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Spring Fever

Some of the best bets for the coming season—and a few to bet against

By John Brodeur

 

The Breeders

Mountain Battles (4AD)

After 2002’s Title TK, there was no where to go but up for the Breeders. Not to say it was a bad record (it wasn’t), but it was mournful and petulant and undoubtedly a stretch for those expecting another Last Splash. This time, when things get weird—and they do, frequently—you don’t come away wondering, “Is she going to hurt herself?” With Mountain Battles (out April 8), the Deal sisters, with bassist Mando Lopez and drummer Jose Medeles (the first time the same rhythm section has played on consecutive Breeders records), bring the joy back to their discombobulated pop, completing what might be the most compelling four-album, 20-year arc in music. Some of their most beautiful performances are here, including a spectral version of Latin ballad “Regalame Esta Noche,” and Kim Deal sounds like she’s singing through an ear-to-ear grin. This thing’s got more layers than Deal’s relationship with Black Francis, and it gets better with each listen.

Black Tide

Light from Above (Interscope)

Feel the hand of God—or could it be . . . Satan?—pick you up from your chair and set you down in the passenger side of an ’82 Trans Am. Fronted by 15-year-old Gabriel Garcia, Miami’s Black Tide mine the riffs and shreds of everyone from Megadeth and Metallica to Skid Row and Slaughter (“Shout” is half “Youth Gone Wild” and half “Up All Night”) on their just-released debut disc, and really, who better to produce one of the better classic metal albums in years than a bunch of adolescents? After all, the guys in Metallica (whose very first song, “Hit the Lights,” gets a tastefully rushed pass here) were about 11 years old when they made Kill ’Em All. I believe the children are our future, and our future is freakin’ awesome.

Eric Avery

Help Wanted (Dangerbird)

It’s been 17 years since he walked away from Jane’s Addiction, but time is a nonissue for Eric Avery. In fact, Avery’s first solo release feels mostly like a follow-up to Deconstruction, his underheard 1994 collaboration with Dave Navarro (and the best post-Jane’s spinoff). Help Wanted, out April 8, is a fever dream of sonics, dark and atmospheric and disorienting, but tethered by Avery’s inward-gazing lyrics (and tenuous relationship with pitch) and dotted with just enough guest appearances (Flea, Shirley Manson, Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins) to keep the project from becoming a purely solipsistic affair. This is for a long drive for someone with nothing to think about; drugs optional.

The Kyle Sowashes

Yeah Buddy! (We Want Action)

Nerf Herder

Nerf Herder IV (Oglio)

Banking on a geek-rock revival, are we? Both of these bands attempt to tread the fine line between clever and stupid, but the results couldn’t be further apart: The Kyle Sowashes temper their quirky streak (two versions of “Yr Band Flaked Out on Me”) with some sharp, Superchunk-y guitar pop—meaning, it’s not gonna burn up the charts, but at least it sounds like it was fun to make. But fire up the confetti cannon: Nerf Herder have reunited! Their latest steaming pile (IV, as if anyone was keeping count, due out April 29) actually makes me wish Blink-182 were still around. That makes my head hurt, and so does this: “(Stand by Your) Manatee.” Are you shitting me?

Snoop Dogg

Ego Trippin’ (DoggyStyle/Geffen)

Whether or not he was trying to make his own Late Registration, Snoop has his best record in a Dogg’s age here, for two reasons: “Sexual Eruption” (you probably know it as “Sensual Seduction”) and, surprisingly, a majority of the other 22 tracks. Dozens of producers are on board (including your captain, Teddy Riley), and the jams run the gamut: Snoop’s love of vintage funk turns up throughout, most notably on “Deez Hollywood Nights”; Rick Rock chops and screws “Staxxx in My Jeans”; the Neptunes’ bring their inimitable style to “Sets Up.” There are missteps—the chipmunk chorus on “Those Gurlz” is straight 2001 Kanye, and they could have easily dropped four songs—but the experiments, including a country song (really!) and a cover of the Time’s 1982 Prince-penned single “Cool,” are priceless.

Ed Harcourt

The Beautiful Lie (Dovecote)

It’s frustrating how a performer as gifted as Ed Harcourt can slip through the cracks. Since his critically lauded, Mercury prize-nominated 2001 release, Here Be Monsters, Harcourt has turned out another three albums of remarkable depth, but you wouldn’t know if you weren’t tuned in. The Beautiful Lie, which finally sees U.S. release on June 3, two years after its release overseas, only serves to bolster a quiet legacy. It’s about escaping deep into Harcourt’s alternate universe, where every melody is timeless. The creativity overflows, from the handmade pop of “Visit from the Dead Dog” to the gamboling circus waltz “Scatterbraine.” The ballads ring of a more self-aware (and very much alive) Jeff Buckley, while “Revolution in the Heart” is an anthem of optimism, of fighting the world’s ills with a song. It’s a bright-eyed notion, but Harcourt writes the kind of tunes that might actually get the job done.

 

 

 

 

 


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