Florence + the Machine, Melissa Etheridge, Sonny Landreth and Ryan Montbleau have returned with fantastic new releases providing fans with a growing appreciation for their ever-expanding legacies.
Title: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Republic Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Kate Bush, Of Monsters and Men, Sigur Rós
Tell me more: It's no easy task for a groundbreaking artist to exceed the lofty expectations of an adoring following when they release a highly-anticipated new album. But for the second time in 2015, a beloved British artist has not only exceeded those expectations, but astounded fans with a bona fide masterwork. Blur returned after more than a decade to impress with amazing The Magic Whip (released in late April); now Florence + the Machine has somehow outdistanced their own brilliant 2011 sophomore effort Ceremonials with the just-released How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Singer-songwriter Florence Welch has a soprano that is both alluring and multi-octave spanning, but it is the songstress' nuanced and artistic approach that draws comparisons with Kate Bush that makes Florence + the Machine one of today's most impactful artists. On How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, the driving "Ship to Wreck," cutting "What Kind of Man" and experimental electronica-tinged "Long & Lost" all have an immediate effect while revealing additional sonic layers with each listen. The symphonic title track and propulsive "Queen of Peace" boast the kind power that only a few modern-day greats (Radiohead, Sigur Rós, U2) have achieved on disc. Information: RepublicRecords.com.
Title: A Little Bit of Me: Live in L.A. (Shout! Factory)
You might like if you enjoy: Melissa Etheridge, Indigo Girls, Bruce Springsteen
Tell me more: Available on both DVD and Blu-ray, Melissa Etheridge's A Little Bit of Me: Live in L.A. captured the Grammy- and Academy Award-winning artist on the final night of her "This Is M.E." tour at the famed Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 12, 2014. Wonderfully directed by Kerry Asmussen, the full-length concert caught the Kansas native and her band performing more than a dozen songs, with a mix of inspired new material off her 13th album This Is M.E. and classic hits providing a winning overview of Etheridge's 30-year career. Highlights on the release include her opening Bruce Springsteen-minded salvo "I Won't Be Alone Tonight," infectious "Take My Number," the confessional "Ruins" and stirring "Bring Me Some Water," the latter that found her powering the extended blues rocker with her 12-string acoustic guitar. Information: shoutfactory.com.
Title: Bound By The Blues (Provogue Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Derek Trucks, Roy Rogers, Eric Clapton
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter/virtuoso slide guitarist Sonny Landreth has come home with his latest album Bound By The Blues. One of the world's most celebrated slide guitar players, the Mississippi native's new 10-song release is no mere nod to Southern Blues (he grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana); the disc is rich with probing songs bolstered by Landreth's emotive baritone vocals and wide-ranging guitar craft. Leading things off is the catchy Delta-mining "Walkin' Blues," one of the first blues tracks Landreth recalls learning to play; the emotive title track boasts some of Landreth's most textured slide guitar work on the disc. The graceful "Where They Will" and "Firebird Blues" (the latter a tribute to the late Johnny Winter) shed more light on Landreth's wide-ranging approach. Information: SonnyLandreth.com.
Title: Growing Light (Blue's Mountain)
You might like if you enjoy: Gavin DeGraw, Prince, Toro y Moi, Trombone Shorty
Tell me more: The best albums push an artist forward while also offering a glimpse at the world (lyrically) and a genre (musically) in new and interesting ways. The Ryan Montbleau Band's latest effort Growing Light does all that and more across its involving 10-track run. No matter whether the New York-based Montbleau and five-member band are wired into accessible funky dance rock (notably the undeniable single "Pacing Like Prince"), reflective ballads ("Growing Light," "Together") or soulful sorties ("Inevitable," "Glad"), the entire album is an affecting arc that simultaneously tackles the rise and fall of a relationship with authentic honesty while celebrating the final studio project from a group of musicians who recorded and toured together with Montbleau for a 10-year span leading up to the New Orleans sessions that spawned "Growing Light." Information: ryanmontbleau.com.