MADISON CUNNINGHAM, Who Are You Now (Verve):

The Orange County-raised, LA-based singer-songwriter/guitarist pushes deeper into pop while taking stock of her life. Joni Mitchell echoes through her clear vocal tones, modulations, and shifting time signatures, especially standouts like grooving opener “Pin It Down,” the scale-skipping “L.A. (Looking Alive),” and “Dry as Sand.” It’s more electric than previous outings, save for the violin-graced “Like You Do” (co-written with Tyler Chester and Eleni Mandell) and the stunning spiritual poetry of Joe Henry co-write “Bound”: “Into you my spirit goes/ I hand it over like a rose/ Daylight breaking at its side/ Dying as it opens wide.” At the Bootleg in LA Oct. 1.

VARIOUS ARTISTS, World Spirituality Classics 2: The Time for Peace is
Now — Gospel Music About Us
(Luaka Bop): 4

“Music as permanently strong and meaningful as this doesn’t come from where — it comes from the opposite of nowhere,” author Jonathan Lethem observes in liner notes. Well said. Discerningly selected by soul DJ Greg Belson, the 14 1970s-era tracks decry the “Condition the World is In” (per the funk-tinged Religious Souls). As grittily expressed by the Little Shadows, Staples Jr. Singers (the eerie “We Got a Race to Run”), James Bynum (the piercing “We Are in Need”), Rev. Harvey Gates, the Soul Stirrers, and more throughout this pressingly relevant set, their message remains urgent.

RACHID TAHA, Je Suis Africain

The charismatic Algerian-born, Paris-based raï-rock singer, who died days short of his 60th birthday last September, remains eclectic throughout this posthumous release, merrily mixing traditional Algerian instruments, Sufi trance, French pop, soukous guitars, talking drums and Western rock. “Wahdi” blends mariachi trumpet with Gnawa rhythms and Flèche Love’s ethereal vocals, while the multilingual Taha has fun with “Like a Dervish” and “Striptease,” his trademark rasp backed by violin, bluesy guitar and a stripper beat. The title track namechecks Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, Jimi Hendrix, Jacques Derida, Angela Davis and more, embracing all in unifying embrace: “I Am African.”

SHANE ALEXANDER, A Life Like Ours (Buddhaland): 3

“There ain’t always a reason for the evil that men do/ When hatred fast as lightning brings the end of what we knew,” Alexander observes during “I’ll Be Here,” a quietly fingerpicked ballad inspired by the Vegas shooting. Like the rest of this nicely produced set, it offers humility and melodic healing while contemplating mortality, nature and relationships. Highlights: “Everything as One,” “Riverbed,” “Slow Goodbye.” At Highland Park Bowl in Highland Park Saturday, Sept. 28.