Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else (Bloodshot Records)
What a better world we’d live in if America’s teenage girls admired this fearless Ohio cow punk instead of Taylor Swift. As impressive as Indestructible Machine was when she made her Bloodshot debut in 2011, Loveless’ third and latest is simply stunning, showing even more musical and lyrical maturity. That barn-burning voice! That hell-raising attitude! She’s no goody two-shoes—she’s got her unhealthy crushes and bad habits, to be sure—but neither is she ever anything less than a paradigm of fully empowered self-respect.
Rating on the four-star scale: 4 stars.
Angel Olsen, Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar)
On her third album, this St. Louis to Chicago to North Carolina transplant summons not so much the Patsy Cline-meets-Leonard Cohen pastiche that many critics are hailing but rather a more rootsy, less pretentious early Liz Phair. The vocals are captivating when she’s in sing-speak mode, but the lyrics grab you even harder: “I heard my mother thinking me right back into my birth/I laughed so loud inside myself it all began to hurt,” she sings in “White Fire.” Potent stuff.
Rating on the four-star scale: 3.5 stars.