The Indigo Girls have occasionally drifted into flights of fancy, making overly cerebral music that belies their humble folk roots. But this new album, their first in four years, is a fine return to form, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray trading lead vocals and reclaiming their pristine harmonies without much fanfare. New producer Jordan Brooke Hamlin generally frames the Indigos in spare, beautifully melodic settings. Predictably, Saliers sings the more delicate cuts, such as “Elizabeth” (a lament for a lost love) and “Southern California Is Your Girlfriend” (about another lover who got away); Ray adds the cathartic, bust-out feel of “Olympia Inn” and “Happy in the Sorrow Key,” a rocking meditation inspired by her late father. The Indigos get political in the timely “The Rise of the Black Messiah,” about a man unjustly accused of a crime. And, most impressively, they somehow retain their optimism. As Ray sings near the end of the album, “You still got to find some goodness somewhere, somehow.” (Out Tuesday)
Essential “Happy in the Sorrow Key”
Steve Morse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.