The New Pornographers – In the Morse Code of Brake Lights: Where we're going, we don't need Rhodes.

Artist: The New Pornographers
Album: In the Morse Code of Brake Lights
Year: 2019
Grade: B-

In Brief: This album brings back some of the sonic diversity that Whiteout Conditions lacked, especially with violinist Simi Stone upgraded to full membership. But song-for-song, it just doesn’t hit nearly as hard, and I think part of the problem is that despite all the singers in this band, we’re really only hearing the artistic voice of Carl Newman. No longer having Dan Bejar around kind of exposes his limitations as full-time band leader.

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Paramore – After Laughter: Better After Than Never.

Artist: Paramore
Album: After Laughter
Year: 2017
Grade: B+

In Brief: As one of the many rock bands giving themselves a “pop makeover” these days, Paramore does a good job of keeping the music band-oriented and making the lyrics contrast quite sharply with the bouncy music. This is an album that cleverly uses the sugar rush to make the sour parts sting even more. Whether it could be – or should be – a permanent shift in style for the band remains to be seen.

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The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions: Got so hooked on a feeling, I started dealing.

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Artist: The New Pornographers
Album: Whiteout Conditions
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: The supergroup’s first album without Dan Bejar is one of their most stylistically consistent and enjoyable… and also perhaps one of their least offbeat and exploratory. I definitely enjoy it, but I can’t help but feel like something’s missing.

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Martel – Impersonator: Like Mercury, but more down-to-Earth.

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Artist: Martel
Album: Impersonator
Year: 2014
Grade: B+

In Brief: Martel joyfully embraces his claim to fame as a Freddie Mercury doppelganger on this album, while also asserting his own identity apart from it. In doing so, he gets to fully indulge his more theatrical tendencies, and he comes up with a solid collection of power pop and riff-heavy rock songs that remind me of what his old band Downhere might have sounded like, if only they had let loose a little more often.

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The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers: There Is Another West Much Wilder.

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Artist: The New Pornographers
Album: Brill Bruisers
Year: 2014
Grade: B

In Brief: Easily their most fun record since Twin Cinema almost 10 years ago. I love how energetic this record is and how the shared lead vocals on several tracks add to the sense of camaraderie. There might be one or two clunkers, but amidst 13 tracks, they’ve got a little room to fiddle around.

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OK Go – Hungry Ghosts: They (Mostly) Won’t Let You Down.

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Artist: OK Go
Album: Hungry Ghosts
Year: 2014
Grade: B

In Brief: If you’ve heard OK Go before, just add a bit more electronic and disco influence to the mix, and you know exactly what you’re getting. This one’s about as much of a grab bag as the album that came before it, and it’ll likely spawn just about as many viral videos and naggingly catchy choruses you can’t get out of your head over the months to come.

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Hellogoodbye – Everything Is Debatable: I want to feel infinite, but I don’t think my heart’s that in it.

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Artist: Hellogoodbye
Album: Everything Is Debatable
Year: 2013
Grade: A-

In Brief: Just about the perfect combination of the first album’s “goofing around with synthesizers” and the second album’s “figuring out how to be an actual band more so than an Internet meme”. The results may not be revolutionary, but HGB makes some of the most intoxicating “power pop” music in existence.

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