Summer, kind of wonderful for new album releases
This summer will bear witness to quite a few returning musical champs — and, oh, how they’ve grown up. Below is just a sliver of upcoming albums worthy of a listen.
Papercuts’ “Life Among the Savages”
It’s been three years since we’ve heard any luscious croons from San Francisco’s Papercuts, but they’re back on May 6 with “Life Among the Savages.” If their lead single from the album (listen to it here) is at all indicative of what the rest of the album will sound like, Papercuts remains true to form as a distant, much dreamier of Grizzly Bear with a dash of winsome chamber pop.
Lykke Li’s “I Never Learn”
Lykke Li will release “I Never Learn” — the third album in a conceptual trilogy that began with her 2008 debut, “Youth Novels” — on May 6. Li gave a live performance of the album in its entirety earlier this month in Williamsburg, where she joked about the album being a bit of a bummer, but it’s the good kind of bummer. As Pitchfork’s feature on her repeatedly notes, “she’s the type of person who assumes a direct correlation between anguish and artistic value.” With “I Never Learn,” Li rejected “Music that’s shiny and overproduced and gimmicky and modern and fake,” she says. “I’m always ashamed of the pop songs I make.” “I Never Learn” veers away from the crisp melodies, pounding drums, and vigorous handclaps of her previous albums (see: “Youth Knows No Pain”), and, oh, does it work in her favor. None of the songs on “I Never Learn” will wind up The Great Breakup Song of The Summer because each of the nine tracks sound devastatingly beautiful and true to life in a way that no Top 40 pop star can emulate. (Stream the album over at NPR now.)
tUnE-yArDs’ “Nikki Nack”
May 6 will also bring tUnE-yArDs’ “Nikki Nack” to audiences burned out by formulaic pop. tUnE-yArDs’ third album prefers to play around with the formula, indulging us with rhythmic hooks, wispy synths, and smooth boom-bap percussion, only to unexpectedly shift gears off the grid and into surreal pop ecstasy. The album is bursting with “woohaws” and nonsensical advice that “a two-pound chick tastes better with two friends,” and it absolutely belongs on every summer playlist (check out the addictively wacky “Water Fountain” here).
The Black Keys’ “Turn Blue”
The Black Keys are back with infusions of funk and hypnotic psychedelics on their eighth album, “Turn Blue” — out May 13. According to a press release from the band, "Turn Blue could refer to: A: Suffocation B: Sadness C: Numbness from extreme cold D: A Cleveland late night TV host from the 1960s named Ghoulardi E: All of the above." Regardless of the correct answer, The Black Keys will no doubt impress on “Turn Blue" (Check out “Fever” — which was announced in March on Mike Tyson’s Twitter account, of all places — here).
Owen Pallett’s “In Conflict”
Owen Pallett has been just a bit busy over the last few years, collaborating with groups like the National, Grizzly Bear, and Arcade Fire on the Oscar-nominated “Her” score. He’s also been casually penning ridiculously well informed essays on modern music — including the genius of Lady Gaga through the lens of music theory (which spawned a fun little online feud about how “Music Criticism Has Degenerated Into Lifestyle Reporting,” but let’s save that debate for another day). To boot, he’s all about doing “anything within my power as a gay, white, Canadian male to assist in improving the relationship between creatives and consumers.”So he’s basically perfect. Thankfully, May 13 will see Pallett step back into the foreground on the baroque art-pop album, “In Conflict,” recorded in collaboration with Brian Eno and the Czech FILMharmonic Orchestra.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s “Days of Abandon”
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are experiencing new pains on “Days of Abandon” — out May 13 — and they might not be the good kind. Way back in February, they released “Simple and Sure” from the upcoming album, and it’s regrettably polished. The twee-pop-noise of their earlier work (see: the college anthem, “Young Adult Friction” or “My Terrible Friend”) seems like it’s been mostly scrubbed away, revealing a purer sound that just doesn’t quite hit you with the raw authenticity they’ve delivered before. “Days of Abandon” will certainly be worth a listen, but if anything, take the summer to appreciate the damn near perfection of their first two albums, “The Pains of Being Pure at Heart” and “Belong.”
Various Artists’ “I Saved Latin! A Tribute to Wes Anderson”
Just in case your Wes Anderson addiction was not yet quenched, American Laundromat Records will release a tribute to the famed, pastel-loving director on May 13, featuring covers of well-known songs from his films. Notable covers to be featured on the album: Matt Pond’s cover of Nico’s “These Days,” the Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s cover of David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust,” and Julianna Hatfield’s cover of Elliot Smith’s “Needle in the Hay.” For any Anderson aficionado, this album will most likely end up the soundtrack to your summer.
Craft Spell’s “Nausea”
It’s been a tragically long time since we’ve heard anything from Justin Vellesteros of Craft Spells. 2011 saw the release of his dreamy debut, “Idle Labor” — a sonic marriage of Wild Nothing and Beach Fossils with a distinguishing emotional tenor — and it’s been too long. Vellesteros reportedly fell into a bout of writer’s block following “Idle Labor,” and he found himself disillusioned by social media to the point of nausea — hence his new album’s title. If “Breaking the Angle Against the Tide” is even marginally like the rest of the album, “Nausea” just may be the underrated hit of the summer.
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