Pumpkins frontman and mastermind Billy Corgan is often described as an insufferable dictator and overbearing perfectionist; such is surely why the original band line-up is no longer. But all Corgan ever needed was a backing band to help keep his swollen head propped up onstage. In spite of an unrelenting ego, it seems Corgan has opened himself up to external influence. Take the title track from Oceania, to be released June 19th; still present are busy guitar arrangements and dense noise layers, but there appear to be hints of the Cure showing up by way of moaning organ and string harmonies, delicately flanged-out guitar lines, and infinitely sad lyrics. While Corgan always equipped with a fuller range of emotions than their grungy peers in the 90s, taking the time to be gentle in between tortured hell-shrieks, he was also more willing to explore new territory. That being said, it isn't clear if 'Oceania' is a reference to the chain of Pacific islands or the fictional totalitarian superstate from the George Orwell's 1984.
This album, released on May 29th, has been a long time coming. It feels like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes have been carting their wildly well-received first album, 2009's Up from Below, for ages, dragging it around the world and along festival circuits (and 2012's U.S. tour via railroad with Mumford and Sons), like an exhausted workmule. They have lathered in endless praise, with only one album to speak of so far, and ridden their ever-pervasive single"Home" into the dirt. So it is only with great relief only after such an intolerable build-up that new material be unveiled. And it is even going to receive Matrix style treatment with a sequel to be released by the year's end, according to the band's website. When it rains it pours. And that's what happens when everyone in your band is a qualified raindancer.
Like as do most electronic bands these days, Passion Pit blew up fast. Their typical sound is drenched in obnoxiously obtuse layers of synthesizers, computer beats, and candy-coated falsetto. The music is programmed to rattle around your head for months, especially when it gets played on the radio to no end. Critics and drunken masses were tickled by their first album and a half, and expressed so very loudly (the drunk masses moreso than the critics...you know how loud they can get). And now, with their second LP, Gossamer out July 24th, clubs and parties can flaunt more indy electropop as an alternative to everything in the mainstream that sounds so "different."
Sigur Ros has this god-like ability to arrest listeners and render them inept; their music, the unabashed sound of harnessed beauty, has the ability to determine how human you are based on whether or not you are moved to tears (listen to "Staralfur" from the album Agaetis Byrjun). It doesn't matter that the lyrics are a lingistic hybrid between Icelandic and gibberish; it makes the beauty all the more objective. Their sound tends to mix elements of classical music (lush symphonic arrangements, string sections, etc.) with more experimental sound manipulations (notably, bowed guitar atmospherics), grounded in rock nontraditon. Their latest offering, Valtari out May 29th, is almost entirely atmospheric and full of slow-burners, so it's best expererienced while sitting down, to reduce the risk of injury whilst it floors you.
This album, to be released on June 5th in the U.S. but leaked much earlier (it releases on May 18th in the Australia, which is also where the band hails from), is a critical one: the ever so definitive "sophomore," which ultimately (at least according to public and critical perception) determines a band's plight or ascent. Conditions was an unabashed box full of cathartic, even grandiose gems, which begged to be sung along to. Their ever-lauded "Sweet Disposition," which appears on the (500) Days of Summer soundtrack is what thrust them into such a heavy limelight, while the rest of the album proved to be as consistent (which suggests a band destined for statuesque greatness). That being the case, we are really hoping the eponymous follow-up will leave us just as enamored, if not moreso.
The Walkmen carry different motifs into each of their albums, which they've been releasing steadily every two years since 2002's Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone; their last Lisbon sounded like a horn-infested Mexican vacation; their earlier albums had a lot more piano-based melodies; but at their core, they've maintained a garage band simplicity, by way of Bob Dylan (and maybe even some Rod Stewart), with hints of whatever they soak up along the way. Their forthcoming album Heaven, due out May 29th, shows signs of growth as well as adherence to a working formula, with inflections of who might be on their iPod at any given moment. Take the song "We Can't Be Beat"; there's no getting around those Robin Pecknold (0f Fleet Foxes)-styled harmonies, earthy gorgeousness intact. And what do you know, Pecknold shows up on the album. This album is guaranteed--at least judging by what songs have leaked so far--to please long-time fans and new-comers alike.
Silversun Pickups released their third album, Neck of the Woods, on May 8th. With it, came another helping off fuzzy noise-experimentalism mixed with alt-pop sensibility. The band is most blatently influenced by Smashing Pumpkins (note the common initials), with their fusion of loud and quiet, harsh and mellow, screams and whispers. That play-up of sonic paradoxes is notable throughout; take their gentle, synthetically-embellished radio single "Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)" and contrast it with the heavy sludge-riffing of "Mean Spirits." Or listen to album opener "Skin Graph" which pairs soft moments and lightly played guitar chords (and furious drumming) with a chorus that surges and revs up and overheats an illegal street race. Check this album out.
The Cribs' last album, 2009's Ignore the Ignorant, took on Johnny Marr (of the Smiths) as a full-time guitarist. For that fact, the album was entirely imbued with his greatness, and loads of jangling. He even went on to tour with them. That is until last year, whereafter the band returned to being a fraternal three-piece (all the original members are brothers). Their sound, as expected, is much more stripped down. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially for the garage-y punk-y quality they aim for (and executed pretty well in their pre-Marr albums). The new album, out May 15th, may dismay Marr-era fans, but there's no reason, after 4 albums, they shouldn't continue to deliver what they have so consistantly thusfar.
The recipe for this band is 2 parts 60's psychedelia, 3 parts loveliness, mixed with walls of synthesizer and chiming/swirling guitars. That formula made their last album,2010's Teen Dream, so well-regarded (and pleasurable to listen to). It shows up again in Bloom, released May 15th, which maintains familiar elements, just expanded upon and fully-engorged to jaw-dropping ends. The leading single is explodes off of the album with a knee-trembling chorus, while the rest of the album effectively allows you to drift off into space. That is, space as if it were being televised in black and white.
There is no band more fun to sing along with than the Darkness. This glam rock-revival band led by the Brothers Hawkins (Justin and Dan who both shred on guitar like a pair of Brian May's) recalls Queen in all the best ways, as well as some of the most decadent hair/pop metal and hard rock bands of the seventies and eighties, from Def Leppard to Aerosmith to Boston to AC/DC. The vocals, one of this band's bigger draws, are even more operatically dramatic and androgynous than Freddie Mercury himself could summon. The result is very tongue and cheek, with jokey lyrics forbidding too much emotional solemnity (with lyrics about lunch lady arms, baldness, and dogs that "don't give a fuck") but incredibly infectious.
The Darkness did split up after a mere 2 albums, for frontman Justin Hawkins' getting a little to acquainted with all the rock and roll cliches, drug-and-booze-fueled egotism and the like. But after some rehab and side projects that didn't go very far (although Justin's Hot Leg was much better-sounding than Dan's Stone Gods), the band reunited, did some touring, and is now officially back in the saddle again with a new album coming out August 21st.