Julien Baker — ‘Little Oblivions’

THE GOOD: Tennessee singer/songwriter Julien Baker plugs in on her third album.

THE BAD: Fans should expect a bigger sound. It’s not bad, but be ready.

THE NITTY GRITTY: After releasing a pair of intimate, lyrically dark records, Baker decided to go the full-on pop/rock route for her new album. She still writes deeply personal lyrics about addiction, spirituality, relationships and depression. Growing up gay within the Bible Belt couldn’t have been easy.

But now Baker shines in a different musical setting. The young woman also is a multi-instrumentalist, and she shows off her talents playing just about everything from guitar to keyboards to drums. The electric backdrop proves her songs can be equally powerful within any framework. And this more accessible sound will surely bring more people into Baker’s personal space. Tracks such as “Hardline” and “Relative Fiction” buzz and crackle with a sense of urgency. And when she returns to more sedate surroundings, we’re reminded why we showed up in the first place.

BUY IT?: Yes.


The Weather Station — ‘Ignorance’

THE GOOD: Canadian modern folk outfit the Weather Station delivers a richer, fuller fifth.

THE BAD: Nope.

THE NITTY GRITTY: The Weather Station has been the ongoing musical project of ex-child actress Tamara Lindeman since 2008. Listen to their catalog, and you’ll detect the genre-bending progression directly. An acoustic solo project has slowly morphed into a full-on band experience.

“Ignorance” finds Lindeman exploring multi-layered instrumentation more than ever before. The intimate strings and piano from records past are often augmented by drums and electric guitars. There are even bouts of semi-jazzy sax here.

Lyrically, Lindeman explores climate change but from a more personal point of view. “Ignorance” is NOT a protest record but rather a reflection of where we are as a global society and the coping mechanisms that go with our current reality. Moods jump between rolling pop/rock songs such as “Parking Lot” or “Heart” and more fragile pieces like “Trust.” In Lindeman’s capable hands, both extremes feel genuine.

BUY IT?: Sure.


The Besnard Lakes — ‘Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings’

THE GOOD: Canadian indie psychedelic outfit Besnard Lakes stretches out on a spacey sixth.

THE BAD: Not really.

THE NITTY GRITTY: The husband-and-wife team of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas remain the band’s core and driving force. “Thunderstorm Warnings” finds them delivering a sprawling headphones album with bits both trippy (the ghostly “The Dark Side of Paradise”) and airtight (the beat-driven “The Father of Time Wakes Up”). One could even classify “Our Heads, Our Hearts on Fire Again” as “catchy.” Yikes! The album bounces effortlessly between extremes, with songs pouring into each other. Close your eyes and you’re engulfed by these sonic soundscapes.

The lyrics explore our own mortality, and some dally with the dead. Yet even though there are slow and eerie musical passages, “Thunderstorm Warnings” never feels like a downer. Rays of hope break through the shadows from time to time, and the din turns dreamy at certain points. It’s these mood swings that keep us engaged for over an hour.

BUY IT?: Definitely.