Since the late 1980s days of Tony! Toni! Toné!, Raphael Saadiq has distinguished himself as a highly skilled retro soul stylist, a Motown-schooled multi-instrumentalist as comfortable making music with Mick Jagger as he is with Mary J. Blige or John Legend. But while he’s played key collaborative roles helping D’Angelo and Solange, and created his fair share of vintage nuggets like his 2008 hit “100 Yard Dash,” he’s always been more at home recreating classic sounds than making music that’s personally revealing.
That’s meant to change with Jimmy Lee, a song cycle about the human cost of addiction that’s named after an older brother who died of a heroin overdose. The album, his first in eight years, also touches on the tragic deaths of three more of his 13 siblings. The song-crafting talents of Saadiq — who is composer in residence on Issa Rae’s HBO comedy Insecure — are everywhere apparent, and Jimmy Lee effectively alternates between harrowing and uplifting. But even on a record that’s so close to his heart and tied in with his life story, Saadiq’s instinct is to cede the spotlight to others, with the Reverend E. Baker and Broadway actor Daniel J. Watts each delivering inspirational sermons and Kendrick Lamar dropping by to share a soul-searching rap on “13 Rearview.” — Dan DeLuca
Jay Som’s excellent second album, 2017’s Everybody Works, was a sterling example of bedroom pop: reflective, a bit insular even when rocking out, and, like her first album, recorded by Melina Duterte alone in her Bay Area bedroom. Duterte recorded Anak Ko, too, at home, which is now in Los Angeles, but she’s joined by guests from her touring band and by members of Vagabon, Chastity Belt, and others. The sound is lush, patient, and expansive: it reaches outward and sometimes embraces pop conventions in ways similar to recent work from former tour mates Japanese Breakfast and Mitski.
“Tenderness” is a light-footed R & B tune about the alienating effect of social media. “Superbike,” with its fluttering melody and whooshing guitar climax, shows that Duterte has been studying Cocteau Twins albums with marvelous results. “Anak Ko” means “my child” in Tagalog; it’s a term of endearment used by Duterte’s Filipino mother, and the songs often explores tensions between intimacy and distance. It’s a brief album with some diffuse moments, but these are careful, inviting songs with arrangements that continually shift focus. — Steve Klinge
Jay Som performs at 8 p.m. Tuesday, October 29 at the Foundry, 29 E. Allen St. $15. 215-309-0150, thefillmorephilly.com/foundry.
On “Ever Lovin’ Hand,” Tyler Childers sings about how much he misses his baby while on the road — nothing extraordinary there. But he also tells about what he does to ease the separation: “They got my favorite lotion here/ Something in a hotel I admire/ I got the pictures that you sent me/ And how they fill me with desire,” he sings in his Kentucky drawl.
In other words, Childers keeps it raw and real, one of the qualities that has drawn admirers such as John Prine, Margo Price, and Sturgill Simpson. Country Squire picks up where Childers left off on 2017’s Purgatory. With Simpson again serving as coproducer, the 28-year-old country singer and songwriter again proudly bares his Appalachian roots, both lyrically and musically. On numbers such as the title song, the aforementioned “Hand,” and the country-soul devotional “All Your’n,” he projects a warts-and-all first-person perspective. But with “Creeker,” “Peace of Mind,” and “Matthew,” he assiduously avoids stereotypes while shining a light on ordinary, often overlooked folks with empathy and understanding. It’s an old-soul quality Prine also showed at a young age.