Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Flying Lotus (Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images), Carly Rae Jepsen (Photo: Steve Jennings/WireImage via Getty Images), and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend (Photo: Chiaki Nozu/Redferns via Getty Images). Graphic: Natalie Peeples

Vampire Weekend, Flying Lotus, and Carly Rae Jepsen lead a massive May in new music

Flying Lotus (Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images), Carly Rae Jepsen (Photo: Steve Jennings/WireImage via Getty Images), and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend (Photo: Chiaki Nozu/Redferns via Getty Images). Graphic: Natalie Peeples

May is, by sheer volume, the year’s biggest month for music yet, with long-awaited new releases from Carly Rae Jepsen, Vampire Weekend, and Flying Lotus leading the pack. YG, The National, Mac DeMarco, and Charly Bliss all return as well, alongside promising debuts from Ian Noe and Pronoun. That’s not to mention potential surprises from Freddie Gibbs & Madlib or even Lana Del Rey finally. There are 30-plus records on the list below—way more than any of us will individually get to—but there’s something here for everyone. These are the new albums we’re most excited to hear in May.

May 3

An Horse, Modern Air

Personal matters may have forced a six-year hiatus on An Horse, the Australian (turned New York- and Montreal-based) power-pop rockers, but sonically the new record feels like it could be picking up right where the two-piece left off. Chockablock with distorted guitar riffs and anthemic refrains tapped straight from the mid-’90s Alternative Nation vein, the group’s Modern Air delivers sing-along (as long as you can match Kate Cooper’s distinctively drawn-out “Awws”s) enthusiasm and lyrics whose uplift matches the crunchy and jangling chord progressions, even in their darker moments. Like a fusion of Velocity Girl and early Weezer, it’s hard to hear An Horse without succumbing to the infectious appeal of the band’s joyous abandon. [Alex McLevy]

Bad Religion, Age Of Unreason

We could make some vague allusions to the changes on this record and how Bad Religion in 2019 has evolved from previous iterations, but honestly, it’s a new Bad Religion record—you pretty much know what you’re getting. Not including the goofball collection of Christmas covers, this is the first record with the band’s latest lineup (The Cult’s Mike Dimkich replacing longtime guitarist Greg Hetson and Snot/The Trail Of Dead’s Jamie Miller taking over for drummer Brooks Wackerman), and it very much follows harder/faster BR albums like The Process Of Belief, undoubtedly a reflection of playing overtly political punk rock during another era of intense fascist creep. [Alex McLevy]

Big Thief, U.F.O.F.

U.F.O.F. is the third Big Thief album since 2016, and the first the soulful indie-folk outfit are releasing via 4AD. Recorded in a cabin outside Seattle, the album is both looser and more intimate than previous releases, with Adrianne Lenker weaving characters and narratives into her lyrics. “Sometimes I’m saying real people’s names because there’s no better word for them,” she recently told Pitchfork. “I really get quite tired of ‘I’ and ‘you’ in songs.” Early singles like “Cattails” and the title track are some of the Brooklyn outfit’s most satisfying tracks yet, gently rollicking on fingerpicked acoustic guitars that comfort like a popped bottle cap on a sunny day. [Randall Colburn]

Combo Chimbita, Ahomale

Describing its sound as both “tropical futurism” and “cumbia-not-cumbia,” this quartet of first-generation New Yorkers’ second genre-blending concept album is just as ambitious in scope as its first, 2017’s Abya Yala. Combining trippy synths with traditional drumming and guitar licks pulling from everything from funk to surf rock, the driving force is still the voice of Carolina Oliveros, sultry and ecstatic as it leads listeners down the combo’s cosmic paths. [William Hughes]

Filthy Friends, Emerald Valley

It’s not every supergroup that can make it past the first big album and tour without imploding in a messy cloud of egos, but Corin Tucker and Peter Buck still seem like they’re having fun mashing their styles together as the Portland-based Filthy Friends. Tucker and Buck’s second album together, along with bandmates Kurt Bloch, Scott McCaughey, and Linda Pitmon, already sounds just as energetic as the first; the Sleater-Kinney singer sets the pace on “Last Chance County” while Buck’s guitar grooves messily underneath. [William Hughes]

L7, Scatter The Rats

Following the release of the 2016 documentary L7: Pretend We’re Dead, a reinvigorated L7 shattered amps with a few grungy singles—including a bitchin’ anti-Trump anthem—before announcing Scatter The Rats, its first LP in two decades. Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records is releasing the album, which, with scorching singles like “Burn Baby” and “Stadium West,” is as searing and sneering as any of the four-piece’s previous releases. Another thing it hasn’t lost? Humor. A cursory glance at Rats’ lyric sheet makes that clear. Donita Sparks and company are still sardonic as hell. [Randall Colburn]

Pacific Breeze: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie 1976-1986

Call it “wasen rock.” Pacific Breeze: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie 1976-1986, the latest release from the dedicated crate diggers at Light In The Attic Records, has the same windswept, champagne bubbly attitude as the soft rock and blue-eyed soul being produced in California around the same time, but from a distinctly trans-Pacific point of view. A uniquely Japanese genre, city pop blends influences from all over—exotica, boogie, techno-pop, soft rock, smooth jazz— into something wholly new and eternally breezy, reflecting the technology-driven optimism of the economic miracle era. [Katie Rife]

Pile, Green And Gray

The fact that Pile is continuing to break new ground on its seventh studio album should come as no surprise, but how far the band reaches on Green And Gray is still remarkable. If 2017’s A Hairshirt Of Purpose was subtler in its musical motifs, on Green And Gray the band finds new ways to expand on those ideas while also offering up songs that rank among the most savage tracks in its discography. “The Soft Hands Of Stephen Miller” is so gross-sounding (and that’s meant as a compliment), and it shows that over a decade in, Pile hasn’t lost any steam. [David Anthony]

Stereolab, Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements and Mars Audiac Quintet reissues

Kicking off a yearlong plan to reissue all seven of its Elektra studio albums released between 1993 and 2004, legendary European pop-art maestros Stereolab begin this ambitious project with 1993’s Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements and 1994’s Mars Audiac Quintet. The classic albums have been remastered from the original tapes and are expanded to include demos, alternate takes, and unreleased mixes for the completists. There are additional enticements to pick up these re-releases (clear vinyl, new liner notes, exclusive posters, and the like), but fans will already be sold, and those who don’t yet own them now have no reason not to begin collecting some of the best albums by one of the ’90s finest electro-groove pioneers. [Alex McLevy]

Tacocat, This Mess Is A Place

The loose-limbed appeal of Tacocat remains undimmed on This Mess Is A Place, the groups’ first full-length since 2016’s Lost Time and its first for Sub Pop. The art-damaged surf-punk vibes have made the transition smoothly, albeit with a brighter polish on go-go groovy tracks like “Grains Of Salt,” but the sunny, homemade aesthetic that has always been a core part of the band’s identity is still front and center, calling on misfits and outcasts to shake off their stresses and just dance. When singer Emily Nokes exhorts listeners, “Don’t forget to remember who the fuck you are!” it’s as evocative a moment of Tacocat’s raw and affectionate magic as any in its history. [Alex McLevy]

Tank And The Bangas, Green Balloon

There is an indulgent element to hip-hop soul band Tank And The Bangas, who seamlessly lace engaging storytelling with soul-thumping beats and jazz-infused instrumentals. If previously released bops “Spaceships,” “Ants,” and “Nice Things” are any indication, their long-awaited sophomore album, Green Balloon, is already poised to be the funk-fueled getaway that fans have come to expect from the New Orleans party-starters. “The beauty part of my world is I can invite people into this place we call ‘the fun house,’” lead vocalist Tarriona “Tank” Ball explained to Vanity Fair back in August. “We have so much fun on stage, it really is an escape from all the rest of the bullcrap.” [Shannon Miller]

Vampire Weekend, Father Of The Bride

Though we’ve anticipated Vampire Weekend’s fourth full-length for much longer, frontman Ezra Koeing has been teasing it since January, eventually revealing the “FOTB” acronym stands for Father Of The Bride and that the album will contain 18 songs, the most of any Vampire Weekend album. Six songs have already been rolled out. From the soaring “Harmony Hall” to the scattershot “Sunflower” to the sunny “This Life,” the three double singles show Father Of The Bride maintains Vampire Weekend’s signature 21st-century take on Simon & Garfunkel’s folk pop and its clean production while incorporating some new textures. In other words, fans can expect a bit of evolution on the band’s well-loved sound. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

Also due May 3: Barrie, Happy To Be Here; The Dream Syndicate, These Times; Kedr Livanskiy, Your Need; Paula Temple, Edge Of Everything; YG, 4REAL 4REAL

May 10

Charly Bliss, Young Enough

“Going pop” is nothing new, but few do it as gracefully as Charly Bliss has with Young Enough, a vibrant, beaming LP that finds the Brooklyn four-piece effortlessly immersing themselves in the bubblegum undercurrents of 2017’s Guppy. Early single “Chatroom,” for example, pairs its thumping beat and kaleidoscopic keys with a chorus that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Carly Rae Jepsen banger. The band’s edge remains, however—though the synths underscoring “Hurt Me” are soft, Eva Hendricks’ voice is as aching and fierce as ever. It’s a bold step forward for one of indie’s most luminous acts. [Randall Colburn]

Mac DeMarco, Here Comes The Cowboy

Any similarities to Mitski’s similarly named album may be coincidental, but Mac DeMarco is also in a yeehaw state of mind: As he writes in the intro to his new album Here Comes The Cowboy on the Rough Trade Records website, “This one is my cowboy record. Cowboy is a term of endearment to me.” Recorded during a rainy January fortnight in Los Angeles, Here Comes The Cowboy is ironically enough the opposite of a wide-open-spaces country-western record, but rather a muted, intimate 13-song set with an off-the-cuff quality. [Katie Rife]

Tim Hecker, Anoyo

Electronic innovator Tim Hecker reemerged last year with Konoyo, a surprising LP that, via his immersion in gagaku, a mode of Japanese classical music, folded new textures into the artist’s disorienting soundscapes. Anoyo, a companion LP born from the same sessions that produced its predecessor, is said to be “starker, solemn, and stripped back, with more of a naturalist tint.” Still, as early single “You Never Were” demonstrates, we can expect more interplay between Hecker’s ominous aesthetic and the strings, woodwinds, and percussion of Tokyo Gatkuso, the gagaku ensemble with whom he’s both recorded and toured. [Randall Colburn]

Holly Herndon, Proto

As one of electronic music’s foremost experimentalists, Holly Herndon excels at balancing the academic and the pop, always approaching the technological unknown with great hope. That thread extends on third LP Proto, where Herndon, newly minted PhD, explores “alien song craft and new forms of communication” by collaborating with an “AI baby” she developed and dubbed “Spawn.” Spawn can be heard tenderly reinterpreting the voice of Jlin on lead single “Godmother,” while “Eternal” joins massive beats and orchestration with processed ensemble vocals to stunning effect. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Also due May 10: Ile, Almadura; Big Brave, A Gaze Among Them; Clinic, Wheeltappers And Shunters; Steve Moore, Beloved Exile; Toth, Practice Magic And Seek Professional Help When Necessary; Jamila Woods, Legacy! Legacy!

May 17

Com Truise, Persuasion System

Seth Haley, a.k.a. Com Truise, has promised that new “mini-album” Persuasion System will be a marked stylistic change for the longtime synth artist. Given that he was doing the moody retro-futurist soundscape thing long before Stranger Things, It Follows, and more helped re-popularize the vintage musical technique, it makes sense to see him setting off for new vistas of sound. His last record, Iteration, did about all it could with his previous Atari-age tactics, so a sharp left turn is probably for the best. New single “Existence Schematic” demonstrates that, so far, the grooves are brasher and bolder than before. [Alex McLevy]

Full Of Hell, Weeping Choir

For a decade now Full Of Hell have made music that blurs the lines between extreme subgenres, taking bits of grindcore, death metal, harsh noise, and even hardcore to create pummeling textures that rarely feel beholden to anything that came before it. With Weeping Choir, the band continues to experiment with these styles, pulling a little bit from each of them without ever sounding referential, and showing that it’s still at the top of the class of extreme metal. [David Anthony]

Carly Rae Jepsen, Dedicated

No one expected Carly Rae Jepsen to become a critic’s darling with 2015’s Emotion, but that’s exactly what happened. Emotion was a retro pop record awash in modern production, and the singles from Dedicated show Jepsen appears to be updating her sound by reaching even further back to the ’70s. Songs like “Julien” and “Now That I Found You” have a classic disco shimmer, confirming early claims that Dedicated was heavily influenced by Donna Summer. [David Anthony]

The National, I Am Easy To Find

The National indulged in some new textures on 2017’s Sleep Well Beast, a relatively muted exercise that sets bare-bones beats and electronic textures against Matt Berginger’s tipsy musings. Despite the grandeur of its premise and rollout—it arrives with an accompanying short film starring Oscar-winning actress Alicia Vikander—I Am Easy To Find is similarly subdued, but by virtue of being more communal, less morose, its thoughtfulness giving way to, as on “Where Is Her Head,” shocking expressions of electric emotion. Sharon Van Etten, Gail Ann Dorsey, Lisa Hannigan, Mina Tindle, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus feature, taking the lead on numerous songs and, by extension, distinguishing I Am Easy To Find from all of its predecessors. [Randall Colburn]

Also due May 17: Black Nile, Sounds Of Color; Bloc Party, Silent Alarm Live; Dommengang, No Keys; The Head And The Heart, Living Mirage; Helm, Chemical Flowers; Injury Reserve, Injury Reserve; Interpol, A Fine Mess; Slowthai, Nothing Great About Britain; Josephine Wiggs, We Fall

May 24

Flying Lotus, Flamagra

It’s been four years since Flying Lotus’ last album, You’re Dead!, but the influential L.A. noisemaker has kept incredibly busy in the interim as filmmaker, film composer, Brainfeeder label head, and producer for others like Kendrick Lamar. News of his sixth full-length LP, Flamagra, arrived via the surreal David Lynch collaboration “Fire Is Coming,” just one exciting cameo on a tracklist loaded with them: Denzel Curry, Shabazz Palaces, Anderson Paak, Toro Y Moi, Solange, Tierra Whack, and more show up here. And already the team-up with Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano, “Spontaneous,” tells us FlyLo’s “sprawling opus” will be every bit as soulful and mind-bending as we expect it to be. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Cate Le Bon, Reward

Cate Le Bon has already produced one great album this year, Deerhunter’s Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?, and this month the Welsh singer-songwriter returns with a full-length collection of her own shape-shifting indie rock, fifth solo outing Reward. Written during a year of solitude in the U.K.’s picturesque Lake District, Reward centers around Le Bon’s piano, where nightly she kept herself company and found herself crafting some of her most personal songs to date. The singles so far, “Daylight Matters” and “Home To You,” reflect that intimacy with a roving spirit. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Martyrdöd, Hexhammaren

Sweden’s Martyrdöd has always found a way to recognize its influences without being beholden to them. Equal parts anthemic crust punk and melodic death metal, Martyrdöd has never diverted from these sounds but instead refined them to the point of mastery. Hexhammaren doesn’t throw any wrenches into the mix, and songs like “Helveteslarm” and “Cashless Society” show how fulfilling it can be to watch a well-oiled machine in motion. [David Anthony]

Middle Kids, New Songs For Old Problems

The mix of shoegaze and fuzzed-out alterna-pop heralded by Middle Kids’ debut album, Lost Friends, looks to continue with the release of EP New Songs For Old Problems. Singer Hannah Joy still sounds like she’s searching for hidden truths with every line, and the retro pleasures of the band’s sound are just as shiny and shimmery as ever, each song sounding as though it’s the soundtrack to a long drive home after a particularly cathartic breakup. [Alex McLevy]

NCT 127, We Are Superhuman

Since its 2016 debut, South Korean pop band NCT 127 has become synonymous with unpredictability, occasionally trading in traditional melodies for catchy vocals and razor-sharp choreography over experimental, garage-like beats. Just in time for its first North American tour, the group recently debuted the dance-heavy title track of upcoming mini album We Are Superhuman on Good Morning America. “Superhuman” flaunts an unquestionable command of funk-leaning pop and oozes a natural charisma, rendering the band magnetic. While we know little about the album currently, we can still prepare ourselves for a collection as surprising as the artists themselves. [Shannon Miller]

Petrol Girls, Cut & Stitch

Heavy as hell and fiery as anyone, the U.K./Austria post-hardcore group Petrol Girls sound positively transformed on their sophomore album. Having found an ideal balance between the thundering riffs, pummeling rhythms, and the melodic through-lines that manage to keep the intensity on the right side of tuneful, Cut & Stitch is immediate and vibrant, pushing the political manifestos and personal confessions of the lyrics into an especially cathartic place. The band sounds ready to blow the walls off venues for its upcoming tour, and this new collection of songs makes an excellent case for why they’re not to be missed. [Alex McLevy]

Pronoun, I’ll Show You Stronger

Pronoun, the musical venture of Alyse Vellturo, produces seamless fusions of ’90s radio rock and synth-driven indie pop, with Vellturo’s cleverly looped vocals clanging and intertwining to create immersive sonic tapestries. I’ll Show You Stronger is the singer’s debut LP following a well-received 2016 EP, There’s No One New Around You, and its slew of pre-release singles, from “Run” to “Wrong” to “Sadie,” have, with each subsequent track, amped anticipation for what’s bound to be one of this year’s most vital new releases in the guitar-forward corners of the indie sphere. [Randall Colburn]

Faye Webster, Atlanta Millionaires Club

As one might expect from a singer-songwriter who cites Aaliyah as her inspiration for using pedal steel, Faye Webster is all about bending genres. Drawing equally from Webster’s experiences in the folk-pop scene and as a guest vocalist for Atlanta hip-hop artists, Atlanta Millionaires Club flirts with kitsch on the tropicalia-influenced “Room Temperature”; slow-jam R&B on “Flowers,” featuring rapper Father; and smooth ’70s AM Gold on “Kingston”— disparate but equally silky numbers all tied together by Webster’s airy vocals and that melancholy slide guitar. [Katie Rife]

Also due May 24: Earth, Full Upon Her Burning Lips; Joan As Police Woman, Joanthology; Morrissey, California Son; Hayden Thorpe, Diviner

May 31

Darkthrone, Old Star

For a band that helped define the second wave of black metal, Darkthrone has never rested on its laurels. Since the mid-2000s, the Norwegian duo has steadily moved away from its classic sound, bringing in elements of crust, punk, speed metal, and a strong Motörhead influence that partially alienated fans in the process. “The Hardship Of The Scots,” the only song released from Old Star, is a lumbering, traditional doom song that, different as it may be, still sounds like Darkthrone. When many of its peers are trying to relive their glory days, Darkthrone is still forging ahead, unburdened by its legacy and the expectations that come along with it. [David Anthony]

Eluvium, Pianoworks

Piano’s always been integral to the catalog of Eluvium’s Matthew Cooper, whose immersive ambient masterworks are often built upon stately, complex piano instrumentals. His latest release under the moniker, a follow-up to 2016’s dissonant False Readings On and the following year’s experimental Shuffle Drones, is said to be “inspired by the quiet thoughts and solitary observations of children,” namely those that come with the discovery of music. Pianoworks is exactly that, solo works of piano that evoke the compositions introduced to the musically curious. It even comes with an accompanying book of sheet music, as well as some piano reworks of older Eluvium songs, including “Radio Ballet.” [Randall Colburn]

J. Robbins, Un-Becoming

With each passing year since the demise of original DC post-punk greats Jawbox, singer-guitarist J. Robbins has been streamlining his thick, angular rock. From the more groove-focused hard-rock structures of bands Burning Airlines and Channels to the oft-mellower and more expansive transitional sounds of Office Of Future Plans, he’s been steadily delving into more traditional melodies and simpler singer-songwriter molds. That process seems to have reached its logical endpoint with the release of his first music under his own name, a collection of protest songs that embraces rock conventions not that far off of, say, Foo Fighters, while still maintaining his distinctive stentorian vocal delivery. [Alex McLevy]

Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith, The Peyote Dance

Patti Smith’s fondness for French poetry is well-documented, and she takes that passion to new levels with her new project with NYC avant-garde soundscape creators Soundwalk Collective. Smith and Soundwalk previously collaborated on a tribute to Nico, and this time around the group has planned a trilogy of albums based on the lives and works of poets Antonin Artaud, Arthur Rimbaud, and René Daumal. The first, The Peyote Dance, explores Artaud, with music recorded in the same place that inspired his 1945 memoir of the same name and lyrics from Smith honoring his poetry and the collective’s arrangements themselves. [Katie Rife]

Juan Wauters, Introducing Juan Pablo

Released just four months after his last record, La Onda De Juan Pablo, Introducing Juan Pablo finds folk singer-songwriter Juan Wauters reclaiming his full name—and his identity in the process. “Since I moved [to the U.S.], I’m just Juan. But in Uruguay I’m Juan Pablo Wauters. I felt it was significant to retake my middle name,” he says in a statement accompanying the new record. But while Wauters’ lyrics, sung both in Spanish and English, speak to his immigrant experience, his music speaks to his love of his adopted home of New York City, conjuring up the folk titans who haunted the streets and coffeeshops of Greenwich Village back in the ’60s. [Katie Rife]

Also due May 31: Bedouine, Bird Songs Of A Killjoy; Sarah Davachi, Pale Bloom; Gemma, Feeling’s Not A Tempo; Ian Noe, Between The Country; Pip Blom, Boat; Skepta, Ignorance Is Bliss; Sinkane, Deypayse