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Five for Friday: Forthcoming Spring Albums Worth Anticipating

Spring marks more than just a turn to warmer weather, greener pastures, and baseball season. While the record industry never fully goes into hibernation mode, April and May traditionally function as the months when highly anticipated new albums flood the market. They precede the beginning of festival season and beckon listeners when car windows stay rolled down, restaurant patios open, and artists gear up for major tours. It all adds up to one of the most exciting times of year – one bursting with promise, excitement, and fresh sounds. We've already seen excellent new records come from Bob Dylan, Rodney Crowell, Mastodon, Aimee Mann, Grandaddy, Magnetic Fields, Spoon, and more. And it's only getting better. This week witnesses the release of Father John Misty's ambitious Pure Comedy and very likely, Kendrick Lamar's under-wraps creation. In that spirit, here are five forthcoming albums we look forward to spinning in the months to come.

Feist Pleasure
Leslie Feist, who made a name for herself in the early 2000s as a member of the rotating Canadian indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene, blew up as a major talent shortly after the release of her 2004 major-label debut Let It Die. That was just the beginning. The singer-songwriter further balanced critical acclaim and commercial success with 2007's The Reminder, a multi-platinum ode to hummable, intimate, creative pop that earned five Juno Awards and elevated Feist to mainstream status. The work's most famous song – the irresistibly catchy "1, 2, 3, 4" – served as a catalyst for Apple's then-novel iPod. Yet rather than bask in the limelight, Feist retreated. She issued a soundtrack to the live tour documentary Look at What the Light Did Now in 2010 and the lower-key Metals in 2011. Then she disappeared. Until now. Said by the vocalist to feature music that "pins" the songs down with conviction and our straight up human bodies," Pleasure signifies her long-awaited return on April 28.

Gorillaz Humanz
Long before smartphone companies offered virtual-reality gadgets there was Gorillaz. A visual band created by Blur leader Damon Albarn and comic-book artist Jamie Hewlett, its cast includes the fictional members 2-D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle, and Russel Hobbs. The cartoon group may be make-believe but its music is anything but, having struck deep chords with listeners on both sides of the Atlantic. Encompassing a wide variety of styles that span Britpop to hip-hop, electronica to reggae, and modern pop to stylized rock, Gorillaz's self-titled debut remains a cross-cultural sensation. Three successive releases, the most recent of which arrived in 2011(The Fall), furthered the potential for experimentalism and collaboration. In the years since, Albarn and Hewlett hinted Gorillaz would retire. Reports suggested the pair couldn't see eye to eye. But the pair patched up their differences and began working together again. In development for more than two years, Humanz – anchored by an enormous list of collaborators that include Mavis Staples, De La Soul, Vince Staples, Noel Gallagher, Grace Jones, and Jehnny Beth – brings the animated musicians back to life for a fifth go-around on April 28.

Slowdive Slowdive
Life without cell phones. Bill Clinton enjoys his second term in office. America Online and Prodigy help bring the World Wide Web into your home. The NASDAQ hits 1000 and the Dow Jones surpasses 5000. Domestic terrorism jolts Oklahoma City. DVDs signify the future of digital media. The Grateful Dead's long, strange trip ends after leader Jerry Garcia passes away. Slowdive releases Pygmalion and disband shortly thereafter. Our planet is a much different place since the English band last issued a studio album. But after reuniting in 2014, the group that helped give birth to the term "shoegaze" places its stamp on the 21st century with a self-titled set practically guaranteed to make your local IMAX sound miniature in comparison. While most second acts pale in comparison to the first, many artists cannot claim to have created a subgenre for its simultaneous mixture of harshness and beauty, intensity and calm, noise and quiet. With that, the co-ed quintet's first new music in 22 years arrives May 5.

The Grateful Dead Cornell 5/8/77
Yes, the Grateful Dead issues five or more archival works every year. Yes, Deadheads have a tendency to muster excitement over shows that might be better off staying locked away in the vault. But, no, despite the proliferation of live material, not every great Dead concert is available on CD – let alone LP. None has been requested more since the advent of the group's Dick's Picks series in the mid-90s than the now-iconic performance from May 8, 1977 in Ithaca, NY. Deemed by the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry as "important to the history and culture of the United States," and here sourced from the Betty Cantor-Jackson soundboard recordings, Cornell 5/8/77 is the one show even those who think they dread the Dead need to hear. As Dead archivist David Lemieux says, "the listener is going to be taken on an unparalleled aural voyage, with the captain being the Grateful Dead at the height of its powers." Jump onboard May 5.

The Mountain Goats Goths
Mountain Goats leader John Darnielle has already penned one of the year's most arresting novels in the form of the suspenseful Universal Harvester. The mysterious story takes place in small-town Iowa, a place the singer lived before decamping to the East Coast. For anyone who grew up in the Midwest – or harbors any interest in knowing about its vibe and environs during the early 1990s – the book serves as a time machine in which no detail, sense, or mood is left unturned. Like Darnielle's literary songwriting, the narrative functions as a jumping-off point for deeper metaphor and symbolism. The latter will also undoubtedly appear on Goths, which, coincidentally or not, also finds the musician turning back the clock to a similar era and exploring themes of youth from an adult perspective. The expanded lineup and surprisingly guitar-less album bows May 19.

April 7, 2017

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