Make it new!

A refresher course from the indies
By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  June 16, 2009

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CURVEBALL Karen O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs get synthetic on It's Blitz. 

Not to make too big a deal out of this or anything, but holy shit this spring is huge. Think about it: it's the first spring following a long, drawn-out winter made longer and more drawn-out by a grueling two-year election that overturned eight even longer years of dreary uncertainty and near-constant suckage. Whether this season likes it or not, it'll be the first perceivable earthly realization of all that hope and renewal we've been promised — so it had better be good. That means we want the flowers, the sunshine, the wet grassy smell, and, most important, solid new records to lead us out of this craptastic decade already.

That also means it's a good thing R.E.M., Guns N' Roses, and Metallica passed their stones last year, since there'll be precious little time to spare for the old guard this spring. (Hear that, U2?) Toppling music industry be damned, there's an independent renaissance under way. You can hear it in the album titles: liberation in Begone Dull Care (JUNIOR BOYS), reclamation in Repo (BLACK DICE), clarity in Now We Can See (the THERMALS), assurance (albeit of the obvious) in The Future Will Come (the JUAN MACLEAN). That these four also happen to be among the best of the spring's most anticipated releases only bolsters the notion of a shiny new fin de décennie zeitgeist.

For Junior Boys and the Juan Maclean, this new attitude still equals dancing — the former refining themselves impossibly farther toward a minimalist's approximation of Prince on Begone Dull Care (Domino, April 7), the latter taking things to higher-NRG house levels than ever before on The Future Will Come (DFA, April 14). For Black Dice and the Thermals, it means re-upping the ante on their own respective innovative streaks — the Dice getting concise and unexpectedly riffy on Repo (Paw Tracks, April 7), the Thermals lowering their already low sense of fi in favor of hooks (and lots of them) on Now We Can See (Kill Rock Stars, April 7).

Not everything of note this spring is so nichy. All it took was a couple of well-wended whistles to win a worldwide following for PETER BJORN AND JOHN. Keeping those hordes at attention would be a bigger challenge (especially after last year's placeholder, Seaside Rock), but Living Thing (Almost Gold/Star Time, March 31) could rise to the occasion — if you thought Writer's Block had singles, get ready for a PBJ-filled summer. Class-of-'06 favorites SILVERSUN PICKUPS appear once again with Swoon (Dangerbird, April 14), promising ever more aggressively catchy hooks and chunky guitars on the sophomore release. And the YEAH YEAH YEAHS throw us a long-awaited curveball (isn't that contradictory?) with the surprisingly synthetic It's Blitz! (Interscope, April 13).

Too far in the future to forecast but promising enough to stoke eager ears are a trio of late-May releases that'll transition very well into summer. The pristine French-touch pop of PHOENIX rises again on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Astralwerks), the elegant future folk of GRIZZLY BEAR renews itself on Veckatimest (Warp), and Austin analog enthusiasts BLACK MOTH SUPER RAINBOW return with Eating Us (Graveface). So, okay, I guess not all the album titles are on board with the positivity thing.

Of course, some require only a tune and a voice to take them into the new day, and for those folks, April is anything but cruel. BAT FOR LASHES' newest, Two Suns (Parlophone, April 7), may be Natasha Khan's darkest record yet, but her voice is a lantern that leads you through the labyrinth to its core. The love/hate-able CONOR OBERST and his newly consolidated MYSTIC VALLEY BAND will return with more raspy rhapsodies on Outer South (Merge, May 5). And what would a sun-dappled early-summer park nap be without IRON AND WINE? His Around the Well (Sub Pop, May 19) could be the revolution's softest side.

Related: Westward ho!, WFNX's top 101 songs of the decade, Best unsung albums of 2009, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Entertainment, Music, Natasha Khan,  More more >
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