Taylor Swift, Oumar Konate and Heather Maloney with the new and noteworthy 

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Taylor Swift, Lover (Republic) – Given the self-serving hype and thoroughly awful single “ME!” preceding the album release, there was every reason to expect Swift had fallen deeper into the self-reflective celebrity musings of her last album. Thankfully, the vast 18-track Lover combines gentle feminism, a collaborative work with St. Vincent (“Cruel Summer”), and a return to the pop playfulness of 2012’s Red. Better yet, Swift is walking the talk by actions such as re-recording her back catalog to avoid being exploited by producers. Nevertheless, this is only a first step in returning to relevance.

Oumar Konate, I Love You, Inna (Clermont Music) – Konate, arguably Mali’s finest guitarist, has not offered a solo album for five years, but this 10-track work shows off a maturing high-tenor voice as well as superior guitar licks. The most distinctive songs, including the title track and “Badje Bisindje,” are fine dance numbers, but the final track “Wa Toto” shows that Konate is not afraid of taking political stances.

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Heather Maloney
, Soil in the Sky (Signature Sounds) – Massachusetts songwriter Maloney released an eclectic EP in early 2017 on some odd and charming topics. But she has saved her best recent works, such as “All in Your Name” and “One Hundred Pennies” for this lush fifth studio album exquisitely produced by her collaborator Ryan Hommel. It features guest appearances by Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith and Lake Street Dive’s Rachael Price, but the real centerpiece is Maloney herself, finding her voice in fine fashion.


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