Mew – Visuals: They could have made it; I believe they faded.

2017_Mew_VisualsArtist: Mew
Album: Visuals
Year: 2017
Grade: B-

In Brief: Mew’s keyboard-heavy indie rock sound will always inspire mental flights of fancy, and I appreciate the occasional heavier moments, too. But this record feels less “prog” than their last few, and I don’t think the songwriting is as intriguing, which means a lot of it is pleasant but forgettable.

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Elbow – Little Fictions: I prefer to think of them as “Fun Size Alternative Facts”.

2017_elbow_littlefictionsArtist: Elbow
Album: Little Fictions
Year: 2017
Grade: B+

In Brief: This album goes down smoother than The Take Off and Landing of Everything, though it may not have as much dynamic range, or as many climactic or startling moments. Some recent personal and professional changes in the band lineup lead to a sunnier and surprisingly more groove-based Elbow record, which I’d say is more accessible than their last few without radically altering their sound.

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

2016_greenday_revolutionradioArtist: 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.

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House of Heroes – Colors: You can be safe, or you can be free.

2016_HouseofHeroes_ColorsArtist: House of Heroes
Album: Colors
Year: 2016
Grade: A-

In Brief: Though the hooks aren’t as immediate as we’re used to and the story woven throughout these 13 tracks doesn’t quite take hold at first, there’s a lot to like about Colors once you take the time to really appreciate the dual perspectives it’s coming from and where each song fits into the narrative. The End Is Not the End remains their best work… but this is darn close.

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Esperanza Spalding – Emily’s D+Evolution: Watch this pretty girl flow

2016_EsperanzaSpalding_EmilysDevolutionArtist: Esperanza Spalding
Album: Emily’s D+Evolution
Year: 2016
Grade: B+

In Brief: Is it jazz? Funk? Rock? R&B? Prog rock? Folk? YES! (Sort of.) However you label this bizarre mishmash of styles, it’s a jubilant celebration of a woman letting her mischievous alter ego come out to play. For me as a listener, it’s horizon-stretching in all the right ways.

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Falling Up: These tears, they build me up a house, then they pour on down and wash the house away.

2015_FallingUp_FallingUpArtist: Falling Up
Album: Falling Up
Year: 2015
Grade: A

In Brief: As immediate as it is ornate and downright inscrutable. Falling Up took their time to get their farewell album right, and while Hours remains my personal favorite entry in their discography, one could easily make the case for this being their magnum opus.

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Muse – Drones: Killed by Falling Anvils

2015_Muse_DronesArtist: Muse
Album: Drones
Year: 2015
Grade: B-

In Brief: Longtime fans will jump for joy over the return to a less electronic, more in-your-face rock sound, with a generous helping of the usual acts of guitar heroism. But on my WORD, is this thing over-the-top and preachy, even by Muse standards. This is the first time I can honestly say that it’s significantly gotten in the way of my enjoyment of one of their albums.

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