spring preview 2017

Spring Music Preview: Gorillaz, Father John Misty, Kendrick(?), and Much More

The cover of Feist’s “Pleasure”

Drake’s release of More Life preceded the arrival of spring by a couple days, but as far as the music-release calendar goes, it’s hard to think of a better way to start the season. From a freshly announced Kendrick album to the long-anticipated return of Gorillaz, the next couple of months should provide plenty of summer playlist material.

Tei Shi, Crawl Space (March 31)
Tei Shi has been populating the blog circuit with one-off songs since 2013, but she’s only just now getting around to putting out her debut album — and if its lead single “Keep Running” is representative of the whole project, fans of her earlier vaguely defined “mermaid music” might be thrown a curveball: She’s moved away from her New Wave influences and leaned closer into brooding R&B. Still, she wears both sides of her sound so well it’s hard to take issue with the shift — if you even notice it. —Dee Lockett

Freddie Gibbs, You Only Live 2wice (March 31)
A 34-year-old street-rap stalwart from Gary, Indiana, Gibbs blends the intensity of an artist half his age with a technical precision born from long experience. His fourth album is reported to clock in at roughly 32 minutes, but that shouldn’t be taken as a sign that he’s got nothing to say; rather, it’s an indication to the contrary. Gibbs has a story to tell, but he’s also scarily efficient, and too old to waste time. —Frank Guan

Mastodon, Emperor of Sand (March 31)
Atlanta metal outfit Mastodon has always managed a precarious balancing act between jibing subgenres, but this month’s Emperor of Sand continues the march toward the accessibility initiated with 2011’s The Hunter. That regrettably means even fewer songs about facing off against stone golems on a cursed mountainside and resisting the wiles of the doomed Tsarist Russian swindler Rasputin, but the pleading emotional intensity and soulful singing of cuts like “Word to the Wise” are just as powerful as any swords and sorcery. —Craig Jenkins

Arca, Arca (April 7)
Venezuelan producer Arca makes captivating, claustrophobic electronic music and videos that are terrifying yet strikingly beautiful by turns, but more often all at once. His third album, Arca, blesses another array of bewitching productions with the angelic singing that anchored “Sin Rumbo,” off last year’s Entrañas, and lyrics about doomed love and transformation sung in Spanish. Arca’s cryptic audio-visual experiences will no doubt push the producer’s solo work up into the rarefied space occupied by forward-thinking multimedia auteurs like Björk and Anohni. —CJ

Father John Misty, Pure Comedy (April 7)
Come for the existential musings, esoteric social commentary, “generic” pop songs, and acid trips; stay for the mass spillage of word vomit from all future Father John Misty interviews that his new album will happily provide us. —DL

Joey Bada$$, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ (April 7)
In a few short years, New York rapper Joey Bada$$ has graduated from the precocious teenage Golden Age hip-hop nostalgia of his early mixtapes 1999 and Summer Knights, into the burgeoning hometown rap superpower of 2015’s B4.Da.$$. The new All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ mixes in political awareness and capable singing for what at times feels like an East Coast rebuttal to the bright, outraged, high-concept activism of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. —CJ

The New Pornographers, Whiteout Conditions (April 7)
Whiteout Conditions is Canadian indie-rock supergroup the New Pornographers’ first full-length record without founding member Dan Bejar, whose ever-changing Destroyer outfit has grown into a formidable project of its own, and also the first for the band’s newly minted Collected Works Records. Remaining songwriters A.C. Newman and Neko Case don’t miss a beat; Whiteout Conditions provides another dose of power-pop with quirky synth accents from a collective that hasn’t faltered yet this century. —CJ

Little Dragon, Season High (April 14)
These Swedish electro-experimentalists rarely make a misstep. 2014’s Nabuma Rubberband was a vision of what international genre fusion could be in the right hands. Season High, while slightly scaled back and moodier (though, make no mistake, the oddball dance track “Sweet” is a certified bop), looks to be an extension of what Yukimi Nagano & Co. started exactly a decade ago. —DL

Feist, Pleasure (April 28)
The first album since 2011’s Metals from the Canadian songstress and indie icon, Pleasure’s all but guaranteed to deliver on the promise of its title: smooth and smoked out by its user’s past life as a punk screamer, Feist’s voice is a cause for euphoria in itself. Whether there’s enough substance behind the smoke, though, only time can tell. —FG

Gorillaz, Humanz (April 28)
After six years off and away on vacation on Plastic Beach, your favorite animated band will rejoin us humanz for their fifth album, their first since 2011’s The Fall. And it has a murderer’s row of collaborators joining Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett, 2D, Murdoc, Russel Hobbs, and Noodle: Grace Jones, Mavis Staples, Danny Brown, De La Soul, Pusha T, Kali Uchis, Kelela, Vince Staples, Jehnny Beth from Savages, D.R.A.M., Popcaan, Jamie Principle, Kilo Kish, Anthony Hamilton, Peven Everett, and Zebra Katz. With a guest list like that, there’s a chance that the excellent anti-Trump song “Hallelujah Money” isn’t even the best track on the album — and that’s saying something. —DL

Sylvan Esso, What Now (April 28)
Sylvan Esso have only been a synth-pop duo of singer Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sunburn for four years, but already they’re onto their sophomore album. The band’s songs are big, brash observations on modern relationships — “Die Young” is about succumbing to love before death, and “Radio” is a sick burn aimed at artists’ dependence on their pop overlords: “Now don’t you look good sucking American dick.” Purity Ring fans who prefer the duo’s poppier moments, give What Now your time. —DL

Perfume Genius, No Shape (May 5)
In three studio albums as Perfume Genius, singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas has expanded from the wounded folk of “Normal Song” into the glam-rock accents of “Fool” and the queer empowerment anthem “Queen,” off 2014’s Too Bright. The fourth, this spring’s No Shape, pushes him further while retaining the project’s personal air of music as therapy. Of new songs like “Slip Away,” Hadreas says, “I think a lot of them are about trying to be happy in the face of whatever bullshit I created for myself or how horrible everything and everyone is.” —CJ

At the Drive-In, in•ter a•li•a (May 5)
The El Paso–based post-hard-core legends At the Drive-In broke up shortly after the release of Relationship of Command, a superb album that made them minor-league famous; that was back in 2001. A few years after reuniting, they’re back with a new collection in 2017. You can get an old crew together again, but the magic between them is rather more elusive. Here’s hoping that the same malaise afflicting the post-reunion Pixies doesn’t get the worst of them as well. —FG

Chris Stapleton, TBA (May 5)
First Chris Stapleton was one of Nashville’s Music Row’s best-kept songwriting secrets, and then he became a household name with his acclaimed debut solo album Traveller and a dominating 2015 CMAs night that shocked even the best industry forecasters. How will he follow up what might’ve (incorrectly) looked like overnight success on his sophomore album? We won’t know the answer until May, but don’t expect it to be any less impressive just because more eyes are watching. —DL

Mac DeMarco, This Old Dog (May 5)
If you’ve come to know Canadian indie-rock star Mac DeMarco as the cigarette-smoking, wise-guy guitar god you often see on the blogs, his latest, This Old Dog, will be a shake-up. The new album foregrounds acoustic guitars and synths in place of his trademark woozy electric guitar work, and trades whimsy for tear-stained autobiography. “Just trying to keep it light sometimes casts a shadow,” he sings on “A Wolf Who Wears Sheep’s Clothes.” Truer words… —CJ

Kendrick Lamar, TBA (TBA)
Either it’s a bit too early to start wondering if Kendrick Lamar’s fourth album will drop this spring, or we’re all somehow already late to party. As of March 23, when Kendrick Lamar teased album No. 4 with an Instagram photo of the Roman numeral IV, we’ve all been put on Kendrick album watch. So far, Kendrick is three-for-three in the album department, which means we might already have an easy contender for Album of the Year just a few months into 2017. —DL

Spring Music Preview: Gorillaz, FJM, Kendrick(?), and More