If I’m honest, this isn’t a great week for new album releases. This may be a reflection of the coronavirus (artists postponing releases until less infectious times), the time of the year (just before the July 4 long weekend), or just the way things have worked out.
When it comes to singles, though, there’s some interesting stuff to talk about. Here’s what we’re listening to this week.
1. The Chicks, March March
The last few months have felt a lot like late 1989. After so many years of staying the same, the world has been shaken by long-overdue social, cultural and political change. The Confederacy is seeing its biggest defeats since 1865 with monuments being taken down, the Confederate emblem disappearing from the state flag of Mississippi, and the Dixie Chicks dropping “Dixie” from their name. Believing now that the nostalgic name for the South during the Civil War is now insensitive and inappropriate, they quietly made the change with the release of this new single. Their next album is scheduled for release on July 17.
2. Kim Mitchell, Wishes
Now signed to the new El Mocambo Records (the label associated with the soon-to-be-reopened Toronto music venue), Mitchell is ready with his eighth solo album, The Big Fantasize. If it seems like it’s been a while, you’re right. This is his first new release in 13 years.
3. Semisonic, You’re Not Alone
While they never really went away, Semisonic has been living with the one-hit-wonder tag that came with their 1998 single, Closing Time, from the Feeling Strangely Fine album. But Dan Wilson, the head guy in the band, has been rather busy, releasing solo albums and writing six songs for the Chicks (including a Grammy winner) and, even more impressively, landing three songs on Adele’s 21 album, including the smash Someone Like You. In other words, he’s been doing fine. This is the title track of an EP due Sept. 18, which will be the first Semisonic release in 20 years.
4. The Flaming Lips, My Religion Is You
The Lips continue to march to a drummer that only they can hear. American Head (due Sept. 11) will be their 16th studio record. With song titles like At the Movies on Quaaludes, Watching the Lightbugs Glow, and Flowers of Neptune 6, you know we’re in for quick a trip. Country star Kacey Musgraves guests on three songs.
5. Pet Shop Boys, West End Girls (New lockdown version)
In my personal vinyl library, I must have half a dozen remixes of this song from 1984. But thinking that there’s still room for improvement/experimentation, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe thought they’d spend some of their time in lockdown to record a new version from their respective isolation pods. Sounds pretty good, actually.
London calling — IDLES, Grounds
IDLES is one of my favourite bands of the last couple of years. After releasing two intense albums, Brutalism (2017) and Joy as an Act of Resistance (2018), the Bristol group is ready for a third record in September entitled Ultra Mono. This is the first single.
Undiscovered gem — The Manvils, Reaction Arrow
The Manvils have been plying the indie-rock road from bases in Vancouver and Toronto since about 2005. This record took about three years to make, including a period at a secluded California hunting lodge that was built in 1879. The video will give you an idea of how secluded it was.
Throwback track — Filter, Hey Man Nice Shot
Around the time Richard Patrick joined Nine Inch Nails as a touring keyboardist, he saw R. Bud Dwyer, the state treasurer of Pennsylvania, hold a live press conference where he decried his conviction on bribery charges. Once he made his statement, he pulled out a .357 magnum and — well, let’s just say the conclusion to that press conference was rather dramatic. Eight years later and working in his own band, Patrick wrote this.
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and Q107, and a commentator for Global News.