From where I sit, February was not the greatest month for new music. In fact, next to January — which gave us memorable titles from Andy Shauf, Black Lips, Destroyer, Drive-By Truckers, Marcus King, Mac Miller, Algiers, Trail of Dead, Beach Slang, King Gizzard, Halsey, Kesha and plenty more — this month’s crop of releases was kinda meh. But it wasn’t all bad. Here are 10 albums that stood out for me this month. And hey, I’ve still got a few hundred releases I didn’t get to yet, so who knows, maybe I’ll find some more buried treasures to share in the next few days. In the meantime, give these titles a spin as we March onward. Click on the album covers to go back and read my full reviews:
ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
“I’ll make you scream, I’ll make you defecate,” cracks Ozzy Osbourne on the opening track on his dozenth studio album and first solo outing in nearly a decade. Well, it’s nice to see the Prince of Darkness hasn’t lost his sense of humour. Even better: He hasn’t lost his wonderfully evil touch on the musical side either. Despite a host of physical ailments — which now include Parkinson’s, as he recently revealed — wicked wizard Oz is in fiendishly fine form on these 11 energized tracks, wailing and yowling and cackling and howling with the same demonic lunacy and intensity that has possessed him since the opening seconds of Black Sabbath’s eponymous debut LP half a century ago.
WHO ARE THEY? Singer-guitarist Amy Love and bassist Georgia South, a high-powered London grime-punk duo who have been around since 2014, touring behind the likes of Wolf Alice, Fever 333 and Prophets of Rage — which prompted guitarist Tom Morello to call them “The best band you’ve never heard.” He was right. But here’s your chance to rectify that.
WHAT IS THIS? Their long-gestating, long-overdue first album — and the most distinctive, dynamic and devastating debut of the year so far.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A thunderiffic mashup of rock, rap, grime, punk, pop, grunge, metal and anything else that strikes Love and South’s fancy. Their meaty, beaty, big and bouncy songs come anchored by walloping hip-hop grooves, driven by grinding subterranean basslines, fuelled by serrated power-chord guitar riffage and topped with take-no-prisoners lyrics and vocals that lurch from sultry raps to flamethrower screams at the drop of a beat. On top of that, they know how to write songs that get instantly and indelibly wedged deep inside your noggin.
ALSO ON THE PLAYLIST
A band that invokes the Cosmic American Music of the jammers and the DIY attitude of post-punk? Sounds like a mess. But to their credit, these guys make it work, thanks in no small part to cuts that toe the line between Americana and post-punk, fusing knotty licks and meandering progressions with spiky hooks and yelpy vocals. A little Grateful Dead, a little Meat Puppets, a little Talking Heads and a whole ton of cool.
Sorry, Fleetwood Mac: Your fellow California pop-rockers Best Coast have stopped thinking about tomorrow. Frontwoman Betheny Cosentino and guitarist Bobb Bruno are clearly living in the here and now — and making the most of it — on this lively blend of punchy, crunchy beach-rock, twangy surf-pop and sunny vocals. I haven’t always been their biggest fan in the past, but this one really hits the sweet spot. I suspect it will sound even better in the backyard and at the lake come summer.
There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who say, ‘Fuck, another Guided by Voices album?’ and those who say ‘Fuck yeah, another Guided By Voices album!’ If you’re in the latter group — and I most assuredly am — you don’t need me to tell you to buy Surrender Your Poppy Field, the 30th studio release from prolific indie-rock professor Robert Pollard and his latest lineup. You’re already listening to it with the volume cranked and a beer cracked. On the other hand, if you’re somebody who hasn’t been keeping up with Uncle Bob and his brew crew lately, allow me to do you a solid by way of letting you know that now’s the time to get back on the bus. And here’s why: The 15-song Poppy Field is one of the venerable Ohio rockers’ more outsized, invigorated and consistently satisfying recent outings.
WHO ARE THEY? A self-described “double-drummer psychedelic stupor group” from London featuring members of Terminal Cheesecake, Part Chimp, We Wild Blood, MGF, Melting Hand, Apes Fight Back, Psychic Pussies and Gum Takes Tooth. I have heard of at least two of those.
WHAT IS THIS? Their second album of so-called “scumbag lysergic racket” — which is basically their way of describing their particular brand of noise-rock cacophony, psychedelic mania and crazy-pants punk explosions.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Mayhem, pain, confusion, dementia, blind rage and zero fucks to give. So, pretty much like Butthole Surfers in their gibberingly twisted, dementedly aggressive prime. However, these basket cases also slather their brain-melting cocktail of primordial sludge, industrial solvent and crippling mental problems with bits and bobs of everyone from The Melvins to The Stooges. God help us all.
WHO ARE THEY? Pop-rock’s most faceless superstars. Seriously. Think about it: Over the course of four decades, the San Francisco chart toppers fronted by the former Hugh Anthony Cregg III have sold 30 million albums that notched dozens of hits — I Want a New Drug, The Heart of Rock and Roll, Workin’ For a Livin’, The Power of Love, Hip to Be Square, Stuck With You and plenty more. They’ve also won a Grammy, been up for an Oscar, travelled the world, worked with everyone from Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe to Thin Lizzy, and even been disturbingly namedropped in American Psycho. Despite all that, I bet 99% of their fans couldn’t name a single member besides Lewis or pick any of them out of a police lineup. How they pulled that off, I’ll never know.
WHAT IS THIS? Their 10th studio album, first new release in a decade, first set of original material in nearly twice as long — and very possibly their swan song as well as their comeback album, now that a sudden and very debilitating case of Meniere’s disease has apparently left Lewis unable to sing, record or tour for the foreseeable future.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Exactly what you expect and want from Huey Lewis And The News. Which is to say: A lighthearted, winning slate of instantly familiar singles that bounce between pop, rock, blues, soul, funk, new wave, country and more — but never fail to include a catchy chorus, a hummable melody, some punchy horns and Huey’s blues harp. The only quibble: At seven songs and 26 minutes, it’s basically a glorified EP.
Skip the pensive opening title cut and go straight to the Steve Earle duet or edgy mid-album nuggets like Drag You Down and Glad. They’re a far better introduction to the disc, which sets Sellers’ breezy southern drawl and bittersweet melodies against edgy, gnarly alt-roots rockers. Not your average country album — which is kind of a surprise, considering Sellers is the daughter of the daughter of Nashville vets Jason Sellers and Lee Ann Womack, while producer Frank Liddell is her stepfather.
WHO ARE THEY? A peculiar psyche-punk pair from Porto, Portugal. If that sentence doesn’t have enough Ps in it for you, they also call themselves pretty and promising. They could also have included potent, punchy, powerful and perplexing.
WHAT IS THIS? Their third full-length album in four years — though they’ve also released a few EPs and singles since arriving on this planet in 2014. It also seems to be some sort of concept album about some sort of epic battle between “Master” and “our heroes,” aka God (or aliens) and Man. I think.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A bizarrely compelling confluence of contradictory elements — searingly fuzzy garage-rock guitars and swirly bleeping keyboards, Devo-style robo-beats and insectile textures, demented vocals and primally pounding drumbeats. Very little of it makes sense. None of it belongs together. But somehow, all these elements end up fitting into one another like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that reveals the inner workings of life, the universe and everything.
WHO ARE THEY? Unstoppable, indestructible and perhaps immortal singer-bassist Eddie Spaghetti — a man who has survived 30-plus years in the rock ’n’ roll trenches, multiple band lineups and record labels, and oh yeah, a bout with FREAKING THROAT CANCER a few years back — aided and abetted by his latest crew of take-no-prisoners cow-punk renegades.
WHAT IS THIS? Their dozenth studio platter of high-octane, no-bullshit barnburners about liquor, women, drugs and killing — basically, 11 songs that are the musical equivalent of a middle finger proudly held aloft out the window of your pickup as you floor it down the back road that runs between punk, roots and riff-rock.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? The heart of Saturday night at that shitkicker biker bar out past the county line on the interstate. Which is to say: Pretty much like every other Supersuckers album. Admittedly, Eddie and co. no longer keep the pedal pinned to the metal like they did back in the speed-demon glory days of La Mano Cornuda. Of course, that’s like saying Mike Tyson doesn’t hit as hard as he used to. And while the big C seems to have left Eddie’s voice even more gravelly and gritty, it suits him just fine.