Spring music preview: Coachella, Kacey Musgraves and everything else worth lending your ears

Kacey Musgraves' new album, "Golden Hour," is due March 30.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Pop Music Critic

For years, springtime in Southern California has meant one thing for music lovers: the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which once again will bring dozens of acts — and more than 100,000 fans — to the desert east of Los Angeles over two consecutive weekends starting April 13. But the annual mega-festival is hardly the only thing happening in the next few months. Here are 10 — OK, nine — more worth lending your ears.

Kacey Musgraves, “Golden Hour,” March 30

After two albums about her complicated dealings with history and tradition, this smart, sly country singer focused on a different relationship for her upcoming record: her romance with the guy she married last fall. Which isn’t to say that the gorgeous “Golden Hour” ignores what’s going on in the world; “Butterflies” describes a happily modern marriage in which nobody’s trying to hold anyone down. Hear Musgraves sing it when she plays April’s Stagecoach festival.

Jaden Smith and Willow Smith, the Novo, April 7


Celebrity offspring often use their privileged status as a head start toward commercial viability. The teenage children of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith view it as a license to get weird in proudly trippy songs that blend hip-hop, folk and R&B with digital-native vernacular seemingly designed to stymie the dad who once rapped “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”

Juliana Hatfield, “Sings Olivia Newton-John,” April 13

Not a joke: The alt-rock lifer known for her solo work and her stint in the Lemonheads offers up heartfelt versions of the “Grease” star’s most indelible hits, including “Physical,” “I Honestly Love You” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”

Coachella, Empire Polo Club in Indio, April 13-15 and 20-22

Hey, you need to know who’s playing, right? For the first time, a rock act isn’t among Coachella’s headliners; instead, Beyoncé, the Weeknd and Eminem top the bill. Women will figure more prominently than in the past as well, with appearances scheduled by SZA, St. Vincent, Cardi B and the sisters of L.A.’s Haim.

Janelle Monáe, “Dirty Computer,” April 27

This young soul-funk visionary has spent the past few years concentrating on her acting career with roles in movies such as “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight.” Now she’s back with her first album since 2013 — and if that title reminds you of the late, great Prince (who was a friend of Monáe’s), so will the slick but propulsive music.

Meshell Ndegeocello, Teragram Ballroom, May 6

One of R&B’s most inventive songwriters, Ndegeocello pays tribute to some of the creators who inspired her on her excellent new covers album, “Ventriloquism,” which features free-spirited renditions of such ’80s and ’90s classics as Sade’s “Smooth Operator,” Ralph Tresvant’s “Sensitivity” and TLC’s “Waterfalls.” Expect her to mix those cuts with her own stuff here.

Charlie Puth, “Voicenotes,” May 11

What — or who — happened to Charlie Puth? When this baby-faced crooner broke out a few years ago with harmless ditties such as “One Call Away” and “See You Again,” he looked set to become Generation Z’s Donny Osmond. But his new album has a nastier, more sensual vibe that suggests he’s seen some unexpectedly rough times (or maybe just wants us to think he has).

Taylor Swift
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times )

Taylor Swift, Rose Bowl, May 18-19

The pop superstar easily scored 2017’s biggest album sales with her latest effort, the bitter and knowing “Reputation.” Yet by Swift’s standards, the reception was lukewarm, and the disc hasn’t spun off the kind of smash singles we’re accustomed to getting from her. So the question for the singer’s stadium tour is whether she proceeds in “Reputation’s” acidic electro-pop direction or retreats toward the cuddlier approach with which she made her name.

Courtney Barnett, “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” May 18

Working nonstop hasn’t dulled this Australian songwriter’s painfully sharp wit, as she demonstrates in the lead single from her third album since 2015. “I want to walk through the park in the dark / Men are scared that women will laugh at them,” she sings in the fuzzy-jangly “Nameless, Faceless,” “I want to walk through the park in the dark / Women are scared that men will kill them.”

Paul Simon, Hollywood Bowl, May 22-23 and 28

Like Elton John, Joan Baez and Ozzy Osbourne, Simon is calling his 2018 tour his farewell to the road. But hopefully that doesn’t mean he plans to spend every night looking too far backward: His two most recent studio albums — 2011’s “So Beautiful or So What” and 2016’s “Stranger to Stranger” — contain some of the finest work he’s done.

Twitter: @mikaelwood