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From Beach House to Courtney Barnett, our 23 most-anticipated albums of May

Victoria Legrand of Beach House (Photo: Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images), Tee Grizzley (Photo: Gus Stewart/Getty Images), and Courtney Barnett (Photo: Scott Legato/Getty Images). Graphic: Natalie Peeples.
Victoria Legrand of Beach House (Photo: Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images), Tee Grizzley (Photo: Gus Stewart/Getty Images), and Courtney Barnett (Photo: Scott Legato/Getty Images). Graphic: Natalie Peeples.
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In addition to highly anticipated releases from Courtney Barnett, Tee Grizzley, and The Body, May holds some of our early favorites for 2018: Jon Hopkins’ follow-up to 2013 breakthrough Immunity, DJ Koze’s extremely fun Knock Knock, Beach House’s enigmatic seventh record, and Parquet Courts’ most politically direct effort yet. And though details are scarce, we’re still half-expecting Weezer’s Black Album. Here are the releases we’re most looking forward to in May.

May 4

Belly, Dove

Joining the round of reappearing ’90s bands is Belly, best known for the spirited 1993 alternative hit “Feed The Tree.” Gail Greenwood joins original members Tanya Donelly and Chris and Tom Gorman for the new Dove, an ambitious release that belies the long stretch of time the band was apart. “Shiny One” amps up things considerably with slide guitar and orchestral strings, and Donelly’s voice sounds as sweet as ever, even as she warns, “Don’t forget where you come from, son.” “Stars Align” hosts a more familiar-sounding jangle for Belly, even if it lacks “Tree”’s compelling hook. [Gwen Ihnat]

DJ Koze, Knock Knock

DJ Koze’s last proper full-length was 2013’s excellent Amygdala, a gregarious and whimsical effort that fused dance music with instrumental hip-hop. His new Knock Knock features a handful of interesting guests, including José González, Roísín Murphy, and rapper Speech from Arrested Development. Of its three released tracks, two are absolutely effervescent retro-futuristic club hits, recalling Random Access Memories-era Daft Punk in their lush, analog perfectionism. The third, called “Seeing Aliens,” is just as good, an Ulrich Schnauss-style electronic motivational anthem. If the rest of the record is on par with these, it could be something special indeed. [Clayton Purdom]

Brian Eno, Music For Installations

Brian Eno’s long history of generative music—that is, pieces performed by algorithm, rather than musicians—has led to a handful of collaborations for room-scale installations. Eno doesn’t always strictly differentiate these programs from the albums; last year’s Reflection, for example, was available as a 56-minute “excerpt” or as a $30 app that constantly generated new versions for the listener. Much of this work has never been released, but the massive new box set Music For Installations looks to change that, available in six-CD or nine-LP editions that come with an elaborate book. Probably only for Eno obsessives, but a heck of a centerpiece for them. [Clayton Purdom]

Jon Hopkins, Singularity

Jon Hopkins’ Immunity was a high-water mark not just for 2013, but for electronic music—an artfully sequenced, beautifully layered composition that took on a hifalutin narrative conceit (tracking a night out, from club-thumping to comedown to sunrise reflection), and actually did right by it. There’s no such overarching story behind Singularity, but the U.K. producer’s practice of transcendental meditation is a self-evident influence on ambient techno this inward-facing and emotive. It’s a cliché, but Hopkins’ albums really are journeys, pulling you from roughed-up, shuffling dance beats into a moment of out-of-body introspection with a single sustained piano note. Expect another album of late-night head trips that will land on yet more best-of lists, before another five-year wait for the next one. [Sean O’Neal]

Venetian Snares X Daniel Lanois, Venetian Snares X Daniel Lanois

The idea of anyone “dueting” with Aaron Funk’s Venetian Snares sounds like a (particularly nerdy record collector) joke. Funk is known as one of the most visible practitioners of “breakcore,” a genre defined by skittering, aggressively off-kilter beats and shards of abstracted noise. Daniel Lanois is a producer known for his work with Brian Eno and artists like U2 and Peter Gabriel, creating huge, shimmering guitar sounds for artists operating in breakcore’s polar opposite. But the new Venetian Snares X Daniel Lanois aims to find an unlikely midpoint between Lanois’ wide-open world and Funk’s grimy, claustrophobic one, with Lanois putting pedal steel guitar and ambient texture over Funk’s sputtering rhythms. Whatever the actual result, it’s worth a listen just for curiosity’s sake. [Sean O’Neal]

Vive La Void, Vive La Void

Vive La Void is the solo project of Moon Duo co-founder Sanae Yamada, who crafted the seven songs of her solo debut for Sacred Bones in the downtime from her main gig’s demanding schedule. The product of “late-night basement experiments,” Yamada’s synth-heavy psych jams strike the perfect balance between mood and meaningfulness: hazy and hypnotic enough to take you away, but grounded in meditations on Yamada’s real-life transience as a working musician. For fans of Moon Duo or groups like Xeno & Oaklander. [Kelsey J. Waite]

May 11

Beach House, 7

The seventh full-length by dream-pop mainstays Beach House reveals a new, unruly spirit behind one of indie’s most beloved and distinct bands. Aiming to preserve excitement about songs as they were coming together, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally started these 11 recordings in a home studio before finishing them at more formal settings with co-producer Sonic Boom, a.k.a Peter Kember, best known for cofounding the influential neo-psych band Spacemen 3. The result is a dark, charged, and enigmatic record that departs significantly from the distilled pop of 2015’s Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars. Beach House’s signature sound is still here, but it’s expanded and subjected to a new sense of chaos. See: the shadowy “Dark Spring,” the “candy-colored misery” of “Lemon Glow,” or the restless “Dive,” which begins a slow, foggy daydream but ends a volant New Order-ish dance party. [Kelsey J. Waite]

The Body, I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer

Prolific art-metal duo The Body conducts another experiment in genre splicing, again finding some impossible middle ground between harsh, nightmarish distortion and faint pop instincts. Although I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer technically isn’t a collaboration, like last year’s lunatic Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light, The Body almost never really goes it alone. Here the band calls upon a few guest players (including Sandworm’s Ben Eberle and Lingua Ignota’s Kristin Hayter), while foregoing all traditional instrumentation in favor of a dense collage of samples. The results flirt with reggae, electronic music, hip-hop, opera—all filtered, of course, through the usual squealing horror-movie soundtrack. The title, by the way, comes from Virginia Woolf’s suicide letter, in case you were worried that there wouldn’t be any of that signature apocalyptic despair to go with the hot dance beats. [A.A. Dowd]

Jean-Michel Blais, Dans Ma Main

Plenty of artists dealing in minimalist piano/electronic fusion get compared to Philip Glass, but Blais has enough of a sound and ambitious style of his own to make the juxtaposition highlight his bold compositions. Dans Ma Main takes the Canadian post-classical pianist in unexpected new directions, as the unusual fusion of expansive, throbbing IDM and spare, elegiac piano never sounds like anything less than a fully realized harmony, even when the tracks alternate starkly between the different soundscapes. His first record was an ambitious statement of purpose, but this comes across like an artist fully growing into his own gorgeous, idiosyncratic skin. [Alex McLevy]

Tee Grizzley, Activated

Since his release from prison in the fall of 2016, Detroit rapper Tee Grizzley has been on a tear. In 2017 alone there was the excellent My Moment; a collaborative mixtape with Lil’ Durk called Bloodas; and a Meek Mill-assisted single called “Beef.” Earlier this year he dropped another new single, “Colors,” ahead of his new full-length, Activated. The new one aims to boost Tee Grizzley’s profile significantly, thanks in part to appearances by Lil’ Yachty, Chris Brown, Young Jeezy, Lil’ Durk, and more. Unsurprisingly, it builds on My Moment’s swagger, but Grizzley’s sensitive-hoodrat core remains. [Kyle Ryan]

May 18

Courtney Barnett, Tell Me How You Really Feel

Courtney Barnett’s wry alt-rock debut, Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit, earned her near-universal acclaim in 2015 (including from The A.V. Club), and her 2017 album with Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice, was a charming, if low-stakes collaboration between kindred spirits that helped them sell out shows across the States. On sophomore solo effort Tell Me How You Really Feel, Barnett turns inward, delivering more emotionally direct lyrics and experimental song structures. Standout cut “City Looks Pretty,” for example, starts out rocking in the sun-soaked jangle the 30-year-old Aussie is known for, before succumbing midway to a stoned waltz of twang and tremolo. [Kelsey J. Waite]

GAS, Rausch

Last year’s Narkopop was the first album in 17 years from Wolfgang Voigt’s GAS project. The ambient musician’s first four albums are some of the most celebrated in ambient history, and Narkopop was a worthy return, a swooning, abyssal work that reconfigured the blissful conclusion of 2000’s Pop. We will not be awaiting another 17 years for its successor: The new Rausch consists of a single, hour-long piece, its artwork a dense naturalistic landscape that suggests something slightly less ominous than last year’s effort. [Clayton Purdom]

Low Cut Connie, Dirty Pictures Part 2

Seven years and four albums in, Philadelphia’s Low Cut Connie has mastered its own frisky brand of retro rock ’n’ roll that takes as much inspiration from Prince as it does James Booker and The Stooges, and the five-piece continues to amass a dedicated following thanks to its epically fun live sets. With last year’s Dirty Pictures, Part 1, the Connies’ songs took on a new dimension (as in the rousing “Revolution Rock And Roll”), proving they’re more than a barroom spectacle, and Part 2 promises a deeper look into the humanity behind the hustlers and oddballs that populate their songs, as in the character study “Beverly.” [Kelsey J. Waite]

oOoOO & Islamiq Grrrls, Faminine Mystique

This joint album between oOoOO and Islamiq Grrrls has a lot on its mind: The title is a spin on Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking feminist work that takes a similarly critical eye toward the restrictive roles that contemporary music is forced to play; the accompanying press release name-checks ’80s metal, The Soul Searchers, Astrud Gilberto, and Kool DJ Red Alert. It’s an appropriate mood-setter for an album that unspools like a hazy 2 a.m. conversation between oOoOO’s ghostly, pitch-shifted R&B and Islamiq Grrrl’s equally woozy sad-pop, flecked here with bits of noirish spy guitar and languorous cigarette-smoke atmosphere. [Sean O’Neal]

Parquet Courts, Wide Awake!

Parquet Courts have never been shy about confronting the cognitive dissonance of the modern era, and Wide Awake! is the punk rock quartet’s timeliest work yet. The Brooklyn band’s sixth studio LP directly engages with gun violence, Black Lives Matter, and climate change, while avoiding protest album pitfalls. Rather than hopeful platitudes, there are calls to arms and surges of hard-earned optimism. On lead single “Almost Had To Start A Fight/In And Out Of Patience,” Andrew Savage scream-sings about resisting the “perverted status quo,” before the band quickens the pace, adding an exuberant scale-climbing guitar lick and backing vocals. If Parquet Courts’ last outing, 2016’s Human Performance, was more measured, Wide Awake! promises the high energy and righteous anger of their earlier albums. Bonus: This go-round, the band was aided in the studio by none other than Danger Mouse. [Laura Adamczyk]

Matthew Sweet, Tomorrow’s Daughter 

Other than a few covers albums with The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs, Matthew Sweet’s more recent releases have fallen off the radar compared to mega-hits Girlfriend and 100% Fun, even when they’re critically well-received like last year’s double album Tomorrow Forever. But the indefatigable Sweet is following up with Tomorrow’s Daughter, whose first single shows that he’s still in great, poppy, lovelorn form. “I Belong To You” is a Byrds-sounding throwback that contains Sweet’s mantra: “I don’t want to be free / I just want to believe.” [Gwen Ihnat]

Wax Chattels, Wax Chattels

Wax Chattels is a three-piece from Auckland, New Zealand that likes to describe its sound as “guitarless guitar music.” More specifically, this band of former jazz students is making confrontational post-punk, marrying the grinding keyboards of Suicide with the drum-and-bass intensity of early Death From Above 1979. The results are stark, sinister songs like the hypnotically sputtering “In My Mouth.” [Matt Gerardi]

May 25

Chvrches, Love Is Dead

While Chvrches’ excellent 2015 album Every Open Eye delivered musically, it wasn’t a breakthrough. Who knows if that’s the Scottish trio’s intent, but it did enlist an outside producer for the first time for the new Love Is Dead. And not just anyone: Greg Kurstin, who won his second consecutive Grammy for producer of the year this year, and whose discography features such pop heavyweights as Pink, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Sia, and Halsey. That said, early singles from Love Is Dead aren’t strikingly slicker or poppier than Chvrches’ previous work, so hopefully the band hasn’t tinkered too much with its winning formula. [Kyle Ryan]

Jenny Hval, The Long Sleep

In addition to the EP she released with Håvard Volden as Lost Girls in March and the debut novel she will publish in the fall, this year Jenny Hval follows up 2016’s acclaimed full-length Blood Bitch with the four-song EP The Long Sleep. Departing from Hval’s more conceptual work, it embraces a more “instinctive, even subconscious, approach to creating meaning.” This plays out in the way poppy single “Spells” continually, intuitively evolves throughout, even as its radiant chorus demands to be heard again and again. It’s a goddamn marvel of a song. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Surgeon, Luminosity Device

The name Surgeon is an apt one for a techno artist who works with such clinical precision, and Alan Child’s releases under that moniker have all been defined by their discipline. Child practices a rigorously structured form of industrial-derived electronic music, one that favors serrated drum patterns over the heartbeat thump of four-on-the-floor and tweaks every sound into pure, alien texture. So it’s a bit unexpected to hear that the new Luminosity Device was inspired by the Tibetan Book Of The Dead: Surgeon’s aggressively austere music doesn’t seem like a natural fit for exploring spiritual enlightenment. But for all its mechanical severity, there’s always been something ineffably primal about Child’s work as well that suggests it could work—and those stuttering trance tones on lead track “The Primary Clear Light” suggest he really is letting a bit of it into the darkness. [Sean O’Neal]

Tracyanne & Danny, Tracyanne & Danny

Tracyanne & Danny are Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell and British singer Danny Coughlan, a.k.a. Crybaby. The two songwriters met in 2013 and started discussing the possibility of a collaboration, but the death of Camera Obscura keyboardist Carey Lander put the project on hold. Three years later, they’ve gotten back together and are putting out a self-titled debut, which draws from the sunny Scottish pop of Campbell’s band and beyond. [Matt Gerardi]

Wand, Perfume

After two years away, 2017’s Plum was a bit of a reboot for the L.A. psych rockers of Wand. An influx of new members turned what had been a hard-rocking power trio led by Cory Hanson into a larger, more democratic band, and its music blossomed in all sorts of unexpected directions. From the sound of its two early singles, like the jam-heavy riff marathon on its title track, the group’s follow-up, a 30-minute EP called Perfume, falls somewhere in between, reaching back to the band’s heavier days but retaining the eclectic tinge of its second form. [Matt Gerardi]

Weezer, The Black Album

After Weezer toured with Panic! At The Disco, Rivers Cuomo told NME that he got home and started crafting several songs. Half became last fall’s Pacific Daydream, while the apparently less-sunnier half is now slated for the band’s next release, The Black Album. No tracks have been released yet, but speculation is swirling. Cuomo told Spin in February, “The Black Album should feel like about 10 steps in some other direction,” which is good news for Pinkerton fans that didn’t love the band’s sugary vibe on 2016’s The White Album and Pacific Daydream’s summer soundtrack. Hopefully we’ll get some more hints about the new songs before the record itself drops—whether that’s in May or not. [Gwen Ihnat]