(Pax Am/Blue Note)
Since leaving Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams has switched labels and styles and released album after album in rapid succession. This, his first in three years, is one of his most focused and accessible works and might just be the album of the year.
Even at 80, Leonard Cohen can make music that is more relevant than anything on the charts. His weary growl and pointed poetry are the perfect soundtrack for confusing times.
What was to be a Jeff Tweedy solo album became this collaboration between the Wilco front man and his son Spencer. This two-disc set, presented as four “sides,” like a vinyl double album, is yet another excellent Jeff Tweedy side-project.
Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar
Ever since the former Led Zep front man recorded his Grammy-winning album Raising Sand with Alison Krauss, he’s been on a creative roll collaborating with myriad artists. This new project may be the best since the Krauss outing and further solidifies why he won’t reunite Led Zeppelin.
Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
With the first release on her own label, Lucinda Williams offers a double CD of no-frills roots music. As on past albums, Williams’ well-crafted songs and craggy and passionate vocals win her fans’ hearts.
Standing in the Breach
Jackson Browne long ago moved past being a confessional singer-songwriter and has successfully written about the geopolitical as it relates to American foreign policy and the environment. This new album continues in that vein, but unlike his last album, it looks more at the world at large than at politics at home.
Known primarily as the lead singer of analog cult faves Stereolab, Laetitia Sadier is involved with many projects including her side band Monade. This third, full-length solo studio album has a surprisingly smooth pop sound, yet it never panders to current pop trends.
Annie Lennox has not made a solo album of original material since 2007. This album follows her 2010 holiday record and features covers of jazz and songs from the great American songbook. Lennox’s big expressive voice is up for the challenge of reinterpreting these standards in a sparse musical setting and the sound comes through.
On only his third album, and his first in five years, Scottish singer Paolo Nutini proves again what a powerful vocalist he is, mixing many styles into his winning UK soul sound.