Ugh. January. It’s cold, dark, and all the credit card bills from the holidays are arriving daily. Paycheques are smaller, too, as the government frontloads all those deductions for the year. But look on the bright side. We’re less than 60 days from the first day of spring. The days are getting longer.
And we’re starting to get some big-name releases online and in-store.
1. Pearl Jam, Dance of the Clairvoyants
We’d heard the rumour that Pearl Jam was about to emerge from hibernation about six months ago. Now they’re priming the fanbase for a new album inspired (in part, at least) by the climate crisis. The first single from GIGATON (and yes, I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to go ALL CAPS with this one) has a slippery, almost Talking Heads feel to it, prompting people to wonder where Pearl Jam is going with this record, which is due March 27. Oh, and the tour for this record begins in Toronto on March 18.
2. Pet Shop Boys, Dreamland
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have been a going concern since 1981 and while it’s been a while since any of their songs have troubled even the lower reaches the of charts, they still have a worldwide following who are only too happy to receive the duo’s 18th studio album. Dreamland was one of those singles they teased us with last fall.
3. Andy Shauf, Neon Skyline
The Neon Skyline
Shauf, the well-respected indie guy originally from Regina (he was once shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize), returns with his first album in about four years. The Neon Skyline is being launched with a series of listening sessions in various record stores, bars and restaurants across North America and the U.K. Why? Because in constructing this album, Andy wrote about 50 songs about the same night at the same bar. If you’ve ever known a bartender who knows exactly want you want before you sit down, then this record might be for you.
4. Robert Sarazin Blake, Ukrainian Phone Call
Are you watching Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate? Plenty of sound and fury that will (probably) lead to absolutely nothing, other than the stain of a Congressional impeachment. Republican senators have no interest in any new evidence or calling any witnesses. Maybe they just don’t understand the accusations against Trump. Perhaps the Dems might play this song as part of their arguments. It might cut through.
5. Wolf Parade, Forest Green
Wolf Parade is known as an indie supergroup in reverse because everyone who’s ever been in the band has gone on to do interesting things with other groups, Arcade Fire among them. Now down to a trio, this is their fifth album for Sub Pop.
London Calling: Do Nothing, LeBron James
Shouty stuff from a Nottingham group who have an interesting way of making a shout-out to the NBA star.
Undiscovered Gem: Transstar, The Last Girl in Berlin
Fascinating story here. Toronto’s Transstar has been making electronic pop music since the 80s. And in addition to the publishing deals, an album or two, a move to Berlin and studio work, she also heads up a non-profit organization called Blackball which teachers electronic music to inmates and young people in communities with little or not access to the tools of music-making. This has resulted in an album created by the inmates at the Grand Value Institution for Women. The Last Girl in Berlin is a single from Transstar’s latest, Famous Door.
Throwback Track: Suede, Animal Nitrate
Even before they released their first single in 1992, Suede was on the cover of the British music papers, acclaimed as the best new band in Britain. No pressure, then. But the first few singles, as well as their self-titled debut album, ignited a form of musical nationalism where new British bands unabashedly and proudly recycled the styles of those who came before. In the case of Suede, they put a fresh spin on both Bowie and the glam scene of the early 70s. Within a year, everyone would be talking about this new thing called “Britpop.”
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and Q107, and a commentator for Global News.
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