As much an ode to self-acceptance as it is to bearing the standard of feminism, Synthia is equal parts euphoric and cathartic in its exploration. The epic synth-rock opener “Stand and Deliver” finds singer Hayley Mary revisiting her childhood and begging her daddy to prioritize her over his work. “My Love is My Disease” aims a defiant middle finger at anyone who tries to get inside Mary’s head: “Don’t tell me to smile / If you don’t know me / Don’t ask why I frown / I’ll take you down.” Much of the album is filled with unstoppable rock, though an intro of shakers in “Come Alive” adds a primal undercurrent. By the time you get to the oft-repeated refrain “Rev it up” in the closer, “Stamina,” it’s become a full-blooded roar of proud self-expression.
My Wild West/Thirty Tigers
A chronicling of the decade-plus that the singer-songwriter spent living in California, Lissie’s My Wild West is her most personal work yet. Bathed in swelling pop-rock and Americana, swaying from gritty rock to folk, the album is a raw, unflinching look at beauty and pain. Whether mourning the loss of a loved one (“Sun Keeps Risin’”), fighting for love (“Don’t You Give up on Me”) or lamenting distance (“Together or Apart”), Lissie bares her soul in an uncompromising way. And while “Hollywood” touches on familiar content—as a ruthless beast on artists—when she follows up lines like, “No matter how they try and warn ya / You fall apart at the seams” with “Still, a dream’s all you need,” there is something powerful about her ability to maintain hope in the face of constant setbacks.
Lake Street Dive
Side Pony/Nonesuch Records
After busting out with the buzzworthy Bad Self Portraits in 2014, Lake Street Dive is ready to do it again. If there’s a band that can light you on fire with a hip-shaking number or set your heart aflame with some deep soul music, it’s Lake Street Dive. Singer Rachael Price seduces you through “Saving All My Sinning” and then goes deeper with the groovy “Call Off Your Dogs.” Noted for the ability to go from jazz to rockabilly, from Motown-style soul to out-and-out rock, with Side Pony the band adds in blues (“I Don’t Care About You”) and ’60s- era rock (“Godawful Things”) without missing a beat.