Arts and Entertainment | Music

From Sam Smith to tUnE yArDs, your guide to summer albums

We’re at that point in the year when new reviews start hailing down from Pitchfork Media like that ridiculous snowstorm on Tuesday. That being said, there are a multitude of artists who are slated to release new music in the upcoming month, from alternative, noisy rock stars like Mikal Cronin to frigid, experimental composers like Ben Frost. If there’s ever a time to check up on your favorite artists, it’s now—at least one of them is coming out with a new album. 

For those who don’t have the dedication (or time) to comb through innumerable blogs and forums to stay up-to-date on releases, here are some of the most interesting artists with upcoming albums.

Chromeo, ‘White Women’ (May 12) 
Columbia’s got a soft spot for David Macklovitch, also known as Dave 1 of Chromeo. After completing his Ph.D. in French literature at Columbia, he joined Barnard’s French department as a lecturer before taking a leave to go on tour. Although it’s been a while since this electrofunk duo’s last release, they’ve been stringing fans along with two singles they released in 2013. Dave 1’s vocals are smooth and charming, and his voice glides easily into bouncy, vibrant use of synth and a simple beat. Chromeo also released “Come Alive” earlier this year, which features synthpop artist Toro Y Moi. Toro Y Moi isn’t the only artist who’s been called in to collaborate on “White Women,” though: The album will also feature Solange, LCD Soundsystem’s Pat Mahoney, and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig. Honestly, this album will probably be interesting for the collaborations alone, but from what we’ve seen so far from these singles—with high-energy beats and a synth that sounds beautifully retro—“White Women” has the potential to be the soundtrack of the summer.

Swans, ‘To Be Kind’ (May 12)
Following their last album, the wildly popular “The Seer” from 2012, Swans’ two-year hiatus is finally coming to an end with “To Be Kind,” set to come out on the same day as Chromeo’s “White Women.” So far, they’ve released a couple tracks, including “Oxygen” and “A Little God in My Hands.” If the entire album is anything like this track, listeners are in for another treat. Admittedly, “Little God” is a lot more upbeat than the formidable sounds of “The Seer.” But that didn’t make it any less enjoyable to listen to. Similarly, “Oxygen” seems to be a lot simpler and shorter than Swans’ past efforts. It’s also worth noting that “To Be Kind” will feature several individuals who are not members of the band—including St. Vincent, who provides background vocals for a couple tracks. Even if “To Be Kind” doesn’t seem to be the Swans we’ve come to know, the album’s worth a listen for this unlikely collaboration.

Thee Oh Sees, ‘Drop’ (April 19)
In the more immediate future, Thee Oh Sees are dropping “Drop” on Saturday—Record Store Day. The album, which can be previewed on Pitchfork, maintains all of the noisiness that fans have come to expect from Thee Oh Sees. “Drop” appears to be a bit more edgy than “Floating Coffin,” with wilder guitar riffs coupled with high-pitched vocals. Thee Oh Sees sound like the kind of reckless abandon that is part and parcel of a solid summer jam. 

Sam Smith, ‘In the Lonely Hour’ (May 26)
Easily one of the most anticipated albums of the summer, “In the Lonely Hour” is Smith’s first studio album, although the artist collaborated with Disclosure on “Settle” in 2013. As a tip of the hat to his work with the duo, the album will include an acoustic version of Disclosure’s “Latch.” Sam Smith’s soulful vocals have time and again solidified him as one of those artists to watch out for in 2014, and this new album will probably validate that notion. In an interview with Digital Spy, Smith described his album as sad. I personally see nothing wrong with a little melancholia every now and then, so I’m hoping that “In the Lonely Hour” will be a good balance against all the ra-ra tracks that are coming out this summer. 

tUnE yArDs, ‘Nikki Nack’ (May 6)
Following her 2011 release, “W H O K I L L,” music lovers have been waiting for Merrill Garbus’ next album. “Water Fountain,” a single that Garbus released earlier this year, features everything that’s great about tUnE-yArDs, including increasingly primal vocals that are accompanied by the aggressive beat of drums and hand-clapping that can only be described as quirky. The wonderful thing about tUnE-yArDs is that her tracks are easily accessible. 

SBTRKT, ‘Transitions I’ (May 5) 
Fans have been waiting since the release of his track “Hold the Line” in February, but now there are only a couple more weeks until the first installment of SBTRKT’s (pronounced “subtract”) new series, entitled “Transitions.” “Hold the Line” is apparently part of “Transitions III,” the third installment, due to be released on June 2. Personally, I’m curious why this is being released in installments at all, especially since the instrumentals are available to preview online on SBTRKT’s SoundCloud already, but I’m nevertheless looking forward to “Transitions I.”  

neha.sundaram@columbiaspectator.com | @neha_sundaram

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