Many Happy Returns

Should I worry that my three favorite new albums of the year are all by artists returning after exceedingly long hiatuses? First up is Cibo Matto, the Japanese-American female duo who broke up after their second album in 1999 but reunited for a tour in 2011. I saw them then at the Brighton Music Hall, where they teased a few tracks from “their new album”. 2+ years later, Hotel Valentine has finally arrived and I’m liking it almost as much as their classic debut, Viva! La Woman. Whereas that was a loose concept album about food, the new one’s a (somewhat less) loose concept album about a hotel for ghosts. It’s pretty wonderful, unmistakably Cibo Matto but also fresh and unique, not at all stuck in a late ’90s time capsule. “10th Floor Ghost Girl” is the immediate standout, a catchy, loopy dance floor fixture with a guitar riff swiped straight from Talking Heads’ Remain in Light.

After putting out four discs of re-recorded versions of her old songs, Suzanne Vega has finally crafted a true follow-up to 2007’s Beauty and Crime. Despite its unwieldy, pretentious title Tales From The Realm of The Queen of Pentacles, it ranks with her best, most lucid work; oddly enough, it’s also possibly her hardest rocking effort to date, and if you scoff at the idea of describing Vega that way, give “I Never Wear White” a spin and get back to me.

Finally, Neneh Cherry, of all people, has a new album out. Apart from her recent collaboration with avant-jazz group The Thing, she hasn’t put out anything in 18 years, and that last record, Man, was never officially released here. Remarkably, she doesn’t sound a day older than she did on 1992’s Homebrew. I only just listened to Blank Project for the first time yesterday, but its minimalist grooves already seem both up-to-the-minute and timeless. “Out of the Black” is a sharp collaboration with Robyn, whom I hope doesn’t wait too much longer to release a follow-up to her own last LP, 2010’s Body Talk.