March 3, 2017 at 6:17 am EDT | by Chris Gerard
SPRING ARTS 2017 — albums: Barry, Betty & Blondie
new albums spring 2017, gay news, Washington Blade

Aussie singer Betty Who will release her sophomore album ‘The Valley’ on Friday, March 24. (Photo courtesy RCA)

The new release schedule is light on megastars but heavy on new offerings by some of our most acclaimed musical artists. The details for most of the higher-profile new albums expected in 2017 have yet to be announced, but there is still a strong slate of new music coming our way over the new few months.

March starts off with the much-anticipated second album by English star Ed Sheeran, whose “÷” (pronounced “divide”) hits Friday, March 3. Also slated for release are the latest ambitious concept album by openly gay troubadour Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields’ “50 Song Memoir.”

Four of indie-pop’s most popular bands have new offerings on the way: the Shins on March 10 with “Heartworms,” then Spoon a week later with “Hot Thoughts,” and Real Estate unveils “In Mind,” the follow-up to their much-lauded 2014 release “Atlas.” Conor Oberst and his “Salutations” adds to the indie onslaught, sure to be a big weekend at area record stores.

Also due on March 17 is the 14th studio album by veteran alternative synthpop titans Depeche Mode, “Spirit.” Capital Pride veteran Betty Who unleashes “The Valley” on March 24. That same week comes “Damage and Joy,” the first new album by seminal alt-rockers Jesus & Mary Chain in 18 years.

March 25 brings the second solo album by Ladytron vocalist Marnie, “Strange Words and Weird Wars.” We can expect more glistening dance-pop as Goldfrapp offers their first album in four years, “Silver Eye,” on March 31. The same day the great Aimee Mann returns with her long-awaited new album, “Mental Illness,” the first release in five years for the gifted singer, songwriter and musician.

March is also highlighted by new albums from British boy band Take That, the always-funky Jamiroquai, Canadian dance/pop singer Nelly Furtado, a three-disc set of American standards by the one and only Bob Dylan, the latest by rapper Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan, and the much-anticipated new album by British up-and-comer Tinie Tempah. 

April 7 will be a big day for indie-rock fans as new albums by Father John Misty, the New Pornographers and Cold War Kids all arrive. The same day brings Future Islands, who will follow-up their synth pop classic, 2014’s “Singles,” with “The Far Field.” Electronica will also be well-represented as EDM duo the Chainsmokers, known for their smash “#SELFIE,” release their debut album “Memories … Do Not Open,” and the self-titled third album by openly gay Venezuelan DJ and electro-wizard Arca will also hit retailers.

The first new solo release by pop singer Michelle Branch in 14 years, “Hopeless Romantic,” also hits on April 7. So does the self-titled debut album by Nancy and Beth, a duo featuring Megan Mullally (Karen from “Will & Grace”) and Austin-based musician Stephanie Hunt.

On April 14, the freakishly talented Norwegian artist Sondre Lerche is back with his eighth album, “Pleasure.” The following week brings legendary crooner Barry Manilow and “This is My Town,” his first new album since he married his longtime partner in 2015.

Acclaimed Danish dream-rockers Mew, featuring the solemnly beautiful vocals of the incredible Jonas Bjerre, return on April 28 with “Visuals.” Also expected in April are new albums by the dynamic pop singer Bebe Rexha, veteran hard-rockers Incubus, and British post-punk revivalists Maxïmo Park.

The biggest event in April, of course, is the 10th annual Record Store Day held on Saturday, April 22. St. Vincent has been named Record Store Day Ambassador. Given the big anniversary and the meager and lackluster selection for the Black Friday Record Store Day last November, this year’s roster of new releases and exclusives is reportedly jammed with outstanding titles that could include — well, anything really. It shouldn’t be long before the list of Record Store Day titles starts leaking to the public, so keep your eyes peeled.

May kicks off with Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Blondie returning with their first album in three years with “Pollinator” on May 5. Queer-punk duo PWR BTTM unleashes their utterly distinct sound and vibe with their second album, “Pageant,” on May 12. Also on the 12th is the latest offering by the massively successful country-rock hybrid Zac Brown Band, “Welcome Home.” May 19 will be exciting for fans of electronic dance-pop, as the legendary duo Erasure, featuring the always-amazing vocals by gay pop icon Andy Bell and the electronic mastery of his longtime musical partner Vince Clarke, return with their 17th album, “World Be Gone.” It sounds like the album might be unusually political — the press release states the UK duo gives “the world and recent political upheavals a thoughtful examination.”

It may not be Fleetwood Mac, but Buckingham/McVie will be as close as you can get without Stevie Nicks. Their new album, the first ever from Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie as a duo (albeit backed by Mick Fleetwood and John McVie), is scheduled for May, but a firm release date has not yet been announced. Also expected in May is “Binary,” the latest from the independent folk-rock icon Ani DiFranco.

Stretching into June, the big release early in the month is the latest from country titans Lady Antebellum, “Heart Break,” which is set for June 9. There are a few big-name artists who had been expected to unveil new albums this spring but have yet to announce release dates, so at this point a spring release date could still be possible but some will not doubt stretch into the summer:  Sheryl Crow, Lorde, Drake, Charli XCX, Katy Perry, St. Vincent, Beck, Christina Aguilera, Gorillaz, Kanye West and Kelly Clarkson, among others.

And then there are always surprises. Bruce Springsteen has been sitting on a finished new studio album for a year and could drop it at any time. In this era of surprise and sudden releases instead of the traditional build-up, who knows what great new music might unexpectedly come our way this spring.

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