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Alan Cross: 5 new music picks for the week of Jan. 26

Vincent Neff of Django Django performs live  during the second day at the Lollapalooza Festival on September 10, 2017 in Dahlwitz-Hoppegarten, Germany.
Vincent Neff of Django Django performs live during the second day at the Lollapalooza Festival on September 10, 2017 in Dahlwitz-Hoppegarten, Germany. Frank Hoensch/Redferns

The quiet period in the music industry following the holidays is over, and everything is running at 100 per cent. That means we’re back to having a full slate of new releases every Friday.

While we’ll have to wait until the Grammys are over for some bigger and more familiar names to start appearing on the schedule, we’ve gotta finish milking those 2017 releases, right?

There are dozens of new releases to choose from, but here are my five picks, ranging from albums to EPs to singles.

READ MORE: New music to kick off 2018

1. Django Django, Marble Skies

This four-piece London art-pop outfit (although half the band is very, very Scottish) consistently pulls off the impossible by sounding like no one else out there, a feat that continues with the third album. They’re critical darlings among the indie set on both sides of the Atlantic, and may yet achieve some kind of breakthrough if they keep releasing singles as catchy and fun as this.

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2. TUNS, When You’re Ready

If you’ve been following your Canadian indie supergroup news, you’ll know that TUNS (named after the Technical University of Nova Scotia — seriously) consists of Chris Murphy of Sloan, Matt Murphy of The Super Friendz and Mike O’Neill of the Inbreds. This song was supposed to have appeared on their 2016 debut record, but they left it off at the last moment. Now they feel bad about it. Kind of like when the Beatles dropped Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane from Sgt. Pepper, you know?

3. X. ARI, Cattle Call

Known as just ARI, this Toronto singer-songwriter is now living and working in LA. Her whole mantra is “turn pain into power.” This EP, entitled Dis-Order, is set for release in May. It will be accompanied by a short film entitled Grace, written and directed by Dan Abramovici (Check out his Ben’s Not Home on Netflix.) Interesting side note: X. ARI is big into mental health awareness.

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 4. Matt and Kim, FOREVER

Matt and Kim make a cute duo, don’t they? They always seem to be having the time of their life whenever they perform or make a video. They’re just… happy. Interesting that they’ve chosen this for a single considering the number of swears in the lyrics. But they’re happy swears. By the way, Kim is fully recovered from an ACL injury that she suffered during a gig in Mexico, which is why we didn’t see much of them in 2017.

5. Mike Shin0da, Watching As I Fall

Shinoda, who shared co-frontman duties with the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, has released his first new music since Bennington died.

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He described the three-track EP, titled Post Traumatic E.P., on Instagram:

“The past six months have been a roller-coaster. Amidst the chaos, I’ve started to feel an intense gratitude – for your tributes and messages of support, for the career you have allowed me to have, and for the simple opportunity to create. Today, I’m sharing three songs I wrote and produced, with visuals that I filmed, painted, and edited myself. At its core, grief is a personal, intimate experience. As such, this is not Linkin Park, nor is it Fort Minor – it’s just me. Art has always been the place I go when I need to sort through the complexity and confusion of the road ahead. I don’t know where this path goes, but I’m grateful I get to share it with you.”

This week’s undiscovered gem: Brenda

Toronto is on a roll. The city keeps producing so much great music that it’s almost impossible to keep track of everything. Personally, I have high hopes for Brenda, an all-male quartet (none of whom are named Brenda. Strange, that.) They’re into their third year and are currently riding a wave of praise for their Creeper EP. Nice job with the video, too, which was shot in southeast London using a camcorder.

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London Calling: Idles

If your tastes lean towards England, you may have already heard of Idles, a droog-ish Bristol group that doesn’t hold back when it comes to loud and aggressive guitars. Even though they’ve been a going concern going on five years, they’ve just released their debut album, Brutalism. This single is best enjoyed at maximum volume on your device. Do your best to ignore the man on the left clad in only underwear.

Throwback track of the week: The Fall

We lost another one this week. Mark E. Smith, the curmudgeonly leader of The Fall, died Wednesday at the age of 60 after a lengthy “bizarre and rare” illness. Smith formed the group after seeing the Sex Pistols play that legendary gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester on June 4, 1976.

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Until his death, Smith was the only constant in the band — there are at least 66 ex-members, including two ex-wives — grinding through no fewer than 32 studio albums on a couple dozen different record labels. The Fall was never going to be a commercial success, but Smith became a cult hero to several generations of indie musicians, not just in the UK but around the world.

This track dates back to 1986’s Bend Sinister, perhaps the closest The Fall ever came to having anything close to a hit album.

Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.