GLEN HANSARD, This Wild Willing (Anti): ****

The Oscar-winning songwriter’s restlessness compels him to freshen his compositional approach — and keeps him interesting, even through missteps. This pronounced turn from the rock and soul of last year’s “Between Two Shores” combines electronica, African percussion and Middle Eastern instruments to otherworldly effect — notably during “Fools Game,” with Aida Shahghasemi’s closing vocal enveloping the song like silky balm. The cinematic build of “Good Life of Song” inspires uilleann pipe dreams, while “Brother’s Keeper” and the Celtic-flavored “Mary” recall the melodic folk storytelling of 2015’s “Didn’t He Ramble.” The theatrical orchestration of “Don’t Settle” matches Hansard’s full-throated delivery, but elsewhere the titular wildness emerges not from his trademark yowl but the ambitious, improvisation-birthed music. glenhansard.com

AHMED AG KAEDY, Akaline Kidal (Sahel Sounds): ****

Guitarist Ag Kaedy and his Amanar bandmates fled their northern Mali hometown of Kidal when it was overtaken by extremist invaders in 2012; he’s since lived in exile in Bamako. Recorded last year on an eight-track cassette recorder in Portland, Oregon, these 12 solo acoustic tracks have the piercing immediacy of heartbreak, as Ag Kaedy sings (in Tuareg) and plays guitar like a man haunted, bound to hope for what he knows cannot be recovered. There’s political import in songs like the hypnotically subdued title track (“It’s become like the ruins of a civilization”), composed in Tuareg folk tradition, but the beautiful humanity of his message strives for healing. Highlights: “Imetawan,” “Tikaras,” “Azaman.” amanardekidal.bandcamp.com/album/akaline-kidal

LEE FIELDS & THE EXPRESSIONS, It Rains Love (Big Crown): ***

Over five decades the veteran singer’s fine-grained rasp and passion for classic soul have remained abiding constants. Love, faith, and hard times are recurrent themes here, and he alludes to forebears (“Can I get a witness over there?”) during the fake news-decrying “Wake Up.” “Love Prisoner” and “A Promise is a Promise” dig into funkier grooves, and Fields testifies like a revival preacher over dirty drums and organ for “God is Real,” but this smooth, smartly charted set mostly sings the praises of honest romance. leefieldsandtheexpressions.com

BIBIO, Ribbons  (Warp): ***

Sixteen tracks of folk prettiness from prolific British multi-instrumentalist/producer Stephen Wilkinson, informed by 1960s-’70s British, Irish and American folk and pop. “Pretty Ribbons and Lovely Flowers,” which gives the album its title, is an odd mash of metallic chirps and disembodied vocals, while “Curls” and “Ode to a Nuthatch” evoke sweet meadows; fingerpicked guitar patterns cascading through “Erdaydidder-Erdiddar” devolve into electronic weirdness. More noteworthy: the bucolic “The Art of Living,” “Patchouli May,” the then-and-now R&B grooves of “Before” and “Old Graffiti.” bibio.co