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Alan Cross’ weekly music picks: Several MIA bands return with new albums

Andrew VanWyngarden (L) of MGMT performs on Ambassador Stage during Day 3 of the 2017 Life Is Beautiful Festival on September 24, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Andrew VanWyngarden (L) of MGMT performs on Ambassador Stage during Day 3 of the 2017 Life Is Beautiful Festival on September 24, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. FilmMagic

Art can’t be rushed.

Any music fan knows that art, in all its forms, is only ready when the artist feels that the new work is ready to be unleashed upon the world. This week’s album release highlights include groups which haven’t been heard from for a long, long time.

I say: welcome back, it’s been too long. Here are my music picks of the week.

READ MORE: Justin Timberlake’s title track, and other tunes Alan Cross is listening to this week

1. Dashboard Confessional, Crooked Shadows

Has it really been nine years since the last Dashboard album? Yes. Could this herald the beginning of some kind of emo revival? Maybe. And given the ennui created by the state of American politics, more emo might just be the prescription. Head guy Chris Carrabba, now 42, is well aware of his emo legacy and understands that it doesn’t hold the same culture clout it once did, which is why he held off releasing any new music until now. It’s a short album — just 9 songs — so there’s blessedly little fat to deal with.

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2. MGMT, Little Dark Age

Speaking of bands who’ve been MIA for some time, the sometimes annoyingly mercurial MGMT have returned with their first album in nearly five years. The first couple of records were equal parts pop gems and awkward weirdness. Fed up with the inconsistency, their record label insisted on more control over their third album, something that didn’t sit well with the band. The result, as you might guess, was made under a certain amount of duress. Somehow, the band is still with Sony for a fourth record, which has some old-school hallucinogenic touches. “Off-kilter” is a term I’ve heard several times in relation to this album. That’s a good thing.

3. Legend of the Seagullmen – Legend of the Seagullmen

Let’s just say it: This is a terrible name for a group made up of some astonishingly good metal men. Bored waiting for Tool to get its act together for a new album, drummer Danny Carey got together with Brent Hinds, the guitarist for the Grammy Award-winning Mastodon, to create a record that tells of men who are seagulls, an orca that never sleeps and a giant squid that lives at the bottom of the ocean. You know, the usual stuff. Maybe this is the result of the contributions of film director Jimmy Hayward (Johan Hex, Free Birds and, er Horton Hears a Who), another main member of the group.

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4. Brian Fallon, Sleepwalkers

In another universe, the head man of The Gaslight Anthem is a star the size of Bruce Springsteen. But being in the wrong decade can result in career setbacks. The last Gaslight anthem was released in 2014; a year later, the band was put on ice so Brian could explore a solo career. This year, though, the group is being reactivated— probably after Brian has a run with this solo record. It’s a quiet, thoughtful record, perfect for soundtracking a winter evening’s contemplations.

5. Franz Ferdinand, Always Ascending

After going MIA for almost five years, Alex Kaprianos’ crew returns with a gem. I’ve had an advance copy of this album for about a week now and I really, really like it. It’s quirky, shifts through all kinds of tempo changes when you least expect it and has a semi-New Wave feel to it. In other words, business as usual and everything we’ve come to expect from FF. My favourite new album of 2018 so far.

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This week’s undiscovered gem: MIEN

I’ve long been a fan of a Montreal indie band called Elephant Stone, a group that sounds like the Stone Roses if they had a lead sitar player. Now Rishi Dhir (said sitar player) is part of a new group featuring a member of Austin’s psych-y Black Angels, a dude from the UK’s The Horrors and an American member of England’s The Earliers. They’ve all known each other since about 2004, when Rishi ended up playing bass for the Black Angels. Tours with The Horrors and The Earlies led to new connections, all of which finally came together with this new project last year.

London Calling – Phobophobes

Judging from their name, South London’s Phobophobes seem to be afraid of… phobias? That’s certainly awkward. The band is also a bit weird. When they had a recording session at Abbey Road Studios, they located the oldest microphone in Studio 2, the space favoured by the Beatles. They then took a swab of the inside of the mic and grew the resulting bacteria in a petri dish. That became the artwork for one of their records. Was that bacteria, in part, the DNA of John Lennon? The Phobophobes like to think so. Try out their new album, Miniature World.

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Throwback Thursday – David Bowie

Earlier this week, Elon Musk’s SpaceX had a successful launch of its Heavy Falcon, the most powerful rocket ever built by the private sector. The payload was Musk’s own Tesla Roadster with a mannequin — his name is Starman, of course — in a spacesuit behind the wheel. On the Telsa’s stereo was David Bowie’s Life on Mars on repeat — fitting, considering the Roadster’s trajectory will take it into a solar orbit beyond the Red Planet and into the asteroid belt. I’d love to see the face on whomever (or whatever) recovers this thing millions of years from now. The reaction will be something like, “Dude! You are, like, really lost!”

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

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