Artist: Fleet Foxes Album: Crack-Up Year: 2017 Grade: B
In Brief: A strangely fractured, and yet strangely beautiful, third album from a band that was clearly restless to expand upon their old sound without completely abandoning it. My opinion of it seems to change with every listen, but it’s slowly inching in a more positive direction. I think this band is challenging its fanbase in mostly good ways.
Artist: Death Cab for Cutie Album: Kintsugi Year: 2015 Grade: B
In Brief: This might be Death Cab’s poppiest album yet, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but I get the feeling over the course of these eleven tracks that adding catchy rhythms, sound effects, and vocal refrains to these songs meant more to the band than emotional authenticity. There’s depth and pathos to be found here, but it gets buried under the pretty surface quite a bit.
Artist: Sleater-Kinney Album: No Cities to Love Year: 2015 Grade: B
In Brief: Sometimes you just need a fun, noisy, in-your-face, no-nonsense blast of rock & roll. Sleater-Kinney’s comeback record passes that test easily. I may not know much else about their history, but hey, I had to start somewhere.
Artist: Foo Fighters Album: Sonic Highways Year: 2014 Grade: B+
In Brief: With this aural tribute to eight of our country’s great cities, featuring artists as diverse as Ben Gibbard, Joe Walsh, and Zac Brown (and that’s just on my three favorite tracks), Foo Fighters have finally gotten me hooked after nearly two decades of me thinking they weren’t my style. Not every experiment works, but the band is wise to let the various genre influences from each city be a flavor rather than the entire dish, which makes the record overall more cohesive and engaging than the sum of its parts.
Artist: Kye Kye Album: Fantasize Year: 2014 Grade: B
In Brief: Kye Kye makes dreamy electronic music that can be captivating, but also a bit diffuse when examined more closely. Fantasize comes across as more coherent than its predecessor Young Love, but it still seems to be more about mood than meaning.
Artist: Pearl Jam Album: Lightning Bolt Year: 2013 Grade: B+
In Brief: A triumphant “return to form” that manages to not be a rehash of Ten or of their previous “return to form” on the self-titled album. Despite a few slow spots, Lightning Bolt has a surprising amount of instant likeability that doesn’t diminish as you get deeper into the album.