- Priests, The Seduction of Kansas
Priests, The Seduction of Kansas (Sister Polygon Records) – The 2017 debut of these Washington, D.C., punks never felt as vibrant as their early singles, but the sophomore album massively improves both energy levels and lyricism, as well as offering a dissonant vibe akin to Brian Eno’s No New York collection. Engineering and production by John Congleton help, but so does the shift from a gender-balanced quartet to a women-dominated four- or five-some, giving Priests the tenor of a women’s band like Dream Wife or FEELS.
- Drunken Prayer, Cordelia Elsewhere
Drunken Prayer, Cordelia Elsewhere (Deer Lodge Records) – Morgan Geer of Freakwater has released five albums as Drunken Prayer, but the new one, produced by the legendary Mitch Easter, perfects Geer’s comic country-rock to suggest Randy Newman covering Jason Isbell. There’s no mistaking Geer’s hilarious but wise lyrics in crooners like “Cordelia” and Nick Lowe-style rockers like “It Happens All the Time.”
- Shovels & Rope, By Blood
Shovels & Rope, By Blood (Dualtone) – Trent and Cary Ann Hearst are often tagged as alt-country or roots, but the Charleston, South Carolina, couple offer rowdy call-and-response sessions appropriate for camp revivals. This fifth studio recording is not overproduced, but the duo add effects like trap drum to make such tracks as “The Wire” and “I’m Comin’ Out” legends of punky bluegrass. For those not already obsessed with Shovels & Rope, the Hearsts will make sure they get in your face until you cry uncle.