Alan Cross’ weekly music picks: Janelle Monáe serves up a hit, Godsmack strikes back

Janelle Monae performs onstage at Entertainment Weekly's PopFest at The Reef on October 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, Calif. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

Now that we’re deep into the second quarter the year, some of those major releases that were being hyped since before Christmas are now appearing online and in stores.

Let’s start with five albums that need your immediate attention. Pay particular attention to the Godsmack video, too.

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1. Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer

Janelle Monáe was a good friend of Prince, something that has really paid off with this album. Before he died, Prince helped Monáe with songwriting, production and gave extremely specific instructions on what equipment was needed to make the songs come alive. He also ordered Monáe to listen to certain artists for inspiration, including Gary Numan. The result is predictably both Prince-like and wonderful. Although Prince did not write the single “Make Me Feel,” but it’s very apparent that Monáe followed his instructions to the letter. This is the best use of tongue clicks in years.

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2. Godsmack, When Legends Rise

For a band that’s been around for 22 years, Godsmack’s output hasn’t been that prolific, averaging a new studio album every four years. Their seventh record sees the band continue to work on their hard rock guise, moving away from the metal clothes they wore at the beginning. It’s paid off, too. When the first single from this record was released at the end of February, it ascended all the way to #2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart. The “Bulletproof” video sets up this reinvention, but maybe not in the way it actually happened. What are Sebastian Bach and Billy Ray Cyrus doing here?

3. Post Malone, Beerbongs & Bentleys

Malone’s 2016 debut album, Stoner, set him up as a rapper to watch. We’ve known the title of his second album for over a year — he announced it in February 2017 — and after an unexplained five-month delay (it was supposed to be out in December) and three advance singles, the 18-track record is finally here. Collaborators include Nicki Minaj, Ty Dolla $ign, Swae Lee, 21 Savage, G-Eazy and YG. Where does one go to rent a tank like that?

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4. Willie Nelson, Last Man Standing

If you’re counting along at home, this is Willie’s sixty-seventh studio album since he started recording in 1962. Coming in at a tight 33-and-a-half minutes — most of the eleven songs are less than three minutes long — Willie continues to maintain his reputation as country’s version of Keith Richards. He may be turning 85 this weekend (April 29), but like Keef, he’ll probably outlive us all.

5. Acid Test, Jus’Rite EP

Just before grunge hit in the early 1990s, Toronto’s Acid Test appeared with an experimental debut indie album called Trip on This, finding work as an opening act for everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Snow and 54-40, as well as having a radio hit called “Mr. Skins.” After one more album and some movie soundtrack contributions (including Martin Scorsese’s Naked in New York), the group called it quits in 1994. Now older, wiser and interested in making up for lost time, Acid Test has some new music for the first time in 25 years. Unfinished business, you know?

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London Calling: Let’s Eat Grandma, It’s Not Just Me

I think we can all agree that this is a terrible name for a band. And when you click on the video, you’ll see that the group’s sound doesn’t match the preconceptions that may have been conjured up. Instead, we have a pretty-sounding female duo from Norwich who, among other things, like to write songs praising shiitake mushrooms and expressing concerns about angry chickens. This is a single from their second album, I’m All Ears.

Undiscovered Gem: Bon Villan, When I Came Up

Barely a year old, Toronto’s Bon Villan (you’re excused if your brain read that as “Bond Villain”), is an electro-pop trio with a lot of friends, some of whom helped out on their new single. That includes a skateboarder, a ballerina and @iggyjoey, the Instagram dog sensation.

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The Stranglers, Peaches

In the old days of vinyl, this was side two, track one of the Stranglers’ (est. 1974) debut album, Rattus Norvegicus (the scientific name for the common brown rat). Peaches has been used in a number of movies (it was in the opening title sequence of Sexy Beast with Ben Kingsley) and I swear I heard it in a recent episode of Gotham.

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


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