Owel – Paris: How do I make you understand through words something that never truly could be heard?

Artist: Owel
Album: Paris
Year: 2019
Grade: B+

In Brief: Owel’s third album proves that their delicious blend of indie rock with classical/chamber pop sensibilities is both reliable and malleable. While many of the songs take a while to sink in, as they have on previous albums, I’m tempted to think that they’re stronger for it, as a lot of these songs have euphoric crescendos that make the payoff worth the wait. But it’s also good that they’ve learned how to not overdo that approach to the point where it gets too predictable, and thus a few of their best songs that might be considered “poppy” can be found here as well.

Continue reading

They Can’t Define Us Anymore: My Top 20 Gungor Songs

If you’ve never heard of Gungor at all, and your first question upon hearing a song of theirs is, “Is this a Christian band?”, then my answer is: Yes. No. Kinda.

Normally in this monthly column, I’m going to be writing about bands that are defunct, or at the very least have stopped recording and touring for the foreseeable future. Gungor is a curious exception, because there are literally days to go in the band’s farewell tour. A week or so from when I publish this, Gungor as a distinct musical entity will be considered a thing of the past. Its two members, Michael and Lisa Gungor, certainly have plans to continue making music, just not under that name. I’m intrigued to see what these two might cook up with all past constraints and preconceived notions completely gone. I feel like they’ve already done a bang-up job of challenging our assumptions, not just about the kind of music they make but about the parameters that define the Christian faith ourselves, over the years. It seems like now’s as good a time as any to honor the end of an era, and take a (shorter than my usual) walk down memory lane to revisit my favorite songs that the duo have put out in the eight years I’ve considered myself a fan.

Continue reading

Liam Singer – Finish Him: You won’t hear this album in Nordic cathedrals. But it’s still quite divine.

Artist: Liam Singer
Album: Finish Him
Year: 2019
Grade: A

In Brief: Singer’s expressive, percussive, and incredibly intricate style of piano-based indie pop music, with occasional choral and electronic accents, is truly a magnificent thing to behold. Equal parts playful and confident, uncertain and exploratory, this hour-long album makes me feel a level of excitement over discovering a brilliant new artist that I experience maybe two or three times a decade. (And this is his fifth album, which means I’ve been missing out for quite some time now.)

Continue reading

Copeland – Blushing: “Do I come off crazy?” No, more like colorless.

Artist: Copeland
Album: Blushing
Year: 2019
Grade: B-

In Brief: While all Copeland records require patience at first, this one just isn’t standing out to me nearly as much as the similarly slower and more experimental material on Ixora or You Are My Sunshine. The better tracks certainly establish a mood of being in a dream/state existential crisis that permeates the album, but for every beautifully textured slow-burner, there’s another track that feels like its melody never gets off the ground. Blushing is a reasonably good artistic statement, but a bit of a difficult listen.

Continue reading

Death Cab for Cutie – Thank You for Today: Requiem for a Skyline

Artist: Death Cab for Cutie
Album: Thank You for Today
Year: 2018
Grade: B-

In Brief: There’s a delicious irony in the standout tracks on an album that decries gentrification and the cruel passage of time being the ones that are the most slickly produced and sample-heavy. But Death Cab doesn’t need to fight it. At this point I think they’re better off as a pop band than they are as legendary heroes of indie rock or whatever.

Continue reading

Mae – Multisensory Aesthetic Experience: This is only a test (of my patience).

Artist: Mae
Album: Multisensory Aesthetic Experience
Year: 2018
Grade: B-
In Brief: Mae’s long-awaited comeback album is about half comfort food for those who loved their heart-on-sleeve style of high-octane pop/rock, and about half experimental/progressive stuff, not all of which fares as well as the band seems to have hoped. I’m thrilled to have them back, but wish they’d taken a little more care to make the final product a bit more cohesive.

Continue reading

Metric – Art of Doubt: Help, they’re still alive!

Artist: Metric
Album: Art of Doubt
Year: 2018
Grade: B

In Brief: Metric comes back strong with a bit more rock energy than heard on 2015’s Pagans in Vegas, without losing the electronic flourishes that have always made them stand out. A handful of songs here are formidable not only due to their strong choruses and riffs, but also their sheer length. But what starts out as a good thing threatens to weigh the album down by midway through, making the last third of this hour-long disc a bit of a chore to finish. Trimming a little of the fat would have made this album a home run, but it’s still a solid outing for Metric that shows they’ve got plenty of gas left in the tank.

Continue reading