Artist: Marah in the Mainsail
Album: Bone Crown
In Brief: A fascinatingly dark concept album, whose tale of animals vying for control of the forest is told in a gritty, muscular indie folk/rock style that shows more vocal and instrumental diversity than Marah’s first record. Every listen reveals something new.
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.
Album: Little Fictions
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.
Artist: Green Day
Album: Revolution Radio
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.
Artist: House of Heroes
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.
Artist: Esperanza Spalding
Album: Emily’s D+Evolution
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.
Artist: Falling Up
Album: Falling Up
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.