IRON & WINE, Beast Epic (Sub Pop): 3 STARS

Ostensibly about the ongoing process of maturing as an adult, Sam Beam’s songs offer provocative clues and images (“There ain’t a mother with a heart less than black and blue/ When they hold them to the light you can see right through”), but little resembling linear clarity. Some songs (“Claim Your Ghost,” “Call It Dreaming,” “Song in Stone,” “The Truest Stars We Know”) roll along like lovely, ear-pleasing rivers of melody and gently fingerpicked guitar, but others drift vaguely. Collectively they fashion a warmly enveloping mood that’s soothing, albeit disappointing. ironandwine.com

THE WAR ON DRUGS, A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic): 4 STARS

The roll-down-your-windows spaciousness of 2011’s “Slave Ambient” and 2014’s “Lost in the Dream” informs opener “Up All Night” (“I just stopped dreaming/ I’m stepping out into the world/ I’m stepping out into the light”). It’s soon crowded by frenetic drum machines, perhaps signaling bandleader Adam Granduciel’s more socially engaged. On his first major-label release, the Philly rocker reportedly solicited more creative input from his sextet, which likely explains the busier arrangements. What the deftly textured music’s lost in the dark beauty of his lonely guitar soundscapes it’s gained in a brighter sonic palette. Highlights: “Pain,” “Knocked Down,” the country-dusted epic “Thinking of a Place,” the Ryan Adams-esque “Clean Living.” thewarondrugs.net

LUKAS NELSON & PROMISE OF THE REAL, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (Fantasy): 3½ STARS

His singing may genetically echo Willie’s famous baritone, but Lukas Nelson isn’t cribbing from his father’s playbook on this satisfying outing. “Just Outside of Austin” and the Kristofferson-esque “Four Letter Word” evoke late-’60s/early ’70s country, but he sets his own groove with the funky “Find Yourself” (featuring Lady Gaga) and “Set Me Down on a Cloud,” boosted by Jesse Siebenberg’s gracefully emotive fretwork and Lucius’ gospel harmonies. “Forget About Georgia,” an eight-minute paean to lost, haunting love, delivers Nelson’s own poetically phrased vision to stirring effect. promiseofthereal.com

NO THEE NO ESS, California (Folkwit): 2½ STARS

Welsh duo Andy Fung and Paul Battenbough strive to repay creative debts to California bands like Grandaddy and the Grateful Dead with a set laced with psychedelic rock, narcotic harmonies and electronic effects. It’s a mixed bag. The spacey title track, “Plainsong,” the unsettling “1960 Alpha” and “City of Dreams” (“Open your mind to the possibilities of your life”) best capture their view of California as a shifting state of mind. But it needs more melodic hooks to make it an inviting place. notheenoess.co.uk