A weekly round-up of must-hear music recommended by Times staffers. This week's picks include the latest from veteran cult-favorites the Feelies, as well as new music from Jessie James Decker and Rose Cousins.
The Feelies, "In Between" (Bar None)
Hoboken, N.J., band the Feelies have issued a mere six albums over its four decades as a band, each a minimalist masterpiece of guitar-strummed energy and propellant rhythms. The new one is the first in six years and is as mesmerizing and catchy as anything the act has ever done.
In their '80s prime, the members of Feelies influenced a generation of bands including R.E.M. and the Smiths, but neither was able to maintain momentum over the long haul. The Feelies just keep rolling, though, patiently working on easy listening strum-rock.
Like most of their songs, the new ones are fueled by seemingly simple but absolutely engaging riff-based melodies, which launch from the starting gates like thoroughbreds at the Derby and run with focused power.
Though the songs are new, the album is hardly a departure. Each is immediately recognizable to anyone who knows the Feelies. "Been Replaced" opens with the sound of AM radio hiss and a nod to the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner" riff. "Flag Days" rolls with an ease as guitarists-producers Glenn Mercer and Bill Million fall into a meditative groove and gathers momentum with percussionists Dave Weckerman and Stan Demeski's archetypal rhythms. —Randall Roberts
Jessie James Decker, "Gold" (Epic)
The mother of two young children, this country singer holds it down for her fellow parents on her strong new EP, which includes the single "Lights Down Low," about making the most of a night when the babysitter wasn't available.
But if Decker's subject material has matured since the late 2000s — when she broke out as a happy troublemaker in cutoff jeans — she's still blending homey country twang with bright pop sparkle: In "Too Young to Know" her big voice floats over a bed of sleek synths, while "Shoot Out the Lights" (co-written by Maren Morris) has a killer bass line just begging for a club remix. "I gotta tell you / Lately we're a bit domesticated," she tells her hubby in the latter, "You and me and the TV every night." Then the chorus hits, promising a change of channel. —Mikael Wood
Rose Cousins, "Natural Conclusion" (Old Pony Farm)
Music aficionados have good reason to take notice when producer extraordinaire Joe Henry raves about an underappreciated artist. Of his recent sessions with Nova Scotia-based singer and songwriter Rose Cousins, Henry, who's worked with the likes of Allen Toussaint, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris and more, says: "She is one of the best singers I've ever worked with. (Note: I've worked with some good ones.)."
Indeed, Cousins' new album ever-so-gently but deeply caresses her exquisite vocals through a dozen songs that form an exploratory, intimate meditation on the mysteries of being human: identity, fraility, relationships, the nature of love and spiritual connection.