RYAN PORTER,The Optimist  

(World Galaxy): 4 STARS

Recorded in 2008-’09 at the Shack, this two-disc set from West Coast Get Down trombonist Porter captures the WCGD crew before “The Epic” made their cramped recording space legendary and saxophonist Kamasi Washington a spiritual jazz lion. Sizzling opener “The Psalmist” and “Obamanomics” capture the jubilant spirit of the time, when Porter, Washington, bassist Miles Mosley, drummer Tony Austin and keyboardist Cameron Graves were hustling to survive yet hopeful. You can feel their creative ambition in the rubbery bounce and bold solos of “Strugglesville” and 17-minute “Chocolate Nuisance,” and their hunger. worldgalaxyrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-optimist



(Stax/Bottleneck): 3½ STARS

Once upon a time eight-man soul/R&B bands were a familiar sight, but the economics of touring landed them on the endangered species list decades ago. Burly frontman Rateliff and his Denver-based Night Sweats are hardy survivors. That gives a visceral charge to these 12 songs, worked up with producer Richard Swift, particularly during romping tracks like lead single “You Worry Me,” “Shoe Boot,” horn-reveling “Intro” and strummy Americana ballad “Hey Mama” that pair bedrock conviction with loose, conversational directness. It’s compulsively listenable, and a long way from Rateliff’s Born in the Flood days. nathanielrateliff.com



(More Doug): 4 STARS

“It’s over now/ The flag is sunk/ The world has flattened out”: Transcending Americana tropes of previous recordings, the Boston quartet reference “bikini snow” burning underfoot in “Futures” and “mushroom clouds” in the opening title track, which imagines living inside an arcade video game and dimensions beyond. It’s a thematically ambitious, musically layered set. Clarinet, flugelhorn, synthesizer and trumpet add sleek textures to the chamber-folk instrumentation of banjoist/guitarist Don Mitchell, mandolinist/violinist Auyon Mukharji, cellist/guitarist Harris Paseltiner and bassist David Senft, whose centerpiece harmonies evoke the Beach Boys and Fleet Foxes. Rarely has apocalyptic reportage sounded this unperturbedly beautiful. At the Echo in Echo Park Thursday, March 8. darlingside.com


CAROLINE COTTER, Home on the River

(self-released): 3 STARS

A sure sense of self and purpose imbues this New England singer-songwriter’s sophomore album, whose vivid natural imagery was inspired by recent travels. More celebratory than searching, Cotter notes how home roots deepen across distance. There’s a throwback appeal to her pure tones, acoustic simplicity and simple, idealistic affirmations, yet “Peace of Mind,” “Found” and Woody and Arlo Guthrie’s a cappella “My Peace” feel timely. At Bar Lubitsch in West Hollywood Tuesday, March 13, and Wine & Song in South Pasadena March 14. carolinecotter.com