Music is downstream from whatever is happening in society.
This week’s big releases in large part reflect tensions we’re feeling thanks to Donald Trump, Robert Mueller, Syria, Russia, Brexit and everything else that has people on edge. The sounds are definitely getting harder and more aggressive.
1. A Place to Bury Strangers, Pinned
If you’re the kind of person who subscribes to the notion of “better dead than mellow,” then the noise/gloom rock of Brooklyn-based A Place to Bury Strangers will work just fine for you. If you’re unclear where APtBS is coming from, the group has their own guitar effects company called Death By Audio. Pinned is their fifth album.
2. Breaking Benjamin, Ember
BB is a solid mid-tier meat-and-potatoes rock band beloved throughout the American heartland that has never really caught on with the cool kids on either coast. While they also have fans in Canada, they’ve never really broken through on this side of the border. A shame, really. If you’re into groups like Three Days Grace, Finger Eleven and even Linkin Park, they’re worth a spin.
3. Lowell, Lone Wolf
If you follow the Canadian indie scene, you might remember the stir Lowell created with her debut album, We Loved Her Dearly, four years ago. This record (out now) features refined alt-pop that digs into some very personal territory: survival of violent sexual assault, her bisexuality, her time as a stripper, her views on feminism. Watch this woman closely. I have the same good feeling about her as I did when I first heard about Grimes.
4. Juliana Hatfield, Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia-Newton John
The title says it all. Hatfield, who had a nice alt-rock career in the 1990s, first with the Blake Babies and then on her own, obviously has a thing for ONJ. After thinking about it for years, she’s decided to record a full album of covers — 13, to be exact — roughing them up just enough to fit her indie-rock style. Certainly one of the more unusual records of the year.
5. The Damned, Evil Spirits
Yes, that Damned. The British punk group formed in 1976. The first British punk band to release a record, beating both the Sex Pistols and the Clash to the punch. The outfit featuring Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian. It’s been 10 years since the last album, so this is a welcome return. Fun fact no. 1: This record was produced by Tony Visconti, one of David Bowie’s favourite knob twiddlers. Fun fact no. 2: This whole project was funded by fans through a PledgeMusic campaign.
London Calling: Gaz Coombes, Walk the Walk
If you remember the band Supergrass (d. 2010), you’ll remember Gaz, the band’s lead singer and guitarist. Since the band’s demise, Gaz has kept the faith with a solo career through a series of singles, one EP and two solo albums. This Radiohead-ish single (it will definitely make you think of Thom Yorke) heralds his third full record, World’s Strongest Man, which will be available May 4.
Undiscovered Gem: La Luz, Cicada
With most of Canada experiencing a terrible and much-delayed spring, here’s some surf music from an all-female LA-by-way-Seattle group that I hope will break up this stupid polar vortex. Call it “surf noir,” which is certainly a new twist on a classic sound. Wanna bet that Quentin Tarantino is a fan? And from the looks of this video, I have a sense that the feeling is mutual.
Throwback Thursday: The Silencers, A Letter from St. Paul
I’d forgotten about this band until my iPhone tossed it up from some dark, forgotten playlist. The Silencers have been a going concern since 1987 from their home base in Scotland. There are some blood relations with Simple Minds and they are friends with the Pretenders. At one point, they were popular enough to play in front of tens of thousands of people in Europe. This semi-instrumental/spoken word performance is the title track of their debut album from 1987. Unless you’re a real 1980s nerd, this may be unfamiliar, but it just sounds so slinky and cool. Might as well just sink into it.
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.