Let’s just all agree that The Arctic Monkeys win this week’s award for Best Album Title hands down, but we can’t stop there. This weekend also calls for music made with a harp, an oud, and a bouzouki.
Let’s start with five new releases from this week’s schedule.
1. Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
Up until today, we had no idea what this new album sounded like. Unlike past releases in which the Monkeys generously released music ahead of an album, Alex Turner and the rest of the band refused to give anyone any preview of their sixth full-length record. No advance singles. None. All we were told was (1) Turner wrote almost everything on a piano, resulting in a more “lush” and “claustrophobic” sound”; (2) that the lyrics and themes are heavily influenced by science fiction and touch on technology, religion, and technology. Meanwhile, six pop-up stores to promote the album are now open in New York, Sydney, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo and their hometown of Sheffield in the UK. This clip of “One Point Perspective” — a track from the new album — was part of a set the band played at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Yes, they stage gigs there. The residents don’t seem to mind.
2. Bad Wolves, Disobey
The night before the Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan was scheduled to meet up with Bad Wolves in a London studio, she died of still-to-be-determined causes. Had she lived, she would have contributed guitars and vocals to the Wolves’ metal cover of “Zombie,” which was going to be the centrepiece of their debut album. That single — now a big hit — was rush-released days later with all proceeds going to Dolores’ family. Three more songs were released in advance of this record, but there’s no getting around that it will be remembered for the collaboration that almost was.
3. Loreena McKennit, Lost Souls
There hasn’t been a Loreena McKennit album since An Ancient Muse in 2006. Expect plenty of Celtic sounds (no surprise, that) plus influences pointing to the Bedouins of North Africa. Looking at the equipment list, the nine songs feature Loreena’s harp plus exotic musical instruments like the oud, kanoun, bazouki, nyckelharpa, lyra, hurdy gurdy and flamenco guitar. Oh, and just for fun, a Canadian military band.
4. Ry Cooder, The Prodigal Son
Inside every guitarist is an old-time blues musician screaming to get out. In the case of Ry Cooder, his first album in six years features a mix of his interpretations of traditional recordings from singers like Blind Willie Johnson, as well as a couple of originals. The lead track, “Shrinking Man,” is a pure Cooder.
5. FIDLAR, Alcohol
I’ve loved this band since I first heard of them back in 2013. FIDLAR (short for F*** It Dog, Life’s a Risk) owe a debt of gratitude to early Offspring (think of songs like “Bad Habit”) and the crazier stuff from blink-182. Once you digest this new single, “Alcohol,” look up a song called “Cheap Beer.” Just be aware of the NFSW nature of the language used in both songs, so you might not want to turn this up too loud in your work cubicle. Fun fact: the two Kuehn brothers in the band are sons of Greg Kuehn, keyboardist for the criminally underrated TSOL.
London Calling: Sonars
About a thousand bands are in Toronto for Canadian Music Week, including Sonars, a duo with roots in both Brighton, England, and Bergamo, Italy. They have an electro-psych sound that pairs well with groups like Ride, Slowdive and even Primal scream. “Desert Moon” is the lead song from their 2015 EP, Jack Rust and the Dragonfly. A full-length record is apparently on its way.
Undiscovered Gem: Acid Dad
Another Canadian Music Week Festival band. This Brooklyn quartet found enough purchase with their debut EP with the hipster crowd that expectations of their first full album were rather high. This track — reminiscent of something the Stone Roses might have done in 1991 had they not been in a death match with their record company — might encourage a few fist-pumping fans to shop for baggy pants.
Throwback Thursday: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
BRMC brought their garage-alt-rock act to CMW as they promote their eighth album, Wrong Creatures. This is the perfect opportunity to reach back to 2001 for the lead single from their debut album. Why don’t we talk about this band as much as we do The Strokes? Is it because they’re from San Francisco and not New York? Puzzling.
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.