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The xx, Nicki Minaj, Jack White, and the Most Anticipated Spring Music Albums

From moody UK rockers The xx to avant-garde rapper Nicki Minaj, all the must-listen music this season.

by Marlow Stern

Now that winter is behind us and the sun is creeping out, it’s time to repopulate your iPod with a soundtrack for the warmer months. From a sophomore album by moody British rockers The xx to avant-garde rapper Nicki Minaj’s upcoming record, here are the must-have albums for spring.

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Sleigh Bells

Reign of Terror  (Feb. 21, 2012)

The M.I.A.-mentored, Brooklyn-based noise pop duo of Derek E. Miller and Alexis Krauss, Sleigh Bells’s debut album, Treats, landed on many critics’ lists of the best of 2010. While relatively devoid of catchy club stompers, like “Tell ‘Em,” that peppered their first album, the follow-up Reign of Terror is a bit more guitar-driven and, according to the band, like “the sonic equivalent of a beautiful shotgun to the head.”

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Andrew Bird

Break It Yourself  (March 6, 2012)

A musical prodigy trained in the Suzuki method since age 4, singer-songwriter Andrew Bird draws on classical influences and employs a variety of instruments, including violin, guitar, and glockenspiel, to create delicate baroque pop ballads. His sixth solo studio album follows the critically acclaimed Noble Beast, released back in 2009, and The Guardian gave Break It Yourself five stars, writing, “It's the perfect album: tender without being sentimental, experimental yet accessible, utterly unique to its maker.”

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Grinderman

Grinderman 2 RMX  (March 13, 2012)

Fronted by Aussie music god Nick Cave and featuring three other members from his band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, this muscular, garage-rock spin-off formed in 2006 to escape the confines of their previous outfit. On March 13, they’ll release a remix of their sophomore album, Grinderman 2, which tackled themes of sex, death, and violence—as well as salvation and redemption—via roaring guitars, shrieking violins, Cave’s trademark, sexy baritone vocals, and loads of middle-aged swagger.

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Spiritualized

Sweet Heart Sweet Light  (March 19, 2012)

Sweet Heart Sweet Light will mark the seventh studio album for the acclaimed British space-rock group Spiritualized. It’s the long-awaited follow-up to 2008’s Songs in A&E—a melancholic, glorious album that confronted front man Jason Pierce’s near-death experience in 2005 battling advanced periorbital cellulitis with bilateral pneumonia. The band spent two years recording their latest psychedelic effort—and Pierce spent another year mixing it. “I always shy away from anything I write that sounds like a pop song, things like ‘Soul on Fire’ or ‘Stop Your Crying,’” Pierce told NME of the new album. “This time I’m embracing songs like that and seeing what happens. I’m not fighting it anymore.”

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Odd Future

The OF Tape Vol. 2  (March 20, 2012)

Led by much-ballyhooed emcee Tyler, The Creator, and breakout rap star Frank Ocean, this skater-boy hip-hop collective garnered notoriety last year for combining menacing rhymes and old-school flow with oft-messy (and riot-inducing) live performances. Case in point: Tyler recently had to shell out $8,000 for rearranging the world-famous Roxy on L.A.’s Sunset Boulevard back in December. The group will release its second mix tape—and fourth album—this March.

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Miike Snow

Happy to You (March 27, 2012)

After producing pop music for the likes of Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue, Swedes Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (who operated under the name Bloodshy & Avant) teamed up with American songwriter Andrew Wyatt to form the electropop outfit Miike Snow, whose 2009 self-titled debut, boasting the incredibly catchy—and remix friendly—single “Animal,” won over critics. Their sophomore effort promises more danceable tunes, including a guest appearance by fellow Swede Lykke Li.

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Nicki Minaj

Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded  (April 3, 2012)

Offering a unique blend of breakneck rap flow, pop orchestration, and Candy Land style, the Trinidad-born artist with the legendary, dress-exploding behind became an instant superstar following the release of her platinum-selling debut album, Pink Friday, that featured the chart-topping smash hit, “Super Bass.” After opening on tour for Britney Spears, romancing her Young Money labelmate Drake, and escorting a pope look-alike to the Grammys, the musician-cum-style muse will release her highly anticipated sequel in April.

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M. Ward

A Wasteland Companion  (April 10, 2012)

This Oregon-based singer-songwriter/guitarist is probably better known for his side projects—as the Him to Zooey Deschanel’s She in the sunny indie rock duo She & Him, as well as a member of the supergroup Monsters of Folk, alongside My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and Bright Eyes’s Conor Oberst. He’s also a talented musician (and virtuoso guitarist) in his own right, and A Wasteland Companion will mark his seventh proper studio album, following 2009’s critically acclaimed Hold Time. You can probably expect a vocal cameo from The New Girl on this album, as well.

Courtesy of Allo Darlin'

Allo Darlin'

Europe  (April 17, 202)

This Brit-pop quartet’s brand of buoyant tunes has been labeled “twee pop” by the music press, with bands like the Wedding Present serving as obvious influences. Their self-titled debut album was released to critical acclaim in 2010, and featured a vast array of instrumentation, including glockenspiel, ukulele, synths, and mandolin. With Elizabeth Morris’s airy-dreamy, layered vocals over the various instruments, Allo Darlin’ sounds like a cross between the delicate ballads of Beirut and the sunny grooves of Best Coast, which is a very good thing indeed.

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Jack White

Blunderbuss  (April 24, 2012)

Guitar maestro Jack White, who famously retired his acclaimed rock band the White Stripes in February 2011, has spent the past several years immersing himself in side projects the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather, which were a tad lackluster by comparison. Now the pasty Edward Scissorhands look-alike has decided to step out on his own with a solo album. “I’ve put off making records under my own name for a long time, but these songs feel like they could only be presented under my name,” White says of the new album. “These songs were written from scratch, had nothing to do with anyone or anything else but my own expression, my own colors on my own canvas.”

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The xx

Untitled  (Spring 2012)

The moody, self-titled debut by this terribly young British indie rock band was one of the best albums of 2009, and won the Mercury Music Prize, awarding the best album from the U.K. or Ireland. Everyone from acclaimed DJ Deadmau5 and Gorillaz to pop superstar Rihanna has remixed or sampled tunes from their stellar first effort. Of their sophomore album, the band told the Creator’s Project: “We've all come back off tour and been partying a bit more. We left when we were 17 and we missed out on that chunk of our lives when everyone else was partying. Club music has definitely had an influence on the next record.”