It’s a good thing that the record industry doesn’t get its summers off. Though “Bob Marley Legend” and the Dave Matthews Band’s “Under the Table and Dreaming” are great and all, they tend to get a little old by the end of June. This, right here, is a list of your best bets for this summer’s new music, from hip-hop greats the Roots and the Beastie Boys to British rock and rollers the Beta Band and Clinic.
The Beta Band: “Heroes to Zeroes” — Everyone who giddily waited for Radiohead’s “Hail to the Thief,” which came out last summer, can this May turn their happy anticipation towards the Beta Band’s fourth record. Equally part David Bowie, Pink Floyd, marijuana and the Beatles, these young Scots soared to semi-fame when “Dry the Rain,” the opening track off of their beloved (but weird) debut “3 EPs,” was included in the film “High Fidelity.” Word on the art-rock street is that the band, headed by the ever-cool Steve Mason, is in top form; NME even named the first single from the album, “Assessment,” as song of the week.
The Beastie Boys: “To the 5 Boroughs” — Looking through the Beasties’ back catalogue is like reading an all time best of hip-hop list. They were dope in 1986 (“License to Ill”), dope in 1992 (“Check Your Head”) and dope in 1998 (“Hello Nasty”). It’s sort of absurd that some of us were still in middle school when their last to album came out (see above), but thank the Rap Lords that Mike-D, Ad Rock and MCA are back with some new tunes. Though there’s little word on what “5 Boroughs” will sound like, here’s a list of some of those new songs: “Hey, F*** You,” “Shazam!,” “The Brouhaha” and “An Open Letter to NYC.” Sounds good, right? I think so.
Sonic Youth: “Nurse” — I’m not a huge fan of their earlier stuff (why is “Daydream Nation” supposed to be the best rock and roll album, again?), but I’ll be damned if I don’t love their last record, 2002’s “Murray Street.” All I know about “Nurse,” their 19th LP, is that I’m damn excited to hear it. The group of middle-aged punk rockers will be joining the slightly-younger Flaming Lips, Morrissey and Modest Mouse on this summer’s Lollapalooza Tour, which will surely be one to bring the family to.
Wilco: “A Ghost Is Born” — Everyone’s favorite Spring Flingers’ follow-up to the extraordinary “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” has been leaked (like YHF was), and it’s supposed to be real, real good. Besides incessant drug abuse, Tweedy is known for throwing out bandmates like dirty tissues, and in keeping with his reputation, he dismissed multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach and hired two studio musicians for the summer tour supporting “Ghost.” Bach was around for the recording of the album though, which sports two songs that clock in at 10 and 15 minutes. All in all, if “Ghost” is half as good as their last record, it will be G-reat.
The Roots: “Tipping Point” — The best hip-hop band out of Philadelphia (or anywhere), the Roots have been keeping it real for longer than previously thought possible. They come pretty close to rivaling the Beastie Boys for most hands-down classic rap albums, and there are few who wouldn’t hold Black Thought to be in the same realm as the three Jewish MCs from NYC. The Roots’ drummer/producer ?uestlove isn’t bad himself, and Jay-Z’s MTV Unplugged shows the Roots can hold their own pretty adequately without their MC. “Tipping Point” is the group’s sixth record, and according to Internet chatrooms, it certainly seems to be their most collaborative effort yet. Labelmates Talib Kweli and Common, Mr. Falsetto himself Pharrell Williams (of the Neptunes, if you didn’t know), singer Jill Scott and ex-Living Colour frontman Vernon Reid are all supposed to be on board. Word to that.
Clinic: “Winchester Cathedral” — When I saw Clinic in New York City last year, they played in their trademark nurse’s scrubs and masks without talking to the audience or doing their more popular stuff (though popular isn’t a really apt description of the band). After the disappointingly short 30-minute set, a large man in a suit turned to me and said, “Forget the Strokes. These boys are the next big thing.” Fat chance, fat man, considering the band’s propensity towards freak-out, art-house, too-many-drugs brand of punk rock. “Winchester Cathedral” is supposed to sound like a mix between the Velvet Underground and the Sex Pistols, which you can’t wrong with.
Well, the world may end by Labor Day, what with war and global warming and whatnot, but at least we’ll all have enjoyed the new Beasties album. Time to get ill, indeed!