Music

Listening Ahead: Upcoming Releases for May

Matthew Fiander and Arnold Pan
Hi-Fi headphones and colorful disc. Image from Shutterstock.

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.

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
Bloom

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
Nootropics

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)

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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