By Bliss Bowen 

ÓLAFUR ARNALDS, “Some Kind of Peace” (Mercury KX): ★★★

An abiding sense of water—cleansing rain, mists, fog, icy rivers melting—imbues the Icelandic composer’s aptly titled fifth album, from winsome opener “Loom,” featuring British DJ Bonobo (one of three vocalist-fronted tracks), through the intimate keyboard contemplation of “We Contain Multitudes.” That watery ambiance felt even more pronounced during last week’s livestreamed concert from Reykjavík, where a four-piece string section was exquisitely attuned to the raindrop cadence of pieces such as “Woven Song” and “New Grass.” Here, time feels suspended, a tribute to the hope built into Arnalds’ graceful harmonics and melodic progressions.

SONGHOY BLUES, “Optimisme” (Fat Possum): ★★★½

Long exiled from its northern Mali home by extremist invaders, this quartet defies despair while pushing desert blues-rock’s boundaries with judicious support from Chavez producer Matt Sweeney. “Badala” is a blast of raw guitar fury between gritty lead singer Aliou Touré and guitarist Garba Touré (no relation) that champions women while demonstrating how far they’ve ventured from early days performing Ali Farka Touré covers. Robust conviction and call-and-response guitar dynamics transcend the Songhoy language barrier of “Barre” (“Change”), and “Worry” and “Dournia” are similarly driven by determined optimism, slamming drums and searing guitar leads.

JEFF TWEEDY, “Love Is the King” (dBpm Records): ★★★

With COVID rates spiking and states reinstating restrictions, this 11-track platter of musical comfort food feels ever more relevant. Created during the pandemic’s early months at Tweedy’s Chicago studio with sons Sammy and Spencer, the album finds the Wilco frontman occasionally evoking The Band and Gram Parsons as he sifts through simple musical motifs and celebrates enduring joys: the consolations of home, nature’s sensory pleasures, love’s redemption. “Cry, don’t you dare,” he admonishes during the title track. “When I die in the ring/ Life isn’t fair/ Love is the king.” Other highlights: the gently upbeat “Guess Again,” “Troubled,” the lilting “Save It for Me.”

THE MASTERSONS, “Red, White & I Love You Too” (Red House): ★★★

Emerging less than a year after the LA-based Americana duo’s very fine “No Time for Love Songs,” this five-track EP vents political anxieties while sidestepping specifics right from opener “Sensitive Souls” (“Is it the best we can do, does anybody care/ We’re heading for a cliff and we’re almost there”). A less jangly reprise of “No Time for Love Songs” derives hope from the sunlight-and-shadow vocal chemistry between violinist Eleanor Whitmore and guitarist husband Chris Masterson, as does Appalachian-blued stomper “In the Name of God.”