Entertainment

Spring 2015 music preview + the five best albums of the year (so far)

By Darryl Sterdan, Special to Postmedia Network

(L-R) Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons, Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine, and Damon Albarn of Blur. (Reuters/WENN.COM file photos)

(L-R) Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons, Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine, and Damon Albarn of Blur. (Reuters/WENN.COM file photos)

Spring has sprung. And you know what that brings: April showers, May flowers and a flood of new albums as the music biz awakens from hibernation. This season’s offerings run the gamut from Alabama Shakes to Zac Brown Band. Here’s a quick guide to the toppermost of the poppermost. Mark your calendars — but do it in pencil; as always, everything is subject to change.

Alabama Shakes | Sound & Color

Can singer-guitarist Brittany Howard and her mighty (and mighty massive) mouth match the blues-rock brilliance of her band’s 2012 debut Boys & Girls? Hold on to find out. DUE: April 21

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Best Coast | California Nights

Coasting? Not Bethany Daniels — the sophomore album from the Los Angeles indie-pop singer-guitarist ups the ante with a psychedelically epic title cut and more. DUE: May 5.

Blur | The Magic Whip

It’s the first album in 12 years from restless musical multi-tasker Damon Albarn and his reunited Brit-pop kings. If that doesn’t warrant a ‘Whoo-hoo!’, nothing does. DUE: April 28.

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Brandon Flowers | The Desired Effect

There’s a Killer on the loose again — lead singer Brandon Flowers, following up his 2010 hometown homage Flamingo with a second star-studded extracurricular effort. DUE: May 19.

Brian Wilson | No Pier Pressure

The eternal Beach Boy’s first disc of new songs in seven years features youngsters like Kacey Musgraves, Zooey Deschanel, Nate Ruess and other people he’s never heard of. DUE: April 7.

Built to Spill | Untethered Moon

Air guitar heroes, rejoice: Bearded Boise axe master Doug Martsch and his recently reordered band of indie-rock bros are back with their first studio album in six years. DUE: April 18.

Faith No More | Sol Invictus

What is it? Just the first album in 17 years from rebelliously idiosyncratic indie-rock vocalist Mike Patton and his iconoclastic ensemble. Fingers crossed for another Epic. DUE: May 19.

Florence + the Machine | How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

Full-throated, flame-haired singer Florence Welch calls her third album her most personal work. Based on the electro-ballads we’ve heard so far, it could also be her most intriguing. DUE: June 2.

Mumford & Sons | Wilder Mind

Based on the single Believe, it seems the Mumfords have abandoned stompy acoustic folk for dreamy rock played on electric guitars. Wild indeed. But will it be what fans want? DUE: May 5.

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Muse | Drones

With producer Mutt Lange at the helm, the proggy British trio’s seventh album could end up sounding more like Def Leppard, AC/DC — or heaven help us all, Shania Twain. DUE: June 9.

My Morning Jacket | The Waterfall

Double your pleasure with the seventh album from singer-guitarist Jim James and co. — it’s reportedly the first of two discs the Kentucky rockers will release over the next year. DUE: May 5.

Of Monsters and Men | Beneath the Skin

The Icelandic indie-popsters got under our skin with 2011’s My Head is An Animal. With song titles like Hunger and Wolves Without Teeth, it seems they haven’t been tamed. DUE: June 9.

Shawn Mendes | Handwritten

Your tweenage daughters already know him from his six-second Vine videos. Now the Toronto popster hopes to hold your attention for a little longer with his debut full-length. DUE: April 14.

The Vaccines | English Graffiti

After titling their last disc Come of Age, the British indie-rockers seem to have taken that message to heart on their weirder, wilder and more ambitiously adventurous third album. DUE: May 26.

Zac Brown Band | Jekyll Hyde

If there’s a dark side to personable Georgia country-rocker Zac Brown, he hasn’t revealed it yet. Perhaps his band’s fourth major-label release will give us a glimpse. DUE: April 28.

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ALSO ON THE WAY

April 7

All Time Low | Future Hearts
Frank Black and the Catholics | Complete Recordings
Blues Traveler | Blow Up the Moon
Halestorm | Into the Wild Life
Matt and Kim | New Glow
Todd Rundgren | Global
Philip Sayce | Influence
Waxahatchee | Ivy Tripp
Cassandra Wilson | Coming Forth By Day

April 14

Calexico | Edge of the Sun
Eels | Royal Albert Hall
The Ides of March | Last Band Standing
Reba McEntire | Love Somebody
Replacements | Complete Studio Albums 1981-1990
J.D. Souther | Dance Real Slow
Frank Turner | The Third Three Years
Van Halen | Deluxe
Hank Williams III | Take As Needed For Pain
Dwight Yoakam | Second Hand Heart

April 21

Ryan Adams | Live at Carnegie Hall
Apocalyptica | Shadowmaker
BoDeans | I Can’t Stop
Hardcore Superstars | HCSS
Joywave | How Do You Feel Now?
Jimbo Mathus | Blue Healer
Passion Pit | Kindred
Frank Sinatra | Ultimate Sinatra
Speedy Ortiz | Foil Deer
Squarepusher | Damogen Furies
They Might Be Giants | Glean
Wire | Wire

April 28

Beach Boys | Pet Sounds Blu-ray Audio
Braids | Deep in the Iris
Everclear | Black Is the New Black
Martin Gore | MG
Josh Groban | Stages
Insane Clown Posse | The Marvelous Missing Link
Natalie MacMaster Donnell Leahy | One
Mew |  -
Millencolin | True Brew
Ambrosia Parsley | Weeping Cherry
Robert Pollard | Faulty Superheroes
Raekwon | Fly International Luxurious Art
Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld | Never were the way she was
10,000 Maniacs | Twice Told Tales

May 5

Mikal Cronin | MCIII
Giant Sand | Heartbreak Pass
John Lodge | 10,000 Light Years Ago
Shelby Lynne | I Can’t Imagine
Mac McCaughan | Non-Believers
The Proclaimers | Let’s Hear It For the Dogs
The Word | Soul Food

May 12

Steve Aoki | Neon Future II
Leonard Cohen | Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell | The Traveling Kind
Róisín Murphy | Hairless Toys
Buffy Sainte-Marie | Power in the Blood
Snoop Dogg | Bush
Surfer Blood | 1000 Palms
Paul Weller | Saturns Pattern

May 19

The Helio Sequence | The Helio Sequence
Hot Chip | Why Make Sense?
Silverstein | I Am Alive In Everything I Touch
Twenty One Pilots | Blurryface
Whitesnake | The Purple Album
Yes | Progeny: Highlights From Seventy-Two

June 2

The Darkness | Last of Our Kind
Ben Lee | Love Is the Great Rebellion
Chris Robinson Brotherhood | Betty’s Blend Volume Two: The Best From the West
Violent Femmes | Happy New Year

THE FIVE BEST DISCS OF 2015 (SO FAR...)

1. Kendrick Lamar
To Pimp a Butterfly


There are rappers with style. There are rappers of substance. Then there is Lamar. Coming straight outta Compton, Lamar shot to the top with the acclaimed, Grammy-nominated Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, the best rap album of 2012. How do you follow that? With one of the best rap albums of the decade. Audaciously bold, restlessly innovative, intoxicatingly funky and irresistibly appealing on multiple levels, the 27 year old’s third full-length firmly establishes him as one of the most revolutionary and compelling forces in music.

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2. Björk
Vulnicura


It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get back up. And Björk has taken more than her share of knocks lately — a romantic breakup, a parent’s illness, a potentially catastrophic pre-release leak. But with her singular vision, bizarre genius and adventurous determination, the 49-year-old Icelandic singer-songwriter and multi-media artist turns tragedy into soaring triumph on her ninth studio release, a mesmerizing, powerful and intensely personal work that reinvents one of the most cliche musical entities in existence: The breakup album.

3. Sleater-Kinney
No Cities to Love


“It’s not the cities … it’s the people we love,” conclude Sleater-Kinney on the title track of their comeback disc. They’re half right. Nearly a decade after their breakup, Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss have remained deservedly beloved. But No Cities to Love also returns us to their familiar terrain: A landscape of tightly wound but loosely constructed indie-rock nuggets centred around snaking guitar lines, dissonantly clanging chords and topped with urgently wailed vocals and ragged harmonies. Plenty to love.

4. Courtney Barnett
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit


“Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you,” warns Barnett. Fat chance. The idiosyncratically witty Melbourne indie-popster’s debut is anything but a disappointment: It’s one of the most charming and unique offerings of the year. The secret is in her songwriting — specifically her ability to pen and play rambling, self-depracating numbers that sound as if she’s tossing them off in the garage, though closer examination reveals superbly subtle craftsmanship. Better start building that pedestal.

5. Death Cab for Cutie
Kintsugi

Every beginning signals an end. Every end marks a beginning. Some are just more satisfying than others. Like Kintsugi. It’s the eighth album from Seattle’s Death Cab for Cutie. It’s also their final disc with guitarist Chris Walla, their first with an outside producer, and their first since singer-guitarist Ben Gibbard got divorced. Not surprisingly, it has plenty to say about big life changes — and fittingly stays true to their past while moving forward with more complex rhythms and gleaming synths. It’s a grand finale. A new dawn. And one of the most inspired works of their career.

Twitter: @darryl_sterdan
darryl.sterdan@sunmedia.ca


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