Carrie Underwood’s first single from Storyteller tells a story.
Anyone who thought that the country superstar was too posh to wax blue collar is in for a surprise. “Smoke Break” is a lighter-hoisting anthem for the working people. Underwood’s narrative spins a salt-of-the-earth country rocker that empathizes with anyone who has ever flirted with their vices after a stressful day. –Eric Shea
Longhaired, bellbottomed riff worship from Down Under.
Aussie, hard rock heads Hydromedusa deliver some serious, seventies style, retro-psych, proto-metal swagger. They infuse a classic psychedelic heaviness with bristling punk rock energy. Hydromedusa sounds like it could be a genuine lost psych rock artifact from back in the day, brimming with big riffs, fuzzy bass, yowled vox and yeah, cowbell! –Andee Connors
Halsey Storms the Stage.
Thank the internet for Lorde, Lana Del Rey and Tove Lo, whose accessible yet quirky pop found online audiences ravenous for something authentic. New Jerseyite Halsey has already conquered social media, and her electronica-inflected debut BADLANDS offers anthems for the outcast: “Survival of the richest,” goes “New Americana,” “the city’s ours until the fall.” –Party Ben
Beach House Explores Timeless Reverie
Baltimore duo Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally makes music that seems both cutting edge (#chillwave!) and eternal. Their fuzzy melodies conjure up lullabies, classic girl groups and My Bloody Valentine. A press release promises their fifth album Depression Cherry “ignores their commercial context,” and it shows: this is a pure statement of hypnotic, humming bliss. –Party Ben
Segunda to none
Milka La Más Dura is one of the few female voices in Dembow Dominicano. While that has limited her reach commercially, she is one of the most developed artists in the genre, flaunting a full skillset, punctuated by a refreshing perspective, mucho flow and consistent production, provided here on the Bubloy produced banger Plato De Segunda Mesa. (Milka La Mas Dura) Marcos Juarez
Classic ‘90s bubblegum punk rockers The Muffs go back into their archive.
Having returned last year with Whoop De Doo – their first album in 10 years – leader Kim Shattuck and group have reissued their first self-titled LP, along with a bonus Demos album full of delightful toughness and grit, topped off by traces of tape hiss. Raw power! –Michelle Solomon
Colorado quartet injects the rockabilly genre with octane boost.
At first, the vintage tones swing and punch – like early ‘60s Wanda Jackson possessing a young Joan Jett as backed by the Stray Cats. But after looking under the hood of Let’s Do This Thing, there’s much more here than a classic engine. Former Informants members deliver some next level you-know-what. –Eric Shea