Iron & Wine – Beast Epic: Sorry, but I don’t think either of those descriptors applies here.

Artist: Iron & Wine
Album: Beast Epic
Year: 2017
Grade: C+

In Brief: Sam Beam is a skillful songwriter, his voice is always soothing, and his lyrics are always intriguing. But his decision to revert back to the simpler style of his earlier efforts makes for a rather underwhelming album. I like both the layered, experimental side of Iron & Wine and the hushed, laid-back, folksy side, and it seems like a step backwards to cast off one side for the sake of the other.

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Lisa Hannigan – At Swim: My Place of Clear Water

2016_lisahannigan_atswimArtist: Lisa Hannigan
Album: At Swim
Year: 2016
Grade: B

In Brief: A mellow, soothing, and at times hauntingly beautiful collection of songs. Lisa’s hushed indie folk approach is subtle enough, and her lyrics are abstract enough, that her songs might not impress you right away, but they set the perfect mood for a rainy day spent curled up with a book or a late night de-stressing session.

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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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Bon Iver – 22, A Million: God, the Devil, and 13013

2016_boniver_22amillionArtist: Bon Iver
Album: 22, A Million
Year: 2016
Grade: C+

In Brief: Some call 22, A Million an astounding work of art, some call it a messy headache that’s been Autotuned to within an inch of its life. I land somewhere in between. Some intriguing ideas here and there, and I come back to the album a lot, but it’s too scattershot to really hold my interest.

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The Last Bison – Dorado EP: There’s gold in them thar B-sides.

2015_TheLastBison_DoradoEPArtist: the Last Bison
Album: Dorado EP
Year: 2015
Grade: A-

In Brief: These songs were left off of VA last year, but that doesn’t mean they were subpar. These are simply the songs that didn’t fit the theme. They’re no less eclectic, addictive, and in the case of the final track, downright beautiful than the album they were cut from.

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