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PopMatters Seeks Music Critics and Essayists: If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by our quality readership.

Listening Ahead: Upcoming Releases for May

With summer just around the corner, May boasts a loaded record release schedule that’ll fill up your iPod with plenty of new music for that vacation that can’t come soon enough. This month offers more than its fair share of anticipated albums, from sophomore efforts by Best Coast and Santigold to Damon Albarn’s oddball opera about a 16th-century philosopher to alternative rapper El-P’s latest, not to mention new discs from Sigur Ros and Beach House. And talking about long waits, there’s material from My Bloody Valentine, which includes a collection of hard-to-find, out-of-print EPs and remasters of Isn’t Anything and Loveless to tide you over until that new album comes out — if it ever does. Check out some of our picks for the coming month.


Artist: Beach House

Album: Bloom

Label: Sub Pop

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US Release Date: 2012-05-15

UK Release Date: 2012-05-14

Beach House

Beach House’s Bloom is a microcosm of what the acclaimed duo’s career has been all about, growing on you with easygoing charms that wow you in ways you didn’t see coming. Everything that’s helped Beach House climb to the top of the indie heap is on display on Bloom, so much so that you might take it for granted as only the next notch on the group’s winning streak: Alex Scally’s resonant synths, the not-too-slow-not-too-fast pace, and the gentle soar of Victoria Legrand’s vocals. But about halfway through, it dawns on you that there’s no such thing as just another Beach House album, especially when you hear “New Year”, which happens to be at once Bloom’s catchiest and most adventurous number, as it mixes subliminal, earworming melodies with shoegaze-y waves of noise. Shortly after you hear the transcendent closing tracks, you’re ready to start listening to Bloom all over again and hear what you missed the last time around. That’s because Beach House sounds better with every listen, a truism that applies not only to Bloom, but the twosome’s entire catalog. Arnold Pan


Artist: Father John Misty

Album: Fear Fun

Label: Sub Pop

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US Release Date: 2012-05-01

UK Release Date: 2012-04-30

Father John Misty
Fear Fun

Former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman is no stranger to putting out his own tunes. He’s released seven full-lengths under his own name (well, J. Tillman), and now he’s brought us the first album from his post-Foxes project, Father John Misty. Here, he builds on the haunting folk of his solo work and layers it into something more lush but also shadowy, as the cooing backing vocals here feel less like sunbursts and more like cloudbanks. But Fear Fun isn’t some collection of dirges, but rather a catchy set of darkly funny tunes. “Pretty soon I’ll be breaking things like Howard Hughes,” Tillman deadpans on “Nancy From Now On”, setting the tone for an album that matches all its pathos with a wry sense of humor. Beyond that, Tillman tries some new textures on the twangy “Misty’s Nightmare 1 & 2”, the ringing fuzz of “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”, and the barn-stomping of “Tee Pees 1-12”, among others. As J. Tillman, he did an awful lot with a little, but as Father John Misty, he expands his palate beautifully and, as a result, has created Fear Fun, his best record yet. Matthew Fiander


Artist: Grass Widow

Album: Internal Logic

Label: HLR

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US Release Date: 2012-05-29

UK Release Date: Import

Grass Widow
Internal Logic

Grass Widow’s girl-groupy lo-fi fare proves that it’s a mistake to assume that what sounds simple is easy to do. While bands in its peer group have either run out of steam (Vivian Girls) or have tried to graduate to a more mature sound (Dum Dum Girls), Grass Widow sticks to perfecting its imperfect craft on Internal Logic. The trio’s new album shows that the combination of bubblegum vocals, off-kilter melodies, and bashed-up rhythms never goes out of style, like indie-pop comfort food. While it might be tempting to underestimate Grass Widow’s bare-bones approach, the fact that Internal Logic shines as it does is evidence that no small amount of skill and creativity are required to make what’s familiar feel vital all over again. Arnold Pan


Artist: Here We Go Magic

Album: A Different Ship

Label: Secretly Canadian

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US Release Date: 2012-05-08

UK Release Date: 2012-05-07

Here We Go Magic
A Different Ship

Though we’ve only heard two full-lengths from Here We Go Magic, their short history still feels like one of a band about to break out, about to give us its shining moment. Well, not to jinx it, but A Different Ship may be that moment. This tuneful, subtle record is a collection of tight pop songs, yet for all their control and hushed confession, they still stretch out in compelling ways. The drums are tight and brittle, the guitars sharp and lean, but around them synths warm and spread out like light over these songs, stretching the acoustic roll of “Hard to Be Close” or the surf-rock vamping of “Make Up Your Mind” into something bigger than the sum of its parts. Other moments, like “Made to Be Old”, twist those layers into something more overcast without losing their energy. With this new record, Here We Go Magic marries its tight melodic tendencies with a knack for exploration, and if that does put them on a different ship, it’s not one that ever steers off course. Matthew Fiander

Here We Go Magic – Make Up Your Mind


Artist: Fela Kuti & Egypt 80

Album: Live in Detroit 1986

Label: Knitting Factory

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US Release Date: 2012-05-08

UK Release Date: 2012-05-07

Fela Kuti & Egypt 80
Live in Detroit 1986

The latest release from Fela Kuti is no reissue, but instead the first record of unreleased material since his final record, 1992’s Underground System. This expansive three-disc set comes from Kuti’s debut U.S. tour with Egypt 80 in 1986 and features two-and-a-half hours of brilliant music, which — if you’re counting at home — is about seven times as long as Kuti’s other excellent live record, Expensive Shit. As if the glut of music here wasn’t enough to entice you, the quality of it is superb. Kuti introduces the songs with impassioned speeches, setting both cultural and emotional context for the songs, before launching into 30-odd-minute versions of great late-career tunes like “Just Like That” and “Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense”. The band behind him is huge and the remaster here captures all the power of its sound perfectly. Even without visuals, you can hear the grandeur of this show, and each of the four long songs here delivers with every note. If you thought you had all the Fela Kuti you needed, you better think again, because Live in Detroit 1986 is essential listening, even coming from an artist with no shortage of classics. Matthew Fiander

Fela Kuti & Egypt 80 – Teacher Don’t Teach Me No Nonsense (Live)


Artist: Lower Dens

Album: Nootropics

Label: Ribbon Music

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US Release Date: 2012-05-01

UK Release Date: Import

Lower Dens

On their sophomore effort Nootropics, Baltimore’s Lower Dens take a quantum leap forward, offering more shape and direction to the spaced-out sound they first explored on their promising, intuitive debut, Twin-Hand Movement. Led by multi-talented frontwoman Jana Hunter, Nootropics is a real trip, and not just because of its sci-fi A.I.-ish concepts: More streamlined in execution, yet more expansive in their imagination than their first go-round, Lower Dens have learned to channel the futurism of Stereolab and Broadcast in their guitar-and-synth expeditions as they continue to push their own paranoid android aesthetic. You could say that Lower Dens are well on their way to something bigger and better, except that Nootropics sends out signals that they’ve already achieved that. Arnold Pan


Selected New Releases for May

May 1

Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, DROKK (Invada)

Blockhead, Interludes After Midnight (Ninja Tune)

Brian Jonestown Massacre, Aufheben (a’)

Bobby Conn, Macaroni (Fire)

Ane Brun, It All Starts with One (PIAS)

Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Twenty Dozen (Savoy Jazz)

Evans the Death, Evans the Death (Slumberland)

Gravenhurst, The Ghost in Daylight (Warp)

JJ Doom, Complex Volume One (Lex)

Norah Jones, Little Broken Hearts (Blue Note)

Kwes, Meantime EP (Warp)

Lazer Sword, Memory (Monkeytown)

Light Asylum, Light Asylum (Mexican Summer)

Little Hurricane, Homewrecker (Unknown Breakthrough)

The Lumineers, The Lumineers (Dualtone)

Marilyn Manson, Born Villain (Downtown)

Pennywise, All or Nothing (Epitaph)

Portland Cello Project, Homage

Ramona Falls, Prophet (Barsuk)

Reptar, Body Faucet (Vagrant)

Santigold, Master of My Own Make Believe (Downtown/Atlantic)

Spring Standards, yellow//gold EP (Parachute Shooter)

Sun Araw and M. Geddes Gengras meet the Congos, Icon Give Thanks (RVNG Intl.)

Carrie Underwood, Blown Away (Sony Nashville/Arista)

Rufus Wainwright, Out of the Game (Decca)

Patrick Watson, Adventures in Your Own Backyard (Domino)

Woods & Amps for Christ, Woods & Amps for Christ split LP, (Shrimper)

May 7

My Bloody Valentine, EPs 1988-1991 (Sony UK)

My Bloody Valentine, Isn’t Anything (remastered), (Sony UK)

My Bloody Valentine, Loveless (two-disc remaster), (Sony UK)

May 8

Damon Albarn, Dr. Dee (Virgin)

Chris Brown, Fortune (RCA)

Dana Buoy, Summer Bodies (Lefse)

CFCF, Exercises (Paper Bag)

S. Carey, Hoyas (Jagjaguwar)

Heavy Blanket (with J Mascis), Heavy Blanket (Outer Battery)

Keane, Strangeland (Interscope)

Kindness, World You Need a Change of Mind (Casablanca/Terrible)

Led Er Est, The Diver (Sacred Bones)

M83, Reunion EP (Mute)

JD Samson and MEN, Time EP (MEN Make Music)

Moon Duo, Mazes Remixed (Sacred Bones)

OFF!, OFF! (Vice)

PS I Love You, Death Dreams (Paper Bag)

Royal Headache, Royal Headache (What’s Your Rupture?)

Klaus Schulze, La Vie Electronique Vol. 11 (Made in Germany)

Silversun Pickups, Neck of the Words (Dangerbird)

Turing Machine, What Is the Meaning of What (Temporary Residence)

Simone White, Silver Silver (Honest Jon’s)

The Young, Dub Egg (Matador)

May 15

Avengers, Avengers (Water)

Best Coast, The Only Place (Mexican Summer)

Black Tambourine, OneTwoThreeFour EP (Slumberland)

Cornershop, Urban Turban (Ample Play)

Craft Spells, Gallery EP (Captured Tracks)

The Cribs, In the Belly of the Brazen Bull (Wichita)

David Daniell and Douglas McCombs, Versions (Thrill Jockey)

Garbage, Not Your Kind of People (Stunvolume)

Hot Water Music, Exister (Rise)

Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music (Williams Street)

Adam Lambert, Tresspassing (RCA)

Man Forever, Pansophical Cataract (Thrill Jockey)

MV & EE, Space Homestead (Woodsist)

Willie Neslon, Heroes (Legacy)

Parlovr, Kook Soul (Dine Alone)

John Pizzarelli, Double Exposure (Telarc)

Plankton Wat, Spirits (Thrill Jockey)

Santana, Shape Shifter (Starfaith)

Simian Mobile Disco, Unpatterns (Wichita)

Soso, That Time I Dug So Deep I Ended Up in China (This Is Music)

Squarepusher, Ufabulum (Warp)

Tenacious D, Rize of the Fenix (Columbia)

Tu Fawning, A Monument (City Slang)

Alexander Tucker, Third Mouth (Thrill Jockey)

Violens, True (Slumberland)

White Fence, Family Perfume, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 (Woodsist)

Andre Williams and the Sadies, Night and Day (Yep Roc)

May 21

Gaz Coombes, Here Come the Bombs (Hot Fruit)

Saint Etienne, Words and Music (Universal UK)

Smoke Fairies, Blood Speaks (V2)

May 22

Codeine, When I See the Sun (complete career retrospective), (Numero Group)

The Cult, Choice of Weapon (Cooking Vinyl)

Dope Body, Natural History (Drag City)

El-P, Cancer for Cure (Fat Possum)

Exitmusic, Passages (Secretly Canadian)

Father Yod and the Source Family, Thought Adjusters (Drag City)

The Gossip, A Joyful Noise (Columbia)

JBM, Stray Ashes (Western Vinyl)

David Kilgour (of the Clean), Here Come the Cars vinyl reissue (De Stijl)

Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney, RAM deluxe edition (Hear Music)

Jon McLaughlin, Promising Promises (Razor & Tie)

Mount Eerie, Clear Moon (P.W. Elverum and Sun)

Joey Ramone, Ya Know (BMG)

Slash, Apocalyptic Love (101)

Various Artists, Kitsune America (Kitsune)

Young Man, Vol. 1 (Frenchkiss)

May 29

2:54, 2:54 (Fat Possum)

Cadence Weapon, Hope in Dirt City (Upper Class)

Human Woman, Human Woman (hfn)

Lemonade, Diver (True Panther)

Marissa Nadler, The Sister (Box of Cedar)

Public Image Ltd., This Is PiL (PiL Official)

Gemma Ray, Island Fire (Bronze Rat)

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Here (Community)

Sigur Rós, Valtari (XL)

Regina Spektor, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats (Sire)

Sun Kil Moon, Among the Leaves (Caldo Verde)

The Walkmen, Heaven (Fat Possum)