Lewis Del Mar: Build Yourself a Technicolor Masterpiece.

2016_LewisDelMar_LewisDelMarArtist: Lewis Del Mar
Album: Lewis Del Mar
Year: 2016
Grade: B

In Brief: An interesting blend of Latin-inspired rhythms and guitar parts with indie/experimental rock sensibilities that are equal parts ambient and abrasive. Not every experiment works, but the effect of these unique ingredients coming together can be quite alluring when they get it just right.

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Regina Spektor – Remember Us to Life: What we learned from an obsolete, bleeding heart Russian immigrant.

2016_reginaspektor_rememberustolifeArtist: Regina Spektor
Album: Remember Us to Life
Year: 2016
Grade: B

In Brief: Song-for-song, this is a more consistently well-written album than her last one, with more of a unified feel from track to track, but leaving room for a few fun surprises as well. Regina hasn’t totally reinvented her sometimes-cutesy, sometimes-creepy piano pop style, but she’s certainly honed her craft a bit since we last heard from her.

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Lucius – Good Grief: It’s the Dreaded Sophomore Record, Charlie Brown.

2016_Lucius_GoodGriefArtist: Lucius
Album: Good Grief
Year: 2016
Grade: B+

In Brief: A strong, although schizophrenic, follow-up to an amazing debut. In some ways, Lucius was bound to confuse me a little bit by not repeating the same formula, but they seem like the kind of band that is willing to push themselves into new and slightly uncomfortable areas, which gives them a refreshing edge that helps them stand out from their peers.

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Burlap to Cashmere – Freedom Souls: Forward to the Great I Am, Left Behind the Great I Was

2015_BurlaptoCashmere_FreedomSoulsArtist: Burlap to Cashmere
Album: Freedom Souls
Year: 2015
Grade: B

In Brief: The Brooklyn collective’s third album is all over the place, which is a blessing and a curse. At times it’s their “Greek-est” album yet. At others, it reminds us they’ve got more up their sleeve than just being “that Greek folk band” as they delve into rock, country, and a teensy bit of jazz. But it’s also a bit of a disjointed hodge-podge that can feel like more of a clearing of the vaults from all those years the band lay dormant than a truly unified new album.

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Owel – Every Good Boy EP: They’re a rare, dying breed.

2015_Owel_EveryGoodBoyEPArtist: Owel
Album: Every Good Boy EP
Year: 2015
Grade: A-

In Brief: There’s more drama and detail packed into these four songs than a lot of bands come up with on an entire album. I think they’ll do more than fine if they can keep up anywhere near this level of quality.

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Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell: The Oregon Vortex

2015_SufjanStevens_CarrieLowellArtist: Sufjan Stevens
Album: Carrie & Lowell
Year: 2015
Grade: B+

In Brief: Though the music remains mellow and reserved throughout, Sufjan’s attempts to make sense of his troubled childhood in the wake of his mother’s death can at times be visceral, even shocking. It’s a departure from the days of classic Sufjan when geography and history played the starring roles, but these elements are still there, serving as the backdrop for an album that, under different circumstances, could have simply been called “Oregon”.

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The Lone Bellow – Then Came the Morning: And then the sunset, then afternoon, then midnight, for some strange reason.

2015_TheLoneBellow_ThenCametheMorningArtist: The Lone Bellow
Album: Then Came the Morning
Year: 2015
Grade: B-

In Brief: This is a typical sophomore album, in that it finds The Lone Bellow trying a few new things, diversifying the songwriting a bit, and ultimately becoming a better band for it, but the result is a scattershot album where you’re almost better off jumping in anywhere instead of starting from the beginning.

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