2017 Music Reviews

Arca, Arca (2017)   D+
He can do his version of electronic opera ("Piel," "Desafio") all he wants, but his actual strength (... relatively speaking) is with tracks like "Urchin" that feel like they're rippling out of the center of hell.

Arcade Fire, Everything Now (2017)   D
"Funeral" was such a grandiose and cathartic album they're basically defined by it (sure, they won the Grammy for "The Suburbs," but that record is actually lousy). Now they're trying to do this disco dance rock, and it's a cheesier rendition of what !!! (Chk Chk Chk) were going for a decade (!) ago. Butler was never the best wordsmith to begin with, so when he tries to address any kind of serious issue (like suicide on "Creature Comfort"), it thuds.

Avey Tare, Eucalyptus (2017)   D+
This solo release by Portner has the same problems with it the Animal Collective releases have of late: "songs" lacking direction, repetition becoming grating, odd samples ruining the flow. Just because you recorded something doesn't mean it's passable without revision.

Julien Baker, Turn Out the Lights (2017)   C+
At only 22 (!), Ms. Baker shows the kind of composure you might expect from someone much older - regrettably, this leads her to take the 'safe route': the pieces blend too easily into each other to the point where there's little differentiation between them. She's quite good with the guitar - crank up those amps, dear, because the breathy stream of self-loathing needs some balance.

Beach Fossils, Somersault (2017)   D
Kidz Bop for the yerba mate/Fit Tea/vaping crowd. Bring a fidget spinner and manbun to the show for $2 off a craft brew that tastes like wet rocks!

Big Boi, Boomiverse (2017)   B-
Few can match Mr. Patton in terms of flow ... except you have to wonder whether or not his umpteen contributors are putting forth the same effort (Snoop and Gucci are just fine). There are probably just a few too many genres loosely explored in this ... but it's Big Boi. He's earned the right to do what he wants.

Bjork, Utopia (2017)   D
If you can stand Miss Iceland's chirpy outbursts not being even remotely in harmony with whatever random (electronic, classical, etc.) spasms of noise are going on in the background, you're a better listener than I am ... but again, I was never a fan in the first place.

The Black Angels, Death Song (2017)   C+
I mean no offense when I say this, but Mr. Maas really does sound like Nico a lot of the time - his voice is the band's sole distinctive aspect when they're not doing the whole tired 70's rock revival routine. No Black Angels album is without its little gems, with my favorite being "Half Believing."

Blanck Mass, World Eater (2017)   C
Mostly Mr. Power showing off what his gadgets can do - it's heavy and unfocused - until he turns it around with closer "Hive Mind" (like "Loam" from his previous record), where he pares chopped vocals with cosmic instrumentals.

Brand New, Science Fiction (2017)   C-
They're going for that 'sweeping' feel of their (justifiably) well-regarded 2006 record "The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me," but the songs aren't there on this release and it suffers from unevenness (when it isn't outright meandering). The less said about "137" the better.

British Sea Power, Let the Dancers Inherit the Party (2017)   B+
There are more strong moments than weak ones (feel free to skip "Bad Bohemian" and "Keep on Trying") on this full-length release from one of my favorite bands whose work has been ... spotty of late, but they keep at it. There will always be a spot in my heart for intellectually-driven rock (this is an outfit that wrote a love letter to an ice shelf, after all) ... and a certain Mr. Wilkinson spelling things out for everyone ("International Space Station").

Brockhampton, Saturation III (2017)   B
The story of this "boy band" (cough) is just as good as the music - a group of Kanye fans meet on the 'net, get together, assemble three albums and are planning to break up (...maybe) - that's an enervating and amusing as any other rap record to come out this way: "Boogie" is a wild first track (those horns!) and "Hottie" is like a cleaned-up Odd Future single. And guess what? Not every lyric is about dealing drugs! Or mistreating women! Shocking, I know.

Chaz Bundick Meets the Mattson 2, Star Stuff (2017)   D+
When Mr. Bull & Me and his backing duo play these bland soft rock jams at the local mall, do they do it in front of Abercrombie & Fitch or Banana Republic? I need to know in case I want to buy a pair of summer shorts and perhaps a deeply discounted tie.

Carbe Nola, Boxes (2016)   A-
Full confession: I know both of the people who made this, so there's no way I can be truly objective here. With that out of the way, this is a pleasantly atmospheric, curiously confident release from two music buffs with more than a little knowledge of the field they're wading in - the only note I wrote down (on a Post-It!) after listening to it the first time was "they're better than Flume." It's the subtle touches that make it noteworthy: the dissonant guitar on "Masada," Ms. Kelly's soulful delivery on "It's You," the aquatic/beachy vibe of "Benidorm" (ahh, Spain). Keep rollin' the work out, gentlemen.

The Caretaker, Everywhere at the End of Time (Stage 2) (2017)   B-
The Caretaker, Everywhere at the End of Time (Stage 3) (2017)   B-
Spooky continuation of Mr. Kirby's "haunted ballroom" project, which feels like it was made for the most disturbing old movie you'd find on Turner Classic Movies at 3 in the morning. What's most impressive about it, too, is how it's both accessible and experimental, a combination one doesn't find often in music.

Cigarettes After Sex, Cigarettes After Sex (2017)   D-
I guess the Cocteau Twins are the inspiration, but there's very little difference between tracks and these have to be some of the laziest lyrics I've heard all year ("Your lips / Apocalypse"). They want it to be "sexy" but after going through it I wanted to boil myself in Listerine and chug an energy drink to perk up. And what about cigarettes during sex? Belly buttons are basically tiny ashtrays.

Cloud Nothings, Life Without Sound (2017)   C-
Wanting to be Strummer is admirable, but even he needed subject matter worth discussing ... and some catchy guitars (don't forget those!).

Death From Above, Outrage! Is Now (2017)   D
They got rid of the 1979 part of their name (I was told that was a good year, but I still couldn't walk or talk) but they should have scrapped the entire band after the first record: this is just a bunch of derivative guitar-driven tracks that lack any zest ... and ends with the incredibly lame "Holy Books."

Lana Del Rey, Lust for Life (2017)   C+
A bit of a misstep for Ms. Grant: it's too whispery and tedious, as she rehashes the same themes she's been exploring the last few releases. Even her usual injections of dark sarcasm (the smiling on the cover, the name of the record, the ode to Coachella kids) don't add a lot to it. The Weeknd shows up for the title track ... and he sounds more feminine than she does. Where's the Lana that had the balls to recite T.S. Eliot mid-album? I want that one back.

Mac DeMarco, This Old Dog (2017)   C+
Another low-effort, low-impact release from Mac, who probably spent more time packing his smokes and thrifting than developing his material. "Moonlight on the River" could have used some judicious editing, but it ends on a wistful note with the Casio-powered (but alarmingly effective) "Watching Him Fade Away." Even though I recognize its limitations, it's passable as part of the Soundtrack for Summer '17.

Destroyer, Ken (2017)   B-
Dan's tuned down the melodramatic melancholy to the point where this almost passes as straightforward pop ... and that's not necessarily a bad thing - his thoughtfulness (and wit) are still very much in place. "In the Morning" seems like it came from a collab with The Jesus & Mary Chain - talk about an oddball pairing....

Dirty Projectors, Dirty Projectors (2017)   B+
Mr. Longstreth's penchant for unorthodox compositions works wonders on this latest release, which always sounds like it's about to veer totally off the rails but somehow the various instruments and wild ideas meld together harmoniously. It's a mix of R&B and indie rock ... and it's also life-affirming in a gloomy time in American history: pro-love, pro-acceptance ... pro-humanity.

Elbow, Little Fictions (2017)   C
I'm getting an Everything Everything-type sensation from this album, except the downbeat tone from that band is aided by a strong sense of enthusiasm (and a little catchiness); Garvey and company just lean heavily on an orchestra and plod on. "All Disco," allegedly inspired by Frank Black, is a strong moment.

Eminem, Revival (2017)   C
Mr. Mathers is starting to feel his age and worries about being forgotten ... but he's already quite wealthy, so it could be a lot of complaining over nothing. He's also prepared a steaming dish of bad puns, lines about poop, Dad Jokes as well as dubious artistic decisions, like rapping over The Cranberries' "Zombie" and not-very-good collaborations with Ed Sheeran and X Ambassadors (to go along with two surprisingly neat tracks with Beyoncé and Pink).

Brian Eno, Reflection (2017)   D
I've always preferred Eno's rock efforts to his ambient compositions: this just putters in place, staring at itself, a fifty-four minute sigh.

Father John Misty, Pure Comedy (2017)   B+
Soaked - and I mean soaked - with sarcasm ... except when he goes so far overboard with the melancholy you can't tell what's serious and what isn't: this could either be the work of someone going through a nervous breakdown or a guy with a Master's Degree in candle-lit trolling. Tillman surely had to know that "Leaving LA" is overkill at 13 minutes long, although he's not too concerned with opinions regarding his lack of humility ... nor should he be.

Fever Ray, Plunge (2017)   F
I've never responded positively to the sound of Karin's voice, and when she surrounds that ... 'yelping' with buzzing gizmos and shrieking ... my eyes can't roll back far enough in my head. IDK about you as a singer or a songwriter.

Fleet Foxes, Crack-Up (2017)   B-
Simon and Garfunkel-ish folk group that's soft and delicate and a bit too precious ... but there's a steady beating heart in their songs, and it oozes with positivity. "I Should See Memphis" is a dreamy high moment (stop by Nashville if you have time).

Forest Swords, Compassion (2017)   D
Oddly well-received for being such a barely-there record; I've heard Soundclouds from people just dabbling in electronic music that were more distinguished and more apt to try new things.

Four Tet, New Energy (2017)   D
Hebdan's haphazardly popped out some creatively-starved records in the past, but this feels even more bland and safe than usual, with some of the tracks seeming like they were pre-programmed in the software suite he's using.

Foxygen, Hang (2017)   D-
So the punk kids from California, having reached rock-bottom artistically speaking, now have an orchestra (?) and Mr. France doing his worst Meat Loaf impression ("Trauma"), like he's in some Off-Broadway show a few days from being closed. Hang up the Chucks, your time on the stage is done.

(Sandy) Alex G, Rocket (2017)   B+
Stylistically all over the map - folk, pop, rap, whatever "Horse" is about - but like some of our best experimental musicians, the constant changing of pace actually makes it an alarming, off-kilter experience (a sax even shows up when least expected in "Guilty"). Mr. Giannascoli is doing his part in keeping Killadelph weird.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Who Built the Moon? (2017)   C
Now I'm confused: he's listed as being principal songwriter on the prime Oasis albums, but then ... there's this anthemic mush. Or maybe the fire went out in his heart. It happens to the best of us.

Freddie Gibbs, You Only Live 2wice (2017)   C
Not an exactly well thought-out or carefully structured Gibbs release - he's been in trouble with the law, you see ... but acquitted (ahem) - and when he can't come up with anything of significance to say (his attempts to be 'honest' and 'real' feel disingenuous) he turns to repeating the n-word line after line after line....

Girlpool, Powerplant (2017)   D
Breathy lady-pop without anything to distinguish themselves from the peers (it's mostly Tumblr-level musings and routine instrumentals) - unlike Hinds, they don't even seem like they're having a good time and enjoying their youth (pick up a six pack and jump in a pool or something).

Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Luciferian Towers (2017)   B-
Beginning number "Undoing a Luciferian Towers" is the messy build-up to the album's centerpiece, the chugging and methodically constructed "Bosses Hang," one of the strongest compositions by the band (to date) - when that badass gets going (like "Storm"), it really, really gets going - but the issue is what they do with the remainder of the record: there's nothing wrong with either "Fam Famine" or "Anthem For No State," but they lack a transcendent quality and have to settle for being "above-average post-rock songs."

Goldfrapp, Silver Eye (2017)   D+
A rare dud from Ms. Alison and Mr. Will, who are usually better at combining the mechanical, post-disco production with her sensuous voice - there is also an alarming lack of solid singles on this, unless you count the sillier-than-usual "Tigerman."

Grails, Chalice Hymnal (2017)   D
Unimaginative post-rock that fails where other bands working in this genre generally do, by worrying too much about the technique and not about what those notes are conveying. Too often they remind me of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra crossed with smooth jazz ... not a good combination.

Grizzly Bear, Painted Ruins (2017)   B
One could argue this is the most cohesive album Ed & Co. have made to date - it lacks the 'stand-out' singles they've produced in the past, but it's a cozy drift through Droste's interests (and he's right when he admitted you need to re-listen to this a few times to get an appreciation for its flow). "Glass Hillside" has a wonky seventies feel to it ... and I love the blaring guitar on "Sky Took Hold."

Idles, Brutalism (2017)   A-
More post-Clash/post-Pistols mouth-foaming: heavy instrumentals combined with a political message (Go Rothko! Go Bacon!). They're a step above their peers with their musicianship ... and I dig the raucousness, of course (Talbot's a snapping dog). "Slow Savage" is a sobering final statement (I'm glad you know her birthday now ... you probably shouldn't have forgotten it). Why don't you like progressive dream funk? Even Tarquin loved progressive dream funk!

The I.L.Y's, Bodyguard (2017)   C
The Death Grips dudes' side project rolls on - it's evident they spend significantly less time on these releases, but their sarcasm comes through ("Wash My Hands Shorty") and if they act as a palette cleaner for the "real deal," I'll listen to your jam sessions without hesitation. You can't be angry all the time ... or can you?

Iron & Wine, Beast Epic (2017)   B-
Comfortable, perceptive folk from Mr. Beam, which I was dreading listening to because I honestly couldn't stand "Kiss Each Other Clean." This return to his earlier sound is a welcome correction - "Bitter Truth" is a standout track.

Japandroids, Near to the Wild Heart of Life (2017)   C-
They have a big-stage sound (despite being two good ol' Canadian lads) and they've got spunk (ohhhh ohhhh!), but it's not a memorable record by any means, rehashing Springsteen records they must have listened to several dozen times.

Jay-Z, 4:44 (2017)   B-
Alternates between being a sermon and an apology ... and he wants you to invest in stuff right now (he's always been fond of reminding everyone how much wealth he has). It's smartly produced and easy to process, however, with some jarring remarks about race relations ("The Story of O.J.") and clever rhyming.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, Damage and Joy (2017)   B
It only took, I dunno, nineteen years for them to release new material ... and they still sound like whining 80's teens going through hard times despite being, you know, in their mid-fifties. They pick some choice female collaborators (Sky Ferreira, Isobel Campbell, Sister Vanilla) to counter the masculine posturing and those guitars remain as shimmering and loud as ever.

The Killers, Wonderful Wonderful (2017)   D+
There was always something wearying about Flowers' woe-is-me dork routine, but at least his bandmates brought the hooks - now they're going for this terrible disco garbage ("The Man"). Coincidentally, the best bit on here, "Life to Come," sounds a U2 cover.

King Krule, The Ooz (2017)   D
Not completely sure how many paint chips you need to ingest to appreciate this rambling, rapidly-changing dreck, but it has to be enough to cover a barn. "Emergency Blimp" begins like a Smashing Pumpkins song ... if it were covered by a terrible Pogues cover band about to be forcibly removed from a dive bar (... and it's unquestionably the best moment).

Kendrick Lamar, Damn. (2017)   D+
Nothing on this convinces me Duckworth's anything but a commonplace rapper who's tricked a lot of people into thinking he's this intellectual giant - I'd argue Kanye's smarter (and way more cunning) - and more than once I laughed to myself about his zero-effort lyricism (yah yah), but I will admit "Lust" and "Love" are decent R&B tracks.

LCD Soundsystem, American Dream (2017)   B-
I thought Mr. Murphy wanted to drop this project, but he's back again - there's a feeling of fatalism in this one (when he isn't just being whiny), yet the music is still lively and danceable, as a way for Mr. Grumps to balance out the moods. The tracks tend to run on and get away from him so much (with the exception of "How Do You Sleep?" a blistering condemnation of former pal Tim Goldsworthy), but his hubris probably shuts out constructive criticism at this point.

Jens Lekman, Life Will See You Now (2017)   D+
I'm not sure what's happened to Lekman over the years but he's now in full-cornball mode, with a lot of this coming across as cheesy ... like theme songs for 80's sitcoms.

Lorde, Melodrama (2017)   B
I like that Miss Ella took a bit of time with this record - I generally don't think much of Jack Antonoff's output, but he helps her out a lot here (without being intrusive). She acknowledges she's learning a lot about others and herself (who's this girl she loves on "Liability"?): if she keeps going on like this, she might become a legend.

The Magnetic Fields, 50 Song Memoir (2017)   B-
In honor of Mr. Merritt's fiftieth birthday, he decided to release this multi-disc (!!?) collection of (autobiographical?) songs, one for each year on this planet. It doesn't have the timeless quality of his masterpiece, "69 Love Songs," and the self-indulgence can get wearisome (it is three hours long), but there are enough inspired pieces ("'92 Weird Diseases") to make up for the tossed-off ones ("The Blizzard of '78"). I am with him w/r/t surfing....

John Maus, Screen Memories (2017)   D
Philosopher-poet Maus chants two or three lines ad nauseum ("Go for the touchdown!," "Teenage witch!") over some of the cheesiest synths anyone can dream up. Show up for a live show and with a little luck he'll shout in your face.

Migos, Culture (2017)   D
Using women and then throwing them away like they're trash? Check. The gratuitous inclusion of a played-out DJ Khaled? Check. A dubious endorsement from Donald Glover? Check. Skrrrt skrrrt? Check. An appalling lack of new ideas? You know it.

Mount Eerie, A Crow Looked at Me (2017)   B
I've never taken Phil seriously before ... but now, with the passing of his wife, Geneviève, he accessed the most deep and raw feelings he could for this stark and cold release: it's just him and his guitar and his sorrow. Even a simple chore like taking out the trash haunts him ... keep fighting, man.

The National, Sleep Well Beast (2017)   B-
Crooner Berninger's back, grumble-mumbling over his band's thoughtful compositions: like their previous records, it's still a tad too affected - he acts like every line has to hit especially hard. That said, they 'don't make junk,' and it's clear they spend a lot of time putting their songs together: they aren't particularly gifted or anything ... they're the bar band that dreamed big and made it.

Kelly Lee Owens, Kelly Lee Owens (2017)   D-
You do realize you don't have to use the pre-set beat templates in the music program you downloaded, right? I'd rather listen to the wind whistle.

Paramore, After Laughter (2017)   C+
They're probably allergic to changing the routine at this point - Ms. Hayley's band is what, thirteen-years-old already? - but this latest effort is an okay listen, with some fun pop numbers, "Hard Times" and "Fake Happy." Gets stale after a bit, as expected.

Passion Pit, Tremendous Sea of Love (2017)   D+
... I'm surprised by the score, too. Mr. Angelakos, who has made a string of fantastic albums, has a real mess on his hands: there's little harmony between tracks ("Inner Dialogue" is abrasive, "The Undertow" is too saccharine) and the poetry is in short supply ("For Sondra" is the closest this gets to intimacy). After going through this twice, I couldn't shake the sensation that a major talent thoughtlessly cranked out a record.

Perfume Genius, No Shape (2017)   C-
Sneaky Mr. Hadreas: I was expecting something flamboyant and confrontational ... and maybe sensing this was the public's perception of him, he does the opposite. The problem is, with this subdued approach, the thirteen tracks on here do a casual shuffle to nowhere in particular (is that an attempt at yodeling on "Wreath?") and even closer "Alan" just runs out of energy.

Portugal. The Man, Woodstock (2017)   C-
The title has to be ironic since this is as far from the festival that took place in '69 as you can get (aside from swiping a bit from Richie Havens): big producers get brought in to add unnecessary glitz (I do like "Keep On" though). It's annoyingly sweet and bubbly without a strong voice in the center ... like Bruno Mars thrown into a swimming pool-sized parfait.

The Raveonettes, 2016 Atomized (2017)   D+
They mean well, really they do, but these two Danes couldn't make music interesting if their lives depended on it ... and I don't think they spend more than a handful of minutes on the lyrics.

Real Estate, In Mind (2017)   B-
Just in time for Spring 2017 are these folks with their sunny day feelings and jangling guitars. Wanna sip on a craft brew by the crashing ocean waves with some friends, laughing like they do in ads for jeans and foreign-made automobiles? Does anyone want to spark that jazz cabbage?

Ride, Weather Diaries (2017)   D
The shoegazers keep coming out of retirement to make new albums, but I think these fellows should have probably stayed gone - this is lacking in innovation and kind of a drag to listen to.

Ryuichi Sakamoto, async (2017)   B
Mr. Sakamoto's health has been so-so lately, and the spectre of finality is all over this record - it goes from sweetness ("andata") to harsh ("asyc") and back to somber ("garden") quickly. Some compositions in the final third ("Tri," "Zure") fail to impress, but you can't blame him for trying a little bit of everything.

Sampha, Process (2017)   C-
While he has a calming, sleepy voice, he isn't the savviest lyricist and the beats don't do a whole lot to prop him up. He's a valuable collaborator, however, leading me to think of him as the British The Weeknd.

Slowdive, Slowdive (2017)   B-
The very second you hear that distinctive, otherworldly strumming slowly get louder on "Slowmo" ... you know exactly who you're listening to (after so many years! it's the 90's again!). Unfortunately, the album's best moments are in its first half and the rest (starting with "No Longer Making Time") sags a tremendously ... right to its terrible closer, "Falling Ashes."

Spoon, Hot Thoughts (2017)   C-
Am I alone in being kind of annoyed that they sound the exact same way now that they did a decade ago? Daniel and the gang clearly enjoy playing their music which comes through in live performances, although abusing the formula that carried you this far tests long-time listeners' patience (or maybe just me).

Vince Staples, Big Fish Theory (2017)   C-
Disappointing mixture of rap and garage and dance music and very inconsistent - Staples' "Summertime '06" was so poignant and riveting, while this reminds me of Danny Brown's "Atrocity Exhibition." I was waiting for "Alyssa Interlude" to evolve ... and then it just cuts to the annoying "Love Can Be...".

St. Vincent, Masseduction (2017)   B+
Probably her best since "Actor" ... but now instead of just being influenced by Prince she's trying to be Prince (with touches of Goldfrapp). "Los Ageless" is a superb single that takes a slap at H'wood's (obvious) obsession with youth - her view on NYC is a bit warmer (last I heard, she lived there). She concludes it with two meditative songs ("Slow Disco" and "Smoking Section") - there's more to Miss Annie than posing for colorful pictures (although she might want to rethink her side-gig as a filmmaker).

Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner and James McAlister, Planetarium (2017)   D+
Ummm, this is just a teensy-weensy bit overly ambitious for Mr. Suffy and his group (Dessner plays with The National): there are seventeen numbers about various components of the known universe. I appreciate the ambition but this one is a strong miss, even conceptually ("Black Hole" and "Halley's Comet" are roughly 30 seconds long, there's auto-tune abuse), with Stevens' strengths (religious devotion mixed with coded anecdotes and a glammy presentation) muted by the Muhly's minimalist construction. He reached for the heavens but only nabbed a descending leaf.

Harry Styles, Harry Styles (2017)   C
Opener "Meet Me in the Hallway" is actually a good song, which made me think this was going to be an unexpected treasure ... but no, it's just a collection of rock cliches ("Carolina," "Only Angel"). It's an improvement over the One Direction drivel, so perhaps Mr. Styles just needs time to grow....

Sun Kil Moon, Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood (2017)   C
There appears to be two prevailing opinions when it comes to Kozelek: one group regards him as a sage who speaks Personal Truth(s) with Unflinching Honesty while the other thinks he's a Pompous Windbag (is he actually reading a newspaper at one point?) with a tendency to pick fights with people (and places ... hello, North Carolina) for attention. I think the moments of insight (he says, on "Lone Star," "if they used to be a boy / what the fuck is it to you?" ... exactly) are outweighed by the shapeless ramblings, but some listeners (and fans of his prior records) may take more from this than I did.

Thundercat, Drunk (2017)   C-
I get it, it's a throwback to '70s R&B and funk (the cover reminds me of the one for "Maggot Brain"), but I feel it's too jokey (Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald actually make an appearance), acting 'quirky' for the sake of being 'quirky' ("Captain Stupido"). We already have one Reggie Watts too many (I find Watts to be insufferable).

TOKiMONSTA, Lune Rouge (2017)   B
Ms. Lee's experienced some super-severe health problems the past few years, so it's nice to know not only is she healing up, but that she can still put together - with a lil' help from pals - a fun, ultra-cool pop record like this one. "Early to Dawn," with Selah Sue, is simply gorgeous.

Tyler, the Creator, Scum Fuck Flower Boy (2017)   B+
I've been following everything Tyler's been doing over the years, and this is the most subdued and introspective I've heard him - it's not always for the best (when you take the zaniness away from him, he loses a bit of his appeal) and it's a bit uneven, but it is a step to maturity and there are plenty of good songs in there ("See You Again," "911 / Mr. Lonely"). Also: is this a coming out declaration or just a joke to get journalists to write about it? I wouldn't put it past him....

U2, Songs of Experience (2017)   C-
They've been at this for quite a while and know in the back of their minds they're churning out sub-par records but Bono & Co.'s collective ego still pretends they're the greatest rock and roll band working. "Love Is All We Have Left" is lovely ... until someone in the studio thought they needed to use Auto-Tune.

Wavves, You're Welcome (2017)   D-
... For what? Tossed-off surf rock? Songs with less than ten words? How does one acquire 1 millions enemies, anyway? And how are they living in the streets? Does this band start fights with bums?

Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm (2017)   C-
Opener "Never Been Wrong" has some juice to it, but most of this is flavorless girl rock, like a sober and generic version of Courtney Love's Hole project. Even at 32 minutes it feels a little strung-out....

Weezer, Pacific Daydream (2017)   F
It's gotten sad for Mr. Cuomo - the irony and quirkiness of his best work is, it appears, behind him, and now he's locked in some sort of nostalgia bubble ("I'll be missing you like oxygen"). Time for full reinvention? Time to stop trying to release a new album every year or so? Time to realize the world isn't confined to a beach in Southern California?

Chelsea Wolfe, Hiss Spin (2017)   B
I like that, with this release, Miss Wolfe keeps plunging further down that pit of darkness, slowly stepping towards death metal (Aaron Turner growls on "Vex"). This isn't just "participation award" praise from me - she may be a woman in a predominantly male-only field, but she holds her own.

Wolf Parade, Cry Cry Cry (2017)   D-
So they came out of their "hiatus" only to put out this numb, uncreative collection of songs? Did they legitimately believe "You're Dreaming" is a strong single? Next time they think about writing an album, they should just go to a Habs game and get sloshed ... and save everyone a lot of grief.

Xiu Xiu, Forget (2017)   C
Even Mr. Stewart trying for (a small degree of) pop appeal comes across as strained - here, it's still his groaning/yelping over purposely disorganized/jarring melodies (though I will add the bizarrely titled "Hay Choco Bananas" would have worked nicely in an 80's horror movie).

The xx, I See You (2017)   A
Simply remarkable, from the horn-happy "Dangerous" to the ambient and morose "Test Me," this is easily the best release (to date) by the trio (and, to my mind, one of the best records of the decade). I like the back-and-forth between Croft and Sim (simulating male-female conversations/arguments) and, as expected, Jamie's skill on the buttons is exemplary. There are several highlights, but my favorite is "On Hold," which makes the most out of a Hall & Oates sample (and am I alone in hearing a little Beach House in "Brave For You"?).

Young Thug, Beautiful Thugger Girls (2017)   D-
"Excuse me, but I would like to once again talk to you about the exact same topics I have covered in previous albums. You see, I am a man of exquisite tastes: I prefer being fellated while drinking bubble water from France. Also, I have women on the side so don't think I'm marrying you. Can I interest you in high-grade Mary Jane? Did you notice the guitar on the cover? This means I'm keeping it low-key. Sincerely, Mr. Williams"

Singles of the Year: The Black Angels: "Half Believing," Blanck Mass: "Hive Mind," British Sea Power: "International Space Station," Carbe Nola (Featuring Gabrielle Kelly): "It's You," Gorillaz (Featuring Vince Staples): "Ascension," Mac DeMarco: "Watching Him Fade Away," Dirty Projectors: "Keep Your Name," Eminem (Featuring Pink): "Need Me," Father John Misty: "Pure Comedy," (Sandy) Alex G: "Proud," Godspeed You! Black Emperor: "Bosses Hang," Idles: "Slow Savage," King Krule: "Emergency Blimp," Kendrick Lamar: "Lust," LCD Soundsystem: "How Do You Sleep?," Lorde: "Green Light," The National: "The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness," Slowdive: "Slomo," St. Vincent: "Los Ageless," TOKiMONSTA (Featuring Sulah Sue): "Early to Dawn," Tyler, the Creator (Featuring Kali Uchis): "See You Again," The xx: "On Hold," Young Fathers (Featuring Leith Congregational Choir): "Only God Knows"