Alan Cross' weekly music picks: Warming up with Lemonheads and Ariana Grande

Now that the drunken polar vortex has been sent home — for now, anyway — we can actually sample some new tunes without our earbuds freezing in our heads.

Here’s what to listen to this week.

1. Ariana Grande, Thank U, Next

If it seems like we’ve been talking about this album for years, you’re right. Work began with Pharrell Williams in 2016. During that time, she lost her boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, to a drug overdose, and had an engagement to SNL’s Pete Davidson which lasted about as long as a Snapchat picture. On the positive side, two advance singles from the album broke all kinds of streaming records on Spotify. The title track is based on a quip Pete made on SNL, so fans — they want to be called “Arianators” — will spend the next few days looking for more clues about the relationship within the lyrics. (HINT: The last track on the album is entitled Break UP for Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored. Fun fact: Ariana will not appear on the Grammy Awards because she says producers “insulted her” in some way.)

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2. UB40, For the Many

It’s been six years since one of Britain’s most popular reggae bands has released an album and comes ahead of UB40’s 40th-anniversary tour which begins next weekend. For the Many, the group’s 19th album, was financed in part by a PledgeMusic campaign. (Gee, I hope they got their money …) The second single, You Haven’t Called, was written 20 years ago for a solo album by member Duncan Campbell. They continue to like the song so much that they’ve recorded it for this record.

3. Lemonheads, Varshons II

Wait: The Lemonheads are still with us? Evan Dando is still upright? Yes to both, although you’re excused if you thought the group had gone defunct. After all, the last album, Varshons, a semi-bizarre collection of covers (Leonard Cohen, Christina Aguilera, and, er, uber-weirdo GG Allin) came out 10 years ago. As you might guess, Varshons 2 features more covers, this time from The Eagles, Nick Cave, and Lucinda Williams. The first single was originally by New Jersey indie comes Yo La Tengo.

4. HEALTH, Vol. 4:: Slaves of Fear

Here’s some L.A. noise rock that will knock the snow from your roof. That being said, this fourth album is a little more accessible than some of their past stuff. And yes, there are supposed to be two colons in the title.

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5. Bob Mould, Sunshine Rock

When Bob was at the helm of Husker Du and then Sugar, they were two of the loudest bands I’d ever seen. These days tinnitus is taking its toll — he’s hopeful for a cure — but Bob continues to rock out, albeit it at a lower volume. If you’re unfamiliar with Bob’s oeuvre, remember that Dave Grohl worships the man.

London Calling – Fat White Family, Feet

Fat White Family — terrible name, that — is a provocative art-rock outfit from Brixton, David Bowie’s old neighbourhood. They love being confrontational with their antics — many drugs, including heroin and ayahuasca, Nazi references, strong anti-Margaret Thatcher references — which has won support from fans looking for a little more anarchy in rock. Their new album, Serf’s Up (that “e” makes all the difference, doesn’t it?), will be out April 19. Let the polarization continue.

Undiscovered Gem – Desire, Tears From Heaven

This Montreal electro-pop group has been together for about a decade, placing a couple of songs in Ryan Gosling movies in the process. A crossover project with Chromatics also resulted in a song showing up in the reboot of Twin Peaks.

Throwback Track – Beautiful South, Song for Whoever

I’ll remember the Beautiful South for two things: (1) They were the worst interview subjects I ever encountered (the less said about that, the better); and (2) they were fantastic songwriters of quirky pop. When The Housemartins disbanded due to “musical similarities,” several members regrouped as the Beautiful South and released a stellar debut album, Welcome to the Beautiful South in 1989. This single turned to a massive hit back in the day on both sides of the Atlantic.

Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and Q107, and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s Ongoing History of New Music Podcast now on Apple Podcast or Google Play

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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