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Arts Preview

David Bowie, Justin Timberlake are stars of pop music's spring

Both are releasing new albums after hiatuses. In other highlights, Iceage plays Echoplex, Rokia Traore releases 'Beautiful Africa' and Coachella is Coachella.

March 08, 2013|By Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic

The winter hibernation is nearing its end. Bleary-eyed musicians are crawling out of their windowless studios after months — and in some cases, years — of isolated dream-capturing. The bottomless espresso cup awaits, and a queue next to the stereo is stacked high with new sounds.

The spring 2013 pop music season promises grand returns, highly anticipated debuts and assured follow-ups. Early in the season arrive both David Bowie's "The Next Day" and Justin Timberlake's "The 20/20 Experience." Veterans including Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton and Depeche Mode will make a return play at the spotlight; modern-day guitar bands including French rockers Phoenix, pop-rockers Paramore, young guitar genius Marnie Stern and soul-dance group Fitz & the Tantrums will offer new work. Country superstars Blake Shelton, the Band Perry and Kenny Chesney will release new records — and promising young voice Kacey Musgraves might just eclipse them all with "Same Trailer, Different Park."

SPRING ARTS PREVIEW: Art | Pop | Country

Hip-hop? Lil Wayne will make a new argument on his forthcoming "I Am Not a Human Being II," supreme storyteller Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan returns, and his food-rapping inheritor Action Bronson will drop new work too. L.A. hip-hop collective Odd Future's founder Tyler, the Creator will try to prove on "Wolf" that his skills can equal his huge personality. Colleague Earl Sweatshirt will offer proof of his promise on his major label debut. Highlights:

David Bowie

Can the artist pull off a season-stealing return after his impressive disappearing act during much of the 21st century? David Bowie, 66, shocked his fan base in February when he announced a new studio album called "The Next Day," his first in 10 years. It's a rich return, filled with the kind of smarts, imagination and drama that has typified his most resonant work. His 26th (give or take) studio album was produced by longtime collaborator Tony Visconti, and their approach on "The Next Day" is heavy with both guitars and nostalgia. The Thin White Duke sings of the stars and cosmos with typical vigor, though the moments of restrained, transcendent beauty are just as convincing.

David Bowie, "The Next Day" (Columbia/Sony), Tuesday.

Justin Timberlake

Back to music after a sabbatical spent acting and starring in "Saturday Night Live" parody videos, pop singer Justin Timberlake's highly anticipated return hasn't been without early stumbles. The first single, "Suit and Tie," was received with deserved ambivalence, though the second, an 8-minute jam called "Mirrors," suggested a return to form. The success of the entirety of "20/20," though, will rest as much on the muscle-bound shoulders of longtime producer Timbaland as on Timberlake. The former chart ruler has been largely absent from the charts of late, so "20/20" will succeed or fail based on the team's unproven ability to gracefully mature as artists. Regardless, JT will no doubt trend for much of the season due to both "20/20" and an impending co-headlining tour with Jay-Z — which makes a stop at the Rose Bowl on July 28.

Justin Timberlake, "The 20/20 Experience" (RCA), March 19.

SPRING ARTS PREVIEW:  Architecture | Dance | Theater

Iceage

Iceage is four young punks from Denmark whose most recent album, "You're Nothing," will scare even the most dismissive of old Discharge and Saccharine Trust fans. Lead singer Elias Rønnenfelt has a terrible voice — awesomely so — and couldn't hit a proper note if his left pinkie depended on it. He grunts as he spits out lyrics and bangs out guitar chords, turns sour at the slightest provocation. Musically, the band's just plain weird; oblong structures keep everything off balance. Skeptical old punks who bemoan an imagined stasis in the music of their youth haven't been to an Iceage show. Live, it's clear that the old stamping ground's secure, and the proof will arrive in Echo Park.

Echoplex, 7 p.m. March 29. $12-$14. attheecho.com

Rokia Traoré

Malian singer Rokia Traoré has an exquisite voice and an even more lovely way around a phrased melody. On her delicately crafted "Beautiful Africa," the French-singing chanteuse offers West African guitar pop, smooth but funky, not soft, suggestive of a more rhythmically dense Sade. It's the kind of record that will prove your musical mettle during an impress-your-friends dinner party, while resting on a yoga mat or during a Sunday morning space-out. "Beautiful Africa," produced by longtime PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish, confirms the album title's truth.

Rokia Traore, "Beautiful Africa" (Nonesuch), April 9.

SPRING ARTS PREVIEW:  Jazz | Classical 

Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival

This year's two-weekend kickoff to the festival season features headliners Phoenix, Blur and Red Hot Chili Peppers and an undercard that will include 130-odd others. Potential highlights? "Harlem Shake" creator Baauer, Grimes, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Rodriguez, the Postal Service, Wu-Tang Clan, the xx, Lou Reed and New Order. Potential breakouts? Seth Troxler, Tame Impala, Father John Misty, 3BallMTY, DIIV and TNGHT, among others.

Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, Indio. April 12-14, April 19-21. Sold out.

randall.roberts@latimes.com

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