1. Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes (March 1)
One of rock’s most anticipated 2011 follow-ups, Lykke Li teams up once again with Bjorn Yttling (Peter, Bjorn & John) for her sophomore release. Another in a very long line of musical gifts from Sweden, Li’s first album meshed her alluring rasp with bass-heavy production and swirling walls of sound. If “Get Some” is any indication, on Wounded Rhymes Li has swapped demure wisp for brash seduction.
2.Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring For My Halo (March 8)
Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile has been relegated to genrefication hell: Americana rock (Bruce Springsteen comparisons) and lo-fi. His new album, while simple in structure, is cleanly recorded and more thoughtful than rootsy blue-collar rock. Though unaffected by labels, Vile should shed them all.
3. R.E.M.: Collapse Into Now (March 8)
Jacknife Lee returns to fine tune R.E.M.’s 15th album along with a variety of very wonderful guests, including Patti Smith, Eddie Vedder, Lenny Kaye, Joe Gibb (The Hidden Cameras), Scott McGaughy (Baseball Project, Young Fresh Fellow), and Peaches. (I thought David Cross also made a cameo here but that was just Michael Stipe.) Check out the single “Discoverer” off of Collapse Into Now on Youtube.
4. A Hawk And A Hacksaw: Cervantine (March 15)
Releasing their first album on their own imprint, L.M. Dupli-cation, the Balkan-influenced instrumentalists Jeremy Barnes (former Neutral Milk Hotel drummer) and violinist Heather Trost also opted for a change of scenery. Having recorded previous albums in Eastern European territories reflecting their sound, Hawk and a Hacksaw took to New Mexico and, in doing so, took to the sounds of Spain and Mexico.
5. The Joy Formidable: The Big Roar (March 15)
With all the fanfare , it’s hard to believe this Welsh trio is only now releasing their first full-length. The positive critical reception of their 25-minute, eight-song debut was well deserved as the band’s big sound is right in line with the full rock of Arcade Fire. Check out “Popinjay” off of The Big Roar.
6. J Mascis: Several Shades of Why (March 15)
Downright shocking that this is Mascis’s first proper solo studio album (three others were live while the fourth consisted of a collaboration of six devotional Indian songs). Dinosaur Jr.’s famous string junky summoned his pals – Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), and Kurt Vile – for this 10-track Sup Pop debut. Check out “Not Enough” off the upcoming album.
7. The Strokes: Angles (March 22)
Four years since their last release, The Strokes have been open about the internal division. Nonetheless, Angles will reveal one of two things: The Strokes realized they are too good as a unit to let squabbles hinder with music-making, or the money was just too damn good not to tolerate one another one last time. Interesting to note that “Under Cover of Darkness”, the first single from the album, is the only track credited to the group as a whole.
8. Pharoahe Monch: W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) (March 22)
Lyrical messiah and noted underground linguist Pharoahe Monch delivers just his third album. Pharoahe, whose delivery is derived from improvisational jazz styles, always backs his thoughtful and illuminating lyrics with soulful samples. From the new single “Clap (One Day)”: “They educate the masses to follow, so boring/I sat in the back of the class asleep, snoring/And they ask me why I’m vocal and adamant/’cause I lost my focus like Governor Patterson”.
9. Hunx And His Punx: Too Young To Be In Love (March 29)
This cult rock outfit is much more than a gay novelty act. Hunx and his Punx consists of three head-banging do-not-fuck-with-me chicks and one exceedingly flamboyant gay frontman, i.e., a John Waters film come alive in which appearances are moot and all-important all at once. Ivan Julian jumped on board to produce Too Young To Be In Love, Hunx and His Punx’ debut full-length.
10. Mountain Goats: All Eternals Deck (March 29)
There are only a handful of artists whose material you can deafly purchase without fear. John Darnielle is one of them. The only standing member of the Mountain Goats, Darnielle is quite possibly the most unheralded songwriter of his time. His lyrical genius, like Bob Dylan and Neil Young’s, is equaled only by his durability and self-one-upmanship. All Eternals Deck, his 17th album (not counting any released by the countless other bands he’s been in), promises to be another masterpiece. Check out Darnielle performing “Birth of Serpents” on Letterman.