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Next Week in Music | April 6-12 • The Short List: Six Releases You Want to Hear

Strokes, Sparta, Local H, Dream Syndicate and the rest of the this week's biggies.

Julian Casablancas and The Strokes’ much-anticipated sixth album The New Abnormal is obviously the big dog in this week’s pack of new releases. But if you think it’s the only interesting album on the way, you’re barking up the wrong tree — there are also interesting offerings from indie legends Sparta and The Dream Syndicate, roots rebel Pokey LaFarge, former Walkmen frontman man Hamilton Leithauser and more. Peep the deets:

The Dream Syndicate
The Universe Inside

THE PRESS RELEASE: “When The Dream Syndicate emerged in the early 80s, front man Steve Wynn declared, “We’re playing music we want to hear because nobody else is doing it.” He added, “I’ll compromise on what I eat or where I sleep, but I won’t compromise on what music I play.” Both were true, and although their template of Velvet Underground meets Crazy Horse may seem commonplace today (and let’s not forget, the Syndicate spawned many imitators), their raw twin guitar, bass and drums approach was not common during an era when slick, polished MTV bands ruled. The band were uncompromising. That ‘tude continues on the band’s 7th album, The Universe Inside. After 23 years, they remerged in 2012 and after a blaze of touring, they recorded their first album in decades, How Did I Find Myself Here? The album was surprisingly fresh (the addition of former Green On Red keyboardist Chris Cacavas provided lush textures previously unknown in their guitar-based music) and more surprising was a vocal cameo from co-founding member, the long-lost chanteuse Kendra Smith. More touring (joined by now official member Cacavas) was followed quickly by another album — These Times — which refined the sonic landscapes explored on How Did I Find Myself Here? This band is not regurgitating old albums and previous glories, but developing with the same urgency that a pack of youngsters would.”

Pokey LaFarge
Rock Bottom Rhapsody

THE PRESS RELEASE: “The man singing these songs isn’t exactly the same man who wrote them,” says Pokey LaFarge of Rock Bottom Rhapsody, his eighth and latest studio release. “This album is about the story of who I used to be.” In early 2018, LaFarge — searching for the sort of artistic freedom and inspiration he wasn’t finding in the Midwest — relocated from his longtime home base of St. Louis, Missouri, to Los Angeles, California. New songs came quickly to LaFarge in his new environment, but new temptations soon found him, as well. Though he declines to get into specifics, LaFarge admits that he experienced a significant “fall from grace” during the last months of 2018. Shortly before the recording of Rock Bottom Rhapsody began, LaFarge experienced a spiritual awakening — and the faith he re-embraced in his hour of darkness helped to buoy him through the making of the album. Musically, LaFarge continues to mix and match a wide variety of styles and traditions, while never losing track of his own vision: “This record is kind of like Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan hanging out with chanson singers and French jazz bands in like the ’40s, but I was never trying to make it sound like a particular person.” Despite the trying period that preceded its recording, Rock Bottom Rhapsody is ultimately far more uplifting and life-affirming than its title would suggest. “That desperation, that struggle,” LaFarge ponders, “Did it add something to the record? It certainly did. I mean, I don’t know if it made it better; it just is what it is. It’s not up to me to decide if people are going to feel that…”

Hamilton Leithauser
The Loves Of Your Life

THE PRESS RELEASE: “I wrote these songs about individual people,” Hamilton explains. “I wrote stories and I wrote music; and then I matched them up. Not one story was originally intended for the music it ended up marrying. These are people I know, and strangers I’ve come across in the last few years. All of the stories are based on some kind of truth, but I’m not afraid to get loose with the facts. Most are both fact and fiction, and some tilt pretty far in either direction. I guess people might call this “creative nonfiction” or just “embellished stories. I wrote and recorded these songs in a studio I built for myself in New York. It’s a tight New York kind of space, and I’m jammed in with all sorts of instruments and equipment.”

Local H

THE PRESS RELEASE:Lifers is the highly anticipated ninth studio album from iconic alt-rock duo Local H. It’s their first full-length record in five years, and coincides with the band’s 30th anniversary. Recorded by the legendary Steve Albini and the band’s longtime accomplice Andy Gerber, the record features mixing by J. Robbins, and contributions by an array of respected friends and guests, including Juliana Hatfield, John McCauley (Deer Tick), and John Haggerty (Naked Raygun, Pegboy). On the genesis of the album, frontman Scott Lucas explains: “When the re-release of the White Album came out a few years ago, I became re-obsessed all over again. One aspect that really hit me about it (this time) was how it’s not really a concept record — but it feels like a concept record. I wanted to do that with Lifers. This might be a concept record about the end of the world. Or it might just be a party record with loud guitars and cowbells.”

Trust the River

THE PRESS RELEASE:Sparta, the El Paso band featuring Jim Ward, will release their first full length studio album since 2006’s Threes. When it comes to his long and fruitful career in music, Ward is not guided by vanity or money or some grand narrative in which he’s the central player. It’s all about the song, the melody, the lyric. So in late-2017, when he began making heavier, more riff-laden music, he rang his Sparta bandmate of more than 20 years, bassist Matt Miller, and began work on Trust The River, the band’s first album since 2006’s Threes. Of their absence Ward notes, “I’ve made a real point to never break up a band, mostly because if you look at my history it’s filled with on-and-off-again projects. As much as I can control it, I don’t want there to be permanence.” Making the album was a multi-month songwriting process that culminated in some of the most inspired recording sessions of his career, with help from Miller, drummer Cully Symington, and guitarist Gabriel Gonzalez. Also joining them was Austin-based musician-producer, David Garza. Beyond Sparta, Ward has performed in various bands and under several monikers over his long and winding career — from the iconic post-hardcore band At The Drive-In to a slew of solo albums and, recently, his alt-country project, Sleepercar. Having been a member of heavy bands but also showcasing his more melancholic side via his solo work, Ward says the new Sparta album feels like the logical meeting point of his influences. “Naturally it’s coming to this unity,” he says. “Those two worlds have always been on a path towards unity. And I knew in my heart that it was coming.”

The Strokes
The New Abnormal

THE PRESS RELEASE:The Strokes will release their first new album in seven years, The New Abnormal. The band debuted the first new song and Mike Burakoff-directed video, At The Door, during their performance at Senator Bernie Sanders’ University of New Hampshire rally. The New Abnormal is The Strokes’ sixth studio album and was recorded at Shangri-La Studios in Malibu and produced by Rick Rubin. The album’s cover artwork is a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bird on Money.”