Medium Rotation — Take It Like a Man; Surrender

AMANDA SHIRES Take It Like a Man (ATO Records) — There’s a lot of backstory that can be weighed when listening to Take It Like a Man, the eighth solo album from Amanda Shires. By her own accounting, Shires was almost ready to ditch the music biz altogether until a fruitful new collaboration with producer Lawrence Rothman (who’s had their own lauded releases and pitched in on equally celebrated albums by others, including Angel Olsen). The real tea out of the cup and soaking the table for indie credential listeners is that Shires explicitly addresses relationship strife with her hubby, Jason Isbell, maybe most notably on “Fault Lines,” a plaintive tune that could have come straight from Petty’s Wildflowers (“There’s nothing left to fix/ You could say I lost my grip/ Say whatever feels better or whatever/ You can just say I’m crazy.” As a songwriter who uses piercing honesty that way others use quarter notes, this should be expected. That doesn’t diminish the power of it. Aside from all that context, though, Tell It Like.a Man is a fierce, powerful collection of songs all of its own merits. It calls to mind I Am Shelby Lynne, the phenomenal 2000 album that found the title artist adding some Memphis soul to her Nashville twang. Sure, Shires brings a perfect Nashville vocal flutter to the emotional peaks of the achingly Parton-esque ballad “Empty Cups,” but the more telling track — which is also more characteristic of the album as a whole — is opener “Hawk for the Dove.” It’s reminiscent of the mildly spooky stuff Stevie Nicks and others did in the phantom zone between nineteen-seventies bombast and nineteen-eighties slickness. Shires resides in a place of pure invention, and welcomes everyone in to hear the tuneful truth in all her earned wisdom. In addition to those named above, take in the prime cuts “Fault Lines,” “Here He Comes,” “Bad Behavior,” and “Lonely at Night.”

MAGGIE ROGERS Surrender (Capitol) — Consider it the ultimate extra credit for cool kids: Maggie Rogers is surely the only person to earn a Master of Religion and Public Life degree in the Harvard Divinity School Class of 2022 who has a full-length studio album to share as companion piece to their thesis. Surrender, the second full-length for Rogers, shares a title with the major piece of scholarship she turned in to earn the MRPL after her name. The quality of the paper is up to her professors to decide, but anyone with ears can discern that the record is quite the curve-wrecker. Rogers is introspective and expansive at the same time, crafting songs that wrangle with the sort of existential fretting that should be expecting from someone with an advanced degree in a field of big questions. Rogers’s sound is bigger and bolder than before. What was one a sundress twirl is now a fist slammed into a cupped palm. “That’s Where I Am” has a buzzy energy, and “Be Cool” flashes just enough of a modern pop touch to almost believe it could storm the charts in a landscape more amenable to those outside of the algorithm-industrial complex. Musical intricacy remains her semi-secret weapon. For instance, “I’ve Got a Friend” is like Rogers is trying to position herself as a more sparely experimental Rickie Lee Jones for our current age. Book learnin’ has rarely sounded so good. Wave your white flag before the following tracks: “Overdrive,” “Want Want,” “Begging for Rain,” “I’ve Got a Friend,” and “Symphony.”

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