WATCHA CLAN, Babel On (Piranha):  3.5/5
Conceptualizing the biblical Tower of Babel as a radio tower, the inventive French ensemble meld their European melodic sense with North African percussion, Middle Eastern rhythms and electronic beats — not to mention occasional sound effects like crowing roosters and tweeting birds. Their transcontinental approach is musically engaging, their all-are-one theme most effective on the hypnotic “With or Without the Wall,” “Hasnaduro” and “Ashanti,” three tracks that are also rhythmically insistent invitations to dance. At California Plaza in downtown LA Saturday. watchaclan.com


THE MILK CARTON KIDS, Prologue (self-released):  4/5
As Joe Henry’s liner notes eloquently express, the symbiotic connection between Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan’s voices and guitars evokes memories of early Jayhawks. That’s no slight praise. Their quietly intense reveries invite listeners to drift down their melodic streams. Sprightly fingerpicking lifts the somber mood on a few numbers, but it’s inwardly focused ruminations like “Michigan” and the title track (“This ain’t no time for regret/ To witness without mercy but neither to forget/ If we keep lookin’ backwards it’ll break our net”) that resonate. At McCabe’s in Santa Monica Aug. 13. themilkcartonkids.com


KEB’ MO’, The Reflection (Rykodisc):  3/5
The former Angeleno blues guitarist’s move to Nashville hooked him up with top-drawer players and tunesmiths, but it also solidified an artistic embrace of lite jazz and R&B. Guest Dave Koz helps smooth the edges off the Eagles’ “One of These Nights,” a song built to express raw, sensual need. Vince Gill’s emotive tenor, on the other hand, enhances “My Baby’s Tellin’ Lies,” while India.Arie’s charisma lights up the gently grooving duet “Crush on You.” It’s all handsomely produced and easy on the ear…and blues-free. At the Hollywood Bowl Wednesday with Robert Cray and Mavis Staples. Kebmo.com


JESSE SYKES & THE SWEET HEREAFTER, Marble Son (Station Grey/Thirty Tigers):  3.5/5
The Seattle songstress’ fourth album retains her noirish vibe, but the atmosphere’s more angry than hushed, Sykes’ breathy warble (think Marianne Faithfull, on pitch) counterbalanced by guitarist/organist Phil Wandscher’s stormy fretwork. Rocking tracks like “Hushed By Devotion,” “Pleasuring the Divine” and “Weight of Cancer” may stun and even alienate fans of the country-dusted sound of Sykes’ early albums, but the music bristles with electric tension and ambitious vision. At Roots Roadhouse at the Echo in Echo Park Aug 14. Jessesykes.com