Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Run The Jewels and Japandroids lead the charge of January’s new music releases

Illustration: Nick Wanserski

Every Friday, dozens of new records are released into the wild. Some make big splashes, and others sink almost immediately. For most music consumers, it’s almost too much information, and save for those precious few who spend their hours glued to review sites and release calendars, it’s hard to know what’s coming out when. Thankfully, The A.V. Club is ready to help those struggling souls. Each month, we’ll publish a fairly comprehensive list of what’s coming to record stores and streaming services in upcoming weeks, complete with capsule previews so interested parties can know what to expect.

January 1

Brian Eno, Reflection


Brian Eno may have coined the term “ambient,” but these days he’s no longer certain what it stands for, noting that it’s been broadened to encompass “some quite unexpected bedfellows.” But while any instrumental, electronic music gets the ambient tag now, the kind long propagated by Eno—heart-slowing, deceptively formless, seemingly endless—is surely its purest form, and his new Reflection is of a piece with those past works like Discreet Music, Fripp & Eno’s Evening Star, 2012’s Lux, and of course, his landmark Ambient series. Reflection unfolds over one sustained, hourlong track, a subtly shifting soundscape of luminous, echoing synth tones that Eno says is intended to “create a psychological space” for peaceful introspection. In the wake of the year we just had, we could use it. [Sean O’Neal]

January 6

Dropkick Murphys, 11 Short Stories Of Pain And Glory

Celtic punk legends Dropkick Murphys are teasing not just one, but two LPs for 2017. The first, 11 Short Stories Of Pain And Glory, is said to be inspired by the band’s charity work with the Claddagh Fund, as well as the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon that shook their home to its core. “Since that day, we felt like not taking the challenge to write a song about what we all went through would be taking the coward’s way out,” says Murphys founder Ken Casey. “It changed the city forever.” It’s odd, then, that they chose to record in El Paso, making this album the first of theirs to not be recorded in Massachusetts. Still, prerelease singles “Blood” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” are as robust as ever, brimming with bagpipes, distortion, and enough sing-along choruses to satiate any number of drunken rowdies. [Randall Colburn]

Gone Is Gone, Echolocation

As Gone Is Gone’s debut EP proved, it’s futile to expect the band to sound like any of its members’ other acts. Though it features Troy Sanders of Mastodon and Tony Hajjar of At The Drive-In, their new project opts for exploring spaces they can’t with their more known acts. Echolocation suggests that Gone Is Gone can still rock, but as “Dublin” shows, the band can get ambient and esoteric just as easily. [David Anthony]


January 13

Chavez, Cockfighters

In the two decades since post-hardcore annihilators Chavez last released new music, its members have done things such as write for and co-executive-produce Silicon Valley (Clay Tarver) or play guitar for Neil Diamond and Iggy Pop (Matt Sweeney). Recorded with John Agnello, the three-song Cockfighters EP maintains the ominous, sludgy urgency of the band’s ’90s records—“The Singer Lied” is a stinging specimen of bubbling-tar post-punk, while “The Bully Boys” possesses gnarled, stormy melodic uplift. [Annie Zaleski]


Code Orange, Forever

Since it initially formed as Code Orange Kids, the Pittsburgh four-piece has prioritized evolution above all else. After dropping “Kids” from its name, the band released I Am King, a record of breakdown-heavy metalcore that was uncompromising in its intensity. Similarly, Forever sees the band embracing dirges all the more, making every riff into the kind of stutter-step pattern that would make any show turn into a wall-to-wall mosh. [David Anthony]


The Flaming Lips, Oczy Mlody

A lot has happened since the The Flaming Lips released their last record way back in 2013. Frontman Wayne Coyne has formed a very public friendship with Miley Cyrus, and together, the pair worked on Cyrus’ 23-track experimental train wreck, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz. But while Cyrus pops up on Oczy Mlody track “We A Famly,” the record seems to be a Lips record through and through, with press materials even saying it “recall[s] the best moments from The Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots.” We’ll believe it when we hear it. [Marah Eakin]


Run The Jewels, Run The Jewels 3

Run The Jewels are the swaggering, scorched-earth corrective to—well, everything: police brutality, economic inequality, shitty rappers, traffic, misogyny, hypocrisy, soft beats, warm weather, gravity, and so on. It’s the sound of two dudes with decades of righteous fury under their belts linking up and reaching new heights of Old Testament vindictiveness. At this point, Killer Mike’s searing rhetoric has soared past his onetime hero Ice Cube, spurred on by the industrial ruckus of El-P. And El-P, one of the sharpest-quilled storytellers in rap, is scribbling bars so raw they draw blood. Their third album comes out one week to the day before Donald Trump takes office, and it is the sound of the insurgency. (Of course, if you can’t wait until then, the duo already offered up the digital version as a surprise Christmas release.) [Clayton Purdom]


Sam Skinner, Danny Through Junior


It’s hard not to fall in love with Pinegrove. Yet as great as its folk-rock is, it’s only a meeting point for its members’ talent. As guitarist Sam Skinner steps into the solo spotlight on Danny Through Junior, so do his talents—particularly for moving chord structures on piano and dampened (but not depressing) lyrics, a face of music left unexplored elsewhere. Sure, Danny Through Junior is a chance to understand where one part of Pinegrove’s heart comes from, but it’s also a chance to hear just how much more its members have to offer, and how far Skinner is willing to wedge himself to explore equally affecting emotions. [Nina Corcoran]

Sohn, Rennen

It’s awfully weird to categorize artists like Sohn as R&B, but I guess that’s what we’re calling James Blake, The Weeknd, and even Bon Iver nowadays, so for shorthand purposes, let’s go with it. The British-born singer-electronicist found his own corner of the sound with 2014’s Tremors, and in particular with the haunting single “Lessons.” In 2017, he returns with more austere beats and falsetto-veering vocals that tread the dark side of the genre that stole its name from another genre. [Josh Modell]


The xx, I See You

The xx’s third full-length promises a “more expansive,” more “outward-looking” approach to the band’s typically intimate electronic pop, very much in the vein of bassist-producer Jamie xx’s 2015 solo debut, In Colour. Single “On Hold” has Romy and Oliver trading aching R&B melodies over gliding synths that give way to a skittering electro beat and a sample of—yep—Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” Romy’s New Wave guitar embellishments are tastefully minimal, suggesting that, even with more extroversion, I See You will be grounded in the group’s signature nuance. [Kelsey J. Waite]


January 20

AFI, AFI (The Blood Album)

As self-titled albums so often do, AFI (The Blood Album) signals a bit of a return from the Bay Area band. That parenthetical exists to remind you that not only does A Fire Inside deliver catchy and melodic pop-punk, but it does so with a penchant for all things occult. Tracks like “White Offerings” and “Snow Cats” echo the anthemic quasi-emo of 2003’s Sing The Sorrow, the band’s breakout hit, with lyrics like “White offerings are all I bring / I welcome you / I offer you this white room” and “I’ll wait for you another night / dressed in Himalayan white.” But remember, it’s The Blood Album, so things might not stay welcoming for long. [Leonardo Adrian Garcia]


Austra, Future Politics

“How do we find hope when things seem so bleak?” It’s a fitting question for Austra to ask when the Toronto synthpop project drops its third full-length on what will be Inauguration Day for its neighbors to the south. Frontwoman Katie Stelmanis, inspired by reading economical and philosophical texts, has created a record of “urgent, disciplined anthems” that call on listeners to remember their agency in the face of despair. On its title track, Stelmanis is resolutely forward-gazing, demanding a clean break from the status quo: “I’m never coming back here / There’s only one way: future politics.” The song’s rev and flutter insist the revolution start on the dance floor. [Kelsey J. Waite]


Bash & Pop, Anything Could Happen

Paul Westerberg has already gone back into hiding following the Replacements’ well-received reunion, but Tommy Stinson is delving back further into his rock ’n’ roll past. With one reunion stint down, Stinson now turns his attention to Bash & Pop. His post-Mats gig was too short-lived to earn it the same attention as its predecessor, but Anything Could Happen could earn the band a much-deserved second life. Bash & Pops’s bar-soaked brand of power-pop sounds as good in 2017 as it did where Stinson last left it on 1993’s Friday Night Is Killing Me, making for a strong start to the new year for fans of no-frills rock ’n’ roll. [Ryan Bray]


Cherry Glazerr, Apocalipstick

The Los Angeles indie trio Cherry Glazerr recorded Apocalipstick, its first album for Secretly Canadian, with co-producers Joe Chicarrelli (The Strokes, My Morning Jacket) and Carlos De La Garza (Bleached, Paramore). The results are monstrous-sounding—from the gothic, doom-psych vibe of “Nurse Ratched” or the impeccable “Told You I’d Be With The Guys,” which seethes like slo-mo Sleater-Kinney before exploding into a raucous, eardrum-bursting punk rage. [Annie Zaleski]


Foxygen, Hang

In the past few years, we’ve seen Foxygen hit highs with its manic live shows and a critically acclaimed 2013 album We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic. We’ve also seen it hit lows with a messy follow-up, …And Star Power, and an even messier breakup with former touring member Elizabeth Le Fey that included allegations of physical abuse. Hang finds Foxygen pulling out all the stops, from recording with a 40-piece orchestra arranged by Spacebomb team Trey Pollard and Matthew E. White, to working with the likes of The Lemon Twigs and The Flaming Lips’ Steven Drozd. [Philip Cosores]


Heat, Overnight


Montreal’s Heat built a little buzz back in 2014 with its debut EP, staking out a hooky claim in the territory of dream pop, shoegaze, and New Wave revivals. The band’s upcoming debut LP, Overnight, explores that sound deeper and stretches it into a dense, focused trip packed with blissed-out synthscapes and hazy, reverb-soaked guitars. Inspired by bands like Echo & The Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs, and The Jesus And Mary Chain (singer Susil Sharma channels Jim Reid quite a bit), Overnight is as catchy as it is lush—as the aptly titled first single, “Lush,” can attest. [Matt Williams]

Joan Of Arc, He’s Got The Whole This Land Is Your Land In His Hands

The reasons why people champion Joan Of Arc could just as easily double for the reasons people dismiss it. The band doesn’t fit neatly in a single box, offering up hyper-digitized records, lengthy instrumental pieces, and fluttering indie-rock without feeling the need to justify any of its explorations. With its latest, Joan Of Arc subverts expectations from song to song, never anchoring itself to one approach and doing what it does best: sounding exactly like Joan Of Arc. [David Anthony]


January 27

Bell Biv DeVoe, Three Stripes

When Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe broke away from the Boston boy band New Edition in 1990, they had a neat tagline for their new-jack-swing sound: “mentally hip-hop, smoothed out on the R&B tip, with a pop feel.” That about summed up their debut, Poison, which topped the R&B charts and produced two top-5 singles. More than 15 years after their last album, BBD are back to smack it up, flip it, and rub it down once more. On “Run,” the lead single off Three Stripes, the trio stays rooted in the ’90s, recycling boilerplate R&B sentiments (“Every time I buy you things, you play the game”) and that same Herb Alpert sample used in Biggie’s “Hypnotize.” As a nostalgia play, it just about works. And it’s probably better than BBD going PBR&B. [Kenneth Partridge]


Julie Byrne, Not Even Happiness


Folk is often name-checked as a musical genre, but it’s something much bigger than that: a tradition that, historically, has evolved over dusty roads and steep canyons. While Julie Byrne’s certainly followed in the tradition of fine-tuning these tales over many months on the road (not to mention that she’s lived in Buffalo, Chicago, New Orleans, Northampton, Pittsburgh, and Seattle thus far), there’s a kind of freewheeling fascination that’s characteristically hers. On her wondrous second album, Not Even Happiness, the follow-up to 2014’s Rooms With Walls And Windows, she unfurls these well-traveled melodies with plucky bravado, taking listeners with her on a journey through diners, deserts, and what drives her to chase this awestruck feeling—the one that not even happiness can replace. [Paula Mejia]

Cate Le Bon, Rock Pool


On full-length Crab Day, Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon spun effortless and enticing melodies, the kind that seem to capture wonder mid-step. Her self-described “killed darlings” from those recording sessions now find themselves on the EP Rock Pool. Loose riffs on guitar recall the worry-free attitude of slacker rock with help from Stephen Black and Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa, but Cate Le Bon’s voice dances above it with clear intent, a mixture of playfulness and contemplation that makes each song relatable no matter what mood you’re in. [Nina Corcoran]

Cloud Nothings, Life Without Sound


Cloud Nothings’ last record, 2014’s Here And Nowhere Else, was a barnburner, landing prominently on our best-of music list at the end of that year. Life Without Sound is the Cleveland band’s attempt at bottling lightning once again, something that’s evident in first single “Modern Act.” The track is less gritty and more polished than most Here And Nowhere cuts, but that doesn’t make it any less catchy. The group’s frontman, Dylan Baldi, says Life Without Sound is the perfect record for driving around, so if you’re a Cloud Nothings fan, maybe it’s time to gas up the old car. [Marah Eakin]

Allison Crutchfield, Tourist In This Town

Though Allison Crutchfield has been a part of punk bands such as P.S. Eliot and Swearin’, her solo material shows a different side of her creative self without losing any of her punk-ish charms. Just like her Lean In To It EP, her Merge Records debut skews toward electro-pop, a sound that suits Crutchfield well, as her silky vocals skitter across danceable melodies in a way that proves she’s always had a knack for pop songs. [David Anthony]


Mark Eitzel, Hey Mr Ferryman

On his latest solo album, Hey Mr Ferryman, American Music Club frontman Mark Eitzel collaborated with ex-Suede member Bernard Butler. The pairing is inspired: Not only does Butler add evocative electric guitar (as well as bass and keyboard), but his production amplifies Eitzel’s crooner tendencies. “An Angel’s Wing Brushed The Penny Slots” is a suave bossa nova number, while the velvety, lounge-appropriate highlight “An Answer” is string-swept and romantic. [Annie Zaleski]


Japandroids, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life


For a band with so many spotlights turned on the members, Japandroids hid from the press for three years with surprising skill. After 2012’s Celebration Rock, they went into hiding, but follow-up Near To The Wild Heart Of Life already shows they’ve had their fill of anthemic rock to compensate for that silence. It’s an album of explosive guitar and thundering drumming that gets you to reflect on where you’re at in life, but Japandroids make it easy to feel youthful, the record prompting dread-free reflection—a style that’s growing harder and harder to find and all the more necessary because of it. [Nina Corcoran]

Ty Segall, Ty Segall


Ty Segall is always a bit of an enigma. The road dog and record machine tours constantly and releases music almost as quickly. But a new Ty Segall full-length is always worth a listen, and Ty Segall promises something different from the California rocker. With cleaner production and some acoustic work, Ty Segall should keep listeners guessing. Need proof? Check out lead single “Orange Color Queen,” which is so sweet and ethereal it’s practically a George Harrison tune. [Marah Eakin]

Sinai Vessel, Brokenlegged

These North Carolinians have been at it since 2008, long flying under the radar. That should change immediately with their full-length debut for hotbed Tiny Engines, with gently loping emo rock that’s occasionally as smart, melodic, and understated as influencers like Death Cab For Cutie and peers like Into It. Over It. and the Hotelier. Closer “Cork Of Worry” is a dark highlight that promises new and excitingly shadowy things to come, but by and large Brokenlegged wins its bread on breezy, romantically pastoral fare like “Ramekin” and “Dogs” with an air of maturity and subtle confidence. [Brian Shultz]


Fred Thomas, Changer

Fred Thomas is a testament to the idea that, if you work hard for long enough, eventually people will take notice. Changer is his 10th solo record, and one of the first to garner him the attention he’s rightly earned. Songs like “Brickwall” show his detail-oriented approach to lyricism, as he’s found sweating the small stuff in a way that’s wholly relatable. But while “Brickwall” puts Thomas’ world under the microscope, the back half of Changer focuses on the big picture, using instrumental ambiance as a way of tackling the intangibles. [David Anthony]


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