Artist: My Epic
Album: Violence EP
In Brief: The follow-up to Ultraviolet is a more visceral, adventurous, and sometimes downright abrupt and startling record that puts the focus on human relationships and the awful things we’re capable of doing to each other in the name of God. It’s not an easy listen, but it’s one of the year’s best recordings precisely because of it.
There are favorite bands that I’ve known all along I felt a special connection with. Then there are bands that become favorites much later on, either because I didn’t know they existed until several albums deep into their discography, or I just didn’t think at first that they were for me. Anberlin is one of those weird cases where I was into the band from pretty much the beginning, but didn’t realize how deep of a connection I felt to their music until almost the end. I also didn’t realize how much it meant to certain other folks in my life until the clock was running out on our chances to actually enjoy the band’s music as a communal experience.
In Brief: Not a strong showing for Thrice on their second album post-hiatus. It’s about a third “Hey look, we can still rock hard!”, about a third middle-of-the-road balladeering, and about a third experimental… and honestly, at this point, I’m only really here for the experimental stuff. I’m OK with Thrice making more of a “genre roulette” album in the same spirit as Beggars, rather than forcing themselves to always have a focused sound… but on Palms, the quality from song to song really suffers due to the lack of cohesion, without much of a theme to bridge it all together.
Album: To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere
In Brief: Probably the most straightforward record I’ve heard from Thrice thus far – it has an overall “heavy” vibe while not resorting to screaming as often as their old stuff. While not as raggedy as Major/Minor or as stylistically diverse as Beggars, it retains a more unified sound and flows better from track to track, making it their most consistently listenable front-to-back album since Vheissu. A solid set of songs, even if I was hoping for something a little more outside the box this time around.
In Brief: In closing the book on Anberlin, the band delivers a heartfelt (and sometimes surprisingly aggressive) set of songs that make it clear the band members see this as a beginning and not and ending. It’s not quite the grand finale I would have hoped for, but it’s a strong epilogue to cap off a remarkably solid discography. There’s a little something for everyone here, though fans of Vital and Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place will probably respond to it best.
Artist: Linkin Park
Album: The Hunting Party
In Brief: It’s interesting to hear Linkin Park set aside the laptops for most of an album and focus on more of a raw, hard rock sound. Despite getting off to an awful start and wasting a few of its celebrity cameos, The Hunting Party shows a heck of a lot of growth for an album that they’re describing as a Hybrid Theory prequel.
Artist: Pearl Jam
Album: Lightning Bolt
In Brief: A triumphant “return to form” that manages to not be a rehash of Ten or of their previous “return to form” on the self-titled album. Despite a few slow spots, Lightning Bolt has a surprising amount of instant likeability that doesn’t diminish as you get deeper into the album.