Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Moses Sumney (Photo: Moses Robinson/Getty Images), Rivers Cuomo of Weezer (Timothy Norris/Getty Images), and Hayley Williams (Photo: Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Hayley Williams, Weezer, and 17 more albums we can’t wait to hear in May

COVID-19 may continue to play havoc with the normal release schedule for all of pop culture, but thankfully there’s still a ton of great music coming out to help us all get through another month of this stress. From heavy hitters like Weezer, to indie wunderkinds such as Diet Cig, to longtime go-tos Deerhoof, here are 19 upcoming records that make us excited to pop on our headphones. (Why 19? Well, it was a solid 20, but then the Land Of Talk album was delayed.)

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May 1

Car Seat Headrest, Making A Door Less Open

A project started in Will Toledo’s Virginia bedroom, Car Seat Headrest has always been about the process as much as the product, frequently tinkering with its catalog. The band’s latest continues to redefine its own sound and what it means to be a rock band in era when genres are bleeding together. Building off of the fuzzy, lo-fi feel it perfected on the sublime Teens Of Denial, the album introduces synthesizers and rhythmic drums to songs like the spirited “Can’t Cool Me Down,” proving that Car Seat Headrest is following no one’s blueprint but its own. [Cameron Scheetz]

Man Man, Dream Hunting In The Valley Of The In-Between

Returning after a seven-year interlude during which he worked on various other projects (including a solo album under his own name), Honus Honus—a.k.a. Ryan Kattner—is back with his freewheeling off-kilter pop group Man Man, and possibly its most accessible record yet. As eclectic as ever, the sprawling mix of horns, keys, percussion, guitars, and more remains a half-step away from sounding like the most unusual cabaret act in modern times. [Alex McLevy]

Alanis Morissette, Such Pretty Forks In The Road

Alanis Morissette, who helped usher in the era of ’90s angsty alt-rock, is now married with three kids, and has been very open about her severe struggles with postpartum depression. This battle constitutes the theme of her first new album in eight years: Spirited, anthemic single “Reasons I Drink” spells it all out pretty plainly, but “Smiling” accurately describes the futility of keeping up a brave front when everything’s falling apart, while the delicate piano and strings of “Diagnosis” painfully depict Morissette’s lowest moments. [Gwen Ihnat]

Diet Cig, Do You Wonder About Me?

Diet Cig specializes in punchy, emotionally rich chunks of pop-rock, with Alex Luciano’s sugary vocals and vibrant hooks adding a sparkle to the band’s stormy blend of churning guitars and pummeling percussion. Do You Wonder About Me? is described as an “ode to growing up,” and layered cuts like “Broken Body” and “Night Terrors” compellingly unpack the fears and freedoms accompanying the realization that identity is a shapeshifter. “Thriving” provides a cutting, relatable look at these themes as it both evokes the band’s ramshackle early work and points toward the more complex melodies of this sophomore effort. [Randall Colburn] 

Chicano Batman, Invisible People 

Chicano Batman’s Invisible People, the tropi-soul band’s fourth full-length album, comes with some pros and cons. On the plus side, the Los Angeles-based musicians offer up more of their gratifying fusion of gently pulsating funk and indie rock, which makes staying at home a little more bearable. But songs like the dreamy “Blank Slate,” which sees lead singer Bardo Martinez crooning about infatuation, might make you break quarantine to hug someone, anyone. [Danette Chavez]

Melenas, Dias Raros

From the picturesque city of Pamplona come Melenas, an indie-rock quartet with a sound reminiscent of a similarly agreeable climate: The hazy, fuzzed-out garage pop of Southern California. Fans of Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls will find a lot to love in Dias Raros, which isn’t the group’s debut record, but is the first to be released outside of Spain. A driving backbeat and bubblegum chorus keep lead single “3 Segundos” moving like a convertible zooming down a coastal highway, with just a hint of kaleidoscopic guitar to add a sun-soaked stoner edge. [Katie Rife]

May 8

Hayley Williams, Petals For Armor

With her eerily even-toned, appropriately titled single “Simmer,” Hayley Williams sent a warning shot of sorts: Her long-awaited solo effort would feature a slightly different sound that was no less emotionally potent. Since the beginning of the year when we listed it as one of our most anticipated albums of 2020, the Paramore frontwoman has revealed a few tracks from Petals For Armor. Though infused with hints of Williams’ upbeat candor that we’ve grown accustomed to, this collection still manages to peel back another layer of the same growling voice we’ve gravitated toward for years, showcasing even more vulnerability than we’ve seen thus far. [Shannon Miller]

Mark Lanegan, Straight Songs Of Sorrow

It hasn’t even been six months since Somebody’s Knocking, the excellent new album from The Mark Lanegan Band, and the prolific singer is back with a new record (albeit this one lacking the “band” moniker). Straight Songs Of Sorrow marries the electronic-enhanced spaciousness of his “group” work with the mournfully intimate mood of his previous solo releases, creating a best-of-both-worlds situation in which his bleak lyricism (“Ugly, I’m so very ugly” goes the opening line of single “Skeleton Key”) gets wedded to a rawly beautiful soundscape of minimalist melodies. [Alex McLevy]

May 15

The Magnetic Fields, Quickies

Stephin Merritt has written arguably some of the prettiest songs in modern music, but the songwriter’s always infused his work with a naughty blend of wry humor and comical horniness. One of Quickies’ early singles, for example, evokes Distortion’s “The Nun’s Litany” in its story of a man who dreams of abandoning his “empty life” to get gangbanged by bikers. It’s a tight, funny cut, as are the LP’s 27 other tracks, which range in length from 13 seconds to three minutes. Among the many colorful song titles are “The Biggest Tits In History,” “When The Brat Upstairs Got A Drum Kit,” and “Death Pact (Let’s Make A).” Never change, Stephin. [Randall Colburn]

Moses Sumney, Grae Pt. 2

In its spoken-word interludes, two-part structure, and recurring themes—lyrical, musical, vocal, and otherwise—of ambiguity and in-betweens, Moses Sumney’s latest album is absolutely dense with concepts. But it’s also plainly, undeniably gorgeous, its airy compositions forever bending and twisting like the elastic voice at its center. The release of Grae’s last seven tracks—culminating in the slow-burn stunner “Bless Me”—marks the completion of a work that won’t be through enchanting and mystifying listeners anytime soon. [Erik Adams]

Perfume Genius, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

With each ensuing album, the soundscape of Perfume Genius has snowballed, from intimate piano-driven ballads of heartache to bombastic anthems of swirling synths and strings. As evidenced by lead singles “Describe” and “On The Floor,” that trajectory continues on the evocatively titled Set My Heart On Fire Immediately, which finds musician Mike Hadreas harnessing new rhythms for his blues, channeling all the chaos of human feeling into a new kind of sonic catharsis. [Cameron Scheetz]

Weezer, Van Weezer

After more than two decades of harboring critical whiplash from fans and critics alike for their vacillating collection of alternative hits, Weezer returns to its roots with forthcoming album Van Weezer. Self-describing its 14th studio release as “the Blue Album but with more riffs,” Weezer takes cues for its new sound and album title from ’80s hair metal, with first single, “End Of The Game,” channeling the influences of Hagar-era Van Halen melodically mixed into a pop-rock anthem. [Angelica Cataldo]

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Temple 

It’s been too long since we’ve heard from Thao Nguyen—at least, when it comes to her band. Coming off a yearlong stint as guest host of the Song Exploder podcast, the musician reassembles her group for its first record since 2016’s superb A Man Alive. Having used that album to complete her transformation from oddball folksinger into a full-throated maestro of discordant funk grooves, Nguyen returns to deliver an even more ambitious and heartfelt collection of jagged bops, as demonstrated by the minimalist bop of “Phenom.” [Alex McLevy]

May 22

Throwing Muses, Sun Racket

Kristen Hersh and her bandmates in Throwing Muses have been doing this for more than three decades, and at this point they’ve got an intuitive sense for crafting the kind of raucous but emotionally resonant alt-rock the group has perfected over the course of its career. “After 30 years of playing together, we trust each other implicitly but we trust the music more,” Hersh said about their first record since 2013, and the results speak—and kick ass—for themselves. [Alex McLevy]

The 1975, Notes On A Conditional Form

The 1975 is probably the closest thing to “rock” in your niece’s iTunes library, though it feels weird to classify the U.K. band’s clever, elastic sound as such. Notes On A Conditional Form’s “The Birthday Party,” for example, evokes the quirky singer-songwriters of the mid-00s, while “Me & You Together Song” is a tender, heart-on-sleeve bit of emo pop. But then there’s the FIDLAR-aping “People,” a thrilling scorcher as heavy as anything in their catalog. That none of these songs sound the same is part of the band’s appeal, as is the smart, extremely online lyrics of Matty Healy, a millennial blessed with the ability to reach Gen Z. [Randall Colburn]

May 29

Nicole Atkins, Italian Ice

Nicole Atkins gets a little Giorgio Moroder in her Asbury Park on “Domino,” the lead single off of her latest album. And if sleek disco-pop grooves aren’t your thing, keep listening: Atkins describes Italian Ice as “an acid trip through my record collection,” encompassing everything from garage punk to honky-tonk stomp. The diverse track list also reflects the eclectic group of musicians backing Atkins on the record, which includes members of Spoon, The Bad Seeds, and the Dap-Kings as well as legendary Muscle Shoals session players Spooner Oldham and David Hood. [Katie Rife]

Protomartyr, Ultimate Success Today

For its follow-up to Relatives In Descent (which made more than one ballot in The A.V. Club’s best albums of 2017 voting pool), harrowing post-punk outfit Protomartyr continues its journey to see just how apocalyptic one band can sound. Fusing droning squalls of intensity to sparse wails of jagged guitar riffs, the group appears to be posing a singular proposition: Is it possible to soundtrack the end of the world in real time? The Detroit-born rockers have now completed their first decade as a band, but they sound more awake and anxious than ever. (UPDATE: This release has subsequently been delayed until July.) [Alex McLevy]

The Killers, Imploding The Mirage

Judging from the songs already released from The Killers’ next (and sixth) album, the band has crafted yet another string of destined-to-be-radio-hits. Classic example: “Caution” is a stirring story song about a girl shaking her heels from the desert (just as the band itself has now left its Las Vegas hometown). But it’s “Dying Breed,” which just dropped a few days ago on Instagram, that stands out the most from The Killers’ now-familiar sound: an epic saga that builds on ’80s-movie-soundtrack synths to push an undeniable hook across. [Gwen Ihnat]

Deerhoof, Future Teenage Cave Artists

Practicing something like social distancing long before it became a familiar term, members of longtime art-pop outfit Deerhoof collaborated virtually, from the West Coast to the East, to create its 16th studio album. Deerhoof often sounds like it’s fighting against something, even if its target is not always clear. And on Future Teenage Cave Artists, the band flits between its signature sounds of dank noise and ethereal pop to create an album that is exuberant and even optimistic in the face of an approaching apocalypse. [Laura Adamczyk]

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