THE POSIES, Solid States (MyMusicEmpire): 4 Stars

The ’90s power-pop darlings return with more keyboards and fewer guitars, the still-boyish harmonies between Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow brightening the cynical “M Doll” (“If I speak low it’s ’cause I’m afraid what comes if I’m understood/ In this dystopia of the free/ A little channel for you and me”), “The Sound of Clouds” and “Squirrel vs Snake,” which lends the album its title (“Don’t trust no guy who says he needs to be relied on/ Or a government that says I should be spied on”). Polished, smartly written, gratifyingly studded with hooks and provocative songs. Playing Pop Up Secret Show in Pasadena Friday.


AMOS LEE, Spirit (Republic): 3.5 Stars

The Philly troubadour leans hard into soul influences throughout this warmly produced set, whose New Orleans-inspired title track sums up the prevailing theme of searching for spiritual relief, augmented by romantic R&B jams (“Till You Come Back Through”). Opening piano phrases establish this isn’t as folky as past efforts, then Lee layers on organ, horns, strings and a gospel-like choir that boosts the jubilant uplift of songs like “Running Out of Time,” “One Lonely Night” and funky bonus track “Don’t Leave Me Lonely.” At Ace Hotel in Downtown LA Friday-Saturday, Nov. 11-12.





HOUSE OF WATERS, House of Waters  (GroundUP): 3 Stars

An ear-enticing fusion of jazz exploration, global percussion and hammered dulcimer, the traditional instrument that anchors this decidedly untraditional trio. Priya Darshini’s vocal adds human focus to the percussion-driven drama of “Hamza,” but otherwise this is an instrumental enterprise. “Francesco” opens with guest Dave Eggar’s resonant cello, soon joined by Max ZT’s virtuosic hammered dulcimer, whose trilling solo gradually swells into rock-like crescendos; another solo and West African drum patterns lift “Black Mallard” to dynamic heights. The sonic palette’s fresh and intriguing, though more vocals would be welcome.




JIM JAMES, Eternally Even (ATO): 3 Stars

The erstwhile My Morning Jacket frontman’s heavily processed “Same Old Lie” could be a theme song for 2016’s wackadoodle election season: “Stretch it out a little, try to milk every last dime/ Hate crime, shelter lines, trying to take what’s yours and mine/ Is there any peace to be found in our lifetime.” That’s followed by the synth-swaddled “Here in Spirit,” conveying this nine-track set’s only encouraging message (“If you don’t speak out, we can’t hear it”) over hypnotic beats. Downtempo, sometimes funky grooves surprise — like James, who consistently confounds expectations.