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Maria Taylor, Roy Harper, and Cut/Copy

Sound Advice

Something About Knowing

Maria Taylor

Something About Knowing

Saddle Creek Records

File next to: Beth Orton, Azure Ray

Maria Taylor has released five solo albums, but they struggle to reach the impact she's had as one half of the duo Azure Ray. Although Taylor's delicate and aching voice is usually put to the service of melancholy, she's had a baby and married Ryan Dwyer since her 2011 album, Overlook. It's often tougher to develop interesting lyrics to promote connubial bliss, but Taylor rises to the challenge with perhaps her wisest and most riff-infested album to date. She has a habit of producing short and sweet full-length albums, and Something About Knowing is actually on the longer side at 36 minutes. But the brevity is countered by the careful attention paid to songs like "Up All Night" and "Broken Objects." Taylor is one of the South's finest female vocalists, and it's about time her native Birmingham (and the rest of the world) takes notice. — Loring Wirbel

Man and Myth

Roy Harper

Man and Myth

Bella Union

File next to: Richard Thompson, Pink Floyd

We might not have even realized it, given the spectral presence of Roy Harper in the music business, but the 2010s desperately needed a Roy Harper album. Who better than the genius poet behind Stormcock to rightfully skewer contemporary superficiality, excess and madness? Harper does just that on the indicting rocker "Cloud Cuckooland," whose lyrics cut even more sharply than Pete Townsend's razor-like lead guitar. The quieter moments of Man and Myth are arguably even more powerful. Harper deftly explores themes of time and loss on "January Man" and "Heaven Is Here," where the elegant, acoustic folk arrangements are kissed by luscious strings and horns. Not only are the lyrics impeccable, but the performances are equally impressive; the 72-year-old Harper's voice and acoustic guitar are stronger and more nuanced than those of most younger singer-songwriters. More than myth, Man and Myth is the work of a living legend. — Collin Estes

Free Your Mind


Free Your Mind

Modular/Universal Republic

File next to: Hot Chip, Alt-J, OMD

Based on popularity alone, Australia's Cut/Copy deserves a primary ranking among dance bands that rely in part on traditional rock instruments rather than banks of synthesizers. Free Your Mind uses more MDMA-soaked sounds than 2011's Zonoscope, and several tracks, like "Let Me Show You Love," could be imagined as extended 12-inch dance mixes. Still, the band does not display as much dirty-funk as !!!, nor as much musical complexity as Hot Chip. Part of the problem may be Dan Whitford's thin tenor vocals, which fall somewhere between Thomas Mars of Phoenix and Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode. One could certainly do worse — Deadmau5 or dubstep, for example — but one could also do better. — Loring Wirbel

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