September 22, 2020


By Kristi Kates | April 8, 2017

The Shins – Heartworms - Columbia
While The Shins are officially a “band,” those in the know know that for many years the band has essentially been frontman James Mercer, a fact that comes to the forefront with this set. Self-produced and even more introspective than The Shins’ most introverted album to date (2001’s Oh, Inverted World), Heartworms demonstrates Mercer’s stock ability to churn out a remarkable ratio of songs that are as detailed and catchy as he is productive, from the nostalgic folk pop of “Mildenhall” to the Alan Parsons-like “Rubber Ballz” and the sprinting, personalized pop of “Name For You.” ***

Aimee Mann – Mental Illness – Super Ego
In interviews surrounding the release of this, her ninth solo album, singer- songwriter Mann has repeatedly acknowledged the overreaching sadness of her newest set of songs, but never fear – it’s all intentional. Correct or not, Mann’s long been thought of as a feminine sad sack of the indie-rock set, so she decided to just go with the stereotype and see what happens. The result: a graceful collection of liltingly-sung, slow-paced pop waltzes and hipster hymns that you can’t ignore, from the acceptance of “You Never Loved Me” to the character-driven “Lies of Summer.” They might be sad songs, but with melodies this catchy, that’s not a bad thing. ***

Rag N’ Bone Man – Human – Columbia
First snagging some well-deserved attention in the UK for the title track from this album and now making his way stateside is Rory Graham, aka Rag N’ Bone Man, the modern blues singer from Brighton whose songs blend soulful, assured vocals with massive refrains and bluesy hooks that have immediate appeal. Graham’s vocal approach is reminiscent of a deeper-voiced James Bay filtered through Memphis on tracks like the rhythmic “Arrow,” the richly layered “Grace,” and the more pop-seasoned “Be the Man,” all produced with confidence and an extra layer of cool not often heard on a debut full-length set. ***1/2

The Chainsmokers – Memories… Do Not Open – Disruptor
The production/DJ duo of Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart notched their first success back in 2014 with their club single “#Selfie,” and followed that up with a debut EP and a Grammy-winning dance track in the trap-pop hit “Don’t Let Me Down.” So anticipation was built up for their first studio album, which is just arriving now. The diversity of the duo definitely shows on this studio outing, from the chill dub of “Paris” to the emotional, faintly EDM stylings of “The One.” But there’s a cohesion missing that only surfaces during a couple of tracks -- one being their unexpected collaboration with Coldplay (“Something Just Like This”) -- and there’s a little too much reliance on downtempo drama for this to be a well-rounded effort.  **1/2


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