Top lesser-known albums of the summer

William deLannoy

My Morning JacketEvil Urges

My Morning Jacket garnered a lot of attention this summer due to its spectacular sets at several major festivals across the country. The band’s guitar-driven, classic-rock jams have been driving crowds wild since its debut in 1999. This makes the stylistic switch-ups on “Evil Urges” all the more surprising. Tracks like “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt. 1” and “Smokin’ from Shootin'” feature sounds that call to mind early Radiohead and Pink Floyd, while “Highly Suspicious” comes way out of left field with Jim James rhyming over a Beck-style beat and chanted backing vocals. Who would have thought that MMJ could make such a creative leap from jam band to rock gods?

BeckModern Guilt

An alt-rock mainstay since the early ’90s, Los Angeles-native Beck Hansen has been pounding out beat-based pop for almost 20 years now. Time has seen Beck grow from a whimsical troubadour to a world-weary old hippy, but his music has never lost its upbeat ’60s sound and catchy rhythmse. “Modern Guilt” may be thematically depressing, but it’s hard to tell without studying the lyrics. Beck questions God and his own place in the world without losing his positive sound, and it all creates a record that feels more heartfelt and complete than any other recent Beck work.

John Mayer Where the Light Is

John Mayer is no stranger to live albums; “Where the Light Is” marks his third official live release since his debut. Still, neither of his previous live recordings come close to the full package offered by this latest one. Recorded in one night in Los Angeles, “Where the Light Is” features three sets: a solo acoustic set, a set with the John Mayer Trio and a full-band set. Despite its two disc length, the album is missing several Mayer hits, such as “No Such Thing” and “Bigger Than My Body.” Mayer makes up for this by showing off his guitar prowess on covers of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” and the Jimi Hendrix track “Wait Until Tomorrow.” “Where the Light Is” closes the door on the idea of Mayer as no more than a soft-rock singer-songwriter with a love for the blues. It is safe to say he has entered the realm of blues-rock guitar god.

The Hold SteadyStay PositiveBrooklyn-via-Minneapolis band The Hold Steady has been stomping out E Street Band-style classic rock since 2004 at an alarming rate, releasing four albums in just five years. Its latest effort, “Stay Positive,” doesn’t do much to change the formula of catchy guitar riffs and booze-laden tales of drugs and debauchery, but no one can complain when the music is this good. Frontman Craig Finn doesn’t sing so much as shout out stories of not-so-good Catholic girls and teens drinking atop water towers, and somehow it just works. The lead track, “Constructive Summer,” kicks off the album with a toast to “Saint Joe Strummer” and Finn’s announcement of the band’s philosophy: “Our psalms are sing-along songs.” When you listen to “The Best Bar Band in America,” sing-along songs are exactly what you can expect to hear.These albums are all available in record stores now.