Songcraft and style take center stage on four new must-hear releases.
Title: Hawaii (Shelly Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Pete Yorn, The Postal Service, R.E.M.
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter Pete Yorn is back with another fantastic batch of tuneful and enticing folk rock originals via Hawaii. Co-produced by Yorn with Jackson Phillips, the 10-track album is a phenomenal return for the New Jersey native. Standouts include the driving melodic opener "Elizabeth Taylor," sweeping "Never Go" with its burgeoning melodic build, wistful "'Til The End," shimmering dream pop gem "Also Roses" and luxurious closer "Stay Away." The piano-anchored "Ransom" is particularly affecting, Yorn's yearning vocals capturing his emotional pain on one of the disc's high points. Information: PeteYorn.com.
Title: I Mean To Shine (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Nicolette Larson, Crosby Stills & Nash
Tell me more: More than 50 years after Linda Hoover's debut album (I Mean To Shine) was recorded in the summer of 1970, the impressive album is finally receiving its commercial release in 2022 (an exclusive vinyl edition was issued on June 18; the audio CD and digital versions are coming June 24). Hoover was only 19 when she cut the album, but the ambitious young singer-songwriter was assisted by first-time producer Gary Katz and a rising songwriting and arranging duo by the name of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (who would soon find fame leading Steely Dan). Not only were four of the album's tracks penned by Becker and Fagen, but future Steely Dan members Denny Dias and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter were among the players on the recordings. Hoover has a beautiful voice that resonates with the diverse material ranging from '70s pop ("I Mean to Shine," "Turn My Friend Away") and uptempo folk rock ("Roll Back the Meaning," "City Mug") to affecting acoustic ballads ("Autumn," "Jones"). The genre-defying "Roaring of the Lamb" and Stephen Stills-penned "4 + 20" are especially poignant. Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.
Title: Jobbernowl (Big Stir Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Monkees, The Who, The Hollies
Tell me more: Listening to Spygenius' glorious Jobbernowl is to be transported back to the 1960s. The latest album from the celebrated Canterbury, England-based quartet is a bona fide thrill for lovers of top-tier songcraft, nuanced musicianship, lyrical depth and stylish retro-leaning rock. A follow-up to the foursome's 2020 double LP Man on the Sea and 2021's album of marvelous covers (Spygenius Blow Their Covers), the 11-track album finds the band delivering a mix of propulsive garage rockers, sophisticated baroque pop and timeless power pop — all bolstered by soaring vocal harmonies. The hard charging opener "I Dig Your New Robes, Pierre!," bewitching Baroque rocker "2020 Revision," lovely "All That Is Solid Melts Into Air," power pop swoop "Mandy Rice-Davies Applies" and immersive "Metamorphosis" collectively showcase a band that deserves to be heard far and wide. Spygenius features singer-guitarist/chief songwriter Peter Watts, keyboard player Matt Byrne, drummer Alan Cannings and bassist Ruth Rogers. Information: BigStirRecords.com.
Title: Rich White Honky Blues (Easy Eye Sound)
You might like if you enjoy: Hank Williams, Jr., Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Robert Johnson, Lightnin' Hopkins
Tell me more: On his latest album Rich White Honky Blues, country legend Hank Williams, Jr. fully explores the blues with an authenticity and love sure to please his long-time fans as well as blues lovers. Featuring a mix of originals as well as covers from genre heroes ranging from Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters to Lightnin' Hopkins (the latter who used to visit Williams' family home when he was growing up), the album was produced by Dan Auerbach (lead singer and guitarist with The Black Keys) who also contributes his musical talents on the disc. Highlights abound on Rich White Honky Blues, including on the acoustic Delta-styled opener ".44 Special Blues" (penned by the aforementioned Johnson), rollicking "Georgia Women" (featuring some terrific slide guitar work from Kenny Brown), the county-inflused "Short Haired Woman" and buoyant "Fireman Ring The Bell." My favorite track is the Williams-penned "I Like It When It's Stormy," a Southern rock-meets-blues bolt where Williams sings "I like it when it's stormy / because it reminds me of my life." The album is an outstanding excuse to rediscover Williams. Information: EasyEyeSound.com.