I was strolling through the park one day in the merry, merry month of May — when I was taken by surprise by the realization that it was already time to assemble another list of the month’s best albums. Here are the top pop and rock releases, listed in alphabetical order. Just click on the cover picture to find the original review page (where you can also listen to the album in full):
Speaking of symmetry: The Scottish trio’s eighth album also happens to be a set of all-new material written for a film co-written by the band’s singer-guitarist Simon Neil. What a coincidence! Even so, it sounds like the rest of Biffy Clyro’s releases: Big riffs and complex modern rockers mixed with lighter electronic pop fare. Speaking of balance.
Second blast, just like the last. Except better. Brooklyn foursome Charly Bliss’s 2017 debut disc Guppy garnered near-universal praise and landed on plenty of year-end lists thanks to its fizzy, high-energy brand of ’90s-inspired power-pop and alt-rock. Expect the much-anticipated followup Young Enough to repeat that feat, if not surpass it by launching them into full-blown rock stardom.
The former Hannah Montana, occasional drug buddy of Wayne Coyne and daughter of Billy Ray likes to keep you guessing. Thankfully, she also likes to keep it interesting. And her latest release — the first instalment in a new EP series — does both. She is Coming delivers a strikingly strong and frankly freaky set of feminist anthems, dark druggy ballads and low-key party grooves featuring assists from Ghostface Killah, RuPaul, Swae Lee and Mike Will Made-It. What will the next chapter bring? Your guess is as good as mine.
Screw politics; let’s dance! If there’s a motto to Summer of Sorcery, that’s it. And really, isn’t that everything you really need or want from rock ’n’ roll gypsy Steve Van Zandt right now? After a slate of topical albums, the veteran E Street Band guitarist and garage-rock guru gets off his soapbox, fires up the wayback machine and throws a retro-rock bash with the help of his crack band and a big, bold brass section.
The National — a.k.a the coolest thing to come from Cincinnati since WKRP — present their easy-to-love eighth album and the companion piece to a 24-minute film by indie director Mike Mills (no, not the R.E.M. guy). It also features plenty of post-rock textures and electronics, along with a slate of female guest vocalists including Lisa Hannigan, Sharon Van Etten, Mina Tindle, Gail Ann Dorsey and Kate Stables. The result? Duets from a romantic robot-themed musical set in the near future.
The latest in a seemingly endless series of Australian rock bands with freaky tastes and freakier names — see also: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Tropical F*ck Storm, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, etc. — Psychedelic Porn Crumpets dose you with 33 minutes of, yes, psychedelia. But it’s been turbocharged with boogie-rock beats, pointedly prominent guitars, glammy falsetto vocals and other pop-rockist trappings. So clearly they’re playing by Aussie rules.
Like the rest of us, Maddie Ross stars in the movie of her own life. The only difference is, she would apparently prefer to star in a fictional ’90s teenage rom-com. And with her striking debut album, the 20-something L.A. indie-popster has also created her own narrative soundtrack and score. Bottom line: She’s all that. And much more.
More than 10 years after they exploded on to the scene with their self-titled debut, the New York musicians are no longer the young hipsters of old. But instead of buying tighter pants, getting trendy haircuts and pretending nothing has changed, they give up the ghost, open themselves up and see what comes of it. And they end up creating their loosest, warmest and most expansive album of their career.