FANTASTIC NEGRITO, Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? (Cooking Vinyl): ★★★★

With a title echoing everyday conversations nationwide (from opening stomper “Chocolate Samurai”), the resilient Oakland artist’s urgent new release taps into 2020’s chaos and ground-shifting change. He still reaches back to blues like a rejuvenating touchstone — his 2016 and 2019 Grammy Awards were both for Best Contemporary Blues Album — but these 11 tracks revel in funk, hip-hop and soul grooves and rock swagger. He’s polished his roots-braiding sound, segueing from streetwise lyrics and handclap percussion into prog-sounding guitars and time signatures. Put this one on replay. Highlights: “I’m So Happy I Cry” with New Orleans dynamo Tank Ball, “How Long” (“Out there screaming all alone/ Full of shit, full of hope, holding on/ We can repeat the same old lies/ ’Til they make us feel alright”). fantasticnegrito.com

TURNING JEWELS INTO WATER, Our Reflection Adorned by Newly Formed Stars (FPE): ★★★

More tightly focused than last year’s “Map of Absences,” this globally conscious set plays with time via percussion colored and shaped by digital effects. Indian-born, Brooklyn-based drummer/composer Ravish Momin collaborated remotely with Haitian-born percussionist/turntablist Val Jeanty in Boston, with guest vocals from Iranian daf player Kamyar Arsani and South African multi-instrumentalist Mpho Molikeng — so this spring’s shutdown didn’t impede recording. But it does seem to have drained the music of the rubbery warmth of “Map of Absences”; save for the deftly patterned “Kerala in My Heart” and tense title track, it’s more angular than melodic. turningjewelsintowater.wordpress.com

SYLVIE SIMMONS, Blue on Blue (Compass): ★★★½

The disarming humor and intelligence that brighten the celebrated music journo’s prose also gleam through this poetic follow-up to her eponymous 2014 album debut. “Waiting for the Shadows to Fall” unfolds like a memory shared between songs at one of Simmons’ concerts, her graceful natural images and ukulele burnished by Brian Lopez’s evocative guitar solo and fills. A deceptively cheery melody and Simmons’ unaffected vocals sharpen the surprise of “The Thing They Don’t Tell You About Girls” (“Since you’re gone I keep away/ From bridges, trains and razor blades”), while “Nothing” devastates with spare simplicity and her inner hippie hits the honky-tonk for “1000 Years Before I Met You,” a good-natured duet with producer Howe Gelb. sylviesimmons.com

DENT MAY, Late Checkout (Carpark Records): ★★★

Breezy, AM-style pop from a native Mississippian turned Angeleno with a knack for hooky pop melodies. Dent’s fifth album is brightened by upbeat ’70s guitar and electric keyboard sounds and ear-catching arrangements that cushion his earnest tenor. In a time of high anxiety, balmy tracks such as “Bungalow Heaven” (“I can’t wait to grow old here”), “L.A. River,” the almost topical “Bless Your Heart” and ingratiating summer confection “Sea Salt + Caramel” offer a sweet antidote. RIYL the Morning Yells, Andrew Gold, Beach Boys. dentmay.com

GORDON KOANG, Unity (Music in Exile/Light in the Attic): ★★★½

Gracefully plying the unwieldy, box-like thom, South Sudan’s “King of Music” and percussionist cousin Paul Biel deliver genuine uplift with their 11th album — their first since seeking asylum in Australia when civil war exploded in South Sudan in 2013. Blind since birth, Koang sends money back to his family, a situation addressed on the hopeful “Te Ke Mi Thile Ji Kuoth Nhial (We Don’t Have a Problem With Anyone).” Themes of peace and tolerance define this cheery set, energized by Australian rock musicians whose supportive brio mostly offsets their lack of finesse with the central African rhythms driving tracks such as “South Sudan” and infectious anthem “Stand Up (Clap Your Hands).” gordonkoang.bandcamp.com

CIDNY BULLENS, Walkin’ Through This World (self-released): ★★★★

Bullens’ ninth solo album traces his transgender journey from androgynously styled, Grammy-nominated pop-rocker Cindy to gritty-voiced Cidny, a transition that previously inspired his one-person show “Somewhere Between: Not an Ordinary Life.” Handsomely co-produced with Ray Kennedy — sonically, the album sounds like a lost Lucinda classic, flecked with slide and 12-string guitars and harmonies from guests including Rodney Crowell, Mary Gauthier, and Bullens’ daughter Reid — melodic standouts such as “Purgatory Road,” “Sugartown” and “The Gender Line” translate that emotionally complex source material into universally relatable hopes and desires. cidnybullens.com

RB MORRIS, Going Back to the Sky (Singular): ★★★½

Playwright, poet, producer, songwriter, actor, editor: the numerous hats the Knoxville Renaissance man’s worn throughout his respected career shaped his vision and the 14 narratives he spins here with atmospheric support from guitarist/co-producer Bo Ramsey, violinist David Mansfield and harmonica ace Mickey Raphael. Inviting melodies and lyrics braided with metaphor and sly humor make for a satisfying musical journey, particularly if you’ve a taste for Hayes Carll, Malcolm Holcombe and Mickey Newbury. Highlights: “Red Sky,” “Missouri River Hat Blowing Incident,” the Morris-Ramsey co-write “Montana Moon” (“We’re rolling slow Dustbo, running on faith and fumes/ Looking for somewhere, anywhere, got to be something soon”). RBMorris.com

RUTH ORHIUNU, …They’ll Say I’m Talking (self-released): ★★½

The UK soul singer’s debut EP is uneven but it’s clear she has a lot to say, and a compellingly sultry voice with which to make herself heard. Her ex-texting neediness threatens to overwhelm the pensive hip-hop rhythms of “Sometimes,” where she asks hard questions (“Who do we become when we forget ourselves”) before making excuses for herself (“I let my demons take me out sometimes/ I always come back to my senses in the end”). She strikes a steadier balance with “Loving Goes Down” and “Love Is Blind,” slow-burn jams that occasionally recall Soul II Soul.

ruthorhiunu.bandcamp.com