As you shake off the dust and disease from Coachella, take a listen to a new week of beautiful alternative noise, thrilling debuts, decisive hip-hop, and musical reinvention. These albums will give you a reason to roll down your windows and play as loud as you can.
SKIP: The Steve Miller Band, "Let Your Hair Down"
Steve Miller continues his blues odyssey (you could argue that his entire career has been a blues odyssey) with his second album of covers. "Let Your Hair Down" follows 2010's "Bingo!" with more studied takes on the classic Chicago music. Miller is a master, and his love is real. Still, there's only so many tasteful blues remakes I can handle in one year. I'm skipping this one and waiting for Steve Miller to write some originals.
PLAY: The Gorillaz, "The Fall"
Aside from being the best iPad promotion EVER, the Gorillaz's fourth album is also the ultimate road-trip soundtrack. Recorded in one month during the U.S. leg of the band's "Plastic Beach" tour, "The Fall" replaces singles with instrumental soundscapes. In the hands of a hack, this collection of iPad app experiments would be an insufferable mess. However, Damon Albarn has the chops, curiosity, and cojones to pull of an album that's as trippy as it is engaging. The sound of Albarn's America rolling past his tour bus window (with traveling companion Bobby Womack joining in for a soulful guest spot on "Bobby in Phoenix"), "The Fall" is a modern-day 8-track tape. It's full of all the open spaces and contradictions that both Gorillaz and America possess. Enjoy the ride — wherever it takes you.
PLAY: Soundtrack, "Glee: The Music presents The Warblers"
For all of you unable to stomach more "Glee"-ification of your favorite pop songs, you may have mixed feelings about the Warblers, the hit show's faux a cappella group. Your biggest gripe will probably be that the album is not a cappella. Stings, drums, and synths sneak their way onto the tracks. Still, actor-singer Darren Criss leads his Dalton Academy boys (and the real-life university a cappella group supporting him, the Tufts Beelzebubs) through some pretty astounding vocal arrangements. Purists, Dave Grohl, and Kings of Leon will continue to cringe as yet more pop music gets the "Glee" treatment. Still, fans of pop vocals will find the Warblers hard to resist. And I gotta say, Paul McCartney's "Silly Love Songs" is a lot easier to stomach with the '70s cheese turned off.
PLAY: The Belle Brigade, "The Belle Brigade"
Some groups' debuts are so positively perfect that it's hard to imagine a world where their music didn't exist. The Belle Brigade is a perfect band with perfect songs, and perfect harmonies. They sing like they share the same DNA (they do), they write infectious melodies like the masters (their granddad is film composer John Williams), and they play with the urgency of a young brother and sister who have the whole world riding on their success and their whole lives in front of them. My God, it just doesn't get any better than this. "The Belle Brigade" is the kind of album you wait for months to arrive. And it's the album that will keep you hanging on for that day when something better comes along.
PLAY: DJ Quik, "Book of David"
DJ Quik will be the first tell you that he has no interest in hip-hop anymore. And why should he? No one is still making hip-hop like DJ Quik. The Compton rapper and remixer's star has been overshadowed by those of his many West Coast contemporaries, including Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, who play to the camera and the mainstream. But DJ Quik is an artist first. "Book of David" is a welcome return to the funk and old school scratch and swagger missing from most of today's self-conscious hip-hop. DJ Quik says that he's turning to film scores from here on out. Let's hope that he's not serious. West Coast rap needs to him to keep it real.