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Music to pay attention to in 2022

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

So all right, how about a little optimism for the new year? Ann Powers of NPR Music has been looking ahead to a few uplifting new albums.

ANN POWERS, BYLINE: In 2022, I feel like we need a lot of healing, so I'm turning to music that really empowers me.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOSEPHINE FOSTER SONG, "NUN OF THE ABOVE")

POWERS: I'm really excited about the new album by Josephine Foster, "Godmother," which comes out January 28.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NUN OF THE ABOVE")

JOSEPHINE FOSTER: (Singing) Old crone, are you of stone? Oh no, I'm flesh and bone.

POWERS: Josephine Foster is herself a godmother of what some people might call freak folk or outsider folk. It reaches back to what Greil Marcus, the great music critic, once called the old weird America, but it does so also reaching toward the stars - sort of psychedelic folk music, if you will.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NUN OF THE ABOVE")

FOSTER: (Singing) In mystery, holy, wholly unknown.

POWERS: I first saw Josephine Foster perform about 15 years ago. It felt like you were putting on an old shellac record on a vintage record player. But for "Godmother," she steps into the future. She found some vintage synthesizers in a thrift store somewhere.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOSEPHINE FOSTER SONG, "NUN OF THE ABOVE")

POWERS: She's exploring new horizons on this record and thinking about Earth as it's evolving and devolving and connecting to the spirit world, and we hear her contemplating a future that at times might seem grim but that, ultimately, she hopes will expand into something completely new.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOSEPHINE FOSTER SONG, "NUN OF THE ABOVE")

POWERS: Another album I'm really excited about is "Life On Earth" by Hurray For the Riff Raff - comes out on February 18.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "POINTED AT THE SUN")

HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF: (Singing) I go out walking after twilight, talking to the memories of all I've ever known.

POWERS: I've been following the career of Alynda Segarra since the mid-2000s, when they were making really roots-based, sort of bluesy country music in New Orleans under the name Hurray For the Riff Raff. This album was inspired by a book called "Emergent Strategy" by the writer Adrienne Maree Brown, which is a really amazing kind of handbook for making yourself the kind of person who can realize radical change.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "POINTED AT THE SUN")

HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF: (Singing) I know I'm not the only one.

POWERS: Some of the songs are really rocking. You know, I hear The Velvet Underground. I hear The Clash. And then some are just these beautiful ballads that Segarra can do like no one else. Through it all, their voice carries the day. This is a voice of yearning. This is a voice of self-questioning. This is a voice that lives inside me and inspires me every time I hear it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAGA")

HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF: (Singing) But I - I don't want this to be the saga of my life.

POWERS: If you need some music to take you forward in this strange winter, I think "Life On Earth" is going to do it for you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAGA")

HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF: (Singing) I just want to be free.

MARTINEZ: That was Ann Powers of NPR Music recommending Hurray For the Riff Raff's upcoming album "Life On Earth," also Josephine Foster's "Godmother."

(SOUNDBITE OF HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF'S "SAGA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.