New albums from singer-songwriter Julian Lennon, melody-minded newcomers Crossword Smiles, and Boise, Idaho-spawned indie rocker Built to Spill are highlighted in my latest column.
Title: Jude (BMG)
You might like if you enjoy: David Bowie, John Lennon, Ron Sexsmith
Tell me more: It's hard to believe, but singer-songwriter Julian Lennon's amazing new album Jude marks the artist's first new full-length studio album since 2011's Everything Changes. The wonderful news for fans of Lennon is the artist's skills as a songwriter and singer of literate and expressive songcraft is as potent as ever. Jude is filled with emotive and lush originals including the soaring "Round and Round," Baroque power ballad "Love Don't Let Me Down," shimmering "Freedom," gorgeous "Love Never Dies," French-flavored "Gaia" (the latter a collaboration with Paul Buchanan of Scottish band The Blue Nile and Elissa Lauper), yearning art rocker "Breathe," and ambitious "Stay" with its enthralling jazz and experimental sections. A fantastic return. Information: JulianLennon.com.
Title: Pressed & Ironed (Big Stir Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Crowded House, Badfinger, Dada
Tell me more: Michigan-based duo Crossword Smiles has released their terrific debut Pressed & Ironed, a 10-song set of stellar power pop. Led by Tom Curless (formerly of Your Gracious Host) and Chip Saam (bassist with The Hangouts), Crossword Smiles' originals are melodic to be sure but simultaneously showcase a multi-layered and inventive approach; for example the lead single "Parallel Lines" could have been a collaboration between members of Crowded House and Dada with its perfect fusion of artful harmonies, a dynamic rhythmic groove and luxurious arrangement. Other highlights on the marvelous album include the sweeping opener "Feet on the Ground," evocative "October Leaves," '60s-mining jangly gem "Where's The Sense," countrified ballad "Walk Softly" and lavish "Second Guesser." The album is now available via audio CD, vinyl and streaming everywhere. Information: BigStirRecords.com.
Title: When the Wind Forgets Your Name (Sub Pop Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Dinosaur Jr., Husker Dü
Tell me more: Since launching Built to Spill in 1992, singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Doug Martsch has carved out a wide-ranging and highly-acclaimed path including 1994's There's Nothing Wrong With Love and 1999's Keep It Like a Secret. Now Built to Spill — whose only permanent member over the past 30 years is Martsch — has joined forces with Brazilian punk rock artist Le Almeida and his long-time collaborator, João Casaes, on the wonderful disc When the Wind Forgets Your Name. Built to Spill's ninth album is filled with glorious alt rock ranging from the psychedelic garage rocker "Fool's Gold" and bouncy "Rocksteady" to the melodic nugget "Understood," hypnotic cut "Spiderweb" (the latter which recalls a mix of early R.E.M. and Husker Dü) and the tender "Alright." The album's closing cut "Comes a Day" is eight and a half minutes of enthralling rock whose driving rhythm is adorned with colorful shades of distorted guitar. Information: BuiltToSpill.com.