Alan Cross’ music picks: Road trip and campfire fodder for the last days of August

Even though there are just two release days to go before Labour Day, there’s still some new summer music to be investigated. Still planning that road trip? Chances are there are a couple of things on this list you can use.

1. Death Cab for Cutie, Thank You For Today

The band’s ninth album contains all the requisite DCFC parts: mildly miserable and somewhat depressed drama grafted to wistful melodies to create a woebegone series of songs that deserve to be heard all in one sitting. Gold Rush, singer Ben Gibbard’s lament about the gentrification of his Seattle neighbourhood, is already a big hit. Digging deeper reveals gems like I Dreamt We Spoke Again, which has notes of Cure and mid-period Fleetwood Mac. Other songs may make you think of the Pet Shop Boys. Lovely alt-pop, really.

2. Ariana Grande, Sweetener

A year ago, Ariana Grande was trying to deal with the emotional aftermath of the horrible bombing of her concert in Manchester. Yes, the One Love Manchester benefit concert was a major success, but the scars of that night ran deep. What would the long-term effects be? Teases for the album started back in the spring with a single called No Tears Left to Cry (co-written by Swedish superproducer Max Martin) and reinforced with a second single, God is a Woman. Other guest appearances include Pharrell Williams, Nicki Manaj, and Missy Elliott. One question: how did SNL’s Pete Davidson end up with her?

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3. Slaves, Acts of Fear and Love

Clarification: This is not the post-hardcore group from Sacramento but a duo from Kent, England. Singer Isaac Holman is also the band’s drummer and plays standing up. Slaves are on something of a roll, releasing three albums in three years and counting guys like Mike D as a friend and collaborator. With a concise nine songs, Slaves has expanded their sound without turning too far away from the go-for-broke post-punk that has served them to this point. Like Death from Above, Tokyo Police Club, and Royal Blood? You’ll do fine here.

4. Blue October, I Hope You’re Happy

Houston’s Blue October is one of those American heartland rock bands that plugs and plugs and plugs away, earning a (comfortable) living as working musicians with the occasional radio hit. (You might remember Hate Me, a big alt-rock radio song from 2006). A series of singles were released on the 17th of each month leading up to today. The title track has already racked up 2.4 million views on YouTube.

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5. Great Lake Swimmers, The Waves, The Wake

GLS’s seventh album features more melodic Canadiana/alt-folk at its base, but it also features definitely un-folk instruments like organ, flute, harp and marimba. In fact, all of the material on this record was written without the benefit of an acoustic guitar (although some guitar was added during the recording process). Got a campfire planned before the end of the summer? This will go nicely.

London Calling: Yonaka, Bubblegum

A Brighton group with a somewhat Japanese-y name with big, brash ambitions (think Oasis c. 1994) that straddle a line somewhere between Queens of the Stone Age and groups with hip-pop rhythms. They plan to be a big festival draw within three years. We’ll see.

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Undiscovered Gem: Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert, Quantum Theory Love Song

Given that so much astronomy, cosmology, and scientific inquiry has been in the news recently (the Parker probe to the Sun, the Perseids meteor show, mysterious fast radio bursts), why not a song that leverages things like Schroedinger’s Cat and the multiverse into a love song?

Throwback Thursday: – Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, Roadrunner

Even though this song came out in 1972 — 46 years years ago — it still sounds like it could be included in this week’s new releases. It’s a perfect slice of pre-punk power-pop that’s also a fantastic driving song. (And yes, Jonathan was that guy who kept showing up at weird times to sing in There’s Something About Mary.)

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

Subscribe to Alan’s Ongoing History of New Music Podcast now on Apple Podcast or Google Play

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