Rock

Violet Street (CD)

After nearly ten years in the indie rock game, Local Natives sound fresher and more vital than ever on their new album, Violet Street. The band have mastered the art of layering vocal harmonies over smooth yet heart-rending melodies, creating gorgeous songs that are simultaneously funky and soul-stirring. Need a slightly melancholy toe-tapper? That’s “When Am I Gonna Lose You.” Looking for the perfect soundtrack for your desert road trip? There’s the sweeping, cinematic “Cafe Amarillo.” Violet Street is all killer, no filler; a perfectly polished pearl of an LP.

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So That You Might Hear Me (CD)

Bear’s Den are experts at creating crossover-friendly rootsy numbers that fit in nicely next to works from like-minded bands Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers or Bon Iver. But on their latest, So That You Might Hear Me, they’re stepping out, building on their backwoods sensibilities, incorporating electronic elements, bold horns, and rowdy guitar riffs. There’s a lot of heart here as well as a lot of boot-stompin’ hootenanny potential. On So That You Might Hear Me, the London trio has crafted an intimate, earnest collection of songs that finds the band experimenting and evolving their familiar indie folk sound to great success.

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I Need A New War (CD)

Twin Cities-based post-punks Lifter Puller never quite got the recognition they deserved, later morphing into The Hold Steady, who made up for the lack of adoration by quickly becoming critical darlings throughout the 2000s. At the heart of both bands has been motor-mouthed Craig Finn. Following the cooling down of Steady’s classic rock engine, which often sounded like amphetamine beat poet readings over E Street band jams, Finn has largely ditched monikers and supporting casts, beginning his solo career with 2012’s Clear Heart Full Eyes. The Hold Steady may hardly exist these days, but Finn’s pen hasn’t slowed down and I Need A New War continues his long-running Great American Novel. Over a tapestry of ragged rock ‘n roll heavy on harmonicas, wheezy organ, and Salvation Army brass band-horns, Finn narrates his weary Midwestern characters as only he can, with verse and voice that instantly transport the listener into those same dive bars and back alleys. There’s nothing commercial or cosmetic about this kind of Americana, but I Need A New War is beautifully unbeautiful.

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The Secret (CD)

For his new project The Secret, producer/artist Alan Parsons recruited such heavy hitters as Lou Gramm, Jason Mraz, Steve Hackett, and drummer Vincent Colaiuta. Parsons proves that his sense of melody remains strong in these emotional tracks that contain hints of the prog rock sound associated with The Alan Parsons Project. Mraz successfully lends his flexible voice to the '80s soft rock-flavored “Miracle” and Lou Gramm adds a bit of vocal grit to the dramatic, earnest ballad “Sometimes.”

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Stay Around (CD)

Curated by JJ Cale's widow Christine Lakeland Cale and manager Mike Kappus, Stay Around features 15 previously unreleased songs from the late, influential singer/songwriter. The title track rolls along at an agreeably sleepy pace, while the lightly chugging guitar of “Chasing You” is uplifting and sunny. Tracks like these embody that Tulsa Sound Cale helped to create and Lakeland Cale's attempts to stay true to his own mixes and notes for these recordings lend them an authenticity that will surely delight fans.

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Invitation (CD)

Heather Woods Broderick’s latest release, Invitation, is atmospheric, melancholy, and as familiar as a half-remembered dream. The singer-songwriter named the album as a nod to a quote from American author Thomas Moore about how “to be a person means to be faced every minute with the decision to live or die; to accept the invitations for yet more vitality or to decline them out of fear or lethargy.” It’s a pretty apt synopsis of the album’s lyrical concerns and pervasive mood — shadowy and strange yet ultimately uplifting. Fans of past tour mates Horse Feathers and Sharon Van Etten won’t want to sleep on the intriguing Ms. Woods Broderick’s Invitation.

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Moonlight (CD)

The third studio album by husband & wife team Johnnyswim (Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano) ups the stakes with the help of Grammy-winning producer Malay. The duo's slick combination of soul, rock, and pop is centered around their complementary voices, weaving together effectively, for example, on the edgy, percussive single “Bridges.” “Flowers” is a smooth ballad helmed by Sudano with notes of twangy folk, but the tracks are frequently uplifted by energizing beats such as in “The Last Time,” which features Michael McDonald, and “Souvenir” which morphs into a dynamic stomping chorus.

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By Blood (CD)

Shovels & Rope's new albumis (fittingly) a family affair. Written and recorded in the husband/wife indie folk duo’s backyard recording studio, By Blood is alternatively jubilant and introspective. Expect heart-tugging harmonies, sweetly nostalgic throwback vibes, and top-tier songwriting. Recommended for fans of rootsy Americana created through a punk rock lens.

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Only You Can See It (CD)

Emily Reo makes an attention-grabbing entry into the field of smart, shimmering electropop with Only You Can See It. Lush and vibrant, the album is jam-packed with glorious washes of sound, candy sweet vocals, and glittering synths. Reo has been crafting dreamy indie music for a decade; with its addictive melodies and pop-leaning sensibilities, it seems likely Only You Can See It is the LP that will catapult her into the spotlight. Don’t sleep on this gorgeous, golden electro extravaganza.

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The Medicine Show (CD)

The indomitable Melissa Etheridge returns with her first album of originals since 2014. Her rich voice and guitar chops are as potent as ever, and emotions run strong on this new collection of songs – not the least in “Last Hello,” a poignant tribute to the survivors of the Parkland school shooting. “Wild And Lonely” is a powerful single, with strong dynamics and an anthemic chorus. “Faded by Design” is folkier but with a hint of outlaw country. The album's themes touch on healing, renewal, and reckoning with troubled times in the U.S., including the opioid crisis.

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