Album Review – Chime – Dessa

Chime is the third full-length album by Dessa, who is a member of the hip-hop collective Doomtree out of Minneapolis.

The first thing you notice about Chime is how it sucks you in.  It’s easy to ride the sounds in this album and easier to get sucked into the lyrics. There are twin currents of melancholy and anger running under this album. Melancholy over a world that should be, anger at this shit that it is.

There is a lot less rap on this album, than previously. But the tracks built around rapping are solid. The best work, however, is her full-bore dive into singing.  On the whole, this is a fully absorbing album that I heartily recommend to everyone.

Recommendation:  Buy It

Tracks I have a Playlist for: Ride, Velodrome, Good Grief, Boy Crazy, Jumprope, Half of You, Say When, 5 out of 6

Songs I will Thumbs Down: Shrimp

Album Review – By The Way, I Forgive You – Brandi Carlile

By The Way, I Forgive You is the sixth studio album from Brandi Carlile.  Carlile is known for Americana that is carefully balanced between pop and country, though on her later albums, she falls to one side or the other more and more often.  That trend continues on this latest album.

Her last album, The Firewatcher’s Daughter, fell more on the pop side, and this one leans more country, which makes sense given her Nashville production team for the album.

Despite flashes, By The Way, I Forgive You falls short of being Carlile’s best work. Between the Nashville production and the rock orchestration on several songs, the album is a not entirely sure what it wants to be. People will find some genuinely lovely songs here, but there will be a lot of disagreement on what they are, depending on what side of the Americana spectrum they fall.

Recommendation: Stream It

Songs I Have a Playlist For: Party of One, Most Of All, Whatever You Do, The Mother

Songs I Will Thumbs Down: The Joke, Sugartooth

Album Review – Eurus – The Oh Hellos

The Oh Hellos are back with the second in a series of 4 EPs they plan on releasing with what looks like a frenetic pace.

Eurus, named after the Roman god of the east wind, follows the same format as Nolos, with a number of longer connected songs, bridged by very short pieces. It is essentially 1 19:28 minute song broken up into 7 movements.

Like their early work, the Oh Hellos can go from quiet to frenetic in the space of 1 bar. It has the familiar indie-folk feel that fans of earlier albums will know.

If there is a problem with Eurus, it’s that it feels like the band is reworking the same field – following the same path – over and over. They do it very well, but I’d like them to feel a little less prescriptive and predictable.


Recommendation: Stream It

Songs I have a playlist for: Oh Sleeper

Songs I would thumbs down: None

Album Review – This Is Not the End – MILCK


I sat with this EP for a long time assessing it. There are some really powerful songs on it – anthems for the modern women’s movement. And there are some songs that kind of fade into the background as pale reflections of their stronger counterparts.

I Don’t Belong To You and Quiet carry the weight of this EP. Quiet was performed at the DC Women’s March and has echoed and resonated throughout that movement since. I Don’t Belong To You is a push back against male entitlement and expectations that carries a perfect angry edge to boost it.

The rest of the album is not as impressive. There is a very Beth Orton-like cover of Ooh Child, that is okay. The rest of the album tends to fall into the background, and it takes an active listening effort to foreground it. It’s not that any of the songs are bad. But there is so little to differentiate them.

Recommendation: Stream It (You’ll probably want to buy the two best                                                                                    singles; I do)

Songs I Have a Playlist For: I Don’t Belong To You, Quiet

Songs I Will Thumbs Down: Black Sheep, Undercover


Album Review – I Was Hoping You’d Pass By Here – Ghost Music

Given that I suspect not very many people know about this band, I’m not surprised there are no videos for any of the band’s songs available.

Ghost Music is a band from Southend with a decidedly dreamy take on indie guitar rock. Its modern melancholy meets 60s minimalism to create a quiet but snappy album. Only two songs on the exceed 4 minutes, meaning that even album filled with nostalgic melancholy moves at a good pace.

It’s a pleasant album to listen to, but it suffers a bit from sameness. Too many songs sound a bit like too many other songs on the album, so everything but the genuinely fantastic songs kind of fade into the background as you listen.  Still, it is a pleasant, guitar-centric album, and if you like that sort of thing, it’s worth giving it a try.


Recommendation: Stream It

Songs I Have a Playlist for:  Heart Shaped Holiday, We Could Get Along, Queen of                                                                    England, Blackbird Stars

Songs I Would Thumbs Down:  Let’s Meet

Album Review – Ruins – First Aid Kit


Ruins is the fourth album from the band First Aid Kit.

This album shows a clear advancement in the songwriting skills of the Soderberg sisters.  And the album shows a willingness to play with sounds they haven’t touched on previous albums. But the trademark harmonies of their voices remain and remain the center of their sound.

Among the true standouts on this album, Fireworks is a mournful torch song that sounds straight out of fifties rock. Other examples of First Aid Kit touching on new musical territory are the honky-tonk undertones of Postcard and the strong indie rock feel of To Live a Life. And Hem of Her Dress sounds like nothing so much as a Nashville take on a mariachi band.

Recommendation: Buy It

Songs I have a Playlist For:  It’s a Shame, Fireworks, To Life a Life, Nothing                                                                      Has To Be True

Songs I would Thumbs Down: Distant Star

Album Review – Sangue Cassia – Sinistro


Sinistro is a Portuguese doom metal band and Sangue Cassia is their third album.

So, compared to some of the other doom metal bands that I’m aware of, Sinistro is far more ambient.  I think this can, in part, be attributed to lead vocalist Patricia Andrade, who lays powerful, but often lilting vocals down on top of the band’s power riffs. But even then, Sinistro is not afraid of the synth, for example.

I liked their second album, Semente, when I discovered it, but it had trouble sustaining itself for a full album (one 11 minute song ended with 5 minutes of the same riff, in a kind of unrelenting way). Sangue Cassia is an improvement on Semente. Now, I don’t speak Portuguese, so their lyrics might be the most inane thing ever, but when Andrade’s voice is souring over the gutteral thrum of the band, they sound great.

I will warn you, this is a doom metal band, and they live up to the reputation that I feel doom metal should have of having at least a couple extremely long songs. Sangue Cassia has tracks that are 11, 8, and 10 minutes long. But they seem to have overcome their previous issues with how to handle that and these very long songs don’t feel like a slog to me.

Recommendation: Buy It

Songs I have a Playlist for: Lotus, Vento Sul, Nuvem, Ferida

Songs I would Thumbs down: None

Album Review – Just for Us – Francis and the Lights


The latest album from Francis and the Lights is a quiet synthpop album that doesn’t offer anything that grabs the attention, nor anything that repels attention. It’s not a bad album, but it’s utterly generic. In fact, it would make a pretty decent 26 minute ambient track if they cut the vocals.

Of the 10 songs on the album, only 3 are over 3 minutes. Which works way better for a punk rock album that a synthpop album.  I walk away from tracks thinking that they should have been developed more.

All in all, it makes pretty good background music, but I had a hard time really foregrounding this album in my mind. Still, I’ll keep it in my streaming rotation for something unobtrusive to listen to when I just need something in the background.

Recommendation:  Try It

Songs I have a playlist for: None

Songs I would Thumbs down: None

Album Review – Beautiful Trauma – Pink


After a 5 year break, Pink returns with the album Beautiful Trauma.

Pink is at her best when she’s singing about things that are personal and raw.  And there is plenty of that on Beautiful Trauma.

At it’s best, Beautiful Trauma is beautifully emotive and raw. At it’s worst, it’s  self-indulgent and colorless.  Still, the good moments are more frequent than the bad, and, frankly, I liked it better than The Truth About Love.


Recommendation: Buy It

Songs I Have a Playlist for: Beautiful Trauma, What About Us, But We Lost It, Better Life, I Am Here

Songs I will Thumbs Down: Revenge, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken

Album Review – Broken Machine – Nothing But Theives

I don’t know why I keep seeing people saying rock is dead.  There’s lots of great new rock out there.  Unless you’re being one of those obnoxious purists who have a very narrow view of rock. Part of keeping rock a living genre is that it takes things from its siblings.  We’re all used to blues-tinged rock and it’s widely accepted. But lately, rock has been borrowing elements of electronica, pop, and even dance music from various parts of the world. That’s the real objection rock fans who complain about the genre dying have. They’re so stuck in the 80s classic rock/power ballad vein that they can’t accept the genre growing.

Nothing But Thieves’ new album, Broken Machine, is an excellent example of rock growing and people grousing about it. Nothing But Thieves has created a lyrically complex, acoustically challenging album with (on the Deluxe version) 15 tracks, though two are acoustic versions of songs earlier on the album.  And in doing so, they have fused the alt-rock sound of their first album with other influences to create a lush soundscape that’s well worth the time investment. Over and over again.

Recommendation: Buy It

Songs I have a playlist for: I Was Just A Kid, Amsterdam, Sorry, I’m Not Made By Design, Reset Me

Songs I Will Thumbs Down: none