Infinite Shuffle

December 30, 2016

Best of 2016 — My list

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 7:13 pm


In the past, whenever I compiled my best-of-the-year post, I always had to sift through a slew of music publications’ lists to see all the music I’d missed throughout the year. Then I’d quickly give it a listen and decide if it was worthy for inclusion.

Now, as I prepare to post Infinite Shuffle’s eighth annual “best of” list, I can proudly say that I have not looked at a single year-end recap. Instead, I’ve listened to more new music this year than ever before and feel confident that I’m well-versed enough with this year’s releases that I can competently put together my own list without any outside influence.

Throughout the past 12 months, whenever I came across a disc that I deemed especially noteworthy, I added it to my list of contenders. Then, during the December lull in new releases, I went back and listened to all of the nominees, rated every song on a 5-star scale and gave each album a cumulative average score.

While the scores below may seem rather low, that’s just because the inevitable filler tracks on every album bring down the averages considerably. So, really, anything in the 1.5-star range or higher is still a very strong album. And there was a pretty clear cut-off toward the end of the list, which is why it’s awkwardly broken into the top 31 plus 13 honorable mentions. That’s just how things shook out.

Also worth noting is just how big the gap is between the Nos. 1 and 2 discs. It just shows how impressed I was with my top pick.

I’ve created a couple of playlists — one through Google Play and the other embedded below via YouTube — for your listening pleasure as you peruse my list.

So, without further ado, I give you the best that 2016 had to offer.

  1. The Strumbellas – Hope (2.64 stars) … I proclaimed this album my favorite of the year when I first heard it in the spring, and nothing’s changed. I hadn’t actually listened to it since, but it more than holds up. Most of the albums on this list are lucky to have one or two songs worthy of 3 stars. Of the 11 tracks here, I rated eight of them 3-4 stars. It’s an embarrassment of riches from the Canadian crew’s third release.
  2. The Hotelier – Goodness (2.25 stars) … The Worcester, Mass., group came into its own on its third album, mixing pure emo (“Goodness, Pt. 2” and “Sun”), R.E.M.-style harmonies (“Piano Player”) and head-bobbing goodness (“Soft Animal”).
  3. Big Thief – Masterpiece (2.18 stars) … The debut from Adrianne Lenker’s crew stacks up well alongside such contemporaries as Hop Along, Warpaint, Sharon Van Etten and The Walkmen. The strongest tunes include the title track, “Vegas” and “Real Love”.
  4. Lucy Dacus – No Burden (2.17 stars) … Speaking of Ms. Van Etten, this indie rocker’s debut flows in the same vein as the Brooklynite — perhaps a skosh lighter. “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” is a standout among plenty of quality tunes.
  5. Palace – So Long Forever (2.09 stars) … The British indie rock band’s debut is filled with The XX-style chillwave guitars throughout — particularly on “Bitter” — and emotive folk vocals.
  6. Oscar – Cut and Paste (2.05 stars) … Every song is an earworm, starting with opener “Sometimes” and its catchy, droning male vocals and complementary female vocals. Another big track, “Fifteen”, oozes twee, while “Breaking My Phone” (grunge) and “Daffodil Days” (chillwave) add some breadth.
  7. Bleached –  Welcome to the Worms (2.0 stars) … Solid, catchy pop-punk in the same vein as Sleater-Kinney, but much tamer. “Wednesday Night Melody” definitely has the best hook, and “Trying To Lose Myself Again” is also noteworthy.
  8. Frightened Rabbit – Painting Of A Panic Attack (1.9 stars) … With The National’s Aaron Dessner behind the mixing board, these Scots added a melancholic layer to their already-emotional rock. “Get Out” is the latest in a growing catalog of awesome from the group, while “I Wish I Was Sober” and “An Otherwise Disappointing Life” are not far behind.
  9. Butch Walker – Stay Gold (1.9 stars) … A great mix of alt-country and modern classic rock, like a Son Volt/Gaslight Anthem hybrid. The title track is the strongest on an album full of pleasant tunes.
  10. DMA’s – Hills End (1.88 stars) … This Aussie crew’s debut sounds like a modern take on Oasis. Listen to “Lay Down” and you’ll be hooked.
  11. Amber Arcades – Fading Lines (1.85 stars) … The Dutch singer-songwriter’s debut channels a number of influences, such as Best Coast (“Come With Me”, “Perpetuum Mobile” and the title track), shoegaze (“I Will Follow”) and rock (“Turning Light”).
  12. American Wrestlers – Goodbye Terrible Youth (1.83 stars) … Gary McClure’s second album is an indie rock/chillwave hybrid with vocals reminiscent of Silversun Pickups. “Give Up” is one of the best tracks of the year.
  13. Balance and Composure – Light We Made (1.75 stars) … On their third album, the Doylestown, Pa., crew beautifully toe the line between hardcore and emo. Most of the stuff here is above-average, but “Is It So Much To Adore?” and “Afterparty” stand out.
  14. Pinegrove – Cardinal (1.75 stars) … Throughout the album, this group conjures up thoughts of The Decemberists and Death Cab for Cutie, but there’s also some early ‘90s college rock mixed in for good measure. “New Friends” will quickly feel like an old friend.
  15. Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow (1.75 stars) … On its second album, this Philly duo shows how amazing shoegaze can be, particularly on “Vertigo Flowers” and “The Dead Are Dumb”.
  16. Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony (1.73 stars) … A good mix of lo-fi, shoegaze, psychedelia and good old-fashioned indie. The real key is the airy-fairy guitar mixed with the female vocals.
  17. The Trouble with Templeton – Someday, Buddy (1.72 stars) … A great mix of indie rock, emo and shoegaze, this is the second release for the Aussie outfit. Standout tracks include “Bad Mistake”, “Sailor”, “Heavy Trouble”, “Complex Lips” and “Vernon”.
  18. Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter (1.68 stars) … Throwback country for a modern audience, the songs range from fun, honky-tonk to melancholy, down-in-the-dumps. Channeling her inner Dolly Parton and Jenny Lewis, Price nails it throughout, particularly on “Hands of Time” and “Hurtin’ (on the Bottle)”.
  19. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial (1.68 stars) … With a proper backing band, Will Toledo takes his slacker serenades to a whole new level. Angsty and apathetic, Car Seat Headrest are equal parts Cloud Nothings, Beck and Courtney Barnett. “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” is the highest high on an album full of them.
  20. Eagulls – Ullages (1.64 stars) … This is The Cure at their darkest and heaviest. “Velvet” and “Lemontrees” are the standouts, but, really, this is a great collection of classic post-punk.
  21. Haley Bonar – Impossible Dream (1.6 stars) … The Minnesota artist is on par with every other powerful indie-rock/pop singer-songwriter out today. “Called You Queen” should be enough to get you hooked.
  22. Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp (1.57 stars) … A quick, fun listen filled with a different kind of indie-pop. “Everybody Wants To Love You” is a standout.
  23. Beach Baby – No Mind No Money (1.55 stars) … These Brits’ debut is like a modern take on ‘80s alt-rock, most notably The Jam. It’s full of catchy tunes, such as “Limousine” and “U R”.
  24. Caveman – Otero War (1.54 stars) … When you listen to “Life or Just Living” and “On My Own”, think of it as Mike + The Mechanics for the millennials.
  25. Pity Sex – White Hot Moon (1.54 stars) … Shoegaze at its absolute finest, standouts include “Orange and Red”, “Burden You”, “September”, “Pin a Star” and “Wappen Beggars”.
  26. Sioux Falls – Rot Forever (1.53 stars) … At 16 songs and nearly 73 minutes, there’s plenty of solid indie shoegaze to enjoy. “Dom” reminds me of a lo-fi/garage version of Blink 182’s “Adam’s Song”.
  27. DIIV – Is the Is Are (1.50 stars) … This is a great sophomore effort full of airy-fairy goodness. “Bent (Roi’s Song)” and “Under the Sun” are top tracks.
  28. Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win (1.50 stars) … The debut full-length release from this Australian singer-songwriter feels like Sharon Van Etten meets Lucinda Williams. There are deeply personal lyrics sung in a half-angelic, half-haunting voice over folk-country instrumentation. Everything here is above average, but “Leadlight” stands out just a bit.
  29. Aurora – All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend (1.46 stars) … This Norwegian teenager has the firepower of Sia and Ellie Goulding and emotional quirkiness of Bjork. An ethereal voice with plenty of help from Auto-Tune, she occasionally seems to have an Irish lilt. Particularly on “Through the Eyes of a Child”, which, along with “Winter Bird”, is on the softer end of the spectrum. Meanwhile, standouts such as “Runaway” and “Conqueror” are of the anthemic variety.
  30. Stephen Steinbrink – Anagrams (1.46 stars) … The singer-songwriter strikes a happy balance between hopeful and melancholic, slow and upbeat, raw and shiny. Steinbrink uses production effects to make his near-falsetto even higher, and he mixes it with some solid guitar work to create a perfectly pleasant batch of tunes that you could either put on in the background or turn up and sway along to. The title track and “Impossible Hand” are very catchy.
  31. Tegan and Sara – Love You To Death (1.45 stars) … Eight albums in, and these two Canadian sisters haven’t missed a beat. This album is loaded with electro-pop bliss. “Boyfriend” and “U-Turn” are standouts.


  • Teenage Fanclub – Here (1.33 stars)
  • Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones – Little Windows (1.3 stars)
  • KT Tunstall – Kin (1.27 stars)
  • Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings (1.25 stars)
  • Local Natives – Sunlit Youth (1.21 stars)
  • Adia Victoria – Beyond The Bloodhounds (1.17 stars)
  • LVL UP – Return to Love (1.15 stars)
  • La Sera – Music For Listening To Music To (1.15 stars)
  • Lumineers – Cleopatra (1.14 stars)
  • The Head and The Heart – Signs of Light (1.12 stars)
  • case/lang/veirs – self-titled (1.11 stars)
  • Lydia Loveless – Real (1.10 stars)
  • Black Rivers – self-titled (1.00 stars)

December 29, 2016

Old Releases: 2016 Mix

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 12:19 am

For me, the past year was filled with nearly nonstop new releases — with plenty of soccer podcasts mixed in for good measure. But, on occasion, I did manage to listen to some music released prior to 2016.

Here’s a quick rundown of groups, many of whom could feasibly put out music in 2017.

  • Bad Bad Hats – Psychic Reader [2015] … This music is like catnip to me. I don’t even know what to say about it other than the fact that I love every song, and even my girlfriend really enjoyed it — and we never agree about music.

  • Hippo Campus – South [2015] … Average to above-average. “South” and “Dollar Bill” are solid. Reminds me of another band I’ve discovered in the last couple years; I just can’t remember who it is. Maybe GIVERS or Lord Huron.
  • Hippo Campus – Bashful Creatures [2015] … Sounds closer to a Vampire Weekend record, but not as quirky.
  • Wax Idols – American Tragic [2015] … Definitely reminiscent of Siouxsie and the Banshees. “Lonely You” is a catchy single that could have easily come from an ‘80s movie soundtrack. “I’m Not Going” is Siouxsie mixed with Warpaint. “At Any Moment” is another catchy tune that’s a good mix of ‘80s and today.

  • Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us [2015] … A nice dose of rock but with just enough of a pop-punk tone to make it seem interesting. Like a poppier version of Japandroids or The Gaslight Anthem without the Jersey/Boss twinge. “Young & Alive” is a standout.
  • Ducktails – St. Catherine [2015] … A mixture of psychedelia and airy-fairy pop. “Headbanging in the Mirror” is a standout track.

  • SW/MM/NG – Feel Not Bad [2014] … It’s hard to listen to SW/MM/NG and not notice how similar lead singer Brian Kupillas’ vocals are to those of The Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser. Thankfully, this is not just some carbon copy of those Brooklynites. Where The Walkmen seem to be doing their best to channel The Strokes and Bob Dylan, SW/MM/NG are aiming more for the sound of, say, Lower Dens or Beach Fossils. “Some Dreams Come True” is a standout that pulls in the listener, but the rest of the album is what keeps them tuned in. “All I Want” has a bit of a Band of Horses vibe, while “It’s Good To Be” calls to mind Coldplay.

  • Tennis – Cape Dory [2011] … Indie-pop at a soothingly slow pace with a nostalgic tone that hearkens back to the mid-’50s.
  • Rainbow Kitten Surprise – Seven + Mary [2013] … A nice mix of blues, alt-country and plenty of indie-rock.  Standouts include “Devil Like Me”, “Seven” and “First Class”.
  • Treetop Flyers – The Mountain Moves [2013] … “Things Will Change” sounds like it was beamed straight from a ‘70s AM rock station.
  • Young Summer – Siren [2014] … A neverending stream of auto-tuned goth pop with several catchy songs, most notably “Fever Dream”, “Striking Distance” and “Leave Your Love”.

  • Pylon … A solid post-punk band from the early ‘80s that combines U2, Joy Division and Blondie.
  • The Academic – Loose Friends EP [2015] … A young, up-and-coming indie band out of Ireland that has a lot of potential.

December 26, 2016

New Releases: Nov-Dec 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 11:14 am

The final batch of new releases for the year is a short one. Things really slow down around the holidays, which is probably why every publication puts out its best-of lists throughout December rather than waiting for the end of the year. However, there were a few standouts that came out in the final two months that may have been overlooked by the major pubs.

Here are my hot takes from months 11 and 12; and be sure to look back throughout the week for my own year in review posts.

Nov. 4

Palace – So Long Forever … The debut full-length release for the British indie rock band is definitely one of the best of the year. It mixes so many enjoyable elements from other solid bands from the past few years. There are the chillwave guitars throughout, particularly on “Bitter” and “So Long Forever”, that would not sound out of place on an album by The XX. For much of the disc, lead singer Leo Wyndham’s vocals are reminiscent of the emotive folk Dry the River hit big with a few years ago. But there are a few times, most notably on “It’s Over”, that he sounds more like a Hozier knock-off.

Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions – Until the Hunter … Fans of Mazzy Star rejoice! Last seen on the band’s 2013 release, Seasons of Your Day, the lead singer is back with another side project. It’s a folkier version of what you might expect if you’re a Mazzy Star novice (like myself). The highlight here is her duet with Kurt Vile on “Let Me Get There”.

Jim James – Eternally Even … Admittedly, I haven’t listened to much of James’s side projects nor his main band, My Morning Jacket, in several years. So, perhaps the overall vibe on this, his second solo effort, is not too far out of line with where his music is at these days. That being said, I’m not a fan. This sounds more like an R&B/soul artist in 1970s Detroit rather than an alt-rocker from modern-day Kentucky.

American Wrestlers – Goodbye Terrible Youth … Former Working for a Nuclear Free City guitarist Gary McClure added Ian Reitz, Josh Van Hoorebeke, and his wife, Bridgette Imperial, for his second full-length release under this moniker. The result is an indie rock/chillwave hybrid that should help shoot this band to the top of every hipster “it” list. The first single, “Give Up”, is as good as anything you’ll hear this year. McClure’s grainy, pseudo-falsetto is reminiscent of Silversun Pickups’ leader Brian Aubert, most notably on standouts “Hello, Dear” and “Amazing Grace”. “Someone Far Away” is another one to look for.

Lambchop – FLOTUS … This album has nothing to do with Michelle Obama. The title of the latest release from the collective led by Kurt Wagner stands for “For Love Often Turns Us Still.” Despite being active since the mid-’80s, I’ve barely ever listened to this outfit, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I got was a low-key, production effect-filled disc full of soulful lounge music.

Nov. 11

You Blew It! – Abendrot … This Florida crew may not label itself as an emo band, but its third album can’t be called anything but. Like a slightly punkier version of Jimmy Eat World’s classic Clarity, this disc is loaded with pensive lyrics and sorrowful instrumentation.

Jacuzzi Boys – Ping Pong … This SoCal trio’s fourth album is pretty straightforward rock, with an indie-punk bent. Other than that, there’s nothing particularly memorable about it.

The Men – Devil Music … As several reviews intimated, the sixth full-length release from this Brooklyn post-punk quartet was more of a labor of love than anything else. Recorded over a weekend in January, it’s packed with distortion, reverb and fuzz and feels more like a two-day jam session rather than a proper record.

Martha Wainwright – Goodnight City … Having never gone out of my way to listen to her prolific catalog, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Turns out she’s like a cross between Joni Mitchell and Joanna Newsome. (At least at this stage in her career.)

Emeli Sandé – Long Live the Angels … A Scottish version of Rihanna puts plenty of soul into her second album.

Kristin Hersh – Wyatt at the Coyote Palace … The Throwing Muses co-founder returns with her 10th solo offering. Her raw vocals and acoustic guitar highlight the lyrics, which are the star here. “In Stitches” is a standout.

Sad13 – Slugger … On her solo debut, Speedy Ortiz lead singer Sadie Dupuis comes off sounding like a modern-day Liz Phair.

Sleigh Bells – Jessica Rabbit … On their first three albums, I only liked one song by the Brooklyn noise pop duo — “Rill Rill”. Other than that, I could never really get into the abrasive, disjointed sound. But on their fourth disc, Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller have managed to make something more accessible. Things are still plenty noisy, but, for the most part, the songs have enough going on that they’re tolerable. No tracks stand out; it’s just nice to hear something palatable from them.

Nov. 18

Diana – Familiar Touch … The second album from the Canadian electro-pop trio is a captivating mix of pop, electronic and chillwave. The instrumentation often hearkens back to ‘80s pop/R&B — think Lionel Richie — but lead singer Carmen Elle does a good job of keeping things from seeming too nostalgic or corny. “Confession” is a solid table-setter for a disc filled with mostly enjoyable tunes and the occasional miss.

Highly Suspect – The Boy Who Died Wolf … The Massachusetts rock trio received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song for the opening track (“My Name is Human”) of its second album. The fact that I hated the song makes me wonder how bad the other songs are in that category. The band itself sounds like Chris Cornell fronting Filter — interesting to some listeners, but probably derivative to most.

Nov. 25

The Weeknd – Starboy … The singles machine didn’t take too long with his third full-length album, and several songs have torn up the charts. I fully understand why people enjoy his mix of R&B, rap and electro-pop. Personally, I can only tolerate it for so long. The lone song I would deem worthy of repeating is the opening title track, which features Daft Punk.

Elephant Stone – Ship of Fools … The fourth release for the Canadian trio hems closer to indie-rock than psychedelia, but there’s enough of the latter that gives the whole thing a bit of a chillwave vibe. The crew, led by Rishi Dhir, also weaves in some Indian instrumentation to give it a little something extra. The standout here is “See the Light”.

Dec. 2

The Trouble with Templeton – Someday, Buddy … A great mix of indie rock, emo and shoegaze, this is the second full-length release for the Brisbane, Australia, band led by singer/songwriter Thomas Calder. He started the group — which takes its name from a Twilight Zone episode — as a solo project in 2011 before fleshing it out as a quartet. Calder’s vocals range from sounding like David Gray on the low end to Grouplove’s Christian Zucconi at the higher octaves. Standout tracks include “Sailor”, “Heavy Trouble”, “Complex Lips” and “Vernon”, but, really, everything here is above average.

Angelina – Vagabond Saint … The debut for the mononymous British singer-songwriter falls somewhere in the overlap of blues, country, rock and soul on the Venn diagram of the music world. At times, she seems like she could go full Brittney Howard and bring down the house with her pipes. But she never takes it to that level. Instead, she focuses on keeping things raw and sultry.

Peter Doherty – Hamburg Demonstrations … The former Libertines and Babyshambles frontman classes it up with his full first name on his second solo disc. As for the music, it’s a whole lot of meh.

Dec. 9

Neil Young – Peace Trail … The patron saint of Canadian rockers returns with his 37th full-length album. I’ve probably only listened to 3 percent of his solo work, so my knowledge base is limited. But this disc seems like what one would expect — plenty of acoustic guitar folk-rock with the occasional protest song (“Indian Givers”). If you’re a Younghead, you’ll probably enjoy it.

December 17, 2016

New Releases: June-October 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 1:53 am

We’re coming down the homestretch this year, and I’ve managed to pick up my pace considerably. Here’s five months’ worth of new music to sink your ears into.

I’ve only got two months worth remaining, and, thankfully, they don’t have the same breadth as most months.

And, remember, some of the embedded videos are actually playlists and may require skipping ahead to the notable tunes.


June 3

  • Ladyhawke – Wild Things … It’s been a long time since I have listened to Pip Brown’s debut album, but from what I recall about that, it pales in comparison to her latest offering. That previous work included three songs I absolutely loved, but it also had a load of useless filler. Here on her third album, the Los Angeles-based Kiwi churns out her most consistent disc to date. If the infectious opening track, “A Love Song”, hasn’t received loads of radio airplay by now, someone at her record label needs to be fired. The rest of the album is loaded with mostly above-average indie-pop, including another peak at “Golden Girl”.

  • Joseph Arthur – The Family … Overall, the 14th solo release from this Ohio-based singer-songwriter is pretty solid. It’s filled with quality musicianship, singing and lyrics. That being said, I just found it generally boring. So, go ahead and listen to it, but don’t be surprised if you don’t hit repeat.
  • Spain – Carolina … This California crew could easily find a fanbase among the loyalists of Sun Kil Moon, Junip and their ilk. The band’s sixth album since 1995 is filled with lush instrumentation and soothing, deliberate vocals. But it can also pick up the pace when it wants to, like on “Lorelei”. Josh Haden’s voice is very reminiscent to Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith.
  • Fatherson – Open Book … The Scottish indie-rock trio started strong on its sophomore effort, with catchy tunes such as “Just Past the Point of Breaking”, “Always” and “Lost Little Boys”. But it wasn’t long before things turned more sappy and melodramatic.
  • Robert Ellis – self-titled … On his fourth album, the Houston area native combines alt-country, baroque pop and any number of other influences into a well-crafted collection of singer-songwriter tunes. Notable ditties include “How I Love You”, which calls to mind Son Volt, and “California”, a great story about moving away after the end of a relationship.
  • Whitney – Light Upon the Lake … The debut album from this group, which includes a couple of members of Smith Westerns, is filled with vintage ‘70s-era instrumentation — similar to Portugal. The Man. It provides a backdrop to some majorly falsetto male vocals. It’s a great summertime album. “The Falls” is notable, but there’s not a great deal of fluctuation here.

  • Max Jury – self-titled … Iowa-bred, London-based, this indie pop-rocker mixes alt-country, folk and even gospel into an enchanting brew on his debut. Top track “Beg & Crawl” calls to mind some of the best from the Laurel Canyon scene. Occasionally, his voice sounds distinctly feminine, similar to Fiona Apple — particularly on “Love That Grows Old”.
  • Psychic Ills – Inner Journey Out … When I think of psychedelic music, the first image that comes to mind is of lazy hippies lying around listening to trippy tunes. As for the musicians themselves, I imagine them just jamming out endlessly, but I don’t consider them lazy. So, Psychic Ills, are a little different in that their music sounds like a couple of slackers just halfheartedly playing psych music. Obviously, that’s not the case, but that’s just the vibe that comes across when listening to this album. I generally don’t give this genre a second thought, so I won’t be listening to this disc again. But I will note that I enjoyed the instrumentation on “Another Change”.
  • Mourn – Ha, Ha, He. … This band would fit in well on a playlist with Chastity Belt, Hinds and Speedy Ortiz. If you like any of those, check out this second album from the Spanish crew. Barely more than 26 minutes, it won’t eat up much of your time.
  • Moonface – My Best Human Face …  This second collaboration between prolific Canadian musician Spencer Krug and the Finnish band, Siinai, is pleasant throughout. The first two songs — “The Nightclub Artiste” and “Risto’s Riff” — are a solid start, and “Ugly Flower Pretty Vase” is a standout with its indie-rock prowess.

  • The Claypool Lennon Delirium – Monolith of Phobos … If you like full-frontal psychedelia, get comfy and press play. Otherwise, avoid at all costs.
  • William Tyler – Modern Country … A generally pleasant, instrumental neo-folk album. I gave up after 1.5 songs, but that’s because I tend to find instrumental music boring. That being said, I did enjoy the portion I actually listened to.
  • Minor Victories – self-titled … This is the debut offering from the interesting mishmash of members of Slowdive, Mogwai, Editors and Hand Held Cine Club. The end result is something that most closely resembles a hybrid of post-punk and shoegaze. Rachel Goswell provides her ethereal voice to the project, while the instrumentation bounces from synth-pop to rock to industrial to orchestral and several in between. The best example of all these styles is penultimate track “The Thief”. In addition to the collected talents in the group, a pair of vocalists make guest appearances — Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek on “For You Always” and Twilight Sad’s James Graham on standout track “Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard)”.

  • The Kills – Ash & Ice …  The fifth album from the indie duo of American singer Alison Mosshart and British guitarist Jamie Hince is supposedly the culmination of their preceding efforts. She brings a certain energy to these dark, heavy tunes that is hard to match. And his guitar work is solid. That said, it’s an acquired taste, and I’m just not feelin’ it. If you’re already a fan of The Kills, you’ll probably love this. If they’re new to you, go ahead and give it a spin.
  • Cat’s Eyes – Treasure House … According to Wikipedia, this duo formed when Faris Badwan (from English indie rock band the Horrors) introduced Italian-Canadian soprano, composer and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zeffir to 1960s girl groups. That influence is evident throughout their sophomore album, but nowhere more so than on “Be Careful Where You Park Your Car”. Other instances include “Drag”, “Girl in the Room” and my favorite track, “Names on the Mountain”. Meanwhile, the songs where Badwan takes the lead have a darker, haunting feel, such as on “We’ll Be Waiting”, “Everything Moves Toward the Sun” and “Standoff”, which sounds like a modern take on classic Bowie.

  • Steve Gunn – Eyes On The Lines … This album feels both classic and modern at the same time. Just a great country-rock vibe running throughout and supported with some pretty great guitar work. “Conditions Wild” and “Full Moon Tide” are particularly notable. The back half of the album takes on a decidedly more Led Zeppelin vibe.
  • FEWS – MEANS … Another strong addition to the Swedish indie rock scene. This debut disc is loaded with tightly crafted tunes more befitting seasoned rock vets. “Drinking Games” and “The Queen” are standouts. “100 Goosebumps” is reminiscent of a lot of stuff that came out a decade ago, while “10 Things” calls to mind The Drums. Also, clocking in at under 37 minutes, this is an album you could easily listen to several times through without getting tired of it.

  • RM Hubbert – Telling The Trees … The latest solo release from this Scottish guitarist features collaborations with a slew of female vocalists. Several were decent, but the only one that stood out was “Sweet Dreams” with Marnie.
  • Fear of Men – Fall Forever … Ethereal vocals mixed with post-punk instrumentation make for a rather enchanting listen. Jess Weiss conjures memories of Dolores O’Riordan — without the Irish brogue. There were a lot of solid tunes, just no real standouts. But this sophomore offering should firmly establish the Brighton, England, trio as a force to be reckoned with on the dream pop scene. (I imagine most members of that genre being rather waifish, so I suppose a stiff breeze could be considered “a force.”)
  • Amber Arcades – Fading Lines … This debut full-length album from Annelotte de Graaf’s alter ego mixes the best elements of some of the most popular retro trends of the past few years, most notably the ’60s girl groups and shoegaze. As one reviewer mentioned, the Dutch singer-songwriter can go in any number of directions from here. Opener “Come With Me” combines Best Coast and chillwave. “Constant’s Dream” is like a Dutch version of Dolores O’Riordan, while the catchy, faster-paced title track brings back the Best Coast vibe. “I Will Follow” is pure shoegaze, and “Perpetuum Mobile” brings things back to a nostalgic sound. The penultimate tune, “Turning Light”, is a total change of pace; it’s faster, rockier and filled with more effects.

  • Tegan and Sara – Love You To Death … Eight albums in, and these two Canadian sisters haven’t missed a beat. This album is loaded with electro-pop bliss. “Faint of Heart”, “Boyfriend” and “U-Turn” are standouts.
  • The Strokes – Future Present Past … This is a three-song EP by The Strokes. That’s about all you need to know.

June 10

  • Weird Dreams – Luxury Alone … Very synth-heavy chillwave album. Opener “Binary” and “The Ladder” seem to be the best examples of what Doran Edwards can do now that he has left his band behind and moved to Paris as a solo act. Things also drift into a psychedelic haze at times, particularly on “Mirror”.
  • Empty Houses – Daydream … The debut album from this Detroit trio answers that age-old question “What would it sound like if Adele fronted a retro-soul/rock band?” Now, Ali Shea certainly doesn’t have the same kind of pipes as her London counterpart, but she provides an adequate, toned-down facsimile. Try the title track to get an idea of what you’re in for.
  • Brigid Mae Power – self-titled … This Irish songstress’s debut is like a far more palatable version of Joanna Newsome. It’s filled with haunting vocals and soothing piano.
  • Rival Sons – Hollow Bones … Some straight ahead hard rock with at least a valiant attempt at melodies.
  • The Temper Trap – Thick as Thieves … The Aussie band’s third studio album — and first without original lead guitarist Lorenzo Sillitto — is a return to the sound that originally put it on the map in 2009. If you’re looking for something similar that year’s breakout hit “Sweet Disposition”, check out the fourth track here, “Lost”. But before that are more interesting tunes “So Much Sky” and “Burn”. Overall, the disc is a fun listen and above-average.

  • Darren Hayman – Thankful Villages, Vol. 1 … Admittedly, I liked this album more because of its backstory. It’s the first of a planned trilogy from the British singer-songwriter who was inspired by the 54 villages in England and Wales where soldiers from World War I returned home safely. The tunes are generally bucolic and of the acoustic variety. The only problem is that there is a lot of spoken word from various elderly townspeople recounting their memories from the war. I only made it halfway through the disc before giving up.
  • BRONCHO – Double Vanity … This is a distortion-filled mix of various genres of rock, including shoegaze, garage, surfer and indie. “I Know You” is the lone notable track.
  • Nite Jewel – Liquid Cool … A decent offering of catchy electro-pop that would fit nicely on the Drive soundtrack. No notable tunes here, but it managed to keep my attention throughout and didn’t force me to skip ahead.
  • Yung – A Youthful Dream … The debut full-length release from this Danish pop-punk band is filled with a mix of shoegaze and indie rock that should put Cloud Nothings on notice. That being said, this is still a band filled with untapped potential. There are a lot of average and above-average songs here, with the most notable being “Uncombed Hair”. Others worthy of a mention are “A Mortal Sin”, “A Bleak Incident”, “The Sound of Being Okay” and “A Youthful Dream”.
  • Brandy Clark – Big Day in a Small Town … I’d always heard Clark lumped into the same category as Kacey Musgraves, as they both broke out around the same time. However, Clark definitely hems closer to the mainstream line. But while it’s not quite as revolutionary as Musgraves or Margo Price, it’s at least more entertaining than a lot of stuff on the radio. The hit single, “Girl Next Door”, is a big middle finger to any guy out there who thinks he can do better with another woman. And “Homecoming Queen” is a classic, bittersweet tune about looking back at one’s unfulfilled potential.

  • Band of Horses – Why Are You OK? … I will forever love their second album, 2007’s Cease To Begin. Unfortunately, that was their peak as far as I’m concerned, and this, their fifth album, continues the downward spiral. Even if I wasn’t judging it against past work, I’m confident I wouldn’t give the album a second thought. The disc is loaded with Ben Bridwell doing his thing, and there are a couple of points where the group seems to be doing its best Pink Floyd impersonation. And that’s about it. The closest thing to a single is “Throw My Mess,” which is Band of Horses at their classic folkiest.
  • Alexis Taylor – Piano … This was a generally pleasant and relaxing listen from the lead singer of Hot Chip. Taylor’s second full-length solo release is actually filled with stripped-down and re-imagined versions of songs from Hot Chip and his side project, About Group, as well as some of his favorite artists. This disc, which is aptly filled with plenty of piano, is nothing special; it’s just a calming way to spend 41 minutes.
  • Diarrhea Planet – Turn to Gold … The Nashville crew’s third album is filled with straightforward rock that’s tinged with enough pop so as to conjure comparisons to ‘80s hair metal. But don’t let that scare you. This is way better than its influences. However, it may not be as good as the band’s previous releases. “Announcement” is standout here, and “Ruby Red” is worth noting as well.

  • Spring King – Tell Me if You Like To … The debut release from this British indie-rock band is filled with generally catchy tunes with the occasional miss. There aren’t necessarily any standouts, but, overall, it’s an impressive start for a band that has the potential to have some staying power.
  • Peter Bjorn and John – Breakin’ Point … It’s become clear that PB&J will never recapture their past glory of a decade ago. But that doesn’t mean that they’re gonna go down without a fight. On this, their seventh album, they often flirt with catchy singledom, but nothing quite manages to reach that threshold. The title track and “A Long Goodbye” come closest.
  • Gemma Ray – The Exodus Suite … The seventh album by this British singer-songwriter sounds exactly like something that would be playing in the background of a James Bond movie.
  • Throws – self-titled … This is the debut album from Tunng founding members Mike Lindsay and Sam Genders. The most striking thing about the music is the vocal harmonies, which call to mind Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke. Other than that, I’m not sure what to make of this disc. It’s definitely interesting and an acquired taste. It’s not in my wheelhouse, but I’d imagine a lot of people enjoying it.
  • Garbage – Strange Little Birds … Two things struck me upon listening to the latest offering from the American-Scottish stalwarts — that after more than 20 years, this is only their sixth album and just how heavy and industrial it is. I’ve always imagined Garbage as a synth-rock band that looked a little dark but actually sounded poppy. That’s definitely not the case here.
  • Charlie Faye & the Fayettes – self-titled … The Austin singer-songwriter puts a modern spin on ‘60s soul-pop girl groups. You need only listen to the lyrics of opener “Green Light” to realize this came out in 2016 and not 50 years earlier.
  • The Gotobeds – Blood//Sugar//Secs//Traffic … Ugh, I will never be a fan of these rock bands that mix speak-singing lyrics with faux late ‘70s British punk attitude. I’d name some similar bands, but I’ve blocked them all from my memory.

June 17

  • Elizabeth Cook – Exodus of Venus … A rather dark take on the country genre from a woman who endured a divorce and the death of her parents since releasing her last album six years ago.
  • The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem … This is the first time I’d ever listened to this Canadian crew, even though this is its 13th release. And now I’m starting to think it is tragically underrated. Depending on the song, it sounds like Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, David Bowie (“Hot Mic”) and any number of other slightly off-center indie acts. The standout is “In a World Possessed by the Human Mind”. Since the recording of the album, lead singer Gord Downie was diagnosed with brain cancer. It is unclear if there will be any more albums in the band’s future; but let’s hope so.

  • Jay Arner – Jay II … I’ve listened to this Vancouver resident’s second solo release a couple of times, and I’m still struggling to find the words to describe it. The best comparison I can make is a one-man version of Of Montreal. I liked this album more than I would’ve expected based on that description.
  • Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math … There are no standouts on this Brooklyn singer-songwriter’s debut disc, but that doesn’t mean this album as a whole isn’t a hit. Combining the raw emotion of Jenny Lewis with the bluesy twang of Joni Mitchell, this is a phenomenal rookie effort that is sure to be a critical success.
  • Will Butler – Friday Night [Live] … On the Arcade Fire member’s second solo release, he gives us a live set recorded during his 2015 tour for his debut release, Policy. The basic feel here is a mixture of Arcade Fire, Destroyer and any number of other popular indie-rock acts.
  • Caveman – Otero War … The instrumentation on this Brooklyn crew’s third full-length release is like a modern, indie take on Mike + the Mechanics. (Let that sink in for a second.) Check out “On My Own”, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. “All My Life” and “80 West” are other notable tunes, but, really, everything on this disc is above-average.

  • Still Parade – Concrete Vision …  The debut LP from Berlin-based electronic artist Niklas Kramer is straightforward indie-psychedelia in the same vein as Tame Impala. And, if you’re an avid reader of this blog, you know how I feel about those Aussies.
  • Mumford & Sons – Johannesburg [EP] … A welcome entry in the band’s growing catalog of awesomeness. The five-track disc was recorded in Johannesburg over two days and includes collaborations various local artists, such as the Very Best and Baaba Maal.
  • PAWS – No Grace … This Scottish pop-punk trio reminds me of an indie version of Against Me! — something about lead singer Phillip Taylor’s cadence is reminiscent of Laura Jane Grace, which makes the title amusing. The second track, “N/A”, immediately became one of my favorite songs of the year. Also noteworthy are “Impermanent” and “Empire State”. This is the band’s third album, and it was produced by blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus.

  • Sarah Jarosz – Undercurrent … The fourth release from this Texas-bred singer-songwriter is a perfect hybrid of indie-folk and country. Everything here is pleasant, with “Take Me Back” standing slightly taller than the rest.
  • Let’s Eat Grandma – I, Gemini … These two British teens get points for naming themselves after a grammar lesson. And, judging from the tracklist on their debut disc, they are fans of wordplay. Alas, that’s about all they have going for them. The songs here are too scattershot and lack focus. And the Cockney-tinged rapping sprinkled throughout is instantly grating.
  • Jake Bugg – On My One … I respect the British singer-songwriter for trying to grow as an artist on his third album. Unfortunately, what he developed into was something lackluster at best. The only moment on this disc that is any good is when he returns to his folky Bob Dylan-wannabe ways on “Put Out the Fire”. Other than that, it’s a worthless record.
  • Big Deal – Say Yes … This was a pleasant, if inconsistent, swan song for the band, which announced Sept. 1 that it had broken up. Musically, the duo of Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood dabble in a variety of genres, including indie-rock, pop, shoegaze and chillwave. Many of the songs come across as above-average filler. Besides the title track, it seemed as if they had already mailed it in by the time they recorded this disc.
  • Mitski – Puberty 2 … On her fourth album, New York indie siren Mitski Miyawaki channels the best of Sharon Van Etten, St. Vincent, Warpaint and every other powerful female act that is able to share something deeply personal in a very dark, raw manner. “Your Best American Girl” is one of many good examples of this. “A Loving Feeling” is a rare poppy tune here.

  • Weaves – self-titled … The debut disc from this Canadian crew was disjointed at best. It was going all over the place with influences such as St. Vincent and Get Behind Me Satan-era White Stripes among others. The group showed signs of potential, but it really needs to pick a direction and hone in on it.
  • The Low Anthem – eyeland … With a lot of the music on this list, I’m not necessarily sure what to expect. But having heard — and loved — some of The Low Anthem’s earlier work, I figured this would be more of the same. Not at all. On its fifth studio album, the Rhode Island-based folk crew went in a very cosmic direction, something well beyond psychedelia and more like experimental psych-folk. You might as well just stick to their earlier releases.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway … Exactly what you’d expect from the SoCal rock/funk/pop legends on their 11th studio album. A lot of oddly rhymed lyrics and not-so-veiled lines about sex and anatomy? Check. Anthony Keidis oscillating between funk-rap and stoner-pop balladeering? Check. A lot of fun guitar work from Flea? Check. The gents are past their prime, but hardcore fans won’t care.
  • case/lang/veirs – self-titled … Neko Case, k.d. lang and Laura Veirs are each such powerful forces in their own right, but it’s rare that we get to hear any of them harmonize with someone of equal stature. Within the first 20 seconds of opening track “Atomic Number”, each of the three luminaries delivers a line and you know immediately what kind of sonic experience awaits. I had been eagerly awaiting this trio’s debut ever since it was announced, and the ladies did not disappoint. There is nary a lull, but the Veirs-led “Best Kept Secret” was my fave.

  • Laura Mvula – The Dreaming Room … The second release by this British songstress evokes comparisons to Duffy, Adele and Imogen Heap, among others. The opening tracks also give off an African vibe.

June 24

  • Alice Bag – self-titled … Wow, I feel like I just discovered a major hole in my music knowledge. Apparently, Bag is a legend of the first wave of punk in the ‘70s. After venturing into myriad other fields, such as acting, teaching, writing and activism, Bag is back with her first-ever solo album. It sounds a lot like what you might expect from someone who’s been through the wars and come out the other side. A lot of the songs here lean toward a nostalgic girl-group vibe. But there are the occasional glimmers of true punk. “He’s So Sorry” calls out domestic abusers and the victims that enable them.

  • Nice as Fuck – self-titled … The surprise new side project from Jenny Lewis hearkens back to the post-punk and New Wave bands of the early ‘80s. “Higher” sounds like some of the early New Wave stuff that was coming from previously punkish bands. “Guns” is the top track here, while “Angel” is also notable.
  • Drowners – On Desire … Everything about this album seems great at first listen. But within a few songs, you realize how derivative it is. Through two albums, this New York indie crew has still yet to find its own voice. Instead, it takes all the best parts of a slew of influential bands and compiles them into something pleasant and familiar but also unoriginal.
  • Hannah Georgas – For Evelyn … The Canadian singer-songwriter’s third album is perfect for a rainy morning. Its vocals are haunting, lyrics sorrowful and production not overdone. Georgas is a mix of Zola Jesus and Regina Spektor. The most uptempo tune, “Evelyn”, is the most noteworthy, but everything here is solid.

  • Broods – Conscious … The second release from New Zealand brother-sister duo Georgia and Caleb Nott sounds like a lot of stuff you’d find on mainstream pop radio. So, it’s no surprise that this album includes collaborations with Tove Lo and Lorde. That said, it was at least a pleasant listen. The standout is “Heartlines”.
  • Puro Instinct – Autodrama … On their second album, this sister duo puts a modern, chillwave spin on ‘80s synth-pop.
  • The Felice Brothers – Life in the Dark … It’s no surprise this album was recorded on a farm in upstate New York, as it’s dripping with a heavy dose of The Band influence. On their ninth disc, the Felices also channel their inner Son Volt, Wilco and Bright Eyes.
  • The Mystery Lights – self-titled … The debut from this Brooklyn act is like a time warp back to 1960s Nuggets-era psychedelic and garage rock. There is a slightly modern twist as the vocals are occasionally reminiscent of Alabama Shakes.
  • Stephen Steinbrink – Anagrams … On his seventh studio album, the singer-songwriter based in the state of Washington, strikes a happy balance between hopeful and melancholic, slow and upbeat, raw and shiny. Steinbrink uses production effects to make his near-falsetto even higher, and he mixes it with some solid guitar work to create a perfectly pleasant batch of tunes that you could either put on in the background or turn up and sway along to. The title track is very catchy and needs to be on the radio. Also noteworthy is “Building Machines” — but, really, the entire album is aces.

  • Hot Hot Heat – self-titled … The fifth and final act from the Vancouver crew is apparently more of the same indie-rock/electro-pop that has filled their catalog. (I wouldn’t know, since, for some reason, I’ve never listened to them before this.)
  • The Avett Brothers – True Sadness … The gents from North Carolina mix in way more production, electronics and just general “wall of sound” on their ninth album. That’s likely the result of having Rick Rubin at the helm. Overall, it’s not their best work, but it’s still certainly above average. Top honors go to “Smithsonian”.
  • Deerhoof – The Magic … I doubt I’ll ever find the experimental rock group as anything other than annoying. But plenty of people out there love it. I do like the fact that this album was recorded over a seven-day period in an abandoned office space in New Mexico.
  • Marisa Anderson – Into The Light … According to Metacritic, the fourth full-length release for the singer-songwriter is a soundtrack to an “imaginary science-fiction western film.” Basically, the entirely instrumental album sounds like Explosions in the Sky’s theme song to the show Friday Night Lights.

July 1

  • Sara Watkins – Young in All the Wrong Ways … The third solo album from this country-folk singer-songwriter has hints of Lee Ann Womack, Natalie Maines and Kacey Musgraves, but it’s 100-percent Watkins. Even on the songs that feature guest appearances from such acts as Aoife O’Donovan, Jim James and Sarah Jarosz. There are no standout tracks, but lovers of both country and folk will find this to be an entrancing listen.
  • GØGGS – self-titled … Apparently, Ty Seagall was getting restless and needed to add another project to his already-prolific list. This time, he teams up with Charles Moothart and Ex-Cult’s Chris Shaw for this grimy, garage rock offering. It’s not my cup of tea, but Seagall has never really done it for me anyway.
  • Beyond the Wizards Sleeve – The Soft Bounce This London duo’s debut release jumps around so much, that no track resembles its predecessor. But taken as a whole, Erol Alkan and Richard Norris, with the help of various collaborators, have created a mostly dark, haunting album that dabbles in electro, shoegaze, psychedelia, fuzz-rock and even a little pop. Bands such as My Bloody Valentine, The XX, The Beatles and 5th Dimension can be heard on various tunes. The best is the synth-heavy “Diagram Girl”. It’s the most palatable track on an otherwise “acquired taste” album.
  • Metronomy – Summer 08 … These British blokes sound like a poor man’s Hot Chip. I’d consider the latter a bit of an acquired taste. As for this crew, just skip it.
  • Martha – Blisters in the Pit of My Heart … Teetering on the brink of “annoying Warped Tour whining,” this pop-punk outfit from Britain manages to stay barely within the good graces of the indie world. The band’s second offering oscillates between solid, emotive ditties such as “Chekhov’s Hangnail”, “11:45, Legless in Brandon” and “Do Nothing” and the aforementioned whinier tracks.

  • blink-182 – California … Basically, if you were a fan of the band before, then you’ll enjoy this album with a slightly wistful feel. If you hated the band, don’t listen to this. And if you’ve never listened to it, give this a try, then go back and listen to Enema of the State and Dude Ranch. This disc picks up right where the group left off, even without former frontman Tom DeLonge. “Bored To Death” probably does the best job of recapturing blink at their heyday. “San Diego” is also noteworthy.
  • Bat For Lashes – The Bride … Besides the song, “Daniel”, I had never really been a fan of Natasha Khan’s earlier work. But this, her fourth LP, was entrancing in its simplicity. It is a concept album about a woman who takes her honeymoon trip alone after her fiance was killed just before their wedding. That should give you an idea of the overall tone. The best comparison is like listening to a toned-down and more somber version of Annie Lennox. “Joe’s Dream” and “Close Encounters” are notable.

July 8

  • Moon Bros – These Stars … Singer-songwriter Matt Schneider churns out a prototypical mix of folk, bluegrass and Americana on his sixth full-length release.
  • Evans the Death – Vanilla … One reviewer called this album “an intriguing and often fun record that not only rewards repeat listening, but almost demands it.” Other than the “fun” part, I’d say that’s a pretty apt description. You definitely won’t pick up on all of the nuances during the first spin. I’ve listened to it twice and still haven’t nailed it down. What I think seems like a lack of focus, others would probably deem “adventurous” or “eclectic” or some other positive adjective. On its third album, the British indie rock quartet dabbles in pop-punk (“Suitcase Jimmy”), post-punk (“Armchair Theatre”), shoegaze (“Disowner”), fuzz-rock (“European Bison”) and even a little nostalgic ‘50s pop (“Cable St. Blues”). The only real standout here is the aforementioned “Disowner”. But someone with different musical ears could conceivably find themselves infatuated with this disc.
  • TTNG – Disappointment Island … This band, formerly known as This Town Needs Guns, seems like one of those groups that were once playing the back stages at Warped Tour and are now trying to develop a more mature sound. However, unlike Title Fight and Turnover, this British trio is still too whiny to be taken seriously.
  • Omni – Deluxe … The debut from this Atlanta not-so-super group is filled with straight-forward garage rock and the occasional notes of chillwave and ‘60s rock.
  • Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis … Firstly, my only real exposure to this band was several years ago with the incredibly catchy single, “Mountains”, from 2009. That being said, the Scottish indie act’s ninth album tends to be somewhat scattershot and only occasionally resembles that earlier hit.
  • Shura – Nothing’s Real … This 25-year-old from Manchester, England, also known as Alexandra Lilah Denton, has officially put herself on the indie-pop map with this debut. Filled with ‘80s-style electro pop and R&B and mixed with modern-day production, this offering is a perfect balance of emotion and computers. The two standout tracks are “What’s It Gonna Be?” and “What Happened to Us?” A shade below those is “Make It Up”, while the chorus in “2Shy” is similar to FKA Twigs’ “Two Weeks”, just less dramatic. The title track is reminiscent of Kylie Minogue’s second act. The only knock on this album is that, while it clocks in at just under an hour, more than a third of it (22:29) is filler, with a couple of intro and interlude tracks and two worthless songs at the end that combine for more than 20 minutes. Hopefully, Ms. Denton will hire a better editor on her next album.

  • The Julie Ruin – Hit Reset … The second album by the Kathleen Hanna-led crew is filled with the type of female-fronted pop-punk you would’ve heard in the ‘80s.
  • Johnny Foreigner – Mono No Aware … If you’re a fan of Los Campesinos!, you’ll probably love this gang of Brits.

July 15

  • Bright Light Bright Light – Choreography … The third full-length release from Welsh pop artist Rod Thomas features several cameos, most notably Elton John on three of the first four tracks. Two of those — “Symmetry of Two Hearts” and “Running Back To You” are really uplifting electro-pop. “I Only Want to Please You”, featuring Ana Matronic, sounds like something my brother would love, like early Aughts-era George Michael. But my favorite tune is the closer, “Where Is the Heartache”.

  • Heliotropes – Over There That Way … On her second album, Brooklyn-based Jessica Numsuwankijkul has taken things in a different direction with an all-new backing band. This disc is filled with shoegazey-pop tunes, with more than a hint of ‘50s nostalgia that makes them easy to sway to. “I Can’t Remember” is one of the more pleasant songs, and some male backing vocals add another dimension to the title track.

July 22

  • Gap Dream – This Is Gap Dream … This album is dripping with apathy, sounding like something that was made in a parents’ basement somewhere. It’s the third release for Gabe Fulvimar’s alter ego and was recorded over a two-year period in California. So, clearly, he wasn’t in much of a hurry to finalize this slacker daydream of a record.
  • The Amazing – Ambulance … I don’t know if it’s just something in the water or perhaps only a coincidence, but this crew has a similar vibe to fellow Swedes Junip. On its fourth album, the group merges indie-rock, folk, Americana and dream pop into something magical. Everything here is above-average, but the standout is “Divide”, which comes off as sorta like Sun Kil Moon, but not as bare-bones and with a lot more instrumentation.

  • Bear’s Den – Red Earth & Pouring Rain … The music sounds like it’s straight out of the mid-’80s, while the vocals and lyrics seem to be an homage to Snow Patrol. Needless to say, it’s an interesting mix. But damned if it’s not catchy. There are no standouts, but it’s definitely worth a listen. It’s the second release for the British duo and first since the departure of its bassist.
  • Look Park – self-titled … The solo debut from Fountains Of Wayne’s Chris Collingwood is a cross between indie-folk and gypsy-pop. Collingwood’s voice is reminiscent to the fellas in They Might Be Giants. “Get On Home” is a nice closer.
  • Lou Rhodes – theyesandeye … This British singer-songwriter’s bread and butter is pastoral folk, and she doesn’t stray from that here, on her fourth album. Not even on the surprising cover of the xx’s “Angels”.

July 29

  • Lori McKenna – The Bird & the Rifle … On her 10th full-length release, the Massachusetts-born country singer-songwriter isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel. But that doesn’t mean this album isn’t filled with entrancing tunes about looking back on better days and ahead toward an unclear future. Standouts include “Giving Up on Your Hometown”, “Old Men Young Women” and “We Were Cool”.
  • Viola Beach – self-titled … It’s unfortunate that these songs will forever be overshadowed by the tragic circumstances surrounding their release. Viola Beach was an indie rock quartet from northwest England. I say “was” because on Feb. 13, 2016, all four members, along with their manager, were killed when the vehicle they were riding in crashed on a bridge and plummeted into a canal in Södertälje, Sweden. A public campaign boosted two singles up the charts, and, upon its release, this debut album entered the charts at No. 1 in the UK. Musically, the band was an interesting mix of Arctic Monkeys and VHS or Beta. While the songs weren’t groundbreaking, they showed a great deal of potential.
  • Descendents – Hypercaffium Spazzinate … Their seventh studio album and first in 12 years shows exactly why so many young bands look up to these SoCal pop-punk luminaries. Everything here is just a cut above average. But you can tell that, despite the layoff, these guys have this game down to a science.
  • Owen – The King of Whys … This is the eighth full-length album released under this moniker by Chicago-based Mike Kinsella, a prolific artist who has (had) his hands in numerous projects, most notably Joan of Arc and Cap’n Jazz. This disc is a mix of emo and singer-songwriter pop and is loaded with emotional songs about Kinsella’s past.

Aug. 5

  • Field Mouse – Episodic … On its third album, the one-time duo has grown into a five-piece and, in doing so, expanded its soundscape. Once more of a dream pop outfit, the group’s vibe is far more lush and closer to prototypical indie-rock/pop. Rachel Browne’s vocals pull you in, and the more flushed-out instruments keep your head bobbing along.
  • Boys Forever – self-titled … The debut solo release for Veronica Falls’ Patrick Doyle is filled with a type of slacker-pop that’s not quite lo-fi — perhaps mid-fi, if there ever were such a thing — and owes a small debt to ‘60s psychedelia. “Voice in My Head” is a strong tune. A lot of the songs are reminiscent of “Big Me” by Foo Fighters, particularly “If You Don’t Mind”.
  • Arkells – Morning Report … On their fourth full-length release, these Canadian indie rockers put forth an uninspired, derivative effort. The music felt like a compilation of several other bands, with nothing special standing out. The album wasn’t necessarily bad, just boring. The lone bright spot was “Come Back Home”.
  • Lawrence Arabia – Absolute Truth … New Zealand artist James Milne’s fourth album is filled with songs that, strangely, remind me of Jonathan Richman’s musical interludes throughout the movie, “There’s Something About Mary”. Milne’s offerings are far more palatable and lean toward ‘60s soft pop.
  • Blues Pills – Lady in Gold … This Swedish band channels its love of ‘70s blues-psych rock into its sophomore album. If that’s something you think you’d dig, this is a solid album. Otherwise, it’s good background noise to work to.
  • Cheena – Spend the Night With… … If one were to rank the genres this supergroup’s debut album would fall into, they’d probably find themselves oscillating among rock, punk and pop. (At least that’s what I did.) Depending upon the song, you’d be tempted to pick a different influence. Basically, this disc covers all the bases, for better or worse.
  • Haley Bonar – Impossible Dream … I’d heard some of the Minnesota artist’s work in the past and remember liking it. But after hearing her latest offering, I’m dumbfounded that she doesn’t receive as much critical praise as the likes of Sharon Van Etten, Laura Marling. PJ Harvey and every other powerful indie-rock/pop singer-songwriters. Everything here is solid, with nary a filler track. “Called You Queen” is my favorite, but the entire album deserves a listen.

  • Wye Oak – Tween … The Baltimore duo’s fifth studio album should really be considered No. 3.5 as it’s made up of eight outtakes from the previous two releases — 2011’s Civilian and 2014’s Shriek. The dichotomy of the two different sounds makes for an interesting compilation and a worthwhile addition to any fan’s collection.
  • Blossoms – self-titled … This British indie pop band’s debut is pleasant enough; perhaps too pleasant. It seems like everything here was made to be radio-friendly. The group melds some of the best aspects of pop from the past 30 years and puts it through an indie filter to give it some much-needed cred. This album is better than probably 60 percent of the stuff I’ve listened to this year. That said, it’s nothing special.
  • Dinosaur Jr. – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not … Here’s a band that I have not listened to nearly enough in my life. Every time I hear one of its songs on the radio, I’ve enjoyed it. Despite not having a deep knowledge of its catalog, I can say that this, the group’s 11th proper release, sounds like pretty much everything else it’s released — at least in the last decade. And there’s not a darn thing wrong with that.

Aug. 12

  • Kyle Dixon – Stranger Things, Vol. 1 [Original Television Series Soundtrack] … I only listened to the first couple of tracks, but I already know I love it just as much as the show.
  • Horseback – Dead Ringers … The sixth album from this experimental-rock outfit combines elements of rock, pop, electro, chillwave and mixes it with a heavy dose of psychedelia. Besides the lengthy (16:39) closer, “Descended from the Crown”, the other seven songs on the album clock in between 5-8 minutes. So, sit back and relax, because this album is ideal for tuning out the rest of the world.
  • Cool Ghouls – Animal Races … This album is pretty much exactly what you’d expect when you learn that Cool Ghouls is a “San Francisco garage rock band.” Channeling every last influence they can from ‘60s and ‘70s garage/psychedelic rock, the group’s third album is a perfect homage to that era. But it also has enough modernity to appeal to millennials. “Sundial” sounds like a mix between Boston “More Than a Feeling” and Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These”. One standout is “When You Were Gone”, which could have come out of Laurel Canyon in the ‘70s. And closer “Spectator” throws in some female vocals to add a little spice at the end.
  • Blind Pilot – And Then Like Lions … Musically, the Portland sextet is more poppy than The Head and the Heart but more folky than The Lumineers. The group’s third album is filled with pleasant tunes that should keep them relevant on the indie scene. The lone single, “Packed Powder”, is a solid song, but opener “Umpqua Rushing” is a nice, mid-tempo indie-rock track that needs to be on the radio immediately.

  • The Moles – Tonight’s Music … Two decades since their last release — and just their second LP overall — the Australian indie rockers return with a two-disc, 24-track compilation of songs recorded during the past 20 years. The music itself is an acquired taste, with the closest comparison being Conor Oberst fronting Guided By Voices while on hallucinogens.
  • Young the Giant – Home of the Strange … Having loved this SoCal indie-pop crew’s debut, I’ve been disappointed to see how its sound has evolved. This, the lads’ third album, is like some sort of mash-up of Maroon 5 and Fall Out Boy. I’ll just assume you stopped reading after that sentence.
  • Brendan Canning – Home Wrecking Years … The third full-length solo release for the Broken Social Scene co-founder is a good combination of modern day indie-rock, ‘60s San Francisco harmonies and the kind of bluesy-jazz you might find on a Destroyer record. Opener “Book It To Fresno” is a relatively simple song with solid instrumentation, mumbled verses and a harmonic chorus, but it totally works. Other tracks will hit or miss depending upon your preferences. “Nashville Late Pass” is another standout.
  • Of Montreal – Innocence Reaches … If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already aware of Of Montreal, and you likely have a strong feeling one way or another about them. So this, the 14th album from the Athens, Ga., products, likely won’t be swaying you as it’s just much of the same — crazy, electro-psychedelia with more than a passing homage to David Bowie. Personally, I’ve only ever liked a handful of the group’s songs, so it’s no surprise I’m not a fan of this disc. I will admit that opening track “let’s relate” was solid.
  • Hockey Dad – Boronia … The debut full-length release from this Australian surf-rock duo sounds like the type of music that would’ve fit in perfectly on the soundtrack to Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, the criminally underrated film from 2008 starring Mikey Cera and Kat Dennings. That soundtrack includes songs from such acts as Bishop Allen, We Are Scientists, Vampire Weekend, Shout Out Louds and many others. It’s a perfect time capsule for what the indie-pop/rock scene sounded like at the time, and Hockey Dad shares the same vibe. Admittedly, all the songs on this album sound similar and none will be changing anyone’s life any time soon, but it’s a fun listen nonetheless. “A Night Out With” did stand out due to its pleasant chorus.

  • A Grave with No Name – Wooden Mask … One site referred to this band as “folk,” while another labeled it “rock.” Honestly, it reminded me of the slower, darker stuff from Death Cab For Cutie, pre-Transatlanticism. So, there’s some punk, some rock, some pop, and a little folk toward the end.

Aug. 19

  • Black Foxxes – I’m Not Well … This British trio’s debut falls somewhere in between emo and pop-punk. It sounds like a combination of a lot of bands that have done a stint on Warped Tour and doesn’t do enough to make itself stand out.
  • Cold Pumas – The Hanging Valley … The second full-length release for the British indie rock band is filled with the kind of post-punk that wishes it was Joy Division but compares more favorably their many knock-offs from the past few decades. And while they have yet to figure out how to reinvent the wheel, Cold Pumas have at least made a solid album for anyone who generally enjoys post-punk — a category I happen to fall into. Standout tracks include “The Shaping of the Dream” and “Open Mouth of Dusk”.
  • Benjamin Francis Leftwich – After the Rain … The second full-length release from the British singer-songwriter was influenced by the death of his father. And the music is as moving as you’d hope. The reviewer at Mojo summed it up best: “A multifaceted diamond that moves his gentle vocals between musical dark corners and soaring expanses.”
  • Bayside – Vacancy … Exactly what you’d expect from this pop-punk crew’s seventh album. Basically, imagine what a Warped Tour band would sound like 10 years after its prime.
  • John Paul White – Beulah … The second solo effort for the former member of The Civil Wars is a pleasant listen but nothing special. One note: I never noticed until now how much White’s singing voice resembles Ed Kowalczyk from Live — but less whiny and more twangy.
  • Lisa Hannigan – At Swim … The third solo effort from this Irish singer-songwriter was produced with The National’s Aaron Dessner, which adds a dark sheen to the haunting folk. She occasionally sounds like the Irish cousin of the gals from First Aid Kit, just darker. “Anahorish” reminded me of Bette Midler’s “The Rose” with its minimal instrumentation and powerful vocals.
  • Slow Club – One Day All of This Won’t Matter Any More … A relatively chill and pleasant listen, this is the fourth album from the British indie pop duo of Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor.
  • Exploded View – self-titled … The debut full-length release for Annika Henderson’s latest project is slow, dark and messy, but at the same time, there seems to be a method to the madness. It’s like an easily acquired taste. Falling somewhere within the realms of chillwave, punk, goth and post-punk, this album is sure to get your mind racing.
  • Arc Iris – Moon Saloon … Definitely an acquired taste, the second full-length release from this Rhode Island indie rock trio led by Jocie Adams on vocals is a mix of Tori Amos and Joanna Newsome. Opener “Kaleidoscope” was the lone redeemable tune.
  • Ryley Walker – Golden Sings That Have Been Sung … The guitar often says “country,” but the lyrics, the attitude and everything else screams folk-rock on the Chicagoan’s third album. Unsurprisingly, the album was produced by a member of Wilco (Leroy Bach), a band that has perfected the balance of indie-rock and alt-country. “Age Old Tale” sounds like an homage to Led Zeppelin.
  • Lydia Loveless – Real … More of the solid alt-country goodness we’ve come to expect from Ohio singer-songwriter on her fourth album. It’s aptly named as there isn’t an ounce of pretense in her songs or delivery. Everything here is above-average, but “Out On Love” struck a chord with me as it — for some unknown reason — evoked memories of Cyndi Lauper.

Aug. 26

  • Vinyl Williams – Brunei … According to Metacritic, the third full-length release from this Los Angeles-based artist is a concept album about a visitor from outer space who believes Earth is utopian. That’s a solid description of the kind of music you can expect — airy-fairy tunes with a dreamy, psychedelic, chillwave vibe throughout.
  • Gringo Star – The Sides and in Between … The fourth album from these Atlanta rockers answers the age-old question: “What would Peter Bjorn & John sound like if they were a garage/psychedelic band from Georgia?”
  • TUNS – Tuns … These Canucks are definitely fans of The Beatles.  The debut full-length from the Canadian trio of Sloan’s Chris Murphy, The Inbreds’ Mike O’Neil and Super Friendz’s Matt Murphy, sounds like it could’ve been released in the late ‘60s during the surge of Liverpudian wannabes. “Mixed Messages” is a great example of this. But there’s also plenty of modern vibes here, nowhere more so than “Mind Your Manners”.
  • Ezra Furman – Big Fugitive Life [EP] … I’d never listened to any of this Chicago singer-songwriter’s previous work, but this seems to be a decent entry point. It’s a compilation of leftover tracks from 2015’s Perpetual Motion People and 2012’s Year of No Returning. Musically, it’s like a combination between Dan Bejar and the Violent Femmes, but perhaps tamer than that description may lead you to believe.
  • Mild High Club – Skiptracing … As you may be able to surmise from the name of the act, the music here is very trippy. It’s the second release from Alexander Brettin’s psychedelic pop outfit, and that’s about all there is to say.
  • Katy Goodman & Greta Morgan – Take It, It’s Yours … This is such a fun, interesting take on a bunch of punk classics from the nostalgic voices of Goodman (Vivian Girls and La Sera) and Morgan (Springtime Carnivore and Hush Sound). The way these two harmonize, these songs take on a whole new life and you forget they’re covers. Until you start recognizing the lyrics halfway through and it hits you. My personal faves are “Dreaming”, “Ever Fallen In Love”, “Bastards of Young” and “Rebel Yell”.

  • Butch Walker – Stay Gold … This is a great mix of alt-country and modern classic rock — imagine Jay Farrar fronting The Gaslight Anthem or Brian Fallon leading Son Volt. It’s the eighth album from the native Georgian and should be the one that gets you interested in his entire catalog.
  • The Veils – Total Depravity … This London band has taken the Black Keys sound and moved it into a weirder, less-palatable direction. On its fifth album, things fluctuate between head nod-inducing and skip-triggering. The high points include “Swimming with Crocodiles” and “Low Lays the Devil”. While that’s not enough for me to recommend this disc, I could certainly understand why plenty of listeners would enjoy this.
  • The Parrots – Los Niños Sin Miedo … As AllMusic said in its review: “The Parrots may not be doing anything new or even close to it, but they give the corpse of garage rock a good kicking.” This Madrid trio’s debut hearkens back to the Nuggets-era classics of the ‘70s garage scene. There are no standouts, but it’s still an entertaining listen.
  • Cass McCombs – Mangy Love .. The eighth album from the California singer-songwriter is filled with a laid-back jazz-folk that conjures comparisons to artists such as Kurt Vile, Dan Bejar and Beck.
  • Morgan Delt – Phase Zero … On his second full-length release, the California singer-songwriter takes psych-rock to a faster tempo than we’re used to hearing.

Sept. 2

  • Scott and Charlene’s Wedding – Mid Thirties Single Scene … The third album from this Australian garage band falls in line with the recent surge of acts who sound like they’re trying to replicate the pop-punk vibe of early ‘80s Southern California. And this crew pulls it off nicely, particularly on standouts “Hardest Years” and “Distracted”.

  • The Warlocks – Songs from the Pale Eclipse … The seventh full-length release from this California psychedelic band features new versions of songs from demos from the past 16 years. While the whole psych ethos permeates throughout, the interesting twist is the frequent shoegaze vibe that the crew emits. This is a solid album to put on in the background.
  • Beach Baby – No Mind No Money … The debut LP from these British indie rockers sounds like the best of ‘80s alt-rock filtered through a modern lens. In fact, Lawrence Pumfrey’s vocals bear an uncanny resemblance to those of The Jam’s Paul Weller. Co-front man Ollie Pash provides complementary falsetto throughout, nowhere more noticeable than on “Ladybird”. This album is full of catchy tunes, but the best is the Drums-like “U R”.

  • King Creosote – Astronaut Meets Appleman … The latest release from the solo project of Kenny Anderson combines the joy of indie-folk rock with the power of bagpipes and the smirk of an Irish accent. While it may not be torching the charts any time soon, it’s an interesting listen.
  • Angel Olsen – My Woman … On her third album, the North Carolina singer-songwriter expertly mixes country, folk, pop and rock into an enchanting sonic experience. The general attitude here was laid-back with the occasional dalliance with mid-tempo. The standout tune, “Sister”, is a perfect showcase for Olsen’s many talents.

  • James Vincent McMorrow – We Move … The falsetto and sensual grooves call to mind the likes of D’Angelo and Frank Ocean. It’s hard to fathom that this bloke hails from Dublin. This music isn’t my cup of tea, but I can definitely see why he’s received so much critical acclaim three albums into his career.

Sept. 9

  • Grouplove – Big Mess … If this had been the L.A. indie pop-rockers’ debut album, I might’ve liked it more. But it pales in comparison to earlier work. There are certainly catchy parts in various songs, and “Spinning” gets a thumb-up, but, overall, it was just meh.
  • Psychic Twin – Strange Diary … According to Metacritic, this debut full-length release for Erin Fein’s alter-ego was written while she was divorcing her husband and moving to Brooklyn from Champaign, Ill. (Fun fact: I listened to it just hours before heading to Champaign for a football game.) The music is rather enchanting, sounding like something that inhabits the same universe as the Stranger Things soundtrack. But the vocals obviously take it to a different level. Coincidentally, the best song here is “Strangers”. Fans of ethereal, electro-pop should check it out.

  • The Pictish Trail – Future Echoes … The latest release for Johnny Lynch’s project is a dark pop offering with plenty of elctro, mixed with a touch of soul.
  • Drugdealer – The End of Comedy … So much about this feels like the 1970s Laurel Canyon scene — right down to the strong flute presence.
  • Bastille – Wild World … If you enjoyed this British electro-pop crew’s 2013 debut, Bad Blood, you’re destined to like this follow-up as well. It basically picks up where its predecessor left off. Plenty of radio-ready tunes, filled with catchy grooves and power-anthem choruses. I could be reading into the lyrics too much, but some of it seemed to be a commentary on the recent presidential election cycle. Opener “Good Grief” was the lead single for good reason. “Fake It” isn’t bad either.

  • Nots – Cosmetic … The second album from these Memphis garage rockers sounds similar to a lot of female-fronted punk bands from the ‘80s. The omnipresent distortion helps give it a modern feel.
  • KT Tunstall – Kin … Despite the fact that her 15 minutes of mainstream fame has passed her by, the Scottish singer-songwriter continues to produce quality indie-pop/rock. The fifth album in her catalog is the latest in a string of solid offerings. “Maybe It’s a Good Thing” and opener “Hard Girls” are particularly notable, and “It Took Me So Long To Get Here, But Here I Am” has something of an ‘80s pop feel.
  • D.A.R.K. – Science Agrees … I had high hopes for this debut from the trio that includes singer Dolores O’Riordan (Cranberries) and bassist Andy Rourke (The Smiths). My excitement was extinguished early in opening track “Curvy”. This disc falls in some gutter between industrial-pop and post-punk.
  • Twin Atlantic – GLA … For the most part, the only thing separating this band from a lot of the stuff in Alternative Press magazine is the Scottish accents. The alt-rock crew’s fourth full-length release, which was inspired by its hometown of Glasgow, flutters between rock and pop-punk, never really distinguishing itself much from everyone else. It isn’t bad, just not noteworthy. “Whispers” is pleasant.
  • Doe – Some Things Last Longer Than You …  The debut full-length release from this British trio is filled with melodic pop-punk that will keep listeners’ attention throughout. It comes across as pretty standard fare, but every so often, lead singer Nicola Leel knocks it out of the park, like on “Last Ditch”.

  • Allah-Las – Calico Review … The third release from this Los Angeles garage rock/psychedelic pop band is a relaxing listen that will transport you back to the late 1970s. It’s not as trippy as a lot of psych stuff, and it’s also not as rough as most garage offerings. It’s just a pleasant way to spend about 36 minutes.
  • Teenage Fanclub – Here … The Scottish band’s 10th album — and first in six years — is a well-crafted chillwave/psychedelic hybrid. Like a toned-down and more-melodic War On Drugs. It’s nothing like the whiny alt-pop of its early years. There are no standouts here, but everything is above-average.
  • Okkervil River – Away … Okkervil River has always been a band you could count on for solid, generally low-key indie-rock. The thing that sets them apart are the witty lyrics penned by leader Will Sheff. The eighth studio release from the Austin crew is the first with a revamped lineup. However, the sounds and words are what you’d expect.
  • Local Natives – Sunlit Youth … If I’d never heard of this Los Angeles indie rock crew, I would’ve assumed it was some new, up-and-coming chillwave act. It’s impressive how much its sound has changed since its 2010 debut, Gorilla Manor. While that album was fun and, at times, rollicking, this third disc is far more laid-back, but also more sharply produced. Standouts include “Dark Days” and “Psycho Lovers”.

  • Wilco – Schmilco … While last year’s Star Wars was nothing special, the band’s 10th release seems like more thought was put into it. It’s surprising, considering the material came from the same recording sessions as its predecessor. There were no standout tunes, but it’s still better than 80 percent of the stuff that was released this year.

Sept. 16

  • Lorelle Meets the Obsolete – Balance … The fourth release for the Mexican duo of Lorena Quintanilla and Alberto Gonzalez continues a history of lo-fi, fuzzy, psych-rock. There are also plenty of shoegaze vibes here. According to multiple reviews, this album takes several intense listens before you really grasp everything that’s going on here.
  • Dawes – We’re All Gonna Die … No album this year left me more disappointed than the L.A. folk-rockers’ fifth release. Gone almost entirely is the Laurel Canyon sound, and in its place is some strange amalgam of heavy, electric guitars, soulful crooning and funky songcrafting. I respect bands who try to grow and mature, but that doesn’t mean I have to like the end result.
  • Taking Back Sunday – Tidal Wave … On their seventh album, the Long Island rockers seem to be transitioning from the stages of Warped Tour to those of Riot Fest. To do that, they’ve done their best job of channeling The Gaslight Anthem — without the whole Springsteen cadence. This is actually better than I’d expected, but it’s still far from amazing.
  • Keaton Henson – Kindly Now …  The latest from this British singer-songwriter includes five piano ballads, which should give you an idea of what to expect. Stylistically, he’s reminiscent of Phosphorescent.
  • Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years … The fourth full-length release for the Staten Island rock band is a good mix of shoegaze and emo. “Have a Heart” is ultra-catchy, and, overall, it’s better than I’d assumed.

  • The Handsome Family – Unseen … This marks the 10th studio LP for the husband-and-wife duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks. It’s a whole lot of old-school country with a healthy dose of folk and bluegrass. While it’s not something that would get repeated spins on my devices, it certainly made for a pleasant listen while on deadline at work.
  • Against Me! – Shape Shift With Me … I should start by noting that, prior to this album, I’ve only ever listened to 2014’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues. So, my knowledge of the Gainesville, Fla., punks is limited. That said, their seventh release is decent but pales in comparison to its aforementioned predecessor. There’s plenty of melodies and guitar hooks, but it’s lacking in exciting moments. “Delicate, Petite & Other Things I’ll Never Be” is the lone standout.
  • The Monochrome Set – Cosmonaut … The 13th album from these London indie-pop stalwarts is what Morrissey would sound like if his personality changed 180 degrees.
  • Deap Vally – Femejism … Produced by Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the second album from this Los Angeles duo sounds like it could be a YYY demo tape. From the Karen O-mimicking vocals to the specific-sounding guitar play. This crew does set itself apart with a much heavier and rougher vibe.
  • Preoccupations – self-titled … This is the Canadian post-punk band’s second album and first since changing its name from Viet Cong. This disc would fit on a playlist right alongside Joy Division, Bauhaus and every other notable post-punk group of the ‘80s.
  • Still Corners – Dead Blue … The third full-length release from the dream-pop duo of Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray certainly checks all of the boxes for the genre. Haunting female vocals, loads of synth and other production. The problem is that it doesn’t have anything that makes it stand out from the rest of the pack. Occasionally, it sounds like it could be from the Stranger Things soundtrack, but that’s about it.

Sept. 23

  • The Lucid Dream – Compulsion Songs … This is hard, heavy psych-rock at its finest. This British crew’s third album is only seven tracks, but most are in the 6- to 8-minute range, with the closer clocking in at nearly 11.5 minutes.
  • Billie Marten – Writing of Blues & Yellows … This pleasant debut from the British singer-songwriter isn’t anything special, but it’s a welcome respite from a lot of the overproduced stuff coming down the pipes these days. The focus here is a beautiful voice and some solid guitar and piano accompaniments.
  • Passenger – Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea … If you’re a fan of saccharine-rich folk-pop that seems tailor-made for a jewelry commercial, you’ll love the eighth release from British singer-songwriter Mike Rosenberg. Otherwise, don’t bother.
  • LVL UP – Return to Love … The third release from this alt-rock group comes across as pure shoegaze with a pinch of Neutral Milk Hotel-style indie — particularly on opener “Hidden Driver”. The vocals tend to be of a droning style that could put the listener to sleep — but in a good way. There are no standout tunes, but the album is definitely a keeper.

  • Merchandise – A Corpse Wired for Sound …  This Tampa trio combines post-punk, electro, and industrial rock into a relatively inviting mix on its second full-length release. “I Will Not Sleep Here” has a nice ‘80s vibe to it.
  • Warpaint – Heads Up … The third album from this L.A. outfit retains the dark-pop ambience that set it apart initially. But this time around there’s more of an electro-dance vibe layered over everything. A great example of this is lead single, “New Song”, which is too dancey and repetitive for my liking. Honestly, this album was a major disappointment. But at least “So Good” wasn’t bad.
  • Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings … Coming less than a year after the release of their debut, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, these Philadelphia rockers continue to churn out solid indie tunes that are the perfect mix of pop, punk and rock. There’s also a notable shoegaze vibe, but that’s mostly because of the fuzzy guitars.

  • Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – I Had A Dream That You Were Mine … This is the debut effort from the duo of Walkmen frontman Leithauser and former Vampire Weekend multi-instrumentalist and producer Rostam Batmanglij. It had its moments, but none of them lasted for an entire song. Alas, the sum is less than the parts in this instance. “The Morning Stars” sounded the closest to a true Walkmen song.
  • Flock of Dimes – If You See Me, Say Yes … “Hey, I wonder what Wye Oak would sound like if they were an electro band?” Presumably, the only person to ever ponder that question was Jenn Wasner, the female half of the Baltimore chillwave duo. And she answers it with this generally pleasing debut of her solo side project. Her voice, which is usually restrained in her main gig, will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Annie Lennox here.
  • Devendra Banhart – Ape In Pink Marble … Much of his past work has been difficult to swallow, but this, his ninth release, is actually relatively soothing. There’s still the occasional quirkiness, but this tends to come across as a Deerhunter/Junip hybrid.

Sept. 30

  • Alcest – Kodama … The fifth release from this French band blurs the line between black metal and shoegaze and is what the members refer to as “blackgaze.” It’s about 95-percent instrumental and actually pretty enjoyable. What vocals do exist tend to lean toward the metal variety, but they’re very soft and tolerable.
  • Yellowcard – self-titled … For an emo band, this crew isn’t horrible. On their 10th and final album, these L.A. whiners churn out exactly the kind of music you’d expect from an emo-pop band that actually managed to stay “relevant” long enough to put out 10 discs.
  • The Growlers – City Club … I don’t know how their older stuff sounds, but the fifth release by these Cali indie rockers is a lot like The Strokes doing more indie and less rock. That’s not unsurprising, considering it was produced by Julian Casablancas. Some early tracks channel a New Wave vibe, but that quickly dissipates.
  • Public Access T.V. – Never Enough … The debut by these New York indie rockers sounds not only like the Strokes and Walkmen but just as much like the bands that those groups emulated more than a decade ago.
  • The Wytches – All Your Happy Life … On their second album, this British duo combine dark, gloomy chillwave with slow, plodding psychedelia into a rock dirge.
  • Itasca – Open to Chance … On her third album and first with a full backing band, Kayla Cohen sounds like Karen Carpenter fronting a country-folk act.
  • Regina Spektor – Remember Us to Life … On her seventh album, the angelic voiced Los Angeleno tries out some new effects to varying results. The moments when she channels Gwen Stefani probably should’ve been left on the cutting room floor. But there are plenty of her signature ballads to keep things interesting.
  • Bon Iver – 22, A Million … Justin Vernon’s third offering to the masses sounds like a male falsetto version of Imogen Heap. But worse. And throw in all the crazy glitches and production tricks and you’ve got yourself something that’s barely tolerable.
  • Ultimate Painting – Dusk … On their third release, the London-based duo of Jack Cooper and James Hoare infuse dreamy ditties with psychedelic melodies. If the dreampop genre had been around in the ‘60s, it would’ve sounded like this.
  • Pixies – Head Carrier … The sixth album from these pop-punk legends pales in comparison to past work. There’s really nothing here to get excited about. The guitar intro to “All I Think About Now” sounds identical to their classic, “Where is My Mind?”, which just re-emphasized how mediocre this disc is.
  • Jim Moray – Upcetera … This British singer-songwriter’s sixth album sounds like the cast recording of some Broadway play.

Oct. 7

  • NOFX – First Ditch Effort … The L.A. punk crew is back with its lucky 13th album. With 13 songs clocking it at just over 33 minutes, it’s a quick listen. It’s also a fun one, particularly on “Sid and Nancy” — where the band imagines the famous punk martyr being involved with Nancy Reagan — and the drug-related word play of “Oxy Moronic”.
  • Sum 41 – 13 Voices … Despite being nearly 15 years past their 15 minutes of fame, the sixth album from these Canadian punks is not as bad as you might think. Gone is the crassness of their youth, and in its place is some solid rock hooks. They almost give off a Linkin Park vibe, particularly on “Breaking the Chain”.
  • Norah Jones – Day Breaks … The singer-songwriter returns to her jazz roots on her sixth solo release. Unfortunately, she’s unable to recapture the magic that put her on the map around the turn of the millennium. While her first two albums were a breath of fresh air, these tunes are boring and uninspiring. Not even her angelic voice can save this disc.
  • White Lies – Friends … It’s a shame to see that the talented British trio had to self-produce its fourth album as it’s without a label. The disc itself is not great, but certainly above average. If it was a debut release, it’d show a band with a wealth of potential. It’s not, however, and it’s a sign that the group’s rookie effort likely was its peak.
  • Joyce Manor – Cody … This is the fourth album for the California pop-punk band and, apparently, the first in which they’ve toned things down from a raucous outfit to something more introspective. Having never heard its previous efforts, I can only say that this is a welcome offering. It’s a solid collection of punk-tinged emo-rock. There are no standout tracks, and the album won’t be winning any awards, but it’s a pleasant listen.
  • Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win … The debut full-length release from this Australian singer-songwriter feels like Sharon Van Etten meets Lucinda Williams. There are deeply personal lyrics sung in a half-angelic, half-haunting voice over folk-country instrumentation. Everything here is above average, but “Leadlight” stands out just a bit.

  • Kaiser Chiefs – Stay Together … When they first burst on the scene more than 10 years ago, the Kaisers were a fresh, fun, interesting band with a distinct sound. Six albums into their career, they’ve taken their sound into an odd, disconcerting direction. Nowadays, these Brits sound like a hybrid of numerous Britpop bands from the ‘90s and Aughts. The only worthwhile tune here is “Hole in My Soul”.
  • Phantogram – Three … The third full-length release for the New York duo utilizes an intriguing balance of electro-pop hooks and heavier choruses. “Same Old Blues” is particularly enchanting.
  • Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart like a Levee … The sixth release from M.C. Taylor combines folk, blues and rock into a laid-back, easy listen. “Cracked Windshield” will relax away all your cares.
  • Green Day – Revolution Radio … The pop-punk pioneers are back with their 12th album, but it really feels like their seventh — by that I mean that it sounds like a repeat of 2004’s American Idiot. Really, the band seems to have been regurgitating the same handful of songs for more than a decade.
  • Goat – Requiem …  The third album from this Swedish alternative band sounds like it came out of the heart of Africa, not Scandinavia.
  • Balance and Composure – Light We Made … If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you’ll remember that I became a big fan of Title Fight and Turnover last year. Both groups transformed from loud hardcore acts into something more melodic and resembling ‘90s alt-rock. Balance and Composure just became the third member of that troika. On their third album, the Doylestown, Pa., crew beautifully toe the line between hardcore and emo. Most of the stuff here is above-average, but “Afterparty” stands out.

  • Shovels & Rope – Little Seeds … On its fifth album, the South Carolina husband-wife folk duo experiments with all sorts of genres. The end result is a mish-mash of sounds that never really jels.

Oct. 14

  • SWMRS – Drive North … The third album for the Oakland quartet — and the first since changing its name from Emily’s Army — offers a slew of influences over the course of 12 tracks. Each song is different from the next. For the most part, the band’s sound is a mix of indie rock and pop-punk. But there’s plenty of straight-up punk, bubblegum pop and electro springing up along with various other genres. Because of the lack of continuity, listeners will deem the album full of hits and misses, depending upon their tastes. The catchiest tune is “Turn Up” and, to a lesser degree, “Figuring It Out”. I also like how the title track is basically 3.5 minutes of the band bashing Los Angeles. On a sidenote, founding member Joey Armstrong is the son of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong.
  • Crying – Beyond the Fleeting Gales … The debut full-length release from this New York indie rock trio incorporates elements of electro-pop, chillwave, New Wave, post-punk, rock and even speed metal, resulting in something you won’t hear many places. And Elaiza Santos’ vocals take things to another level.
  • Luke Roberts – Sunlit Cross … While the Nashville singer-songwriter’s third album is a pleasant folk-country collection perfect for being played in the background, there’s nothing exciting enough here to bring it to the forefront.
  • Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker – Overnight … The third release for the British folk duo is a perfect way to settle in for a busy day at work. The simple, understated instrumentation provides the right accompaniment to her beautiful voice.
  • Black Marble – It’s Immaterial … On his second album, the now-solo Chris Stewart channels post-punk and chillwave into an enchanting mix. “Frisk” sounds like if The XX had done a song for the Stranger Things soundtrack. And the guitar on “Iron Lung” is straight outta post-punk England in the mid-’80s.
  • Jagwar Ma – Every Now & Then … This Australian psych-rock trio’s second release is filled with the kind of electronics you’d find throughout the early ‘90s rap scene. That, mixed with the overall psychedelic vibe, makes this an acquired taste.
  • Two Door Cinema Club – Gameshow … So, somewhere between its great debut and its third offering, this promising indie-electro crew out of England became the Scissor Sisters. What was very catchy electro-rock has morphed into something more fitting for a disco or rave.
  • Lemon Twigs – Do Hollywood … The debut full-length release for this Long Island pop band was clearly influenced by ‘50s doo-wop, ‘60s psychedelia and ‘70s soul and disco. It’s another one of those acquired tastes, but, judging from the album, I bet they put on a heck of a live show.
  • Kings of Leon – Walls … As much as I’d like to move on from this overexposed band, its latest disc is actually pretty solid. On their seventh album, the Nashville rockers scale things back a bit. Mostly gone are the anthemic rock tunes and in their place are more introspective, bare-bones ditties that hearken back to mid-career offerings.
  • The Early Years – II … On its second album, this British band combines psych-rock and post-punk with the best parts of electro music into an enchanting and engaging mix that never gets too dull nor too annoying. “Fluxus” and “Hush” are notable tunes.
  • C Duncan – The Midnight Sun … The Scottish artist’s second album is a heavier version of synth-pop — somewhere between The XX and Stranger Things.
  • D.D. Dumbo – Utopia Defeated … The most notable thing about Australian Oliver Hugh Perry’s debut release is how similar the vocals are to those of Sting. The music itself is an odd mixture of quirky indie-pop and tribal beats that make for an acquired taste. Think a male version of tUnE-yArDs.
  • Conor Oberst – Ruminations … His seventh solo album is Oberst at his finest. It was written while visiting his hometown in Nebraska and was recorded over two days. It feels as personal as anything he’s released, and the frequent harmonica adds some Springsteen vibes.

Oct. 21

  • The Courteeners – Mapping the Rendezvous … I was hopeful that, by their fifth album, these British indie rockers would’ve taken the States by storm. Alas, they appear to have stagnated. If this was their debut, I’d deem them full of potential. However, this far into their career it looks like they’ve already peaked.
  • Crocodiles – Dreamless … On its sixth album, this San Diego duo churns out loads of noise pop ditties that mesh psych-rock and electro-pop.
  • John K. Samson – Winter Wheat … The second solo release for the ex-Weakerthans frontman is filled with pleasant country-folk.
  • Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues … While it’s certainly not their best work, the indie-pop/rock crew’s ninth release is better than most of the stuff that came out this year. The Arizona quartet’s sound seems far more polished and closer to hard rock than back in its quirky indie-rock heyday.
  • Joan as Police Woman – Let It Be You … According to Metacritic, this collaboration with Benjamin Lazar Davis is loosely inspired by the musical patterns of the Central African Republic Pygmies. I can’t speak to that, but I can say that there seems to be a lot of genre-hopping from song to song. Vocally, it often sounds like Annie Lennox and Haim. Musically, there’s plenty of R&B in there, but also pop, folk and experimental rock.
  • Hooton Tennis Club – Big Box of Chocolates … The second full-length release from this British indie rock band sounds like Elvis Costello fronting Guided By Voices.
  • Syd Arthur – Apricity … Something about this British psychedelic rock band’s fourth album calls to mind VHS or Beta. This disc won’t light the world on fire, but it does at least show a group that could be worth paying attention to.
  • Agnes Obel – Citizen of Glass … The Danish singer-songwriter exudes elements of Imogen Heap, Zola Jesus and Joanna Newsome — to name a few contemporaries — but she is very much her own artist. On her third album, she mixes dark piano, haunting lyrics and just enough production effects to create an entrancing offering. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s doubtful Obel really cares.
  • American Football – American Football (LP2) … One of my many knowledge gaps in indie music is the original wave of emo music from the late ‘90s. It’s a shame, because everything I’ve heard from that era’s bands I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. And so it is with this disc, the long-awaited follow-up for the band that broke up after its 1999 debut. This offering is basically everything I imagine original emo to be — heavier and more melancholy and introspective as opposed to poppy and whiny.
  • Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat to Earth … If it was scientifically possible for Karen Carpenter and Sharon Van Etten to have a baby, it would be Natalie Mering (aka Weyes Blood).
  • The Radio Dept. – Running out of Love … The Swedish indie darlings have packed up their shoegaze ways and headed straight for indie-electro on their fourth album. It’s their first release in six years, and it’s filled with the type of instrumentation that would seem tailor-made for a New Order or Depeche Mode album. Although, according to interviews, they were aiming more for Inner City and other early ‘90s house/dance/electro bands. Lyrically, the songs focus on issues with their label, Labrador, and their native country.

Oct. 28

  • The Hidden Cameras – Home on Native Land …  For its seventh release, this Canadian indie pop band pays tribute to its homeland. Recorded over 10 years with guest appearances by Rufus Wainwright, Feist, Ron Sexsmith, Neil Tennant, Bahamas and Mary Margaret O’Hara, the disc offers a quirky take on folk-pop from the Great White North.
  • Daniel Woolhouse – What’s That Sound … Depending upon the song, he seems to be channeling either The National’s Matt Berninger or Coldplay’s Chris Martin. This is first album released under his actual name after a pair of discs under the Deptford Goth moniker. “Dreamt I Was a Ceramicist Too” and the title track are standouts. (Also, several songs, most notably “Map of the Moon”, include a chime or xylophone-like instrument that is instantly reminiscent of Band-Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”.)

  • CRX – New Skin … The debut for the side project of The Strokes’ guitarist Nick Valensi was produced by Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, and the end result seems to be a perfect hybrid of the two. It’s harder than a Strokes disc but poppier than QOTSA. Opener “Ways To Fake It” is solid.
  • Alejandro Escovedo – Burn Something Beautiful … Considering this is the Texas-based singer-songwriter’s 12th album, it’s surprising he’s not more widely known. His voice is a cross between Craig Finn of The Hold Steady and Elvis Costello. So, maybe that explains why people don’t like him. (Zing!)
  • Honeyblood – Babes Never Die … The second full-length release from this Scottish indie-pop duo is the latest entry in the riot girl/pop-punk canon — a mix of Sleater-Kinney and the Go-Go’s. It’s catchy and quick, with 12 songs clocking in at 39 minutes flat. It’s a fun listen, particularly “Sea Hearts”, but certainly not groundbreaking.
  • The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Third World Pyramid … If you’ve never delved into the world of BJM, this disc would be a great entry point. The 15th album from the prolific San Francisco psych-rock crew calls to mind popular English bands from the ‘80s post-punk and ‘90s Britpop scenes as well as their psychedelic forefathers in Frisco. The title track is especially pleasant.

  • Marching Church – Telling It Like It Is … The second full-length release for the side project of Iceage’s Elias Bender Rønnenfelt is definitely an acquired taste. The vocals and instruments are all disjointed, and the focus seems to change with each track, but there is a degree of potential here.
  • Empire of the Sun – Two Vines … The third release from this Australian electronic duo is more of the same — catchy hooks over head bob-inducing beats. At least one of these songs will likely gain traction if it hasn’t already. My guess would be the title track.
  • TOY – Clear Shot … The British alt-rock band’s third album feels like a cross between shoegaze and futuristic psychedelia. Or maybe post-punk and Britpop. Or heavy chillwave. It can be as difficult to pigeonhole as it is to digest upon first listen. But this is a disc that gets better with repeated spins.

Create a free website or blog at