Flatbush Zombies, Vacation in Hell: April 6
When the beat drops on Vacation in Hell’s only single, “Headstone,” and Meechy Darko is growling a hook about putting “money over bitches on [his] headstone,” it’s clear that the Zombies are back from the dead again, and they brought their trademark grittiness with them. This will be their sophomore album, and their first didn’t quite live up to their mixtapes. You can blame stale production and verses that didn’t know when to end themselves. “Headstone,” though, has a syncopated but catchy beat, and every member loses his mind in verses cleverly riddled with references to hip-hop greats.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Sex & Food: April 6
Ruban Nielson’s brainchild will follow up their critically-acclaimed 2015 effort Multi-Love with Sex & Food, and its singles promise plenty of psychedelically doctored guitars, drums, vocals and whatever else the band has lying around. In “Not in Love We’re Just High,” Nielson pretty much uses his voice as a synth, and he weaves it hypnotically through a bobbing core melody. “American Guilt,” however, is a fuzzy, driving expression of paranoia, flying on the back of a distorted hard rock riff. Here’s to hoping the rest of the songs deliver on the visceral tone that the album’s title implies and these songs promise.
Thirty Seconds to Mars, America: April 6
Thirty Seconds to Mars decided to come back, and this time they’re not even pretending to be a rock band. Well, kinda. Singles “Walk on Water” and “Dangerous Night” sound like Imagine Dragons meets Ed Sheeran meets top-40 default sound boards meets Jared Leto’s singing voice.
John Prine, The Tree of Forgiveness: April 13
Country legend and restless human John Prine is set to release his 24th studio album. It’s been thirteen years since he’s released an album of all new material, and The Tree of Forgiveness’s singles show that time has been on Prine’s mind. In “Summer’s End,” time moves faster than anyone’s prepared for, and moments are lost before you’ve thought about them. And “Knockin’ on Your Screen Door” is a springy ode to old-man loneliness. And even though there’s a bit of summer breeze in their sound, Prine is sounding as timeless as he ever has on these singles, and this album looks as if it will maintain his reputation as a songwriter with a golden pen.
A Perfect Circle, Eat the Elephant: April 20
It has been 14 years since the heavy rock supergroup last unleashed an album’s worth of layered and animalistic darkness onto the world, and now it’s finally time for more. Two of the singles that are already out — “The Doomed” and “TalkTalk” — came with videos that take on an eerie and confrontational tone. “TalkTalk” is a spiritual criticism and a challenge to back up words with actions, and its music video features — lying in the hands of the most unnaturally pale of men — a palpitating heart/space-octopus. Yeah.
Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer: April 27
The next manifestation of Janelle Monáe’s monstrous ambition comes attached with a film project to enrich the narrative. Monáe’s conceptual streak seems like it will hit a high mark this April. She released two crazy singles along with their music videos late last January. “Make Me Feel” is a groovy bit of dance pop that reinvents the sounds of Prince, and it reeks of just as much sex and glitter. (Monáe has stated that Prince actually worked on the project with her before his passing in 2016). “Django Jane,” on the other hand, is all filthy bars and disdain. Janelle Monáe is beyond crushing the competition at this point.
Courtney Barnett, Tell Me How You Really Feel: May 18
Following up her collaborative album with Kurt Vile that came out last year, Courtney Barnett is set to release her second solo studio album this May. Lead single “Nameless, Faceless” sports more biting lyrics and louder guitars than is usual for Barnett. The chorus goes “I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Men are scared that women will laugh at them / I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Women are scared that men will kill them.” And with song titles like “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” and “Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Self Confidence,” who’s not curious about this album?
Parquet Courts, Wide Awake!: May 18
The singles from this album are more than punk with a groove; they’re punk that makes you want to move in platform shoes. That goes very well with lyrics like “All this music’s playin’ in my head / If it stops I’m / If it stops I’m / If it stops I’m having an unshakeable nightmare” from the latter half of “Almost Had to Start a Fight / In and Out of Patience.” Parquet Courts is having a lot of fun on this album, and that’s always a good sign. Punkers who don’t have fun, well, they’re just boring.