Better Oblivion Community Center, S/T (Dead Oceans) –
Better Oblivion Community Center, S/T
There was little reason to expect that Omaha’s favorite son Conor Oberst could work magic with Pasadena folkie Phoebe Bridgers, particularly when Bridgers had set a high bar with last year’s women trio sensation boygenius. In reality, Oberst and Bridgers had collaborated since before her 2017 debut album, and the resulting studio album is stunning. Even if this duet remains a one-shot, songs like “Chesapeake” and “Dylan Thomas” ensure this is the best surprise partnership since Courtney Barnett teamed with Kurt Vile.
Amelia White, Rhythm of the Rain (White Wolf Records) –
Amelia White, Rhythm of the Rain
It’s damned criminal that a Nashville unsung talent like White had to self-publish her seventh album in the U.S. more than a year after a British release. White has a vocal warmth to rival Lucinda Williams, but these dozen songs written between her mother’s death and her own marriage show remarkable depth in the lyrics. The addition of “Pink Cloud” and the reworking of “How It Feels” makes the U.S. version a new and exciting adjunct to its British predecessor.
Joe Jackson, Fool (earMUSIC) –
Beloved U.K. jazz-punk chameleon Joe Jackson released new pop originals in a 2015 album after a long hiatus. After four years on the road playing the new tunes, Jackson honed his skills to generate the eight gems on Fool
. Arrangements combine the high-energy punkiness of the late 1970s with the traditionalist jazz of the 1980s, wedded to lyrics in songs like “Fabulously Absolute” that explore modern alienation and populism — a triumphant return for Jackson.