Baroness, "Gold & Grey"
Baroness may well be Philly's most beloved working band. Leader and in-demand visual artist John Baizley miraculously survived a tour bus crash so traumatic that his original rhythm section quit afterward. And five albums into a hot streak that's won him plaudits and converts who don't normally associate with metal at all, he takes another great leap forward with "Gold & Grey."
It's easily their softest album, filled with acoustic and instrumental passages between trademark high-wire set pieces for Baizley and new lead guitarist Gina Gleason. The technical displays are often the selling point – just try the Mobius strip fretwork on "Tourniquet" or Sebastian Thomsen's beehive-kicking drum hysterics on "Seasons."
The nearly gorgeous "Throw Me an Anchor" may be the band's peak on every level, and it ain't one of the slow ones. But Baizley's one-note singing is growing as monotonous as Future's Auto-Tune (which also grows wearying over 17 tracks) and often the departures meant to impress on a metal album (the ballad "I'd Do Anything," the dirge "Emmett – Radiating Light") trade the accessibility of 2015's thundering "Purple" for downright conventionality. — Dan Weiss
Jonas Brothers, "Happiness Begins"
The now-adult Jonas Brothers – Kevin, Joe and Nick – are making grown-and-sexy music without losing its kiddish charm.
The band's fifth studio album – its first since 2009's "Lines, Vines and Trying Times," and the solo careers of Nick and Joe – find the brothers tackling more risque, emotional turf than they did in their past. There's a reason that the irresistible vocal harmonies, sumptuous melody and stop-starting rhythm of "Sucker" gave the Jonas' the first No. 1 single of its career.
The same can be said of the vocal unity that fuels the down tempo "Cool," and its fizzy guitars and the ardent pop of "Every Single Time." Plus, anyone looking for Nick and Joe to up-the-ante on whose got the creamier falsetto can listen in to "I Believe" and Joe's steamy "Hesitate," each written for that Jonas' respective brides — A.D. Amorosi
Jimmie Vaughan, "Baby, Please Come Home"
(The Last Music Company)
Jimmie Vaughan never possessed the guitar-hero aura of his late younger brother, Stevie Ray. Not many have. But he's a musician's musician, commanding the respect of his peers for his talent and his instincts.
With "Baby, Please Come Home," the Texan and former Fabulous Thunderbird continues his commitment to the blues, the music that first inspired him more than 50 years ago. It's determinedly old-school, as Vaughan revisits numbers by artists from T-Bone Walker, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, and Jimmy Reed to Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, and even country's Lefty Frizzell. Working with longtime accompanists, Vaughan doesn't try to reinvent these chestnuts, but he does get to their heart, showing how thoroughly he has absorbed the music. And when he does fire off a guitar solo, true to his nature it's short and to the point, as is the set as a whole (the 11 songs clock in at just over 35 minutes).
Vaughan came late to singing, but it's clear he's finding his own voice. It's one that matches his approach to the music, prizing taste and feeling over flash and sizzle. It's not a big voice, but he cannily lets his limitations work for him. The result is that you hear someone who is comfortable in his own skin, and so he exudes a quiet confidence and command. That's not to say we wouldn't like to hear frequent accompanist Lou Ann Barton belt out a few, but the fact that she's not missed as much speaks to Vaughan's growth as a vocalist. — Nick Cristiano
— Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS