The 10 Albums We’re Most Excited About in May

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The 10 Albums We’re Most Excited About in May

It’s been a bit of a task trying to figure out what albums are still coming out as planned. Release dates have been shifting around due to the pandemic, but despite many delays until late summer and fall, next month will still bring us quite a few exciting releases. Among the albums slated for May are two critically-acclaimed giants of their respective genres—Jason Isbell and Perfume Genius—plus fresh faces poised to release their first full-lengths—Buscabulla and Nation of Language. If you need something with a tangible date to look forward to, look no further than this list of our most highly-anticipated albums of May.

May 1

Notable May 1 releases: Car Seat Headrest: Making a Door Less Open, Diet Cig: Do You Wonder About Me?. Pure X: Pure X, Happyness: Floatr, Country Westerns: Country Westerns, V.V. Lightbody: Make a Shrine or Burn It, Caleb Landry Jones: The Motherstone, Surf Rock is Dead: Existential Playboy, Houses of Heaven: Silent Places

May 8

Choir Boy: Gathering Swans
Dais Records

Salt Lake City’s Choir Boy dropped their debut album Passive With Desire in 2016, and they’ve been honing their gothic new wave and synth-pop ever since, becoming a staple touring band with the likes of Cold Cave, Ceremony and Soft Kill. Lead singer Adam Klopp has a tender voice you won’t forget—when someone nails the poignant, melodramatic croon, you cling to them for life. On their second album Gathering Swans, Choir Boy sounds bigger, and it feels like Klopp has more room to roam free with his vocals more at the forefront of the mix. “Complainer” is possibly the best Choir Boy song to date. His voice flutters with heart-rendering Morrissey-isms, which is great because you don’t have to deal with the unnecessary guilt of listening to the Smiths leader. Another standout “Toxic Eye” is the kind of pensive, downtempo goth-pop to wind down an epic night out or a spectacularly dejected night in. —Lizzie Manno

Buscabulla: Regresa
Ribbon Music

Regresa, the title of Buscabulla’s anticipated debut, references duo Raquel and Luis Alfredo’s 2018 return to their native Puerto Rico after living in New York. Together, they make organic electronica with reggaeton inflections that is equal parts tense and starkly immediate. Through the drumline beat of “Vámono” and the tribal shimmer of “NTE,” Buscabulla ruminate on coming back to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, amidst growing income inequality and steadfast Boriqua traditions that persevere. Nothing sounds like this right now and it’s informed by a unique journey and distinct musical reconnaissance that begs for your ears. Watch the trailer for the album’s accompanying mini-doc for a preview into their fascinating world. —Adrian Spinelli

More notable May 8 releases: Hayley Williams: Petals for Armor, Norah Jones: Pick Me Up Off the Floor, Melenas: Dias Raros, Cafe Racer: Shadow Talk, I Break Horses: Warnings, Ric Wilson & Terrace Martin: They Call Me Disco, Shiner: Schadenfreude

May 15

Perfume Genius: Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
Matador Records

Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas is one of modern pop’s true boundary-pushing juggernauts. Each of his four albums—but particularly the last two: 2014’s Too Bright and 2017’s No Shape—rattled with sonic magnificence and lyrics of deep trauma, the fierce reclamation of space and the transcendence of love and intimacy. Hadreas is fresh off a collaborative dance piece with choreographer Kate Wallich and The YC dance company, and he’s now poised to bring that vulnerable physicality to his first Perfume Genius album in three years: Set My Heart on Fire Immediately. While No Shape saw him lean into bold, adventurous art-pop, Set My Heart sees him embrace American rock ‘n’ roll glory. It still preserves his enthralling tenderness and idiosyncratic pop palette, but it adds torched guitars and classic rock melodies. Songs like “Describe” are led by a dreamy, prevailing calm while still shaking the ground with guitar distortion. It’s Hadreas at his most abstract and carefree. —Lizzie Manno

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit: Reunions
Southeastern Records

We could use a little Jason Isbell right now. Thankfully, the Alabama-bred/Nashville-based country singer and beloved songwriter is right on time with a new album. His next project with his ace country-rock band the 400 Unit, Reunions, arrives next month, the follow-up to 2017’s critically adored The Nashville Sound. That album garnered them new attention in corners where they may have been previously unknown, but Isbell’s longtime fans have been lapping up his music for the better part of 20 years. He’s never really made a bad album, either with his band or solo, so the bar is high for Reunions. So far, the singles have been both thoughtful and delicate (“Dreamsicle” and “Only Children” are introspective and nostalgic) as well as powerful and politically forthcoming in the vein of “White Man’s World” (“What’ve I Done To Help” and “Be Afraid” both examine our current moment with criticism and bite). Isbell is one of the most consistent songwriters of his day, and his music always has a lot of heart. Indeed, the hopes are high for this new album, but I have faith in Jason Isbell. He knows his way around a country song. —Ellen Johnson

Moses Sumney: græ (Part Two)

On part one of his double album græ, Moses Sumney embodied the graceful disregard for genre constraints. Much like his 2017 debut Aromanticism, Sumney blends R&B, jazz, gospel and rock with his velvety falsetto leading the charge, albeit a sensual and sensitive one. The first chapter of græ was a celebration of nonconformity, and a repudiation of any framework that seeks to marginalize or draw clear lines in the sand. Sumney’s sultry vocals were accompanied by cascading harp, synths, drum machines and horns, culminating in a regal, ribbon-like sway. The first 12 tracks were an emotional revelation—parsing the intricacies of intimacy, masculinity and structural hurdles in many forms—and as for the eight-track part two, we can only expect more candid confessions and free-spirited sounds. —Lizzie Manno

ATO Records

Nick Hakim’s music is just as enigmatic as himself. His 2017 Paste Studio live performance might be the most delightfully weird session we’ve ever broadcast. Sitting on a stool with a mic in his hand, Hakim focusedly fiddled with a tape machine through amazing lo-fi renditions of songs from his breakthrough debut, Green Twins, and only when it was done, did he seem to notice that he’d been surrounded by Paste’s collection of tapes and recordings; he proceeded to wonder in amazement. It was a fitting moment for the eccentric who writes vivid explorations of the mind’s eye, like his latest single, “CRUMPY”, which even features Mac DeMarco on guitar?! No doubt about it, Hakim is ready to take us on another trip. —Adrian Spinelli

More notable May 15 releases: Charli XCX: How I’m Feeling Now, Sleaford Mods: All That Glue, Mourning [A] BLKstar: The Cycle, Retirement Party: Runaway Dog, Public Practice: Gentle Grip, The Magnetic Fields: Quickies, I’m Glad It’s You: Every Sun, Every Moon, American Trappist: The Gate, Jess Williamson: Sorceress

May 22

Nation of Language: Introduction, Presence

Sometimes a synth-pop song’s only purpose is to make you feel alive on the dance floor, and that’s fine. You can still feel a deep emotional connection as you latch onto its pulse and forget your worries. But the kind of life-affirming synth-pop that makes you cry—think giants like Robyn or LCD Soundsystem—are the artists that will ruin your life (in the best possible way). New York City’s Nation of Language have been releasing singles since 2016, and their lead singer and songwriter Ian Devaney recently collaborated with Strokes drummer Fab Moretti on a project called machinegum for an album last year. It was obvious, even several years ago, that Devaney was an unusually consistent songwriter—every song was capable of making you pull over your car for a quick sob or triumphantly stick your head out of the sunroof with outstretched arms. His ’80s-indebted electro-pop meshed beautifully with the dance-punk sounds of the city’s yesteryear, and his songs had an emotional immediacy that was unrivaled. Now ready to unveil their debut full-length, which contains some of those incredible early singles, it feels like Nation of Language have more of a right to claim the “soaring synth-pop” mantle than anyone else right now. —Lizzie Manno

Katie Von Schleicher: Consummation
Ba Da Bing!

Paste named Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Katie Von Schleicher the Best of What’s Next back in 2017 on the tail of her album Shitty Hits’ release. It’s a sturdy indie effort, full of bouncy melodies and Von Schleicher’s emotions laid bare. “Paranoia,” a ghostly glance inside the swirling unease of an anxious mind, is the stand-out track. Since 2017, Von Schleicher has stayed busy playing in labelmate Lady Lamb’s touring band. On her next solo effort, Consummation, however, she seems to have settled into her own groove even more. These songs, while tricky to grasp at times, are much more assured. Lead single “Caged Sleep” is a blast sonically, while it taps into that same eerie underworld that “Paranoia” did back in 2017, diving deep into the vivid and frequently spooky land of dreams. “Wheel” is a lot spunkier, the kind of steady indie-rock jam you might sway along to at a festival (remember those?). The album itself has many different moods, but Von Schleicher masters them all with her keen rock sensibilities. While we had our eye on her back in 2017, Consummation could be Katie Von Schleicher’s biggest jumping-off point yet. —Ellen Johnson

Woods: Strange To Explain

“Where Do You Go When You Dream?” Woods singer Jermey Earl asks on the lead single of the Brooklyn folk band’s 11th LP. It’s a question we all seem to be asking ourselves a lot more these days, as our dreams have had to suffice as our only true journeys out of the house in the desperate times we’re living in. To record Strange To Explain, Woods headed to Marin County’s bucolic Panoramic House Studio and the whirling keys and strings of songs like “Strange To Explain” and the aforementioned “Where Do You Go When You Dream?” gently transport you to that Pacific coast stretch of lush greenery flanked by Stinson Beach and Mt. Tamalpais. Whether or not Earl, Jarvis Taveniere and company were trying to make an escapist record, this is precisely what we need right now. —Adrian Spinelli

More notable May 22 releases: The 1975: Notes on a Conditional Form, Badly Drawn Boy: Banana Skin Shoes, Tim Burgess: I Love the New Sky, Indigo Girls: Look Long, Steve Earle & the Dukes: Ghosts of West Virginia

May 29

Bad Moves: Untenable
Don Giovanni Records

Back in 2018, D.C. rockers Bad Moves, who’ve been at it since 2015, appeared on our list of the best Washington D.C. bands of the moment. Two years later, their placement on such a list remains more than worthy. They released their punchy debut album Tell No One that year on Don Giovanni, which alerted us to their appearance at 2019’s SXSW. Tell No One thrived on shreddy power-pop, and it appears there’ll be plenty more where that came from on Untenable. Bad Moves make music about begrudgingly growing up and then finally treating adulthood like a party. Their punk music may be a protest of boredom itself. —Ellen Johnson

More notable May 29 releases: The Killers: Imploding the Mirage, Deerhoof: Future Teenage Cave Artists, Baths: Pop Music / False B-Sides II, Chrisitan Lee Hutson: Beginners, Honey Lung: Post Modern Motorcade Music, 2nd Grade: Hit To Hit, Jaime Wyatt: Neon Cross

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