Alan Cross’ music picks: Run the Jewels and Kaleo surface with highly anticipated releases

Run The Jewels' El-P and Killer Mike, right, perform at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Oct. 2, 2015, in Austin, Texas. Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP

An odd week, this. The recorded music industry came to a halt with Blackout Tuesday, with a few labels declaring that they wouldn’t release any new music. For others, though, it’s business as usual.

1. Kaleo, Surface Sounds

What is it about Iceland (population: 364,000) that allows the country to continuously pump out a parade of internationally successful musicians? Kaleo appeared in 2016 with an album entitled A/B that had them get substantial radio airplay, rack up over one billion streams, receive sales achievement certifications in 39 countries, headline concerts, appear at festivals all over the planet, and land a couple of Grammy nominations. To call this album “highly anticipated” would be something of an understatement.

2. Run the Jewels, RTJ4

When they weren’t busy launching their own line of cannabis, Run the Jewels was working on their fourth album, largely at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric LadyStudios in NYC and out at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La in Malibu. Killer Mike (who’s been very visible lately with his press conferences addressing the George Floyd crisis) and El-P brought in a few friends to help out, including Pharrell Williams, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, and Zack del Rocha of Rage Against Machine. Anticipation for this record was so high that pre-orders exceeded US$1 million.

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3. Sports Team, Deep Down Happy

After a series of singles, the six-piece from middle England (okay, they’re a bunch of Cambridge graduates) had planned to release their debut record on April 3. But then the ‘rona set in and everything had to be postponed. The 12 songs chronicle the band’s experiences over the last 18 months, including the ordeal of sleeping on a lot of floors. A U.K. indie band to watch.

4. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Sideways to New Italy

Another very good band with a terrible name. (The story is that the drummer is from a small regional town with that name.) Based in Melbourne, Australia, the group’s first releases (two EPs and a 2018 album entitled Hope Downs) all garnered excellent reviews. Now signed to Sub Pop, RBCF has developed an affinity for Italy. The video — which appears to have been shot on an iPhone — documents that.

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5. Peter Schilling, Via Visa

Remember back in ’83 when Schilling released a sequel to David Bowie’s Space Oddity? Major Tom (Coming Home) from his Error in the System album was a huge international hit in both English and Schilling’s native German. While he may be a one-hit-wonder outside of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, he’s had a solid career in those parts of Europe, releasing well over a dozen albums. Now 64, his latest album features this single.

Bonus Tracks

London Calling: IDLES, Mr. Motivator

The Bristol band is one of my favourite U.K. indie bands of the last couple of years. A third album is due at some point this year — coronavirus issues have delayed it — but this song serves as an introduction. I quote frontman Joe Talbot: “We want to start this journey with a means to not only encapsulate the album’s sentiment but to encourage our audience to dance like no-one is watching and plough through these dark times with a two-ton machete of a song and the most beautiful community of scumbags ever assembled.”

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Undiscovered Gem: Oliver Stay, Bones

Stay is an indie dude from the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby who is into bands like Bastille, Foster the People, and The Killers. If you’ve ever been THAT friend, you’ll understand what he’s trying to get at with this song.

Throwback Track: Jeff Buckley, The Last Goodbye

On May 29, 1997, Jeff Buckley suddenly decided to go for a midnight swim in a Memphis harbor adjacent to the Mississippi River. He was fully clothed and wearing heavy boots. When the wake of a passing tugboat hit him, Buckley was swamped and went under. His body was found washed up six days later. To this day, people mourn loss because Buckey had shown so much potential with his one-and-only studio album, Grace.

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Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge 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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