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Next Week in Music | August 17-23 • The Short List: My Top 10 Titles

Now I just need to find the time to hear the rest of the 50 great albums on the way.

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I was hoping to take a week off this month. Clearly it’s not going to be this one: There are so many good albums coming out that I could have easily listed 50 titles I want to hear. Instead, I decided to spare you and whittled it down to these 10. Now I just have to find enough time to listen to the other 40. Maybe next week when I’m off (he said hopefully).

 


Arkells
Campfire Chords

THE PRESS RELEASE:Campfire Chords is a stripped-back collection of Arkells’ most beloved songs and marks the band’s first full-length presentation of this side of their music. While Arkells were knee-deep working on their next studio album, the quarantine forced them to take four months physically apart — the longest they’d ever spent off the road. This pause did not slow them down; but rather presented a new path. Amidst the uncertain backdrop of 2020, Arkells took a heel turn and went back to their roots, reimagining versions of their most beloved songs for a new project. From their bedrooms, Arkells began to reinterpret past material for a new project, thematically titled Campfire Chords, and rediscover the singer-songwriter spirit that has long informed their trademark sing-a-longs. The vulnerable arrangements heard in Campfire Chords marks the band’s first full-length presentation of this side of their music. “Does it pass the campfire test?” is a question the band often asks themselves while working on new music. If a song can be stripped to its core and be sung around a campfire, “then we know we’re on our way.”


Bright Eyes
Down In The Weeds Where The World Once Was

THE PRESS RELEASE: “I think about how much people need – what they need right now is to feel like there’s something to look forward to. We have to hold on. We have to hold on.” Thus we enter the fitting, cacophonic introduction to Bright Eyes’ 10th studio album and first release since 2011. Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was is an enormous record caught in the profound in-between of grief and clarity — one arm wrestling its demons, the other gripping the hand of love, in spite of it. The end of Bright Eyes’ unofficial hiatus came naturally. Conor Oberst pitched the idea of getting the band back together during a 2017 Christmas party at Bright Eyes bandmate Nathaniel Walcott’s Los Angeles home. The two huddled in the bathroom and called Mike Mogis, who was Christmas shopping at an Omaha mall. Mogis immediately said yes. There was no specific catalyst for the trio, aside from finding comfort amidst a decade of brutal change. Sure, Why now? is the question, but for a project whose friendship is at the core, it was simply Why not? The resulting album came together unlike any other of its predecessors. Down in the Weeds is Bright Eyes’ most collaborative, stemming from only one demo and written in stints in Omaha and in bits and pieces in Walcott’s Los Angeles home. Radically altering a writing process 25 years into a project seems daunting, but Oberst said there was no trepidation: “Our history and our friendship, and my trust level with them, is so complete and deep. And I wanted it to feel as much like a three-headed monster as possible.”


Guided by Voices
Mirrored Aztec

THE PRESS RELEASE: “When we last heard from Guided By Voices, they had released an astonishing four albums in just over 12 months. Each has a distinctive creative identity: Zeppelin Over China was a meat-and-potatoes double album, Warp And Woof was a return to the band’s low-fidelity roots and under-two-minute earworms, Sweating The Plague was a slice of moody stadium rock, and Surrender Your Poppy Field was an unpredictable grab-bag of all of the above. After venturing through the tangled brambles of Plague and Poppy Field, here is a sunny summer reprieve, a relentless barrage of hooks — Mirrored Aztec is the latest stop on this runaway train. Like its immediate predecessors, Mirrored Aztec is both its own entity and unmistakably GBV. It’s also their most immediately welcoming and inviting offering in years — there’s nothing a fan of The Who, Big Star or Wire wouldn’t love. If Robert Pollard’s discography — 107 albums and counting — seems intimidating, do not fear! With a brand-new, high-quality, all-the-way there album every several months, it’s abundantly clear that no band’s fanbase has more fun.”


The Killers
Imploding The Mirage

THE PRESS RELEASE: Imploding The Mirage, The Killers’ sixth studio album and the followup to 2017’s chart-topping Wonderful Wonderful, leaves the grit and glitter of Vegas behind for something more expansive and triumphant. (Literally. Brandon Flowers moved his family from the parched flats of Nevada to the lush mountains of Utah before beginning work on the record.) It’s an album that also pushed the band out of their musical comfort zone, exploring new terrain and referencing the albums in their collection that filled them with a sense of romance and camaraderie in their youth. Influences include Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel, as well as Killers touchstones like Bruce Springsteen and New Order. Throughout it all, Flowers remains a wholly singular songwriter. Imploding The Mirage also features a brilliant array of collaborators, another first for the band who have typically kept guest spots on their albums to a minimum. The list of featured artists includes Lindsey Buckingham, kd lang, Weyes Blood, Adam Granduciel (War On Drugs), Blake Mills and Lucius. Following their 2017 album Wonderful Wonderful — a love letter of sorts, as Flowers crafted songs of encouragement to his wife during crippling bouts of depression — Imploding The Mirage is the light after the dark; the overcoming of sadness and moving into celebration. It’s a record about eternal love, perseverance through hard times, and the strength gained from friendships and familial bonds whilst weathering a storm.”


The Lemon Twigs
Songs For The General Public

THE PRESS RELEASE: “The D’Addario brothers return with their third Lemon Twigs album, Songs For The General Public, written, recorded and produced by the D’Addarios at their home studio in Long Island, Sonora Studios in Los Angeles and Electric Lady in New York City. The prodigiously talented brothers first emerged as The Lemon Twigs in 2016 with their debut LP Do Hollywood, whose showstopping melodies mined from every era of rock quickly earned fans in Elton John, Questlove and Jack Antonoff. Go To School, the ambitious 15-track coming-of-age opus, followed in 2018 and solidified the band’s reputation for building grand walls of sound around an audacious concept.”


The Mavericks
En Español

THE PRESS RELEASE: “Fresh off their 30th Anniversary and World Tour in 2019, the genre-bending, multi-platinum selling Mavericks are changing the game once again with the release of their first-ever Latin format album En Español. Produced by the band’s longtime creative partner Niko Bolas (Neil Young, Prince, Sheryl Crow) and Mavericks lead singer and principal songwriter Raul Malo, En Español features a compelling mix of standards and Spanish-language originals in signature Mavericks style.”


Nas
King’s Disease

THE PRESS RELEASE: “After exciting fans everywhere by teasing new music last week, rap legend Nas — whose career spans over three decades as one of the undisputed greatest MCs of all time — finally announced his highly anticipated album King’s Disease. King’s Disease marks Nas’ first new album in two years. The album is entirely produced by Hit-Boy (Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Travis Scott) and Hit-Boy and Gabriel “G Code” Zardes serve as the album’s co-executive producers.”


Old 97’s
Twelfth

THE PRESS RELEASE:Old 97’s​, the iconic alt-country outfit fronted by ​Rhett Miller​, is returning with their 12th album, the aptly titled ​Twelfth. Twenty-seven years in, Old 97’s still features its original lineup — Miller, guitarist ​Ken Bethea​, bassist Murry Hammond​, and drummer ​Philip Peeples — and ​Twelfth is a testament to the band’s staying power. The album’s cover image of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback ​Roger Staubach is both an homage to Miller’s childhood hero and a recognition that, in making their livings as musicians, the 97’s themselves have achieved their lifelong dreams. “Somehow what we’ve got never breaks down,” Miller sings on ​Twelfth.​ At first, the line comes off as a boast, as a declaration of invincibility from a band that’s managed to survive three decades of rock ’n’ roll debauchery, but as the phrase repeats over and over again, it slowly transforms into something more incredulous, something more vulnerable, something deeply human. “We experienced some close calls over the last few years,” says Miller, “and I think that led us to this dawning realization of the fragility of it all. At the same time, it also led us to this increased gratitude for the music and the brotherhood we’ve been so lucky to share. I think all of that combined to make recording this album one of the most intensely joyful experiences we’ve ever had as a band.”


Chuck Prophet
The Land That Time Forgot

THE PRESS RELEASE: “Most of the dozen songs on Chuck Prophet’s The Land That Time Forgot were co-written by Chuck Prophet and klipschutz, his longtime collaborator. Together, they recall the melancholy wonder of their native Bay Area, a land that, to the acclaimed songwriters, represents the hope and despair that makes rock ’n’ roll so timeless, even if it’s now full of “robots with ironic haircuts.” It’s a darker, more present take on Americana and all its beautiful losers. Priced out of his home turf, Prophet recorded the album with producer Kenny Siegal (Langhorne Slim, Amanda Palmer, The New Pornographers) on the New York-Vermont border, where he could look upon his hometown with fresh distance. With a new drive and new hooks, he orients himself around an array of locations real and imagined — including SF’s Tenderloin District, an English roundabout, and “Nixonland” — while hanging out with a love-struck mirror and the ghosts of Johnny Thunders, Willie Wonka, and John the Baptist, and contemplating the train that carried Abraham Lincoln home for the final time. It’s everything you’d expect from a Chuck Prophet record and more.”


Secret Machines
Awake In The Brain Chamber

THE PRESS RELEASE: “In a world turned upside down, The Secret Machines are back, and looking for light in the chaos. Awake In the Brain Chamber, the band’s fourth LP and first recorded output in more than 10 years, is the sound of things falling apart, with the hope of dawn touching the horizon. If there is a crack in everything, Brandon Curtis and Josh Garza are more interested in the light coming in. Curtis’ darkly prophetic lyrics speak of isolation and fear, while Garza’s frenetic, pounding drum beats sound of the four horsemen. But just when things look their worst, the Machines’ beautifully ethereal space-rock takes us away to a different, safe destination: A place with angels, where dreaming is alright, and life blooms from a new disaster. One of the most acclaimed rock bands of the 2000s, The Secret Machines helped define the sound of the era, alongside contemporaries Interpol, Spiritualized, and TV On the Radio. Laden with sprawling arrangements occasionally pushing the nine-minute mark, the sound of the band has always been grandiose. Alternately labeled as prog, Curtis and Garza have always been most comfortable with the term “space rock.” “Brandon’s songs and my drumming meld into the sonic landscape that is Secret Machines,” says Garza from his home. “I think people will be able to hear that immediately on this album.”