When you compile a list like this, you start to tremble at how much you’re really going to absorb in the ensuing months. This doesn’t even cover the misses and surprises. If you’re a casual listener, you might get through an album a day. Okay, maybe two. If you’re a fanatic, you’re spinning discographies left and right. Still, after 365 days, either person is buzzing. One’s just a little louder with the phonetics.
As I wrote back in December, in a year, you’ll have your next roundup of favorite albums. You’ll have a new favorite song. You might even have a new band you’re obsessed with. It’s far too early to tell anything right now, but I’m willing to bet at least two or three of the records on this list will make up everyone else’s come December. At the very least, they’ll get people talking.
Hold me to it, if you want.
Porcelain Raft – Strange Weekend
What we know: The debut record from Porcelain Raft is the sum of Mauro Remiddi’s 27 years of traveling across Europe, recording hundreds of tapes, and working on sundry, eclectic musical projects. It’s pregnant with personal history and influences from across the globe, not just some upstart hazing up his bedroom with a MIDI processor.
What CoS says: It’s a lush and most excellent dream pop record that stretches into the past while continuing to blaze into tomorrow. They’re on tour with M83 and can fill the spaces with the same amount of sound. –Jeremy D. Larson
Due out: January 24th via Secretly Canadian [Pre-Order]
Grimes – Visions
What we know: Indie-major label 4AD called them up from the sticks to release Visions, and the mystical gaze of Claire Boucher’s music does what a few of her gauzy contemporaries have a hard time doing: Her songs float out of the bedroom and onto the dance floor.
What CoS says: It’s easy for music like this to turn from daze to doze in a flash, but Grimes seems to know when to pop it up. –Jeremy D. Larson
Due out: January 24th via 4AD [Pre-Order]
Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
What we know: The esteemed singer-songwriter and poet will grace fans with his first studio album since 2004. No stranger to grappling with heavy concepts within his lyrics, the 10 songs on this new record will deal with “the most profound quandaries of human existence – the relationship to a transcendent being, love, sexuality, loss, and death.” The announcement of the album described it as “the most overtly spiritual” of Cohen’s career.
What CoS says: Cohen is one of music’s greatest living poets, and if anyone could craft a beautiful song from such solemn subjects, it would be him. His albums have usually proven worth the wait, and Old Ideas should hopefully be no different. —Austin Trunick
Due out: January 31st via Sony [Pre-Order]
Air – Le Voyage Dans La Lune
What we know: With both a Sofia Coppola score and a diverse catalog to their credit, Jean-BenoÃ®t Dunckel and Nicolas Godin of Air are no strangers to blissfully abstract accompaniment. Expect this century-old silent film re-release come February, and if the “Sonic Armada” sampler was any indication, those schooled in Tangerine Dream have nothing to fear.
What CoS says: As it just so happens, Le Voyage Dans La Lune is much like Air itself — quietly influential and undoubtedly French. If you thought the Reznor/Ross dynamic was spaced-out, this project may very well take The Orb’s place on your iTunes playlists. —David Buchanan
Due out: February 6th via Astralwerks [Pre-Order]
Air feat. Victoria Legrand – “Seven Stars”
Dr. Dog – Be the Void
What we know: On their seventh full-length, these Philadelphian psych-rockers trade symphonic for rollick. Even the tracks harkening most back to 2010’s orchestral Shame, Shame find moments of stomp, and folksy strums have largely given way to rocking blares. Though the good Dr. is still very much in, this “cathartic rock ‘n’ roll” record may be the loudest and heaviest thing they’ve ever put out.
What CoS says: With a catalog of consistent quality and the fact that their last two albums earned CoS Top Star honors, this one’s a no-brainer. The true test will be seeing where contributions from new full-time members drummer Erik “Teach” Slick and multi-talented Dimitri Manos take the band’s sound. —Ben Kaye
Due out: February 7th via ANTI- [Pre-Order]
Dr. Dog – “That Old Black Dog”
of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks
What we know: Across 10 albums, Kevin Barnes has played with all kinds of lysergic bliss, and their 11th LP sounds like a blend of former acid-pop songs and latter-day avant-electronic stretches. Its closest cousin is David Bowie’s Low, which is a great thing.
What CoS says: Beneath the vaporous instrumentals and glitchy funk, we could really use a good single this time around. —Jeremy D. Larson
Due out: February 7th via Polyvinyl [Pre-Order]
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
What we know: To escape from the corner of a coffee shop can take some years, but with an indie debut as powerful as Van Etten’s 2010 album, epic, it only took a short amount of time for her to get noticed by The National’s Aaron Dessner. Tramp includes collabos with Dessner, Matt Barrick (Walkmen), Zach Condon (Beirut), Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak), Julianna Barwick, and more.
What CoS says: With a little help from her friends, Tramp more than gets by. Look forward to some roots rock and poison-tipped lyricism from this young talent. —Jeremy D. Larson
Due out: February 7th via Jagjaguwar [Pre-Order]
Islands – A Sleep & a Forgetting
What we know: Montreal indie rock outfit Islands stripped down for its 2009 breakthrough record, Vapours. With A Sleep & a Forgetting, the band’s fourth album, the aesthetics and sensibilities are torn apart even further to reveal the rawest nerve, resulting in an LP of potent, minimalist instrumentation and low-key, yet sultry, lyrical content about falling out of love and listening to the radio. Even with so much of the band and frontman Nick Thorburn exposed, they’ve never seemed as powerfully succinct or alluringly lethal.
What CoS says: You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone doing so very much with so very little in 2012. —Chris Coplan
Due out: February 14th via ANTI- [Pre-Order]
Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror
What we know: Noise pop duo Sleigh Bells set the blogosphere aflame with Treats and its cranked-to-11 hooks and reckless abandon. As a follow-up, Reign of Terror will seemingly hone the pair’s sound, as evidenced by the return of producer Shane Stoneback and the shred-tastic bombast of lead single “Born to Lose”. Stock up on your extra-strength earplugs posthaste.
What CoS says: Why fix what ain’t broke? The group has a fresh enough sound to ride through at least this record before something may have to give musically. —Chris Coplan
Due out: February 21st via Mom+Pop Music [Pre-Order]
School of Seven Bells – Ghostory
What we know: Ghostory is more gothed out than anything School of Seven Bells has done before. The record pulses with dance beats reminiscent of Front 242 death disco, the duo’s signature misty sound, and more ghost imagery than you can shake a proton pack at. Singer Alejandra Deheza spells “P-R-E-D-A-T-O-R” breathily on record centerpiece “Low Times”, a moment that’s as terrifying as it is beautiful.
What CoS says: It should be interesting to see how SVIIB fares as just a core duo without vocalist Claudia Deheza, singer Alejandra’s twin sister. Claudia left the group abruptly in 2010, so it should be interesting to see how her departure might affect its songwriting, lyrically and structurally. —Paul de Revere
Due out: February 28th via Vagrant/Ghostly International
Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself
What we know: It’s been almost three years since Andrew Bird’s last outing, 2009’s Noble Beast. He’s accomplished a lot over that time (including a recent installment at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art), though he’s waited this long to produce a proper LP. Surprisingly, he’s had the material all along. Based on the album’s tracklist for Break It Yourself, we’ve heard up to at least six of the 14 tracks live, already: “Desperation Breeds…”, “Danse Caribe”, “Give It Away”, “Lazy Projector”, “Lusitania” (feat. St. Vincent), and “Hole in the Ocean Floor”.
What CoS says: Bird has proven he’s a virtuoso five times over. He doesn’t need to shatter any barriers this far into his career. So, if this stuff sounds as familiar to you as it does to us, then you’re probably not too surprised. If you’re looking for something new, well, let’s see how the other tracks fare. Whatever the case, it’ll be a very cozy listen. —Michael Roffman
Due out: March 7th via Mom + Pop Music [Pre-Order]
Bowerbirds – The Clearing
What we know: Phillip Moore and Beth Tacular have always bounced their sound off of the roots of American music, and while their LP3 echoes with similar tones, it’s a richer production this time around. “Tuck the Darkness In” earns its crescendos, flips a catchy melody into the air, and stays rooted.
What CoS says: Bowerbirds take the faux out of the folk that’s around these days and get down to the core of their songs without cluttering it with smoke and mirrors. Here’s hoping they can still make the wounds as well as salve them. —Jeremy D. Larson
Due out: March 6th via Dead Oceans
Ceremony – Zoo
What we know: For their first record with the famed Matador Records, California hardcore outfit Ceremony enlisted producer John Goodmanson (Bikini Kill, Simple Plan) with an aim to “refine their jagged sound while continuing to pursue themes of exurban alienation and confinement.” To give listeners a taste of the new record ahead of its official release date, Ceremony will release “Hysteria” b/w “I’m a Bug” (Urinals cover) on February 7th.
What CoS says: If “Hysteria” is any indication, Zoo will be a tamer—if no less enjoyable—affair than their previously more abrasive albums. —Harley Brown
Due out: March 6th via Matador
The Magnetic Fields – Love at the Bottom of the Sea
What we know: Stephin Merritt says he’ll be returning to more synth-heavy and acoustic arrangements on The Magnetic Fields’ 10th LP—their first with Merge since 1999’s classic collection 69 Love Songs—with his usual cast of collaborators: Claudia Gonson, Sam Davol, John Woo, Shirley Simms, Johny Blood, and Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket!). Signature amusing and quirky song titles abound— “All She Cares About Is Mariachi”, “Infatuation (With Your Gyration)”, and “I’ve Run Away to Join the Fairies”.
What CoS says: More inventive and endlessly catchy pop treasures from the man responsible for some of the greatest pop records of the last 20 years. —Lainna Fader
Due out: March 6th via Merge [Pre-Order]
The Men – Open Your Heart
What we know: The kind of volume that was on Leave Home, their previous album released not eight months ago, is hard to eclipse. But leave it to The Men to plumb even deeper into their milk crates to continue moving forward with their sound. There’s a bit of country, a bit of kraut-rock, and some ’70s AOR, and the whole thing still stays jagged in the best ways.
What CoS says: It’s a short turn-around time, but nothing on this album sounds tossed off. Even if some of the razors are less sharp this time around, it works. —Jeremy D. Larson
Due out: March 6th via Sacred Bones
The Shins – Port of Morrow
What we know: It’s been a solid five years since their last album. James Mercer is the only original member in the lineup. They’ll release it on his new label, Aural Apothecary. So, things have changed. But so far, based on three of the album’s 10 tracks (which includes the recently unveiled “Simple Song”), The Shins remain intact.
What CoS says: Despite the shake up in the lineup, there really isn’t much working against this album. Sure, Broken Bells wasn’t an awe-inspiring juggernaut, but it had its moments. With Mercer at home now, and seemingly alone (at least in the studio), one has to believe this will be, at the very least, a solid follow-up to Wincing the Night Away. —Michael Roffman
Due out: March 20th via Aural Apothecary and Columbia Records [Pre-Order]
Spiritualized – Sweet Heart, Sweet Light
What we know: When he debuted some new songs at Royal Albert Hall in October, Jason Pierce had a choir and orchestra in tow. He’s said the album “encompassed all I love in rock ‘n’ roll music. It’s got everything from BrÃ¶tzmann and Berry right through to Dennis and Brian Wilson.”
What CoS says: The seminal Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space is an intimidating high-water mark. It sounds like his heart’s in the right place for this to rise to that level. Dicey live recordings of new material aren’t the best gauge, though, so we’re still holding out for a studio preview. —Jeremy D. Larson
Due Out: UK on March 19th via Double Six. U.S. release is set for sometime in March via Fat Possum
“Hey Jane” (Live):
Alabama Shakes – TBD
Photo by Ben Kaye
What we know: With a hearty co-sign from Patterson Hood of The Drive-By Truckers, Alabama Shakes are off to inject the soul of the south into the mainstream with their first official studio LP.
What CoS says: To prove Alabama Shakes can ride longer waves than those created by the press lauded upon them at CMJ and subsequent live shows, the Dap-Tone/Muscle Shoals acolytes are going to have to show the world they can write some memorable songs. — Jeremy D. Larson
Due out: April via ATO Records
Tyler, The Creator – Wolf
Photo by Heather Kaplan
What we know: The veracity of his pull-quotes is always dubious, but Mr. Tyler Okonma told SPIN that his new album Wolf will be due out in April. He said of his third LP, “Talking about rape and cutting bodies up, it just doesn’t interest me anymore… What interests me is making weird hippie music for people to get high to. I’ll brag a little more, talk about money and buying shit. But not like any other rapper, I’ll be a smart-ass about it…”
What CoS says: If Tyler wants to make a psych-rap record, that’s at least interesting, but I have this nagging feeling that he’s going to be an insufferable smart-ass about it. —Jeremy D. Larson
Due out: April (?)
Regina Spektor – What We Saw from the Cheap Seats
What we know: Regina Spektor continues her reign as one of the best goddamn singer-songwriters of her era. The new record’s title is perhaps an indicator that she’s continuing her music’s frequent theme of plucky underdog-isms.
What CoS says: Except for a live record, Regina Spektor was awfully quiet over the last two years. In November, she announced the release of What We Saw from the Cheap Seats without much indication of what it’ll sound like, but her signature cute quirks will likely abound. It will be her sixth studio full-length, her latest since 2009’s Far. —Paul de Revere
Due Out: May
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – TBA
What we know: Surprisingly, very little. A producer has yet to be confirmed, same with the E Street Band. The Boss’s follow-up to 2009’s The Promise remains a slight mystery. Based on the album’s announcement – “We want you to know that the music is almost done (but still untitled), we have almost settled on the release date (but not quite yet), and that we are all incredibly excited about everything that we’re planning for 2012” – there’s a heavy use of “we,” so one has to believe this will again be an E Street effort.
What CoS says: With the loss of Clarence Clemmons, already this will be a fairly controversial effort for Springsteen. On that note, it should also be quite emotional. If you know your E Street history, you’ll remember it’s only been a little over four years since the death of Danny Federici as well. Throw in another political race next year, Occupy Wall Street, and half a dozen recent collaborations… well, this album could go anywhere. Fingers crossed The Boss doesn’t pen a follow-up anthem titled “King of the Supermarket”. —Michael Roffman
Due out: Spring
Dirty Projectors – TBA
What we know: Figurehead David Longstretch took a Vernon-esque approach with this Bitte Orca follow-up. Sequestered for the most part alone in an unoccupied house in rural New York, Longstretch crafted creepy songs “about horror and fear,” including the “Thriller”-esque “About to Die”. He’s also said the record leans towards the band’s stripped-down BjÃ¶rk collaboration, Mount Wittenberg Orca.
What CoS says: Bitte Orca was a breakthrough, filled with lively and eccentric musicality. It rightfully earned a perfect score in our review almost three years ago. Fingers crossed that this apparently subtler and more haunted effort still shares qualities with their adored previous release. —Ben Kaye
Due out: Spring
Rufus Wainwright – Out of the Game
What we know: Rufus Wainwright’s last two projects have been an opera and a dramatic album performed start-to-finish as a song cycle. It seems appropriate that he should follow with an excursion back into pop, and his upcoming Mark Ronson-produced album promises to be Wainwright in all his mass marketable glory. Featuring backup from the Dap-Kings, Wilco’s Nels Cline, and Wainwright’s equally talented sister Martha, “there’s this kind of anchor of guys sitting around jamming. And it’s very sexy,” Wainwright told Stereogum.
What CoS says: Wainwright’s had a turbulent few years, including the death of his mother and the birth of his daughter. To see all that energy channeled into pop music will be interesting, and to hear it belted out by one of the marquee voices of our time will surely be enthralling. Wainwright is a consummate showman, and with this supporting cast, Out of the Game has miles of promise. —Megan Ritt
Due out: Spring
How to Destroy Angels – TBA
What we know: This past fall, How to Destroy Angels had originally planned on releasing a full-length LP, at least according to Reznor. The most fans received was a Brian Ferry cover and, well, a 174-minute soundtrack for David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Shortly after the soundtrack’s release, Reznor told Rolling Stone that a new LP was due out “[probably] in the first quarter of next year.” As far as direction goes, Reznor says they “were influenced by early Cabaret Voltaire – it’s very deconstructed rhythmically and more textural.” Vague, but something.
What CoS says: Reznor works in mysterious ways. He also never stops working. So, it’s likely that we’ll see this pop up while we’re sleeping sometime, or perhaps when we’re on a lunch break. Who knows? If it’s anything like their recent soundtrack work – hey, it’s essentially the same team – one can expect something wild. Or just another helping of music to carry you from the gym to the train, from the coffee shop to the sadistic caretaker to the… wait, what? —Michael Roffman
Due out: “First Quarter”
Animal Collective – TBA
Photo by Frank Mojica
What we know: Notorious for touring on largely new, unrecorded material, it’s entirely possible that songs from AC’s ninth album (and their first since 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion) have been floating around in various states of gestation in bootlegs. That said, Dave “Avey Tare” Portner let a few details slip in interviews promoting his solo work, including the fact that they’ve got at least 10 songs written and that they’re having fun “jamming.” He’s also described their recent live shows as a “more immediate… hard-hitting set with more rhythm.” But these are the guys who brought you ODDSAC, so you never quite know what’s coming next.
What CoS says: As a band that seems to evolve more organically and dramatically from disc to disc than almost any other, it’s hard to imagine Animal Collective sticking too closely to the formula that made Merriweather such a crossover smash. Either way, moving from cult heroes to indie megastars over the past 10 or so years means that both the demand and the stakes have never been higher. –Adam Kivel
Due out: TBA
Atoms for Peace – TBA
What we know: Back in October, Thom Yorke spun some heads when he told Rolling Stone there would be an Atoms for Peace record by the end of the year. As is the case with most records on here titled TBA, that wasn’t the case. His excuse for the delay then was that “it’s not good enough yet.” Longtime collaborator and Atoms member Nigel Godrich added, “The idea was to generate the music, then record the band. We did that. Some of it worked. We also went back to some of the electronic stuff. It’s still in flux. We’re waiting for the lightning bolt to strike.” Since then, it’s been clear skies, apparently. To get an idea of what they worked on, take a listen to “Judge, Jury, and Executioner”, which the band premiered during their 2010 tour – their first collaborative track.
What CoS says: It’s been a long time coming. Someone stand outside the studio with an umbrella, please. —Michael Roffman
Due out: TBA
The Avalanches – TBA
What we know: This will they/won’t they tension bullshit is getting older than a bad sitcom. But this tweet is the closest thing we’ve had to something yet. Keep the dream alive.
What CoS says: Teasing this album is getting less funny as the years go on. But as with most myths, if you stop believing in it, it dies. —Jeremy D. Larson
Due out: TBA
Best Coast – TBA
What we know: Surf-rock romanticists Best Coast may have recently released drummer Ali Koehler, but they also previously managed to nab legendary producer Jon Brion (The Crystal Method, Kanye West) for album No. 2 (seems like a fair trade). For this record, frontwoman Bethany Cosentino has promised less “melodrama” and more maturity thanks to her drastically different lifestyle. That sentiment, mixed with Brion’s avant pop style, should make for one decidedly fresh take on young love and all its ups and downs.
What CoS says: The band’s sound on Crazy for You caught people’s attention despite the decided immaturity of the album’s lyrical content (or perhaps that helped). We’re interested to see how their cutesy sound holds up with an infusion of adulthood. —Chris Coplan
Due out: TBA
The Beach Boys – TBA
What we know: Brian Wilson has returned. So has Al Jardine. Even David Marks. It’s a full-scale reunion, all for the group’s 50th anniversary. While we’ve only heard a re-recording of “Do It Again”, Beach Boys sessions veteran Eddie Bayer says, “Brian’s new creations are just unbelievable.” What’s more, Mike Love, who has a long storied history of opposing Wilson, agreed, stating, “He hasn’t lost the ability to do what he does best.” So, there’s a positive outlook on this.
What CoS says: For the past few years, Wilson has been issuing covers albums (including last year’s abysmal Disney record). However, his last solo record, 2008’s That Lucky Old Sun, was a sugary-sweet classic that shines bright in his highly celebrated discography. If Wilson’s been holding out on songs for this LP and he’s supported by the vocals of Love, Bruce Johnston, Al Jardine, and even David Marks, then we’re in for a tasty, nostalgic treat. Let’s just hope it isn’t Stars and Stripes, Volume 2. —Michael Roffman
Due out: TBA
Cat Power – TBA
What we know: It’s been four years since Chan Marshall’s last album, Jukebox, a collection of mostly covers that furthered the transition from the raw, minimal Cat Power of the ’90s to a polished, blues-evoking sound. In a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, Marshall revealed that she was attempting to play all the instruments herself on the next Cat Power release, and a recent Facebook posting intimated that the new album is almost finished.
What CoS says: If the smoky soul exhibited in the new songs debuted on her 2011 tour or the seven-minute, eerily echoed reinvention of “King Rides By” are any indication, then the new Cat Power should prove well worth the wait. —Frank Mojica
Due out: TBA
Cibo Matto – TBA
What we know: Cibo Matto split in 2001 after two albums, but Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori joined forces again in December 2010 for Honda’s 50th birthday and three months later for a tsunami benefit concert. A reunion tour was subsequently announced, along with news that a new album would surface sometime in 2012. As of press time, the new album does not have an official title or release date.
What CoS says: A reunion that results in new songs and not just a trip down memory lane? Yes, please. During their brief “YEAH BASICALLY” tour, the duo mixed two new songs, “Tenth Floor Ghost Girl” and “Check In”, into the well-received sets, hinting that the magic that made Cibo Matto so fun 16 years ago has not been lost. —Frank Mojica
Due out: TBA
D’Angelo – TBA (Working Title: James River)
What we know: If the neo-soul genre had a Holy Grail, it’d be D’Angelo’s third album. With the release of the immensely powerful Voodoo in 2000, the world has been waiting with bated breath ever since for the follow-up, which frequent collaborator ?uestlove has recently confirmed is in the home stretch of completion. But after D’Angelo’s various, er, extracurricular activities have led to a decade-long cycle of delays and other such promises, the music world’s left hoping for a miracle. How fitting would it be if this record FINALLY arrived just in time for the End of Days?!
What CoS says: While probably not a part of the final tracklist, a demo of D’Angelo covering Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” recently surfaced. Not only was it weird and catchy, it helped generate a lot of buzz. Ya know, like the kind used for promoting something… —Chris Coplan
Due out: TBA
Daughter – TBA
What we know: Elena Tonra, aka Daughter, set pulses racing in 2011 with two delicious taster EPs. A full debut album is expected to follow later this summer or fall. She and her band are hoping to hit a UK studio for their first set of sessions in early spring.
What CoS says: Daughter has a number of new songs up her sleeve and, reviving the long held rock tradition of getting it together in the country, has hired a tiny cottage in a hidden corner of SW England this month to begin to work them up. The album should contain new material with perhaps a couple of reworked songs from the earlier EPs. –Tony Hardy
Due out: TBA
Fiona Apple – TBA
What we know: Rare live performances with preferred collaborators and several benefit and cover songs here and there have more than whetted the appetites of any Fiona Apple fan over the recent years; they must be a ravenous and wary bunch, considering her last album, Extraordinary Machine, almost never saw the light of day after its demos leaked. Rumors swirled for an album last year, fueled by those claiming to have heard it – more concrete news comes from Apple herself, jokingly admitting onstage last November that she had trouble remembering any new songs because “they’ve been done for a fucking year.”
What CoS says: Around the turn of the millennium, this powerhouse singer-songwriter was omnipresent, crooning her unique brand of melancholy, ruffling feathers at award shows, and upholding a strong musical integrity at such a young age. Now, more than a decade later, and only one album under her belt since then, Apple would have to stand distinct and tall next to her current imitators, both good and bad, to make any mark at all. –David DiLillo
Due out: TBA
Grizzly Bear – TBA
Photo by Heather Kaplan
What we know: Psych-folk outfit Grizzly Bear literally rewrote the rules of indie music and its cultural spread and impact with 2009’s Veckatimest, so it’s no surprise that the band would want to take their time with the follow-up. However, since announcing work on the album in May 2011, it’s been all but radio silence from Camp Grizzly save for apologies for delays (blame multi-instrumentalist Chris Taylor’s CANT side project and frontman Ed Droste getting married). However, with a new year comes a new Facebook message of dedication, and the band is looking to make 2012/2013 the Year of the Bear.
What CoS says: Can lighting strike twice for the boys from Brooklyn? Lots of bands would crumble underneath such pressure, but Grizzly Bear seem to have a more solid foundation of devoted fans to keep them afloat. The real question, though, will be whether they stick with the Veckatimest formula or go for something brand-new sonically, thus expanding their skill set while also increasing the risk of an unsatisfied public. –Chris Coplan
Due out: TBA
Kanye & Friends – G.O.O.D Music Album -TBA
What we know: One of three albums West might be dropping this year (the others being his sixth solo album and a second full-length with Jay-Z), G.O.O.D. Music will also feature his G.O.O.D. Music kindred Big Sean, Kid Cudi, John Legend, Common, Pusha T, and others. However, it’s not yet known how the album will be carried out; maybe we’ll get a bunch of posse cuts, like what pervaded West’s pre-My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy G.O.O.D. Fridays series.
What CoS says: If G.O.O.D. Music is similar to MBDTF or West’s 2011 Jay-Z team-up, Watch the Throne, expect ostentatious greatness. —Mike Madden
Due out: TBA
The Knife – TBA
What we know: Though it’s provided one of the most single-handedly influential records of the last decade, The Knife has taken six years off since the release of their 2006 opus, Silent Shout. The Dreijer siblings have kept rather busy during their time off, though, between Karin’s acclaimed debut solo outing as Fever Ray, Olof’s stint as a minimal electro producer under the name Oni Ayhun, and the pair’s turn as operatic songwriters on 2010’s Tomorrow in a Year.
What CoS says: There isn’t too much to go off of yet, but all signs point to an effort as ghoulishly delightful as Silent Shout and Fever Ray. —Mike Madden
Due out: TBA
Lotus Plaza – TBA
What we know: Having released an impressive split 7″ in 2011 to compliment his Lotus Plaza alias’s hazy, but beautiful, first LP from two years prior, Deerhunter guitarist Locket Pundt remains stoic and reserved as ever. An upcoming Atlanta show in March, recent Twitter buzz of mastering company The Lodge “having way too much fun working on Lotus Plaza”, and Kranky Records stating bluntly on Facebook “any day now,” however, all point towards an imminent sophomore album.
What CoS says: Both Deerhunter’s and fellow noisemaker Bradford Cox’s most recent albums excelled because of their embrace of the eerily straightforward; with any luck, Pundt will mine some of his more decipherable ideas featured on The Floodlight Collective and put them to exquisite use. —David DiLillo
Due out: TBA
Madlib & Freddie Gibbs – TBA
What we know: Back in late November at Madlib’s Medicine Show tour stop in San Francisco, the producer revealed plans for a new collaboration with L.A.-based, Gary, Ind.-raised gangsta rapper Freddie Gibbs, starting with a six-track Thuggin’ EP on Madlib’s Madlib Invazion label. It’s yet another killer joint venture for Madlib—see DOOM (Madvillainy), the late J Dilla (Jaylib), and Strong Arm Steady (In Search Of Stoney Jackson)—and a chance for Gibbs to explore new territory post-Cold Day in Hell before the release of the album he’s finishing for Young Jeezy’s CTE imprint. The duo’s as-of-yet untitled album is scheduled for early 2012.
What CoS says: If the EP’s first single is any indication, expect to hear Gibbs’ rugged rhythms detailing brutal tales of the young, desperate, and reckless over Madlib’s masterful mix of swirling psychedelia and deep soul grooves on MadGibbs’ debut album. —Lainna Fader
Due out: TBA
Mumford & Sons – TBA
What we know: In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, band member Ted Dwane described Mumford & Sons’ much anticipated follow-up to Sigh No More as “doom folk, kind of Black Sabbath meets Nick Drake.” There may be a degree of mischief in that remark that’s matched by comparative silence from the band’s record label. However, judging from new songs like “Ghosts” and “Lovers Eyes” debuted live in 2011, the new album is not likely to stray that much from the band’s core territory.
What CoS says: Even with a planned shift to the darker side of the musical spectrum, the band has a lot to celebrate after a giant-sized last couple of years. That dichotomy should be interesting to absorb when the record hits stores. –Tony Hardy
Due out: TBA
Nas – Life Is Good
What we know: Rumors about Life Is Good, Nas’ 10th studio album and his last at Def Jam, have been flying around for a while, but the only detail known for certain about it is that the previously released single “Nasty” will be on it. Anything else you’ve heard about the album – like, say, that AZ will be on it or that RZA will have a major hand in the production – is probably mere speculation.
What CoS says: If “Nasty” and Nas’ recent Common collaboration “Ghetto Dreams” are indicators, Life Is Good could be one of the Queens legend’s best albums of late. —Mike Madden
Due Out: TBA
Nas – “Nasty”
No Doubt – TBA
What we know: The last No Doubt album, Rock Steady, hit stores in December 2001 (does it not feel waaaay longer, though?). Even with the band at work on the album since May 2010, details are still decidedly sparse: The album promises to be another poppy synthesis of reggae and ska, resulting in song titles like “Settle Down” and “One More Summer”, all heaped together by a returning Mark “Spike” Stent (who also produced Rock Steady). Collaborations with dance hall wunderkinds Diplo and Switch show signs of some new life, but how those will work in tandem with the band’s tried-and-true stuff is as big a mystery as the remainder of this LP.
What CoS says: The more things change, the more No Doubt seemingly stays the same. That musical homogeneity is comforting in a way, like an old blanket or an ex-girlfriend you can’t get rid of. –Harley Brown
Due out: TBA
Pearl Jam – TBA
Photo by Jeremy Larson
What we know: This and that. Last March, Jeff Ament told Billboard, “We did a whole bunch of demos and everybody’s got a disc of 25 [songs] right now,” stating the band would hit the studio the next month and that they hoped “to get something done this year.”
What CoS says: That didn’t happen, but do you blame them? With a festival, a book, a documentary, a soundtrack, and late-night appearances, it’s no surprise we’re not listening to Pearl Jam’s 10th studio LP already. But with the festivities now over and a looming European tour, one starts to believe they’ll need something new to promote. Like, say, 12 of those aforementioned tracks? We’ve already heard a potential track with “Olé”. Or, maybe that was just a birthday anthem. You never know… –Michael Roffman
Due out: TBA
Phoenix – TBA
What we know: Last we heard from the Franco-pop savants, they were recording an as-yet-untitled fifth album with a release date to be announced. We do know that Phoenix has been playing with “the dad of a friend’s orchestra” in Byron Bay, AU, to expand their percussive range. According to frontman Thomas Mars, “Drums are the DNA of our music, ‘cause we’d like to go somewhere else, we’d like to change that DNA.” He also said that so far the album can be analogized to the high-speed French commuter rail TGV.
What CoS says: Mars has been covering LP #5’s bases with catchall descriptors “nostalgic,” “futuristic,” “experimental,” and “minimal.” Considering the pressure to follow Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’s Grammy Award-winning success, it’s no wonder he’s playing it safe. —Harley Brown
Due out: TBA
Queens of the Stone Age – TBA
What we know: Rockaholic Josh Homme spent the better part of 2011 touring behind the re-release of Queens of the Stone Age’s eponymous 1998 debut, including a double shot at the PJ20 Festival. He also found some time apparently with the QotSA lineup as it stands to record their sixth album, their first in nearly five years since Era Vulgaris. When it will be out is anyone’s guess; hanger-on Alain Johannes tweeted in November that he “can’t say exactly when… but it’s a really good start.”
What CoS says: Homme told BBC Radio 1 around Glastonbury that QotSA doesn’t “feel they have anything to prove,” implying it’ll probably be more of the same old, same old from them. When it’s loud, badass rock, though, we’re more than OK with this. –Gilles LeBlanc
Due out: TBA
Sigur Rós – TBA
What we know: Well, if we round up all the adjectives from each respective member (culled from an interview with The Wall Street Journal, of all places), we know Sigur Rós’ sixth LP is: “ambient”, “introverted”, “floaty”, “minimal”, and essentially a “slow takeoff toward something.” So, it’s another offering from Sigur Rós. Here’s a fun little tidbit: The band recorded in a studio that was once occupied by a swimming pool. Could we add “aquatic” to that list? We’ll see come spring.
What CoS says: The group’s last studio LP, 2008’s MeÃ° suÃ° Ã eyrum viÃ° spilum endalaust, found the Icelandic troupe taking a few turns, even adding some English to the mix. It still worked splendidly. Everything else that’s followed since – Jónsi’s 2010 solo LP, Go, Jónsi’s Cameron Crowe-assisted soundtrack, We Bought a Zoo – has left nothing but a ruby-colored, bloody trail. One that doesn’t taste like nickel, but rather sophisticated cakes. Much like the trio’s lyrics, that right there is pretty incomprehensible. But, it still gets the point across. Rest assured, we’ll be soundtracking our lives to the new LP by summer. —Michael Roffman
Due out: Spring
Soundgarden – TBA
Photo by Karina Halle
What we know: New material from Soundgarden has been rumored ever since Chris Cornell tweeted they were coming back on January 1st, 2010 from an extended hiatus. Things really started to heat up last February when the band stated that their goal for 2011 was to “make a record.” After a retrospective compilation (Telephantasm), Record Store Day exclusive, live album (Live on I-5), and an acoustic Songbook solo effort from Cornell, it looks like we’re actually going to get something fresh from the Seattleites as soon as this spring.
What CoS says: The grunge revival love-in is sure to continue for a good while yet, although guitarist Kim Thayil has tempered expectations that the album may not exactly be of the genre Soundgarden helped pioneer. We will keep our ears open with interest. —Gilles LeBlanc
Due out: TBA
WHY? – TBA
Photo by Jeremy D. Larson
What we know: In the summer of 2011, WHY? announced a series of shows played on a baby grand piano, where they would be testing out material for an upcoming album. A hand injury forced many shows to be rescheduled or canceled, but some fans were lucky enough to catch the new songs onstage in December of last year.
What CoS says: As Eskimo Snow was recorded during the sessions for the acclaimed Alopecia, this will be the first collection of all-new material WHY? has recorded in four years. Yoni Wolf’s songwriting seems to improve with each album, and we’re eager to hear how he’s developed over that time. –Austin Trunick
Due out: TBA
The xx – TBA
What we know: The xx seems to have retreated back into the void from which it burst forth with mind-blowing, CoS Top Star-earning debut XX, emerging (with the exception of Jamie xx, who’s appeared on anything from Take Care to We’re New Here and remixed everything else) only to say that, yes, they really are recording a sophomore album, and here’s demo “Open Eyes” to prove it.
What CoS says: There’s been a two-year buildup and the danger of a sophomore slump, but no pressure, guys. Take your time. —Harley Brown
Due out: TBA
Yeasayer – TBA
Photo by Carson O’Shoney
What we know: Loads of bands like to worry about one album per release cycle. Brooklyn psych-pop crew Yeasayer isn’t like other acts in more than a few ways. Discussing the group’s third album with Spin recently, frontman Chris Keating said the group recorded some 22 songs, which may be split up over two separate albums, “one that’s the real album with three-and-a-half to four minute pop songs, and another that’s more like a soundtrack and released on the Internet.” Even better still, Keating described the material recorded as a “demented R&B” album, like an “Aaliyah album if you played it backwards and slowed it down. Or David Bowie’s Lodger. Those two are major influences.” Whether that last bit’s a joke or not (perhaps even a half-truth?), the band continues to redefine how appealing being weird can truly be.
What CoS says: Based on 2010’s Odd Blood and these newsy tidbits, the outfit is getting closer and closer to a more complicated sound. With every catchy hook and pop-tastic beat they record, the songs become further entrenched in their own sense of intricacy and obscurity. LP #3 should be a shining example of that dichotomy. –Chris Coplan
Due out: TBA