Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Janelle Monáe (Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Lord & Taylor), Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak (Jim Bennett/WireImage via Getty Images), and Cardi B (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iHeartMedia). Graphic: Natalie Peeples.

Dirty computers, invasions of privacy: The 26 most-anticipated albums of April

Janelle Monáe (Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Lord & Taylor), Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak (Jim Bennett/WireImage via Getty Images), and Cardi B (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iHeartMedia). Graphic: Natalie Peeples.

April promises another strong, diverse set of new releases to follow up an excellent March, with albums from favorites like Grouper, Wye Oak, and Flatbush Zombies as well as up-and-comers Saba, No Thank You, and Half Waif. There’s also Janelle Monáe’s third full-length, Kali Uchis’ long-awaited debut, the latest from Twin Shadow, and more to look forward to this month.

April 5

Saba, Care For Me

After standout cameos on Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap and Coloring Book mixtapes, underground rapper Saba made his full-length debut in late 2016 with Bucket List Project, a moody, affecting collection of songs that wrestled with life on Chicago’s West Side. Follow-up Care For Me promises more of the 23-year-old’s introspective verses; lead single “Busy” is a melancholy rumination on loneliness, made even bluer by The Mind’s soulful chorus, while the biting “Life” finds Saba occasionally evoking Kendrick Lamar as he breathlessly outruns demons and death. [Kelsey J. Waite]

April 6

Cardi B, Invasion Of Privacy

No matter what you think of the controversy-courting reality TV star turned rapper, Cardi B dominated 2017 with her debut single for Atlantic, “Bodak Yellow,” breaking chart records and heightening anticipation for her first proper full-length, Invasion Of Privacy. The album is sure to lean harder into the scrappy Bronx swagger driving hits like “Bodak,” “Bartier Cardi,” and the Migos/Nicki Minaj collab “MotorSport,” and deliver plenty of trunk-rattling beats. At the very least, Invasion is worth keeping an eye on for the fact that this is the highest-profile release from a female rapper in recent memory. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Dr. Octagon, Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation

You likely know Dr. Octagon from the 1996 classic Dr. Octagonecologyst, which set Kool Keith’s most deranged, free-associative, and pornographic musings to a long stretch of bright, colorful production by Dan The Automator and DJ Qbert. Despite a couple appearances by Keith under the nom de plume, the trio hasn’t appeared together on an album since. That changes with the upcoming (and excellently titled) Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation, which has been preceded by a single called “Octagon Octagon,” a song where Dr. Octagon primarily says the word “octagon” over and over again. It may be fun; it’ll definitely be weird. [Clayton Purdom]

Eels, The Deconstruction

Eels frontman and chief songwriter Mark Oliver Everett—better known by his mononymous stage name, E—reunites with an old friend on the group’s new album, The Deconstruction. Joining E and longtime band members Koool G Murder and P-Boo (also stage names, obviously) for the first time since Eels’ watershed 1998 album Electro-Shock Blues is producer Mickey Petralia. The title track from The Deconstruction is very much in that same deceptively gentle vein, as chiming toy box guitars sparkle on the surface of a deep, rolling wave of trip-hop-influenced beats. In classic Eels style, though, closer inspection of the lyrics reveals that, while the musical waters are warm and inviting, they also contain the temptation to walk into the sea. [Katie Rife]

Flatbush Zombies, Vacation In Hell

Despite dabbling in psychedelia, the Brooklyn trio Flatbush Zombies didn’t come across as very flashy on 2016’s 3001: A Laced Odyssey, operating under the unifying principle that an album with very good production and three very good rappers should stand out. It did, sort of, but the new Vacation In Hell seems to be venturing a little further from home base, with a smattering of guests (Denzel Curry, Bun B, Portugal The Man) across 19 tracks. Of the two new singles, “U&I” is the most promising, with mournful chipmunk soul gradually leading up to an absolute scorcher of a verse from Meechy Darko, the trio’s bear-voiced ringer. [Clayton Purdom]

Hinds, I Don’t Run

The debut from Madrid foursome Hinds, Leave Me Alone, straddled the line between shimmering jangle pop and jagged post-punk, complemented by the deft, dual-vocal interplay between Carlotta Cosials and Ana Perrote. The new I Don’t Run looks to take the open-hearted vulnerability of their singing and apply it to a set of more musically diverse tracks. While opener “The Club” delivers the group’s usual charge of echoing guitar riffs and four-on-the-floor rhythms, the rest strays into new territory, adding nuanced harmonies to the sugar-sweet pop licks. It’s still young and brash, but laced with new melancholy and darkness. [Alex McLevy]

Hop Along, Bark Your Head Off, Dog

Whereas 2015’s Painted Shut was mostly crisp edges and crunchy Americana, pivoting from sweet to searing thanks to the paint-stripping voice of singer Frances Quinlan, Hop Along’s third album seems to have calmed down a bit. There are gentler ’70s melodies here wafting into the group’s alt-folk sound, though that’s not to say the lyrics are lighthearted: “Not Abel” is a darkly intimate meditation on loss and empathy, lifted by its dance groove ending. [Alex McLevy]

No Thank You, All It Takes To Ruin It All

No Thank You’s newest sounds like the band should be sharing an emo bill with Rainer Maria in 1997, a churning progression of the musical territory first explored on 2017’s Jump Ship. But where that record was spacier and more searching, these new songs boast a rawer nerve—still laden with guitars going from strummy to storming waves of distortion, and finding sweet harmonies amid the turbulence, but with a darkness elevating the proceedings into something more profound. Even better, around half of the songs are under two minutes; sometimes that’s all it takes. [Alex McLevy]

Kali Uchis, Isolation

Although Isolation marks her full-length debut, Kali Uchis has already made a name for herself in alternative pop and R&B. The 24-year-old Colombiana artist released her first EP, Por Vida, to critical acclaim in 2015, and she’s since put out consistently excellent collaborations with the likes of Gorillaz, BadBadNotGood, and Kaytranada. (She even netted her first Grammy nom already, for last year’s Daniel Caesar team-up, “Get You.”) Isolation’s latest single, the simmering “After The Storm,” features frequent collaborator Tyler The Creator and none other than Bootsy Collins. It follows the earlier release of reggaeton getaway “Nuestro Planeta” (featuring Reykon) and pop hypnosis “Tyrant” (with Jorja Smith), and you can expect many more impressive productions and cameos where those came from. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Wye Oak, The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs

On its last studio album, Shriek, Wye Oak reemerged from a three-year absence with a new interest in beats and loops. The duo of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack continue maturing into that reinvention on The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs. Its 12 tracks were worked out in quick bursts while Wasner and Stack bounced between their adopted hometowns—she in their record label’s backyard of Durham, North Carolina, he in the West Texas artists’ oasis of Marfa—a time-is-precious immediacy reflected in the lyrics and jittery polyrhythms of the title track. The album bridges the six-string drama of Civilian and the synth-pop reverie of Shriek, its unfussy compositions grounded in the two constants of the Wye Oak sound: Wasner’s wise-beyond-her-years vocals and Stack’s stadium-rock stomp. [Erik Adams]

April 13

μ-Ziq, Challenge Me Foolish

These days, IDM pioneer Mike Paradinas is best known as the head of adventurous electronic label Planet Mu (home to contemporary greats like Ital Tek and Venetian Snares), which means his own output as μ-Ziq has slowed considerably since his late-’90s heyday. Fortunately, he seems to have stockpiled enough material to coast on for a while: The new Challenge Me Foolish is yet another “lost” μ-Ziq album, most of it recorded during the 1998-1999 period when a tour alongside Björk saw him dabbling in the baroque orchestrations heard on Royal Astronomy. Like that album, Challenge works in some fairy-tale bells and strings, as well as the airy melodies of Japanese singer Kazumi, over Paradinas’ whimsically kaleidoscopic synths. [Sean O’Neal]

A Place To Bury Strangers, Pinned

Three years since the characteristically blistering Transfixiation, A Place To Bury Strangers returns with its fifth studio album and first with new drummer Lia Simone Braswell. Pinned simmers more than its predecessors, with Dion Lunadon’s bass anchoring the songs even more than usual (and sounding like Peter Hook at times), but still packing in those swirling guitar squalls. Braswell immediately makes her presence known—not only with her ferocious playing but also in the vocals she contributes to multiple songs. The reconstituted A Place To Bury Strangers doesn’t appear to have lost a step. [Kyle Ryan]

Brazilian Girls, Let’s Make Love

After a 10-year hiatus, Brazilian Girls return full of energy with the upcoming Let’s Make Love. It’s not all piss and vinegar; the band’s fourth studio album is actually, in part, an ode to self-care. On the single “Pirates,” for example, lead singer Sabina Sciubba encourages fans to get some sleep and get laid. The pulsating, sexy track is a flirty reminder of what we’re fighting for—and what we can all do to take the edge off in between protests. Sciubba’s lilting vocals deliver the same straightforward message on the title track, in a seductive manner that would make Prince proud. [Danette Chavez]

King Tuff, The Other

After years of relentlessly touring behind the glammed-up garage rock of his hard-partying King Tuff alter ego, Kyle Thomas found himself back in Los Angeles and rethinking everything. The Other, his first new album in four years, is the result of that introspection, and it marks a huge change in direction, holding onto his knack for hooky melodies but expanding it with a new palette of psychedelic, soulful sounds. The title track is the biggest indicator of just how far Thomas is looking to push himself, deploying six minutes of gentle cosmic folk to instantly erase visions of King Tuff’s bubbly biker persona. [Matt Gerardi]

Rival Consoles, Persona

As Rival Consoles, electronic producer Ryan Lee West makes what might be termed intellectual dance music—an introspective spin on IDM that makes its cerebral ambitions plain with the title of his latest, Persona. Named after Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 psychological drama, and inspired by a single image from its abstract opening montage—that of a child touching a woman’s shifting face on a TV screen—the album is a similar exploration of perception and identity, and the distortions between the two. In theory, that’s all heady, pretentious stuff. But in practice, it’s just a hifalutin way of describing the engrossing, subtly layered interplays West creates between his pulsing, muted techno beats and reverberating synth tones, a push and pull between euphoria and anxiety that makes his work so consistently rewarding. [Sean O’Neal]

April 20

Exitmusic, The Recognitions

Most of Exitmusic’s press focuses on its backstory, and for good reason. Its misty dream pop was born out of the storybook romance between multi-instrumentalist Devon Church and vocalist-actress Aleksa Palladino (Boardwalk Empire, Halt And Catch Fire), who met by chance as teenagers on a train amid a meteor shower, married after years of long-distance courtship, then translated their epic passion into a pair of sweeping, emotional albums. Their romance is now over, but the story continues: The Recognitions documents the couple’s separation, something Palladino says was spurred by a quasi-mystical epiphany she had while filming on a lake in Iowa. The single “Iowa” recounts that moment directly in its diaristic lyrics, but it’s the melodramatic, haunted-Beach House soar of her voice folding into the quavering strings that best conveys the album’s heartbreak, and the hope—and new beginnings—contained therein. [Sean O’Neal]

The Melvins, Pinkus Abortion Technician

If you didn’t think it was possible for The Melvins to get any heavier, think again. The temporary addition of a second bassist—longtime Butthole Surfers bass man Jeff Pinkus—for the group’s new album, Pinkus Abortion Technician, all but ensures an extra-hefty slice of lumbering, gloriously messy sludge-rock. Opening track “Stop Moving To Florida,” a medley of the Surfers’ “Moving To Florida” and James Gang’s “Stop,” has the improvised feel of a bunch of dudes hanging out and goofing off in someone’s garage, supporting Melvins mastermind Buzz Osborne’s statement that it was “a stone groove to record. We drank a lot of coffee and enjoyed each other’s company.” Bring a steak knife, this one’s thick. [Katie Rife]

Sting/Shaggy, 44/876

The collaboration no one knew they were waiting for unites two titans of lite reggae. First single “Don’t Make Me Wait”—which Shaggy promises “hundreds of women would get pregnant to”—invites images of making love to a houseboat, while fellow advance track “Morning Is Coming”… also seems to imply making love to another, different anthropomorphic houseboat. With track titles like “To Love And Be Loved,” “If You Can’t Find Love,” and “Love Changes Everything,” the full album promises to be a well-intentioned featherweight that is nevertheless extremely good to make fun of. While also fucking houseboats. [Clayton Purdom]

Thievery Corporation, Treasures From The Temple

For more than 20 years now, downtempo duo Thievery Corporation has been a reliable purveyor of the kind of globe-spanning, politically minded exotica you can safely spin at fusion restaurants. Its most recent album, 2017’s The Temple Of I & I, homed in on Jamaica for a more dub-and-reggae-heavy spin on its usual, polite-smoker’s delight trip-hop. The “companion” album, Treasures From The Temple, unearths more of those sessions, once again featuring guests like Mr. Lif and Racquel Jones alongside longtime collaborator LouLou Ghelichkhani, whose smooth, French café voice takes the lead on the patio sunset lullaby “La Force De Melodie.” [Sean O’Neal]

April 27

Grouper, Grid Of Points

With the acclaimed Ruins, Grouper’s Liz Harris finally shed the layers of looping echoes and static washes that shrouded her first eight albums, leaving behind an intimate, incredibly vulnerable batch of songs that conjured the bare, drafty rooms the album’s title suggests. Ruins was four years ago, but the new Grid Of Points still lives there: Harris composed its songs over just a week and a half not long after Ruins’ completion, adhering to an even more minimalist setup of barebones piano lines beneath her own ghostly, multilayered vocals. Once again, it promises to be a stilling gaze into a bleakly beautiful abyss. [Sean O’Neal]

Half Waif, Lavender

For the last four years or so, Half Waif has been the promising part-time venture of (now-former) Pinegrove member Nandi Rose Plunkett, but with Lavender, it’s a side project no more. Driven by Plunkett’s “pensive nature and her lifelong endeavor to reconcile a sense of place,” Lavender wanders through knotty emotional territory, especially surrounding family and relationships. It draws as much from Tori Amos and Celtic folk as it does traditional Indian bhajans and Claude Debussy in weaving its beautifully melancholy synth pop. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer

Person Who Is Good At Everything Janelle Monáe announced the release of her long-awaited third album with a pair of excellent singles, the wild Prince collaboration “Make Me Feel” and the barreling, trap-influenced “Django Jane.” The album is set to continue the android narrative told across her first two records, released in 2010 and 2013, and it already seems to trade in the same omnivorous mix of funk, rap, soul, disco, show tunes, sci-fi, and sex that made those so head-turning. It’ll also be accompanied by some sort of narrative film—which may just be a bunch of music videos but will also probably be good, because Janelle Monáe is good at everything. [Clayton Purdom]

PBSR, …and dusky doors

Pablo Serrano, a.k.a. PBSR, is a 24-year-old electronic producer with an engineer’s approach (he studied music technology and composition in London) and a young romantic’s soul, steeped in a teenage love of Sigur Rós. There’s some of that band’s dewy-eyed, post-rock sweep lingering around the edges of PBSR’s ambient pop, which expertly melds warm, glitched beats, spectral textures, and Serrano’s gentle voice. “Volcano,” the lead single from his debut EP, …and dusky doors, portends a big future for him; it’s a plaintive, mesmerizing piano ballad in the James Blake mold. [Sean O’Neal]

Speedy Ortiz, Twerp Verse

It’s been three years since the release of Speedy Ortiz’s last album, Foil Deer, and fans who have been itching for more of the Massachusetts foursome’s post-slacker indie rock sound can blame Donald Trump for their troubles. No, really—lead songwriter and frontwoman Sadie Dupuis says that the group had an album recorded and ready to go in the fall of 2016, but scrapped it in the wake of Trump’s election. “The songs on the album that were strictly personal or lovey dovey just didn’t mean anything to me anymore,” she says in a press release. The do-over, Twerp Verse, is perhaps the group’s most accessible work yet, a glossy yet acerbic collection of songs that shows off both Dupuis’ pop instincts and her social conscience. [Katie Rife]

Twin Shadow, Caer

Twin Shadow’s first three records trace a path from indie loverboy (Forget) to synth-pop dynamo (Confess) to midnight-cool poet (Eclipse). The records always sound great when they come out, with decreasing returns as the weeks go on. The new Caer seems to traffic in a little of all of his modes. The best of the three released tracks by far is the most conventional, the Haim collaboration “Saturdays,” which is all finger-snapping and stone-washed jeans, so damn catchy that you barely realize how aching and sad the lyrics are. Here’s hoping for more like that on the full album. [Clayton Purdom]

We Are Scientists, Megaplex

With Megaplex, post-punk revivalists We Are Scientists move to more of a slickly electro-pop sound, turning out a synth-heavy single, “One In, One Out,” and a futuristic new video. It’s all part of Keith Murray and Chris Cain’s plan to make their sixth studio album “a fun-bomb. Something to dance or fuck to.” Another new song, “Your Light Has Changed,” has an accompanying video that sees We Are Scientists taking over the world; the song’s Rapture-esque opening isn’t a bad place to start. [Danette Chavez]