Album Grades 2015

Grimes- Art Angels— [It’s hard to begin describing how good this album is, but the key point
to take away here is that nearly every single song is listenable. This is a true front-to-back
record, which is unthinkable in 2015. Where other albums struggle to have 50% good songs,
this one easily goes past 90%. Claire Boucher has crafted an instantly recognizable sound with
meticulous production, but more importantly, she has written good melodies to back up all that
production. You can throw all the patches, samples, and augmented chords you want into a
track, but it will amount to nothing if the song doesn’t have a catchy hook. This album has
hooks in spades, outclassing not only every album this year, but possibly every album from the
past 5 years. It’s a big middle finger to all the MOR indie-alternative acts trying to be
experimental and failing miserably.]– A+
The Decemberists- What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World— [Although it’s lacking in classic Decemberist motifs, it’s still a solid collection of radio singles]– A
Kate Boy- ONE— [Probably one of the darkest pop records of recent years. A fascinating
aesthetic that is buttressed by excellent melodies.]– A
Purity Ring- Another Eternity— [Proving to be one of the most exciting new Canadian bands, Purity Ring deliver a hook-filled sophomore album]– A
Silversun Pickups- Better Nature— [Yes, it’s missing the dark mystery and intrigue of their first two releases. But it’s also a step up from their last album, and over half of it is comprised of solid, listenable, radio-ready alt-rock singles. In 2015, that’s a rare feat to accomplish.] — A
Carly Rae Jepsen- E-MO-TION— [This album is effectively two records in one, bouncing
between cutting edge electro-pop and generic late 80s filler. Fortunately the former is very,
very good, providing enough big hooks to dismiss the derivative moments]– A
Florence + The Machine- How Big How Blue How Beautiful— [Though there are a few clunkers on here- namely the plodding concert bait of a first single- there are also a lot of great songs to balance the missteps]– A
!!!- As If— [It’s weird that one of the year’s best records comes from a band whose name I
don’t even know how to pronounce, but this collection of dark, concise pop-funk songs is
definitely a solid album]– A-
Death Cab for Cutie- Kintsugi— [It’s very front loaded, but those first four tracks are as strong as anything in the band’s catalogue]– A-
Metric- Pagans in Vegas— [Much more cohesive than their previous album, and a solid effort
overall. Of course includes requisite big pop single in “Celebrate”.]– A-

Brandon Flowers- The Desired Effect— [Incredibly front-loaded and drastically drops in quality around the halfway mark, but the first half is pretty great]– B+
Family of the Year- S/T— [It’s a little too precious at times, but a strong second half pushes this album into solid territory]– B+
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds- Chasing Yesterday— [Noel proves he’s got the tunes to back up his brash personality, delivering a respectable if occasionally joyless sophomore album]– B+
The Airborne Toxic Event- Dope Machines— [It won’t win any critical respect, but it’s markedly more enjoyable than their past two albums]–  B+
Matthew Good- Chaotic Neutral— [Long gone are the days of angry anthem maker Matthew
Good, but there’s still something comforting about his trembling voice and compositional
style]– B+
Youth Lagoon- Savage Hills Ballroom— [There are hints of greatness scattered throughout this
album, but Trevor Power seems determined to stop himself from creating a true masterpiece]–
B+
Lana Del Rey- Honeymoon— [On the one hand, you have to admit it’s admirable that Del Rey
has stuck to the same template for nearly every single song. On the other hand, it’s getting
incredibly grating. Enough with the slow motion wannabe James Bond themes]– B+
Smashing Pumpkins- Monuments to an Elegy— [Billy Corgan continues to prove that he is a great songwriter, even if some of his experiments come off as cheesy]– B+
Autre Ne Veut- Age of Transparency— [Thankfully it’s not as weird as one might expect, and
there’s even an actual old-fashioned straightforward song (“Switch Hitter”), which is pretty rare
in this day and age]– B+
Foals- What Went Down— [It’s decent, but one can’t help but feel that the band peaked two albums ago and are now just coasting.]– B
The Weeknd- Beauty Behind the Madness— [There are a few cloying moments, but overall this is a big, interesting step towards stardom for the former king of art-damaged R&B]– B
Madeon- Adventure— [It’s a step above the melodic EDM vibe Porter Robinson tried to nail last year, but is still missing a sense of purpose amongst the electronic bombast]– B
WATERS- What’s Real— [The “Cage the Elephant meets pop-punk” approach works for the most part, but the band too often descends into indie pop tropes (anti-climactic chorus, synth overload)]– B
Walk the Moon- Talking is Hard— [It’s a shameless grasp at the pop charts, and mostly succeeds, even if it is often rote]– B
Sufjan Stevens- Carrie & Lowell— [Intensely personal to the point where it become difficult to listen to, but at the same time fascinating]– B
CHVRCHES- Every Open Eye— [The songs are for the most part enjoyable, but they all sound
similar and eventually start to blend together]– B
MuteMath- Vitals— [There’s not much that distinguishes this album from the glut of late-80s
cribbing indie poppers dominating rock radio right now, but at least the songwriting is fairly
decent. Strange considering their past two albums have fallen very short in that department.
Strong improvement]– B
AWOLNATION- Run— [Slightly disappointing after a four year wait, but with some hooks buried in the experimentation]– B
The Darkness- Last of our Kind— [It’s The Darkness. You know what you’re getting.]– B
Beirut- No No No— [A charming, honest effort from the always reliable Zach Condon, even if it is a bit slight]– B
Modest Mouse- Strangers to Ourselves— [Moderately disappointing after an eight year wait, with two to three average songs along with some incredibly bizarre tracks]– B-
New Order- Music Complete— [For a band that’s been together for over three decades, it’s
listenable enough, even if it doesn’t have another “True Faith” or “Blue Monday”.]– B-
The Subways- S/T— [Occasionally catchy garage rock]– B-
San Fermin- Jackrabbit— [Moments of inspiration are tempered by attempts at unconventional song structure and ruin what could have been great songs if the band had played it straight]–  B-
Blur- The Magic Whip— [Very much sounds like Blur, but lacks a sense of urgency]– B-
Waxahatchee- Ivy Tripp— [Crutchfield still has trouble singing and hits some off notes, but there are hints on this record that she has potential in the big leagues]– B-
Wavves- V— [Nicely cleaned up and filled with tighter hooks than anything Nathan Williams
has done before]– B-

Big Talk- Straight In No Kissin’— [It’s not great, but you can hear that the band is having fun doing their own thing]– C+
The Most Serene Republic- Mediac— [A little scattershot at times, but a fairly interesting listen
overall]– C+
Young Galaxy- Falsework— [At one time a unique Canadian electronic prospect, they’ve
grown increasingly bland and generic, though they do retain some interesting traits]– C+
Coheed and Cambria- The Color Before the Sun— [Being freed from the narrative concept of
all their other albums does help a little, but this album is mostly bereft of new ideas. Also the
song “Ghost” is a straight-up rip-off of Brand New’s “Jesus”.]– C+
Mini Mansions- The Great Pretenders— [Unfocused and corny at times, with a few good songs]– C+
Total Makeover- S/T— [There’s potential, but a lot of work needs to be done to stand out.]– C+
The Mountain Goats- Beat the Champ— [It’s an acquired taste. At this point, John Darnielle isn’t changing and if you don’t like his style of lit-rock, don’t bother listening]– C+
The Go! Team- The Scene Between— [A step back from 2011’s Rolling Blackouts, lacking hooks and overly relying on a sound that’s no longer novel]– C+
Calexico- Edge of the Sun— [Dependable but mostly filled with tired tropes]– C+
Titus Andronicus- The Most Lamentable Tragedy— [Incredibly ambitious and occasionally
silly, this punk rock opera is interesting but flawed– C+
Dave Gahan & Soulsavers— [The Depeche Mode singer finally has some concise songs to lend
his pipes to, but the arrangements veer a little too close to lite-blues]– C+
Coldplay- A Head Full of Dreams— [You know, as a pop album, it’s not even “that bad”. But
this is not a Coldplay album. There is almost zero resemblance to the band that made all the
previous records and the accompanying signature sound of that band. There are also some
seriously cringeworthy lyrics scattered throughout the thing and Chris Martin being an
embarrassing wannabe millennial, which isn’t a good look for anyone, but especially not Chris
Martin.]– C
The Decemberists- Florasongs EP— [Only one song on this release can be considered in any
way “essential” or “memorable”]– C
Line & Circle- Split Figure— [It’s nice to hear some straightforward guitar rock with verses and
choruses, but the songwriting is a little too simple and the Replacements-soundalike gimmick
gets really stale after a few flat tracks. More dynamic range needed.]– C
The Soft Moon- Deeper— [A promising step towards listenability, but the relentless bleakness may turn people off]– C
Tame Impala- Currents— [The supposed “pop crossover hit” record is strangely light on legitimate pop hooks.]– C
Twin Shadow- Eclipse— [Two great songs salvage what is otherwise one of the biggest major-label-jump trainwrecks in history]– C
Young Empires- The Gates— [A mostly predictable step forward. They were once electro synth based alt rock, now they’ve incorporated big drums and R&B stylings. Wow, how innovative.]– C
Old Hundred- Let in the Light— [Pleasant folk-punk hybrid that could become something more with future releases]–  C
Turnover- Peripheral Vision— [A few pleasant melodies don’t make up for the excessive Cure-copping and soundalike songs]– C
Boots- Aquaria— [Unique sound in 2015, although kind of derivative of Massive Attack and
mixed annoyingly dry]– C
Imagine Dragons- Smoke + Mirrors— [As always with Imagine Dragons, a few good songs buried in a sea of four-chord garbage. Although this time, the good songs aren’t even that good]– C
Girl Band- Holding Hands With Jamie— [It’s kind of a mess, but it’s interesting and unhinged
and hints at a potentially promising future in hardcore]– C
Ivadell-Maybe Tomorrow— [Could use some glossier production, but there are some good
melodies here]– C
ON AN ON- And The Wave Has Two Sides— [Sounds like two bands- an avant-pop outfit and an 80s revival band- fighting each other for control of the direction. Uneven.]– C
The Dreaming- Rise Again— [Modern production values make up for embarrassing lyrics]– C
Five Finger Death Punch- Got Your Six— [It’s a FFDP album. You know what you’re getting,
and you’re getting more of it here]– C
City and Colour- If I Should Go Before You— [Dallas needs to take a break from this project,
as he’s become a parody of himself and clearly run out of interesting ideas.]– C
Pictureplane- Technomancer— [A disappointing sophomore slump record that is largely a grey,
lifeless experience. Only a few moderately interesting bright spots]– C
Jeff Lynne’s ELO- Alone in the Universe— [It’s both endearing and cheesy. It’s clear that Lynne
is a master of his craft but the material here gets extremely saccharine at times, and is often an
echo of his former work. The production also leaves a lot to be desired.]– C
Mew- + – — [The first genuinely disappointing album from the Danish prog-poppers]– C-
Chad Valley- Entirely New Blue— [There are some neat production tricks, especially on the
vocals, but the lacklustre songwriting sinks most of the songs]– C-
Editors- In Dream— [Cribbing style and sound from contemporary pop (notably, Imagine
Dragons) doesn’t work all that well here, and a lot of this record is a boring slog. The once
promising band is now a write-off.]– C-
Saintseneca- Such Things— [You can throw sitars and synths everywhere all you want, but it’s
not going to matter if there’s nothing at the core, which is the case with this incredibly one-note
album]– C-
Man Without Country- Maximum Entropy— [Glimmers of interesting new sounds are lost amongst poor songwriting choices]– C-
Au.Ra- Jane’s Lament— [An interesting debut, but doesn’t offer any insight as to how the band will evolve]– C-
Title Fight- Hyperview— [Another example of the generic slog that makes up the new wave of emo bands]– C-
Lieutenant- If I Kill This Thing We’re All Going To Eat for a Week— [Although it has unexpected surprises, they’re not enough to make this release memorable]– C-
The Prodigy- The Day is My Enemy— [Mostly meat-head hard rock, replete with “evil” synth riffs]– C-
Bandit- Of Life— [It’s decidedly more interesting than what their emo peers are releasing, but it’s still lacking any form of hook]– C-
Built to Spill- Untethered Moon— [Poor production value and frustratingly upbeat songs mar Built to Spill’s formerly great discography]– C-
Tallest Man on Earth- Dark Bird is Home— [There’s not really much to this album once you get past the down-to-earth country vibe]– C-
Other Lives- Rituals— [This record is proof that too much time with Thom Yorke will lead you astray. Other Lives have dropped their dark folk leanings and become an acolyte of the Radiohead frontman’s experimental tendencies…in all the worst ways]– C-
EL VY- Return to the Moon— [A scattershot affair, with a lot of different ideas that don’t
always gel. It’d be interesting to hear these guys go the heavier route they hint at on a few
tracks]– C-
mewithoutyou- Pale Horses— [There are a few legitimately exciting moments on this record…but only a few]– C-
Gardens & Villa- Music for Dogs— [Interesting at times, but favours style over substance] — C-
Cold Showers- Matter of Choice— [Drawing from a slightly gloomier pool of 80’s influences doesn’t mask the lack of interesting songwriting ideas]– C-

HEALTH- Death Magic— [We waited 5 years for this? All that talk about new sounds and pop crossover hits for a half-baked, unfocused filler album?]– D+
Majical Cloudz- Are You Alone— [Way overhyped. The main conceit works for about two to
three songs and then gets incredibly boring. During the title track when the beat actually picks
up it ends up being an anti-climactic disappointment]– D+
Ducktails- St. Catherine— [This project seems to be spinning its wheels]– D+
Vennart- The Demon Joke— [Poor, amateur production undermines the ferocity the record is going for]– D+
Oscar- Beautiful Words EP— [One good song surrounded by a whole lot of filler]– D+
Fall Out Boy- American Beauty/ American Psycho— [Mind-numbingly lazy hooks]– D+
Muse- Drones— [Muse have almost completely devolved into total meathead rock]– D+
Passion Pit- Kindred— [Lacking the emotional core of their previous album, Kindred displays Passion Pit as a shell of their former selves]– D+
Big Data- 2.0— [A good example of the bland genre-hoppers that populate the “modern rock” charts in the 2010s]– D+
Destroyer- Poison Season— [This is some straight up goofy pretentious hipster nonsense]– D+
Best Coast- California Nights— [Bethany Cosentino faces her second failed attempt at stardom with songs that are almost good but then aren’t]– D
Charli XCX- Sucker— [An unimaginative bid at the big time that mostly falls flat]– D
Hot Chip- Why Make Sense?— [I’ve never liked these guys and their dry, smooth vibe, and I’m not going to start now.]– D
Joywave- How Do You Feel Now?— [Another solid example of highly disposable, interchangeable modern rock]– D
The Velvet Teen- All is Illusory— [Yet another band from the “emo revival” that fails to deliver anything interesting]– D
My Morning Jacket- The Waterfall— [Meandering, tuneless folk]– D
The Chemical Bros- Born in the Echoes— [You’d think the electronic music veterans would be above following modern tropes, but nope, they do and it’s pretty unfortunate]– D
Lord Huron- Strange Trails— [Slightly more genuine than the Lumineers and Vance Joy, but no more distinctive]– D
Neon Indian- VEGA INTL. Night School— [A hot, funky piece of garbage that is saved from being a total write-off by the penultimate track]– D
Civil Twilight- Story of an Immigrant— [Mostly generic, forgettable filler music]– D
Deerhunter- Fading Frontier— [The addition of synthesizers is kind of cool, but a lot of this just
sounds like adult contemporary soft rock]– D
Half Moon Run- Sun Leads Me On— [Wimpy, easily forgettable jazzy alternative. Expect to be
saying “who?” in about a year’s time]– D
Small Black- Best Blues— [There’s something incredibly unsubstantial about both this album
and the lead singer’s voice. It’s just there, and then it quickly blows away like a wisp of
cotton]– D
Atlas Genius- Inanimate Objects— [The definitive “forgettable MOR indie pop” record]– D
The Neighbourhood- Wiped Out!— [Once again the band ruins incredibly interesting sonic
textures with embarrassing lyrics and flat, meandering melodies. Title track is a total mess
too.]– D
Mumford & Sons- Wilder Mind— [Ditching the banjos is one thing, but aping every “big indie” act on the radio is another, leading this album into mostly disposable MOR rock]– D-
Circa Survive- Descensus— [A sad reminder that nearly all hard rock bands from the 2000s are now long past their prime]– D-
of Montreal- Aureate Gloom— [Kevin Barnes is stuck in a spiral of increasingly diminishing returns as he continues to do the same thing over and over and over.]– D-
Twerps- Range Anxiety— [The upbeat whimsy is nearly unbearable]– D-
Tanlines- Highlights— [An incredibly disappointing sophomore release that trades in the duo’s wistful new-wave influence for experiments in “what’s big in 2015”]– D-
The Helio Sequence- S/T— [A nearly completely pointless, genreless disposable record.] — D-
The Vaccines- English Graffiti— [All progress made by their last album is thrown out the window with this breezy, lighthearted effort.]– D-
Skylar Spence- Prom King— [trendhopping 80’s funk BS]– D-
The Dears- Times Infinity, Vol. One— [Yes, CBC-core still exists]– D-
Stereophonics- Keep the Village Alive— [This sounds like a UK version of the Goo Goo
Dolls. The boring, post-2000 Goo Goo Dolls]– D-
JR JR.- S/T— [Unfortunately, a new name and a headfirst dive into pop has done nothing to
help the band. Where they brushed with genuine greatness before, now they sound like every
single other electro-funk act out there]– D-
Indian Handcrafts- Creeps— [It’s more polished than their debut, but the production upgrade
comes at the cost of a decrease in songwriting skill. They’ve become generic stoner rock.]– D-
Beach House- Depression Cherry— [Incredibly boring music]– D-
Beach House- Thank Your Lucky Stars— [Still incredibly boring music]– D-
Cage the Elephant- Tell Me I’m Pretty— [Opting to focus on an outdated sound rather than
actual songs, this album is a write-off. What’s next Cage, a ragtime record?]– D-

Panda Bear- Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper— [An unlistenable mess that seems intent on proving Panda Bear hates writing enjoyable music]– F
The Maccabees- Marks to Prove It— [There’s usually one good song on every Maccabees record. Not the case here- just soft rock filler]– F
Great Lake Swimmers- A Forest of Arms— [The most generic filler folk one can find, seemingly engineered to be passed out for free in public places]– F
Lightning Bolt- Fantasy Empire— [Tuneless noise]– F
Torche- Restarter— [A huge misstep for a band that could have been a more interesting update on Foo Fighters melodic hard rock]– F
Urban Cone- Polaroid Memories— [Relentlessly peppy with no original melodies to back up the vigour, and an annoying cat-like keyboard that pops up in a few songs. Fails as a pop record, comes off as secondhand Passion Pit crossed with a no-name New York jangle-rock band]– F
Toro y Moi- What For?— [Cheesy, derivative pastiche of 70’s music]– F
The Wombats- Glitterbug— [Like the similarly unoriginal The 1975, The Wombats are the quintessential “style without substance” band]– F
Unknown Mortal Orchestra- Multi-Love— [Not one memorable song on the whole album]– F
Son Lux- Bones— [You’d think being in a Gillette commercial would give him the idea that making music people like to listen to is a good thing, but nope, Ryan Lott prefers to self-sabotage every single song and turn it into an incoherent mess]– F
Active Child- Mercy— [It’s sad to see the progenitor of many contemporary trends fall victim to contemporary blandness]– F
Night Beds- Ivywild— [This guy seems aggressively determined to write the least catchy music possible, dealing only in contemporary tropes. No songwriting talent whatsoever]– F
Painted Palms- Horizons– [I thought these guys were a complete write-off after their last album, but was willing to give them another chance. Nope. Still a completely inessential band.]– F
Tamaryn- Cranekiss— [Casting off everything that made her unique, Tamaryn now sounds like
every other reductive act cribbing from the late 80’s]– F
Mercury Rev- The Light in You— [Having never listened to this band before but seeing the
name everywhere, I expected something a little more…mature? This is laughably bad at times,
like orchestral Disney songs with a cartoonish voice to match]– F
Diamond Youth- Nothing Matters— F
Cheatahs- Mythologies— [Fails in every aspect. Poorly produced, directionless, tuneless.]– F
Mates of State- The Rumperbutts — F
Beliefs- Leaper— [Why did I have this in my “listen-to” list? I’m genuinely confused as there is
not one single song on here that would merit a bookmark for further investigation. Derivative
90s sludgy garage rock with hints of shoegaze.]– F
Triathalon- Nothing Bothers Me— Another album that strangely slipped into my bookmark list,
despite there being nothing of value of here to catch my attention in the first place. Poorly
produced, annoyingly twee, eminently forgettable.]– F
Everything Everything- Get to Heaven— [Just, really bad]– F-