American Songwriter's Scores

  • Music
For 1,036 reviews, this publication has graded:
  • 50% higher than the average critic
  • 4% same as the average critic
  • 46% lower than the average critic
On average, this publication grades 0.4 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average Music review score: 71
Highest review score: 100 Live in Dublin
Lowest review score: 20 The Midsummer Station
Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 4 out of 1036
1036 music reviews
    • 89 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    That sense of hostile irony may be one of the most underrated qualities on Nevermind, whose sly dismissals and cagey lyrics sound like an extension of Cobain's scabrous guitars and Dave Grohl's thundering drums.
    • 99 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Their finest album, 1977’s Rumours, addresses with heart and sharp insight the romantic disengagements and re-entanglements of the members in the free-spirited, free-love 1970s.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Part of what made Nirvana’s final studio album so monumental was everything that made Nevermind a classic--an abrasive retooling of the pop songwriting handbook.
    • 97 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    A well-known perfectionist, it took her eight years to craft and release these tunes that fly by in just under 40 minutes. Every one is a gem.... This is the first title on Williams’ own label--a new album is due in mid-2014--and is essential listening for every Lucinda fan and anyone even tangentially touched by her timeless music.
    • 97 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Little more needs to be emphasized about the lasting importance of these prototypes other than this third reissue tweaks the sound with Page’s new remastering revealing nuances in the playing and arrangements that further enhance their already substantial historical cachet.
    • 95 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Little more needs to be emphasized about the lasting importance of these prototypes other than this third reissue tweaks the sound with Page’s new remastering revealing nuances in the playing and arrangements that further enhance their already substantial historical cachet.
    • 98 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Little more needs to be emphasized about the lasting importance of these prototypes other than this third reissue tweaks the sound with Page’s new remastering revealing nuances in the playing and arrangements that further enhance their already substantial historical cachet.
    • 99 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Five stars aren’t enough, of course, to sum up this music. Maybe there are some tapes hidden out there for the bootleggers to scrounge up, but it seems likely that The Basement Tapes Complete has given us everything we truly need to hear from that extended magical moment in musical history.
    • 100 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    As with the previous three reissues, the pristine remastering removes a slight audio film that was still present after the 1992 versions. That’s especially obvious on the guitar parts of the more delicate songs but also shines a brighter light on John Bonham’s remarkable drumming that both grounded the band and pushed the other members into expanding their own boundaries.
    • 98 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    As with the previous three reissues, the pristine remastering removes a slight audio film that was still present after the 1992 versions. That’s especially obvious on the guitar parts of the more delicate songs but also shines a brighter light on John Bonham’s remarkable drumming that both grounded the band and pushed the other members into expanding their own boundaries.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    The singer’s distinctive baritone, dry yet emotive talk/singing style and the crystal clear recording quality focuses attention on his dynamic, sometimes humorous, always poetic lyrics. The interplay with his three backup singers also brings depth and a sensuality often lacking from the studio versions, making some of these laconic and extended performances definitive.
    • 96 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    It remains thrilling to hear the whiskey throated Stewart charging through these songs, urged on by Kenney Jones’ often frantic drumming and McLagan’s ever present keyboards. It’s also clear that a solo career was inevitable, a fact that ultimately broke up the band. None of the Faces’ four albums were without flaws, but even at their weakest, they get by on energy and a loopy yet palpable enthusiasm any act would envy.
    • 99 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    The 65-66 era of his career occupies rarefied space in the annals of rock; The Cutting Edge somehow demystifies it and makes it seem more impressive all at once. For a guy who once warned us not to look back, Bob Dylan keeps giving us irresistible reasons to do exactly that.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Such is the bounty contained on The Ties That Bind that it might make you question Bruce Springsteen’s judgment even as you marvel at his ridiculous talent.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Clearly this is a heartfelt, meticulously crafted package for a cult artist who deserves far more acclaim and respect from a wider audience. As a single disc, non-boxed set re-release, it’s everything this classic deserves and a beautifully realized example of how reissues should be done.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Like any live recording, this can never replicate the electricity in the intimate venue with Otis and his band firing on all cylinders but, all things considered, it’s as close as we’re likely to ever get.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Dylan goes through an eight-song set of staggering quality (“Desolation Row,” “Just Like A Woman,” Visions Of Johanna,” and so on) with his interpretive skills at their peak and his hold over his audiences nothing short of mesmeric. Maybe only Dylan completists will shell out for a series of discs with repetitive set lists. Those completists will be getting a bargain.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    It's a beautifully understated album of personal confessions, wandering thoughts and worldly observations, all rendered with the assurance of a naturally gifted vocalist, one who clearly has no need for auto-tune or other irritating tonal tampering devices.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    A fierce backing band, Okkervil River lends them drama, tension and a cinematic pomp that underscores the miraculous nature of Erickson's recovery.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    It's about people, and Mellencamp continues to write and sing about them better and better with each passing year.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    The Union brings up two very good points again and again: No amount of celebrity shenanigans or animated transgressions can eclipse the fact that Elton John is an absolutely amazing musician and there's a never-ending list of reasons why Leon Russell is your favorite musician's favorite musician.
    • 100 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    It's geek rock's holy grail courtesy of the sub-genre's flagship band, and an album that, though rife with sincerity, songwriter Rivers Cuomo has seemed to run farther and farther away from ever since.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    After the celebri-beef and ALL CAPS blog posts fade away, Fantasy will stand as an album that dare to push the entire medium of recorded music forward, for better or worse.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Since PJ Harvey is a veteran artist who, in her 20-year career, has yet to either make a bad record or repeat herself, to call her latest, Let England Shake, one of her strongest efforts to date is a bold statement, but it's true--this a brilliant record by an artist impervious to aging.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    For folks new to the Truckers, intrigued but a little overwhelmed by their rather expansive catalog, this is the album to start with.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    For their part, the band is spotless. The majority of the record adheres to the lilting and forlorn brand of country that one might expect from an album called Invariable Heartache.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    The words are as woodsy and quaint as ever. Pecknold seems to take his inspiration from classic British poetry, and rarely refers to objects, characters, or events that would place him in the 21st century, relying instead on imagery like old stone fountains, seeds, keys, sand, and the night sky.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Strange Mercy is more mysterious than its predecessors, the references more obscure, but it also feels more personal.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    What truly makes the album memorable--and what makes it arguably Bondy's best--is the atmosphere that pervades every song.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    If Wilco (The Album) was the band tempering their experimental nature into something more accessible, The Whole Love refines that approach and showcases the full range of Wilco's considerable abilities.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Even as he enters his 60s, Waits still sounds as lively and as cagey as ever, indulging both his most brazen and his most sentimental urges to upend all of our expectations.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Four the Record retain all the pain and personality that drove those dark songs [of her first two albums] and redirects her energies toward some of her best and most eloquent singing and songwriting yet.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Though this remastered 40th Anniversary Edition tightens and polishes every tone, L.A. Woman isn't exactly a studio marvel.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball is that rare release that manages to fulfill, defy, and exceed expectations all at once.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    The only thing that the Immersion Edition is really missing is any extensive liner notes.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    This record is urgent, pissed, strident and macabre.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    You'd be mistaken to pass up the greatest album of Loudon Wainwright III's four-decade career, and an easy frontrunner for this year's best album, period, as 2012 enters its second half.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Mermaid Avenue project is essential for showing that Woody Guthrie could illuminate what was going on inside of him as well as he could detail the plight of his fellow man.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Sun
    For a songwriter with nearly two decades of performing under her belt, Marshall has never sounded so youthful or commanding.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Tempest is fantastic, but being impressed by Dylan is old hat. That he still finds ways to surprise us is an achievement beyond all comprehension.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    For how uncharacteristic it might seem for a band whose greatest gift, all along, was nuance, this louder take suits the band brilliantly.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Everything connects emotionally and musically in front of an enthusiastic crowd on one of the year's best and most vibrant live albums.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Carry On stuns from start to finish and the quality only increases with each repeat listen.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    As bright and warm a guitar-based indie pop album as that [debut album, Gorilla Manor] was, it left a fair amount of room for expansion and maturity. On second album Hummingbird, that growth is readily apparent from the first track.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    As diverse as ever, this is the kind of comeback every once-defunct act strives for but few deliver with the consistency and sheer enthusiasm exhibited here.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    The absurdity and terror that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have so often courted aren’t absent on Push The Sky Away. They’re just muted, and rendered all the more seductive via lush arrangements and Cave’s crooning baritone.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Her major label debut, which moves from country waltz to roadhouse blues, from rootsy singer-songwriter narratives to irresistible country pop, follows its own relentless arrow throughout, and the result is one of the most fully-formed, arresting debuts Nashville’s seen in years.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Both as a songwriter and as a performer, Laura Marling has never soared so majestically.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    There are standouts everywhere.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    This album is harrowing and not for the timid, but those who stick with it will be treated to a truthful, moving journey and a master class in songwriting to boot.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    His keen insights into human nature and today’s America are revealed in melodic, deeply-felt tunes on Still Fighting The War, which ranks as one of the year’s best singer-songwriter albums.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    This terrific batch of songs needs no such handicap to be recommended as a perfect way for newcomers to start a musical relationship with Clark’s burnished Americana or for existing fans to continue theirs.
    • 96 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    While it doesn’t include some of his best post-jail efforts, the set documents the beginning of one of the greatest second acts in rock history.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Wise Up Ghost is a fearless, invigorating gut-punch of a record, one that never settles and surprises from start to finish.
    • 95 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Surveys of his life and work still manage to produce fresh revelations, and American Radical Patriot, Rounder Records’ just-released collection of government-related Guthrie recordings, provides extraordinary new insight into the complex mind of this simple-sounding folk icon.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    The accompanying live DVD, recorded at Shoreline Amphitheatre in 1992, is a good-enough bonus, rather than a must-have live document. These are minor quibbles of course; a whole stack of tacky badges couldn’t stand in the way of Your Arsenal being absolutely essential.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Though these songs cry out for DVD treatment, this audio-only collection is still an unparalleled document.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    When it’s all over, you listen again, with equal amazement. No, albums like this one don’t come along very often.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    This stunning entry into his already impressive catalog shows he refuses to rest on his laurels.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Ryan Adams as an album might not be uplifting but it sure is outstanding, reaffirming the singular talent of its namesake.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    [A] remarkable exploration of and ode to American music.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Earle is far too musically adventurous to linger too long in any one genre, and kudos to him for that, but Terraplane is such a standout that we can only hope he makes his way back around to the blues relatively soon.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    It’s an album that shows again and again that very few songwriters on this planet illuminate the oft-unfair rules of this game or the inner workings of the players quite like he can.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Carrie & Lowell demonstrates, brilliantly and harrowingly, over and over again, how life’s most valuable lessons can only be gleaned by enduring its worst circumstances.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    There’s not a weak track in the dozen making this another candidate for blues release of the year from brothers who almost never got to play another note together. Making up for lost time never sounded so good.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Even diehard Neil Young fans may not fully appreciate this offshoot in his bulging catalog. But this remarkably vibrant and immediate live compilation shows that Young took this side road very seriously and it was more than just a forgettable, momentary quirk in his diverse and winding career.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Some performers are more impressive on CD where their on-stage antics aren’t visible (we’re talking to you “Weird Al”) but the dedication to, and love for, Harrison’s music is infused in every track. That makes this a fitting testament to his music, a thoroughly enjoyable experience (in either its video or audio forms), and a splendid, at times superior, companion piece to its well-regarded predecessor.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    As both a comeback and perhaps a farewell to recording, with Full Circle Lynn continues with the style, talent and class that have personified her lengthy, legendary career.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Not all of Hope Six is mired in dissonance. Harvey frequently returns to the well of pop music, but the irony of wrapping a grim lyrical message in upbeat music is that those uncomfortable truths become that much harder to overlook.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    For a long time now, Radiohead has been achieving mesmerizing results by blazing the trail for synthetic sounds in rock and roll. But it’s the humanity, oh, the humanity, that makes A Moon Shaped Pool so moving.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    2
    As usual, Petty makes it seem easy. And with help from his fellow Mudcrutchers, the unassumingly titled 2 is proof that even Tom Petty’s modest side projects are better and more compelling than many acts at their best.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    It’s impossible to overstate how marvelously moving and purely enjoyable the end result is, paving the way, we hope, for a follow-up.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    It’s intimate and sprawling, personal and universal, affectionate and daring.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    The second, slower side is the less immediate of the two, but the one that features its most jaw-dropping moments, namely twin seven-minute monoliths “Sister” and “Woman.”
    • 64 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Pixies’ full acceptance of the shifts in their schema only further solidify their inimitable identity. The exultant result: Head Carrier, a new classic.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    It’s required listening for even moderate rock fans. This upgraded version, while not necessary for casual listeners, especially those who already own the first pressing, improves on it with supplementary music and, almost as importantly, expanded liner info, rare photos and enhanced track details in a 44 page book that dedicated Zepp followers will revel in.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    [Frontman Kurt Wagner] doesn’t write these songs so much as he unwrites them, and the effect is vividly disorienting, sometimes--as on “NIV” and “Directions To The Can”--even perversely beautiful.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Perhaps more Dr. John participation would have been a logical and welcomed addition to the show (Rolling Stones pianist Chuck Leavell and ex-Papa Grows Funk man John Gros effectively cover most of his piano parts) but this remains a terrific few hours of music that honors not only one of New Orleans’ most influential musicians, but the city that formed and defined his vision.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    All in all, Congratulations pushes MGMT in the right direction. Rather than resting on their deserved laurels, Vanwyngarden and Goldwasser challenge themselves sonically, creating a follow-up that will test even the most astute audience.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Shame, Shame is both a more focused and lyrically mature effort without forgoing any of the band's rambling pop charm.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    All told, Women and Country is Dylan's most accomplished work to date, and will set the bar for all future endeavors.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    The record's songs maintain Oldham's characteristic simplicity and sparseness that hearken back to the now ancient songs of American music's past. All the while, this familiarly fresh set of arrangements gives Oldham's restless phrasings the virgin textures upon which to project cryptic and fearless lyrics.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Having long since cracked the code for the perfect country song, Haggard expertly crafts a fresh batch of tunes that make you want to write one yourself.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Every line seems to come straight from the mouth of that guy right over there, you know, the buddy of your buddy-the one you always wanted to ride around with while he told his stories but never got the chance to. Well, here it is. Are you game?
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    It is a monumental album in everything from the scope of its subject matter to its grand instrumentation and production.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Here's To Taking It Easy stands as a triumphant proclamation of Phosphorescent's ongoing ability to provide quality heartbreaking Americana.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    It may have taken her over 20 years, but today Sheryl Crow is retrieving and expanding upon those parts of her artistic sensibility that had always been there.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    With guest artists like '60s organmeister Booker T. and Americana legends Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, Jones and Johns have made a real statement in the same way that Rubin, and of course T Bone Burnett, do almost every time they produce an album. That statement is that the same people who set the bar decades ago for so many of today's acts to measure up to are still making a lot of today's best music. Praise and Blame raises that bar just a little higher.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    The Suburbs ends on a dark, dystopian note with a little 90-second deconstruction of the title track, leaving you to wonder if the "screaming" alluded to earlier might not always be the joyful kind. That kind of ambiguity is what makes Arcade Fire's deceptively simple music all the more intriguing.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    He may be feeling wounded by love, but Escovedo's follow-up to 2008's career-defining Real Animals is an almost equally strong testament to his durability.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    In these tough times, Thile's words, and the album as a whole, are more effective than the titular tonic at staving off inclement weather, at least of the emotional variety. A strong dose of Antifogmatic goes a long way.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    The crooning background vocals rise and trade phrases with a simple guitar solo that follows the melody of the main vocal line. It's a flush and full sound in perfect pairing with a sentiment that defines the entire album.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    The now mature musical relationship pays dividends as the baritone crooning of Lanegan and Campbell's breathy, Nico-inflected singing continue to deliver an atmospheric payoff.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Bingham made a challenging record, opted to go the Bad Blake route instead of going down in a blaze of ponytails and designer jeans, and that ensures his relevance for years to come.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    What matters is that this is a really good record, and while it would have been nice to hear some instrumental breakdowns--especially from banjo player Richard Bailey, who is way understated--it's nice to know that Nashville is capable of putting out something besides more bad pop.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    There are no enduring classics here like the songs on 2007's Live At Massey Hall, or anything to rival the material that helped define late '70s AOR from, say, American Stars 'n Bars or Rust Never Sleeps. But this is a record well worth having, and it's a blessing that we still have enduring artists like Neil Young creating such vital music.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Familiar but undeniably brand new, Halcyon Digest is forty-six minutes well spent--a loop that can repeated as many times as you'd like. Stay patient. If you skip out on a track, you'll be missing something.
    • 52 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    As a project, The Incredible Machine succeeds big time, and may make these guys even less welcome to certain factions of Music Row as they continue to change the face of what is considered country.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Over the course of 16 tracks, Costello flexes his stylistic muscles and exercises that famously acerbic wit.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    This type of music has been done before in a different time, same place--the album was recorded in Nashville--but it hasn't been done this well in quite a while.