FREE NATIONALS, Free Nationals (OBE): ***

Lightly funky grooves from Anderson .Paak’s road band go down easy on the band’s own album, where they sometimes call to mind a stoned Ohio Players. .Paak puts in a raspy appearance on “Gidget,” and drummer Callum Connor sings lead on the synth-tapping “Rene” and joins T. Nava for “Oslo,” but the remaining 11 tracks depend on a parade of guest vocalists for distinction. T.I. shakes things up with his frenetic rap on “Cut Me a Break,” and “On Sight” benefits from tension between Kadhja Bonet’s watery coo and JID’s echoing rap. Overall, though, results are uneven. thefreenationals.com

NATALIE MISHELL, The Box (self-released): ***

Warmly melodic folk-pop from a native Southern Californian now settled in Portland, Maine, after a decade in New York. Mishell’s search for home and authentic living drives the sultry “Hurricane” (“As long as we’re together we’ll be home”), “Keep an Open Heart” and the gracefully fingerpicked title track. The latter stands out with a lyric that, unlike some others, feels personal (“Do you feel safe every day 9 to 5/ Do you feel wrong inside or do you feel alive”); the hooky “Complicated Heart” is another highlight. Mishell plays Hotel Café in Hollywood Thursday, Jan. 2. nataliemishell.com

DAMON LOCKS’ BLACK MONUMENT ENSEMBLE, Where Future Unfolds (International Anthem): ****

Intriguing pastiche of jazz, gospel and socially conscious spoken word from Chicago multimedia artist Locks and a game ensemble of musicians (bells, clarinet, percussion). Angel Bat Dawid’s clarinet and Arif Smith’s hypnotic percussion converse around samples and a dynamically blended choir during “Sounds Like Now” (“Separate not equal/ Power to the government/ Never to the people/ Movie show apocalypse/ We’re living through the sequel”) and the nationalism-minded “Solar Power”; “The Colors That You Bring” gains urgency from an insistent groove and pop melody. Worthy and thought-provoking. intlanthem.com

LARRY FLEET, Workin’ Hard (Big Loud): ***

Last year, the Tennessee native issued a few soulfully sung tracks reflecting his admiration for Merle Haggard and Marvin Gaye. His working-class roots inform this major label country debut, made with Jake Owen producer Joey Moi, but excepting the smartly detailed title track it’s safer, mostly celebrating moments of respite (“Somethin’ Cold, Somewhere Hot”). “Lied About Love” rolls on a reassuring groove, while simple pleasures animate “Tied Down” and the nostalgic “Boys With Nothin’.” Moi’s production smoothes out Fleet’s relatable edges, but the songs pique interest in Fleet’s next move. larryfleet.com