Our favorite songs are like one-night stands: passionate or sad, capable of recalling moments with Proustian power. Our favorite artists are lifelong companions: fixtures we turn to for comfort and highs. Over the last two decades, Jason Boland and the Stragglers have delivered and become both. With their new record, Hard Times Are Relative, Boland and the Stragglers stack the smart, road-ready outlaw country longtime fans have come to expect alongside creative risks that flirt with punk and psychedelic sounds. The 10-song collection is a rare blend of instantly gratifying and rewarding of closer listens – a definitively Stragglers accomplishment. ''It's an upbeat album – a lot of fast songs, but it doesn't try to be fast,'' Boland says with characteristic insight. ''It just sits in the pocket.''