- Joy Williams, Front Porch
Joy Williams, Front Porch (Sensibility Recordings) – Diehards still claim John Paul White was the superior musician in The Civil Wars, even if Williams provided the duo’s heartbreaking lyrics. It’s hard to retain that claim in the wake of Williams’ second solo work since the breakup. 2015’s Venus was an interesting synth-pop experiment, but Front Porch is a return to Nashville, with 12 tracks as painfully beautiful as anything she’s written.
- Southern Avenue, Keep On
Southern Avenue, Keep On (Concord Records) – From the guttural brass and woodwinds of the title track, it’s clear that Memphis sisters Tierinii and Tikyra Jackson are trying to bring back a powerful women’s roadhouse blues sound, in the way that Durand Jones brought back classic soul-pop. Lest the second album of Southern Avenue be dismissed as nostalgia, tracks like “Whiskey Love” make it clear that the Jacksons write impressive originals, backed with the Stax sound of Jeremy Powell and Ori Naftaly.
- Clinic, Wheeltappers and Shunters
Clinic, Wheeltappers and Shunters (Domino) – The Liverpool oddball combo is back for the first time since 2012, with a droll dissection of British culture and history. Clinic knows satire, though their gauzy, indistinct style is not as biting as UK critics like Damon Albarn or Fat White Family.