Our pick of the finest new releases to fill your ears with this month.
Thank the musical deities for new music. May is a bumper month for album releases with pop titans The 1975 and Charli XCX, A-grade singer-songwriters Damien Jurado and Nicole Atkins, a solo outing from Paramore’s Hayley Williams, gloriously noisy indie pop from Diet Cig, and even more besides.
A quick disclaimer: As ever, but especially right now, release dates are subject to change and may be pushed back.
Car Seat Headrest – Making A Door Less Open (1 May)
Will Toledo’s band made giant strides from the bedroom indie of the early days to 2016’s critically adored Teens Of Denial. In between, the shows and their sound got exponentially bigger, resulting in an even bigger leap forwards with their third album for Matador, Making A Door Less Open. Toledo’s wry vocals and droll observations remain, but the sonic palate is much broader, as evidenced on the superb synth-driven single Can’t Cool Me Down.
Country Westerns – Country Westerns (1 May)
Country Westerns might be the most misleadingly titled act on this list. Rather than twangy songs about pick-up trucks, this Nashville-based trio (made up of members of Silver Jews, State Champion and Gentlemen Jesse & His Men), deals in short, sharp blasts of insanely catchy indie rock, built around Joseph Plunkett’s blown-out jangle and charismatic rasp. It’s the kind of record that makes you long for the open road, so if you do have a pick-up, go sit in your drive, play this loud and you’ll swear you can feel the wind in your hair.
Diet Cig – Do You Wonder About Me? (1 May)
The New York “slop-pop” duo already have one difficult follow-up negotiated, delivering on the hype of their 2015 Over Easy EP with a stunner of a debut album in 2017’s Swear I’m Good At This. Do You Wonder About Me? looks set to continue that run of form. The band’s crunchy guitars and heavenly harmonies remain intact, refined here to the point of perfection. Alex Luciano’s voice is a thing of wonder, ushering in a state of melodic bliss when she harmonises with herself on stand-out Night Terrors.
Damien Jurado – What’s New, Tomboy? (1 May)
Jurado’s last album, In The Shape Of The Storm, was heavy with the ghost of his regular collaborator and close friend Richard Swift. To call it his saddest record to date is some claim, given that Jurado has never been renowned for his levity. What’s New, Tomboy? isn’t a laugh-a-minute either, but there’s a warmth to the production that syncs up nicely with the illuminated porch in the Gregory Crewdson-esque cover art. The lights are on, come on in.
Caleb Landry Jones – The Mother Stone (8 May)
Landry Jones (probably best known for scene-stealing turns in Get Out and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) is releasing his debut record on Sacred Bones, a label that is also home to the musical exploits of directors Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch and John Carpenter. That cinematic rogues’ gallery sums up The Mother Stone quite effectively. The opening track segues from ghoulish carnival music to Syd Barrett-inspired psychedelia without missing a beat, pulling back the curtain on a record that feels like The White Album played backwards from another dimension. An unsettling but captivating record that could easily soundtrack a film from any of the aforementioned trio.
Hayley Williams – Petals For Armor (8 May)
Paramore leader Williams has doled out her debut album in parts thus far, releasing two EPs of songs from Petals For Armor, with an incoming third accompanied by the full album itself. It’s a curiously effective approach, forcing fans to live with just five songs at a time, absorbing the album in stages. What’s clear is that the two parts so far have only amped up the anticipation for the whole shebang. While Paramore edged towards the synth-pop end of the spectrum with 2017’s After Laughter, Petals For Armor is far more than just another step in that progression.
Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now (15 May)
Not wanting to second-guess Charli, but we’re anticipating that the title of her latest album is about more than just feeling a little bored of Houseparty and Netflix. In the truest reflection of our times, she announced the record via a mass Zoom meeting with fans, which sounds like the tiniest gallery view imaginable. The first two singles rank up there with Charli’s best work to date, particularly the insanely catchy Forever. Charli’s also revealed that she put another project on hold to make How I’m Feeling Now, so hopefully that means album number five isn’t too far away.
Chuck Prophet – The Land That Time Forgot (15 May)
Chuck Prophet is one of the greatest storytelling songwriters out there, a man who can capture the detail of a novel in three minutes of folk, blues, country or classic pop. Opener Best Shirt On sounds like a lost Elvis Costello single, while Marathon borrows the bassline from Mrs Robinson and drops it into a jangly helping of Brill Building pop that rattles along like it’s on rails.
The 1975 – Notes On A Conditional Form (22 May)
It’s been over a year since we heard the first track (starring Greta Thunberg), but two delays, two name changes and multiple artwork switcheroos later and The 1975’s fourth album is almost close enough to touch. Still, fans will probably spend most of this month nervously watching the band’s social media accounts for further developments. Twenty-two tracks long and spreading its reach across an increasingly diverse range of genres, it’s an ambitious record that justifies the wait.
Nicole Atkins – Italian Ice (29 May)
The New Jersey singer-songwriter returns with her fifth album of perfectly melodramatic pop, drawing from a deep well of soul, funk, country and indie rock, sometimes all at once. The sultry single Domino rides a smooth groove that would be right at home in a super cool ’70s heist film, while Captain (featuring Spoon frontman Britt Daniel), is a stunning last-orders-at-the-cocktail lounge ballad, complete with swooning pedal steel. After the previous highpoint of her last record, Goodnight Rhonda Lee, it seems Atkins is still on the rise.
Discover more from the world of live music in our Concerts & Tours Guide.