Artist: Haim Album: Something to Tell You Year: 2017 Grade: B
In Brief: No shocking changes here – the Haim sisters stick largely to what worked on their first album. There might be a few more slick R&B grooves and guitar solos that sneak up on you, and that helps to keep this from feeling like a total retread of Days Are Gone. Still, that album is slightly better song-for-song than this one.
I’ve usually been on the outside looking in when a well-known musician dies, and fans are left grieving. A number of famous singers and songwriters, both of the critically-acclaimed and chart-busting varieties, have left us in recent years, and in a lot of cases it’s been someone who I respected, though not someone whose music I had a lot of personal history with. That all changed when I learned of Chester Bennington‘s suicide just a few days ago.
In Brief: Incubus returns to making actual rock music, which would have been a nice change following the lifeless If Not Now, When?, but subpar songwriting and bone-headed repetition kill off most of the creative spark this band once displayed. There are a few bits of experimentation here and there, but don’t hold your breath for anything fascinating in the exploratory department.
Artist: 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.
Artist: Foo Fighters Album: Sonic Highways Year: 2014 Grade: B+
In Brief: With this aural tribute to eight of our country’s great cities, featuring artists as diverse as Ben Gibbard, Joe Walsh, and Zac Brown (and that’s just on my three favorite tracks), Foo Fighters have finally gotten me hooked after nearly two decades of me thinking they weren’t my style. Not every experiment works, but the band is wise to let the various genre influences from each city be a flavor rather than the entire dish, which makes the record overall more cohesive and engaging than the sum of its parts.
My concert reports are becoming fewer and farther between as I get older, largely because I’ve become more selective about how much trouble I’m willing to go to in order to see a band live. Simply recreating the sound of the record isn’t enough. There has to be a little something extra about your live show – a special energy, an infectious personality that easily wins over audiences who might not all be familiar with your work, a tendency to change up setlists and sprinkle in surprising deep album cuts, etc. More of the bands I’m into nowadays are independent, so unless they call the West Coast home, they might not even make it out to L.A. terribly often. That’s why I made it a priority to see The Last Bison at The Mint last night, even though driving out to West L.A. on a weeknight isn’t normally something I’d be inclined to do. My wife and I hadn’t been to a live show together since Nickel Creek last May, and The Last Bison was one of those bands that might sound a little rough around the edges on their records, but in a live setting, that’s exactly what makes them so much fun. (Plus The Mint is a comfortably small venue with easy parking on the nearby residential streets, and their rather chill policy regarding cameras and will call and people getting to shows late and all of those other little details that can be a hassle at other venues makes it a place I’d highly recommend if you’re ever fortunate enough to discover that a favorite artist of yours has a gig there.)
Artist: Kimbra Album: The Golden Echo Year: 2014 Grade: B
In Brief: A bold, dense, and sometimes downright bizarre album that throws everything but the kitchen sink at the type of music a singer born at the beginning of the 90s loved during her childhood. Fans of Vows might find it tough to swallow at first, but don’t cry “sellout”, because even at some of its poppiest moments, The Golden Echo is more concerned with making art than with finding an easy route to the charts.