12 May Albums Worth Checking Out

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For much of the U.S., this was a rough winter. But spring has more going for it than budding flowers and baseball games. May is packed with some great new music. We’ve highlighted a dozen albums we’re particularly looking forward to.

1. Brandi Carlile
Live at Benaroyal Hall with the Seattle Symphony

May 3

After three stellar studio albums, Brandi Carlile decided to capture her live show on record, and enlisted the Seattle Symphony to do it. The album features Carlile originals along with covers of “Hallelujah,” “Forever Young” and the Hanseroth twins singing a little Simon & Garfunkel.

2. Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues

May 3

“After their eponymous debut album earned a well-deserved standing ovation from critics, Fleet Foxes set the bar high for their sophomore album. The alt-folk band was up the challenge. Helplessness Blues is an album that is sweet and comforting at its worst and inspiring at its best.” – Ani Vrabel

3. Gruff Rhys
Hotel Shampoo

May 3

The Super Furry Animals’ Welsh frontman has already released his third solo album, Hotel Shampoo in the U.K.—along with two brilliantvideos it comes out on Wichita Records on May 3 here.

4. Manchester Orchestra
Simple Math

May 10

“Part of what made Mean Everything to Nothing, Manchester Orchestra’s sophomore coming out party, such a dynamic and attention-grabbing effort was that Andy Hull seemed hell-bent on tackling every trademarked form of rock composition, and there was a winsome, borderline tongue-in-cheek quality to the whole affair. With Simple Math, Manchester Orchestra seem to have figured out what sort of band they want to be.”—Ryan Reed

5. Okkervil River
I Am Very Far

May 10

Give Will Sheff credit. Handed a big budget for his latest album, the frontman for Austin indie rockers Okkervil River may have single-handedly propped up the Texas economy. On several songs, he’s deployed a 13-piece musical army consisting of two drummers, two pianists, two bassists, and seven guitarists, all playing live at the same time. Several other songs incorporate a string section, a woodwind section, a ghostly choir, and a tympani. It’s an audacious, ambitious, maximalistic approach, and in the process Sheff has reinvented the sound of his band. Longtime fans may be initially dismayed, but the results are dazzling just the same.” – Andy Whitman

6. Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi

May 17

Danger Mouse  has already released albums with Cee-Lo Green, MF Doom, Sparklehorse and James Mercer. Of course an Italian composer was next. Brian Burton and Daniele Luppi enlisted many of the musicians who played on the original Ennio Morricone spaghetti Western scores, along with singers Norah Jones and Jack White.

7. The Elected
Bury Me In My Rings

May 17

We haven’t had a Rilo Kiley album since 2007’s Under the Blacklight, but Blake Sennett is back, singing, producing and playing most of the instruments on the third album from The Elected.

8. David Bazan
Strange Negotiations

May 17

We’ve been fans of David Bazan since that first Pedro the Lion album back in 1998, naming him one of the 100 Best Living Songwriters. His solo releases have only made us stand by that proclamation.

9. Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside
Dirty Radio

May 24

We fell in love with Sallie Ford at SXSW this year to the point of making her and the band a last-minute addition to our Austin party line-up. Her old-school rockabilly and powerful voice is simply captivating.

10. Death Cab for Cutie
Codes and Keys

May 24

Ben Gibbard  & co. shot the video for their first single off Codes and Keys in one take while the Internet watched. We’re just glad to see indie rock’s biggest success story hasn’t started phoning it in.

11. The Vaccines
What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?

May 24

One of the latest rock ‘n’ bloody roll bands from the U.K. will be invading America in late May with its fair share of catchy melodies, somber lyrics and Strokes comparisons.

12. My Morning Jacket

May 24

When I asked Jim James what his new album sounded like, he said that where the last one was fizzy like sprite, this one was more like milk or water. I don’t pretend to know exactly what that means. There seems to be plenty of fizz on the title track, but there’s no denying the smoothness of My Morning Jacket.

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