Good news, music fans: The industry’s annual November-January dry spell is over, and our cup runneth over with promising new releases in February. In fact, if we enumerated everything we were looking forward to this month, we’d have a list three times as long this one. So, as always, we’ve narrowed it down to the ten albums you absolutely need to hear in the next 29 days. From indie stalwarts issuing hotly anticipated new records to frontmen gone successfully solo to oh my God, the new Sleigh Bells album, you guys, there’s something for everyone — except maybe Nicki Minaj fans, because she pushed her Valentine’s Day album back to April — after the jump.
of Montreal — Paralytic Stalks (February 7)
“The general theme of the whole record is trying to keep myself together when I’m faced with all this madness, trying to keep my relationships together,” of Montreal main man Kevin Barnes told Spin in a recent interview. In that sense, Paralytic Stalks is reminiscent of the band’s best album, 2007’s shape-shifting Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? But it’s also very much its own wounded animal, packed with lengthy songs that borrow bits from pop, prog-rock, and even classical music.
Sharon Van Etten — Tramp (February 7)
Not gonna lie — we’re over the moon about Sharon Van Etten’s third album, a mix of moods and paces, all swirled together by her searching, expressive voice. Tramp is as great a rock album as we’ve heard in the past year, demanding and tough and vulnerable at the same time, with choruses that’ll be stuck in your head for weeks. Produced by another great Brooklyn rocker, The National Aaron Dessner, it features guest appearances by some of Van Etten’s most impressive peers, including Wye Oak, The Walkmen, and Beirut.
Earth — Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II (February 14)
Those who enjoyed the first volume of drone-doom OGs Earth’s Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light will likely already have its follow-up on pre-order. Well, we’re here to tell you that even listeners who are new to the band — and metal in general — should keep an eye out for this one, because we’re liking it even better than its predecessor. We are also firmly of the opinion that everyone could use a glacially paced, narcotized, instrumental album to unwind with at the end of a long, stressful day.
Field Music — Plumb (February 14)
Critically adored British brother act Field Music are back with another dose of quirky, literate indie-pop. The first two singles, “(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing” and “A New Town,” are full of catchy, falsetto-inflected soul, making Plumb a great bet for music fans who like to sing along.
Tennis — Young & Old (February 14)
Here’s one to buy your Valentine: Tennis’s Young & Old, which comes only about a year after the husband-and-wife duo’s buzzy debut, Cape Dory. Produced by Pat Carney of The Black Keys, it sounds quite a bit fuller and glossier than its predecessor, but features the same sweet, dreamy melodies.
Dustin Wong — Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads (February 14)
Those who only know Dustin Wong from his frenetic, now-defunct art-punk act Ponytail will see an entirely new side of the guitarist in his imaginative, experimental solo work. Full of hypnotic loops, dreamlike diversions, and ululating vocals, Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads sounds as free-associative as its title, but only a true talent could make musical play sound so appealing. As those who have seen him in concert can attest, Wong is just as compelling live.
Perfume Genius — Put Your Back N 2 It (February 21)
YouTube inadvertently did singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, a great favor when it denied him the right to run the video for “Hood” (above) as an ad on the site. The clip, which shows gay porn star Arpad Miklos chastely embracing Hadreas, brushing his hair, and applying makeup to him, was judged “non family safe,” despite its lack of nudity or sex. When Perfume Genius went public about YouTube’s censorship, he sparked the outrage of the indie blogosphere and earned a defender in Michael Stipe. Of course, this says little about the music on Put Your Back N 2 It. From what we’ve heard so far, Hadreas’ second album is a delicate, soul-baring epic that demands ample attention on its own merits; fans of Antony and the Johnsons especially should keep an eye out for this one.
Sleigh Bells — Reign of Terror (February 21)
Speaking of bands that have already made a splash with material from their forthcoming album, Sleigh Bells are back with more of the thrilling, soft voice/guitar squall juxtaposition that made their 2010 debut, Treats, so addictive. If the deceptively pleasant “Comeback Kid” and all-out aggressive “Born to Lose” are any indication, Reign of Terror is sure to be one of the year’s biggest albums.
Dirty Three — Toward the Low Sun (February 28)
We’ve seen plenty of multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis in Nick Cave’s bands — the Bad Seeds and the abruptly scrapped Grinderman — but the group where he and his wild violin take center stage hasn’t given us a new studio album since 2005’s Cinder. Thankfully, they’re pulling it together just in time for their 20th anniversary. First single “Rising Below” re-introduces us to an instrumental trio as lovely and menacing as we remember, and after all the time we’ve spent waiting for them to put out new material, that’s quite a relief.
Hunx — Hairdresser Blues (February 28)
Don’t think we haven’t noticed that there’s a lot of heavy, instrumental, and otherwise serious stuff on tap for February. While we’ll have to wait till May or June for summer jam season to kick into gear, we’d be remiss not to mention this little dose of sunshine. A solo album from Hunx of Hunx and His Punx and Gravy Train!!!! fame, it’s a stripped-down take on the two-minute, ’50s-retro rock that made last year’s Too Young to Be in Love such a kitschy pleasure.