Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
From left: Lucinda Williams (Photo: Robin Little/Getty Images), Megan James of Purity Ring (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images), Julian Casablancas of The Strokes (Photo: Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images), Thundercat (Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

April’s slate of album releases looked a lot different a month ago. Due to the myriad setbacks attributable to COVID-19, LPs from Lady Gaga, HAIM, and Hinds got pushed back, while Dua Lipa just went ahead and dropped Future Nostalgia a week early. No matter, there’s still plenty of good stuff arriving this month, including albums from marquee artists like The Strokes to indie luminaries like Purity Ring and NNAMDÏ.

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April 3

Melkbelly, PITH

Chicago’s Melkbelly stormed the halls of art-damaged noise-pop with its 2017 debut, Nothing Valley. Since then the group has only gotten more determined in its efforts to concoct the most sonically expansive servings of its hyper-caffeinated distortion, paired to singer Miranda Winters’ deftly underplayed vocals. PITH doesn’t reinvent the band’s sound; it distills it, refining the raucous and doubling down on the surprisingly catchy start-stop, no-wave jitters. [Alex McLevy]

NNAMDÏ, BRAT

The latest release from prolific Chicago multi-instrumentalist Nnamdi Ogbonnaya sounds as indebted to indie and freak-folk as it is hip-hop and hymnals—“Flowers To My Demons,” for example, comes laced with the DNA of early Animal Collective. Aside from its horns, strings, and “one little synth line,” Ogbonnaya played every instrument on the album, which highlights, first and foremost, the guitar. That’s a departure in itself—the instrument was absent on his last LP, 2017’s Drool—and serves as an illustration of just how much he’s continued to grow as a performer, producer, and songwriter. [Randall Colburn]

Purity Ring, WOMB [Colburn]

WOMB, Purity Ring’s first release in five years, brims with textured electro-pop as crystalline and vast as that of the band’s previous LPs. Described as “a quest for comfort and the search for a resting place in a world where so much is beyond our control,” the album announced itself with “stardew,” a single bookended by chimes and piano plinks that frame the effervescent melodies between them as an ecstatic, dreamlike escape from life’s anxieties. [Randall Colburn]

Thundercat, It Is What It Is

Thundercat changes the game once again with It Is What It Is, the followup to his 2017 breakthrough Drunk. Whereas that album saw the visionary songwriter sailing on the smooth seas of yacht rock, and It Is What It Is builds on this sound with both old standbys—seductive R&B, fluttering jazz-funk—and new experiments in sonic eclecticism. These take the form of stirring strings and eerie ’70s soundtrack vibes, delivered with the same winking sense of humor that made director Zack Fox’s video for “Dragonball Durag” a viral hit. [Katie Rife]


April 10

​Hamilton Leithauser, The Loves Of Your Life

Hamilton Leithauser has kept busy since The Walkmen went on hiatus in 2014, having released a well-received solo debut and, in 2016, an excellent collaborative LP with one-time Vampire Weekender Rostam. Leithauser’s on his own again with The Loves Of Your Life, an album of “creative nonfiction” he says is “about individual people,” be they folks in his life or strangers he’s met along the way. Lead single “Isabella” is a layered, emphatic exploration of arrested development with one hell of a climactic swell. [Randall Colburn]

The Strokes, The New Abnormal

When The Strokes opened for Bernie Sanders in February, the delight at Julian Casablancas singing “New York City Cops” mere feet away from actual police officers underplayed the announcement of the band’s first full-length since 2013’s Comedown Machine. And on the basis of the two Rick Rubin-produced tracks issued since—synthed-up slow-burn “At The Door” and the Billy Idol-interpolating “Bad Decisions”—The New Abnormal contains the most exciting Strokes sounds at least since 2003. [Erik Adams]


April 17

Danzig, Danzig Sings Elvis

Danzig has been promising an album of Elvis Presley covers for going on six years, having said in previous interviews that “Elvis is actually kind of how I got into music.” Per a press release, the final product will contain 14 covers of both “well-known Elvis classics and unheralded deep cuts,” including “Is It So Strange,” “Fever,” and “Loving Arms.” The Misfits singer hasn’t shared any singles as of yet, but he did cover the King’s “Trouble” some years back. Hear that here. [Randall Colburn]

Shabazz Palaces, The Don Of Diamond Dreams

Ishmael Butler’s space-chasing Shabazz Palaces dropped a seven-suite LP in 2014 and two companion albums of high-concept hip-hop a few years later, so it’s something of a surprise to see the outfit drop a single LP limited to just 10 tracks. The Don Of Diamond Dreams remains an ambitious release, however, a fusion of acid-dipped hip-hop, funk, dub, and pop described in the press release as “a futuristic manifestation of ancient myth, full of robotic vocoder and warped auto-tune, Funkadelic refracted into different dimensions, weird portals and warm nocturnal joy rides alongside the coast.” Got all that? Listen to “Chocolate Souffle” and it’ll make a little more sense. [Randall Colburn]


April 24

Indigo Girls, Look Long

The Indigo Girls return with an eye trained toward the past on Look Long, their first new album in five years. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers’ Southern roots and the sounds of the slide guitar and clavinet are the foundation for Look Long, which aims to offer a sonic saging, if you will, of our beyond divisive present. John Reynolds, who produced 1999’s Come On Now Social, has also reteamed with the duo. Their latest song releases, “Shit Kickin’” and “Change My Heart,” are rousing yet familiar. [Danette Chavez]

Rufus Wainwright, Unfollow The Rules

Longtime New Yorker Rufus Wainwright has moved to Laurel Canyon, causing a sonic shift you can hear in his latest album. “Trouble In Paradise” displays Wainwright’s typical epic theatricality, while his Joni Mitchell homage “Damsel In Distress” refreshingly relies on guitars and handclaps. “Peaceful Afternoon” concisely sums up how hard it is to maintain a relationship “between sex and death and trying to keep the kitchen clean,” but no greater joy can be found than in the low-key hours of the title. And if you like that one, there’s also a French version (“Pièce À Vivre”). [Gwen Ihnat]

Lucinda Williams, Good Souls Better Angels 

Every Lucinda Williams album is an event. But the release of her latest, Good Souls Better Angels, is an even bigger celebration than usual. It’s a family reunion, first off, as Williams reteams with Ray Kennedy, the co-producer and engineer of her 1998 masterpiece, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road. It’s also a return to Williams’ blues-rock roots, as songs like the electrifying Memphis Minnie cover, “You Can’t Rule Me,” so vividly evoke raucous nights in beer-soaked barrooms that you can practically hear the peanut shells crunching underfoot. [Katie Rife]

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