Alan Cross’ weekly music picks: So much to choose from

Al Jourgensen of Ministry performs at Hollywood Palladium on November 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, Calif. Oliver Walker/Getty Images

The list of new album releases this is week is long. And I mean really, really long. That’s a sure sign spring is on the way. And there’s something for everyone, too.

Here are my music picks for the week.

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1. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Tearing at the Seams

Three years after breaking through with a self-titled album (and after two placeholder albums — one of outtakes and extra tracks, the other of live performances), Nate and Co. are back with a full record of new material that they hope builds the momentum created by the hit song, SOB. If you know someone who feels a little down, play them the first single, a deeply personal song about losing faith.

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2. Three Days Grace, Outsider

Carrying on without your original lead singer is daunting, but not impossible. Peterborough, Ont.’s Three Days Grace returns with their sixth album, and second to feature vocalist Matt Walst (ex My Darkest Days), who took over from original singer Adam Gonthier. This album reunited the group with producers Gavin Brown and Howard Benson, the team that helped the band achieve multi-platinum success with the album One-X.

3. Editors, Violence

If you’d prefer something dark, there’s Editors (no “The” before the name, please) from Birmingham, England. Those who like Joy Division, Interpol and Echo and the Bunnymen tend to like Editors’ approach. This album, though, may spark thoughts of Depeche Mode-like electro-rock and even —wait for it — Nine Inch Nails. Violence is their sixth album and first in about three years.

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4. Ministry, AmeriKKKant

If you’re looking for something totally dystopian, try the first album from Ministry since 2013. Uncle Al Jourgensen had said the last record would be the final one for Ministry, but it sounds like Donald Trump has prompted an un-retirement. What else can one infer with songs about the KKK, 4Chan and the Antifa movement? Oh, and there are these lines from “Twilight Zone”: “I remember waking up on November 9, 2016, and feeling a little bit nauseous / It felt like descending into a bottomless pit on a high-speed rail/ Careening head first into the unknown.” So not a song for the West Wing’s playlist, then.

5. David Byrne, American Uptopia

As a rebuttal (antidote?) to Ministry, Talking Heads’ man David Byrne would like to reassure us that things are going to be okay. American Uptopia — his first pure solo album since 2004 — is slated to be part of a larger multimedia work he calls Reasons to be Cheerful, a project designed to “give reasons for being happy and optimistic in spite of political strife and environmental problems.” Let’s all head to his house. Happy weekend, everyone.

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London Calling: SLUG, No Heavy Petting

SLUG (another ALL CAPS band) is really just Ian Black from England’s northeast. His new album, Higgedly Piggedly, features Black playing all the instruments himself and was self-produced to boot. Live shows are apparently quite entertaining with plenty of costume changes and audience participation.

This single is the title track of an album due April 13.

Throwback Thursday: The Beastie Boys, Girls

It was this week in 1987 that the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill album reached number one on the Billboard charts, marking the first time any rap record had reached that pinnacle. Yes, it’s a bit weird that it took three white Jewish kids to have this rap breakthrough, but in retrospect, it was very, very important.

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Rap and hip-hop were still very, very new — not even 10 years old in 1987 — and these sounds were still very much an urban American thing. But when the Beastie Boys added a snotty, punk sensibility powered by rock guitars, they helped the genre bust out of its niche.

The record became a huge hit with white kids in the suburbs. For most of them, Licensed to Ill was their first proper exposure to this new music. Once they were roped in by the Beasties, their ears and minds were opened to all this new, exciting music. It transported rap to a whole new audience. That audience growth hasn’t stopped since.

Undiscovered Gem: Band of Rascals

This four-piece from Vancouver Island first gained attention with a self-titled EP in 2014. They now have a second EP entitled Tempest, which sounds like it’ll be good for people into groups like The Sheepdogs, Billy Talent or Arkells.

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

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