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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Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up: Here’s a new Genre for you: Bipolar-Fi.

2017_FleetFoxes_CrackUpArtist: Fleet Foxes
Album: Crack-Up
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: A strangely fractured, and yet strangely beautiful, third album from a band that was clearly restless to expand upon their old sound without completely abandoning it. My opinion of it seems to change with every listen, but it’s slowly inching in a more positive direction. I think this band is challenging its fanbase in mostly good ways.

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KT Tunstall – KIN: Pull it apart and put it back together how you want it.

2016_kttunstall_kinArtist: KT Tunstall
Album: KIN
Year: 2016
Grade: B

In Brief: It’s not as bold and inventive in the production and songwriting department as Tiger Suit, but KT wanted to make another pop album after the stark, downbeat Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon, and I’ve got to admit that this side of her is more my speed.

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Crowder – American Prodigal: Out of the ruins, back to communion.

2016_crowder_americanprodigalArtist: Crowder
Album: American Prodigal
Year: 2016
Grade: B

In Brief: The genre mash-up works a lot better here than it did on Neon Steeple, feeling more like a statement of identity than a mere gimmick. What Crowder may lack in lyrical specificity, he more than makes up for by bringing urban and rural sounds together in intriguing ways.

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

2016_MumfordSons_JohannesburgEPArtist: 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.

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Parker Millsap – The Very Last Day: Is this Heaven? No, it’s Oklahoma.

2016_ParkerMillsap_TheVeryLastDayArtist: Parker Millsap
Album: The Very Last Day
Year: 2016
Grade: B

In Brief: This alt-country record starts off incredibly strong, showing off the young songwriter’s incredible chops with a lot more instrumental bite than his last record had. (Especially “Heaven Sent”. If nothing else, please go listen to that one for me.) Unfortunately, the record’s uneven second half never quite reaches its initial level of greatness again.

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