Layered, dense, and driving, this Chicago-based outfit recalls British new wave bands Lush, the Cocteau Twins, and Joy Division. Though her vocals sit low in the mix, singer and songwriter Ami Gloria shows ample confidence. Light also pierces the dark textures, as on “Highway”: “Open your big bark eyes / Upon that big dark highway / I’ll be walking along.”
“My Ride’s Almost Here” is a chamber-pop gem à la Nick Drake, but the rock mode of this Boston band works equally well. “The Fight Against Paranoia” rides on tumbling rhythm, and “Try This Again” melds rustic accordion to scratchy, catchy guitar riffs.
Those who know Llanas from his time in the BoDeans will recognize his voice: still sharp and tough, yet infused with urgency on the leadoff track “Déjà Vu” and the plaintive rocker “The Best I Can.” On the tender side, “I’m Still Alive” could serve as Llanas’s theme song, given the ups and downs of his former band: “I’m grateful for another day / Another chance to find my way.”
On her debut, this Duke Divinity School grad from South Carolina delivers inspired surprises to engage and delight the listener. It’s a safe bet you’ve never heard “Nearer, My God, to Thee” in an acoustic blues setting, or the Police’s “Invisible Sun” arranged for sultry piano and violin. Yet Barrett pulls it together with smoky-sweet vocals.
Peter Himmelman is a rock ’n’ roll anomaly: an observant Jew who has long declined to play any shows on the sabbath. But this serious commitment to his faith gives his songs heft. He’s addressed brokenness, healing, and humility in songs such as “Impermanent Things” and “Mission of My Soul.” And Himmelman has a knack for melding lyrical complexity with catchy melody.
Those who love Bill Evans or Art Blakey will relish this disc, though Stefano Bollani has his own freewheeling improv stamp. Recorded in one day, and featuring guitarist Bill Frisell, Joy pulses with live energy. Bollani pilots his piano with sophisticated trills, rolls, and riffs.
Many Beatles tribute discs fail because the vocalists or players aren’t up to the task. But with this piano-based instrumental disc, Chicago’s Anthony Molinaro shatters barriers in refreshing ways. On the opening “Blackbird,” he manages to inject the melody with stride-piano infectiousness.
Is it rock? Swing? Boogie-woogie? Louis Prima Jr. (son of the famous comic swing artist) melodiously mixes all of the above. This music moves—often with greased-lightning groove, as on the instrumental title track and “Go, Let’s Go” (which features a frenetic guitar solo). The record has its touching moments, too, as when Prima Sr. and Jr.
Rodney Crowell, longtime guitarist for Emmylou Harris, hit songwriter for Waylon Jennings and the Oak Ridge Boys, demonstrates artistic integrity here, refusing to cave to country-pop trends. Nothing here is calculated; the album was recorded live in a studio.
Recorded in a converted New Orleans–area church over six days, Redemption is a jambalaya of Chicago blues, New Orleans funk, and robust soul. On the standout “Chariot,” Glen David Andrews’s voice rises with gritty passion as he trails into the song’s tag, borrowed from the spiritual “Sweet Home Chariot”:
On the mostly instrumental Pieces, JoyCut takes the sonic hallmarks of the 1980s New Wave era—from shimmering, echo-plastered guitars and propulsive picked bass to dysmorphic synthesizer pads—and reconfigures them in thrilling fashion.
Throughout this disc, Marco Di Maggio shows the versatility of a guitarist with an uncanny mastery of 1950s and ’60s surf, rockabilly, and country styles. On the lovely and gentle “Polka Dots & Moonbeams,” you’ll hear shadings of Wes Montgomery’s octave guitar riffing, along with the shifting jazz-pop chords of Chet Atkins.
Fresh off her successful solo debut at Carnegie Hall, soprano Natalie Mann tackles an ambitious project—the songs of Lori Laitman and Richard Pearson Thomas—with palpable confidence and a thrilling balance of vocal strength and sensitivity. Ably accompanied by pianist Jeffrey Panko, Mann has never sounded better, her round tone and emotional range sublime or thunderous as the material demands.
These 17 songs are inspired by the psalms, and the musical settings recall Michael W. Smith and Phil Keaggy. Equally appropriate for worship or solitary prayer, these acoustic tracks promise and deliver comfort: humble, unassuming, and stripped of any varnish, with Bruxvoort Colligan’s gossamer tenor leading the way.