HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER, Terms of Surrender (Merge): 3

“I’m a lonely swimmer a long, long way from shore,” M.C. Taylor confides during addictive single “Happy Birthday, Baby,” establishing contradictions that inform this wise, handsomely produced set. The quest for meaning and resolution eludes direct answers, yet the journey proves its own reward during standout tracks like “I Need a Teacher,” the gradually swelling “Cat’s Eye Blue” and the watery “Old Enough to Wonder Why (East Side-West Side).” Taylor’s vulnerable warmth is so immediate it often feels like we’ve joined him mid-conversation as National guitarist Aaron Dessner (among others) comments alongside banjo, lap steel, Omnichord, percussion and synths. At Teragram Ballroom in Downtown LA Saturday, Oct. 5. Hissgoldenmessenger.com

NOOKY JONES, Like Candy

(self-released): 2½

The Minneapolis soul sextet reaches back to Motown and ’70s groove masters for inspiration, with robust horn charts, keyboardist Kevin Gastonguay and drummer Reid Kennedy imbuing it with contemporary flair. In contrast, frontman Cameron Kinghorn’s smooth, nimble tenor resembles ’90s R&B crooners, which sometimes blunts the music’s force; the title track’s so sweet it’s cloying. More of the loose, hooky funk of “After Two,” a move-busting redo of “After One” from the band’s 2017 debut album featuring Vulfpeck guitarist Cory Wong, would be welcome. Nookyjones.com

JOAN SHELLEY, Like the River Loves

the Sea (No Quarter): 3½

Restraint’s been this Kentucky artist’s artistic weapon throughout five critically lauded albums, perhaps most movingly here. She roots her melodic constructs in natural, earthy details of home and everyday quiet while reaching across the ocean, recording in Reykjavik with co-producer James Elkington and Icelandic musicians whose feel and instrumentation (classical and resonator guitars, cello, harmonium, mandolin, piano, violin, Wurlitzer) ruggedly suggest the traditional music that is Shelley’s heritage. Highlights: “Haven,” the healing “Teal,” dreamy “High on the Mountain.” At Moroccan Lounge in Downtown LA Thursday, Oct. 3. joanshelley.net

JASON JAMES, Seems Like Tears Ago (Melodyville/Smith): 3

The baby-faced Austin crooner studied honky-tonk heroes like George Jones and Hank Williams well, absorbing their lessons of melodic resilience and lyrical simplicity for this solid trad country set. His limber vocal fillips on pedal steel-weeping ballads like “Achin’ Takin’ Place” and the catchy title track emulate Jones too closely, but his sincerity’s refreshing and stirs interest in his next effort. RIYL midcentury-style country waltzes, shuffles, and arrangements. Highlights: “I Miss You After All,” “Coldest Day of the Year,” “Ole Used to Be.” Jasonjamesband.com

k Saturday, Sept. 28. shanealexandermusic.com