Alan Cross’ weekly music picks: Beck’s back for spring

Beck arrives for the 61st Annual Grammy Awards on February 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images

As we get deeper into the second quarter of 2019, labels and artists are starting to set the table with what we’ll be listening to this summer.

Here are some tracks and albums that you might want to stream when you’re not preoccupied with all things Easter.

1. Beck, Saw Lightning ft. Pharrell

This single from an upcoming album called Hyperspace — his first piece of new music in two years — arrived this week with little advance warning. Pharrell “Happy” Williams provides drums, keyboards, and something categorized as “mumbles” (what?) on this song while the video was directed by Hiro Murai, the same guy behind Childish Gambino’s This is America. Listen for the song to show up a commercial for the new Power Beats Pro headphones.

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2. Cage the Elephant, Night Running ft. Beck

When I spoke to Cage the Elephant singer Matt Shultz earlier this year, he explained that the band was stuck on this song. Someone suggested that they ask Beck for help. After all, they’d toured together and had got along famously. A few days later, Beck sent back the song with a couple of new verses and a bridge. Problem solved. The album, Social Cues, is out now.

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3. Jade Bird, Jade Bird (Album)

Along with Billie Eilish, Jade has been anointed as A Next Big Thing. She’s a 21-year-old English singer-songwriter and a former army brat who was snapped up by Glassnote, the label that gave us bands like Mumford & Sons and The Strumbellas. There’s no question about her talent or her ambition. She’s made it very clear that she wants to be “the next Alanis Morissette.” This is one of the advance singles from the album.

4. Peter Gabriel, This is Party Man (ft. The Worldbeaters)

Gabriel understands his fans’ frustrations with the speed at which he works. In the last 25 years, he has produced just two albums of new material and another two of covers and re-working of older material. He assures everyone that he is working on new music but also says it’ll be ready when it’s ready. Meanwhile, we have PG13, a 10-track compilation of material Gabriel has written for various movies over the decades including Babe: Pig in the City, Natural Born Killers, Against All Odds, and Wall-E. This version of This is Party Man is a tweak of a song that he wrote for the 1995 Denzil Washington/Russell Crowe film Virtuosity.

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5. BTS and Halsey, Boy With Luv

The money BTS generates can literally be expressed as a percentage of the GDP of South Korea. As K-pop’s biggest export, the plan is to infiltrate more of the English-speaking world, hence last week’s appearance on Saturday Night Live. Teaming up with Halsey — another hot commodity these days — is another step towards global domination. Want proof? This video was posted on April 2 and already is well north of 150 million views on YouTube.

Bonus tracks:

London Calling: Fat White Family, Serf’s Up (Album)

If you’re looking for a band that polarizes people with their rabble-rousing ways, look no further. South London’s Fat White Family is determined to bring their version of the truth to the masses, and if they have to cause a riot or two along the way, so be it. (They have a habit of appearing mostly naked onstage smeared with what we can only assume is chocolate.) FWF’s third album moves toward a more electronic sound while not blunting any of the band’s bite and wit. The video for this second single will remind you of a particular Monty Python skit gone terribly, terribly wrong.

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Undiscovered Gem of the Week: For Jane, Car

Here’s a female-fronted Toronto quartet about which little is known. There’s no website and their Facebook presence is a bit light. Heck, they only just signed up for Twitter but haven’t had much to stay. If they’re going to release more alt-pop gems like this, it’s probably time to hire a publicist.

Throwback Track of the Week: Blur, There’s No Other Way

There was a period between 1990 and 1992 when the so-called Madchester sound dominated British music. The media frenzy was such that any band who played with a certain drum pattern augmented with a tambourine was automatically lumped in with the scene in the north. Blur, very much a London band, needed to completely reinvent themselves over the next few years before things got sorted out.

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Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and Q107, 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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