Alan Cross’ weekly music picks: Lady Gaga, The Strokes and Billy Talent roll out new releases

Lady Gaga performs onstage on February 1, 2020 in Miami, Florida. Theo Wargo/Getty Images for AT&T

While there is debate on whether previously-scheduled album releases should be postponed until the fall — Warner Music says they’ll stick to their plans while other labels are still thinking about it — Good Friday marks the arrival of a new supply of tunes.

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

1. Lady Gaga, Chromatica

It’s strange to start this week’s report about an album that actually hasn’t been released yet. Gaga’s sixth studio album was supposed to arrive Friday, but it has been postponed until sometime later this year due to all the confusion and disruption caused by the coronavirus. There’s no firm release date yet — the iTunes Music Store says it’ll be out Dec. 31, but that’s just a placeholder date — but we can probably expect some singles to dribble out over the next few months. This remains the only single from the album so far.

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2. Laura Marling, Songs for My Daughter

The English singer-songwriter moved up the release of her seventh album from late summer until now because, she says, “I saw no reason to hold back on something that, at the very least, might entertain, and at its best, provide some sense of union. It’s strange to watch the facade of our daily lives dissolve away, leaving only the essentials: those we love and our worry for them. An album, stripped of everything that modernity and ownership does to it, is essentially a piece of me, and I’d like for you to have it.” Fun fact: Laura has been working to get her master’s degree in psychoanalysis. That should make for some interesting observational songwriting down the road.

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3. The Strokes, The New Abnormal

With Lady Gaga out of the way this week, The Strokes have a good shot at having a number one debut with their sixth album when the charts are published next week. And could there be a better album title for these crazy times? There’s both a freshness and a familiarity to this record — the Strokes always manage to strike that balance very well — but there’s also a certain gravitas to these once-young indie rockers who realize that time has passed and that they kinda miss the good old days.

4. Joe Satriani, Shapeshifting

The release of Satch’s 18th album was supposed to coincide with the start of a European tour, but that’s not happening, of course. Guitar wonks will have to make do with more of Satriani’s virtuosity in the privacy of their own homes. You might hear twinges of late-’70s Eddie Van Halen in the arrangements.

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5. Billy Talent, I Beg to Differ (This Will Get Better)

The band asks that we don’t consider this to be an official single from any upcoming Billy Talent Record. Instead, though, consider it a soothing balm for those anxious about the state of the planet at the moment. “When you feel so lost, that you don’t belong, well I beg to differ. As time goes on this will get better. And you can’t go wrong if your will is strong enough under pressure. As time goes on this will get better.”

Bonus Tracks

London Calling: Sports Team, Here’s the Thing

Even though they haven’t released a full album yet — their debut is due in June — this six-piece made up of Cambridge graduates can already attract 2,000 people to a single gig. There’s a twinge of Arctic Monkeys about what they do, especially in the lyrics that nicely capture what people are thinking about.

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Undiscovered Gem: Squid, Sludge

I’ll confess that I picked this solely on how “Squid” and “Sludge” go together. The calamari-loving five-piece comes from Brighton and describe their sound as “The Coronation Street theme song played on flute by angry children.”

Throwback Track: Nick Drake, Pink Moon

This pick is the result of there actually being a pink supermoon this week. This past Wednesday, the moon was at its closest point (354,000 km), appearing 30 per cent brighter and 14 per cent bigger than it does at its apogee. Why is it called “pink?” Because the first full moon after the spring equinox is named after moss pink, which is a wildflower that’s blooming right about now. Perfecting for some Nick Drake, then.

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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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