In an effort to switch things up and keep better track of my listening habits, I have decided to shift music reviewing strategies. Instead of trying to unpack an album and try my best to make sense of its artistic milieu, I will instead track music in short snippets on a monthly basis. Hopefully this direction can help get me out of the writer’s block I often experience when it comes to music criticism. As a disclaimer, this list doesn’t necessarily mean music released in January 2014; it’s just a reflection of what I’ve been listening to.

Neko Case — The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

An indie-rock veteran, Neko Case returns with another more-of-the-same alt-country album. But more of the same isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And to be honest, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You, takes its fair share of chances. “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” exhibits the vocal stylings of Case without any backing tracks, resembling “Hide and Seek” from Imogen Heap without the vocoder.

Lucius — Wildewoman

Wildewoman possesses an infectious sensibility as a core essence. With hues of early Luke Temple and Fleet Foxes, the band brings acoustic harmony to an exceedingly high level. Check out “Go Home” for Lucius in all of its organic goodness.

Deafheaven — Sunbather

It’s been a long time since I’ve given heavy music much thought. As a genre, it feels pretty formulaic. Detune your guitars; compose in a minor key; provide some space for a breakdown so the audience can mosh at will. Despite much of my youth spent absorbing the genre, I couldn’t get into it anymore. Well Deafheaven’s Sunbather provides the twist I needed to get back into some metal. Their songs are in a major key! The result is spectacular confusion. The music is so joyous; the screams are so dark. What’s happening? Check out the standout tune “Dream House” and find out for yourself.

James Vincent McMorrow — Post Tropical

Ok. So James Vincent McMorrow’s previous album, Early In The Morning is one of my all-time favorites. Unsurpassable vocal talent combined with folk sensibilities is a match made in heaven. Post Tropical is no Early in the Morning reprise. McMorrow returned to the music that inspired him in his youth—r&b and hip-hop. Thus, McMorrow switches out the guitar for a piano and drum machine on Post Tropical and the results are splendid. The first single, “Cavalier” sets the stage for his new sound but “Red Dust” might be the standout track in an album of standout tracks.

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