Feb 12, 2019
I’m incredibly late to the bandwagon on this one, but Jeff Rosenstock is phenomenal. Right from the spectacular and cathartic build in opener “We Begged 2 Explode,” it’s obvious that “WORRY.” is a keeper. Rosenstock screams power pop-punk hooks like the best of them, and the album is insanely fun, catchy, and addictive, with tons of lyrical heft just in case the initial adrenaline high wears off (it hasn't yet for me). Halfway through the tracklist, someone ... read more
Feb 12, 2019
Given that this is one of the most nihilistic records I’ve ever heard, it sure is a lot of fun. “People …” is by turns disturbing, hilarious, frightening, and never for a second dull. AJJ tears through a ton of misanthropic ground over a breakneck 25 minutes. The music is folk punk at its best, equal parts Violent Femmes and Neutral Milk Hotel, and while the lyrics certainly take some getting used to, it’s hard not to appreciate what AJJ are doing. From the outro ... read more
Feb 12, 2019
I can’t help but feel that Annie was ahead of her time. Couldn’t you easily see “Anniemal” being released to widespread critical and online acclaim if it came out in this poptimist era? And Annie would’ve been as deserving of this hype as anybody — this is exactly the sort of album poptimism is supposed to champion. For an album designed to be chart-topping pop, “Anniemal” has an incredibly high hit rate. Like a proto-“E-MO-TION,” ... read more
Feb 12, 2019
Arguably Beulah’s finest hour, and certainly their most listenable. “The Coast is Never Clear” definitely sounds very turn-of-the-century, existing somewhere at the intersection of Elephant 6 psychedelia, Fountains of Wayne sunshine pop, and Delgados-esque chamber pop. That said, Beulah’s music holds up incredibly well and sounds very fresh even 17 years later. It helps that many of Beulah’s best hooks are on this album; “The Coast is Never Clear” ... read more
Feb 4, 2019
My 15-year-old self wouldn’t forgive me if he learned that one day I’d be dying for a Weezer album to end so that I could go back to Joanna Newsom.

Seriously though is this some kind of joke? Like one that was intended to be funny? If you wanted to hear Rivers Cuomo singing barely competent karaoke of some of the most beloved pop songs ever, then maybe this would spark joy. Otherwise, it’s just thoroughly pointless.
Feb 4, 2019
This is a challenging album — easy to appreciate but not necessarily enjoyable to actually listen to, and not so much of a departure from Sarah Louise’s previous work as some have suggested. Don’t be fooled by the genre tags indicating that “Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars” is a folk album; I suppose in an academic, musicological context, there are elements that make this folk music, but it’s about as far from, say, Laura Marling as you can get. Louise ... read more
Feb 4, 2019
Pedro the Lion is an important name in some circles, but as someone unfamiliar with their earlier work, I honestly thought this comeback record was pretty subpar. David Bazan has the sort of gruff voice that’s not conventionally attractive, but could inspire passionate devotees. There are contexts where he could sound appealing, but over barely-there melodies and noncommittal, mid-fi, basic alt-rock arrangements, “Phoenix” doesn’t offer much to work with sonically. The ... read more
Feb 4, 2019
When Chris Stapleton’s 2015 country-soul breakthrough “Traveller” made a big splash in mainstream and Americana scenes alike, it appeared as though his ascent had come out of nowhere. In fact, Stapleton is a veteran of the American roots music world, and for nearly a decade, fronted the under-appreciated progressive bluegrass band The Steeldrivers. Much more traditional than Stapleton’s solo work, The Steeldrivers call to mind contemporaries like Nickel Creek or Crooked ... read more
Feb 4, 2019
The sheet music to “Clinging to a Scheme” would read like old-school indie pop, but in practice, the music is heavily filtered, blown out, and dreamy; it sounds like a plunderphonics version of twee pop. This unique take on indie pop makes The Radio Dept. stand out; “Clinging to a Scheme” doesn’t sound quite like anything else. The A-side in particular is stellar — alternately bouncy, jangly, and enigmatic, with some sneaky earworms in there to boot. When ... read more
Jan 21, 2019
This is the sound of a talented singer-songwriter with lots of good ideas that suffer from their forgettable and conventional packaging. Nearly all of the songs on “Heard It in a Past Life” are individually solid and occasionally spectacular, although it’s always a little surprising when only half the songs on an album are new. Rogers knows her way around a pop hook, her airy vocals are lovely, and in a few instances, this all comes together very nicely. However, “Heard ... read more
Jan 21, 2019
Crying exists at a unique intersection between two insurgent movements within the indiesphere — they have the power-pop sugar rush of bands like Kero Kero Bonito or Charly Bliss, and the breakneck pop-punk vibe of Radiator Hospital or Illuminati Hotties. “Beyond the Fleeting Gales” actually sounds a lot like a proto-“Time ’n’ Place,” and while KKB may have done it better, Crying got there first. This album is catchy and immediate enough that it should ... read more
Jan 21, 2019
The first masterpiece from The National, “Alligator” is just as powerful and phenomenal as ever despite the band’s gradual evolution and reinvention over the past 14 years. “Alligator” stands out as a transitional album — it’s their first album that is unmistakably The National, but they’re still settling into the sound they perfect on “Boxer.” Instead, “Alligator” is antsier, louder, and more immediately cathartic and ... read more
Jan 21, 2019
Cursive might just be one of those bands that works best when it hits you at a certain point in your life. While “The Ugly Organ’ is undoubtedly a well-composed album with unique instrumentation, Tim Kasher’s vocals and lyrics invariably strike me as overwrought and histrionic — and while you could level those same criticisms against Conor Oberst, I’ve always connected with Bright Eyes albums much more than Cursive albums (for reasons that are probably completely ... read more
Jan 9, 2019
Nothing in the world sounds like this, no matter how many people have tried to replicate it. This is just ridiculously, insanely gorgeous. It’s like a reward for your ears. And it’s hard to believe that this album is somehow pushing 30 years old, because it doesn’t sound one bit dated. Transcendent.
Jan 9, 2019
I don’t quite know what to make of this. Personally, when it comes to reviewing albums, my scores and reviews partially reflect my enjoyment of an album relative to the artist’s other works or genre mates. Gabby Young & Other Animals is completely impervious to a site like this — the score is even more meaningless than usual because it’s in a total vacuum. I have no idea how good “We’re All In This Together” is, no knowledge of cabaret or ... read more
Jan 9, 2019
Since “Upside Down Mountain” is longer than either of the two solo Conor Oberst albums that bookend it, and since it arrived at a time when Oberst was caught in the middle of a false allegation, this tends to be the most dismissed album in Oberst’s discography. And admittedly, it’s a somewhat sleepier album than the rest of his solo works. But “Upside Down Mountain” is still an album of consistently strong songwriting that most Oberst fans should enjoy. The ... read more
Jan 9, 2019
Lillie Mae is the latest country protege on Jack White’s Third Man Records — the label that recently enabled Margo Price’s catapult to fame. “Forever and Then Some” is another testament to White’s keen eye for country talent; Mae’s debut is quite good, if imperfect. Her sweet soprano and affinity for uptempo, neo-traditional, honky-tonk-influenced arrangements call to mind Price’s debut, but Mae is decidedly less cynical and world-weary. ... read more
Jan 9, 2019
Given their contemporary status as synthpoppy indie veterans, it’s fascinating to revisit Phoenix back when they were trying to be The Strokes. This isn’t meant as a dig: of the post-Strokes mid-2000s records billed as garage rock, “It’s Never Been Like That” may very well be the best of the bunch. It’s no secret that Phoenix has a way with hooks, and they sound just as good paired with loud, clear pop-rock guitars as they do with synths. “It’s ... read more
Jan 6, 2019
The Dixie Chicks never got the credit they deserved. Today, their narrative seems to mostly be centered around their (completely righteous) Iraq War comments and the subsequent PR wars with country radio and Toby Keith. Less frequently acknowledged is the singular role they played in the mainstream contemporary country universe. Mainstream country albums as traditionalist, well-written, and well-performed as “Home” are exceedingly hard to come by. “Home” contains all of ... read more
Jan 6, 2019
Typically overlooked in the indie rock canon, “The Tyranny of Distance” oozes early 2000s indie from every pore, and also happens to be one of the finest sets of songs from this scene. Though the Pharmacists may be tacked onto the billing, this is Ted Leo’s show through and through. From his phenomenal, jubilant power pop melodies, to his inimitable acrobatic tenor, to his passionate and always entertaining delivery, the man is a consummate frontman. Like The Walkmen or early ... read more
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Recent Review Comments
On JohnLouisHoward's review of Julia Holter - Aviary
"Well said. What an amazing album!"
On Adrianne Lenker & Buck Meek - A-Sides
"Have you been to her solo shows? I don't think she plays it at Big Thief, but I saw her solo and she played it during the encore! Everyone was bawling of course"
On Pistol Annies - Hell on Heels
"^Ooh nice comparison! Little bit of Dixie Chicks in there too. Good stuff! "
On VinylHound83's review of Houndmouth - Golden Age
"Yeah this is seriously not good. What a bummer"
On Hop Along - Bark Your Head Off, Dog
"So good, right? I'm obsessed with these guys"
On Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour
"Would've made sense but just checked and it got 8.0. I can't think of anything since Van Lear Rose (2004), but that can't be right ..."
On JohnLouisHoward's review of Gengahr - Where Wildness Grows
"This reviewer (Lee Adcock) did the exact same thing to the Porches album. Music criticism at its absolute worst"
On lemuriams's review of Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour
"Same here, I am getting seriously excited for this"
On Camp Cope - How to Socialise & Make Friends
"Do they advertise themselves as a punk band? It seems like they're a lot more punk in ethos than in sound. And in any case I agree -- I thought that musically this was okay, but not very inspired."
On Sidney Gish - No Dogs Allowed
"Really glad you liked it! I've been excitedly spreading the Sidney Gish gospel recently"
On Ben Howard - I Forget Where We Were
"Absolutely. Thinking I might need to raise my rating on this, in fact."
On The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema
"Oh don't get me wrong, I agree with you. My point was just that someone who isn't familiar with the band might find it underwhelming based on a cursory surface listen. I find the appeal comes from the consistent quality of the songs rather than some big innovative statement, if that clears things up at all."
On Aldous Harding - Party
"Hey thanks for this comment! You make a good point and I agree that what I'm describing as quirk is definitely not pointless or used arbitrarily. I do think that the way she wields her voice made it hard for me to actually listen to what she was saying, but to be fair this is probably a matter of personal taste (as a Regina Spektor fan I can definitely get used to some vocal quirks). She's undoubtedly talented and I'm eager to hear her future works. "

February Playlist
Vinyl Me, Please