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Opinion: Upcoming 2014 winter, spring albums worth a listen

The cover art for "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" by Against Me! slated for release Jan. 21.

The cover art for “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” by Against Me! slated for release Jan. 21.

For record collectors, the great holiday hullabaloo of 2013 is well in our rearview mirror (the one on the car, or attached to the fixed-gear) which means it is a time for everybody to stop taking breaks — namely musicians — and start putting out new music again.

If you can strap up the boots and manage it, these are five records I suggest checking out in the winter months to come.

“Transgender Dysphoria Blues” — Against Me! 

This one’s lofty for the Against Me! repertoire. “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” the band’s sixth record, is the first one forthcoming since frontwoman Laura Jane Grace’s coming out as a transgender woman. As its name suggests, the album is largely set to cover the theme of transgender dysphoria, but will also delve into the humane comfort of surrounding topics of acceptance and learning about oneself.

That said, according to a report over at “Spin,” former Against Me! bassist Andrew Seward used eloquence such as “brutal” and “f—— killer” to help illustrate the type of sound listeners should anticipate. No matter what form or path Against Me! takes, I can only imagine their music taking on such descriptors.

Release date: Jan. 21

“Motivational Jumpsuit” — Guided By Voices 

It has gotten to a point in the past two years that hearing about a new Guided By Voices release has become a perturbing practice. “Motivational Jumpsuit,” slated for release in February, will be the band’s fifth record in the last two years.

Robert Pollard, the band’s frontman, is a man of prolific nature. Guided By Voices, although his most distinguished project, only probably takes up half of his time. Pollard, in whatever fashion he sees fit, has produced more than a half-dozen albums since 2012.

Putting out records at that speed is hardly ever in anyone’s best interest, and none of the last handful of Guided By Voices records were anything to write home about, but the mere fact that this band is enduring with more energy than a change in a sound is admirable. There’s still some “Bee Thousand” floating around in there.

Release date: Feb. 18

“St. Vincent” — St. Vincent 

St. Vincent’s Annie Clark hinted that the new self-titled record will be grooving, but not in your run-of-the-mill dance hall way. In the record’s press release, Clark “wanted to make a party record you could play at a funeral.”

She hired on a couple new percussionists for more drive, and after 2011’s excellent “Strange Mercy” and some time with musician David Byrne, Clark has already released some tunes with a robust pitter-patter of scratchy guitar (“Birth in Reverse”) and pompous synth/horn arrangements (“Digital Witness”).

Clark is continuing her tradition of quirk, each release more lush than its previous. I’m going to be following along.

Release date: Feb. 25

“Underneath the Rainbow” — Black Lips

“Underneath the Rainbow” supposedly will reflect Black Lips’ roots, a band loved and recognized for being the garage-rock embodiment of a ruckus.

With a co-production line held by Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney and some songs about growing up in Atlanta, I hope what is churned out is not polished “arena” garage.

“Boys in the Wood,” a cut from the new album, has ambition that could be indicative of two things. One, the brass section present could be a signal that this is going to be one of those rock ‘n’ roll records that have just too much (re: the bands that always have a gospel choir), or two, it is simply a drippy cut, meant to be reminiscent.

All things considered, following up 2011’s “Arabia Mountain” would be a hard task, so Black Lips reverting to its country-rock influences might be fitting.

Release date: March 18

“Sisyphus” — Sisyphus

s / s / s has been pretty quiet since the release of its “Beak & Claw” EP in 2012. That all changed recently when the collaborative project of rapper Serengeti, composer/producer Son Lux and indie lord Sufjan Stevens changed its name to Sisyphus and announced a new record.

The new album is not just three dudes hanging out in the studio, at least not entirely. The self-titled record is slated for release in conjunction with Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center’s Jim Hodges exhibition in February. “Sisyphus” was co-commissioned by the art center, as well as the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music series. In other words, this trio has a lot of backing.

The song “Calm It Down” sees all of Sisyphus being sieved, capturing the elements that work. It ends up being something along the lines of Stevens’ 2010 release “Age of Adz,” with a persistent, grounding groove. This it not dull stuff.

Release date: Mar. 18

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