Talia Schlanger

Felony Blues is the name of the new record by Jaime Wyatt. That title is neither a metaphor nor a gimmick — it's lived experience. Wyatt was charged with a felony for robbing a drug dealer and served a sentence in the Los Angeles County Jail. When she got out, she wrote an album based on her own true story — from her crime to doing time and the addiction, depression and shame she had to overcome to even turn her experience into song.

When Sting set out to write his latest record, 57th & 9th, he says he had to "play tricks on [himself] to get the creative juices flowing." He'd step out on to the terrace of his New York apartment in the freezing cold and tell his wife, Trudie Styler, "Don't let me back in until I've finished a lyric." He calls this self-imposed, cold quest "hunting" for the muse, and the fruitful bounty he collected is on full display on 57th & 9th.

Rose Cousins has an arresting voice that gets right under your skin. She hails from Canada's eastern coast, near the Atlantic Ocean. Just like that body of water, her music is spacious, expansive and liquid. Her last full-length album, We Have Made A Spark, came out to rave reviews in 2012 and propelled her into a couple years of constant touring. When that period was over, Cousins was burned out.

We first met Becca Stevens when she sang a show-stopping solo vocal line on a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" during a World Cafe session with David Crosby. She was part of Crosby's young, Brooklynite backing band, and we were thrilled to learn that they also write songs together.

Over nearly two decades, Ireland's Bell X1 has mastered melodic indie pop that is bright, thoughtful and gracefully rough around the edges. It's one of the most played bands on Irish radio, it's sold out shows at home and abroad and its members have established families with kids. But to make their latest record, the members of Bell X1 had to pretend they were scrappy teenagers again.

Hurray for the Riff Raff has always been a voice for the underdogs and the outsiders, and the band delivers that spirit in spades on a new, rousing album called The Navigator. It's based on a fictional character named Navita, whose journey mirrors the one taken by courageous band founder and songwriter Alynda Segarra.

Pages