Sleater-Kinney – Path of Wellness: Let’s get lost, baby, and take a wrong turn.

Artist: Sleater-Kinney
Album: Path of Wellness
Year: 2021
Grade: C+

In Brief: On their first album as a duo, Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein exchange a lot of their usual passion, rage, and affinity for making rambunctious noise for more of an introspective curiosity, which is still noisy in places but much more subdued in others. I appreciate the exploratory nature of this project, and I think it has some worthwhile things to say, but given the iconic sound Sleater-Kinney had cultivated as a power trio over the years, it’s hard not to miss that now that they’re apparently forging a new identity.

Continue reading

Five Iron Frenzy – Until This Shakes Apart: Why is grace now civil disobedience?

Artist: Five Iron Frenzy
Album: Until This Shakes Apart
Year: 2021
Grade: B

In Brief: If you can forgive some awkward wordplay and some self-effacing humor that doesn’t quite tickle the funny bone, the celebrated ska/punk outfit actually has quite a bit to say that’s worth hearing on this album. More of it seems to be devoted to politics and social justice this time around, but the message is very much in keeping with their past material in this vein. It’s not quite the home run that Engine of a Million Plots was, but since this is now two albums past the point where we never thought we’d hear from Five Iron again, I really can’t complain too much.

Continue reading

Paramore: Remember when we wanted the future NOW?

Artist: Paramore
Album: Paramore
Year: 2013
Grade: B+

In Brief: Paramore’s self-titled record did what self-titled records are meant to do. It reintroduced listeners to a band that had experienced success in the pop-punk/emo scene, and was now eager to break out of it. What’s most surprising about this album is how urgent and in-your-face the drums are despite the then-recent departure of the band’s founding drummer, how the big pop hooks never seem to sacrifice the raw energy of a song, and how many different things the band is willing to try over the course of a seventeen-track, hour-long playlist. This was a transitional record for the band – and sure, not everything worked. But by and large, Paramore’s reinvention of themselves was a rousing success, giving us one of the best alt-rock albums of the 2010s in the process.

Continue reading

Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold: I need something muddy to cover up the stain.

Artist: Sleater-Kinney
Album: The Center Won’t Hold
Year: 2019
Grade: C+

In Brief: While I’m all for hearing Sleater-Kinney attempt to reinvent the sound they’ve had for 20+ years, the pop and electronic influences on this record don’t really mesh well with the righteous anger and irreverent commentary of their old punk rock sound. This leads to some unfortunate side effects as the group’s lyrics and hooks have been simplified, the vocal interplay between the two singers has been scaled way back, and the percussion has become so well-mannered that it was apparently a rather joyless record for their now-former drummer to participate in. This isn’t a career-destroying record, but it could turn out to be a legacy-damaging one.

Continue reading

Green Day – Revolution Radio: I put the “riot” in patriot.

2016_greenday_revolutionradio

Artist: Green Day
Album: Revolution Radio
Year: 2016
Grade: B

In Brief: While it’s not as ambitious as American Idiot or 21st Century Breakdown, I appreciate the return to writing songs in that vein, and the result is a far more listenable record than their 2012 trilogy. While the subject matter is a mixed bag, I’m finding most of the songs to be quite cathartic in the midst of a post-election malaise.

Continue reading

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

2016_RelientK_AirforFree

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.

Continue reading

Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown: A Fire Burns Today, of Blasphemy and Genocide

2009_GreenDay_21stCenturyBreakdown

Artist: Green Day
Album: 21st Century Breakdown
Year: 2009
Grade: B+

In Brief: Green Day aims to recapture the success of American Idiot and falls only slightly short, but comes up with a musically varied and thematically intriguing disc in the process.

Continue reading