By Bliss Bowen 

RESISTANCE REVIVAL CHORUS, This Joy (Righteous Babe): ★★★★

A spirit-lifting antidote to 2020 from a New York-based collective of 70 women and nonbinary touring musicians, Broadway and recording artists, filmmakers and activists (plus guest turns by Rhiannon Giddens, Valerie June and Deva Mahal). Since joining forces after the 2017 Women’s March, they’ve raised their voices at numerous social justice protests, and the sparkling production and performances of this 14-track debut honors their convictions and roof-raising vocal solos. Highlights: “Ella’s Song,” a fervent reading of Elton John’s “Border Song,” and gospel hand-clappers “Everybody Deserves to Be Free,” “Reason I Sing” and “Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind Stayed on Freedom).”

BEN HARPER, Winter Is for Lovers (Anti-): ★★★½

The veteran rocker’s first instrumental album is a contemplative memory dream that intentionally evokes roots legends and friends such as the late Chris Darrow, John Fahey and Taj Mahal, among the many artists who frequented his family’s Folk Music Store in Claremont during Harper’s childhood. Performed entirely on his lap steel, there’s a cinematic quality to the 15 tracks, all named after places—“Joshua Tree,” “Inland Empire,” a grieving “Toronto” and hopeful “Paris”—that suggests a tenderly cathartic travelogue through time, perhaps before logging more miles on future roads.

THELONIOUS MONSTER, Oh the Monster (Immediate Family): ★★★

Part of a long parade of LA-formed ’80s bands that enjoy cult status, the once notoriously inebriated rockers were never prolific, and in the 16-year silence following “California Clam Chowder” a return didn’t seem likely. Surprise. Ringing with Dix Denny and Chris Handsome’s angry guitars, “Buy Another Gun” spells out one motivation for reconvening; the election’s another, along with a desire to make peace with old ghosts. Kicking off with death-fixated punk-rocker “Disappear,” frontman Bob Forrest still sounds righteously pissed off but ultimately less haunted than hopeful. Highlights: “Teenage Wasteland,” “LA Divorce,” “Sixteen Angels.”

SAM MORROW, Gettin’ By on Gettin’ Down (Forty Below): ★★★

Morrow follows 2018’s buzz-generating “Concrete and Mud” with a punchier, open-hearted set that grooves happily in Little Feat’s old ’hood. Once again co-producing with Eric Corne, the LA songwriter’s backed by longtime bandmates—notably drummer Matt Tecu and guitarists Eamon Ryland and Eli Wulfmeir—who helped make his shows must-sees for local audiences. Morrow’s old-soul howl offers medicinal comfort as the rockers drive a little harder (“Money Ain’t a Thing”), grooves drip more grease (“Make ’Em Miss Me”), and the swamp gets funkier (“Round ‘n’ Round”). Turn it up.

RAYE ZARAGOZA, Woman in Color (Rebel River):★★★

Teamed with producer Tucker Martine, the Long Beach-based songwriter’s sophomore full-length champions feminism and Mother Earth with greater polish and rhythmic variety than 2017’s more overtly protest-oriented “Fight for You.” Standout tracks such as haunting single “Red” and “Run With the Wolves,” whose natural verse imagery builds to an insistent choral hook, make Zaragoza’s points with poetic language and sophisticated melodies, while the harmonica-gilded “They Say” delivers a velvet-gloved punch to cultural snobs and the one percent (“If they say that folk music’s for the elite/ Well then who’s gonna sing for me?”).

HONEY MADE, Brand New (self-released): ★★★★

A feel-good antidote to anxiety blues from the Austin funk-soul party band. Produced by Los Lobos keyboardist/saxophonist Steve Berlin, their first full-length studio album radiates vitality as it celebrates everyday pleasures—“good music, good people, your family alive,” as frontman Willie Barnes II reminds during upbeat closer “So Good.” Austin treasure Tamara Mack lends her gutsy vocals to standout tracks “Chicken Sweats” and “Be True,” while the horn-punched “Southern Fried Funk” and reggae-dipping “Smoove” issue tantalizing invitations to shake your hips and groove.

DEVIN B. THOMPSON, Tales of the Soul (Severn): ★★★½

Opening with Bobby “Blue” Bland’s hit “Love to See You Smile,” the veteran Chicago musician wastes no time honoring soul forebears. Thompson’s own compositions reflect his taste for sleek ’70s-’80s-style arrangements, but his church-trained vocals recall George Benson during a funky take on Little Milton’s “I’m Gonna Cry a River” and his treatment of Gamble & Huff’s “Something You Can Do Today,” reinforced with gospel harmonies, is another highlight, along with “Read Your Mind” (lit up by Robben Ford’s guitar solo) and funky antiracism anthem “Tell Me.”

ELVIS COSTELLO, Hey Clockface(Concord): ★★★★

“Love is the one thing we can save,” Costello intones over Middle Eastern instrumentation during cinematic opener “Revolution #49,” before launching into the squalling tirade “No Flag” (“No sign for the dark place that I live/ No god for the damn that I don’t give”) and movingly sung ballad “They’re Not Laughing at Me Now.” It’s a bracing return from the complacency-defying rock veteran, who recorded mostly in Paris with longtime pianist Steve Nieve and made additional tracks in Helsinki and New York. That sense of motion informs the album. Continual rhythmic twists keep listeners off balance, not unlike chaotic times that inspired standouts such as “Newspaper Pane” (composed with trumpeter Michael Leonhart and guitarist Bill Frisell), “Hetty O’Hara Confidential” and the New Orleans-style title track, a cry to conscience that winds into Fats Waller’s “How Can You Face Me?”