Rookie in the Ring EP/self-released
There is an easiness to Hanna Rae’s music that makes it easy to like. Her molasses-thick vocals are a treat, particularly on the dreamy, stripped-down opener “Man in the Moon,” and fans of Brooke Annibale will likely smile at “Jar of Wine,” which plays like an Americana version of “Under Streetlights.” Rae’s ability to turn a phrase naturally and conversationally is put on display in the bluegrass-tinged “Alabama,” where a bevy of creative similes—including Rubik’s Cubes and non-rotating planets—are used in reference to emotional lockdown. Most of the material here falls into the relationship category and the results are likable. Whether it’s cute “they’re stealing glances at each other from across the coffee shop” (“Silver Screens”), or serious “your left hook of love came out of nowhere and knocked me out” on the title track, Rae explores the ins and outs of relationships with confidence, curiosity and a wisdom that is irresistible.
After it All/Sire Records
There aren’t many quiet moments on the latest from Delta Rae. In fact, outside of the first 45 seconds of the ethereal opener “Anthem” and a vocal interlude at the quarter mark during “The Dream,” the album is downright operatic. “Outlaws” and “Run” verge on cliché due to their over-the-top rock energy that comes from belting out tales about being wild and free, and flipping the bird at convention. “Scared” is explosive soul that marries hand-clapping, foot- stomping, plinky piano and a choir of voices, while the updated “Chasing Twisters” is an epic, heavy-on-production country tune that sounds like a conversation between Manheim Steamroller and Lindsey Sterling. After it All cruises like a fully accelerated sports car, and while longtime fans might be thrown by this curveball, it’s a nasty one they’ll want to take a swing at.
Dark Places/Blonde Rat
If your tastes lean a little retro, then the new release from Jesse Baylin should be right up your alley. Dark Places is a throwback to the era of the warm AM rock heard during the ’70s, with just enough flair to keep it modern. Think Stevie Nicks by way of Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers. The fuzzy guitars and lumbering beat on “Creepers (Young Love)” are a delight, and Baylin’s echoing vocals on the electric guitar ballad “To Hell and Back” make for a brooding experience as she surveys the ashes of the destruction that fill her past. Baylin builds this album with subtly charged performances that range from sensual (“Kiss Your Face”) to soul-crushed (“The Ringer”), from bombastic (“London Time”) to subdued (“Lungs”), giving listeners a host of moods to consider that are darkly inviting, but never dull.