OFFA REX, The Queen of Hearts

(Nonesuch): 4 STARS

The Decemberists serve as sympatico backing band for acclaimed British vocalist Olivia Chaney on strikingly arranged renderings of English and Celtic folk tunes. It’s an inspired collaboration. Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy co-produces with Tucker Martine, and their melodic folk-rock orchestrations enrich classic ballads like “The Old Churchyard,” “Flash Company,” the 17th-century title track, the Steeleye Span-popularized “Blackleg Miner” (sung by Meloy), and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” — which, as delivered by Chaney over droning harmonium, hauntingly reinvents the song. offarex.co

TOKO TELO, Toy Raha Toy

(Anio): 3½ STARS

A warmly ingratiating album debut from three of Madagascar’s foremost musical luminaries — guitarist D’Gary, full-throated contralto and percussionist Monika Njava and accordionist Régis Gizavo — revisiting traditional Malagasy tunes. D’Gary’s probably most familiar with US audiences, thanks to previous collaborations with Bela Fleck and David Lindley; his swiftly arpeggiated fretwork shapes rhythms as well as emotions of earthy tales addressing superstition, the comforts of home, dislocation, and the environmental destruction that’s decimated Madagascar’s forests and farmland. Highlights: the soulful “Be Tepotepo (Fearful),” joyous “Relaza,” “Hainao Moa.” toko-telo.com

MADISON CUNNINGHAM, Love, Lose, Remember

(Independant): 4 STARS

Working with members of Joe Henry’s musical tribe — producer/bassist/keyboardist Tyler Chester, drummer Jay Bellrose, guitarists Adam Levy and Sean Watkins — the Southland artist is reminiscent of “Court and Spark”-era Joni Mitchell in her clear tone, lyrical intelligence and melodic reach. Even with guitars, piano, strings and subtle horns in the mix, the EP’s elegant arrangements are more spare than her 2014 debut, “Authenticity,” which thematically reflected her background singing with her family’s ministry. Cunningham sounds precociously wise pondering identity and lessons learned with standout tracks like “Remember, Remember,” “When Love Loves Alone” and “To Another Land” (“I wish that I could escape myself/ But they said trains don’t go out that far”). madisoncunningham.com

SHEER MAG, Need to Feel Your Love

(Wilsun): 3 STARS

The Philly punk-rockers up the production values and diversify arrangements for their debut album, which follows three rougher EPs. Frontwoman Tina Halladay’s heavily reverbed snarls ricochet against guitarist Kyle Seely’s electric leads and Matt Palmer’s acoustic sweetening on in-your-face tracks like “Meet Me In the Street” and “Can’t Play It Cool.” Her confrontational style’s jarring though still effective during stylistic stretches like the jangly “Milk and Honey” and “(Say Goodbye to) Sophie Scholl,” about the nonviolent WWII activist beheaded by Nazis. sheermag.bandcamp.com