Weezer, Olivia Rodrigo, St. Vincent, and 19 more albums we can’t wait to hear in May

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Alex McLevy, Katie Rife, Gwen Ihnat, Saloni Gajjar, A.A. Dowd, Cameron Scheetz, and Baraka Kaseko
·12 min read
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Clockwise, from upper left: Jorja Smith (Jim Dyson/Getty Images), Rivers Cuomo of Weezer (Photo: John Medina/Getty Images), St. Vincent (Photo: Emma McIntyre), Sons Of Kemet (Photo: Ian West - PA Images/Getty Images), Olivia Rodrigo (Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Clockwise, from upper left: Jorja Smith (Jim Dyson/Getty Images), Rivers Cuomo of Weezer (Photo: John Medina/Getty Images), St. Vincent (Photo: Emma McIntyre), Sons Of Kemet (Photo: Ian West - PA Images/Getty Images), Olivia Rodrigo (Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Summer is on its way, and unsurprisingly, the list of albums coming out in May is at least partially a reflection of that. A lot of these records are livelier and sunnier than their wintertime counterparts—but also compared with last year’s summer releases, many of which saw significant delays thanks to the pandemic. But as the world wakes up, thanks to mass vaccination, the soundtrack should be excellent: New music from St. Vincent, NCT Dream, Mannequin Pussy, and more. Whether you’re finishing up the school year or just getting ready to start leaving work early on Fridays now and again, it’s nice to know your ears will be ready to party, too. (And if you don’t feel like being cheery, fear not—there’s a few great metal albums on the horizon, too.)

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Sufjan Stevens, Convocations [May 6]

After a month of rolling out a separate section every week, the complete Convocations, a five-volume, 49-track collection of instrumental music from Sufjan Stevens, will finally be released in its completed version this month. The work is said to be a tribute to his father, who passed away two days after the release of The Ascension in September 2020, with each volume representing a different stage of mourning. It’s a massive, and massively immersive, album, somber and soulful in its oft-ambient beauty. [Alex McLevy]

Aly & Aj, A Touch Of The Beat Gets You Up On Your Feet Gets You Out And Then Into The Sun [May 7]

Erstwhile Disney stars Aly and AJ Michalka have been steadily releasing effervescent pop since 2017, but haven’t put out a proper album since 2007’s Insomniac, which produced the timeless “Potential Breakup Song.” Capitalizing off that song’s titanic TikTok success, the sisters have bumped up LP number four’s debut. The otherwise lengthy title aptly sums up the album’s summery vibe, with promising singles like the synth-driven “Symptom Of Your Touch” that feel effortlessly giddy and nostalgic. [Cameron Scheetz]

Angel Olsen, Song Of The Lark And Other Far Memories [May 7]

With five studio albums under her belt, the time has come for Angel Olsen to look inward. Not that her work isn’t introspective to begin with—it’s just that a retrospective box set offers a unique opportunity to indulge that impulse. For Olsen, that means an LP called Far Memory consisting of bonus tracks, alternate takes, covers, and remixes from Johnny Jewel and Mark Ronson. Both of the re-imagined tracks were taken from Olsen’s last two albums, All Mirrors and Whole New Mess, also included in the set. [Katie Rife]

McKinley Dixon, For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her [May 7]

Listening to McKinley Dixon for an extended period of time can be a dizzying experience, as the rapper and musician’s heady fusion of hip-hop, jazz, and old-school soul and classical influences often delves deeply into philosophically rich and emotionally wrenching places. His new album on Spacebomb Records grapples with trauma, uplift, hope, and the concept of home, all while traversing the past and present of the Black experience in ways that feel powerfully bound to the complex musical arrangements that he’s so artfully assembled—with a host of guests like Pink Siifu, Micah James, and Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon to help out along the way. [Alex McLevy]

Sophia Kennedy, Monsters

Garlanding singer-songwriter melodies with sleek electronica, Sophia Kennedy’s music is an intriguing blend of decades and styles. Promotional materials for her sophomore album, Monsters, cite Tin Pan Alley and club music in the same sentence, an unlikely combination that nevertheless perfectly describes this 13-song set of deconstructed pop tunes. A cheeky sense of humor also helps Monsters keep a sense of perspective—take Kennedy’s delightfully debased re-creation of the famous Lamborghini scene from The Wolf Of Wall Street in the video for “I Can See You.” [Katie Rife]

Weezer, Van Weezer [May 7]

There were no guitars on the first Weezer album of 2021, the melodious symphonic-pop record OK Human. Perhaps Rivers Cuomo was saving all his riffs for the second, the band’s long-teased dabble in ’80s hair-metal histrionics. First announced more than two years ago (lead single “The End Of The Game” dropped way back in September of 2019), Van Weezer promises to bring the band’s often-touted hard-rock influences back to the forefront for the first time since, what, Maladroit? Expect some squealing solos—though not, judging from the handful of tracks already released, any real change in Cuomo’s alternately anonymous and goofy lyrical playbook. [A.A. Dowd]

NCT Dream, Hot Sauce [May 10]

NCT Dream will return as seven. In addition to welcoming back their leader—rapper Mark Lee—the K-pop group will also finally mark its first full-length release with Hot Sauce. While most details about the album have been kept under wraps, it appears that “Countdown (3,2,1),” described as having a booming 808 bass line and catchy trap beat, and “Rainbow,” an easy R&B pop song with breezy guitars and a strong appearance from the group’s four-member rap unit, are likely to be standouts. [Shanicka Anderson]

Current Joys, Voyager [May 14]

A Different Age, the 2018 album by Current Joys (a.k.a. Nick Rattigan), was a masterpiece of slowcore minimalism, often hypnotic and emotionally lacerating in its spare, heartfelt manner. Judging by early singles like “Amateur” and “Money Making Machine,” new album Voyager looks to expand both Rattigan’s sonic palette and his production values, introducing lusher arrangements and some uptempo variety to his songcraft, while still maintaining the fragile beauty of his lyricism. [Alex McLevy]

Jorja Smith, Be Right Back [May 14]

Be Right Back isn’t an album—Jorja Smith said as much herself. In a recent statement, the English singer-songwriter described the upcoming project as “just something [she wants her] fans to have right now. This isn’t an album and these songs wouldn’t have made it.” But that shouldn’t deter fans: The songs we’ve heard from Be Right Back—like “Gone,” a somber, piano-laden meditation on grief, or “Addicted,” the project’s percussive lead single—are as strong and as personal as anything from her acclaimed debut, 2018’s Lost & Found. When the throwaways are this good, it’s impossible not to listen. [Baraka Kaseko]

Sons Of Kemet, Black To The Future [May 14]

There’s an expansion of the musical landscape for Sons Of Kemet’s fourth album, Black To The Future. Your Queen Is A Reptile (2018) may have been nominated for the Mercury Prize, but saxophonist and bandleader Shabaka Hutchings decided to change things up for the new record, bringing in numerous guest performers to push and evolve the jazz quartet’s signature sounds. Hutchings describes the concept of Black To The Future as being the attempt to “redefine and reaffirm what it means to strive for Black power”—and his group sounds up to the task. [Alex McLevy]

St. Vincent, Daddy’s Home [May 14]

Annie Clark has evolved with each subsequent St. Vincent record, slowly segueing from scrappy guitar anthems to icy glam-pop workouts. And on Daddy’s Home, the New York-based musician slips into arguably her most chameleonic persona yet: As we described it when reviewing lead single “Pay Your Way In Pain,” it seems Clark has entered her “Prince around the time he turned himself into an unpronounceable symbol, and Bowie in his Young Americans phase,” delivering slinky dancefloor grooves to match her angular lyrical provocations. [Alex McLevy]

CHAI, WINK [May 21]

If “Action,” the lead single from CHAI’s upcoming Sub Pop debut album, was meant to tease the Japanese four-piece’s shift into a mellower, minimalist sound, recent track “Ping Pong!” is proof the band hasn’t lost any of its knack for effervescent, celebratory party music. Sure, it’s not the maximalist chaos of the group’s debut, but WINK looks to possess a glitzy, glossy appeal all its own, incorporating EDM and R&B in gleefully idiosyncratic ways. [Alex McLevy]

Fiddlehead, Beyond The Richness [May 21]

There’s always been a bit of a “what if a hardcore band played shoegaze songs?” vibe to Fiddlehead’s music, a refusal to neatly adhere to any simple genre labels in the band’s roiling, anthemic rock. The group’s first album since 2018’s succinct but searing Springtime And Blind, Beyond The Richness should possess enough fist-pumping hooks for a half-dozen albums, while delivering the earnest emotional catharsis singer Pat Flynn brings to every track. (Moving single “Heart To Heart” is no exception in that regard.) [Alex McLevy]

Georgia Anne Muldrow, VWETO III [May 21]

Georgia Anne Muldrow proves her restless muse is in no danger of relaxing with VWETO III, a record very unlike the jazz stylings of last year’s Mama, You Can Bet (under her Jyoti moniker) or the everything-and-the-kitchen sink magic of 2018’s Grammy-nominated Overload. Instead, Muldrew sets aside her unmistakable vocal cords for a largely instrumental album of beatscapes as varied and searching as a DJ Spooky mixtape. The artist “composed, performed, recorded, arranged, produced, mixed, and mastered the record”—as though Muldrow still needed to prove her multi-hyphenate bona fides at this point. [Alex McLevy]

Mannequin Pussy, Control [May 21]

Like a lot of bands who eventually channeled their pandemic isolation anxiety into new music, Mannequin Pussy’s forthcoming Control EP drew inspiration from difficult times. But unlike a lot of acts, they didn’t necessarily have a plan, going into the studio with only two tracks prepared, and writing the rest as they went along. The results seem to speak for themselves: The first two singles, “Control” and “Perfect,” are near-Platonic representations of the group’s ability to alternate between soaring alt-rock earworms and scorched-earth barnburners. [Alex McLevy]

Mdou Moctar, Afrique Victime [May 21]

Mdou Moctar and his band take the shredding power of ’70s and ’80s rock and fuse it to the undulating rhythms and melodies of traditional Tuareg music, a true fusion of Western and African influences far more inventive than many purveyors of that lazy catch-all term known as “world music.” Hypnotic like a great jam-rock outfit one moment, rocking out like a hard-rock behemoth the next, and pulsing like Tinariwen after that, Afrique Victime addresses fiercely political and deeply humanistic themes, all with masterful musical prowess. [Alex McLevy]

Micky Dolenz, Dolenz Sings Nesmith [May 21]

Inspired by his old pal Harry Nilsson’s album Nilsson Sings Newman, Micky Dolenz takes on a slew of songs by his Monkee bandmate Mike Nesmith, long an underrated songwriter, for his first solo studio album in nine years. Nesmith’s son Christian produces, giving “Different Drum” (a breakthrough hit for The Stone Poneys’ Linda Ronstadt in 1967) a jaunty, harmonica-aided flair. Dolenz’s vocals have thinned slightly with age, but are as compelling as ever, which bodes well for Monkees deep cuts on the record like “Nine Times Blue” and “Circle Sky.” [Gwen Ihnat]

Olivia Rodrigo, Sour [May 21]

It’s going to be Olivia Rodrigo’s year. The High School Musical: The Musical: The Series actress topped charts with her debut single, “Driver’s License,” when it arrived in January 2021. Her second single, “Deja Vu,” also charted in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. Rodrigo’s music is a mix of pop and alternative rock, a quality that will show up in her first album, Sour. If it maintains the starry-eyed melody and cathartic lyrics of her first two songs, Sour is poised to become a mainstream hit. [Saloni Gajjar]

Twenty One Pilots, Scaled And Icy [May 21]

Twenty One Pilots return with album number six, Scaled And Icy, and the two songs already released find duo Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun in familiar territory. “Choker” chronicles the despair of searching for someone to share your innermost feelings with (“I see no volunteers to co-sign all my fears”), with Joseph adding a now-almost TOP signature rap at the end. But the poppy and energetic “Shy Away” inspires the listener to embrace the outside world (“Don’t circle the track / Break the cycle in half”), fueled by bright synths and Joseph’s more impassioned vocals. [Gwen Ihnat]

Yautja, The Lurch [May 21]

The members of Yautja all play in other bands (like Thou, Mutilation Rites, and Coliseum), which may explain why it’s been seven years since the ferocious Nashville trio released an LP. But time away has done little to soften the blow of its abrasive sound. The title of Yautja’s third full-length (and first since signing with Relapse) perfectly encapsulates the group’s approach—a blend of hardcore and sludge that moves like someone, yes, lurching around a mosh pit, their gait at once nimble and menacingly heavy. [A.A. Dowd]

Bachelor, Doomin’ Sun [May 28]

Jay Som’s Melina Duterte and Palehound’s Ellen Kempner seem to have found a creative sweet spot in their new side project, Bachelor, with the early singles ranging from scrappy indie rock to ambling Americana to the Television-meets-Mpls Sound of “Anything At All,” which eventually builds to glorious release. There are some incisive lyrics and weighty themes, but musically, it sounds like nothing so much as a pair of talented artists reveling in the creative freedom of a newly discovered sonic match made in heaven. [Alex McLevy]

Black Midi, Cavalcade [May 28]

The live-wire unpredictability of London trio Black Midi continues on Cavalcade, the band’s follow-up to its 2019 debut, Schlagenheim. As demonstrated on single “Slow,” the exhilarating mixture of frenetic post-punk, intricate math rock, and rumbling grooves (with a healthy dose of ambitious art rock, to boot) is only getting more impressive. There might be better albums that come out in 2021, but there won’t be many that are this thrillingly unpredictable—almost predictably so. [Alex McLevy]