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Alan Cross’ weekly music picks: From Michael Stipe to Pet Shop Boys

REM and Michael Stipe perform on stage in England.
REM and Michael Stipe perform on stage in England. Stuart Mostyn/Redferns

We’re still a couple of weeks away from seeing any significant number of album releases, but over the past week there have been some interesting new singles.

Here’s what we’re listening to this week.

1. Cage the Elephant, Black Madonna

Cage the Elephant is having a very good run with their Social Cues album with a string of #1 singles at alt-rock radio as well as a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album (their third nominations). This is the third official single from their fifth album.

2. Goody Grace feat. Blink-182, Scumbag

How did a guy from Selkirk, Man., get Blink-182 to appear on this single? Truth is he’s been writing songs for and collaborating with a series of artists over the last five years (Cody Simpson, gnash, Hoody Allen and more). That success landed him a major deal with Atlantic, which lead to the Blink pairing. One to watch.

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Michael Stipe, Drive to the Ocean

The former REM frontman hasn’t spent much time making music over the last decade, but he’s come out of retirement(?) in recent months. A debut solo single entitled Your Capricious Soul appeared in October and now, just in time for his 60th birthday, comes this track. Proceeds from the song will go to a non-profit organization seeking to preserve the Paris Accord.

3. Pet Shop Boys, Monkey Business

The Pet Shop Boys (est. 1981) continue to fly the flag for vintage-sounding alt-synth dance music. Their latest sounds like it could be something they found in Giorgio Moroder’s vault. (A vocoder!) This single will be preceded by a new album entitled Hot Spots Jan. 24 and will then appear in several forms on CD and vinyl Feb. 7.

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4. Five Finger Death Punch, Inside Out

Since I spent this whole week in Las Vegas at CES 2020, I feel obligated to include a local band whose name is not The Killers. With a new album entitled F8 coming Feb. 14, Five Finger Death Punch is looking to enhance their status as the number three most-streamed rock band in the world. Only Metallica and AC/DC are ahead of them.

5. Nathaniel Rateliff, And It’s Still Alright

Before the Night Sweats came along, Nathaniel was a solo artist. He’s gone back to working on his own for the first time in years with an album entitled And It’s Still Alright which is set for release on Feb. 14. Much of the material on this record is rooted in the passing of Nathaniel’s longtime friend and producer, Richard Swift.

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Bonus Tracks

London Calling: All We Are, L is for Lose

Here’s a trio from Liverpool that describes this song thusly: “It’s a psychosexual, off-kilter tune that is an ode to that weird dance, the push and pull, that a sexual relationship moves to. So close your eyes, get into the rhythm and feel that head.” Uh, okay.

Undiscovered Gem: Kurt Riley + Praxis, FTR SHK

Coming out of Ithaca, New York, this band (named after a moon orbiting the Klingon home world of Q’onoS that will one day blow up and threaten the entire empire), will appeal to fans of groups like Nine Inch Nails. This is part of a concept product that explores human/machine relationships, the growth of megacities, and the birth of AI.

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Throwback Track: Pearl Jam, Corduroy

Twenty-five years ago this week (Sunday, Jan. 8, 1995), Pearl Jam set up in a satellite truck and broadcast a four-and-a-half hour program they called Self-Pollution Radio. Picked up by stations across the continent, the program featured Eddie as your host, drop-ins from friends like Soundgarden and Dave Grohl (who talked about a new project called “Foo Fighters”) and live performances from Pearl Jam. This is one of the songs they did.

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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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