It's time to clear out some space on your iPod for talented newcomer Mackenzie Scott, who records under the Torres moniker. Her self-titled debut album is a powerful collection of folk-leaning indie rock and the 22-year-old is already earning comparisons to the likes of Cat Power and PJ Harvey. Scott stripped these 10 songs to their very essence, with the entire album being recorded in a lightning-quick five days with as few overdubs as possible. For the most part, these songs are the results of single live-band takes and that makes them all the more impressive. There isn't a bad song in the bunch, though Torres soar highest on “Mother Earth, Father God,” “Honey,” “Jealousy and I,” “November Baby,” “Don't Run Away, Emilie” and “Come to Terms.” Highly recommended.
Kurt von Stetten (Static Motor)
Longwalls drummer Kurt von Stetten has a burgeoning career as a DIY solo performer and the solid “Androlafi” marks his seventh solo full-length. Having really enjoyed his last two offerings — 2011's “Cyclops” and 2010's “Pyramid” — I had high hopes for the new 12-track release. Though far from a bad record, “Androlafi” pales in comparison to its predecessors. Tunes like “First Daughter,” “Stockholm Boy,” “Pounding Strange,” “Spy Song” and “You Don't Know” are worthy of attention — but there are a few too many clunkers for my liking. There's no disputing that the Boston-based von Stetten is immensely talented. Here's hoping he takes things up a notch next time out.
‘Wait 'Til We're Young'
The Bolts (Bolts Broadcasting)
Citing influences as varied as the Beach Boys, the Clash, My Chemical Romance and Modest Mouse, Los Angeles newcomers the Bolts show a few flashes of potential on debut full-length “Wait 'Til We're Young.” Though there's nothing especially original about the 11-track release, the five-piece inject enough energy in songs like “Tell Me,” the title track, “The Truth” and “This Can't Be Real” to make them worthy of a few spins. Misfires like “Taking on the Night” and “Our Love Can Change the World” take away from the overall effectiveness of the album, but perhaps with a bit more polish the Bolts could be on to something.
‘As Time Goes By: Great American Songbook Classics'
Tony Bennett (Concord)
You can pretty much always count on legendary crooner Tony Bennett to deliver the goods, and when you pair Bennett's golden pipes with some of the best tunes ever written, well, the results are nothing short of spectacular. The 12-track “As Time Goes By” features Bennett putting his spin on the Great American Songbook with a series of recordings made in the 1970s. Bennett doesn't disappoint with stellar renditions of “Blue Moon,” “As Time Goes By,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “This Can't Be Love” and a live performance of his signature tune “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” My favorite entry here is a 14-minute Cole Porter medley that shows the sparks that can fly when a first-rate vocalist sets his sights on one of the all-time great composers.
Masked Intruder (Fat Wreck Chords)
In an attempt to set themselves apart from the pop/punk pack, Masked Intruder's four members go to great lengths to conceal their identities. Going by aliases Intruder Blue, Intruder Red, Intruder Green and Intruder Yellow, they've crafted a solid self-titled debut that doesn't stray far from the genre's formula. Released independently last summer, Fat Wreck Chords is giving the 13-track, 29-minute slab a national rollout. The songs are short and sweet, with plenty of high-octane riffs, and Masked Intruder are particularly effective on “25 to Life,” “How Do I Get Loud,” “Unrequited Love,” “Am I Only Dreaming” and “Why Don't You Love Me in Real Life.” Pop/punk fans should get a charge out of this set.
Trixie Whitley (Strong Blood)
Twenty-five-year-old singer/songwriter Trixie Whitley comes from impressive bloodlines as the daughter of the late Chris Whitley, who succumbed to lung cancer in 2005. Her debut album “Fourth Corner” is a blues-soaked delight as the younger Whitley mesmerizes throughout the 11-track, self-penned platter. Opening tandem “Irene” and “Never Enough” set the tone, and Whitley additionally scores with “Need Your Love,” “Breathe You in My Dreams,” “Hotel No Name” and the title track. I can see big things in store for Whitley, who's done her daddy proud with “Fourth Corner.”
‘Set You Free'
Gary Allan (MCA Nashville)
Southern California native Gary Allan has been a fixture on the country music scene for the better part of 20 years, though he isn't as well-known as high-profile contemporaries like Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley. But ninth studio effort “Set You Free” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, with “Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)” becoming his fifth No. 1 single. The rest of the album is rock solid as well, with more of the twangy tunes we've come to expect from Allan. Among the standouts are “Bones,” “It Ain't the Whiskey,” “One More Time,” “Hungover Heart” and “Good as New,” making the 12-track release a must for Allan's fans.
Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1952, or firstname.lastname@example.org.