Most places in the world, summertime is easy living: No school, no snow and no real responsibilities beyond mowing the lawn every couple of weeks. Here in Houston, summer is a little more intense. Triple-digit temperatures, hurricane warnings and Astros baseball present an annual threat to our city's sanity that it's important to take seriously.
Naturally, Rocks Off turns to music to eliminate summer stress. New music, especially -- it's fresh and exciting, and listening to it makes us feel younger and hipper, even when the artists are old and dorky.
From the air-conditioned comfort of the great indoors, we've helpfully compiled the following list of ten new music releases scheduled for this summer that will be our first line of defense as the thermometer and Astros' loss column both creep past 100.
Think of these tunes as sonic sunblock:
10. Nas, Life is Good Release Date: July 17
The cover art alone for Nas' new record, "Life is Good," is provocative enough to have us salivating over this release. It pictures the hip-hop legend sitting alone in the club with what appears to be ex-wife Kelis' wedding dress, lost in thought.
"Introspective" is a good look for Nas, and it's got us pretty excited to hear what he has to say. Life is Good promises to be a mature effort that confronts both the past and the future. Meanwhile, we're stuck in the present, waiting for it to drop.
9. Toadies, Play.Rock.Music Release Date: July 31
Ft. Worth's favorite sons proved they've still got it during a couple of Houston performances last year, and now we're ready for more. That works out nicely, too, because the Toadies have a new album, Play.Rock.Music., due out at the end of next month. Judging by the record's first single, "Summer of the Strange," it'll deliver a welcome dose of the group's inimitably dark, heavy, and hooky grunge to help us through the heatwaves.
Seems reasonable to expect that we may get a preview of some of the new material during the band's co-headlining tour with Helmet, which kicks off here at House of Blues on July 20.
8. A$AP Rocky, LongLiveA$AP Release Date: July 4
Harlem's A$AP Rocky took his love for the Houston sound nationwide last year with his monster mixtape, LiveLoveA$AP, and was rewarded with his very own screwed-up version chopped by OG Ron C. Now it's time to see if he can successfully spread his appreciation for all things slowed n' thowed to his major-label debut.
If the rest of the disc is anything like his single "Goldie," which dropped in April, it's going to be banging in a lot of trunks 'round these parts real soon. Get ready to put your 'H' up... for Harlem and Houston. A$AP makes it hard to tell 'em apart sometimes.
7. The Dirty Heads, Cabin By the Sea Release Date: June 19 (out now)
The Dirty Heads showed themselves to be a terrific sunshine-and-spliffs band this spring with an energetic set on the second stage at Buzzfest. Now that the sun is poised to turn against us for three and a half months, the group's new album could prove a necessity in the delicate battle to keep vibes good.
The Heads manage to cram in a bit of every stoney, summery genre that you hate to admit you love into the album, from reggae to rap to acoustic alt-rock. It's a record that takes your ears on a mini-vacation to Huntington Beach, which is frankly pretty radical. Be sure to have the lyrics memorized by the time they roll into the Woodlands in August with Sublime with Rome and Matisyahu.
6. Cypress Hill & Rusko, Cypress Hill x Rusko Release Date: July 17
Despite their love for the skunk, the Dirty Heads have a few bales of weed yet to burn before they can credibly challenge the Swisher Sweet supremacy of the hip-hoppers in Cypress Hill. And judging by his addled outbursts recently at Stereo Live, dubstep delinquent Rusko may actually lap them in the race to rehab. We don't want to claim that the new collaborative EP between Rusko and B-Real's boys is the product of altered states, but that's kind of the only connection between the two camps we could come up with.
Cypress Hill aren't the first established stars to hop on to the dubstep bandwagon, but tracks like "Roll It, Light It" are a damn sight more successfully executed than the songs Korn put together with Skrillex. The group has never been shy about mixing up genres (Remember "Rock Superstar?"), and their pairing with Rusko is inspired enough to pique our interest. When it drops next month, we'll be holdin'.
5. Rush, Clockwork Angels Release Date: June 12 (out now)
After releasing about a billion albums and touring the world countless times over the past 40 years or so, Rush could probably be forgiven for coasting. The band's legion of loyal fans would almost certainly accept a middling 2012 album release in exchange for the opportunity to hear "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" live one more time. In keeping with its own tradition of melting expectations with lasers, however, Rush put out its most ambitious record in decades this month.
Clockwork Angels is an original concept album set in some kind of steampunk dystopian future--we're talking classic Neil Peart narration here, with a modern twist. The group's trademark virtuosity is backed by surprising muscle for a trio that's rocketing toward their 60s. If you're into Rush (or were), this isn't one to skip. The engaging new material figures to feature heavily in the band's set list on their upcoming tour, which wraps up at Toyota Center on December 2.
4. Muse, The 2nd Law Release Date: September 18
Britrock superstars Muse have promised something radically different with their sixth album, The 2nd Law, due out at the very end of summer. How different? Well, the official album trailer is drenched in dubstep, for starters. The sound of mechanized bass annihilation would seem to fit well on an album potentially named after one of Isaac Asimov's laws of robotics, but is Muse really jumping into dubstep? Really?
Well... maybe. Bandleader Matt Bellamy told NME recently that the new album would indeed incorporate elements of electronic music and even brass wind instruments. Uh huh. What in God's name is that even going to sound like? And could it possibly be good? We're looking forward to finding out.
3. Baroness, Yellow & Green Release Date: July 17
Baroness' crashing, metallic live set may have seemed a tad soft compared to the sensory overload provided by headliners Meshuggah when we caught them at House of Blues in April, but songs like "A Horse Called Golgotha" from 2009's Blue Record could soon be considered the band's "heavy period" once their new album drops next month.
Frontman John Baizley has already promised that Yellow & Green will tone down the aggressiveness, a rare admission coming from a metal guy. Baroness' experimental bent should keep things interesting, however, as the new song "March to Sea" illustrates. Few rock bands these days, heavy or otherwise, are churning out guitar lines as pretty or intricate as this.
2. Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don't Release Date: July 31
We don't know much about Rick Ross' fifth solo studio album except that it's called God Forgives, I Don't, it comes out next month, and we will definitely be picking it up. Ricky Rozay is pretty much running the South these days, if not the whole fucking rap universe, so this is not one that's going to be possible to miss.
Love him or hate him -- and more than a few local concertgoers are probably feeling a tad ambivalent -- the Maybach Music Group chairman will be topping the charts again quite soon. Prepare yourselves.
1. Dinosaur Jr, I Bet on Sky Release Date: September 17
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
New Dinosaur Jr. albums are always a cause for celebration because they mean more guitar solos, more volume, and more all-around alt-rock perfection, basically. These grunge survivors are simply terrific at fusing distorted guitar fury with pop songwriting to craft the kind of tunes that one uses to demarcate the years of his or her life.
If you don't pick up I Bet on Sky in September, you're risking the creation of a future version of yourself with no lasting musical attachments to 2012. That's not very desirable, so go ahead and check this one out when it's released.