Mumford & Sons and Coheed and Cambria beat the year-end blues 

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Wildly popular groups’ year-end albums are often greeted with cries of pandering from music snobs, but the latest releases from Mumford & Sons and Coheed and Cambria deserve more respect than they are likely to be given. Muse and Imagine Dragons are more problematic — good moments to be sure, but plenty of predictability.

Marcus Mumford has enough fans to shake off complaints that the new album Delta (Universal) is “Coldplay on Xanax.” The UK’s Mumford & Sons have strayed from bluegrass traditionalism since their debut album, ever since experimenting with pop-electronica on 2015’s Wilder Heart. Here, new tracks like “Guiding Light” on Delta hint at the band’s original sound, while “Woman” and the title track aim to broaden with sonic tweaking — though at times the experiments are tedious. Still, Mumford tries to avoid the Avett Brothers’ problem of making the same album over and over.

Coheed and Cambria have faced similar critiques for being a 21st-century Rush, with heavier doses of science fiction. Founder Claudio Sanchez stepped away from fantasy storytelling on their last album with middling results, so Vaxis – Act 1: The Unheavenly Creatures (Roadrunner) returns to form with the first of a five-part sci-fi series. Pompous perhaps, but always interesting.

Muse should be credited with keeping social conscience up front, as 2015’s Drones indicated. Now the UK art-rock band has gone full electronica on Simulation Theory (Warner/Helium), which attempts to critique robotic online culture, though tracks like “Algorithm” end up being formulaic.

Imagine Dragons, however, give the listener pure formula without the social conscience. While singer Dan Reynolds replaced all the original band members, the new Origins (Universal) offers little more than a standard template, though that formula is bound to work for some fans.


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