Tal Rosenberg, Reader digital content editor
The Raincoats, The Raincoats Four feminists tell fairy tales in the supermarket—probably the closest a hoedown, a tropicalia concert, and jump rope on the playground have come to being combined on record. My favorite track is "Life on the Line," which is the most joy-inducing song ever written about a paranoid schizophrenic committing suicide by lying down on train tracks.
Franco, Francophonic, Vol. 1 A Congolese guitarist and bandleader who made some of the most beautiful and uplifting music to emerge from the fingers, feet, and minds of mankind. Volume 2 is also terrific but this is better, both for its range and for the quality of the songs. "Infidelité Mado" has a melody that Motown would buy, then follows a guitar line into nirvana.
Matthew Halsall, Colour Yes My favorite contemporary jazz album of recent memory. Halsall is a Mancunian trumpeter—his playing isn't mind-blowing, but he has a gift for writing great melodies. Though not as groundbreaking or technically impressive as either, this album borrows the best from Coltrane's Giant Steps and Bill Evans's Waltz for Debby.