Sufjan Stevens, Javelin
Running under 45 minutes doesn’t sound like the norm for long-form singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens. To be perfectly honest, Stevens is requesting more time than ever. Javelin, his 11th studio release, has found him in a very painful position. Diagnosed in August with the autoimmune disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome has placed Javelin in a special realm with love, support and rehabilitation at its center point. Stevens prayerful delivery is intact for “So You Are Tired” and accented by choir voices in “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?” The demise and ending of happiness was clearly in place before his condition was known, which makes this collection all the more hopeful for an uplifting life trajectory. --Amy Hughes
Rick Astley, Are We There Yet?
Yes, that’s right, the gentleman responsible for unwittingly creating the phenomenon of the “Rick Roll” is back with a new album, and while history shows that most artists remembered for novelty over creativity tend to fare poorly in the U.S. charts, Astley deserves more of a shot than most. Since returning to his recording career in earnest in 2016, he’s scored a #1 hit in the UK with his comeback album, 2016’s 50, and the follow-up, 2018’s Beautiful Life, climbed to #6. Meanwhile, his voice – which always belied his actual age – has only gotten more soulful, and based on the singles he’s offered up in advance of this new album (“Dippin’ My Feet” and “Never Gonna Stop”), it matches the material he’s delivering nowadays perfectly. -- Will Harris
The Darkness, Permission to Land...Again
When The Darkness arrived with their 2003 debut album, Permission to Land, it was a revelation to those who enjoyed the band’s music for what it was: hard rock at its most fun. An LP that resolutely refused to take itself too seriously, it delivered songs with the sort of amusing pomposity that allowed them at one moment to get away with telling a significant other, “I want to banish you from whence you came,” while in another howling, “Get your hands off of my woman, mother***er!” 20 years later, the album still holds up, and if you enjoyed it then, you’ll enjoy it even more now that it’s been expanded to include demos, B-sides, non-LP singles, non-album tracks, and live performances from Knebworth, the Astoria, and Wembley. Plus, there’s even a DVD that includes promo videos, the Knebworth and Astoria shows, and a few other extra features. -- Will Harris