Alan Cross’ weekly music picks: Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars liven up the summer

Ed Sheeran performs at Mt. Smart Stadium on March 24, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. Phil Walter/Getty Images

Have we run out of album titles? Maybe, as some of this week’s new releases illustrate.

Here’s what you should give a listen to as we head into the hottest days of summer.

1. Bon Iver, i,i

No, I didn’t make a typo with the title of this record. When I received notification of the album, it read “Bon Iver Announce New Album i,i (no specific pronunciation).”

The fourth album from Justin Vernon and his rotating cast of musicians completes a four-season song/album cycle that began with For Emma, Forever Ago (winter) and continued through Bon Iver, Bon Iver (spring), and 22, A Million (summer). Two singles are in the wild already with the full album coming August 30.

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2. K.Flay, Solutions

K.Flay, best known so far for the emotionally intense single, Blood in the Cut, has been teasing fans about her third album since March, dripping out four of the album’s 10 songs over the last few months. Let’s see if she can maintain the momentum she created with 2017’s Every Where is Some Where.

3. Ed Sheeran, No. 6 Collaborations Project

When you’re as successful as Ed is, people take your calls. For his fourth studio album — the follow-up to the awkwardly entitled ÷ (we just call it Divide) — Sheeran called up Cardi B, Justin Bieber, Meek Mill, Stormzy, Khalid, Eminem, 50 Cent, Chance the Rapper, Travis Scott, Skrillex and a bunch of other people to make guest appearances.

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As for the weird title, it’s a follow-up from an EP he made in 2011 before he was signed, entitled No. 5 Collaborations Project. So no, Collaborations 1-4 do not exist. Much of the record was written on Ed’s laptop while he was on tour last year. This track, featuring country star Chris Stapleton and pop genius Bruno Mars is the — ahem — hard rock song from the album.  I wonder how this would do in a blind taste test with unsuspecting rock fans?

4. 311, Voyager

Holy crap! Has 311 really been a going concern since 1988? Yes — and they’ve done very well, thank you. (Singer Nick Hexum once had a private island in the Florida Keys, so draw your own conclusions). This is the band’s 13th studio record, hence the inclusion of 13 new songs. Fans who pre-ordered the album immediately got two quick downloads along with chances to win concert tickets, meet-and-greet-passes, handwritten lyrics, and autographed merch.

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Clever. Gotta appeal to the base, right?

5. New Order, ∑(No,12k,Lg,17Mif) New Order + Liam Gillick: So It Goes..

I know it looks as if a cat walked on my keyboard as I tried to type the title of this new live album from New Order. But no, that’s what they call it, right down to the missing third piece of the ellipsis at the end.

Recorded at the Manchester International Festival on July 13, 2017, the album features 18 songs, all re-imaginings of old New Order tracks that were accompanied by visuals from MoMA/Tate Britain artist Liam Gillick, hence his credit in the title.

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Bonus Tracks

London Calling: Pixx, Andean Condor

Pixx, otherwise known as 21-year-old Hannah Rodgers along with her brother, Luke, has a follow-up to their excellent debut album, The Age of Anxiety. The songs on Small Mercies don’t stick to any one genre, which certainly makes for some interesting listening.

Undiscovered Gem: Don Mills, Strangers in the Sun feat. James Edgar

This recommendation (featuring Manchester singer James Edgar) comes after a private listen to this song from the Toronto-based songwriter, musician and producer, who also used to play drums for Matt Good.

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Throwback Track: The Cult, She Sells Sanctuary (Long Version)

Extended remixes were huge back in the ’80s, although they didn’t always work (the dancefloor version of ZZ Top’s Sharp-Dressed Man, anyone?). But when the material was right, the result could be magic. When the Love album came out in 1985, The Cult was still very much a gothy band. As “She Sells Sanctuary” spread as a single, multiple remixes were commission. This one, an elongated version of the original, still sounds brilliant.

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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