With its subtle strings and sly infectiousness, Heart Murmurs is no less than an attempt to craft a new batch of pop standards. Whether Messersmith succeeds depends mostly on how many people are lucky enough to hear him.
The band features bassist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, both of Wilco. Warm and bittersweet, the timeless pop songs on Fifth have an agreeable brightness to them; they can seem unassuming, but they also burrow under the skin over time.
Cantrell, who was born in Tennessee, is one of the stylists who defined Americana music as we now know it when she first emerged in 2000. But she's an urbanite, too, interested in expressing how the simple life gets thornier when your country dreams must adapt to the possibilities and problems of life in a metropolis.
If the New York band's first album evoked a cardigan, its follow-up is more of a leather jacket. But along with a greater toughness in Amber Papini's singing, there's also a wider tonal palette at work.
Quilt is a perfect name for a band whose every song seems to knit together three distinct tunes. Its spirited and casual second album makes a great first impression, of the kind that almost inevitably leads to many more.
The power of Kidjo's unflappable voice, the range of her emotional expression, the stellar, genre-bending musicians who back her and the infectious, activist energy that courses through her songs all transcend any native tongue.
The band's third album splits the difference between the guitar-fueled rumble of a '60s basement and the synth-friendly shimmer of an '80s studio. But the additional polish never overwhelms the songwriting.
The bracingly political Florida punk band's new album can't help but feel like a debut: It's the group's first album since singer Laura Jane Grace (formerly Tom Gabel) came out as a woman. She still barks her lyrics with fiercely assertive intelligence, with the added benefit of comfort and courage in her own skin.
Hear an astonishingly beautiful album that helps transform notions of "traditional Irish music." Featuring a lineup with a singer, two fiddles, guitar and piano, The Gloaming is an all-star ensemble, featuring guitarist Dennis Cahill, fiddler Martin Hayes, pianist Thomas Bartlett (a.k.a. Doveman) and more.