This was a rough week across much of North America with snow, ice, bitter winds, and the emotional burdens of Valentine’s Day.
Best to maybe immerse yourself in some new tunes for the weekend. Here’s what we’re listening to.
Avril Lavigne, Head Above Water
The one-time Sk8er Boi moppet has been AWOL for a while, not because she was dead (no, she was not replaced by a body double as the Internet would have us believe) but because she took time off to deal with a Lyme disease diagnosis, something that kept her in bed for weeks at a time. She’s 34 now, divorced from both Chad Kroeger (Nickelback) and Deryck Whibley (Sum 41), and has discovered a love for Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, life experiences which have seen her evolve musically from the pop-rock that was her trademark sound. You may be surprised by what you hear.
Alexisonfire, Familiar Drugs
Yes, there was a farewell show followed by all kinds of indications that the band was done. But after a few years apart, the best screamo band in the world is back together in its original form. Does this single mean a fifth album is on the way? Maybe, maybe not. George Pettit and Dallas Green told me that their focus for the rest of this year will be to play shows. If some new music does take shape during that time, it’ll probably come out song by song. Here’s how they teased the release of their first studio single since 2012’s Death Letter.
Broken Social Scene, Let’s Try the After Vol. 1
Toronto’s BSS appear to be willing to keep the hiatus at bay that ended with the release of Hug of Thunder in 2017. This new EP starts slow and moody but builds in BSS mixtape fashion towards this fifth and final track, a co-production of BSS and a couple of members of Montreal’s SUUNS. And since this is labeled as “volume 1,” yes, it’s safe to say that there’s more music on the way. There’s talk of this being a series of EPs that will develop over an unspecified time.
Pet Shop Boys, Agenda EP
The Pet Shop Boys aren’t usually ones for political and social commentaries. Yes, there was their poke at capitalism with 1986’s Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money), but generally they’ve kept their opinions to themselves. For this EP, though, they’ve let loose with satiric shots at Trumpers and Brexiters (Give Stupidity a Chance), the increasing gap between the rich and poor (What Are We Going to Do About the Rich?) and the scourge of social media.
SWMRS, Berkeley’s on Fire
Anchored on drums by Joey Armstrong, son of Green Day’s Billie Joe (the band is joined on tour by bassist Jakob Danger Armstrong, Joey’s brother), SWMRS have been releasing music since 2011. The title track is somewhere between what dad might write and a less electronic Devo. Before you click, though, note that the atonal guitar part that knits the song together will be caught in your brain for the rest of the day.
London Calling: Working Men’s Club, Bad Blood
There appear to be two bands currently trading under this name, so let’s be clear from the outset that this is the trio from Todmorden in West Yorkshire. Fronted by 17-year-old singer Sydney Minsky-Sargent, this single evokes the spikey pop of Franz Ferdinand and the jerky punk of Gang of Four. One to watch, for sure.
Undiscovered Gem: Unloved, Love
Interesting pedigree, this trio. One of them composed music for True Detective, while another created music for the Oceans’s 11 franchise. And the singer spent time singing in an LA saloon that seems caught in 1920s time warp. The combination of all these influences caught the attention of the music supervisor of Killing Eve, which featured some of their music. This is from their most recent album Heartbreak.
Throwback Track: The Bravery, An Honest Mistake
In the middle-oughts, there was a brief rise of new bands categories as The New New Wave, groups that were obviously influenced by first-generation alt-rock bands like Joy Division, The Cure, Duran Duran and Talking Heads. Among that cohort was The Killers, Interpol, Modest Mouse and The Bravery, a New York outfit formed in 2003. Not only was this track a big hit from their self-titled debut album in 2005, it also served as the name of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and Q107, and a commentator for Global News.