Esperanza Spalding in performance
1. Esperanza Spalding, Emily's D+Evolution (Concord): So much going on in this jazz-rock fusion disc—to way oversimplify—that several hearings and live performances are needed to fully appreciate beyond its immediate listening pleasure.
2. Jane Siberry, Angels Bend Closer (Jane Siberry): The singular pop chanteuse returns with her first major album in five years, showcasing the intricate compositional structure that is her signature, along with conversational lyrics that thoroughly explore self and affirm intimacy on every level.
3. Sara Watkins, Young in All the Wrong Ways (New West): Watkins' third solo album furthers her journey alongside the most original, intriguing and truly beautiful singer-songwriters in contemporary music.
4. Greg Garing, Am I Even a Memory (Greg Garing): One of the most talented and deeply rooted singer-songwriters of any genre, Greg Garing returns with a typically diverse country/Americana outing.
5. Judy Collins & Ari Hest, Silver Skies Blue (Cleopatra): Three years of opening shows for Judy Collins have paid off for both her and singer-songwriter Hest, as they sing together wondrously on this set of mostly co-written duets.
6. The Monkees, Good Times! (Rhino): Splendid pop album, seemingly out of nowhere, by the woefully underappreciated Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shouldabes.
7. Iggy Pop, Post Pop Depression (Loma Vista Recordings): Really seamless set that flows, at times almost atmospherically, much credit due to producer Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age
8. Kate Bush, Before the Dawn (Concord): Three-CD set is a lot to listen to but worth every minute, being the one and only Bush's first live shows since 1979 and a justified media and fan frenzy resulting in 22 sellouts at London's Hammersmith Apollo in 2014.
9. The Rolling Stones, Blue & Lonesome (Interscope/Polydor): Talk about going back to origins, Stones did "I'm a King Bee" by Slim Harpo on their 1964 debut album, and this new career bookend, fully made up of classic blues covers, has the exact same sting.
10. Drive-By Truckers, American Band (ATO Records): Now more than ever, much-needed songs that tell it like it is about the state of the union.