KATHRYN PARSON/cc-by-nd-2.0 Sam T. Herring is the frontman of Baltimore-based and 4AD-signed indie rock band Future Islands.
Another semester has started and another (corporate) year for music has begun. In an appropriately Sisyphean fashion, I have been experiencing my yearly hankering to write a short list of the five releases I just can’t wait to download.
The following albums are, in my humble opinion, guaranteed to be jam-packed with tracks that I’ll blast anywhere and everywhere from B-Level to B. Doughnut. In truth, I don’t have the patience or money for B. Doughnut on a regular basis, especially now that the closest one is in Virginia, may its Hampden location rest in peace.
Anyway, enough about my high cholesterol and more about the music:
1. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard — Flying Microtonal Banana (releases Feb. 24)
When your weird suitemate in Building A just won’t stop shredding their Squier guitar through a practice amp at 2 a.m., so you decide to throw an intervention. However, your kind of intervention is a bit unique. You insert a few extra frets on his sick guitar according to famed microtonal composer Harry Partch’s tuning specifications, confusing the hell out of the young Yngwie Malmsteen.
Much to your surprise, your actions only bolster the creativity of your formerly pentatonic-minded peer. They start listening to the Master Musicians of Jajouka and study abroad in Australia for their whole sophomore year, forming a seven-piece psych orchestra and returning with an album of ridiculous tunes.
The new King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard album is something like this scenario, but probably a lot cooler. Check the video for the single “Rattlesnake” if you need further convincing. The band has released an album annually since 2012 and their last album, Nonagon Infinity, won Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album at Australia’s ARIA Music Awards in 2016.
2. Jib Kidder — Pay 2 Play (releases Feb. 23)
Sean Schuster-Craig, aka Jib Kidder, made his name in the late ‘00s making well-crafted absurdist mashups such as the still-bangin’ “Windowdipper” from his All Y’All LP. Nowadays Jib makes warped psychedelic pop music, occupying a unique field of sonic space somewhere between Neil Cicierega and Syd Barrett.
His 2015 album A Teaspoon to The Ocean was a favorite of mine back in the day, so if you too are a fan of breezy, shoegaze-y guitar jams with heavily processed vocals and a general vibe of “pop music to listen to while colonizing Mars,” check out Jib Kidder’s new song “R U Calm Under Pressure.”
The video depicts several people dancing in Trump/Clinton masks (probably leaked footage from the Elmo’s labor day party last year), and the song samples a recitation from the Church Universal and Triumphant, a cryptic Christian doomsday cult who seem like pretty nice people.
3. Future Islands — The Far Field (releases April 7)
Hometown heroes Future Islands return for a new album on 4AD. The new single “Ran” features their trademark sound: a driving post-punk rhythm section accompanying by pillowy synth texture and Samuel T. Herring’s dramatic vocal performance.
I spent a weekend this summer at the local Fields Festival at a campground in northern Baltimore county, where I was simultaneously subjected to a lot of amazing music and a lot of amazing nude old men walking around the campgrounds in a stupor.
I got to see Future Islands as the sun was setting on Saturday evening, and they played the entirely of this upcoming album titled “The Far Field” instead of going for the normal move (which I assume would be to play “Seasons” 10 times and walk off stage in a huff).
Simply stated, the rest of the new material sounds fantastic, and if you’re as much of a sucker for new wave revival as I am, there’s a Debbie Harry feature on the album so keep your ears ready in the meantime.
4. Thundercat — Drunk (releases Feb. 24)
On Jan. 20, Thundercat tweeted “In this club farting so much.” A poignant statement. Now, I don’t get out much but most of my experience at these so-called clubs usually end up sort of like that. Luckily I have my iPod classic with me because, you know, I’m sick like that.
I wander outside and have a smoke and switch on the new Thundercat single “Show You the Way.” Stephen Bruner’s sparkling bass tones start to tickle my gaseous innards, and I feel pretty nice.
Did I mention Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald are on this track? That’s akin to having the two best smooth jazz dads of all time. As usual, Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington are on Thundercat’s sprawling upcoming album Drunk, and I’m sure I’ll attempt to emulate the title when the album is out soon.
5. Dirty Projectors — Dirty Projectors (releases Feb. 24)
To all the distressed lovers in the Hopkins community: This album is (maybe) for you. Dave Longstreth, the principal songwriter and vocalist for long-running indie act Dirty Projectors, was so dejected from his breakup with longtime bandmate Amber Coffman that lo and behold, he’s written an entire album of breakup songs.
However, these are not your ordinary breakup songs. Of the four singles released so far, Longstreth displays a more electronic style with contributions from experimental composer Tyondai Braxton, percussionist Mauro Refosco, and (no introduction needed) Solange Knowles.
Dave’s voice hovers longingly above amongst skittering beats and room-filling horn arrangements on “Cool your Heart” with Dawn Richard, while his voice is bent out of shape beyond recognition on the slow-burning “Keep your Name.”
Despite a definite sonic shift from the rock paradigm to the electronic/R&B realm, at its heart, the new album seems to be a return to solo compositional form as well as a pop breakthrough for Dave. Consider me excited.
This album comes off the heels of Dirty Projectors’ last album, 2012’s Swing Lo Magellan (with the five year stretch between Magellan and Dirty Projectors being the longest between releases for Dirty Projectors). Magellan was very well-received and ended the year on multiple “Best Of” lists.