Iris DeMent, Sing the Delta: On her first album of new material since 1996, beloved Americana trailblazer Iris DeMent goes back to the Deep South for a twangy set of stories about the good ol’ days and God. The title track is an affecting love letter to her hometown, igniting all five senses – because not only is her songwriting vivid, but she’s also a nuanced storyteller with a voice that takes you there. The family tragedy that has her questioning faith on “The Night I Learned How Not to Pray” is particularly lucid. But even though DeMent’s stories are self-specific, the perseverance, sadness and determination she expresses aren’t just hers; they’re everybody’s.

Bat for Lashes, The Haunted Man: A naked Natasha Khan — aka Bat for Lashes — on the Mapplethorpe-like cover of her third album isn’t just a showpiece for a nicely toned body. This is her rawest album yet. The Haunted Man is captivating, ambitious and ethereal. It’s a dream you can’t escape from. There is, however, no forgetting it: Written with Lana Del Rey collaborator Justin Park, “Laura” is beautifully bleak-sounding even if it’s meant to be encouraging; “Marilyn,” however, builds a dreamy-pop sound that merges Annie Lennox and Björk. The rich orchestration and theatricality also bring to mind Tori Amos and Kate Bush — name-drops that are only deserved when you can sound as good as them.

— Chris Azzopardi