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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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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