Because Taylor Swift chose last week to release her Lover album, she pretty much had the field to herself.
Things are much different this week. Here are some tunes for the long weekend.
1. Tool, Fear Inoculum
I know I recommended a track from this album a couple of weeks back, but the return of Tool is such a big deal —their first since the second term of George W. Bush — that it deserves another shout-out, especially with an album this good. The seven-track album is long. Digitally, it runs 85 minutes; the CD is stuffed with 79 minutes and 10 seconds of music with only one track, Chocolate Chip Trip, running less than 10 minutes. The average length of the other six is about 12 minutes. Lots to listen to, plenty to deconstruct, and vast amounts of Toolishness will be revealed.
2. Sheryl Crow, Threads
Is she calling it quits? Crow has dropped some hints to that effect over the last few months. Is this why this album is long (17 songs) and varied (pop, folk, rock, country)? She also pulled out all kinds of stops, calling in favours from everyone from Brandi Carlile, Stevie Nicks, and St. Vincent to Vince Gill, Chuck D, and Sting. Even the dead are resurrected (George Harrison and Johnny Cash) for duets on every single song. Ambitious, yes, but if you’re gonna go out, go out with a bang.
3. Bon Iver, i, i
Just so we’re clear, the official pronunciation of the title is “I comma I.” Many of the 13 songs also feature, er, creative spellings (iMi, Sh’Diah, RABi), which already has Justin Vernon’s fans trying to figure out his headspace for this album. The record also wins the award for the most creative digital release. After teasing things with four singles, eight tracks were dripped out with no warning on Aug. 8 (8/8, geddit?) track by track. A ninth song — the one below — was initially only available on the Bon Iver subreddit. This week marks the full physical release of the album.
4. Lana Del Rey, Norman F-ing Rockwell
I once heard Lana Del Rey described as an artist for people who were richer and more beautiful than normal people who have sex in the back seat of luxury cars. She’s always been a polarizing figure; does she have an image she reveals through her singing or is she really just a contrived image who sings? The album comes with two covers. The more-widely distributed version features her and Jack Nicholson’s grandson posing on a sailboat. The other edition — vinyl only — will only be available through Urban Outfitters stores.
5. Teenage Head, Tornado EP
Not new, exactly, but a long-overdue vinyl re-release of the band’s 1983 EP. Taking the original multi-track tapes, producer Mark Berry has given the tracks a new and modern sheen without destroying anything about the original Head sound. There’s even a chance to compare the new versions with a couple of the original recordings from ’83, which are also included. Demos from back in the day? You’re covered. The package also includes a great booklet featuring all kinds of Teenage Head history. CD and digital editions are available, too.
London Calling: Belle and Sebastian, Sister Buddha
To end Belle and Sebastian’s hiatus, the band has chosen not to release an album but a full soundtrack to an upcoming coming-of-age movie called Days of Bagnold, which should be out before the end of the year. Twee Scottish indie-rock at its finest.
Undiscovered Gem: The Chats, Identify Theft
This young Australian trio — none of them are old enough to legally rent a car — come highly recommended by Dave Grohl, Josh Homme, and Iggy Pop. They call what they do “shed rock,” which is where you go to make music when the garage is filled with junk. Great video, too.
Throwback Track: Oasis, Rock’n’Roll Star
If you were around 25 years ago this week, you might have run out and bought this album. Not everyone was on board yet, but if you’d been following their antics in the UK music press — the brawls, the outrageous interviews, the claims of sprinkling cocaine on Corn Flakes in the morning — were at least curious. Oasis could have been just another band of English yobbos who would flame out after a few months. Instead, they were a foundational Britpop band and would end up headlining a festival of 150,000 people less than two years later.
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and Q107, and a commentator for Global News.