New Music Update: Pop Punkers Aim to Strike Gold

New music output is a fickle thing.  There’s new music being released all over the world all the time, even now; however, sometimes there seems to a be a huge burst or lull in output.  One of the most reliable of these boom/bust cycles is the early fall rise, and the subsequent December-January comedown.  Artists release music in the early fall, anticipating an end-of-year list bump in sales or a possible Grammy nod, and then the music world generally calms down for a while, recharging itself.  

The first month of 2016 saw a decent crop, however: Rihanna’s ANTI, Anderson .Paak’s Malibu, and of course Blackstar all came out in the year’s first month.  This year is yet very young, and yet we’ve already had some very high-profile releases in the indie world.  The returns of The xx, The Flaming Lips, Run the Jewels, and even Dropkick Murphys have set 2017 off with a plethora of new tunes to try and wrap our brains around.  And in the upcoming weeks, we’ll see a flood of new albums to sink our teeth into, seemingly from every genre under the sun.  It’s a good time to be a music fan.

Some of the biggest names in music appear poised to release new projects this year, many of them under the ever-widening umbrella of the “indie” scene: Arcade Fire, Spoon, and The Shins have announced albums, and released accompanying singles as well.  Tool have been hinting at something for a while (a long, long while) while.  The Orwells have a new single.  King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is putting out another goddamn album.  Gorillaz are coming back!  And in the near future, some very exciting releases should be expected.  Here’s a few of my most anticipated:

Cherry Glazerr, Apocalipstick: Los Angeles-based weirdo rockers Cherry Glazerr haven’t released a full album in just over three years, and they seem hellbent on following up their debut record, 2014′s Haxel Princess, with something huge.  Collaborating with some big-name producers (Joe Chiccarelli of The Strokes’ Angles and Carlos de la Garza of M83’s Junk), the band is looking to expand their sound and audience on Apocalipstick.  Preceding singles include the riffy, groovy “Told You I’d Be With the Guys”, which promises a rock record that could be among the year’s best.  Apocalipstick is out January 20 on Secretly Canadian.

Cloud Nothings, Life Without Sound: Cloud Nothings have a lot to live up to with this project.  The band rode the swell of support for 2012’s Attack on Memory and 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else through the departure of lead guitarist Joe Boyer, a collaborative album with Wavves, and a grueling tour schedule.  But now they have to follow up two of the best lo-fi punk records of the decade, and we hope they can follow through on the promise of their two preceding records.  Though lead single “Modern Act” disappointed me a little bit, follow-up “Internal World” brought much more to the table.  This album, according to frontman Dylan Baldi, is supposed to be a bit more vocally interesting and less dark than Here and Nowhere Else, and I’m optimistic about where this focus will take the band.  Life Without Sound is out on January 27 on Carpark Records.

Japandroids, Near to the Wild Heart of Life: Japandroids have been putting out some of the most life-affirming, shout-along music in recent memory, which really makes you wonder: can there really only be two of them?  The guitar-and-drums duo get such huge sound out of their instruments that it seems hard to believe.  Their most recent release was 2013’s Celebration Rock, a critically acclaimed release that included standout track “The House that Heaven Built”, and since then the black-clad rockers have undoubtedly been looking for a way to adequately follow up a triumph like that.  Near to the Wild Heart of Life has to be damn good.  The album’s first single is the title track, which comes out of nowhere, hitting you with a thick wall of drums and pure energy.  It bodes well for a band whose MO has always been: “Hit ‘em fast, hit ‘em hard.”  Near to the Wild Heart of Life is out on January 27 on ANTI-.

The Menzingers, After the Party: The Menzingers are a band that remind me of the do-or-die emotion of high school, and that’s not just because I got a little too into them in my sophomore year.  The Philadelphia-based quartet can be counted on for some killer hooks and some incredibly interesting lyrics to boot.  2012’s On the Impossible Past is, in my very humble opinion, completely flawless; it’s a masterwork the whole way through, an emotional call to a time that we’ve either forgotten or never had in the first place.  2014’s Rented World was a bit more flawed, but it had some notable standouts: opener “I Don’t Want to be an Asshole Anymore”, for all its long-windedness, is one of the best things they’ve ever done, and follow-up “Bad Things” is hardly a slouch.  Their latest record is preceded by singles that range from decent (“Bad Catholics”) to exceptional (“Lookers”), and I look forward to hearing singers Greg Barnett and Tom May bleeding their hearts out all over the damn thing.  After the Party is out February 3 on Epitaph.

Dirty Projectors, Dirty Projectors: Ah, Dirty Projectors.  The perfect bridge between Arcade Fire’s accessible anthems to Animal Collective’s unrelenting madness, this band has always occupied a weird place in the indie world: they’re not the weirdos AnCo are, but they’re not exactly a band to show your friend whose closest brush with the indie scene was when he accidentally walked by Sufjan Stevens’ set at Coachella this year.  They’ve always been really good, but never have they fully scraped their way into mainstream consciousness.  The closest they’ve come was 2012’s Swing Lo Magellan, an album that shivers and shakes but never falls down, and their new self-titled release hopes to deliver further on the promise of that record.  If this record has anything near half as good as “About to Die” on it, you can catch me listening to it day and night.  Dirty Projectors is out February 24 on Domino Records.

-John Morse

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