Initial Reactions (2011): Lucinda Williams, St. Vincent, Justice

Lucinda Williams – Blessed – (ind): I don’t think I’m being lazy when I say this sounds pretty much like a new Lucinda Williams record. I loved Car Wheels (SO good), but everything I’ve heard her do since sounds like a facsimile of that record. This is no different. It’s not bad or anything; "Blessed" is a really memorable tune for all of the right reasons. So I’ll commend it for all of the Lucind-heads and move on. ("Blessed")

St. Vincent – Strange Mercy  – (ind): Suffers not so much from a lack of craftsmanship as a lack of tunefulness. Makes a strong first impression with "Chloe in the Afternoon." Otherwise, not a memorable track to be found. Falls into the same category as My Brightest Diamond, only St. Vincent dwells in post-modern abstract pop rather than neo-classicism. Yawn-fest, for the most part.

Justice – Audio, Video, Disco. – (ind): Basically Ratatat (French edition), right? Or is it the other way around? Which came first? Where am I? It all dissolves into philosophy from there. This sort of sound has a shelf-life of exactly one album. Once you’ve heard it one time, you’ve heard enough. I suppose I just prefer my IDM with the emphasis on the "I" rather than the "D,"  and that not so much for “intelligent” as “introspective.”

REACTION KEY

[!!!!!]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.

Initial Reactions (2011): Atlas Sound, Primus, Fruit Bats

Atlas Sound – Parallax – (++): This guy Cox comes up with some pretty melodies, and I like the Zombies-vibe that his music puts off. "Te Amo" is a neato moment and a standout cut. As is common with Deerhunter, he often launches with a killer melody but lands with a disappointing follow-through in terms of arc and/or narrative. Promises the stars, but fails to really engage at a gut level. Still, pretty. ("Angel Is Broken", "Te Amo", "Mona Lisa")

Primus – Green Naugahyde – (+++): This is a strong record. There were a few moments that reminded me of Modest Mouse’s recent work. If I was a diehard Primus fan, I’d be really happy with Les Claypool for giving me an album that is essentially as good as the band’s early work. Think of Dinosaur Jr.’s 2 reunion albums rather than reunion albums by pretty much any other band. Strangely and surprisingly enjoyable. ("Hennepin Crawler", "Tragedy’s a’ Comin’")

Fruit Bats – Tripper – (++): I suspect this one is a grower. At first glance, it sounds like pretty typical indie-pop, but there is at least one undeniably great track here (“Wild Honey”), and I suspect a few more shall slowly reveal themselves. I’m not crazy about the vocals (in general), but I don’t hate them either. All in all I find myself liking this more and more on repeated listens. ("Wild Honey", "Shivering Fawn")

REACTION KEY

[!!!!!]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.

Initial Reactions (2011): Joe Henry, Frank Turner, Middle Brother

Joe Henry – Reverie – (ind): I don’t get it. It’s all very artistic sounding, excellent in appearance, jazzy, smoky, sultry, deeper than you’ll ever hope to be, but it’s so slick and smooth on the surface that I can’t find a foothold. I have this gut-level feeling that Joe is thinking to himself "Behold my musicianship – let me cast my spell over you." Maybe the guy could lighten up? Look, if you dig this, then fantastic. I just find it dense and forgettable. ("Odetta")

Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones – (++): Pleasantly surprised by this one. Billy Bragg’s younger, spoon-fed brother. Big, catchy rock tunes likened to rowdy pub sing-alongs, and he’s definitely a gifted lyricist, although I will say that he leans towards a heavy moralism that I find disappointing. Gotta mention that "There is no God" song – I was thinking that it might be a response to this. FT is the same guy who wrote these lyrics. Puzzling…

Middle Brother – Middle Brother – (++): Well, I loved Dawes’ latest, so more Taylor Goldsmith is OK by me. All in all, strong songwriting, though I’m not as crazy about the dude with the gravely voice. It does have a nice sort of oldies radio feel at times, but it’s not particularly earth-shattering otherwise. What you get: big tunes, big melodies, big voices. All in all, a worthwhile listen. ("Thanks for Nothing", "Me Me Me")

REACTION KEY

[!!!!!]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.

Initial Reactions (2011): The Civil Wars, Foster The People, Office Of Future Plans

Foster The People – Torches – (–): This all sounds ready made for either an Apple commercial or a Grey’s Anatomy promo, and it sports as much originality as you would expect from a band that is essentially re-writing "Young Folks" multiple times. After all, the clown behind this madness used to write jingles, and while there’s nothing wrong with that per se, it’s extremely telling this case. I detect cynical devils masked as beings of lite. I detect self-aware, formulaic, soulless songwriting. I thought maybe – just maybe – I would find something like Steely Dan: The Next Generation. Instead, I got Justin Beiber: The Old Dudes.

Office Of Future Plans – Office Of Future Plans – (ind): This is J. Robbins’ third post-Jawbox outfit, and not much has changed. Sure, a cello figures prominently, but for the most part, these sound exactly like the signature angular riffs that you’d expect. I don’t know exactly what I was hoping for, but I guess it all just seems a bit ho-hum. Short on inspiration and concept, ya know? Hey, where’s Barbot when you need him? ("Salamander")

The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow – (++): I’ve heard so many rave reviews of this band and how they are God’s gift to music that at this point I am pre-disposed to vehemently hating them. (Actually, I’m not that much of an a-hole, but you know what I’m saying). That being said, I think it’s good stuff. I’m not convinced of their greatness, but I will say that "I’ve Got This Friend" (for example) sports a nice mix of playful and melodic elements in a Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac sort of way. One thing: they over-sing, which makes it a teeny bit burdensome for frequent listens. Basically, think of The Swell Season via Nashville. Fair enough. We’ll see where the next album goes. ("I’ve Got A Friend", "C’est La Mort")

REACTION KEY

[!!!!!]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.

Initial Reactions (2011): The Jayhawks, Blitzen Trapper, VHS or Beta

The Jayhawks – Mockingbird Time – (++): Pleasant enough. Leaves you with that peaceful, easy feeling. I might have been indifferent to this, but I enjoy alt-country, and to that point, humble-pie songwriting. I’m a newbie, but this is notable for long-time Jayhawks fans as Mark Olson has returned to the flock. Also, Gram Parson would have been 65 this year. ("Hide Your Colors", "She Walks In So Many Ways")

Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing – (++): Stadium filling antebellum classic rock, except it’s not 1975. These guys remind me of some high school buddies that used to cover Grand Funk Railroad. What I mean is that this is imitative of a bygone era, but it’s also durn well done. "Fletcher" reaches a prodigious groove. I’m pleasantly impressed, and hoping this will grow on me. ("Fletcher", "Might Find It Cheap")

VHS or Beta – Diamonds and Death – (ind): A reboot for this band. Reminds me a bit of the first Tears for Fears album. While there’s a few groove-tastic and even neato moments, it mostly sounds like a couple of kids discovering synthesizers. High point: "Jellybean" sounds like a Police instrumental from the future, but I guess I just can’t get past the silicon taste on anything else. Cool cover bonus points though. ("Under the Sun", "Jelly Bean")

REACTION KEY

[!!!!!]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.

Initial Reactions (2011): Björk, Beach Boys, Radiohead, Eddie Vedder, The Antlers

Björk – Biophilia – (++): Well, if this isn’t a concept album then I don’t know what a concept album is. Bjork has always been very spotty for me, but I dig the "20th Century Classical" aspects of this record. Furthermore, I think it’s a great concept – all that stuff about our instinctive connections to all forms of life – see here. You’re not going to find a "Human Behavior" or an "Army of Me" or even a "Joga" here, but you are going to find a pretty experimental album well executed. Songs could have been stronger, but I think it’s a grower. Speaking of "Human Behavior", I suppose this represents Bjork coming full circle artistically – a dissertation begun with that Freshman year term paper, if you will. Think about it. ("Moon", "Crystalline", "Cosmogony", "Hollow")

Beach Boys – The Smile Sessions – (!!!!!): Why wasn’t this released in 1967? Imagine all the ways pop music might be different now. This isn’t just The Beatles flirting with orchestral arrangements as wall-of-sound filler, this is high concept brilliance from beginning to end. It’s all about those voices. Amazing harmonies – "Our Prayer" indeed – "but the Holy Spirit prays for us in groanings that cannot be expressed in words.("Heroes and Villains" and pretty much all of it)

Eddie Vedder – Ukulele Songs – (++): "Can’t Keep" is promising in a post-punk sort of way. And there’s the requisite covers, since this is an album of ukulele songs. Overall, many moments that sound like they’d get Pearl Jam radio airplay that goes beyond material written before 1996. Glory days done passed us by, but that’s OK. We’ve got the bittersweet timbre of the ukulele to provide the soundtrack as we watch the sunset. Many beautiful moments. Nothing that reaches to the acoustic transcendence of "Elderly Woman", but still many beautiful moments.

Radiohead – Tkol Rmx 1234567 – (++): Assessing a compilation of remixes is tricky. Where does the "work" of the remix artist and the "work" of the original artist split? A good example is the Illum Sphere Rmx of "Codex." Beautiful tune. Great Yorke vocal. I hated the remix until Yorke’s voice came in. Then I liked it. Two CDs worth of remixes is quite a lot to take in in one sitting. Much of it is interesting, some of it is good, and maybe a few cuts are truly memorable. Is some of it cool? Yeah. Will I ever listen to it again? Not likely. ("Little By Little (Caribou Rmx)", "Lotus Flower (Jacques Greene Rmx)", "Separator (Four Tet Rmx)"), "Give Up the Ghost (Thriller Houseghost Rmx)", "Tkol (Altrice Rmx)")

The Antlers – Burst Apart – (++): OK, when I hear this, I think of the Black Keys if they made "sad bastard music." BTW, I ain’t a fan of the Black Keys. There are some pretty moments here, and, well, I remember being really heartbroken over the last track when my cat died earlier this year. But you know, those are painful memories. Don’t really care to go back there. Musically, this is strong stuff, but the songs only seem above-average at best. Meh. It’s painful to listen to because it makes me want to cry. ("I Don’t Want Love", "French Exit", "Corsicana")

REACTION KEY

[!!!!!]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.

Initial Reactions (2011): Owen, Laura Veirs, Kurt Vile, Seryn, James Blake, Florence + the Machine

Owen – Ghost Town – (++): These are intimate, pensive tunes strung through delicate acoustic and electronically-tinged arrangements. Good, if somewhat too precious. At times, it reminds me of Red House Painters (see "No Language"), though not as diverse stylistically. One thing I want to applaud: Mike Kinsella’s vocals are UP FRONT in the mix. That’s unusual for a "bedroom" project, and a big plus considering how annoyed I am with the trend to "haze over" vocals. Also, there’s a very "late 90’s" feel to the whole thing, so, nostalgia, which is nice. The songs could have been stronger, but overall, nice job. ("O, Evelyn…", "Too Many Moons", "No Language")

Laura Veirs – Tumble Bee – (!!!!!): Well, with tunes like these, how could I NOT LOVE Laura Veirs? I remember "Galaxy" from a few years back – the one with that vaguely 70’s/90’s hybrid feel. What a great tune. This one here’s a kid’s album though, and for those who REALLY know, a good kids album sometimes entertains the adults more than the kids, like Rocky and Bullwinkle. It’s for the young at heart, or perhaps for those fed up enough with the world and her state of affairs that they want to collapse back into childhood. A good mixture of folk songs and originals, Tumble Bee is chock full of gorgeousness. Reminds me why I love music so much. ("Prairie Lullaby", "King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Mi-O", "The Fox", "Jamaica Farewell")

Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo – (++): Lou Reed meets Kurt Cobain. Nice acoustic guitar work. Cool lo-fi sounds, amazing slacker halo around it all. Much of it sounds like the notebook sketches of a genuinely gifted dude. I’d really like to hear KV apply some of his obvious songwriting ability to something a little grander though. Certainly intriguing. ("Baby’s Arms", "Society Is My Friend")

Seryn – This Is Where We Are – (++): Comparisons to recent Canadian Grammy winners are inevitable. I’m hearing "Arcade Fire + Nickel Creek = Seryn." Maybe Venice Is Sinking is a more likely comparison? Fair enough. Does it stand on its own? I think the answer is YES. The songs aren’t AMAZING, but they are certainly at the core of what the band is doing. There are many exceptionally beautiful moments here, and the Americana harmonies are fantastic. This Is Where We Are won’t, per se, be the big breakthrough for this band. However, it promises great things to come, and as a first entry in the band’s catalog, it’s a keeper.  ("We Will Be Changed", "Towering")

James Blake – James Blake – (++): Pretty much amazing electronic-soul record. Don’t know if I’d listen to it alot, but as something to behold, well, it is something to behold. A headphones record, a rainy day sort of affair, romantic and blurry and all that. I can’t rave about it, because I don’t expect to listen to it again, but I’ll at least say lots of nice things about it as an interesting slice of tuneage. Nice Feist cover too. Overall, sort of like tUnE-yArDs for me. Good stuff, but does it pull me back? We’ll see… ("The Wilhelm Scream", "Limit to Your Love")

Florence + the Machine – Ceremonials – (–): I came at this one after seeing their name everywhere. I heard associations like U2 and other that peaked my interest. I had reasonable (not high) hopes. They are dashed. Reason 1: I hate the production. It is that same awful American Idol = Disco + R&B + Nickelback sound that pretty much keeps me away from the radio. Reason 2: The songs are poor. They rely lopsidedly on "Florence’s" admittedly humongous voice and harps for a Renaissance effect (been done before and better, ad nauseam), but underneath it all, they just sound like they were written by a committee working for Simon Cowell. I expected pleasant surprise, I figured Indifference was the worst possibility, but really, I feel pretty negative toward this. The bottom line: Heart did it, with better songs, and more, er, heart.

REACTION KEY

[!!!!!]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.

Initial Reactions (2011): Coldplay, M83, Kathryn Calder, Surfer Blood, Josh Rouse

Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto – (++): Yes, it’s poppy, but I’m hearing Stone Roses. Hipsters will sneer, but aside from CM’s frequently atrocious stabs at transcendent lyrics, can there be any doubt that "Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall" recalls "Waterfall" on a few levels, or that "Hurts Like Heaven" has traces of "She Bangs the Drum" in its DNA? I really don’t like the Rihanna duet, but that might just be because I am a curmudgeon when it comes to R&B since the dawn of hip-hop (I know, I know). On the flipside, for all of their U2 jr. posturing,  they seem to be catching up with U2’s latter-day missteps a little too quickly. Let’s not forget that U2’s fifth album was The Joshua Tree, not Atomic Bomb. The band might be trying to skip a few rungs on the ladder, and they are beginning to come dangerously close to a major plummet. Still, one thing I’ve learned with Coldplay is that you should never judge their latest album too quickly. Lord have mercy, but they are perhaps the Tim Tebow of modern rock: technically and artistically messy with the uncanny ability to put stars in your eyes as they genuflect before the great unknown. ("Hurts Like Heaven", "Paradise", "Us Against the World", "Major Minus", "Up in Flames")

M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming – (++): I’m divided on this one. On one hand, I admire the scope of the album. On the other, it’s thin on truly memorable songs, and that leads me to think of that old quip about "sound and fury." The melodies are big and juicy, but they savor like Starburst rather than fruit fresh from the vine. Certainly "sounds a lot like My Bloody Valentine," yeah. So, it’s enjoyable, but that’s all I feel about it at this point. Epic though. Maybe it will grow on me? And what the heck is that mask??? Last, I wish the guy had a deeper voice. Imagine the Simple Minds dude singing on these songs, or Peter Gabriel, or hell, even the guy from Elbow. A little more gravitas. That would do the trick. ("Midnight City", "Reunion", "New Map")

Kathryn Calder – Bright and Vivid – (!!!!!): Songs, songs, songs. Kathryn Calder gets it. A lot of flash and crazy concepts will only get you so far. She’s hit back to back homeruns with her solo work now, and that is because she never strays far from the thing that makes pop music so great in the first place. That’s not to say it’s all convention and no style. The production on the opener takes the great melody to a gauzy, dreamier level, like My Bloody Valentine working with Natalie Merchant. Carl Newman, thank you for shining a spotlight on your cousin. Neko who? ("One Two Three", "Turn a Light On", "Walking in my Sleep", "All The Things", "New Frame of Mind")

Surfer Blood – Tarot Classics EP – (++): In terms of sound, it’s a good reprise of the meaty guitar pop on their debut LP. It’s enough to get me excited about a second LP. ("I’m Not Ready", "Drinking Problem")

 

Josh Rouse – Josh Rouse & the Long Vacations EP – (++): This won’t surprise anyone who has been following the music of Josh Rouse. "Long Vacations" says it all – this is music to put you on a sunny beach, and it has a care-free, well-to-do, throwback sound. Longtime fans will find plenty to enjoy. ("Diggin’ in the Sand", "Fine Fine")

REACTION KEY

[!!!!!]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.

Initial Reactions (2011): Real Estate, Cults, My Brightest Diamond, Memoryhouse, Washed Out

Real Estate – Days – [!!!!!]: Different packaging, same great taste. Band upgrades from one room flat to spacious loft. No matter how you put it, this is a band destined for great things. One thing I tend to insist is on is that I don’t care how great your band name or image is, if you don’t write great songs who really cares? And that’s why I love Real Estate. No sense of a well cultivated image (but not anti-image either, more like image-agnostic). This is a band that exists to make beautiful, chiming surf guitar love pop. You MIGHT find their equals, but where are you going to find tunes BETTER than "It’s Real" or "Out of Tune" this year? I defy you. ("Easy", "Green Aisles", "It’s Real", "Out of Tune")

Cults – Cults – [++]: I was going to say something snarky about how this is 2011’s version of 2010’s obligatory producer/voice combo Sleigh Bells, but there is a tunefulness and a soulfulness here that I didn’t expect and I like this much better than what I heard from Sleigh Bells. I think that’s owing to 2 things, the first being the no so subtle influence of 60’s girl group pop and the second being Madeline Follin’s voice which is certainly up to Brian Oblivion’s arrangements. So instead, I’m going to say that I really wish they’d re-hashed "Fire Woman", cuz I really love that song (honestly, I do). But yeah, think of the idea of Sleigh Bells, but the tunes of She & Him. That’s more like it. ("Abducted", "Walk at Night", "Rave On")

My Brightest Diamond – All Things Will Unwind – [++]: That Shara Worden sure is a talented lady. In some sense, I don’t really think I’m worthy of reviewing this. After all, I’m used to reviewing obvious, accessible pop music, not complex and challenging pseudo-classical compositions. What I’ll say though is that I really appreciate her work. I like it better than I expected, and one extremely positive thing I want to say is that she transcends the "hyper-pop" model that has become so popular and, if I may say so, somewhat cliche. There’s nothing cutesy about this. So musically, I have to acknowledge a certain greatness on Shara’s part. The problem is with me; her style just isn’t my cup of tea. So while I probably won’t be spinning this a great deal, I can wholeheartedly commend it to anyone who’s musical tastes go beyond that of a guy who watched way too much MTV growing up. ("We Added It Up", "She Does Not Brave the War", "I Have Never Loved Someone")

Memoryhouse – The Years EP – [ind]: I have to say, it’s a bit disappointing for the band to essentially "revamp" their self-released EP from last year as their debut proper. Whatever, it’s not like they owed me anything, but I will say that if you can get your hands on the original version of The Years, the versions of those songs are superior. Also, why did they ditch the Enigma-esque cut? I loved that one. Anywho, I’ll pass on this, but I am really looking forward to their debut LP. Oh, and the 7" they released earlier this year ("Caregiver" b/w "Heirloom") is most definitely worth seeking out.

Washed Out – Within and Without – [++]: I can appreciate this. It’s romantic, passionate, warm as a night on the French Riviera. However, what I really like about it is the density. My only touchpoint is Enigma (and maybe a few tracks on comps here and there), but what Washed Out seems to do differently is take those Eden-esque melodies and adorn them to a degree that would make Brian Wilson feel young again. Shades of IDM (you know, Four Tet, Boards of Canada), but more like Ecstatic Dance Music. Call it exotic dreamscapes to drown out the fridge buzz? ("Eyes Be Closed", "Far Away", "A Dedication")

REACTION KEY

[!!!!!]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.

Initial Reactions (2011): Feist, Ryan Adams, Still Corners, Beirut

Feist – Metals – [ind]: If I had to compare Feist’s career trajectory to anyone right now, it would be Norah Jones. What I mean is, after two great albums, she has reached the point where she is running purely on charm and an amazing voice and beginning to suffer from a complacent and narrow vision. Not that I’m trying to hate – that’s not it at all – but quite frankly this album seems to substitute a sort of languid jazziness for songwriting chops. I know she probably got sick to death of "1234", but would it really kill her to throw an upbeat track or two into the mix? Another one like this and who will care? ("Caught a Long Wind", "Bittersweet Melodies", "Get It Wrong, Get It Right")

Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire – [++]: This definitely sounds like Adams pre-Cardinals, which, depending on one’s perspective, could go either way. The good news is that Adams sounds a little wiser, a little more patient, a little more balanced, and completely ready to focus on the things he does best. Excellent melodies abound, and there’s a sleepy Saturday morning feel to the album that recalls Love Is Hell and the lovelier, nostalgic moments on Cold Roses. Furthermore, I’m detecting the ghost of Richard Manuel in many of these tunes, which is always a good thing. Overall, I’m thinking that this might be one of the best albums of his career, and it could wind up being one of the best of any artist this year. ("Lucky Now", "Ashes & Fire", "Dirty Rain")

Still Corners – Creatures Of An Hour – [++]: More like Endless Winter! Very atmospheric, ghostly stuff. Pretty nice, though not incredibly original what with the voluminous…VOLUME of atmospheric and pretty post-punk outfits making music these days. Still, Creatures is well executed, and our lady Tessa Murray positively haunts these tunes. It’s like they took the last few Camera Obscura albums and boiled ’em down in The Cure’s early records. Also, sounds like Memoryhouse, but more David Lynch. Should make for some pleasant twilight drives in the darker seasons. Overall, shows promise. And I like the dude’s vision. ("Endless Summer")

Beirut – The Rip Tide – (++): I’ve always loved the "Old World" element in Zach Condon’s outfit, but on this one he indulges a heavier pop element for the better. Condon has such a profound gift for rich, memorable melodies that the synths and such, instead of sounding kitschy or tacky, further highlight the wonderful old/new paradox that makes Condon’s music rise above the fray. A keeper for sure and a possible year end sleeper. ("Santa Fe", "Goshen")

REACTION KEY

[****]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.