April flowers bring May showers, but they also bring lots and lots of new albums. May 4″s release slate has a little something for everyone, including the return of Michael Bolton (with help from Lady GaGa) and Toni Braxton, soaring Brooklyn rockers The Hold Steady, and indie darlings Broken Social Scene and New Pornographers. Country fans get the debut from Court Yard Hounds, formed by two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks, and a live album from the Zac Brown Band.
Michael Bolton, “One World One Love” (Universal). Can”t wait to hear some new Lady GaGa? You can hear her here. She collaborated with Bolton on a tune for this project when she was still Stephani Germanotta. Ne-Yo chips in to on a track.
Toni Braxton, “Pulse” (Atlantic): This is smooth-voiced Braxton”s first album for Atlantic. First single, ‘Yesterday,” featuring Trey Songs, reached No. 12 on Billboard”s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, making it her biggest radio hit in 10 years. See if the rest of the album is as strong.
Broken Social Scene, “Forgiveness Rock Record” (Arts & Crafts): Mighty indie Canadian collective”s fifth full set includes a tune featuring Feist, Amy Millan and Metric”s Emily Haines, making the first time the BSS collaborators have all appeared on the same song.
Zac Brown Band: “Pass the Jar: Zac Brown Band and Friends Live from the Fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta.” While fans wait patiently for a follow up to “The Foundation” from the best new artist Grammy winners, they can get their “Chicken Fried” on via this live set. Guests include Kid Rock, Shawn Mullins, Little Big Town and Joey + Rory.
Court Yard Hounds, “Court Yard Hounds” (Columbia): Sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire of the Dixie Chicks make music so sweet, you won”t even miss Natalie Maines. Read review here.
Deftones, “Diamond Eyes” (Reprise): Venerable California rock band returns with its first album since the horrific car accident that left bassist Chi Cheng”s still debilitated. While Cheng continues unable to record, the band put the album they were working on with Cheng on hold and brought in Sergio Vega, formerly of Quicksand, to fill in on this new set that presents a more accessible band than we”ve seen before.
8Ball & MJG, “10 Toes Down” (Push Mgmt/Grand Hustle/E1 Music): The guest list on the latest from these Memphis rappers reads like a who”s who including Snoop Dogg, T.I. (who signed the pair to his Grand Hustle label), and David Banner.
The Flaming Lips, “The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing ‘Dark Side of the Moon”” (Warner Bros.) Did you get all that? The only thing you really need to take away is this is Wayne Coyne & Co”s brilliant take on Pink Floyd”s classic 1973 album with a little help from some friends. The band will perform “Moon” from start to finish as Bonnaroo next month.
The Hold Steady, “Heaven is Whenever” (Vagrant): Brooklyn rockers” first set since 2008″s “Stay Positive” finds them staying true to their code: Often soaring pop gems saluting complicated love in that way that only they, their hero Bruce Springsteen, and Gaslight Anthem can.
Minus the Bear, “Omni” (Dangerbird): The Seattle-based indie quintet makes the move to a new label and explores new terrain with this set of erotically-themed tunes. Maybe we should call them Minus the Bare instead.
The New Pornographers, “Together” (Matador): Smart pop rock doesn”t come any sweeter or more melodic than the New Pornographers. Leader A.C. Newman puts the band back together once more for their fifth set, roping in vocalists Neko Case and Kathryn Calder for one more go-round. Influenced by tunes like the Monkees” “Daydream Believer,” “Together” is an unabashed pop valentine to the pleasures and pitfalls of love.
Josh Ritter, “So Runs the World Away” (Pytheas Recordings): We don”t know why singer/songwriter Josh Ritter isn”t a bigger star; he”s simply one of the best artists working today. Maybe that will all change with his new album, which is chock full of the usual hyper-literate, emotional song that deserve a much larger audience.