Owl City – Cinematic: The soundtrack to a boring documentary you can’t even watch.

2018_OwlCity_CinematicArtist: Owl City
Album: Cinematic
Year: 2018
Grade: C

In Brief: Somewhere within this hodgepodge of bland personal anecdotes and ill-advised bits of genre-hopping, are a small handful of truly imaginative synthpop songs that remind me of why I once risked the scorn of fellow critics to proclaim that I actually liked Owl City. While sifting through 15 songs (and 3 alternate versions!) to find those rare gems is generally not a delightful experience, this album might still be a step up from Mobile Orchestra.

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Andrew Peterson – Resurrection Letters, Volume 1: The last enemy to be destroyed is Death.

Artist: Andrew Peterson
Album: Resurrection Letters, Volume 1
Year: 2018
Grade: B-

In Brief: In celebrating the resurrection of Christ, which is the middle part of a three-part story he’s been working on since 2008, Andrew Peterson delivers an upbeat and triumphant set of songs, which can sometimes be rather middle-of-the-road and mildly corny, but I still appreciate the thematic resonance it has with the first (last?) entry in the trilogy.

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Andrew Peterson – Resurrection Letters: Prologue – Famous Last Words

Artist: Andrew Peterson
Album: Resurrection Letters: Prologue
Year: 2018
Grade: A-

In Brief: This mellow but exquisitely constructed prelude to Resurrection Letters, Part 1 might actually be superior to its parent project. This is a nice little meditative morsel, ideal for Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, or any time the listener wants to reflect on the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross.

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Christine Denté – Closer to Free: Change is hidden in the chrysalis

Artist: Christine Denté
Album: Closer to Free EP
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: A delightful morsel of mellow pop music from one of the very first pop singers I ever fell in love with. This is probably the closest that Christine as a solo artist has come to the classic Out of the Grey sound – just imagine more of a keyboard-based take on that, with the usual understated but smart songwriting, and you’ll have some idea of what to expect here.

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Rina Sawayama – RINA EP: Not yet a Superstar, but quite out of the Ordinary

Artist: Rina Sawayama
Album: RINA EP
Year: 2017
Grade: B+

In Brief: You can call it pop, you can call it youthful, you can call it a throwback… you can even call it teenybopper if you want. Just don’t call it shallow. While this isn’t a style I dabble in often, I appreciate Rina’s smart commentary on contemporary Internet culture, wrapped up in the popular sounds of her own childhood from before social media was even a thing.

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Linkin Park – One More Light: Why is everything so NOT HEAVY??!?!

2017_LinkinPark_OneMoreLightArtist: Linkin Park
Album: One More Light
Year: 2017
Grade: D+

In Brief: The problem with Linkin Park’s seventh album isn’t that it’s mellow and poppy. The problem is that it’s stubbornly, maddeningly generic, which is not something I could say about even the absolute worst songs on their previous albums.

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Tim Be Told – Friends and Foes: God, please don’t forget about the children like me.

2016_timbetold_friendsandfoesArtist: Tim Be Told
Album: Friends and Foes
Year: 2016
Grade: B-

In Brief: I admire Tim’s vulnerability as he takes a peek into broken relationships and tries to figure out where things went wrong and how to take the first steps toward reconciliation. But while Tim is a fabulous singer, the music on this record is often a bit too pretty and pristine to really match the conflicts that have led him to bare his soul.

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