Julien Baker, The Hold Steady, and 21 more albums we can’t wait to hear in February

Julien Baker, The Hold Steady, and 21 more albums we can’t wait to hear in February

Clockwise from top: Pink Sweat$ (Photo: Jason Mendez/Getty Images), 
Julien Baker (Photo: Burak Cingi/Redferns), Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images), Craig Finn of The Hold Steady (Photo: Al Pereira/WireImage)
Clockwise from top: Pink Sweat$ (Photo: Jason Mendez/Getty Images),
Julien Baker (Photo: Burak Cingi/Redferns), Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images), Craig Finn of The Hold Steady (Photo: Al Pereira/WireImage)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

So much of the past year has felt interminable, but after the wild events of January, we’re having a different reaction to it being February: What the hell, 2021 is one-twelfth of the way over already?! Honestly, it’s kind of a refreshing feeling! So let’s embrace this newfound spirit of optimism and time moving at a semi-normal clip, and turn our eyes—and ears—toward the sonic delights awaiting us over the next few weeks. There’s something for everyone, whether it’s the ebulliently soulful R&B of Pink Sweat$, the signature sugar-rush pop punk of stalwarts NOFX, or the cathartic beauty of Mogwai. Hell, there’s even an Alice Cooper record coming out, if you’re feeling especially nostalgic. So strap on your headphones, pretend you can’t hear the ping of your coworkers bugging you on Slack, and check out some of the best new music this month has to offer.

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Foo Fighters, Medicine At Midnight [February 5]

Foo Fighters, Medicine At Midnight [February 5]

While plodding first single “Shame Shame” appeared to fulfill fans’ worst fears about the banality of the Foo Fighters’ upcoming 10th album, subsequent tracks indicate a bit more life in the band, even as they bring mind to earlier, greater FF hits. Poignant peace anthem “Waiting On A War” still manages to thrive in the shadow of “Times Like These,” egged on by dramatic strings and Dave Grohl’s nostalgic lyrics. But “No Son Of Mine” leans into the hardest of the band’s hard-rock inclinations—like a hookless, thornier “Pretender”—pointing toward a possibly more spirited Foo future. [Gwen Ihnat]

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John Carpenter, Lost Themes III: Alive After Death [February 5]

John Carpenter, Lost Themes III: Alive After Death [February 5]

No, John Carpenter isn’t all that interested in directing movies anymore, but one wonders if he’s given us an even better gift with his Lost Themes albums. By releasing these LPs of synth- and riff-heavy songs, he allows us to imagine what horrors would flourish against such evocative and ominous sounds. Alive After Death, the third volume in his Lost Themes series, ignites the imagination with bone-chilling titles like “Weeping Ghost” and “The Dead Walk,” each of which brims with neon-tinged, dance floor-friendly menace. [Randall Colburn]

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Miss Grit, Impostor EP [February 5]

Miss Grit, Impostor EP [February 5]

It may sound a bit overblown to describe Miss Grit, the solo project of Korean American musician Margaret Sohn, as an invigorating combination of St. Vincent and Taylor Swift, but one listen to the title track off of her new Impostor EP makes it clear she has talent to burn. The art-rock guitar shredding of the former mixed with the unerring ear for melody and larger-than-life songcraft of the latter makes this an impressive testament to working through self-doubt. [Alex McLevy]

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Slowthai, TYRON [February 5]

Slowthai, TYRON [February 5]

One of the U.K.’s most live-wire new rappers returns with the follow-up album to his Mercury Prize-nominated debut, Nothing Great About Britain (a few excellent singles and collaborations in the interim notwithstanding). He’s stacked it with talented high-profile guests—A$AP Rocky, James Blake, and Mount Kimbie, to name a few—but the real draw remains the Bajan British artist’s savvy, class-conscious flow, full of memorable characters and evocative autobiographical candor. [Alex McLevy]

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The Weather Station, Ignorance [February 5]

The Weather Station, Ignorance [February 5]

Fans of Tamara Lindeman’s indie-folk project may want to brace themselves—in a good way—for how much the musician has reinvented her band’s sound with Ignorance. Written on keys instead of guitar for the first time, Lindeman has transformed her music into something vital and fierce, animated by pulsing and rhythm-driven grooves that retain her knack for spacious beauty in composition while adding a grandiose urgency marked by a lyrical concern with environmental devastation. Don’t miss this one. [Alex McLevy]

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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, New Fragility [February 12]

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, New Fragility [February 12]

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah might feel like a relic from a very particular (and peculiar) era of indie rock, but the quirky outfit is still going strong. New Fragility is as personal as it is political, oscillating between songs about depression, divorce, democracy, and spirituality. Each is buoyed by the incorporeal vocals of Alec Ounsworth, whose divisive quiver exudes an affecting weariness on pre-release singles like “Thousand Oaks” and “Where They Perform Miracles,” the latter of which might be one of the best to come from the group’s 15-year career. [Randall Colburn]

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Claud, Super Monster [February 12]

Claud, Super Monster [February 12]

It’s fitting that Claud’s debut album, Super Monster, is the first release on Phoebe Bridgers’ new Dead Oceans imprint, Saddest Factory, since the two musicians share some musical DNA—specifically, a knack for the slightly off-kilter yet emotionally universal pop song. But Claud is very much a youth-skewing artist, sharing the open-hearted discoveries of those coming out of their teenage years, while incorporating more electronic-based grooves with the languid sensibilities of Soccer Mommy. This is bedroom pop for the kids who are ready to move beyond bedroom pop. [Alex McLevy]

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Pink Sweat$, Pink Planet [February 12]

Pink Sweat$, Pink Planet [February 12]

For his official debut, Philly native Pink Sweat$ comes prepared with silky R&B vocals and unencumbered sentimentality. COVID slightly delayed the long-awaited collection, but the popular collaborator has been using the downtime wisely, stoking excitement with the gently hopeful groove “At My Worst,” which recently got the remix treatment from Kehlani. Pink Planet will undoubtedly center on Pink Sweat$’s ability to tap into timeless romance with arrangements that sound plucked from a time machine, merging renewed energy with some of the guitar-driven melodies of the ’60s. It’s a blessed combination. [Shannon Miller]

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Teenage Wrist, Earth Is A Black Hole [February 12]

Teenage Wrist, Earth Is A Black Hole [February 12]

Nothing ever really dies, as demonstrated by Teenage Wrist, who sound like they methodically blended together the hooks of a thousand ’90s alt-rock groups in order to create a jukebox-like offering of the entire era, from Candlebox-like hard rock in grunge clothing to jangly, Soul Asylum-esque rockers. None of it would’ve sounded out of place on MTV circa 1995, but all of it sounds engaging and ready for the post-grunge revival. [Alex McLevy]

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Chung Ha, Querencia [February 15]

Chung Ha, Querencia [February 15]

For over three years, Chung Ha has been setting the performance standard alongside some of the most exciting K-pop soloists (“Gotta Go” was quite a moment). With a parade of sultry dance hits occupying her discography, it’s a little hard to believe that she’s only just getting the chance to deliver a full LP. But if the indie rock ballad “X” and disco-tinged bop “Dream Of You” are any indication, Querencia will serve as a balm for anyone feeling especially stung by the wait. [Shannon Miller]

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Lael Neale, Acquainted With Night [February 19]

Lael Neale, Acquainted With Night [February 19]

For many, recording cassettes alone in your room is a first step. For Lael Neale, it felt like coming home. After 10 years of frustrating work trying to refine her sound, this Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter retreated to her family’s Virginia farm with an Omnichord—a portable electronic instrument from the early ’80s that looks like an autoharp and sounds like a Casio—in search of something new. The result is the urgent melodies and unadorned instrumentals on Acquainted With Night, a collection of songs that’s disarmingly poetic in its simplicity. [Katie Rife]

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Mogwai, As The Love Continues [February 19]

Mogwai, As The Love Continues [February 19]

Twenty-five years after the release of its debut single “Tuner/Lower,” Scottish post-rock titans Mogwai return with As The Love Continues, the group’s 10th studio album. Singles released from the record so far touch on multiple eras in Mogwai’s musical evolution, recalling the swirling shoegaze that predicated the band’s 1995 debut with “Ritchie Sacramento” before fast-forwarding to the brittle electronica of its 2010s output on “Dry Fantasy.” [Katie Rife]

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SG Lewis, Times [February 19]

SG Lewis, Times [February 19]

A U.K.-born producer with a flair for retro-futurist sounds and a knack for recruiting all-star collaborators, SG Lewis would be easy to compare to his countrymen and fellow dance floor darlings, Disclosure. But after writing for Dua Lipa and remixing Jessie Ware, the multi-instrumentalist hopes to chart his own path to stardom with his long-awaited first album, Times. Lewis has enlisted the likes of Robyn, Rhye, and Lucky Daye for invigorating early singles that promise an album of soulful, dance-pop euphoria. [Cameron Scheetz]

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The Hold Steady, Open Door Policy [February 19]

The Hold Steady, Open Door Policy [February 19]

America’s most beloved bar band returns with Open Door Policy, its eighth studio album and second with the new six-piece lineup, following 2019’s Thrashing Through The Passion. Written and recorded almost completely before the pandemic began, it nonetheless suggests new musical explorations for the group, albeit wedded to the anthemic riffing, keys, and stomping rhythm-section workouts that are the group’s signature sound. [Alex McLevy]

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Wild Pink, A Billion Little Lights [February 19]

Wild Pink, A Billion Little Lights [February 19]

Forget 2018’s Yolk In The Fur: This is the album that sounds destined to make the world sit up and take notice of Wild Pink. The War On Drugs comparisons are no longer sufficient to capture the scope of John Ross’ songwriting, which here runs the gamut from soulful country to synth-laden meditations reminiscent of early MGMT and Grandaddy to lighters-in-the-air anthems. With some guest musicians (including Ratboys’ Julia Steiner) and Ross’ knack for affecting lyrics, the band may well spend 2021 making a billion new fans, instead. [Alex McLevy]

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Valley Maker, When The Day Leaves [February 19]

Valley Maker, When The Day Leaves [February 19]

Valley Maker’s Austin Crane pens sumptuous folk with lyrics that ruminate thoughtfully on the ephemeral mysteries of nature and memory. His latest songs, written after moving back to the South Carolina community in which he was raised, are urgent and immersive, yearning for a connection that’s been absent in an era of social distancing. Following last year’s meditative “Mockingbird,” Crane has teased the album with arresting singles like “No One Is Missing” and “Instrument,” muscular songs that ripple with rich acoustic textures and goosebump-inducing backing vocals from Amy Godwin. [Randall Colburn]

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Alice Cooper, Detroit Stories [February 26]

Alice Cooper, Detroit Stories [February 26]

“Life has a way of surviving and going on and on,” says Alice Cooper at the start of inspirational cut “Don’t Give Up,” and at 73 years old, with decades under his belt as a rock icon, he should know. So it’s downright heartening to hear Cooper offer a scathing anthem to help you get through the rest of the pandemic with that Detroit Stories track, or have fun offering new interpretations of cover songs on others. He gives Lou Reed’s “Rock ’N’ Roll” the teeth that song has always been missing, aided by a scorching guitar line, and offers an unsettling take of Outrageous Cherry’s deceptively cheerful “Our Love Will Change The World”—his vocals somehow sounding as demonically divine as ever. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Blanck Mass, In Ferneaux [February 26]

Blanck Mass, In Ferneaux [February 26]

It would be tough for anyone to top the electronic noise-wave majesty of Benjamin John Power’s previous two explorations of aggression and catharsis, World Eater and Animated Violence Mild. But it would be equally silly to assume the former Fuck Buttons producer and sound collage maestro has been resting on his laurels—even a cursory listen to new single “Starstuff” proves Power has lost none of his fire, making In Ferneaux a must-hear for those who like their instrumental indictments of modern society delivered with maximum intensity. [Alex McLevy]

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Brijean, Feelings [February 26]

Brijean, Feelings [February 26]

Brijean Murphy and Doug Stuart, a.k.a. Brijean, have put together a record that encourages reflection and laid-back dancing in equal measure. The retro tropicália and gauzy shimmer of jazz-filled sunny island afternoons are in abundance on Feelings, an expansion of the sound the pair began with 2019’s Walkie Talkie. Murphy, who has drummed with everyone from Toro Y Moi to U.S. Girls, finds a sweet spot between percussive-driven bops and languid bass swoons. [Alex McLevy]

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21 / 25

Glitterer, Life Is Not A Lesson [February 26]

Glitterer, Life Is Not A Lesson [February 26]

If Jeff Rosenstock was instructed to record a Guided By Voices album, you might end up with something a little like Glitterer’s latest release. The solo project of former Title Fight singer Ned Russin welds clear, potent hooks to get-in-and-get-out stompers (only three songs crack the two-minute mark), all while Russin delivers full-throated testaments to the struggles of living through each day without curling up into the fetal position on the ground. It’s stirring, and addictive, and unadorned—catchy Beatles-punk anthems at their finest. [Alex McLevy]

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22 / 25

Julien Baker, Little Oblivions [February 26]

Julien Baker, Little Oblivions [February 26]

There was something about Julien Baker’s first two albums that felt like you were hearing an artist in their purest form: intimate, aching, and armed with little more than a piano and a guitar. And while Little Oblivions has the singer-songwriter’s characteristic emotional immediacy, it also posits that maybe not everything’s so simple. Undoubtedly, Baker’s third album will be her biggest, most pop-minded yet, expanding her sound with drums, keys, a mandolin, and more, all in Little Oblivions’ thematic embrace of the complexities of life. [Cameron Scheetz]

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23 / 25

Lydia Luce, Dark River [February 26]

Lydia Luce, Dark River [February 26]

The resonant warmth and exhilarating swell of Lydia Luce’s songwriting will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Neko Case. But although Luce’s experience as a Nashville session player can’t help but infuse her work with a similar Americana-tinged sensibility, Luce’s path to becoming a singer-songwriter is wholly her own. Trained in classical music from the time she was 6 years old, Luce infuses her debut album, Dark River, with influences that reflect her personal journey, both as a musician and as a human being. [Katie Rife]

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NOFX, Single Album [February 26]

NOFX, Single Album [February 26]

Well into its third decade, NOFX is still finding ways to surprise—albeit within the confines of the jagged, instantly recognizable punk rock (thanks in large part to Fat Mike’s signature vocals) that has earned it a global fanbase. Whether it’s the surprisingly moving, nearly six-minute opus, “The Big Drag,” that opens the record or the meta fun of lead single “Linewleum,” Single Record (so named because it’s the result of scrapping a planned double record) examines the fallout from the singer hitting bottom and entering recovery. But don’t worry, he’s still picking ill-advised fights (“Fuck Euphemism”) while looking for redemption, all while delivering some of the best songs the band’s recorded in years. [Alex McLevy]

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