Of Monsters and Men — ‘Fever Dream’
THE GOOD: Icelandic folk/rock outfit Of Monsters and Men comes back with its third.
THE BAD: This band has always been somewhat predictable. “Fever Dream” sticks to the usual formula — pleasant enough, just not all that memorable.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Still, OMAM is one of the BETTER bands within the whole adult/alternative/folk-leaning spectrum. Personally, I’ll take them over Mumford and Sons or the Lumineers (see below) any day of the week.
The male-female vocal interplay between Ragnar Porhallsson and Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir is always refreshing. The group is also open to bringing unique outside sounds into the mix. They don’t shy away from splashes of the electronic, bigger beats or moody atmospherics.
Better moments include lively tracks like “Alligator” and “Wild Roses.” “Rororo” is more down-tempo and haunting. “Soothsayer” is the album’s soaring, stomping closer. “Fever Dream” is good enough to make you not dread the prospect of the next record. But you won’t be clamoring for it either.
BUY IT?: Your call.
The Lumineers — ‘3’
THE GOOD: Colorado folk/rock outfit the Lumineers gets ambitious on its third.
THE BAD: The band’s music is still somewhat formulaic, but it is heading in the right direction.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Back in 2012, the group hit the mainstream with just under three minutes of radio gold — the giddy and infectious “Ho Hey.” Since then, the Lumineers has always managed to be somewhere close to the top of its respective genre.
The first two records each had their moments, but neither was particularly ground-breaking. “3” might change all that. It’s a concept album about a family touched by the ravages of addiction. So now the band’s sparkling melodies are attached to a good story too; the track “Jimmy Sparks” is dark and compelling.
The entire set plays like a movie shot in desperate rural settings, with acoustic guitars and Wesley Schultz’s unadorned vocals guiding the tragedy. However, songs such as “Gloria” and “Leader of the Landslide” are strong enough to transcend the narrative if necessary.
BUY IT?: I would.
The Avett Brothers — ‘Closer Than Together’
THE GOOD: North Carolina folk-rockers the Avett Brothers give us their 10th (and fifth in a row produced by Rick Rubin).
THE BAD: The guys’ records become more interchangeable as time passes.
THE NITTY GRITTY: “Together” has a few standout tracks, with some genuinely cool moments regardless of how authentic they may or may not be. Unfortunately, the album also can be grating in spots.
I immediately think of lead single “High Steppin’,” a cloying, upbeat dose of positivity with a clunky spoken-word passage dragging down its middle (the more delicate “Tell the Truth” has one of those, too). The whole thing comes off like a country song remixed for Top 40 radio. Just awful.
Then the guys get sociopolitical on us, delivering songs brimming with buzzwords, paint-by-numbers philosophies and textbook rants. A slavery/indigenous people song? That’s “We Americans.”
Anti-gun track? “Bang Bang.” #MeToo movement tune? “New Woman’s World.” Too bad it all sounds about as sincere as the Avetts’ brand of country.
BUY IT?: Your choice.