Junior Boys: It's All True
The Canadian electronica duo earned mostly raves for their first two albums, though their 2009 effort Begone Dull Care 76 may have marked a slight step in the wrong direction. Their upcoming fourth album It's All True was recorded partially in Shanghai, and features local Chinese musicians in addition to Junior Boys' own Jeremy Greenspan and Matthew Didemus, who also produced.
Listen to "Banana Ripple"
Lady Gaga: Born This Way
You may have heard of Ms. Gaga; previous output like 2008's The Fame 71 and its 2009 follow-up EP The Fame Monster 77 skyrocketed the singer to fame and fortune, selling over 15 million copies worldwide and earning a combined five Grammy Awards. Arriving later this month, her second studio album Born This Way already looks like a sure hit; the title track became iTunes' fastest-selling single in history when it was released earlier this year (and also has earned the ultimate mark of success: a Weird Al parody). You can see Lady Gaga perform the album's second single, "Judas," on next week's season finale of American Idol, or, if you prefer, you can sample album tracks by venturing into a special section of the online game FarmVille beginning May 17. (We don't make this stuff up; we just report it.)
Listen to "Judas"
Lil' Wayne: Tha Carter IV
Lil' Wayne has a tough act to follow; not only was his previous "Tha Carter" album Tha Carter III 84 the top-selling LP of 2008, but it also earned the rapper some of the best reviews of his career. Of course, in the interim, he served a prison sentence on a weapons charge, released the somewhat less successful hip-hop album I Am Not a Human Being 65, and made a disastrous detour into rock on Rebirth 37. Will Tha Carter IV be a return to top form? A delay to accommodate some last-minute tinkering isn't necessarily an encouraging sign, but the disc is expected to include contributions from Rick Ross and Jadakiss, and possibly Young Jeezy, Drake, and Kanye West as well.
Little Dragon: Ritual Union
The Swedish electro-pop group generated a lot of buzz with their enticing 2009 sophomore set Machine Dreams 74 (which was a more accessible departure from their jazzier self-titled debut), and followed that by contributing to the best track ("Empire Ants") on the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach. That makes Ritual Union one of our most anticipated releases of the summer, and lead track "Nightlight" suggests the disc will sound more like Machine Dreams than like Little Dragon.
Listen to "Nightlight"
Memory Tapes: Player Piano
Seek Magic 86, the debut full-length for remixer extraordinaire Dayve Hawk's solo Memory Tapes project, impressed all who heard it in 2009 with its collection of infectious 1980s-influenced dance-pop and shoegaze. Follow-up Player Piano -- released on new label Carpark -- consists of less dance-oriented, "keyboard-based psychedelic girl group songs," performed on live instrumentation in the studio, according to Hawk, who will tour with a full band this summer.
Listen to "Today Is Our Life"
Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts
Ever-prolific Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore has a great deal of solo work to his name, but hasn't released a true solo LP since 2007's Trees Outside the Academy 77. That changes with the arrival of his fourth solo album Demolished Thoughts, which was produced by Beck and recorded mostly in the latter's California studio. Don't expect Sonic Youth-style feedback excursions, though; the music here is mellow, largely acoustic, and often folky, and many tracks include strings.
Listen to "Circulation"
Peter Murphy: Ninth
Though Peter Murphy hasn't released a solo album since 2004's Unshattered, he has spent the ensuing years touring (both solo and fronting a reunited Bauhaus, who also issued Go Away White 68 three years ago), and also collaborated with Trent Reznor and released a series of cover tracks. The goth-rock veteran's aptly-titled ninth solo release is about as dark as you'd expect, and includes lead single "I Spit Roses."
Listen to "I Spit Roses"
My Morning Jacket: Circuital
While the Kentucky indie-rock band's previous album, 2008's Evil Urges 67, proved divisive among critics and longtime fans, Circuital aims to fix things by taking a step back, incorporating the variety of sounds and styles heard on the band's earlier, more successful albums while retaining some of their recent experimentation. In addition to the title track, the new disc includes recent live staples like "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)." Just don't expect another Z.
Listen to "Circuital"
The Rosebuds: Loud Planes Fly Low
The Merge Records duo of Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp return with their fifth album in June. Recorded just after the pair's marriage dissolved, Loud Planes Fly Low is an understandably personal album of dark but poppy tunes, but the Chris Stamey-produced disc is never gloomy.
Listen to "Second Bird of Paradise"
Jill Scott: The Light Of The Sun
The acclaimed soul singer's fourth album finds her on a major label (Warner Brothers) for the first time after an acrimonious split with former label Hidden Beach. It's her first LP since 2007's The Real Thing: Words And Sounds Vol. 3 79; in the ensuing years, Scott has pursued acting, appearing in a number of film and television shows, including HBO's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Her new disc includes collaborations with Eve and Doug E. Fresh.
Listen to "So In Love (feat. Anthony Hamilton)"
Various Artists: Rave On Buddy Holly
This tribute to the bespectacled rock and roll pioneer features an impressive roster of artists, from Patti Smith to Cee Lo Green to My Morning Jacket to The Strokes' Julian Casablancas. You can hear Paul McCartney tackle "It's So Easy," Modest Mouse perform the classic "That'll Be The Day," and Lou Reed handle "Peggy Sue," as well as 16 additional covers.
Listen to "Dearest (by The Black Keys)"
The quirky Oregon group's 2009 effort See Mystery Lights 70 was a catchy collection of summery but thought-provoking dance pop, probably better than that Metascore might indicate. So it seems appropriate that summer is again the season when the duo of Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans will be releasing their next dose of indie party music. Shangri-La will be released on DFA like its predecessor, and was written entirely on the spot during their studio recording sessions, a first for the band.
Listen to "Dystopia"