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Next Week in Music | May 11-17 • The Short List: 10 Titles That Might Actually Appear

Jason Isbell, Sparks, Moby, Dears and the rest of the best of the coming releases.

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Well, this is a pleasant surprise. After a month or more of musical famine, the cupboard is finally starting to fill up with some bigger new releases. Even better: I actually want to hear some of them. Fingers crossed that the trend continues — and that these titles actually arrive this week:


Asking Alexandria
Like A House On Fire

THE PRESS RELEASE: “Since 2008, Asking Alexandria have paved a path of their own, distilling danger and excess into an equally dangerous hybrid of stadium rock ambition, metallic energy, and electronic ecstasy. Fanning the flame like never before, the quintet — Ben Bruce [guitar, backing vocals], Danny Worsnop [lead vocals], James Cassells [drums], Cameron Liddell [guitar], and Sam Bettley [bass] — burn even brighter on their 2020 sixth full-length, Like A House On Fire. “We don’t take the easy road,” exclaims Ben. “We take the difficult road that leads to something spectacular. That’s how we’ve always been. When we were kids, we moved to America with no money and lived in a carpark to make this happen. Obviously, we’ve had a turbulent past and history, from drugs and alcohol to Danny’s departure and return. So, it feels like every album we hear the same thing, ‘You guys need to prove yourselves again!’ We spent 10 years growing the most insane fan base though. We did this album for us and our fans. That’s it. We’re still here. We’re not going anywhere. We don’t have anything to prove. This time, we said, ‘Fuck you. We’re doing this our way’.” By blazing their own trail, Asking Alexandria might ultimately encourage others to do the same. “At the end of the day, I don’t care who you are, no one wants to be told what to do, where to go, what to think, or what job to have,” he leaves off. “Everyone wants to live life to the fullest. The album touches on that. We wrote the record we wanted to write and had a fucking blast doing it. I hope this can be inspiring. We’re brothers playing for our lives. That doesn’t go away. It can get bigger or smaller, but we’re here forever. We’re super thankful.”


The Dears
Lovers Rock

THE PRESS RELEASE: “Montréal stalwarts The Dears have announced the release of their eighth studio album Lovers Rock. The Dears’ 2003 breakthrough album No Cities Left was a crepuscular, romantic soundtrack to uncertain times. 9/11. War. The looming economic crisis. Nearly two decades later, as Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak began work on Lovers Rock, the world’s mood felt eerily similar There’s a direct line between the sort of doominess of No Cities Left and this album,” says Lightburn. “You could go straight from Lovers Rock to No Cities Left and it’s like they’re interlocked. But it’s a different kind of doom. Around 2001, it felt like, ‘We have no control. We don’t know what’s going to happen next.’ Now it’s a doom that’s within our grasp. It’s in the air. It’s between us. But we do nothing about it.” If The Dears have always made apocalyptic love songs for an existential crisis, there are also other constants, starting, of course, with the band’s two core members for two decades: Lightburn and Yanchak. There are also certain sonic and aesthetic parameters, within which the music can be both unsettlingly experimental and impossibly lush: part Bacharach, part Krautrock. From the anthemic anger and driving resignation of Heart of An Animal to the swoony, swerving, epic The Worst In Us, Lovers Rock is the sound of The Dears topping themselves yet again, an accomplishment borne of ambition, hard work, and a strong sense of identity. “The question we’re asking in the music is, ‘how do we navigate so much bullshit in this world?’” says Lightburn. “We’re still playing this dumb rock music. But there’s always gonna be a little twist of the knife, cutting into something deep to make you feel like you’re alive. To say, ‘I know what you’re going through. And I’m hearing you, and I’m with you.’ That’s what the music is supposed to do.”


Hanni El Khatib
Flight

THE PRESS RELEASE: “What would eventually become El Khatib’s fifth studio album, the virtuosic but characteristically raw Flight began as spontaneous experimentation. Over the last several years, El Khatib had become close friends with Leon Michels, best known as the mastermind of the soul controllers, the El Michels Affair, but who has also quietly racked up producer credits for the likes of pop juggernauts like Lana Del Rey, Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky and Eminem — as well as frequently working in sessions with Grammy-winning super-producer Mark Ronson. At first, their jams were intended as riffs and breaks for other producers to sample, but quickly, El Khatib decided to say fuck the middleman. Why create samples, when they could create the entire beat themselves? The process unfolded casually and organically. El Khatib took a few trips to Michels’ studio in upstate New York, and when Michels would come to LA to produce the new Chicano Batman record or to work with Ronson, he’d steal away an afternoon to help create Flight. The finished result is a rollicking sampledelic opus that recalls the beautiful chaos that the Dust Brothers created on Paul’s Boutique and Odelay. Or maybe the euphoric bricolage of The AvalanchesSince I Left You crossed with the aggrieved darkness of the early Prodigy. Of course, it’s all filtered through the singular style that El Khatib has developed over the previous 10 years. Take a song like Room, the first finished song on the album. Built off a scuzzy drum break and hypnotic pianos, the pair of El Khatib and Michels recorded it live to tape, then sampled it through outboard gear into the computer a la Portishead. Then they put it in Ableton, chopped the hell out of it, re-edited it and stitched back together into a collage. It’s the type of thing that Dilla and Madlib would’ve created if they had come up on The Cramps.”


Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Reunions

THE PRESS RELEASE:Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and musician Jason Isbell and his band The 400 Unit will release their highly anticipated new album Reunions. Produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Cobb and recorded at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A, the album features 10 new songs written by Isbell. Reunions is Isbell’s seventh full-length studio album and the fourth released with his band, The 400 Unit: Derry deBorja (piano, keyboard, organ, omnichord), Chad Gamble (drums, tambourine), Jimbo Hart (bass), Amanda Shires (fiddle) and Sadler Vaden (acoustic guitar, electric guitar). The new album also includes background vocals from special guests David Crosby (Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Byrds) and Jay Buchanan (Rival Sons). Of the release, Isbell shares, “There are a lot of ghosts on this album. Sometimes the songs are about the ghosts of people who aren’t around anymore, but they’re also about who I used to be, the ghost of myself. I found myself writing songs that I wanted to write 15 years ago, but in those days, I hadn’t written enough songs to know how to do it yet. Just now have I been able to pull it off to my own satisfaction. In that sense it’s a reunion with the me I was back then.”


Moby
All Visible Objects

THE PRESS RELEASE: “All of Moby’s profits from All Visible Objects will be donated to charities. Over the last 10 years Moby has been donating 100% of the profits from most of his work to animal and human rights charities. His restaurant, little pine, his free film music site, mobygratis, his festival Circle V, and his last few albums have all donated 100% of their profits to animal and human rights organizations.”


Sleaford Mods
All That Glue

THE PRESS RELEASE:Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn stepped out of 2019 with a Top 10 album under their belt, Eton Alive, their biggest sold out tour to date and the swagger of a band that have never been more relevant, topically challenging and downright entertaining. Sleaford Mods are set to continue their onslaught into 2020 with the release of All That Glue, a collection of songs spanning the last seven years of the bands career; an array of crowd pleasers, B sides, unheard tracks and rarities for fans and the curious. Over the past few years Sleaford Mods have become one of the most intractable British pop stories. One of its best. Their music is drawn at a flawless fault-line of anger, tenderness and humour, a triumvirate of raw energy which frequently jostles in the space of a cadence for supremacy. On record you can hear their sinews, live you can touch their veins.”


Sparks
A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip

THE PRESS RELEASE: “Brothers Ron and Russell Mael have announced the release of their 24th studio album A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip. Since storming into the charts, minds and airwaves in 1974 with This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both of Us from their third album Kimono My House, the musically vital pop pioneers have created a unique legacy both on record and in their live performances. A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip follows Sparks’ 2017 album Hippopotamus, an extraordinary record which saw them return to the Top 10 and was universally acclaimed with many critics declaring it to be one of the finest albums of the year and the pinnacle of the band’s career — until now.”


Moses Sumney
Græ

THE PRESS RELEASE: “To try to pin Moses Sumney down on a sound — and really, on any matter — is to end up with a hand full of fog, but his genius is never allowing the set to sound like a hodgepodge. His double album expands upon the sonic universe built in Sumney’s critically-acclaimed debut LP Aromanticism and subsequent EP Black In Deep Red, 2014. The songs on Græ may be divergent, like the visceral, Smashing Pumpkins drama of Virile and the intoxicated, outro jazz of Gagarin. There’s the kinky, ambiguous bop of Cut Me countered with the sweeping, amphitheater-ready Bless Me. But there’s that voice, always unknowable and penetrating, threading these pieces together: a heavenly rasp, a whale call, Miles’ horn, a soulful snarl. It all works to create a paradox, keeping art and artist somewhere between any one sure thing — but surely something that demands your attention affixed and your breath bated. All of this is Græ. There’s probably a biblical analogy to be made about a person who just happens to be named Moses, who flees the binary, splits a massive body into two pieces, and leads us through the in-between — holy and wholly rebellious. By breaking up Græ into two multifaceted, dynamic pieces, Sumney is quite literally creating a “grey” in-between space for listeners to absorb and consider the art. Not strictly singles, not strictly albums, never altogether songs or spoken word segments on their own. It’s neither here nor there. Neither/Nor, if you will.”


Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
Temple

THE PRESS RELEASE:Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, the San Francisco-based band fronted by singer and songwriter Thao Nguyen, is set to release their fifth studio album, Temple. The album is among Thao’s most open and honest work yet, finding her coming out in her public life after a long career in which she kept her queer identity quiet in an effort to avoid turmoil with and alienation from a family and culture she deeply loves. “But that shit will kill you,” Thao says. “I have divided myself into so many selves. I am nervous, but hopeful that in belonging to myself, I can still belong to my family, and my Vietnamese community, especially the elders.” She continues, “I believe that shame has made my work more general, when I’ve always wanted to be specific. This record is about me finally being specific. If you listen to my music, I want you to know who you are dealing with.” Thao almost opted not to make another record, feeling that rock music no longer was capable of saying what she needed to express. But it turns out making a record was necessary; it forced her hand to create a space wherein she could finally exist as her entire self. Temple is an album compelled by love and the urgent need to live one full, whole life. Thao and her girlfriend got married recently, and she says, “I have my partner and our home to ground me in this life, in my one life. And everything I do now, everywhere I go, every time I present myself to people, it is finally all of me.”


Charli XCX
How I’m Feeling Now

THE PRESS RELEASE: “Hi guys, it’s Charli here. I hope you’re doing whatever it is you need to do to stay positive during this time of completely unknown, unchartered territory. For me, staying positive goes hand in hand with staying creative, and so that’s why I’ve decided I’m going to use this isolation time to make a brand new album from scratch. The nature of this album is going to be very indicative of the times because I’m only going to be able to use the tools I have at my fingertips to create all music, all artwork, all videos… everything – in that sense, it’ll be very DIY. I’ll also be reaching out to people online to collaborate with, and I’m going to keep the entire process super open, so that anybody who wants to watch can. I’ll be posting demos, I’ll be posting acapellas, I’ll be posting text conversations with me and any collaborators, I’ll be filming myself in the studio, I’ll be doing Zoom conferences to ask fans or anyone watching for opinions or ideas, I’m going to set up an email address so that fans or anyone can send me beats or references… the whole thing in that sense will be extremely collaborative because anybody who wants to be involved can explore their creativity alongside mine. The album is going to come out May 15th, which is kind of soon-ish, I suppose, and there’s a couple of scratch ideas but I’m basically starting from nothing, so hopefully I meet the deadline! The album is called ‘how i’m feeling now’, which is a working title but I kind of like it. So yeah, that’s it! I can’t wait to start making this, and I can’t wait to share this whole process with you.”