Well, a new year is upon us and with it comes hope for great new music. Here’s a list of some upcoming releases that have me excited. Given the topsy-turvy nature of the world in which we live, all release dates (when given) are tentative and subject to change.
Spoon – Transference (18 January UK, 19 January Canada/US)
2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga was a big ol’ slice of excellent, and I have high hopes for this release (but I’m an eternal optimist). Britt Daniel and co. will hopefully come through with another dose of rhythmic, spare, white boy dance rock that’s hopefully less laboured than that description.
Eels- End Times (18 January UK, 19 January Canada/US)
Anybody who reads this site regularly knows of my love for Eels (the band, not the fish [although I have nothing against them, either]), so I greatly anticipate this release a mere six months after the last Eels album, Hombre Lobo. Where Hombre Lobo dealt with desire and love, End Times deals with the death of this love. The Eels website describes it in painful detail:
The eighth EELS studio album, END TIMES, is the sound of an artist growing older in uncertain times. An artist who has lost his great love while struggling with his faith in an increasingly hostile world teetering on self-destruction. Largely self-recorded on an old four track tape machine by EELS leader Mark Oliver Everett aka E in his Los Angeles basement, it’s a “divorce album” with a modern twist: the artist equates his personal loss with the world he lives in losing its integrity. When Everett finds comfort “in a dying world,” the END TIMES he speaks of isn’t about “Mayan calendar conspiracy theory bullshit,” he says, but, “the state of the desperate times we live in. The bottom line-ness of it all. The end of common decency. The loss of caring about doing a good job. These are tough times. Who can you trust? Walter Cronkite is just a ghost.”
I can’t say that it sounds like a thousand laughs a minute, but Mark Everett is infinitely talented at making emotional and affecting music and can usually find the light in the darkness, so I’m sure this album will deliver.
Hawksley Workman – Meat (19 January Canada)
Completing a pretty amazing trifecta of releases for 19 January (as long as you’re in Canada), the incredibly prolific Hawksley Workman releases his new album, Meat. From the sounds of things, heavy and funky Hawksley is in action on this release. He actually has a second album coming out in 2010, entitled Milk, prepared to be released digitally in 2010 single-by-single over a 5 month period.
Beach House – Teen Dream (25 January UK, 26 January Canada/US)
Beach House deliver a woozy, narcoleptic, down tempo brand of folk, but from what I’ve heard of their new album, they step up the pace a bit and sound (for them at least) a little bit cheerful. It’s not enough of a change to drive away people who loved their hushed first two albums, but it’s enough of an evolution to keep things fresh.
Massive Attack – Heligoland (8 February UK, 9 February Canada/US)
I know a lot of people were disappointed with 2003’s 100th Window, but I actually kind of liked its cold, clinical beauty. It’s been 6 long years since that release, so here’s hoping that they still have it. My optimism falters a bit with this album; I give it a 50/50 chance of being worth our time.
David Byrne & Fatboy Slim – Here Lies Love (22 February UK, 23 February Canada/US)
I’m not a big Fatboy Slim fan, and my knowledge of David Byrne and the Talking Heads is woefully underdeveloped. Still, this album deserves mention for sheer barmy audacity. It’s apparently a concept album. About Imelda Marcos. And it’s club music. Says Byrne:
“The story I am interested in is about asking what drives a powerful person—what makes them tick? How do they make and then remake themselves? I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if—as this piece would be principally composed of clubby dance music—one could experience it in a club setting? Could one bring a ‘story’ and a kind of theater to the disco? Was that possible? If so, wouldn’t that be amazing!”
With vocals by Kill Rock Music favourites like Florence Welch (Florence + The Machine), St. Vincent, Martha Wainwright, Nellie McKay and Steve Earle (alongside other notables like Tori Amos, Cyndi Lauper, Roisin Murphy and others), this one has me intrigued.
The Whigs – In the Dark (1 March UK, 2 March US)
In 2008, The Whigs released Mission Control, probably the best straightforward, amp to eleven slice of guitar rock to come out that year. Their music isn’t flashy, but it is good, grungy fun. With production by Ben Allen (Gnarls Barkley, Animal Collective) and them name-checking the Rolling Stones and Johnny Cash, this album might represent a nice extension and growth of their sound.
Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks (1 March UK, 9 March Canada/US)
Scotland has had a renaissance in earnest, melancholy indie rock in recent years, with bands like the Twilight Sad, We Were Promised Jetpacks and Frightened Rabbit. FR release their follow-up to 2008’s The Midnight Organ Fight in March. I must say, the great album title bodes well.
Titus Andronicus – The Monitor (9 March 2010 Canada/US
Titus Andronicus make noisy, post-hardcore music, but few do it in such a literate and interesting manner. Last year’s The Airing of Grievances hinted at this, but I think their upcoming release will really display their musical and lyrical talents. It uses the American Civil War as an extended metaphor to explore ideas of ‘regional identity, emotional anesthetization, and the heavy yoke of trying to live decently in indecent times.’ Says the band:
So what does all this sound like? It has long passages of ambient drones, blazing saxophone, pianos homages to “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” complete marching drumlines,Thunder Tube solos, fourteen-minute Billy Bragg knock-offs, backwards liturgical pieces, bombastic country duets, garbage cans hit with tambourines, choirs of angels with bromantic faces, probably too many spoken word interludes lifted from cassette tapes, and, of course, the hissy-fit punk songs, miserable, self-obsessed naval-gazing and off-key warbling we have come to expect from Titus Andronicus. With any luck, people won’t talk about this record in the context of the media-concocted “lo-fi” movement, since we went crazy (and broke) trying to perfect the sound of “hi-fi punk.”
It could be terribly pretentious, but it sounds exciting to me!
Drive-By Truckers – The Big To-Do (16 March Canada/US)
Another one of my favourites (they ALL seem to be releasing albums this year!), the Drive-By Truckers will see if they can continue their winning streak. I was a little concerned with the departure of Jason Isbell after A Blessing & A Curse, but 2007’s Brighter Than Creation’s Dark showed that Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley could continue on boldly even without Isbell’s strong (and still sorely missed) influence and songwriting, and bassist Shonna Tucker proved herself as a serviceable new songwriter in the Truckers’ catalogue. Hood promised this album to be the most rocking since disc 2 of 2002’s Southern Rock Opera, which sounds just fine to me.
The White Stripes – Under Great White Northern Lights
This is the live documentary (and box set) of the White Stripes 2007 tour of every province and territory in Canada. Their dates included not just the requisite arenas/theatres, but also impromptu performances in incongruous places like bowling alleys and on a bus. The documentary should be interesting, and the White Stripes remain one of the most thrilling live acts on the scene today.
Deftones – (Title To Be Announced) (27 April Canada/US)
Deftones are back in the studio after a horrific 2008/2009. Bassist Chi Cheng was seriously injured in an auto accident in late 2008, and remains in hospital with serious brain injuries. They’re now recording with stand-in bassist Sergio Vega. They’ve shelved the material they’d almost completed (an album called Eros), and here’s hoping the band finds its feet again, as they remain the most innovative and exciting band of that dark period in music known as nu-metal. Also, benefits have recently been held to help with Cheng’s mounting medical bills, and donations can be made here.
MGMT will release the follow-up to their smash Oracular Spectacular sometime early in the new year. Midlake are releasing The Courage of Others at the beginning of February, and Tindersticks are releasing Falling Down a Mountain in mid-February. Other KRM favourites may be releasing albums this year, but details and progress remain sketchy. The Hold Steady have been previewing some new songs in concert, and given their rapid rate of output, a new album could see the light before the end of 2010. Also, in case you missed it, Craig Finn and Tad Kubler’s pre-Hold Steady band, Lifter Puller, recently reissued their entire catalogue on The Orchard, available digitally and with a snazzy book at the Hold Steady Store. The National have also been playing some new songs live, and their website reports that they are mixing their new album. The release date doesn’t appear to be firmed up, but expect it this year. There isn’t much information out there, but The Arcade Fire will hopefully release their third full-length this year too, after a nearly three year gap since 2007’s Neon Bible. Other notable possibilities for 2010 releases include albums from New Pornographers, Battles, LCD Soundsystem, Gorillaz, Fleet Foxes, and even Radiohead are apparently in the studio.
New Music News
For those of you who are insufferable indie rock snobs like me, it can be difficult to keep up with popular culture and music that the kiddies are listening to. Well, now we have a hipster-approved package in which to do so! In only four minutes and 37 seconds, DJ Earwig has managed to condense and mash up the top 25 tracks of 2009, as identified by Billboard. A la Girl Talk, he brings out the best and the most fun parts of the song and makes it sound palatable.
Also, apparently Soundgarden are reforming after a 12-year hiatus. Hopefully it’s more successful than Chris Cornell’s godawful (and so easy to mock) collaboration with Timbaland. In sadder news, Jimmy Sullivan, drummer for hard rock purveyors Avenged Sevenfold, died on 29 December. The autopsy was inconclusive.
Finally, because even miserable bastards need to laugh sometimes, here are links to two videos that amused me, in case you haven’t seen them already. See you next week!