Blanck Mass — World Eater (Out today)
I once described Fuck Buttons — of which Blanck Mass, a.k.a. Benjamin John Power, comprises one half — as being the sort of music that should soundtrack stars being born, so it’s pleasantly appropriate that this record is called World Eater. Blanck Mass’s sound is darker and more ominous than that of Fuck Buttons, but no less epic; if there’s anything that should be playing while some unknowable Lovecraftian ~*Other*~ devours an entire planet, this is probably it.
Grandaddy — Last Place (Out today)
It’s been surprising and heartening to see just how many people have been excited about the return of Grandaddy; when they were last a going proposition, they seemed like a band whose critical appeal was perhaps never quite reflected in popularity and/or album sales. Happily, their long-awaited return is likely to satisfy their fanbase; Jason Lytle has lost none of his gift for writing instantly catchy melodies, nor his propensity for grafting those melodies into arrangements that combine laid-back country sounds and electronic instrumentation. The album is streaming in full at NPR right now.
Methyl Ethel — Everything is Forgotten (Out today)
Those in the know back in my native land of Australia have been talking up Methyl Ethel for quite some time. Their home city of Perth has a way of breeding artists both talented — it’s given us Tame Impala, The Drones, and The Triffids, amongst others — and also somewhat odd. Methyl Ethel’s singer/mastermind Jake Webb definitely ticks both boxes. This is a polished, sparkling record that’s often startlingly radio-friendly — lead single “Ubu” (above) is so catchy that you could easily mistake it for something by, say, Phoenix — and also comes with an undercurrent of strangeness. Whether you find Webb’s weirdness too mannered — on “L’heure des sorcières,” he sings “I am an actor, baby, fully formed/ I can’t start again” repeating it many, many times for emphasis — is ultimately subjective; if you’re OK with it, there’s a lot to like here.
Shobaleader One — Elektrac (March 10)
Shobaleader One is a new project from Tom Jenkinson, whom you may know as Squarepusher. To confuse things further, the new project’s first release was called “Squarepusher Theme.” Jenkinson explained the idea behind the new project in an interview with Q magazine, which apparently still exists: “Software companies, partly in order to further their business aims, have made it so easy to make electronic music that the format in general is beginning to assume a troubling air of painting-by-numbers pointlessness. I tried to combat that by making Damogen Furies (2015) as close to a musical flamethrower as can be mustered in 1s and 0s, but right now I feel that the battle must be continued outside of the box. It’s time to make a band sound like an insane band. Enter Shobaleader One…”
Depeche Mode — Spirit (March 17)
It’s not Depeche Mode’s fault that the alt-right like them, y’know.
Mount Eerie — A Crow Looked At Me (March 24)
Oh, god. If you’ve heard any of the material from A Crow Looked at Me already, you’ll know that this is almost certainly the most heartbreaking, harrowing, beautiful album that will be released this year (and quite possibly any other year.) It’s about the loss of Mount Eerie main man Phil Elverum’s wife Geneviève, who died last year of pancreatic cancer, and the long, empty days that followed. Elverum explained the choice to release these songs in a long statement (it’s available in full at the link above), which concludes thus: “There is an echo of Geneviève that still rings, a reminder of the love and infinity beneath all of this obliteration. That’s why.”
Raekwon — The Wild (March 24)
It’s not a proper month if it doesn’t have at least one Wu-Tang-related release, and this time it’s Raekwon stepping up to the plate with his seventh solo album, which features appearances from Lil Wayne, G-Eazy and walking gold-painted garden ornament/rape apologist Cee-Lo Green. There’s an entertainingly sweary interview with Raekwon about the record here, wherein he also pronounces his verdict on Martin Shkreli buying the Wu-Tang album that’s only been heard by a select few (including us): “I don’t know the kid. I never met him. I don’t even know him. I can’t be mad at something I don’t know. Whatever. I’ve never seen him. I’ve never shook his hand. None of that. So, you know, I don’t care. I don’t care. It’s just, enjoy it while it last. Enjoy it, man.”
Goldfrapp — Silver Eye (March 31)
You never know quite what you’re going to get with a new Goldfrapp record, which is part of the reason for Alison Goldfrapp’s enduring appeal. (A great deal of the rest of it comes from her ever-wondrous voice.) For this record, her first in four years, she’s enlisted a fascinating duo of producers: über-producer John Congleton, and Tri Angle dark noise stalwart The Haxan Cloak. The first single, “Anymore”, sounds a lot like Black Cherry-era Goldfrapp, which is entirely OK with us.
Julia Holter — In the Same Room (March 31)
If you’ve seen Julia Holter live, you probably don’t need to be sold on the idea of a live record, but if not, let it be known that she’s as excellent a performer in the flesh as she is on record. In fairness, this isn’t quite a live album in the vein of, y’know, The Last Waltz or At Folsom Prison; rather, it was recorded live in studio. It’s the first release in a new series called “Domino Documents”: “Taking its inspiration from classic BBC sessions, each Documents release will be recorded in no more than a day or two at a world class studio in London. Or at least that’s the plan.”
Pharmakon — Contact (March 31)
And finally, is there an artist more perfect for the Trump era than Pharmakon? Margaret Chardiet’s music sounds like a never-ending panic attack and/or nervous breakdown — which, coincidentally, is pretty much exactly what living in 2017 feels like. Hurrah!