A light-ish week as more artists elect to postpone the release of new albums until some of this COVID-19 nonsense dies off. And you can’t blame them. An album release is a long and complicated process that’s bolstered by promotional appearances and supporting tours. Best wait until the coronavirus takes a break. Meanwhile, though, this gives other artists a clear runway at attracting our attention.
1. Oasis, Don’t Stop (Single)
It’s been quite the year, hasn’t it? If the Australian wildfires, an American president impeached, swarms of locusts in east Africa and a global plague weren’t enough, the Pentagon goes ahead and releases three new UFO videos. And what happens next? New music from Oasis. We are definitely entering the End Times. This track, a lost 15-year-old song from around the time of the Don’t Believe the Truth album, was apparently recorded at a soundcheck in Hong Kong. But don’t believe the hype; this does not foreshadow any impending Oasis reunion. Although with the way 2020 has gone so far, you never know.
2. Fiona Apple, Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Fair warning on this one: it’s not for everyone. It is, however, a fascinating and challenging listen from someone who refuses to be bound by conventional songwriting and performance. I feel confident in saying that you haven’t heard anything quite like this. It’s filled with unbridled sound-making (at least five dogs are credited for barking on the record, which was made entirely at Apple’s home in Venice Beach). Yes, it’s piano-based, but that’s only the start of it. Best just sit down and do your best with the album. You probably won’t get it on the first listen through, but stick with it. Trust me.
3. Austra, HiRUDiN
If you think that’s a strange name for an album, you’re more correct that you might think. It’s named after the most powerful anticoagulant in the world, which is released by leeches so they can suck the blood of their hosts. Taken together with the album’s themes of toxic relationships, there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
4. Chicano Batman, Invisible People
Tough to categorize (Latino? Psych soul? Rock? Pop? Prog? Funk?), LA’s Chicano Batman is now up to their fourth full album. The goal was to make the best record they could, which meant throwing out the notion that all material had to be played live as-is. If you enjoy the quirkiness of Vampire Weekend, there’s definitely something here for you.
5. Diet Cig, Do You Wonder About Me?
This drums-and-guitar “slop pop” duo from New York State (the name doesn’t mean anything, so let’s move on) has just released their second album, which, like the first, itemizes their various insecurities. That includes the issues guitarist Alex Luciano has with night terrors and his frequent bizarre sleep issues. With COVID-19, I think we can all relate. The overall effect, though, is one reminiscent of what we used to get from female-fronted indie bands in the middle ’90s. Nice.
London Calling: LIFE, Switching On
This four-piece from Hull (three men, one woman) decided to launch their most recent album in a kebab shop. How very English.
Undiscovered Gem: Electric City Underground, Jump
Being from a small town myself, I have a soft spot for Canadian bands from tiny towns. Electric City Underground are from Lunenberg, N.S., (pop. 2,263) and differentiate themselves by tuning all their instruments to where middle A = 432 Hz instead of the standard 440 Hz. (There’s a whole rat hole you can explore as to why this tuning is more natural and more healthy. Google it.) Influences range from Nine Inch Nails and Tool to AWOLNATION.
Throwback Track: Pop Will Eat Itself, Bulletproof!
Back in the days before Madchester and Britpop was a sound known as “grebo,” a genre that was part punk, part hip-hop, part dance, and part psych. The kings of that scene were the Midlands’ Pop Will Eat Itself, who had a series of wonderfully oddball singles through the late ’80s and early ’90s. No one sounded quite like The Poppies.
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.