- The Bad Plus, Never Stop II
The Bad Plus, Never Stop II (Legbreaker Records) – Ethan Iverson, founding member of Minneapolis jazz trio The Bad Plus, departed after a dozen albums. But the addition of pianist Orrin Evans leaves the band in good hands. Once known mostly for exuberance, The Bad Plus suggest eerie sobriety on opening track “Hurricane Birds.” By the closing “Commitment,” Evans’ solitary piano suggests Keith Jarrett, making the reconfigured trio an arguably better band.
- Shopping, The Official Body
Shopping, The Official Body (FatCat Records) – The UK’s Shopping revived an X-Ray Spex art-punk style in its first two albums. But The Official Body turns up the percussion and dance sensibility to more closely resemble The Slits of the early 1980s. Lyrics of tracks like “The Hype” and “Asking for a Friend” show that singer Rachel Aggs understands the post-Brexit UK, observing it with a coolly detached fury. The band’s output across three albums proves no one is better at politically aware party music.
- Kyle Craft, Full Circle Nightmare
Kyle Craft, Full Circle Nightmare (Sub Pop) – When a young Shreveport songwriter can generate instant comparisons to Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, you know that his second album will be a worthy effort. Kyle Craft’s one limitation is a certain angsty overkill that recalls Ian Hunter during Mott the Hoople’s heyday, and a focus solely on personal relationships, with barely a hint of topicality or acknowledgment of the outside world. Nevertheless, Craft is rapidly moving into the top tier of musical storytellers.