JAZZ: Careless Love by Madeleine Peyroux (Rounder). This jazz chanteuse more than lives up to all the Billie Holiday comparisons with a gem of an album that simmers with seductive talent. Peyroux mines material from the finest songwriters—W.C. Handy, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan—and delivers it in an unforced and creamily mellifluous voice. — Keith Goetzman
CLASSICAL: Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone (Sony Classical). Morricone’s film scores pretty much define the phrase “cinematic sweep,” and Ma, a longtime fan of the composer, traverses their emotional swells with just the right mix of reverence and fresh attitude. — K.G.
POP: Spooked by Robyn Hitchcock (Yep Roc). In his own bent way, British singer-songwriter Hitchcock is a sweetheart, a big believer in love in all its heartbreaking glory. But don’t go thinking he’s gotten too mushy—as soon as he delivers a straight-up sentiment like “Everybody Needs Love,” he follows with a left-field ditty like “We’re Gonna Live in the Trees.” Acoustic-music stalwarts Gillian Welch and David Rawlings produced and play on this spare but striking album. — K.G.
POP: The Great Destroyer by Low (Sub Pop). Low’s tempos have typically ranged from lethargic to narcotic, so it’s a surprise to hear the Duluth, Minnesota, trio deliver indie pop that verges on upbeat. But it’s the excellence of these songs that’s more salient; they’re full of melodic and lyrical entry points and that big, buzzing bottom end we’ve come to expect from the group. — K.G.
METAL: Miss Machine by Dillinger Escape Plan (Relapse). With the force of an orchestra, the intensity of a garage band, and the intimacy and virtuosity of a jazz combo, Dillinger Escape Plan plays metal as brutal as it is smart. Supporting their experimental contortions with an uncompromising backbone of heavy guitar, these rogue preachers of mathcore have created soulful cacophony using an audacious blend of chaos and composition. — Brendan Themes
AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Truck of Fools by Carlos Liscano (Vanderbilt University Press). As a young man in the ’70s and ’80s, Uruguayan poet Liscano survived 13 years of political imprisonment, beginning with nearly six months of systematic brutal torture. Here, Liscano writes eloquently of the psychology of torture and of staying alive, sustained by a “primitive sense of dignity” that somehow transcended pain. His account testifies both to human depravity and to its counterpoise, deep courage. — Chris Dodge
ESSAYS: The Bones of the Earth by Howard Mansfield (Shoemaker & Hoard). In witty essays that recall both Thoreau’s Walden and Roland Barthes’ Mythologies, Mansfield ruminates on American history by unpacking our connection to the landscape—the trees, dirt, a variety of sticks and stones. In “Asphalt, Mon Amour,” for example, we learn that a pre-presidential Woodrow Wilson wanted to ban cars, that asphalt was used by ancient civilizations as caulk, and that the America Road Builders’ Association had its own official prayer. — Harry Sheff
COMIC BOOK: Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle Adapted by Peter Kuper (Nantier Beall Minoustchine). Every panel of this haunting adaptation of Sinclair’s classic expose of the meatpacking industry is infused with Kuper’s fiery political sensibility and his lush stencil-cut illustrations. Originally published in 1991, this hard-to-find work by the prolific comic-book artist has just been reissued. — Anjula Razdan
DVD: Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time (Docurama). A deeply philosophical and inspirational portrait of growth, flow, balance, and change, Rivers and Tides follows British sculptor Goldsworthy as he battles the elements—wind, tides, gravity—and engineers structures of surprising beauty from sticks, stones, leaves, ice, and other natural materials found on site. — C.D.
DVD: The Fourth World War (Big Noise Films). By turns inspiring and gut-wrenchingly saddening, this film is a brutal visual portrayal of a decade of activism for global justice and the resulting increase in state violence that has met it. Narrators Michael Franti and Suheir Hammad lead a whirlwind tour of globalization hot spots—from the Chiapas uprising in 1994 to more recent protests in South Africa, Argentina, South Korea, Genoa, Quebec, and the West Bank. — Leif Utne