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Alan Cross’ weekly music picks: From new Snoop to new Stone Temple Pilots

Snoop Dogg performs during the PowWow Jam at the 2018 Okeechobee Music Festival on March 3, 2018 in Okeechobee, Fla. Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

With spring to hit at exactly 12:15 pm Tuesday, thoughts slowly begin to turn to listening to music outdoors and with the windows down. Here are some early contenders for your springtime playlists.

Let’s start with my five essential picks for the week.

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1. Stone Temple Pilots, Stone Temple Pilots

A definite curiosity. The first Stone Temple Pilots record in eight years (and the second in a row that’s self-titled) is the first with new singer Jeff Gutt. He’s got a tough assignment: replacing both Scott Weiland (the singer for all STP albums until now) and Chester Bennington (STP’s placeholder singer following the Weiland years). The group has been dribbling out new material since November, with this being the fourth advance single from the record.

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2. Jann Arden, These are the Days

Jann’s been busy. She’s been doing pre-promotion for this record (her first collection of new material since 2014’s Everything Almost) plus she’s been getting ready to co-host the Junos with Michael Buble next Sunday. The last few years have been spent caring for her mother who has Alzheimer’s — subject of a new memoir — so it will be interesting to see if that comes through in the songs. Super-producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Bon Jovi, Tragically Hip, etc.) helped with the songwriting, too.

3. Snoop Dogg, Bible of Love

Just to be clear, this is a gospel album. And it features a staggering 32 tracks, all released on his own gospel record label, All the Time Entertainment. That may seem a bit weird at first, what with Snoop being a cannabis entrepreneur, but it actually fits with Snoop’s mission to promote peace and love. The record is quite good, actually, certainly better than his attempt to become a reggae star back in 2013 when he wanted us to call him Snoop Lion. If you’re looking for something spiritually uplifting, you just might find it here.

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4. The Decemberists, I’ll Be Your Girl

Now that they’re up to their eighth record, Portland’s Decemberists felt a need to stretch their sound into some new directions while still indulging in their penchant for fables. Fans will debate on whether these attempts always work — the synths are more forward in the mix and the group does venture into topical territory — but you can’t fault a band for trying to shake things up, right? The first single, “Severed,” is “definitely from a demagogue’s [read: Donald Trump’s] viewpoint.” Another song that won’t be heard in the West Wing, then.

5. Rich Aucoin, Hold

The much-admired indie star from Halifax returns with his first new album since 2014 and, as usual, he’s looking at things differently. Rich plans to tour the U.S. — the Press On Tour — involve him riding from gig to gig on a bicycle, starting in Los Angeles and working back to Philadelphia, camping along the way in a tent. (It’s a charity thing with money earmarked for the Canadian Mental Health Association and Mental Health America). He plans to release singles and videos by different filmmakers every three weeks. And the real shark in this video is named Hilton.

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London Calling: Public Service Broadcasting, People Will Always Need Coal

This trio from London approach music in a unique way. Since no one in the band wants to sing full-time, the group focuses on created instrumentals with vocals provided by samples from old public service announcements, information films, archive footage and even old propaganda reels. The effect can be mesmerizing and has served them well through three albums. This is a single from their third record, Every Valley.

Throwback Thursday: Hole, Celebrity Skin

In 1998, Courtney Love looked ready to take over the world. With high-profile acting roles and with dabbles in fashion, she was the most famous woman in rock. Meanwhile, a third Hole album — the first since Kurt’s death — called Celebrity Skin provided a late-decade blast of guitar rock. The title track and first single, released in September 1998, got everyone’s attention. And fast.

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Undiscovered Gem: Soccer Mommy, Your Dog

Soccer Mommy is 20-year-old Nashville native Sophie Allison. While enrolled as a music business major in New York, a little voice in her head told her she should quit and focus on being a performer. So she did. Early fans go crazy for her earliest DIY work, some of which commands a stiff premium on the used market. Clean is her second album.

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

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