Jessica Jalbert Faith HealerEdmonton’s Jessica Jalbert released one of my favorite under-the-radar LPs of 2011, Brother Loyola, and now she’s back with a new record. Jalbert goes by Faith Healer these days, teaming up once again with René Wilson for a 12-track set titled Cosmic Troubles, due via Mint Records in March. There’s a colorful collage of nods to the ’60s infused here (sunny harmonies, handclaps, indelible melody, et al.), but — as with her previous work — something completely present persists, too. Among Jalbert’s many talents, the interwoven electric guitar work remains a standout. Here are two cuts from the record:

Jose GonzalezJosé González returns with Vestiges And Claws, his first record in years under his own name, after recent material from Junip and 2010’s still-haunting Red Dead Redemption cut “Far Away.” The latest taste, “Leaf Off / The Cave” recalls Junip, with its undulating rhythm and dog-eared melodies, but “Every Age” is something a bit different from González. It’s an optimistic tune set over that ever-moving “Be My Baby” intro beat, with a message for the zeitgeist I’m hearing a lot lately: “Take your time, build a home, build a place where we all can belong.” Both are below:

Laura Marling False HopeLaura Marling’s gone electric on her next record, Short Movie, and — as always — she’s followed the muse in an inspired direction. Where a December glimpse at the title track offered a seamless transition from rousing folk-rock moments off her excellent last LP, “False Hope” leaves the acoustic guitars behind for good, complete with breathless, multi-tracked vocal accents and a rollicking, unhinged drum part. Hear both preview cuts below:

It’s been three years since Seth Avett broke out a poignant take on Elliott Smith’s “Angeles” for his band’s YouTube covers channel, soon followed by Jessica Lea Mayfield joining him on “Twilight” live. Turns out, the summer of ’11 had only just begun the pair’s off-and-on Smith covers project, now due this March. While previous live cuts and bits we hear in the album trailer below suggest a faithful set, bear in mind that’s no simple feat when it comes to channeling the complex underpinnings of Smith’s work. Striking a reverent tone without being overly precious isn’t easy either, so I’m interested to hear how their adept live takes move to the studio. The discography-spanning tracklist, along with a trailer and Avett’s early go at “Angeles,” are below:

Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith

01 “Between the Bars”
02 “Baby Britain”
03 “Fond Farewell”
04 “Somebody That I Used to Know”
05 “Let’s Get Lost”
06 “Twilight”
07 “Ballad of Big Nothing”
08 “Angel in the Snow”
09 “Pitseleh”
10 “Angeles”
11 “Roman Candle”
12 “Memory Lane”

Seth Avett Performs “Angeles”

The Barr Brothers Half CrazyBrad and Andrew Barr have been my favorite guitarist and drummer, respectively, since their time in New England trio the Slip. Now, with Sarah Page on harp and Andres Vial on keys, the Montreal quartet’s new set as the Barr Brothers, Sleeping Operator, arrives this fall. They’ve long pushed the envelope, unlocking genres from jazz to folk and world music, from psych-rock to at least one notable nod to classic rock. This outfit, though, is more bent on extending the traditional singer-songwriter palette. Case in point, new cut “Half Crazy” is described as an “offspring of the North African desert music of Mali/Morocco with the sweat and electricity of the Chicago and Mississippi Delta blues.” The result is a killer, off-kilter blues jam (dig the instrumental breakdown at 2:05). It’s best settled down by their own “Even the Darkness Has Arms”:

Jeff Tweedy SukieraeJeff and Spencer Tweedy’s new record isn’t due for two more months, but nearly half of the “solo album performed by a duo” is here for early spins. It’s called Sukierae, written by the Wilco frontman and conceived “from the very beginning” with his son on drums as the tunes took shape. Each cut so far delivers solid results, from the settled, Sunday afternoon number “Wait For Love” to the very Whole Love-esque “I’ll Sing It.” Their most recent preview, “Diamond Light Pt. 1,” stands out most, though, as a decidedly weirder reminder of the elder Tweedy’s YHF deconstructions. Father-son regardless, they’re a good band, team, duo, or whatever, etc. Hear all four below. The understated “Summer Noon” is a personal favorite.

“Summer Noon”

Bonnie Prince Billy Bad ManWill Oldham quietly released a self-titled record last fall under his longtime moniker Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, available only at shows and now directly from his site. Taking a foray from his label, Drag City, and any smidgen of internet hype, Oldham avoided announcements or even putting the LP up on iTunes. But now we have something official to share: “Bad Man,” an exemplary cut from the record, which is spare and left bare in solo-acoustic form. In keeping with the understated release, director Claudia Crobatia made a video that’s simple yet enigmatic. Just Will playing the tune in a bone-diamond frame, cuddling a puppy while a woman walks a dog… in a mask. It’s weird, and I dig it. Watch the clip above.

St. South Slacks VideoFollowing a pair of killer singles — “Slacks” and “Get Good” — Fremantle, Australia’s Olivia Gavranich finally has a St. South EP on the way. There’s a new official clip for the former, too: Director Laura Pennell recruited twins Pauline and Tarlina Fowler for scenes that open up the cut to deeper interpretation while not distracting from its inherent easy charm.

If you haven’t caught St. South yet, above is a fine introduction. The Cadence EP is due later this year.

I’ve seen Bill Callahan play a church and an old movie theater, but it’s rare to catch him at a house party, in France no less. This set went up in April, somewhere along the Dream River tour, yet without the band he brought along for most of it. In his own words, “The lighting is perfect. I can see the spit flying out of my mouth.” Any fan would love this stuff: Bill in a jovial spirit, slightly awkward in the intimate setting, singing solo-electric (not common except for this clip), and taking one request, an off-the-cuff run through “Drover.” He caps the 4-song set off with a cover of the Carter Family’s “Give Me Roses While I Live” above.

First Aid Kit Stockholm Strings Cedar LaneStockholm Strings, a quartet from Sweden who’ve played with Brian Wilson or anyone else seeking an ensemble beyond capable of accompanying fine tunes, just teamed up with hometown folk duo First Aid Kit for a live session. This song, “Cedar Lane,” is off their Mike Mogis-produced Stay Gold, the Söderberg sisters’ follow-up to The Lion’s Roar. The studio album is impressive, but this take pulls at the viola, violin, cello, and heartstrings even better. It’s inspired, filmed beautifully, and lovely — they should make a whole record together. Check it out above.

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