Artist: Coldplay Album: Everyday Life Year: 2019 Grade: C+
In Brief: Coldplay didn’t make an album here, so much as they made a sound collage that occasionally includes the full band performing together on an actual Coldplay song. The overbearing theme of unity in diversity is admirable, but the way the record continually tries to drive it home is redundant and honestly a bit superficial. The record as a whole doesn’t provide enough of a payoff to make all of the half-finished vignettes and the stylistic jumping around worthwhile.
Artist: Jimmy Eat World Album: Surviving Year: 2019 Grade: B
In Brief: The sound of this album may be straightforward and reinvent zero wheels for Jimmy Eat World, but I can’t argue with the results. They’ve recommitted themselves to being loud, passionate, and unapologetically catchy, with a little room on the side for the occasional ballad or experimental track, and a handful of songs near the end that definitely go the extra mile in terms of delivering the rawk. It’s a strong album in a day and age where solid, straight-ahead rock records are getting harder and harder to come by.
The mid-to-late 1990s seemed like an absolutely fantastic time for just about any Christian rock band with an acoustic guitar. At least that’s how it looked to me, a college kid eager to broaden his musical horizons, who at the time still limited himself to only Christian music, but who was hungry for more “alternative” forms of it than the straight-up pop/rock he had mostly gotten into at that point. While Jars of Clay was definitely the band that kicked off my fascination with more folk-influenced forms of alternative pop and rock, another band soon followed, with a huge folk/rock sound driven by no less than three lead vocalists and a formidable rhythm section, and some incredibly thoughtful and literate lyrics, and they managed to almost as big of a household name within the CCM world. That band was Caedmon’s Call.
Artist: Meg & Dia Album: happysad Year: 2019 Grade: B+
In Brief: Think of this less as a reformation of Meg & Dia the band, and more as a rediscovery of Meg & Dia the sisters who loved making music together, and who now make sharp, witty pop songs with engaging riffs and rhythms. It’s sad that all the music industry B.S. ever split them up in the first place, but it feels so good to have these two back together again.
Do you remember the first album you ever deliberately sat down and listened to all the way through? I certainly do. It was Out of the Grey‘s self-titled 1991 debut. And it turned out to be a record that imprinted itself upon me so deeply, it would come to shape my perception of what “the perfect pop album” should sound like.
“There’s more to Sixpence than Kisses and Covers.”
I’m pretty sure I used that rather defensive statement as a review title at some point. Can you blame me? It’s one hell of a dilemma that a fan of a band faces, when they have some really great material in their back catalogue, some of it thrillingly dark and moody, and some of it surprisingly fragile and reverent, and suddenly they put a twee love song on their newest album and it becomes a sleeper hit a few years later. And you really, really love that song, and are happy that people have finally heard of this band that felt like one of your best kept secrets up until that point… but then comes the inevitable pressure to follow it up. And the record label doesn’t quite know what to do with the rest of the songs on their record. And the band starts releasing cover songs in an attempt to stay relevant, and then things just get super weird. That’s the story of Sixpence None the Richer in a nutshell. And it’s a sadder and more tragic one than you’d likely expect from a band who showed that much potential.
You know you’re a huge fan of a band when a friend asks you how many times you’ve seen them live, and you realize you’ve lost count. It’s funny, because I haven’t really considered myself a massive Switchfoot fan for quite a while, probably since the mid-2000s when The Beautiful Letdown hit it big, and was admirably followed up by Nothing Is Sound and Oh! Gravity. Paradoxically, that’s my favorite era of Switchfoot’s discography, and yet I got to the point where I became downright sick of the most well-known songs from those albums being must-plays in their setlists. It’s probably because I saw them live several times that decade, and when I see a band live multiple times, I prefer to hear them play stuff from their newer albums, or if they’re gonna play old stuff, I’d like to hear a few I’ve never heard live before. The Beautiful Letdown is my favorite Switchfoot album (an area where I’d guess I’m agreement with the majority of their fans), but I’d be perfectly fine never hearing that album’s heavy-hitters “Dare You to Move”, “This Is Your Life”, or “Meant to Live”, from them ever again. I love those songs. A ton of other people do too, and I guess I can’t fault someone who shows up, never having seen the band before, for wanting the trip down memory lane. It was because of this (and a string of less than impressive albums in the late 2000s/early 2010s) that I cooled off on seeing them live for a while after witnessing a just-OK live set on their tour for Vice Verses in 2011. (Even then, there were a couple of Fiction Family shows in between, and the Jon Foreman solo show I went to this time last year, because he is simply one of my favorite people in the entire universe.) This year’s Native Tongue isn’t really one of my favorite albums of theirs, either, but 2016’s When the Light Shines Through was a pleasant surprise that seemed a bit underrated among the fanbase, and I kicked myself for missing out on their tour with Relient K that year (who themselves had just put out the startlingly excellent Air For Free). When they announced a tour with Colony House slated for this spring, I knew I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.