David Byrne, The Decemberists, James Blake And More: A New Music Mix For February 2018

<p>(Photo: courtesy of the artist)</p>
<p>David Byrne</p>
Photo: David Byrne publicity photo
David Byrne

Sure, we love music. I love music. You (presumably) love music. We no doubt agree on its importance; its ability to express and inspire and (quite literally) pull us through tough times; its status as, ideally, something more than mere entertainment (though that's part of the equation, too).

David Byrne insists that there are other reasons to be cheerful -- a lot of them, in fact. That's the basic premise of a presentation he gave last month at The New School in New York, and of a series he plans to give (for free) on an upcoming European tour. It's not without extra reason-- as it turns out his Reasons to Be Cheerful is intended to be an on-going multimedia project, the musical portion of which arrives March 9 in the form of "American Utopia." It's his first solo album in 14 years and lead single "Everybody's Coming to My House" boasts a co-write from Brian Eno and guest appearances from Sampha and TTY. I feel happier already.

Byrne's return is just part of what at this point seems to be a monthly renaissance of artists we haven't heard from in a while. Also here is a rather epic new cut ("Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow") from The Damned, who return later this year with their first record in a decade.

It's been eight years since we last had a proper release from Tracey Thorn. (2012's "Tinsel & Lights" was a holiday record, so it doesn't count.) That changes on March 2 with the release of a new record called "Record." The former Everything But the Girl singer recently half-joked that it consists of "nine feminist bangers." Lead single "Queen" feels like a great start.

Also newly returned after a five-year absence is Nightmares on Wax. The long-running act from electronic producer and composer George Evelyn is back with "Shape The Future" and what feels like a signature collection of downtempo beats and tasty samples. Also here this month: the returns of familiar names The Decemberists, Superchunk, Franz Ferdinand, Talib Kweli, The James Hunter Six and more.

One name that's been around a while, though you've likely never heard it because he just released a debut recording a couple of years ago, is Robert Finley. The 63-year-old has returned quickly with a follow-up, teaming with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach for a release out on his newly-christened Easy Eye Sound label called "Goin' Platinum!" By definition it's an authentic slice of Southern soul after the New Orleans-based Finley spent decades honing his skills in less high-profile situations.

He'll be coming to Denver's Paramount Theatre April 5 as part of Auerbach's Easy Eye Sound Review Tour. Shannon & the Clams will be there, too, and they're here as well with a fantastic new cut called "The Boy." It's the first we've heard from the new record "Onion," out the 16th of this month.

"But," you say, "I've heard of all of these. I love the unknown!" You're in luck. Lots of fresh faces and relative newcomers here, too. Houston's Khraungbin (at the Bluebird Theater April 23), Detroit's Anna Burch and London's Dream Wife have all announced themselves with new music and have already had a lot of people talking.

It's still early on for Shopping, Hinds, Ten Fé, and Nabihah Iqbal too, and you shouldn't miss them among this month's collection either. Needless to say, it bodes well for the rest of the year when there's already so many new discoveries worth being excited about.

Also here of note:

  • Covers! Willis Earl Beal's re-creation of Simple Minds' classic "Don't You (Forget About Me)" is an absolute showstopper. Meanwhile, Moon Duo takes on Suicide's "Jukebox Babe," and James Blake gives a stirring read of Don McLean's "Vincent."
  • Locals! Last of the Easy Riders and Blake Brown & the American Dust Choir both offer up fantastic cuts from releases out later this month. There are OpenAir Sessions coming soon for each, too.

Lots more to be had here too. But don't just read about it -- set to shuffle and blast away! 37 reasons to be cheerful in your waking life.