: Mumford & Sons
Album: Johannesburg EP
Year: 2016
Grade: B+

In Brief: Surprisingly strong, given the unlikely collaboration between an English “folk” band and three stylistically divergent African artists. I still think Mumford & Sons are poseurs of a sort, wandering the world in search of a sound they can actually master, but this EP at least proves that they’re excellent collaborators.

Continue reading