Marissa Nadler, For My Crimes (Sacred Bones) – Boston freak-folk pioneer Marissa Nadler has always been frank, but occasionally cryptic and obtuse. On this stunning eighth studio release, her songs range from the resigned “I Can’t Listen to Gene Clark Anymore” to “Blue Vapor,” a track as insistently sad as the most morose Tindersticks song. It might not be her defining masterpiece, but is unforgettable in any event.
Lucero, Among the Ghosts (Thirty Tigers) – Can an ass-kicker Memphis party band retain the rhythm when singer Ben Nichols confronts marriage and children? The opening title track and its follower, “Bottom of the Sea,” should convince doubters that Lucero has not lost an inch of riff-infused fire, and the live renditions of these songs carry the band into a new stratosphere.
The Joy Formidable, AAARTH (Seradom Records) – Ritzy Bryan has struggled to make her Welsh punk outfit relevant and breathtaking, without repeating the same riffs. In AARTH, she and partner Rhydian Dafydd get the mix just right: Middle Eastern minor keys in “Cicada,” precise piano arpeggios in “Absence.” No, The Joy Formidable have not gone soft, but where the band once laid claim to majestic punk, now they are just plain majestic.