I was ready to close the books on new releases for 2018 — the next day of any significance isn’t until Jan. 11 — but then a couple of last-second records popped up, including something from a band that hasn’t been heard from in more than half a decade.
Here are my last music picks of the year. Enjoy!
1. The Raconteurs, Sunday Driver
In addition to his solo work, running Third Man Records, and trying to resurrect interest in American blues records from the 1920s and ’30s, Jack White operates within two bands. We haven’t heard from The Dead Weather since 2015, but The Raconteurs had been AWOL since 2011 (not counting a re-release of Consolers of the Lonely in October). That hiatus ended this week the surprise release of a double A-side featuring Sunday Driver and Now That You’re Gone. It’s a reasonably safe bet that a full album will be in our hands sometime in the first half of 2019.
2. The Pocket Gods, Exit Brexit for Xmas
Since forming in London in 1997, The Pocket Gods have released 67(!!!) albums long with another 23 EPs. Today, they have an interesting artistic/business philosophy. If Spotify pays out for a stream after listening for 30 seconds, why waste time writing songs much longer than that? Hard to argue with that, I suppose. Therefore, we have this timely song about Brexit that is not a teaser or an excerpt. It’s all over in exactly 39 seconds.
3. Greg Dulli, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Dulli, the frontman for Cincinnati-based indie darlings The Afghan Whigs, saw the movie Meet Me in St. Louis as a kid and says that this song has stayed with him ever since. “It has a spectral quality that I’ve always wanted to exaggerate.” Mission accomplished, then.
4. Health, Slaves of Fear
Tired of all the sugary sweet Christmas music? Then let me direct you to Health. The LA noise rockers have a new album entitled Vol. 4: Slaves of Fear coming Feb. 8. If you have any impact ear wax, this should pulverize everything quite nicely. We’ll ease into the album with the title track, which is one of the more sedate tracks on the album.
5. Culture Club, Life
Yes, them. Despite the abuse his body has taken over the years, Boy George’s voice still has that otherworldly beauty, albeit several registers lower than in his Karma Chameleon years. The album (also called Life) was released back in October, but this video is brand new, receiving a debut on NBC’s Today show earlier this week. What makes it so fascinating is that for the first time we see him completely stripped of makeup, taking him down to what he calls “my most vulnerable.”
London Calling: Drenge, Autonomy
This trio — two brothers and a friend — take their name from the Danish translation of “boy.” Makes sense, no? Their third album, entitled Strange Creatures, is set for release in February. This is a taste.
Undiscovered Gem: The Ramoms, Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)
What do you call four 50-something mothers with time on their hands and an undying affection for a certain legendary New York punk band? The Ramoms, of course. This Christmas, they’ve released a split 7-inch single with a group called Dad Brains (geddit?) which features two songs from each group. One of The Ramoms tracks is a cover of the classic Ramones Christmas song.
Throwback Thursday: Travis, Sing
By the time Scotland’s Travis released their The Man Who album in 2001, Britpop was over. However, we had begun to see a crop of post-Britpop bands: Coldplay, Keane, Snow Patrol, Starsailor, Athlete. Travis was part of that mix, even though they were formed in 1990, long before all these peers. Sing, a beautiful, vulnerable song taken as a single from The Man Who, still sounds great.
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and Q107, and a commentator for Global News.