(Arranged in alphabetical order by band)
With so many albums being released every week, what are they all like? Which are worth your time? These one-sentence reviews are the answers to those questions!
Snacktime (Barenaked Ladies) – MAYBE SO
Review: Fun and even educational for kids, yet substantive and musically interesting for adults – don’t let this be the one Barenaked Ladies album missing from your shelf!
Top Two Tracks: “7 8 9” – “Pollywog in a Bog”
Modern Guilt (Beck) – MAYBE SO
Review: Beck’s unique voice is the anchor of this rock album that successfully integrates both loops and modern effects with the simplest acoustic, electric guitar, and keyboard sounds front and center in the mix.
Top Two Tracks: “Gamma Ray” – “Modern Guilt”
Way To Normal (Ben Folds) – MAYBE NOT
Review: While this is a great breakup album with some typically provocative Ben Folds lyrics and strong instrumental work, there are simply too many disposable tracks and a general feeling throughout much of the album that we’ve been here before.
Top Two Tracks: “Bitch Went Nuts” – “Brainwascht”
That Lucky Old Sun (Brian Wilson) – YES
Review: This is Wilson’s modern masterpiece for the summer months, offering more punch than a fresh cup of coffee (“Morning Beat”), piano ballads for the ages (“Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl” and “Midnight’s Another Day”), and spoken word transition tracks (lyrics by SMiLE collaborator Van Dyke Parks) that won’t disappoint, all in a thoughtfully ordered and nicely blended track listing.
Top Two Tracks: “Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl” – “Live Let Live”
11 (Bryan Adams) – MAYBE NOT
Review: This is pretty much what you would expect, which doesn’t mean it can’t be great fun – clichéd, cheesy lines notwithstanding.
Top Two Tracks: “I Ain’t Losin’ the Fight” – “Oxygen”
Loyalty to Loyalty (Cold War Kids) – MAYBE SO
Review: The Cold War Kids’ breakthrough album (#21 on the Billboard 200) further establishes their strong, unique sound – Willett’s vocals and Russell’s guitar work being their strongest assets, set against the driving force of Maust’s bass and Aveiro’s drums – aside from perhaps a couple disposable tracks, the album is a stand out.
Top Two Tracks: “Against Privacy” – “Mexican Dogs”
Prospekt’s March EP (Coldplay) – NO
Review: Okay, Coldplay, it’s time to step up to the plate a la Wilco: release these tracks (only 3 or 4 are really worth the listen, anyway) on the next reissue of Viva La Vida AND offer them as a free download to anyone who has already bought the album; none of this shameful EP garbage for one of the most wildly successful bands in the world!
Top Two Tracks: “Life in Technicolor II” – “Glass of Water”
Viva La Vida (Coldplay) – YES
Review: Coldplay has finally hit an album-worthy home run, complete with beautiful instrumental bookends, richly explored thematic elements, big pop-radio worthy singles, and multi-movement tracks; this is the album that will help them begin living up to the hype that has surrounded the band for years.
Top Two Tracks: “42” – “Violet Hill”
Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (Counting Crows) – YES
Review: The concept album of the year, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings’ songs are aptly split between those that address the primal side of human nature, making decisions by instinct and engaging in debauchery, and the more reflective side of the psyche, reconsidering past decisions, experiences, and even dream images in the early light of Sunday morning.
Top Two Tracks: “Insignificant” – “You Can’t Count On Me”
Momofuku (Elvis Costello) – MAYBE SO
Review: Named for the inventor of instant ramen noodles, Momofuku may have been recorded at a breakneck pace, but there are some quality songs here: interesting arrangements, heartfelt performances, and of course, clever and poetic lyrics.
Top Two Tracks: “American Gangster Time” – “Flutter and Wow”
Electric Argument (The Fireman) – NO
Review: The guise of the Fireman may allow Paul McCartney the opportunity to relax, experiment, and otherwise stretch out, but a fully realized album that lives up to his vastly impressive recent work this is not.
Top Two Tracks: “Sing the Changes” – “Dance ‘Til We’re High”
Sleep Through the Static (Jack Johnson) – NO
Review: Filled with peaceful songs recorded in very clear sound quality… that will most likely put you to sleep – not even close to what you would expect from the follow-up to In Between Dreams.
Top Two Tracks: “What You Thought You Need” – “Go On”
The Glass Passenger (Jack’s Mannequin) – MAYBE NOT
Review: With their most recent release, Jack’s Mannequin has cracked the top ten of the Billboard 200 and found a bright, clean, and upbeat sound while addressing a number of serious topics; if some of the songs didn’t sound so similar and if McMahon’s vocals didn’t strain and reverberate oddly at times, this would be a great album.
Top Two Tracks: “Crashin’” – “Bloodshot”
Seeing Things (Jakob Dylan) – MAYBE SO
Review: Jakob Dylan finds some soothing and rootsy acoustic sounds on his debut solo album… now, let’s just hope he uses it to return with more force and feeling to a full band next time!
Top Two Tracks: “Valley of the Low Sun” – “War is Kind”
Greenlight (Jeff Copperthite) – MAYBE SO
Review: The first solo album from one half of the late nineties rock band Quilt, Greenlight is all you could hope for from a debut release – a range of songs that demonstrate Copperthite’s considerable instrumental abilities, including a couple standouts that will make listeners look forward to the next solo release.
Top Two Tracks: “Home” – “Aware”
Perfectly Clear (Jewel) – MAYBE NOT
Review: The latest phase for this folk singer turned dance/big band star turned country artist, Perfectly Clear is a well executed country album – nothing less, but not much more.
Top Two Tracks: “Love is a Garden” – “Till It Feels Like Cheating”
Insides Out (Jordan Zevon) – MAYBE NOT
Review: Bitingly witty at times, helplessly romantic at others, and always in-your-face realistic, Jordan Zevon’s debut release boasts finely crafted – if predictable – vocals and strong – although standard – instrumentation; he’s on his way to a great album, but hasn’t quite made it this time.
Top Two Tracks: “The Joke’s On Me” – “Payday”
Mudcrutch (Mudcrutch) – MAYBE SO
Review: An instantly likeable album with a classic sound that is somehow still unique and infectious, the power of Mudcrutch’s debut release – much like the faded face on its cover – tends to dissipate over time; as with many releases this year, it’s not bad for a start and is perhaps the best debut album (and one of the best new bands) of 2008.
Top Two Tracks: “Orphan of the Storm” – “Lover of the Bayou”
Home Before Dark (Neil Diamond) – NO
Review: An album of enjoyable three minute songs… that drag on redundantly for six minutes.
Top Two Tracks: “Pretty Amazing Grace” – “The Power of Two”
The Slip (Nine Inch Nails) – MAYBE SO
Review: The landscape of The Slip is that of violence and corruption, but even more acutely of the impact upon and influence of the individual in a society that is taking turns for the worse – add in Trent Reznor’s supplying this album for free online, taking intricate care to provide track (not just album) artwork and typed-in lyrics, and you’ve got a strong release.
Top Two Tracks: “1,000,000” – “Discipline”
Break Up the Concrete (The Pretenders) – MAYBE NOT
Review: While there’s nothing particularly remarkable here, Break Up the Concrete is a surprisingly strong release from Chrissie Hynde and company, nicely blending acoustic and electric rock with a rockabilly sensibility peeking through intermittently.
Top Two Tracks: “Love’s A Mystery” – “The Last Ride”
Accelerate (R.E.M.) – YES
Review: From the first notes of distorted electric guitar to the final “yeah” voiced by frontman Michael Stipe, Accelerate is a non-stop rock’n roll joy ride punctuated by numerous standout tracks, instrumental moments, and some of the strongest lyrics from Stipe in years; this R.E.M. album more than lives up to what its title implies about the pacing.
Top Two Tracks: “Living Well is the Best Revenge” – “Supernatural Superserious”
Consolers of the Lonely (The Raconteurs) – MAYBE SO
Review: For anyone who claims there are no new bands making great rock music, here come the tremendous Raconteurs to tell stories with urgent vocals, infectious guitar licks, plenty of distortion while maintaining a healthy respect for the acoustic guitar, horns, and so much more as traces of classic rock and modern rock are inseparably mixed.
Top Two Tracks: “Top Yourself” – “Many Shades of Black”
The Bird and the Bee Sides (Relient K) – MAYBE SO
Review: In and of itself, The Nashville Tennis EP is a generally middle of the road affair with a handful of standout tracks and several disposable songs; however, when combined with The Bird and the Bee Sides, it boasts new material as well as enough rare tracks to fill the gaps in any Relient K fan’s collection – never mind that 13 songs add up to a generous “EP,” clocking in for a total of 26 songs on this single disc release.
Top Two Tracks (“The Bird”): “At Least We Made It This Far” – “I Just Want You To Know”
Top Two Tracks (“The Bee Sides”): “Up and Up (Acoustic)” – “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been (Acoustic)”
Liverpool 8 (Ringo Starr) – MAYBE SO
Review: Even though Starr split with longtime collaborator Mark Hudson during the making of Liverpool 8, this album is a worthy addition to his recent catalog, and although it may not be the strongest of the Roundhead records, it’s a must-hear for Ringo and rock fans alike.
Top Two Tracks: “Liverpool 8” – “If It’s Love That You Want”
Detours (Sheryl Crow) – MAYBE NOT
Review: This album is a bit of a mess, as some songs (“God Bless This Mess,” “Love is All There Is”) are heartfelt standouts and others (“Love is Free,” “Peace Be Upon Us”) seem phoned-in and generally distract from the great material this album has to offer.
Top Two Tracks: “Shine Over Babylon” – “Detours”
A Hundred Million Suns (Snow Patrol) – MAYBE SO
Review: Don’t let the inferior first single “Take Back the City” fool you: A Hundred Million Suns is the long-awaited next step in Snow Patrol’s evolution, offering up much to enjoy hearing and feeling and even more to interpret – and, thankfully, AHMS is a vast improvement over Eyes Open, and a worthy follow-up to Final Straw.
Top Two Tracks: “Crack the Shutters” – “The Planets Bend Between Us”
The Red Album (Weezer) – MAYBE SO
Review: The Red Album is something of an enigma – several tracks (“The Greatest Man That Ever Lived,” “Everybody Get Dangerous”) are among the quirkiest, most original and inventive work ever to grace a Weezer release, yet the album gets sidetracked in material that is easy on the ear, but overly simplistic (think “Heart Songs” and “Dreamin’”) – but it’s an interesting one; it is difficult to determine whether the first ever contributions from the other band members provides an exciting boost or simply more confusion to the album. (And why no “Miss Sweeney” on the main album release?)
Top Two Tracks: “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” – “Thought I Knew”