Matthew Thiessen & the Earthquakes – Wind Up Bird: Twee(t) Pop

Artist: Matthew Thiessen & the Earthquakes
Album: Wind Up Bird
Year: 2018
Grade: B-

In Brief: It’s actually not that far of a stylistic leap from some of the mellower material on Relient K’s latest album to their lead singer’s first solo album. While I enjoy the clever indie/baroque pop arrangements and witty wordplay, I have to admit that only a handful of Thiessen’s songs on this album continue to stand out in my mind, beyond the initial novelty of hearing him do an acoustic record.

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John Reuben – Reubonic: The dippity-doer done did it again.

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Artist: John Reuben
Album: Reubonic
Year: 2017
Grade: A-

In Brief: The Christian rapper – who has become increasingly uncomfortable with how both aspects of that label describe his work – makes a surprisingly strong comeback after an eight-year absence. Reubonic is as offbeat and weird as a lot of his best work, and it has no pretense of wanting to be mainstream, but it also makes some excellent points in intriguing ways.

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Relient K – Air For Free: There’s nothing better than knowing where you come from.

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Artist: Relient K
Album: Air For Free
Year: 2016
Grade: A

In Brief: Relient K dodges the expectations created by both their pop/punk heyday and their abysmal attempt at pop crossover on Collapsible Lung, and comes up with their best album yet in the process. It’s less guitar-oriented and more piano and arrangement-heavy than classic RK, at times feeling like a spiritual successor to Forget and Not Slow Down. But the hints that RK had an album like this inside them somewhere have really been there since the beginning.

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House of Heroes – Colors: You can be safe, or you can be free.

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Artist: House of Heroes
Album: Colors
Year: 2016
Grade: A-

In Brief: Though the hooks aren’t as immediate as we’re used to and the story woven throughout these 13 tracks doesn’t quite take hold at first, there’s a lot to like about Colors once you take the time to really appreciate the dual perspectives it’s coming from and where each song fits into the narrative. The End Is Not the End remains their best work… but this is darn close.

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