Coldplay – Everyday Life: Music is the weapon of the future… and this is NOT how you wield it.

Artist: Coldplay
Album: Everyday Life
Year: 2019
Grade: C+

In Brief: Coldplay didn’t make an album here, so much as they made a sound collage that occasionally includes the full band performing together on an actual Coldplay song. The overbearing theme of unity in diversity is admirable, but the way the record continually tries to drive it home is redundant and honestly a bit superficial. The record as a whole doesn’t provide enough of a payoff to make all of the half-finished vignettes and the stylistic jumping around worthwhile.

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Elbow – Giants of All Sizes: I’ve the heaviest heart jackhammering in me.

Artist: Elbow
Album: Giants of All Sizes
Year: 2019
Grade: B-

In Brief: After the relative lightness of Little Fictions, it made sense for Elbow to go in a darker, more brooding direction, especially considering the personal losses the band has endured over the past few years. Only problem is, it feels like there isn’t a whole lot of meat to this album since it only has nine songs, and barely half of them are striking me as memorable.

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Band of Skulls – Love Is All You Love: A Better Title Is All You Need.

Artist: Band of Skulls
Album: Love Is All You Love
Year: 2019
Grade: B-

In Brief: Precisely zero wheels are reinvented on Band of Skulls’ fifth album. A decade into their discography, they’ve settled into a comfortable and largely predictable groove, trotting out their brand of garage band swagger with occasional dance-rock tendencies for a short but tight ten-song set. It’s fun stuff, with less filler than their last couple albums, but don’t go into it expecting anything even remotely deep.

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Polychrome: Hear the colors. See the sound. (Taste the rainbow?)

Artist: Polychrome
Album: Polychrome
Year: 2018
Grade: B

In Brief: A strong start for a promising synthpop act, in a genre where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out. Their reliance on vocal samples, bright pop hooks, and occasional more eerie/atmospheric passages to serve as a contrast, showcases diversity across this playful set of songs. But it also becomes apparent toward the end that there’s a bit of filler here – all pleasant ambient and instrumental stuff, but a bit lighter on the big, bright pop songs than I might have preferred.

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Django Django – Marble Skies: I guess the title “Marble Madness” was already taken.

Artist: Django Django
Album: Marble Skies
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: A powerhouse synthpop/electronic rock album that knows when to ham it up and when to peel back the layers a bit for more of an organic performance. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, something different happens. This is my kind of band for sure.

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Muse – Simulation Theory: Propaganda is BAD!!! Also, here’s some propaganda.

Artist: Muse
Album: Simulation Theory
Year: 2018
Grade: B-

In Brief: A kinder, gentler Muse than we last heard on Drones somehow manages to be ridiculous and over-the-top (as usual) without being enough of either of those things for it to really matter. Mining the nostalgia of our childhood and marrying that to modern sounds in off-the-wall ways is fun and all, but when this record tries to throw its hat into the ring of contemporary political discourse, it comes across as vague, outdated, and honestly a tad hypocritical. This is not a great Muse record, but it’s a catchy one, I guess.

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Florence + The Machine – High as Hope: THIS IS NOT AN ENDING.

Artist: Florence + The Machine
Album: High as Hope
Year: 2018
Grade: C+

In Brief: The stripped down approach and more starkly personal lyrics are a strong move… in theory. But this just plain doesn’t work for a powerhouse vocalist and an eccentrically creative songwriter of Florence’s caliber. The production mushes everything together whenever the music tries to pick up a little steam. The songs have an irritating habit of cutting off before they really feel like they should end. And whatever’s left of “The Machine” feels like it’s too timid to assert itself the way it used to.

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