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Next Week in Music | April 27-May 3 • The Short List: Six Albums That Haven’t Been Delayed (Yet)

These artists are willing to stand by their release dates — unless they aren't.

Sometimes you eat the bear. And sometimes the bear eats you. This week it was no contest — Yogi (aka COVID-19) swallowed up a huge chunk of Friday’s new releases. Jarvis Cocker, Built to Spill, The Lemon Twigs, Alanis Morissette, The Pretenders, Psychedelic Furs and plenty more bumped their albums until summer or fall, while Dixie Chicks pulled their Gaslighting disc off the schedule entirely (making me question if it even really existed in the first place, or if it was all just a crazy head-trip prank on their part). Thankfully, not everyone in music is so cowardly. There are still a few artists willing to stand their ground and release albums this week — unless they change their minds before Friday:

American Aquarium

THE PRESS RELEASE: “Country music was the voice of the people. It wasn’t always the prettiest voice, but it was an honest voice,” says American Aquarium founder and frontman BJ Barham. “I think that’s where country music has lost its way.” He pauses, then adds, North Carolina accent thick and voice steady: “I operate in the dark shadows of what we don’t want to talk about in the South.” These days, those shadows are tall and wide, making it hard to recognize a neighbor, family — even yourself. On American Aquarium’s new album Lamentations, Barham shines light on dark American corners with heartbreaking conversations, long looks in the mirror, and empathetic questions, all through songwriting that is clear without sacrificing its poetry, and direct without losing its humanity. “As a songwriter, my number one job is to observe and then translate what I observe into a song, a story, a lesson,” Barham says. “I’d be doing myself and the listener a huge disservice if I didn’t talk about the things I see, which is a country, divided.” As much as Barham appreciates an indignant protest song or one-sided anthem, he isn’t writing them. Instead, on Lamentations he’s making the political personal, reaching out to humanize folks with opposing viewpoints, and offering dignity instead of demonizing. The result is the strongest writing of Barham’s already stout career. “I’m still very much standing up for what I believe in — I don’t think anyone can question what side of the aisle I stand on,” he says. “But hopefully people listen and at least try to understand why their Sunday School teacher wears a Trump hat.”

Car Seat Headrest
Making A Door Less Open

THE PRESS RELEASE: “This album was made from January 2015 to December 2019, starting as a collection of vague ideas that eventually turned into songs. I wanted to make something that was different from my previous records, and I struggled to figure out how to do that. I realized that because the way I listened to music had changed, I had to change the way I wrote music, as well. I was listening less and less to albums and more and more to individual songs, songs from all over the place, every few days finding a new one that seemed to have a special energy. I thought that if I could make an album full of songs that had a special energy, each one unique and different in its vision, then that would be a good thing. Andrew, Ethan, Seth and I started going into the studio to record songs that had more finished structures and jam on ideas that didn’t. Then I would mess with the recordings until I could see my way to a song. Most of the time on this album was spent shuttling between my house and Andrew’s, who did a lot of the mixing on this. He comes from an EDM school of mixing, so we built up sample-heavy beat-driven songs that could work to both of our strengths. Each track is the result of an intense battle to bring out its natural colors and transform it into a complete work. The songs contain elements of EDM, hip hop, futurism, doo-wop, soul, and of course rock and roll. But underneath all these things I think these may be folk songs, because they can be played and sung in many different ways, and they’re about things that are important to a lot of people: anger with society, sickness, loneliness, love…the way this album plays out is just our own interpretation of the tracks, with Andrew, Ethan and I forming a sort of choir of contrasting natures.”

Hot Country Knights
The K Is Silent

THE PRESS RELEASE: “Over the years Hot Country Knights have been cited as a primary influence on the southeastern part of Middle Tennessee’s weeknight karaoke scene and even hold the honor of being the only act inducted into the Murfreesboro Denny’s Waiting Area of Fame. Famous for never giving up on the dream of the ‘90s, Hot Country Knights are comprised of band leader Douglas (“Doug”) Douglason, Marty Ray (“Rayro”) Roburn, Terotej (“Terry”) Dvoraczekynski, Barry Van Ricky, Trevor Travis and Monte Montgomery. With tongue firmly in cheek, Hot Country Knights revive a comedic element which has long been integral to the Country genre, but has rarely been seen since the days of Grand Ole Opry stars like String Bean Akeman, Minnie Pearl and others. As dedicated road warriors, they’ve basically lived out of a van their entire existence — even when they weren’t touring and have many milestones under their belt like playing every Hooters in the state.” NOTE: This is actually a country parody band featuring an incognito Dierks Bentley and his touring combo. I’m not sure if that makes it more attractive or less, but them’s the facts.

Kenny Chesney
Here And Now

THE PRESS RELEASE: “For Kenny Chesney, every album he makes is, in one way or another, a dispatch to No Shoes Nation. Having spent the last two decades defining the sound of summer, coming of age, first experiences and letting go, it started by speaking life to music and evolved into an ongoing dialogue about where the people who’ve found their lives in his songs have found themselves along the way. “I’d say it’s weird, the way people hear songs, and say, ‘That’s me!’,” Kenny confesses, “except I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, ‘That’s me.’ When it started happening, I was honored… and as it went on, I started to realize how important music is in all of our lives. It’s a life raft, a coach cheering for you, a shoulder to cry on, a reason to take stock. When I’m listening to songs in the studio, actually putting a record together, I’m thinking about that. I’m thinking about Vibe Room conversations, people I meet moving around, the stories I’m told… the reasons people connect with the songs. I don’t take it lightly, even when the song is supposed to be fun.” Here And Now follows the deeply personal, devastation-facing and -rebuilding Songs for the Saints. It was important to the CMA Album of the Year winner to reflect the world in which he lives. While no one could have imagined where we are today, the desire for people to be present and engaged that tempered Saints’ Get Along drives Here And Now with the same urgency to be in your life, no matter where you are or what’s going on around you.”

Man Man
Dream Hunting In The Valley Of The In-Between

THE PRESS RELEASE:Honus Honus (aka Ryan Kattner) has devoted his career to exploring the uncertainty between life’s extremes: beauty and ugliness, order and chaos. The songs on Dream Hunting in the Valley of the In-Between, Man Man’s first album in over six years, are as intimate, soulful, and timeless as they are audaciously inventive and daring. At the end of 2015, Man Man went on an unexpected and unforeseen hiatus, and thus began a period of creative reinvention for Honus. He worked in music supervision and on scores (The Exorcist, Superdeluxe, Do You Want to See a Dead Body?). He acted in the indie film Woe (“I played a park ranger, a nice guy in a sad movie.”), So It Goes, a short musical film with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and starred in the award-winning tour documentary Use Your Delusion. He also developed an animated series, wrote film scripts, a graphic novel, a neo-noir TV pilot, and briefly penned a music column, all while continuing to work on new music, such as an unreleased kids’ record, another Mister Heavenly album, a self-released Honus Honus record, and a conceptual art/noise project Mega Naturals. He was sleeping 2.5 hours per day. In the midst of this Man Man sabbatical, Honus began piecing together what would become Dream Hunting in the Valley of the In-Between. He recruited longtime-creative collaborator Ghahremani to help him produce. Written in a friend’s LA “guesthouse” (more shack than chic) that had “an old upright piano, a thrift store lamp, and nothing else,” it was an arduous, three-and-a-half-year process, “I had chord progression notes that looked like chicken scratch and lyrics on pieces of paper stuck all over the walls. It looked like I was about to break the big case, catch the killer,” he says, laughing. “One of the best things about this time, in these ‘lost in the wilderness/surreal exile from my own band’ years, was that I finally found players who believed in me, trusted my vision, respected my songwriting. It was rejuvenating.” Kattner caught the killer. He is currently sleeping 3.5 hours per day. Hope reigns.”

The Sounds
Things We Do For Love

THE PRESS RELEASE: “Write as many good songs as possible and enjoy it while you’re on a roll. We had a great time writing this one! No pressure just having fun,” explains vocalist Maja Ivarsson for Swedish indie rockers The Sounds about the goal for the new album Things We Do For Love. Fortuitously, not only did they have a great time working on this record, they delivered 11 songs that rank among the best in their six-album oeuvre. “It’s always been about being in the moment and trying to catch a good melody, chord progression or lyrics when it comes to you.” Resonating the excitement and dynamism that they’ve always brought to the table for each successive album, The Sounds have outdone themselves in rhythm and melody with this album. Kicking off with the propulsive title track, the innate chemistry among the five band members converge in a melodic synergy. Things We Do For Love strains with Johan Richter’s muscular staccato bassline that highlights Maja’s very distinctive assertive vocals while the guitar work of Felix Rodriguez along with the keyboards and guitar from Jesper Anderberg weave in and out of Fredrik Blond’s focused drums. It’s a seamlessness that carries throughout the album. The pulsating keys in Safe and Sound (which Maja describes as “having the courage to dive into something new as long as you got that special person right next to you”) continue to propel the band forward, while the atmospheric and balladic Changes displays the band’s diversity and ability to effortlessly craft impactful songs.”