It feels like every month this year, I’ve found myself saying, “Damn, what a great crop of new music.” Next week, however, wins some kind of prize: five of the records on our recommended April listening will be out on Tuesday, with many of them — like the Mountain Goats’ Beat the Champ, Waxahatchee’s Ivy Tripp, and Toro Y Moi’s What For? — streaming now. We’re in a great stretch of the year for new music, so there’s reason not to check out something new. Allow us to make some recommendations…
Brian Wilson — No Pier Pressure (April 7, Capitol Records)
Brian Wilson is a legend, and he doesn’t care if he sounds contemporary, because, if recent interviews are any indication, he just wants to make music that sounds like ‘60s music, which is the best music. (In the case of Pet Sounds, at least, this is true.) This is Wilson’s 11th solo album, and it could potentially be his finest. She & Him, Al Jardine, Kacey Musgraves, and fun.’s Nate Ruess are all guesting on this, and what we’ve heard so far is basically all we could hope for from a 2015 Brian Wilson album: lots of vocal harmony, lots of singing about the beach, and lots of easy melody. — Shane Barnes
Waxahatchee — Ivy Tripp (April 7, Merge)
Waxahatchee’s sole permanent member, Katie Crutchfield, is surprisingly diverse in her catalogue of sad, jangly songs. At their most accessible — like new album Ivy Tripp’s “Summer of Love” or “Be Good” off her 2012 debut, American Weekend — Waxhatchee songs can feel so universally nostalgic, you’ll find yourself wistful for teenage summers you never even experienced, the sunlight practically warming your face via headphones. Ivy Tripp has no shortage of these kinds of track, with more diverse instrumentation — like drum machines and keyboards — giving the project a refreshed take. (Stream the album now via NPR.) — Jillian Mapes
The Mountain Goats — Beat the Champ (April 7, Merge)
Musically, Beat the Champ may be the Mountain Goats’ most mid-tempo album, but thematically, the record is wild. John Darnielle, one of indie rock’s most reliably inventive storytellers, takes aim at the world of pro-wrestling, bringing beauty and empathy to the misunderstood world. (Stream the album now at NPR.) — JM
Toro Y Moi — What For? (April 7, Carpark Records)
Toro Y Moi’s fourth album, What For?, starts out with squealing tires that fade into a predictably shimmering synth, and from that, the chillwave veteran is off to the races. “Does anyone know where we go from here?” Chazwick Bundick asks at the end of album opener “What You Want,” and the answer seems to be groovy-ass psych pop. This album is certainly not revolutionary in terms of Bundick or music in general, but these ten tracks perfectly marry Toro Y Moi’s ‘60s pop lovefest with early ‘70s glam and late-era disco, all swimming in a pool of barely-there synths. (Stream the album now via NPR.) — SB
Fred Thomas — All Are Saved (April 7, Polyvinyl)
All Are Saved is Fred Thomas’ eighth solo album, but you probably wouldn’t know it: it’s the first to receive a major release, via Polyvinyl. You could say All Are Saved is the Hold Steady album we’d all been waiting for, but that would do Thomas a disservice. True, All Are Saved is definitely a lyrics album. “Let’s stop and talk on a slow street/ Your guy is cross-eyed and muttering/ Looks at me like, ‘Now, who the fuck is he?/ and I tell ya, man, I wish that I knew,” Thomas talk-sings over a gurgling beat and soft guitar on “Bed Bugs,” and, really, that whole song could be quoted. Unlike Craig Finn’s band, this beatnick lyricism is better suited to homeroom than a barroom, but it’s much more than even that: this is a thing of subtle sonic beauty that, when paired with Thomas’ dense and rewarding lyricism, makes for one of the most exciting releases of April. — SB
Speedy Ortiz — Foil Deer (April 21, Carpark Records)
Speedy Ortiz’s second full-length finds its members stretching out and taking up more space, sonically speaking. As was the case on the Western Massachusetts rockers’ impressive 2013 debut, Major Arcana, their songs never stay with an idea too long, shifting on a dime from sludgy grunge to high-energy pop-punk to sultry industrial. That’s not the only aspect that’ll keep listeners on their toes: among the current crop of rock lyricists, Speedy’s Sadie Dupuis leads the pack with her barbed metaphors. — JM
Alabama Shakes — Sound & Color (April 21, ATO Records)
Alabama Shakes are always going to be at their best when live (see above), but they’ve so far managed to capture singer Brittany Howard’s ferocity on record, too. The follow-up to 2012’s stellar debut Boys & Girls, Sound & Color was recorded in Nashville alongside Blake Mills and is, as they say, the same, but different. Less concerned with the fundamentals of blues rock, and more concerned with conjuring a feeling, Sound & Color finds the band leaning more into grooves, though, let’s not kid ourselves: Howard’s roar is still the anchor which keeps the band steady. — SB
Built to Spill — Unethered Moon (April 21, Warner Bros. Records)
What’s a legacy band to do when all the young bands are copping its iconic ’90s guitar style? If you’re Built to Spill making your first new album in five years, you recruit a new rhythm section and double down on your signature sound. It may sound simplistic to say, but if you like Built to Spill, you will like this album. The balance of poppier songs to blistering jams is 2:1, but there’s a lot to like here nonetheless. — JM
Blur — The Magic Whip (April 27, Parlophone)
When the members of Blur gathered at a London Chinese restaurant in February to announce their first album since 2003’s Think Tank, leader Damon Albarn compared The Magic Whip to David Bowie’s late ‘70s Berlin trilogy (Low, Heroes, Lodger). “There’s nothing pastoral about it, it’s very much an open record,” Albarn said. While guitarist Graham Coxon described the album as, “Things that are obviously Blur, but things that don’t sound classically what people would think.” Based on the three songs released so far, the band went grittier than ever before, with Hong Kong — where they recorded the bulk of the album — influencing them. — JM
Sam Cohen — Cool It (April 28, Easy Sound)
The Yellowbirds were one of those Big-in-Brooklyn bands that never quite burst the dam of Pitchfork popularity. Sam Cohen was the singer/rock of the ‘birds, providing them their fuzzy northern star, which shot through three albums of refined, psych-indebted punk, a kind of Tame Impala for the haberdashery set. Cool It, Cohen’s first solo album, continues that trend but with less investment in atmosphere and more feeling for melody. The album’s first single, “Kepler 62,” is as good a mission statement as any, its bassline respectfully imploring you to wake the hell up, Cohen singing wearily of strange neighbors and an ominously close sun. — SB
Also out this month:
Colleen — Captain of None (April 7, Thrill Jockey) Captain of None continues Cécile Schott’s creation of a musical world, its title track a flighty thing you could lose yourself in as you get lost in some summertime woods.
John Andrews & The Yawns — Bit By The Fang (April 14, Woodsist) This could be New Jersey’s answer to Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock: the first single, “Pennsylvania,” finds John Andrews’ resigned coo floating sweetly over some drunken, honky-tonk blues.
Reba McEntire — Love Somebody (April 14, Nash Icon) When an icon is 27 albums into her career, you start to wonder where she can even go. I’ll listen out of total curiosity.
Passion Pit — Kindred (April 21, Columbia) I guess some people still like this band with the world’s worst name in the history of band names.
Peach Kelli Pop — III (April TBD, Burger Records) Lo-fi jangle that will make you giddy, or your money back guaranteed.