Home Again

Producer: Paul Butler


Release Date: July 17

Nearly six years after Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," young English retro-soul singers continue to emerge so regularly that it feels hard to be surprised by one anymore. Michael Kiwanuka - the London-born son of parents from Uganda - manages that rare feat on his debut album, "Home Again," which has become a commercial hit in the United Kingdom since its release in March. Though his handsomely rough-edged voice sets you up for a set of mellow ruminations on love, the album ends up veering off in far trippier directions, as in opener "Tell Me a Tale," which erupts in a shimmering psych-folk freakout, and "Bones," which feels like a dream-world doo-wop number. (Several tunes, including the title track and the Ray LaMontagne-ish "I'm Getting Ready," do indeed deliver the mellow ruminations you'd expect.) Credit for some of that adventurousness should probably go to producer Paul Butler, who's released a string of jumpy indie-pop records with the Bees. Yet songs like "Worry Walks Beside Me" exude a potent emotional anxiety that further prevents a sense of comfort from settling in.

Love and Theft

Love and Theft

Producer: Josh Leo

RCA Nashville

Release Date: July 24

After experiencing a label change and parting ways with a band member, country music trio-turned-duo Love and Theft seems poised to make a huge run with RCA Nashville and its new self-titled release. Working with producer Josh Leo, who has made musical magic with such acts as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Alabama, the duo of Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson have composed an impressive new collection of songs. One such cut is "Angel Eyes," which has taken off at country radio, recently returning Love and Theft to the top 10 on the singles chart. There's plenty of follow-up material as well, including "Runnin' Out of Air" and "Town Drunk," which, from a writing standpoint, is one of the album's standouts. What's most intriguing here are the ballads. Tracks like "If You Ever Get Lonely" and "Thinking of You (And Me)" could be breakout hits and put the pair in contention for numerous awards.

Frank Ocean

Channel Orange

Producers: various

Def Jam

Release Date: July 17

Frank Ocean has quietly become the most unique and progressively minded presence in R&B. His major-label debut, "Channel Orange," is the work of a thoughtful and fearless artist - as evidenced by his recent comments about his sexuality - who consigns his libido to secondary status amid more weighty self-examination and social commentary. The set's songs may reference Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets" and Eve & Gwen Stefani's "Let Me Blow Ya Mind," but the real reference point for Ocean here is Marvin Gaye. Like the Motown legend, Ocean is just "searching for a real love" while keenly aware of the distractions and obstacles the world presents to finding it, whether it's the materialistic artifice he sings about in "Super Rich Kids" ("My silver spoon has fed me good") to some challenging relationships chronicled in "Lost," "Monks" and the nearly 10- minute opus "Pyramids." Save for the groove-pop of "Lost," Ocean keeps things spare and new-jack airy on these 17 tracks, with minimal samples and guest appearances (John Mayer, Odd Future's Earl Sweatshirt, Lalah Hathaway, André 3000).