By Bliss Bowen

PEARL CHARLES, “Magic Mirror” (Kanine): 3

More polished than 2018’s “Sleepless Dreamer,” the Driftwood Singers/Blank Tapes alum’s sunlit new release confidently blends her pop and Americana tastes and centers her warm vocal tones in glossy, ’70s-style arrangements. Beneath the disco-ball dazzle of ABBA-esque opener “Only for Tonight,” doubts ripple (“Didn’t I know, wasn’t made for a one-night stand”). Later tracks feel truest as they dive into those undercurrents to wrestle with uncomfortable transitions and climate fears (“Don’t Even Feel Like Myself,” “Imposter,” the soul-vibed “As Long as You’re Mine” and Fleetwood Mac-esque “Slipping Away”).

ALABAMA SLIM, “The Parlor” (Cornelius Chapel/Music Maker Relief Foundation): 4

The spirit of John Lee Hooker haunts these 10 rhythmically magnetic tracks, recorded in New Orleans in 2019. Backed by a lean groove machine that includes guitarist cousin Little Freddie King and keyboardist Jimbo Mathus, Slim moans “All Night Long” over his and King’s plangent guitars, skewers the Oval Office’s recently evicted occupant with a sly rap during “Forty Jive” and keeps his blues taut and real.

AARON FRAZER, “Introducing…” (Dead Oceans/Easy Eye): 3½

Best known for sharing lead vocals in retro-soul outfit Durand Jones & the Indications, Frazer takes a solo turn that makes the most of his satiny falsetto. He mostly splits songwriting credits with producer Dan Auerbach, although hooky standouts “Have Mercy” and “Lover Girl” also feature outside input (Pat McLaughlin and Paul Overstreet, respectively). Frazer writes from the perspective of a burning Earth during Marvin Gaye-evoking groover “Bad News” and takes it to church for the sweetly swaying “Leanin’ on Your Everlasting Love,” but mostly exalts love’s simpler pleasures. With an ear-kissing balance of Hammond B3 organ, slightly pinched synths, horns, strings, percussion and creamy harmonies, it sounds like swooning into the ’60s might feel.


Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis leads a septet of Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra members, seeking unity amid division and chaos. Marsalis’ eight-part suite sparks to life when Walter Blandings’ saxophone suddenly pierces the second track, “Sloganize, Patronize, Realize, Revolutionize,” and leads it into more darkly urgent territory. “Ballot Box Bounce” is a rhythmically frenetic exchange of solos, while the funkier “That Dance We Do (That You Love Too)” mirrors moves and “Deeper Than Dreams” showcases Dan Nimmer’s bluesy piano and Obed Calvaire’s exquisite brush work. They take it to the street for swing closer “That’s When All Will See,” a jubilant celebration of hope and community.

RHYE, “Home” (Loma Vista): 3

After opening with transcendent a cappella vocalizing by the Danish National Girls’ Choir — a nod to his family heritage — Topanga-based composer Michael Milosh begins exploring his titular concept with the melodically inviting “Come in Closer,” braiding his airy falsetto and Wurlitzer with Peter Jacobson’s cello and Paul Cartwright’s viola and violin. It sets a hopeful tone for an uneven, R&B-dappled set whose best moments remind that life’s most binding joys are domestic. Highlights: the hypnotic “Fire,” “Sweetest Revenge,” the guitar-laced “Need a Lover,” and the DNG Choir’s balm-like a cappella “Outro.”

JUSTIN MOSES, “Fall Like Rain” (Mountain Fever): 4

Dynamic instrumentals, heartfelt story songs, and guest appearances by Del McCoury and Moses’ ex-boss, Dan Tyminski, combine to remind how cathartically satisfying bluegrass can be. Moses, who was named Resophonic Guitar Player of the Year in 2020 by the International Bluegrass Music Association, here plays six-string guitar, banjo and mandolin, and his Weissenborn presumably inspired clever slide instrumental “Wise & Born.” His sparkling tones and crisply arpeggiated flights across the frets similarly animate “Taxland” (featuring mandolinist wife Sierra Hull) and “Watershed,” and make this one of the most ear-pleasing acoustic recordings to be heard in recent memory.

STILL CORNERS, “The Last Exit” (Wrecking Light): 3

UK vocal stylist Tessa Murray and Austinite Greg Hughes again deliver musical escapism, navigating mysterious roads and noir-ish visions over jangly guitars, thrumming beats and kaleidoscopic synths. Murray’s sultry slur offers both comfort and warning during “A Kiss Before Dying” and the more emotional “Crying” as Hughes’ baritone guitar and whistles evoke mythic spaghetti Westerns that could have inspired the cinematic “White Sands.” Standouts include vibey instrumental “Shifting Dunes” and the eerie title track (“I’m drifting off to nowhere, the past an echo on my mind/ In the middle of the desert, the devil trailing just behind/ It’s a shame that I had to disappear”).

OYIWANE, “Music from Saharan WhatsApp 11” (Sahel Sounds): 3

Part of Sahel Sounds’ ongoing “Music from Saharan WhatsApp” series, this lo-fi EP from Niger ensemble Oyiwane has a magnetic pulse that suggests other West African desert blues as well as wavering signals from the cellphone on which its four tracks were recorded. Occasionally reminiscent of Tartit, it’s heartening to hear women raising their voices about modern-day issues; Kader “Barmo” Balla leads four other vocalists and Zakari Yahaya, whose steady hand percussion’s more prominent than the folk melodies spun by Tuareg guitarists Mahmoud Ingatan and Bilal Oumberak. Musical tracks and video (of the band performing in Agadez) available for a limited time at; all sales proceeds go to band.