Periodically over the course of the year, we will produce two lists to highlight a few of each month's new albums. This list spans multiple genres, with each album ordered best to worst (here’s a link to the best albums of February). With over 40 albums in both lists, here are the Less Good albums of February! - - -
Wrekmeister Harmonies – We Love to Look at the Carnage
This experimental duo has never feared to let the darkness creep into their music, but beauty often shows up as well. We Love to Look at the Carnage is one of the band’s least heavy releases so far, but the brooding atmosphere is still present. The contrast between the darkness and light is not very subtle here, but the results are a complex tapestry of emotions frequently not easy to process.
Khruangbin/Leon Bridges – Texas Sun [EP]
While this is most certainly a one-off compared to their usual output, this four-track EP by Leon Bridges and Texas band Khruangbin is undoubtedly a good listen for either fanbase. Bridges’ sultry vocals give all their seductive passion as on 2018’s Good Thing, and Khruangbin get further rounded out in their musical approach. In particular, Khruangbin delivers more focus than they have in the past, indicating that more long-term collaborations could better their full-length records.
Ratboys – Printer’s Devil
On Ratboys’ third album, their songwriting duo tries to balance their stripped-down origins with a full sound à la Soccer Mommy and Girlpool. While mostly following suit alongside contemporary groups, a few tracks add some sonic heft to the formula. Though they might get overshadowed by better groups, a few well-written songs show the potential to color outside the lines on future releases.
Denzel Curry / Kenny Beats – UNLOCKED [EP]
Following hot on the heels of his hyped-up masterpiece ZUU, Denzel Curry gives his all on some killer Kenny Beats tracks. The intensity might be too much for some (I thought for a split-second it was DMX on “Take_It_Back_V2”), but despite the unfinished track titles, UNLOCKED’s production is as clear as any other DC release. Still, they should have just made an album!
This pairing could put out an excellent record with more time and thought, but instead, they drop a tightly-packed 18 minutes with a taste of their aggressive potential to bide their time. What a shame!
Boniface – Boniface
Boniface, the debut album of Micah Visser, blends indie rock and synth-pop loaded with hooks and pop sheen that would impress any modern producer. Visser finds a solid middle-ground between keyboard pulses, lightly overdriven guitar, and sincere lyrics – and the music is at its best when all three are on the same track (check out the song below). Had he not stuck to the same formula following “I Will Not Return as a Tourist,” Boniface would have been an even more promising debut.
Lanterns on the Lake – Spook the Herd
Using standard instruments with some string accompaniment, Lanterns on the Lake have a classy dream-pop sound that is enthralling and moody in the genre’s best ways. Though the standout moments are sprinkled throughout Spook the Herd rather than ever-present, the album’s sorrowful tone will keep a consistently disheartened mood for your time staying indoors.
Agnes Obel – Myopia
Dark and creepy, Agnes Obel’s slow-burning Myopia is impressively alienating while building on her well-defined blend of atmosphere and dark indie-pop. Her deeply reflective lyrics are frequently spine-tingling but without a scary or malicious intent. The increasing dive into electronics distinguishes the record from her early albums, but her lack of hope takes time to digest before one can truly enjoy the whole album experience.
John Moreland – LP5
John Moreland’s simply-titled new album shows he is an adept storyteller, with a proclivity for slowly unveiling his aching heart. The best songs are both effortless country music and layered roots songwriting, with shades of sorrow scattered amongst some introspective moods. There’s still plenty to be desired with a decent amount of monotony throughout, but Moreland will no doubt stay in the independent country limelight if he plays to his strengths.
Green Day – Father of All…
Every song on Father of All… maintains the energy of Green Day in a sonic sense, though it’s hard not to hear their performances as ambivalent. The band showed they could still make pop-rock music in the 2010s, albeit with uneven results. While this album is on the low-end of the last ten years, Green Day’s “selling-out” approach still results in some occasionally spirited fun.
Beach Bunny – Honeymoon
The catchy and accessible guitar-driven indie-pop on Honeymoon hits the same vibe as the first single ”Dream Boy” – precisely what you would expect from the band who blew up with “Prom Queen” in 2018. A few rousing tracks and one excellent deep cut aside, Beach Bunny needs a bit more time to find their sound before truly standing out on their own.
Kevin Krauter – Full Hand
With one-half of Full Hand hushed repetition and the other lightly hooky dream-pop, not much of Kevin Krauter’s new album breaks the mold. Listeners will have to be, as the kids say, just vibin’ to enjoy this whole album.
Justin Bieber – Changes
Given Bieber’s history, this could have been worse. His voice has matured over the years, and his songwriting still fits perfectly in the mold of modern pop. If you have never liked Justin Bieber, this definitely will not change your mind, but I have heard fans go crazy over a lot worse than this.
Post Animal – Forward Motion Godyssey
Though utilizing many of the negative tendencies of modern psych-rock, Post Animal’s second album still has enough content to satisfy most genre fanatics. It’s hard not to hear it as a sophomore slump, coming off as a low-stakes King Gizzard with only fleeting moments of exploratory fun. Had they used a few more of the hooks found on their debut, the songs would be a lot more memorable.
Audrey Horne – Waiting for the Night
Whereas past live albums used to generate big hits for rock bands, using their live intensity to showcase a group’s prowess on stage (think Kiss’ live single “Rock and Roll All Nite” from late 1975), a live album nowadays can become filler thanks to modern production. For a heavy group like Audrey Horne, the average listener is not going to hear much difference between the live production and studio, save for some energetic hometown crowd roars. The accompanying live DVD is the way to go for this purchase, but anyone investing that much is already a committed fan.
The Men – Mercy
The strange choices of The Men stay at odds with their imaginative talents. Their early 2010’s songwriting ambitions have developed into a peculiar mix of jam-rock with a kind of country influence, with extended repetitions and riffing that range from cool experiments (“Children All Over the World”) to frankly dull and annoying. Had they honed in their energetic, workable ideas found in blues, 80s pop-rock, and hooky punk (or if they had a singer who matched their musical talents), they could get away from aimlessly noodling through each song.
Five Finger Death Punch – F8
I skipped FFDP's 2018 record, but their 2015 release Got Your Six was one of my least favorite albums of the year. With their new album, F8 treads into some enjoyably familiar groove-metal territory, and Ivan Moody steps up his game from some horrible vocal choices of the past (check out "Jekyll and Hyde" if you don't know what I mean). But at thirteen songs and two bonus tracks, even the average metal fan will struggle through more than the first couple of songs.
Best Coast – Always Tomorrow
Now far off from their early lo-fi beginnings, Best Coast’s music is so smoothed out, there’s almost no life left to their hooky indie pop/rock. It’s hard to even pick a standout song on an album so bent on streamlining every track. Best Coast has never been the best band in their field, but a continual reliance on indistinct 90s pop/rock influences is doing far more harm than good to their career.
There have already been quite a few good records of March! Check back soon to hear about our thoughts on new albums by Mandy Moore, Peter Bjorn and John, Alicia Keys, Pearl Jam, and a lot more!