Iman Mekonen, Spectrum Editor
As popular music gatherings such as concerts and festivals have been canceled due to social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders, many musicians are back in the studio working on new music for their fans.
Here are my favorite album releases from March and April, and some I’m looking forward to.
“The New Abnormal” by The Strokes
Coming back from seven years since their last full-length album, “The New Abnormal” seems to make up for lost time.
The Strokes’ most recent project, a 2016 three-track EP titled “Future Present Past,” set a promising expectation for the band’s next piece of work.
After a recent period of touring and appearances at music festivals all over the world, The Strokes left fans wondering when a new album would release.
At their February appearance at Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign rally in New Hampshire, they announced the April 10 release date of their sixth studio album, “The New Abnormal.” With the announcement came the premiere of two singles, “Bad Decisions” and “At The Door.”
“At The Door,” which debuted with a music video, showcases frontman Julian Casablancas’ powerful vocals and strong sustained notes while “Eternal Summer” shows his versatility through his introductory falsettos and a loud, vibrant chorus.
“Not The Same Anymore” is reminiscent of late 2000s Arctic Monkeys with its lazy vocals and steady guitar riff.
Although I still need to warm up to tracks like “Brooklyn Bridge to the Chorus,” “The New Abnormal” is a fitting re-introduction to The Strokes.
“It Is What It Is” by Thundercat
There are few albums out there that I can listen to with little to no skips. “It Is What It Is” from funk bassist Stephen Bruner, known as Thundercat, is just that.
Released on April 3, each track flows right into the next, although still varying in their sounds.
I’ve never heard an artist like Thundercat. His quick finger movements on his whammy-sounding, six-string bass guitar are absolutely mesmerizing and unbelievable when heard for the first time.
Bruner proves that the bass guitar, a low-sounding and usually forgotten instrument, can be essential to great sound. Here’s a compilation to show just how unique his bass playing is.
A few standout tracks on the album include “Black Qualls,” which features Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington and Childish Gambino. This unlikely group of vocalists produces an irresistible ’70s groove that prompts head bobbing on every listen.
“Fair Chance” is my most-listened to track from the album because of it’s calming, mesmerizing sound topped with Thundercat’s falsetto vocals. Not to mention that it includes features from Ty Dolla $ign and Lil B, who each add different narratives and sounds to the track.
“After Hours” by The Weeknd
I’ve been a longtime fan of The Weeknd for his unique album aesthetics. His latest release, “After Hours” is a perfect representation of that.
“Blinding Lights,” one of the lead singles on the album, is a fast-paced ’80s-inspired tune with melodic synthesizers and frontman Abel Tesfaye’s signature strong but feathery vocals.
The rest of the album continues to draw inspiration from the ‘80s while combining different genres such as soul, rap and pop.
On March 30, Tesfaye released a deluxe version of the album with three extra tracks and a remix of “Heartless” featuring Lil Uzi Vert.
From his performances this album cycle, the Canadian singer performs in a red and black suit with a bloody nose, reminiscent of movies like “Uncut Gems” and “Joker.”
This is connected even further in a short film released on March 4, which flows into the four videos for the album’s singles.
Albums I plan on listening to
As new music continues to release, I have a growing list of albums that I plan on listening to in the upcoming days.
Among these is “Future Nostalgia,” a recent release from British pop singer Dua Lipa. I look forward to diving into her dance party sound in her new project, which carries disco, funk and pop influences.
Fiona Apple’s first album in eight years, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,” has also been on my radar for albums to explore. I admit I’ve never heard any of her music before, but I’m excited to listen to the album for myself after hearing acclaim from other music critics for Apple’s unique, percussion-heavy sound.
All of the albums mentioned in this article are available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.