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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Josh Ritter – Sermon on the Rocks: I got a devil in my eye.

2015_JoshRitter_SermonontheRocksArtist: Josh Ritter
Album: Sermon on the Rocks
Year: 2015
Grade: B

In Brief: A much more diverse, playful, foreboding, swaggery, fantastical, pretty much everything (except boring and mopey!) album than The Beast in Its Tracks. I’m unsure how much of this record is fact and how much is fiction, and since Ritter is so good at the fiction, that’s just the way I like it.

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Jon Foreman – The Wonderlands: Darkness & Dawn – Life is not what I thought it was 24 hours ago.

2015_JonForeman_TheWonderlandsDarknessDawnArtist: Jon Foreman
Album: The Wonderlands: Darkness & Dawn
Year: 2015
Grade: B

In Brief: While Darkness seems to drift a bit from the structure and purpose of The WonderlandsDawn brings the project around to a comforting and satisfying conclusion.

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Jon Foreman – The Wonderlands: Sunlight & Shadows – The Shadow Proves the Sunshine

2015_JonForeman_The WonderlandsSunlightShadowsArtist: Jon Foreman
Album: The Wonderlands: Sunlight & Shadows
Year: 2015
Grade: B+

In Brief: The first 2 discs in this 4-disc collection showcase a variety of instrumentation and production styles that easily match the high bar set by Foreman’s seasonal EPs back in 2008. It might be a little mellow for Switchfoot fans, but it’s easily twice as deep as most of Switchfoot’s recent material.

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Calexico – Edge of the Sun: I’m not from here, I’m not from there.

2015_Calexico_EdgeoftheSunArtist: Calexico
Album: Edge of the Sun
Year: 2015
Grade: B

In Brief: As always, I enjoy the Latin music influence and the “desert noir” style. The numerous guest appearances make this one feel like a real community effort. But there’s still the pesky problem of too many “just OK” songs in the track listing, compounded by the presence of easily superior material among the bonus tracks.

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Burlap to Cashmere – Freedom Souls: Forward to the Great I Am, Left Behind the Great I Was

2015_BurlaptoCashmere_FreedomSoulsArtist: Burlap to Cashmere
Album: Freedom Souls
Year: 2015
Grade: B

In Brief: The Brooklyn collective’s third album is all over the place, which is a blessing and a curse. At times it’s their “Greek-est” album yet. At others, it reminds us they’ve got more up their sleeve than just being “that Greek folk band” as they delve into rock, country, and a teensy bit of jazz. But it’s also a bit of a disjointed hodge-podge that can feel like more of a clearing of the vaults from all those years the band lay dormant than a truly unified new album.

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