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Heavy hitters dominate new music in June

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Big names lead the new music pack for summer 2017, with many titles set to coincide with the season’s heavy touring schedule. Here’s a sneak peek at some of June’s most eagerly-awaited releases.

Chuck Berry – “Chuck” (Dualtone Music; June 9)

When rock and roll’s grand architect announced his first album of new material in nearly four decades on the occasion of his 90th birthday last fall, the message was met with a mix of astonishment and trepidation. Turns out it’s a surprisingly solid collection, recorded in St. Louis over a period of years with a band featuring a few of the legend’s offspring. A fitting farewell from an icon.

Lindsay Buckingham & Christine McVie – (Atlantic; June 9)

After years of promising a new Fleetwood Mac album, Buckingham and McVie (she rejoined the Mac in 2014 after a 16-year hiatus) have given us essentially that, minus Stevie Nicks. Fans of the duo’s respective solo albums will find much to enjoy here with Buckingham proving he’s lost none of his pop edge and McVie providing the musical grounding to some of his quirkier diversions.

Gov’t Mule – “Revolution Come…Revolution Go” (Fantasy; June 9)

Warren Haynes and company never fail to impress, and the Mule’s 10th studio release is possibly their most diverse to date. The band stretches out on a series of 12 new songs which range from the topical title track to “Traveling Tune” - a nod to the road-rockers’ lives and the fans who keep them moving. “Thorns of Life” is among the band’s most elaborately constructed songs. Guest appearances include Jimmie Vaughan on “Burning Point.”

Lady Antelbellum – “Heart Break” (Capitol Nashville; June 9)

No surprises here, but if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The Nashville trio’s seventh release certainly fits the melodic country/pop formula they established a decade ago – not that there’s anything wrong with that. The 13 carefully-crafted tracks on “Heart Break” sound tailor-made for contemporary country radio. This album follows Lady A’s longest break to date as the group hopes to snap the perceived fan-fatigue which followed 2014’s “747.”

Katy Perry – “Witness” (Capitol; June 9)

I just listened to Katy Perry’s fourth release and you know what? It’s really not that…um…it’s not too…it isn’t good. Speaking of fan fatigue … Perry has delivered an exhausting (too long by at least 20 minutes) and over-compressed mess of a record. Katy diehards will probably enjoy this hazily-produced and meditative affair but it’s tough slogging for us regular folk.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – “The Nashville Sound” (Southeastern Records; June 16)

The embodiment of contemporary Americana has readied his first record since 2015’s “Something More Than Free” – its 10 tracks touching on the current state of affairs in America as seen through the eyes of a new father. More of a rocking affair than his previous solo albums, “The Nashville Sound” demonstrates that lyrics and melody still rule for Isbell, who’s scheduled to play at least 75 shows through the end of the year in support of this album.

Styx – “The Mission” (UMe; June 16)

The band’s first album of new material since 2003 sounds exactly like … Styx. Recalling the group’s progressive pop heyday, “The Mission” is a spacey concept album of sorts, mixing synth- and guitar-driven rockers with ballads for a collection that sounds like it could have been released in 1981. Expect to hear some of it when Styx performs at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor on August 20 with REO Speedwagon and former Eagle Don Felder.

Jeff Tweedy – “Together At Last” (Anti/Epitaph; June 23)

True confessions time: I would purchase an album of Jeff Tweedy reading the ingredients from the side of a box of Pop-Tarts. Fortunately, this curious collection promises to be better than that. For the first time, Tweedy has compiled a series of solo acoustic recordings (captured at Wilco’s Loft studio in Chicago) culled from his vast catalog of Wilco songs and sprinkled in tracks from side projects Loose Fur and Golden Smog. One of the most consistently dazzling songwriters of the last three decades, Tweedy has enough great songs to fill a dozen more similarly-styled albums.

Iggy Azalea – “Digital Distortion” (Def Jam; June 30)

The Australian pop-rapper announced her second album in January 2015. Originally set for release a year ago, Azalea scrapped a bunch of material already in the can in order to start fresh following some personal trauma. A postponed tour allowed Azalea more time to mold and shape the tracks with the album’s eight producers. The record’s first singles - “Team” and “Switch” - reveal that the new material isn’t far removed from “Fancy,” the 2014 hit which put her on the map in America. 

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