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Here’s what’s coming to record stores and streaming services in February

Illustration: Nick Wanserski
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.

February 3

Big Sean, I Decided

After a couple years of radio ubiquity, Big Sean took most of 2016 off—at least until “Bounce Back” dropped, and the emcee birthed another anthem for Bacardi-swilling day traders everywhere. Sean remains a hungry emcee and a fame-thirsty human, meaning that the upcoming I Decided is probably not inspired by the decade-old Solange track of the same name but will be instead another chest-thumping litany of Things Big Sean Wants, including money, women, fame, cars, fame, and money. The production will probably be very good, or at least expensive. [Clayton Purdom]

Elbow, Little Fictions

The cult U.K. band Elbow specializes in lush, debonair sounds redolent of ambitious ’70s prog bands. Little Fictions, the act’s first record since founding member/drummer Richard Jupp decided to leave for other projects, finds the group in an even grander mood. Strings from the Hallé Orchestra add pomp and majesty to lead single “Magnificent (She Says),” while the lullaby-like “It’s All Disco,” a song inspired by Frank Black, features undulating choir harmonies. [Annie Zaleski]

Iron Reagan, Crossover Ministry

No modern band has done as much to uphold the image and ideology of ’80s hardcore as Iron Reagan. The politically charged group channels the best parts of crossover thrash—punk’s politics and metal’s face-melting riffs—and creates something that’s wholly modern. The band attacks songs and spits in the face of right-wing politicians, eliciting head bangs of solidarity. [David Anthony]

The Menzingers, After The Party

The Menzingers aren’t concerned with reinvention so much as refinement. For its entire career, the band has been found smoothing the edges of anthemic pop-punk until it goes down nice and smooth. “Lookers” shows the band in peak form, looking back on the past and using it as a reason to celebrate. [David Anthony]

Moon Duo, Occult Architecture Vol. 1

Drone-rockers Moon Duo—formed by Wooden Shjips guitarist Ripley Johnson with keyboardist and romantic partner Sanae Yamada—have always tended toward the heavy side of psychedelia’s lysergic head trips. But on the upcoming Occult Architecture, the group’s follow-up to 2015’s Shadow Of The Sun, that heaviness will (ostensibly) be kept apart from the light, with the album split into two separate volumes mirroring “the Chinese theory of Yin and Yang.” Vol. 1 represents the dark side of the band’s exploration of that duality, its thick layers of surging keyboards and fuzzed-out guitar aptly applied to songs like the stark, sinister Krautrock rave-up “Cold Fear.” [Sean O’Neal]

Sampha, Process

After popping up on releases last year by Kanye, Solange, and Frank Ocean, as well as releasing a handful of propulsive singles, Sampha is finally due to release his solo debut, Process. His unearthly voice and impeccably curated collaborations point toward an R&B record of rare sonic sophistication, moving from the tasteful but slight 2013 EP Dual into a bolder statement of purpose. [Clayton Purdom]

Surfer Blood, Snowdonia

This month, Floridian rockers Surfer Blood will release their first studio album since losing founding member Thomas Fekete to a rare form of cancer. Fans of the four-piece can expect to fall hard and fast for Snowdonia’s slick hooks, crisp riffs, and captivating beach vibes. The perfect mix of urgent harmony, nostalgia, and existential angst, cuts like “Six Flags In F Or G” and “Frozen” are bound to become instant favorites for anyone in search of a melodic antidote for our postmodern plight. Like the band’s prior LPs, Snowdonia is an audible oasis in a chaotic world. [Dianca London]

Syd, Fin

Syd has always deserved to go solo, and “All About Me” shows she’s more talented than half of Odd Future, at least. She flexed her falsettos for three full-lengths as The Internet, a side project that’s allowed Syd Tha Kyd to nurture some serious grooves alongside co-founder Matt Martians, but hearing her rap reminds us what she brought to Odd Future in the early days. She says this debut solo LP is only “an in-between thing” that’s “not that deep,” but don’t let the modesty fool you. The high expectations Syd holds herself to already proved that her rhymes surpass those by Hodgy, Domo, Mike G, and sometimes even (gasp) Frank Ocean. [Nina Corcoran]

February 10

Jesca Hoop, Memories Are Now

Jesca Hoop’s 2016 album with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam, Love Letter For Fire, was filled with exactly the sort of lovely duets that you’d expect from such a collaboration. Her new album, Memories Are Now, sees her build on that, with the title track billowing with impassioned vocals laid against a staccato beat. “The Lost Sky” turns on a controlled frenzy, building a tension that’s never fully released at the song’s end. The album doesn’t lack for beauty and suggests even more confidence and strength from the artist. [Laura M. Browning]

Lowly, Heba

Danish noise-pop quintet Lowly has been putting out consistently strong tracks since it debuted with “Daydreamers” roughly two years ago, but this month we finally see the release of its debut full-length via Bella Union. Because Lowly is a collective of composers with their own distinct voices and influences, each of its songs is refreshingly different from the last. But they’re all united by the group’s dreamy, playful aesthetic and its flair (and talent) for drama. Case in point: the low-key verses of “Deer Eyes” cliff-diving into those resplendent R&B choruses. It’s never quite clear where things are going next with Lowly, which hopefully means Heba will make for a lively, lasting listen. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Noveller, A Pink Sunset For No One

As Noveller, guitarist Sarah Lipstate wrings impressively labyrinthine textures of drone and dreamy post-rock from her solo setup, an immersive, occasionally icy sound that has seen her paired on tours with everyone from St. Vincent to Iggy Pop. After 2015’s Fantastic Planet removed some of the reverbed fog that masked her intricate fretwork, the new A Pink Sunset For No One finds Lipstate stepping even further into the light, conjuring moving orchestral swells and sci-fi soundscapes through the masterful control of her instrument. [Sean O’Neal]

The Sadies, Northern Passages

Ten studio albums into their career, Canadian shape-shifting rockers The Sadies still manage to surprise. Northern Passages, which brothers Dallas and Travis Good recorded in their parents’ basement, is no exception. The woozy lead single “It’s Easy (Like Walking)” features Kurt Vile’s unmistakable, laissez-faire vocals, while “Riverview Fog” is a retro-leaning, pastoral, psych-folk gem. [Annie Zaleski]

Teen Daze, Themes For Dying Earth

There’s something innately comforting about the music Jamison Isaak makes under the moniker Teen Daze—soft, malleable sounds that evoke Harold Budd’s soft pedal pianos. It’s interesting, then, that Isaak’s latest was born out of his recent struggle with anxiety and depression. Rather than approximating that inner turmoil, however, Isaak’s new songs are as placid as anything else in his catalog, but enhanced by contributions from the likes of S. Carey, Dustin Wong, and Phantom Posse’s Nadia Hulett. As on his 2015 album, Morning World, Isaak moves beyond his ambient background to toy with pop structures and melodic vocals. These are songs to soothe, to soften your focus and dull the sharp edges of your mind. Everyone needs to chill now and again. [Randall Colburn]

February 17

Ryan Adams, Prisoner

When Ryan Adams released his full-album cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 in late 2015, it appeared that the prolific singer-songwriter had delivered his breakup album following the dissolution of his marriage to Mandy Moore. Turns out, he was just warming up. But while that may be the creative storyline for his 16th (!) studio album, Adams has commercial expectations set higher than ever, too. His last record of original material, 2014’s self-titled release, was the best Billboard 200 debut of his career. Following a couple years of playing the biggest music festivals on the planet, and with particularly strong singles preceding the new record, Prisoner could conceivably exceed that. [Philip Cosores]

The Courtneys, The Courtneys II

The Courtneys’ follow-up to their 2013 self-titled debut is a power-pop daydream that will make you swoon, dance, and feel moody all at once. As earnest and unrelenting as a diary entry or confessional poem, the Vancouver trio feels everything and hides nothing. From the onset of romance in “Minnesota” and “Silver Velvet” to the garage aggression of “Virgo” and “Iron Deficiency,” The Courtneys II shines brightest when baring its teeth. This nearly flawless LP is the perfect soundtrack for jilted lovers, punks, and anyone with a bruised ego or heart. [Dianca London]

Tim Darcy, Saturday Night

Rather than rehashing Ought’s material with less oomph, the Montreal band’s frontman turns inward on his debut solo album, deviating from the open-ended lyricism of its post-punk grit. Saturday Night bursts with life in its first half and begins to shake in its second, as Darcy’s emotional awareness and honesty crack open. For those who struggle to articulate how their heart swells, Darcy’s full-length is a welcome listen of chugging Velvet Underground riffs, despondent piano ballads, and philosophical reflections that Darcy knows may not always have the answers. [Nina Corcoran]

Eisley, I’m Only Dreaming

Despite the departure of Eisley’s founding member and guitarist Chauntelle D’Agostino (along with keyboardist-vocalist Stacy King), the group’s fifth album promises to continue its steady progression of finely honed, ethereal indie rock. Always more dreamy than rocking, but with the occasional dark edge, the group’s music follows in the tradition of erstwhile and spritely ’90s indie pop. While the new album suggests a continuing progression into more electronic elements, Eisley’s music has always been more about perfecting its soaring and catchy melodies than reinventing itself with each subsequent record. In short: If you like Eisley, you’ll probably dig this one, too. [Alex McCown-Levy]

Alison Krauss, Windy City

On her first solo album in 18 years, Alison Krauss is planted firmly in her roots. Born out of a gradual, years-long collaboration with veteran Nashville producer Buddy Cannon, Windy City’s 10 tracks pay tribute to “bluegrass and country rarities and standards alike” that hold personal significance in Krauss’ life. Here songs originally performed by the likes of Brenda Lee, Willie Nelson, and Bill Monroe take on grand arrangements (complete with string sections, tuba) to complement the 27-time Grammy winner’s singular voice. No surprises here—just Krauss showing off her knack for interpretation and love of old-time music. And of course, the Union Station guys aren’t too far away; sessions for the album featured Dan Tyminski, Ron Block, and Barry Bales. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Jens Lekman, Life Will See You Now

There’s a place for ballads in pop music, and Jens Lekman discovered it works best when layered with strings. But on his fourth studio album, Life Will See You Now, the Swedish musician breaks apart his style to incorporate outlier sounds he hasn’t toyed with before: disco beats, calypso samples, and gospel singing. The record plays out like a surprising take on pop music built to make you move, even if the crux of the matter is the saddest story you’ve heard all day. It’s a reminder of how pop can reshape itself each year if given the room to do so, and Lekman pulls it off without losing his awkward comedy in the process. [Nina Corcoran]

Meat Wave, The Incessant

For its new album, Chicago’s Meat Wave seemingly inverted its approach from 2015’s Delusion Moon. While its last record took the premise of moon sickness explaining the struggles of daily life, in The Incessant, guitarist-vocalist Chris Sutter takes his personal experiences and finds ways to relate them to the world at large, focusing on how those nagging pains can infect and take hold on a grand scale. It’s post-hardcore that’s equally visceral and conceptual, something Meat Wave has done time and again without faltering. [David Anthony]

The Orwells, Terrible Human Beings

Snotty garage-punks The Orwells are in fine form on their third studio album, Terrible Human Beings—mainly because they expertly toe the line between unhinged chaos and melodic earworms. “They Put A Body In The Bayou” sounds like a Britpop band on a pills-and-booze bender, while “Black Francis” is, unsurprisingly, a dead ringer for the Pixies’ loud-quiet-loud guitar scraping. [Annie Zaleski]

Son Volt, Notes Of Blue

Jay Farrar’s latest Son Volt effort—his band’s ninth in 22 years—returns again to sounds of America’s past. “Today’s world is not my home,” Farrar sings on “Cherokee St.,” one of many tunes to take its inspiration from haunting, long-gone voices of folk and blues. “Back Against The Wall” sounds like vintage Son Volt, while “Lost Souls” lands with an electrified jolt of guitar fuzz. Throughout, Farrar himself sounds like an uncovered treasure, singing gritty stories of loss, upheaval, and steady struggle. [Eric Swedlund]

Strand Of Oaks, Hard Love

2014’s HEAL was something of a new start for Strand Of Oaks, a.k.a Tim Showalter, as the project moved away from the moody folk of its first three albums and toward bold, exuberant rock. Yet through all the big, fuzzy riffs and reverb-laden sing-along choruses, Showalter’s harrowing lyrics stood their ground. Given the times, you’d think Hard Love would be just as heavy, but our first tastes, “Rest Of It” and “Radio Kids,” have embraced that aforementioned exuberance and lead, what Showalter calls, his fight to keep a little magic alive while the world burns. [Matt Gerardi]

February 24

Career Suicide, Machine Response

Toronto’s ’80s-style hardcore punk revivalists Career Suicide have sporadically dropped releases on their unsuspecting audience over the last decade, with the rare show or mini-tour mixed in. But the band hasn’t issued a proper full-length since 2006 (guitarist Jonah Falco has often been busy with his other band, Fucked Up). Its first in over 10 years, Machine Response promises the kind of snotty, spitfire aggression and melodic-yet-abrasive qualities that quietly made it the undisputed king of this stuff on its last record, Attempted Suicide. [Brian Shultz]

Crystal Fairy, Crystal Fairy

Pounding drums, squealing guitars, and wailing vocals—these descriptions would work for any of the bands whose members came together to form Crystal Fairy, a sludgy supergroup of sorts featuring Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover of The Melvins and Omar Rodríguez-López from Mars Volta and At The Drive-In, along with Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherettes serving as the speaker-shattering singer for the outfit. Early indications are promising, with a sound that combines elements from each of these artists’ wheelhouses into a churning, pummeling whole. It’s all dark and intense and ass-kicking, and we can’t wait. [Alex McCown-Levy]

The Feelies, In Between

One of the most venerable—and longest-lasting—bands to come out of New York’s original punk scene, The Feelies have been gigging here and there since their influential 1980 debut, Crazy Rhythms. In the wake of that album’s nervy, post-punk jangle, the group settled into a more laid-back, yet no less enjoyable, sound steeped in The Velvet Underground’s laconic chug, which, after a 20-year hiatus from recording, The Feelies revived on 2011’s well-received Here Before. While the new album, In Between, has been billed as “both the quietest and most furious music” they’ve crafted in their career, it’s unlikely to recapture Crazy Rhythms’ burst of youthful energy. Rather, as first single “Been Replaced” confirms, you can expect more of the smart, self-assured art-pop The Feelies have been reliably crafting off and on for more than 40 years. [Sean O’Neal]

Half Waif, Form/a

When Nandi Rose Plunkett isn’t touring with indie outfit Pinegrove, she writes, records, and performs as Half Waif, backed by fellow Pinegrove contributors Zack Levine and Adan Carlo. For its third EP, the Brooklyn trio continues to explore its distinctly organic-feeling brand of synthpop and the themes of home and belonging found on last year’s full-length, Probable Depths. Lead single “Severed Logic” is a gorgeous, harmony-filled jaunt driven by Knife-like rhythms, which bodes well for Form/a. At the very least, we know we can expect more of the candidness and restless energy at the heart of Plunkett’s songwriting. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Hippo Campus, landmark

Hippo Campus has built a following the old-fashioned way, with a pair of spunky, tight EPs and tons of live energy. (It doesn’t hurt that the Minneapolis band is noticeably young.) Those things have paved the way nicely for landmark, a capitalization-lacking debut album that loses none of the joyous youth of its predecessors, but adds some noticeable nuance. Vampire Weekend is still an obvious touchstone, but perhaps not as obvious as it was before. [Josh Modell]

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, Flying Microtonal Banana

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard has long toyed with sounds and styles inspired by traditional Middle Eastern and Mediterranean music. On Flying Microtonal Banana, the first of five albums the band has planned for 2017, it’s taken that fascination a step further and crafted all the songs on custom instruments capable of producing the microtonal sounds that help make that region’s music distinct. In practice, like on the lead single “Rattlesnake,” it sounds a heck of a lot like most other Gizzard songs of recent vintage, with even more rubbery guitar added to its soupy psychedelia. [Matt Gerardi]

King Woman, Created In The Image Of Suffering

King Woman’s move to metal behemoth Relapse Records is an appropriate one for its first full-length, Created In The Image Of Suffering. Its 2005 EP offered dark, flexible shoegaze in the Chelsea Wolfe vein, but its newest effort stakes out its own territory. More pronounced doom, atmospheric sludge metal, and thudding stoner-rock vibes provide a pummeling yet invigorating base for Kristina Esfandiari’s haunting, smoky voice, previewed well on the concise bludgeoning of “Utopia.” [Brian Shultz]

Los Campesinos!, Sick Scenes

God bless Los Campesinos!. Every couple of years they put out a new album, and while they range from excellent to middling, there’s something reliably joyous and effervescent about the continued existence of a band that manages to make such effusively energetic pop music so consistently. Anthemic and intelligent, wry and earnest in equal measure, the group’s output is something to celebrate—and it provides its own festive soundtrack. [Alex McCown-Levy]

Ne-Hi, Offers

With influences including Bruce Springsteen and New Zealand pop icons The Clean, scrappy Ne-Hi is known for its upbeat energy and anthemic guitar riffs. Offers is the Chicago group’s second LP, but its first since it really “made it,” meaning it’s both bigger feeling and more ambitious than its previous work. That’s clear on the title track, and first single, which both drones and soars. If Offers is any indication, 2017 could be another good year for these dudes. [Marah Eakin]

Oddisee, The Iceberg

The Washington, D.C.-based Oddisee is one of the few hip-hop artists who’s as celebrated for his rapping as his composition skills, the latter of which he’s showcased across instrumental albums like Rock Creek Park and The Beauty In All. On The Iceberg, the Muslim-American rapper is using everything in his arsenal, drawing from a wide stylistic palette that’s embraced soul and Bon Iver alike to back a series of politically charged songs released into an understandably high-stakes climate. The first taste of these, the dexterous “Things,” finds Oddisee grappling with the myriad everyday struggles everyone faces alone and together, buoyed by the motion of its bouncy, danceable beat. [Sean O’Neal]

Old 97’s, Graveyard Whistling

The Old 97’s have been churning out albums at a rate of not quite one a year for the past decade—which might spell disaster for a lesser band, but that merely evidences the work ethic of Rhett Miller, Murry Hammond, and company. If not everything is a hit, the band still puts out reliably written twangy country-rock. If “Good With God,” featuring Brandi Carlile, is any indication, Graveyard Whistling could be a return to the band’s earlier form, with lots of slide guitar, perfectly tortured lyrics, and a rhythm section that approaches the quickness and desperation of “Four Leaf Clover” from 1997’s Too Far To Care. The new album will be available on four different colored-vinyl options. [Laura M. Browning]

Pissed Jeans, Why Love Now

With Why Love Now, Pissed Jeans is looking to make modern romance jive with its sludge-punk sound. Frontman Matt Korvette says that on this the group’s fifth LP it’s looking to talk about everything from the internet to gender relations to “how every guy seems to be revealing themselves as a shithead.” It’s a thoroughly contemporary record, both topical and timely, which can be lacking from traditional rock ’n’ roll records steeped in fast-car clichés. It’s an intriguing combination and something that could help the Pennsylvania act once again make waves in the punk scene. [Marah Eakin]

Power Trip, Nightmare Logic

Modern-day thrash metal often falters in its ability to produce memorable riffs. There’s something to be said about a nimble barrage of speed-picking, but it’s nice to have something that resonates beyond those furious fretboard runs, too. Power Trip taps into the genre’s core elements and beefs them up, finding a way to take the tone from Swedish death metal bands and adapt it for its own needs. “Executioner’s Tax (Swing Of The Axe)” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it takes a hardcore stomp, some heavy guitar chugging, and creates the kind of propulsive, powerful shredding that would make the Big Four proud. [David Anthony]

Peter Silberman, Impermanence

Following five albums with his band The Antlers, the last three of which earned critical accolades and considerable fanfare, songwriter Peter Silberman offers up his first solo LP. The record promises to be a continuation of his full-band work, only with more delicate arrangements and minimal instrumentation. It turns out this isn’t just a creative decision, but also one emerging out of medical necessity, as a hearing condition caused Silberman to seek seclusion in upstate New York and reconsider the basic tenets of his life and art. He’s turned pain into beautiful art before, and there’s little reason to think that this six-song collection will be any different. [Philip Cosores]

Vagabon, Infinite Worlds

Laetitia Tamko is the heart and soul of Vagabon, and her heart and soul shows through time and again on Infinite Worlds. While it’s easy to compare Vagabon to the likes of Frankie Cosmos, both musically and because they’re part of the same scene, there’s grandiosity to Tamko’s approach that sets her apart. Her songs feel like they could grow endlessly, making for indie rock that’s expansive, daring, and far more worldly than what most bands can offer. [David Anthony]

Xiu Xiu, FORGET

There’s essentially two versions of Xiu Xiu: the one that merges distortion and violence with Jamie Stewart’s twisted pop songcraft, and the one that stops at the distortion and violence. Much of Xiu Xiu’s recent output has emphasized the latter, but there’s hope to be found in the album’s first single, “Wondering,” which coasts atop a staticky beat that pulses through a number of striking and enticing, rather than alienating, vocal effects (credit there may go to superstar producer John Congleton). Of the album’s title, Stewart says, “To forget uncontrollably embraces the duality of human frailty. It is a rebirth in blanked-out renewal, but it also drowns and mutilates our attempt to hold on to what is dear.” It wouldn’t be Xiu Xiu without a little mutilation, after all. [Randall Colburn]

February 28

Sun Kil Moon, Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood

Few artists with Mark Kozelek’s high profile are as prolific, none are quite like him, and we’re all the better for it. He’ll release a second collaborative album with Jesu later this year, but first up is a proper Sun Kil Moon LP, promised for a February 2017 release way back in the middle of last year. “God Bless Ohio” is another low-key, finger-picked love letter to his home state and all its beatific highs and ugly, inhumane lows, with the sort of storytelling, personal recollections, and humanizing detail only Kozelek and his impressive memory bank can deliver. [Brian Shultz]