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Charles Bradley, Waxahatchee and Dawes 

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Charles Bradley

Victim of Love

Dunham/Daptones Records

File next to: Bettye LaVette, Bobby Rush

Charles Bradley, whose 2011 debut album, No Time for Dreaming, made him an overnight sensation at the age of 62, is back with Victim of Love, another set of brilliant soul. Recorded with the Menahan Street Band, Victim of Love is driven by punchy horns, serious grooves and Bradley's raw, emotional vocals. The songs cover all the soul and emotional bases from heartbroken ballads, like "Crying in the Chapel" (not a cover) to the funky "Love Bug Blues" and the killer Motown-meets-Stax "You Put the Flame On It." There are plenty who try to compare Bradley (known as the "Screaming Eagle of Soul") to '60s soul legends like Otis Redding and James Brown, but he's really more the male counterpart to Bettye LaVette, a powerhouse singer who's at long last been discovered and is delivering some of the best classic soul you're going to hear any time. — L Kent Wolgamott

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Waxahatchee

Cerulean Salt

Don Giovanni Records

File next to: Sharon Van Etten, early Cat Power

Katie Crutchfield has been involved in a variety of bands, two of them with her twin sister Allison. In 2011, she elected to make a solo album, American Weekend, under the name Waxahatchee. Her individual-as-band debut was a four-track, lo-fi affair, but very endearing. On Cerulean Salt, Waxahatchee expands to a threesome whose bigger sound won much attention at NPR's SXSW showcase. Does the album live up to the hype? For fans of sincere, direct folk tunes with rock rhythms, the answer is yes. Even if a couple songs like "Tangled Envisioning" get twisted up in post-teen angst, Katie's best tracks here ("You're Damaged," "Swan Dive") are minor classics. Meanwhile, full-band versions of earlier songs like "Be Good" and "Noccalula" have begun showing up on YouTube. Hopefully, Waxahatchee will survive long enough to capture them on a future live album. — Loring Wirbel

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Dawes

Stories Don't End

HUB

File Next to: Josh Ritter, Josh Rouse

The magic of Dawes' third album, Stories Don't End, can be found in its emotional content. These 12 country, rock and Americana tracks talk about love, life and what makes us human in a very tangible way, with powerful stories augmented by frontman Taylor Goldsmith's impassioned vocals. The L.A. band's third album opens and closes with "Just Beneath the Surface," a trick that works brilliantly because, unlike most reprises, this one takes the song in a different folk direction with new lyrics that add depth to the opening version. "Someone Will," the album's biggest highlight, hits you with beautiful imagery and powerful emotion, and then shocks you at the end by revealing that the song isn't about what you think it is, while the swelling rocker "Something in Common" bursts at the seams with hope for the future. A couple minor missteps notwithstanding, Stories Don't End is damn near perfect. — Brian Palmer

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