Coldplay – Kaleidoscope: I want something just like about 40% of this.

2017_Coldplay_KaleidoscopeEPArtist: Coldplay
Album: Kaleidoscope EP
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: While I feel like this EP’s release was a bit overhyped, and I’m not inclined to trust rumors of the band having recorded their final album, there are some genuinely exciting new directions taken here that I’d love to see the band explore a little further… and also some embarrassing attempts at pop culture relevance that I wish they’d bury once and for all.

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Haim – Something to Tell You: Baby, it’s about time!

2017_Haim_SomethingtoTellYouArtist: Haim
Album: Something to Tell You
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: No shocking changes here – the Haim sisters stick largely to what worked on their first album. There might be a few more slick R&B grooves and guitar solos that sneak up on you, and that helps to keep this from feeling like a total retread of Days Are Gone. Still, that album is slightly better song-for-song than this one.

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John Mayer – The Search for Everything: I Still Feel Like You’re Bland.

2017_JohnMayer_TheSearchForEverythingArtist: John Mayer
Album: The Search for Everything
Year: 2017
Grade: C

In Brief: This album seems like an amalgamation of all of Mayer’s previous sounds and styles. It’s a smidge more interesting to listen to than the pair of folk albums he released during his “rural isolation” period, and far less infuriating than Battle Studies, but I gotta be honest, I still prefer his first three albums, and that’s not likely to change any time soon.

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Incubus – 8: You’re a Bunch of Songs I (Mostly) Never Want to Hear Again.

2017_Incubus_8Artist: Incubus
Album: 8
Year: 2017
Grade: D+

In Brief: Incubus returns to making actual rock music, which would have been a nice change following the lifeless If Not Now, When?, but subpar songwriting and bone-headed repetition kill off most of the creative spark this band once displayed. There are a few bits of experimentation here and there, but don’t hold your breath for anything fascinating in the exploratory department.

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Ed Sheeran – ÷: Appealing to the Lowest Common Denominator?

2017_EdSheeran_DivideArtist: Ed Sheeran
Album: ÷
Year: 2017
Grade: B-

In Brief: Ed takes his music in a few new directions that I appreciate, and occasionally he shows some real wit in the songwriting department. But so much of this album feels calculated to clone the success of past singles and to pander to as wide an audience as possible. It drags down an otherwise enjoyable experience.

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Colony House – Only the Lonely: These ain’t your father’s Chapmans.

2017_colonyhouse_onlythelonelyArtist: Colony House
Album: Only the Lonely
Year: 2017
Grade: A-

In Brief: I kind of outgrew Steven Curtis Chapman, but his sons’ band turned out to be right up my alley. This is a big, loud, upbeat, and massively catchy pop/rock record – hardly anything new in 2017, yet it feels refreshing due to its commitment to an energetic, live performance-oriented sound.

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Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues: It’s what you do when no one cares.

2016_jimmyeatworld_integritybluesArtist: Jimmy Eat World
Album: Integrity Blues
Year: 2016
Grade: B+

In Brief: Put quite simply, a strong pop/rock record with confident hooks and melodies, and intriguing, often heartfelt lyrics. Unlike their last few albums, it doesn’t need to prove that it’s in any way raw, experimental, or revolutionary. It’s simply Jimmy Eat World doing what they do best, and it’s the best they’ve done since Futures.

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