Sen Svaja: Kraitis iš pelkės / Dowry from a Swamp

Three women who present themselves as pixies, mixing real and mythic realms. Three pillars: Smart theatricality; venue (a biodiverse marsh); and group name (Sen Svaja), from an Old Prussian term meaning “with family,” implying not only blood but also those adopted from outside. The sundry elements of Dowry from a Swamp work and play in the service of darkly magical folk songs, five from the … More Sen Svaja: Kraitis iš pelkės / Dowry from a Swamp

Jesse & Joy: Aire

Every lyric has three dimensions: Surface meaning (often the only facet listeners discern); background inspiration and context; and new interpretations that come from projecting songs onto future landscapes. On its face Aire, Jesse & Joy’s fifth album, is an intoxicating journey through love—budding, burning, struggling, crumbling—delivered in a lush blend of reggaeton, hip-hop, folk and pop/rock ballads, with guest appearances by J Balvin and Luis Fonsi. But … More Jesse & Joy: Aire

Helene Blum & Harald Haugaard Band: Strømmen

In poetry and prose, flowing water is a common metaphor for life and history, constancy and destiny. But there’s nothing common about Strømmen (The Current), which meanders with calm majesty through timeless landscapes. Helene Blum and Harald Haugaard are a lyricist-composer couple (in art and life), she a nightingale of club and concert hall, he a virtuoso fiddler, together peerless navigators and … More Helene Blum & Harald Haugaard Band: Strømmen

Maria Monda

Civilizations through the ages have paid homage to the Earth, but today planet reverence at best coexists with environmental abuse. And while the debut album by the Portuguese trio Maria Monda sounds like traditional wisdom and makes no mention of global warming, its very restraint makes a powerful, modern case for protecting Mother Nature. Sofia Adriana Portugal, Susana Quaresma and Tânia Cardoso met at Lisbon’s School of Theater … More Maria Monda

Ásgeir: Bury the Moon / Sátt

There’s a lot in play on Ásgeir’s third album and at any moment some features are prominent while others are concealed. The songs are constant in tone but richly layered: Musically a mix of traditional folk and folktronica with forays into jazz and R&B (several with alternate acoustic and electronic videos), thematically they range from meditations on nostalgia and heartbreak to the power and vulnerability of nature, with Iceland’s stark and magical landscape … More Ásgeir: Bury the Moon / Sátt

Dina e Mel: Bërbili

The seed for Bërbili (Nightingale) was planted in 1999 when a professor asked musicology student Dina Bušić to research and record music representing her heritage. On her mother’s side she is Arbanasi, descended from eighteenth-century Albanian Catholic refugees who settled in her home town of Zadar, Croatia, when the city was a stronghold of the Venetian Republic. The descendants lost much of their culture but retained their Albanian dialect into … More Dina e Mel: Bërbili

Pharis and Jason Romero: Bet on Love

They met at a fiddle jam in 2007 and married three months later; they live outside Horsefly, British Columbia, a village of 1,000 souls in the foothills of the Cariboo Mountains, where they build and sell banjos and raise their two children. Among the storybook details of their life together, the rarest is the music Pharis and Jason Romero make, a folk-country-bluegrass hybrid so fresh they might have picked … More Pharis and Jason Romero: Bet on Love

Cris Gera: Music in Me / Nziyo Dziri Mandiri

The singer-songwriter Cris Gera recorded his latest album, Music In Me/Nziyo Dziri Mandiri, in 2016, but more than three years passed before its release. The eight-track collection is a lively Afro-jazz/pop/R&B mix about love, hope and the challenges of everyday life in Zimbabwe, but a ninth song recorded separately and released only on social media grabbed the spotlight, eliciting death threats … More Cris Gera: Music in Me / Nziyo Dziri Mandiri

Mahsa Vahdat: Enlighten the Night

Paradox or simple fact, the greatest expressions of freedom often emerge from landscapes where it is conspicuous by its absence. Having grown up in a nation that prohibits public singing by women, the Iranian vocalist-musician Mahsa Vahdat knows the push-pull of oppression and resilience. She sings truth to force in the form of classical and contemporary Persian poems, put to music with … More Mahsa Vahdat: Enlighten the Night

El Pony Pisador: Matricular una Galera

They are zany, surreal and buoyant, bathtub mariners and virtuosos who sweep through a composition like a storm, leaving behind a perfect mosaic of disparate elements. Five guys from Barcelona who have never gone to sea, El Pony Pisador surfs the soundwaves, inspired by Lord of the Rings (they imagined their earliest gigs as playing “hobbit party music”) and the comic strip figures Asterix and … More El Pony Pisador: Matricular una Galera