The first lady of ’70s bohemian New York City makes another remarkable comeback with her 11th studio album. Her first collection of original songs since wowing literary circles with her 2010’s National Book Award-winning memoir Just Kids sees Smith’s mastery of language in full bloom. Though passionate as ever, the now 65-year-old Smith has largely stepped back from the howls and growls of her early days in favor of an earthy croon. Her delivery is cool and measured, indicative of a woman who has spent much of her time lately doing spoken-word performance and poetry readings. The title song is a rare example of something bordering on a straight-ahead rock track here, its scratching guitar providing Smith a dizzying backdrop. The musical arrangements are secondary to lyrics—even the mix seems designed specifically to showcase words above all else. But such is the clarity of those words that their stories cut cleanly through whatever cacophony might surround them. –Amanda Farah


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