Kendrick Lamar, “Damn” (Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records/Top Dawg Entertainment). Following the much-lauded “To Pimp a Butterfly” from 2015, the hip-hop savior has been teasing his fourth album for a couple weeks, and the current tracklist claims U2 and Rihanna as guest stars.
Low Roar, “Once in a Long, Long While” (Nevado). With an unlikely journey from Oakland to Iceland and now to Poland, Low Roar — mostly singer-songwriter Ryan Karazija — drops a third full-length and creates a very fragile, frost-rimed world of melancholy without becoming too precious.
Sam Outlaw, “Tenderheart” (Six Shooter). The remarkable combination of Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakam and Stan Freberg (it works) drops his second full-length, which carries on the excellence of 2015’s “Angeleno” and gently argues that Mr. Outlaw belongs on modern-country radio as well as adult-alternative stations.
AirLands, “So Much to Keep” (AirLands). Kevin Calaba, the motive force of AirLands and a former part of Stars and Track and Field, retreats from the sound if not the spirit of indie-rock music with hints of Bon Iver and Peter Gabriel on the second disc from his current project.
Alvarez Kings, “Somewhere Between” (Sire/Warner). With their first full-length, the South Yorkshire, England band Alvarez Kings make some good on the hopes of earlier, smaller releases and provide mainstream-ready pop with a Coldplay-ish attitude.
Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions, “Ladies and Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions” (Raisin’/Warner Music Canada). The Persuasions began singing a cappella in the 1960s, so they’ve got some years on Canadian pop group Barenaked Ladies, who try to keep up on a collaborative remake of BNL’s catalog, plus the song “Good Times.”
Blackfoot Gypsies, “To the Top” (Plowboy). Forming in Nashville as a two-piece around 2010, Blackfoot Gypsies have since expanded into a four-piece (including a dedicated harmonica player) and sound pretty much like the Stones-meets-Stripes sort of band you’d expect from their moniker.
CO/NTRY, “Cell Phone 1” (Fantome). From the ever-fertile Montreal indie-music scene, by way of Newfoundland, comes CO/NTRY, which sounds as much like a lab experiment as a duo on its second LP of basement-synth and post-punk bassline geek grooves.
Andre Cymone, “1969” (Blindtango). A bassist for Prince before going solo in 1981, Cymone has lately been more musically active than he was for nearly three decades, and his current record is a fierce and lean collection of rock songs laced with funk and soul that one Lenny Kravitz might admire, or “borrow” from.
Deep State, “Thought Garden” (Friendship Fever). From Athens, Georgia, the land of R.E.M. and a renewable resource of indie bands, comes Deep State, whose introductory long-player is practically a primer for non-mainstream, non-metallic rock.
El Michels Affair, “Return to the 37th Chamber” (Big Crown). Not an especially prolific recording collective, the Affair begun by producer and bandleader Leon Michels does another bunch of Wu-Tang interpretations with, among others, Lee Fields and members of the Shacks.
Evolfo, “Last of the Acid Cowboys” (Royal Potato Family). Despite the psychedelic undertones of the title, the first album from this NYC-underground collective has noticeable resemblances to “Nuggets” garage rock and Dap-Kings soul music.
Joey Feek, “If Not for You” (Gaither Music Group/Farmhouse Recordings). One half of the country duo Joey + Rory, Feek passed away in March 2016 but did leave behind this heartening solo LP she recorded with the production of her husband, Rory Feek, in 2005.
Julia Fordham, “The Language of Love” (Red River Entertainment). Mature British singer-songwriter whose career started in the 1980s under the first name “Jules” takes a cue from Ella Fitzgerald and does a “Great American Songbook” turn…on Sting, Stevie Wonder, the Beatles and more plus a couple of new songs.
Richie Kotzen, “Salting Earth” (Headroom-Inc). Poison, Mr. Big and Winery Dogs alumnus, not to mention a jazz-fusion buff and multi-instrumentalist, Kotzen issues his 21st solo long-player with rock, funk and more hard rock.
Talib Kweli/Styles P, “The Seven” (Javotti Media/3D). With an EP of seven (natch) tracks, the former lynchpin of Black Star (Kweli) and a Ruff Ryders member (Styles) combine their lyric-writing and lyric-saying might and bring in Common, Jadakiss and others to add gusto.
Sondre Lerche, “Pleasure” (PLZ). Norwegian singer-songwriter now based in Brooklyn has some of the wittier traits of Elvis Costello, wryer traits of Conor Oberst and cockeyed indie-pop optimism just about all his own on his latest album of songs simultaneously sugary and astringent.
Little Hurricane, “Same Sun Same Moon” (Mascot). San Diego-based duo of Anthony “Tone” Catalano and Celeste “C.C.” Spina claims to have come off a debilitating “vision quest” by Catalano with a stronger musical sense on its latest mainstream-ready indie-pop record.
Lillie Mae, “Forever and Then Some” (Third Man). Signed to one of the hepcattiest labels in the land, Lillie Mae Rische is a longtime Nashville resident who’s played fiddle for Jack White, which encouraged him to produce her heartbreakingly lovely debut pop-country LP.
Spoek Mothambo, “Mzansi Beat Code” (Teka). An increasingly audible dance-music producer and rapper from South Africa drops his fifth album, a club-minded mix that flows smoothly and rhythmically from track to track as if it’s a late Friday night and people need to move.
John Mayer, “The Search for Everything” (Columbia). Compiling two EPs and adding another four new songs, the guitarist, singer and songwriter with infamously loose lips and a wildly variant “muse” presents a dozen songs in total that have emerged from a difficult time given some lightness by a gig playing with surviving members of the Grateful Dead.
Leslie Mendelson, “Love and Murder” (Royal Potato Family). On her first new album in eight years, Mendelson, an NYC-based songwriter whose last album “Swan Fathers” got a Grammy nomination, brings a smart, Shawn Colvin vibe to original compositions and covers of Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan classics.
Billy Porter, “Billy Porter Presents the Soul of Richard Rodgers” (Masterworks Broadway). Known recently for playing Lola, a drag queen in the musical “Kinky Boots,” Porter gets reacquainted with the late Richard Rodgers via many of his excellent works, including “My Funny Valentine” and “Bewitched,” alongside India.Arie, Pentatonix and many more.
Sexmob, “Cultural Capital” (Rex). A decidedly different jazz quartet with an in-your-face name and the knack to have made enough noise for NYC hipsters to notice it, and on its eighth studio full-length it eschews the usual clever covers in favor of all originals from trumpeter Steven Bernstein.
Sheepy, “Alarm Bells” (Blang). From Liverpool, a trio with more resemblance to Fat Wreck Chords pop-punk bands than to, say, the Beatles pops out a second “long”-player of peppy songs that probably took less time to be written than to be sorted and recorded.
Chris Shiflett, “West Coast Town” (SideOneDummy). Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton producer Dave Cobb gets down with Foo Fighters lead guitarist and podcaster Shiflett on the latter’s third solo LP, which is a very sturdy and solid rendering of Bakersfield country via Replacements raggedness.
Souvenir Driver, “Sunsets” (High School). Portland (Oregon) band takes the idea of “dream pop” fairly seriously if not too literally on a full-length that recalls a considerable amount of the New Wave and early-indie flowerings.
The String Cheese Incident, “Believe” (SCI Fidelity). Produced by Talking Heads keyboardist Jerry Harrison, the seventh studio full-length from the Colorado jam-friendly band with the Wisconsin-friendly name continues its alt-bluegrass style with shrugging flair.
Various artists, “The Fate of the Furious: The Album” (Artist Partner Group/Atlantic). As the eighth “The Fast and the Furious” franchise entry gets out there, so too does a soundtrack disc loaded with stuff from Pitbull, G-Eazy, Young Thug, Migos and so on.
Various artists, “The Get Down II (Original Soundtrack from the Netflix Original Series)” (RCA). The 1977-era series co-created by Baz Luhrmann is getting the rest of its first season underway, so here’s the “background” music courtesy of DJ Cassidy, Mylene Cruz et al.
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