Laia Llach: Sol d’hivern

Darwin believed love songs began as a primeval mating ritual and Byron heard melody in the roar of the deep sea. Romance and nature are the oldest tropes in music and also the newest; every song on these themes we hear today connects us with humanity’s long arc. There are, of course, artists of greater and lesser import: One who certainly deserves to be heard widely is the Catalan singer-songwriter Laia Llach, whose dulcet voice flows the eight … More Laia Llach: Sol d’hivern

Sona Jobarteh: Badinyaa Kumoo

Maya Angelou observed that some people can’t recognize opportunity right before their eyes, “while others can sense a good thing coming when it is days, months or miles away.” No wonder that, in the liner notes of her latest album, the Gambian musician-singer-songwriter Sona Jobarteh—herself accustomed to overcoming obstacles to reach good outcomes—cites the American poet as a role model. After a grounding in classical music (cello, piano, harpsichord … More Sona Jobarteh: Badinyaa Kumoo

Ruth Keggin & Rachel Hair: Lossan

It’s easy to observe that Lossan, a collaboration between Manx singer Ruth Keggin and Scottish harpist Rachel Hair, is an exquisite collection of ballads, lullabies and jigs from the Isle of Man—and difficult to overstate the album’s transcendent mission. Keggin’s voice is not only pure it’s also pivotal: In addition to a performer she is also the Manx Language Development Officer, so designated by Culture Vannin (the Manx Heritage Foundation) … More Ruth Keggin & Rachel Hair: Lossan

Lucibela: Amdjer

Lucibela’s soft and lovely voice calms as it penetrates the din of club, street or civilization. On her second album she presents stories that illuminate Cape Verde, her homeland archipelago, and distant shores as well. Amdjer (Woman) is a tribute to her sister citizens, their daily joys and travails, relationships, work, raising children, reflecting their culture but also demonstrating that, as the artist puts it, “What happens to Cape Verdean women happens to … More Lucibela: Amdjer

Minyeshu: Netsa

The year 2020 brought a global pandemic, but for Minyeshu Kifle Tedla it also inspired Netsa (Free), her fifth album. The Ethiopian singer-songwriter (who lives in Amsterdam) viewed the unexpected hiatus from touring and the shared threat to all humanity as causes for introspection, posing questions about life and career. She churned her meditations into a collection—alternately explosive, gentle and mystical—of 10 songs exploring love, memory, heritage, nature … More Minyeshu: Netsa

Palms Station: Stand Together. Fall Apart.

Forget the billionaires’ rockets: Commonfolk have probed the heavens for millennia through the power of music. Case in point—Stand Together, Fall Apart by Palms Station (aka Hillel Tigay), a nine-track exploration of despair and hope across a between-stops universe. It’s an exhilarating ride, starting with I Don’t Know the Way to Your Heart (video 1), suspended between cosmos and concrete, words and chords ringing like incantations. Is the song about … More Palms Station: Stand Together. Fall Apart.

Souad Massi: Sequana

Like water, music flows; like music, water heals. Souad Massi may not be the first artist to link the two essential life forces, but on her seventh studio album she combines them in spectacular and oracular fashion. Sequana takes its name from the Gallo-Roman goddess of the Seine, with wellsprings believed to have curative powers. In pandemic solitude, the Franco-Algerian singer-songwriter would walk along the riverbank in Paris, where she found … More Souad Massi: Sequana

Lily Henley: Oras Dezaoradas

Like Appalachian dew at sunrise, Lily Henley’s voice sparkles on her second full-length album, but beneath the surface of her songs run forces that have rearranged landscapes for more than 500 years. The pillars of Oras Dezaoradas (Timeless Hours) are the artist’s nomadic childhood, her family having moved more than a dozen times; the fiddle camps she attended every summer that became an … More Lily Henley: Oras Dezaoradas

Khiyo: Bondona

Khiyo emerged when Sohini Alam, a singer born in London to Bangladeshi parents, met Oliver Weeks, a Gloucester-born musician-composer steeped in Bengali culture. Their work together reflects nothing less than the laws of chemistry and the story of humanity: Two entities combine to produce something new that shows its roots but also develops independent force and identity. The music of their now six-member band (plus guests) is Bengali folk … More Khiyo: Bondona

Iberi: Supra

High ground is supposed to be secure, but Georgia’s perch in the Caucasus Mountains hasn’t kept out invaders—from Romans to Russians, with other empires in between. Still, time seems to be on the country’s side. Georgians have a winemaking tradition going back 8,000 years and a heritage of polyphonic singing that predates their fourth-century adoption of Christianity. Wine, music, history and dedication to homeland all merge on Supra … More Iberi: Supra