Sylvan Esso – What Now: All you’ll hear is sound. (Wait, isn’t that how music normally works?)

2017_SylvanEsso_WhatNowArtist: Sylvan Esso
Album: What Now
Year: 2017
Grade: B-

In Brief: The duo’s second album features some clever sonic experimentation and the occasional brave lyric. But it too often falls back on the old cliche of making music about making music. And the highlights generally aren’t as strong as they were on the first album.

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Flint Eastwood – Broke Royalty EP: You wouldn’t last a day in my crown.

2017_FlintEastwood_BrokeRoyaltyEPArtist: Flint Eastwood
Album: Broke Royalty EP
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: While this EP features a bolder sound than 2015’s Small Victories, the production tends to de-emphasize the songwriting. It’s fun, but I don’t connect with it as deeply as I do with some of Flint’s earlier songs. Also, the re-inclusion of two of those songs is mildly distracting.

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Flint Eastwood – Small Victories EP: Who needs psychotherapy when the Internet will listen?

2015_flinteastwood_smallvictoriesepArtist: Flint Eastwood
Album: Small Victories EP
Year: 2015
Grade: A-

In Brief: Flint Eastwood fits nicely among some of the other female-fronted dance-pop and electronica artists that I listen to, who emphasize wit and songcraft above mere sex appeal in their quest to get their music heard.

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Paper Route – Real Emotion: Love is every shade of blue.

2016_paperroute_realemotionArtist: Paper Route
Album: Real Emotion
Year: 2016
Grade: A

In Brief: A more expansive and immersive album than Paper Route’s first two, that stretches their sound in a lot of interesting ways while remaining true to their band-driven synthpop/electronic rock origins. Absence is a tough record to beat, but this one comes darn close.

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M83 – Junk: Listen to the sound of a new tomorrow (after thirty years in the bargain bin).

2016_M83_JunkArtist: M83
Album: Junk
Year: 2016
Grade: B-

In Brief: The cover art says it all. Bright, pastel colored, cartoonish, seemingly slapped together with little rhyme or reason, and totally radical. It’s not quite the dreamworld full of glassy seas and funhouse mirrors that was M83’s last album, but there’s a lot of cheesy charm amidst these 15 tracks all the same.

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The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep…: I like it when album titles are short, for they’re less of a pain to type.

2016_The1975_ILikeItWhenYouSleepForYouAreSoBeautifulYetSoUnawareofItArtist: The 1975
Album: I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful, Yet So Unaware of It
Year: 2016
Grade: B-

In Brief: I go back and forth between “bold experiment” and “sprawling mess” when trying to describe this 17-track opus. It’s not at all what you’d expect based on its singles, and at times the detours can try my patience, but they cover a lot of stylistic ground here, and I’m actually drawn to their introverted side more than I would have expected.

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Animal Collective – Painting With: Wander from the cynical, take a look at views atypical.

2016_AnimalCollective_PaintingWithArtist: Animal Collective
Album: Painting With
Year: 2016
Grade: B

In Brief: While the hyperactive vocals and wall-of-sound approach can get exhausting over 12 tracks, there’s a certain economy to hitting listeners with a solid beat and a hook without belaboring the point, and I find this appealing. It’s no Merriweather Post Pavilion, but this is a way easier record to get into than the overwrought Centipede Hz.

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