The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow
Nice male/female folk music. There were a couple of songs that really jumped out at me, and the rest of it was pretty solid. I like the way their voices sound together.
Favorite track: "Poison & Wine"
Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
I’d heard good things about this album, some calling it the best hip-hop album of the year so far. I guess that may be true, but only because I haven’t heard a whole lot of really good hip-hop this year. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. Seemed like a standard hip-hop album to me: a couple of great moments, some pretty good moments, and a couple that I just didn’t care for at all. Sometimes his voice got on my nerves, but not overly so. I liked the production pretty well.
Favorite track: "Ronald Reagan Era"
Solander – Passing Mt. Satu
I liked their last album, so I was excited about this one. More of the same…dark, Swedish pop music with hints of folk. Not too many songs jumped out at me, but this seems like one that will get better with repeated listens.
Favorite track: "Follow"
Holly Brook – Like Blood, Like Honey
She is now known by another name (Skyler Gray, known for her hook on Dre’s “I Need a Doctor” and Lupe’s “Words I Never Said”), but this was her first foray into music. Different than I expected…it basically sounds like a Sarah McLachlan album or something. I liked it pretty well, but there’s not much to it. She has a terrific voice, though.
Favorite track: "Wanted"
Modern Skirts – Gramahawk
Sunny pop music. I like it, but there’s not much to differentiate this from their previous two albums. Also, his voice kind of gets on my nerves at times. Not bad, but not great.
Favorite track: "Happy 81"
Peter Bjorn & John – Gimme Some
Swedish pop. They got really big a few years ago with their single “Young Folks”. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now. They’re not bad, but it’s pretty standard pop. I enjoyed it, though…seems like good summer music.
Favorite track: "Down Like Me"
Death Cab for Cutie – Codes & Keys
I’m not sure I’ll ever love this band as much as I used to. I like this album. It’s pretty good throughout, with a couple songs that I really liked. But it just feels like something is missing.
Favorite track: "Codes & Keys"
Dawes – Nothing is Wrong
Just a good country(ish) album. They have the whole Crosby, Stills & Nash sound down…but not quite on the level of those guys. Maybe a band like The Thorns would be a more accurate comparison. It’s solid throughout, with a few tracks that I absolutely love.
Favorite track: "Million Dollar Bill"
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
I kind of liked their first album, but I really feel like they took a major step forward on this album, without making too many changes to their formula from their first album. It’s mountain folk, and they highlight their tremendous harmonies. It seems to get a bit bogged down by the end, but the first half is incredibly strong.
Favorite track: "Helplessness Blues"
The Mummers – Mink Hollow Road
A pretty good, low-key summer pop album. Not quite as good as the La Sera album, but it’s not bad.
Favorite track: "Stuck in the Middle"
Ben Sollee – Inclusions
He is throwing a bit more experimentation in on this album, and it all seems to work. There’s nothing as immediately good as “To See the Sunrise” on this album, but there’s a lot of really good stuff on here. He still has that soul-music-with-a-cello thing going (with more than a hint of Paul Simon), but with an added dimension. This guy truly is amazing.
Favorite track: "Captivity"
Emmylou Harris – Hard Bargain
I love Emmylou, but this album left me without much to think about. It’s along the same lines as Red Dirt Girl (my favorite album of hers), but it really feels more like Stumble Into Grace. It’s good, but not as good as it could be.
Favorite track: "Goodnight Old World"