Friday, January 1, 2016

Most Anticipated Albums of 2016

Most of the lists of potential new releases to expect in 2016 include things like Drake, Kanye, Gaga, etc. Not so sadly, I cannot speak to super popular mainstream music, because even after recently turning 44, it is just simply not my thing. I can however, share a list of bands and artists I think are exciting and interesting, who are also expected to release new stuff in 2016. Some are well known. Some are not. All of them are either due or have confirmed new stuff is on the way.

David Bowie
Blackstar is confirmed for release on January 8. The title track and "Lazarus" were already released in advance, resulting in ridiculous online chatter and excitement. Every early indication would suggest this is the most ambitious and classically strange and wonderful album Bowie has made in years. A weird Bowie is a good Bowie. So amazing that this cat can still push his luck and draw a crowd after all these years.

People who lost interest in Radiohead after Ok Computer, will most likely not be excited about a new Radiohead album in 2016. People who are fanatical and lack objectivity regarding anything the band releases (present company included), will most likely be obnoxiously excited about a new Radiohead album in 2016, much to the protest of the former group. People who think Radiohead suck, will most likely still think Radiohead suck. Unquestionably polarizing and undeniably relevant, I for one cannot wait.

PJ Harvey
Polly Jean has never made the same album twice. It is unlikely this will change when her new record comes out this spring. Like many, I plead guilty in the past to calling PJ Harvey the most important female artist of the last 25 years. She is, but the gender distinction is insulting and should be irrelevant. PJ Harvey is one of the most important artists of the last 25 years. Period. Always a treat and an event when she creates new art for us.

Local Natives
This L.A. band have now released two perfectly intricate indie pop records. Clever and so terribly balanced and consistent for a young band. Their second album, Hummingbird, was even stronger than their fantastic debut, Gorilla Manor. A band with song craft and maturity well beyond their years. Can't wait to see where they take us next.

Field Music
Veterans in the current wave of arty British math type pop. The first single, "The Noisy Days Are Over" from the forthcoming record came out late in 2015, and was case positive that no matter how many side projects these lads involve themselves with, they always come back to Field Music with a firm sense of brand and nuance. Easily one of my favourite bands of the last ten years.

I am always suspicious of reunions, but in some cases, bands have unfinished business. Such was the case with Suede's Bloodsports from 2013. It was their first album in eleven years and it perfectly captured a band willing to revisit their 90s Britpop strengths while very much making a fresh and relevant sounding modern alternative record. Fingers crossed that they can fire on all the same cylinders again on January 22 when Night Thoughts drops.

Warpaint seem like the kind of band who could continue to build on their dreamy shoegaze and post-punk influenced indie rock, or perhaps completely change gears if they record a new album this year. I feel like they don't like to be painted into any corners, and could come out with something no one expects. I also feel like they are the type of young band with enough confidence to try anything they want. We'll see.

The XX
News feeds confirm the band went back into the studio in late December. Unlike many, I was not a huge fan of their second album compared to their debut, but still thought it was a more than respectable effort. It will be interesting to see where things shake out for The XX in 2016.

The Horrors
The full catalogue for this band gives new meaning to the notion of manic. Skying from 2011 is a masterpiece. The follow-up, Luminous, admittedly in many ways feels like a lazy albeit well executed sequel. This band has way too much poise and capability. Here is hoping they can blow everyone away again this year if they manage to get some new music out there.

School of Seven Bells
A wonderful band with a tragic story involving a founding member, Benjamin Curtis, passing away much too soon in 2013 due to cancer. Remaining member, Alejandra Deheza, has finalized SVIIB, a project that was near completion when Curtis received his diagnosis. Posthumous releases can be quite tricky, but this album (due out on February 12) feels like both a necessary final chapter and a fitting tribute for a group with wonderful songs and unrealized potential.

Junior Boys
It has been four years since the boys released It's All True. There have been two tracks released in advance of Big Black Coat hitting the shelves on February 5. The first, "Big Black Coat" was pretty good, and the other, "Over It", was tremendous. Regardless of how this new album sounds, the world is a much better place when there is new music from Junior Boys.

Over the span of eleven plus years now, Chromatics have shape shifted regularly and seamlessly. Kill For Love from 2013 remains a five star classic. There are high expectations for the new project, and most are hoping for a continued evolution of dark and shiny atmospheric stylized electronic songs you can grow into. At least that's what I am hoping for.

Sigur Ros
Depending on who you speak with, Sigur Ros have fallen slightly into a pattern of perhaps going through the motions with their more recent recordings. I don't actually agree. If you listen to their earliest and most critically acclaimed records, it feels more like no one else was quite doing what Sigur Ros was doing, thereby creating an unfair standard for innovation. All their albums explore different levels of accessibility and energy. Nothing has been confirmed yet for 2016, but I can't wait to see what they come up with next, even if it does not strictly push these little weirdos too far from their comfort zone.

It has been four whole years since Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, and the unexpected hit single "Midnight City" it produced. Truth be told, many older M83 fans (self included) far prefer 2008's Saturdays = Youth,  so it will be interesting to see if Anthony Gonzalez and his crew make some new music this year, and if it leans more toward pop as in popular, or back toward a heavier synth and introspective sound.

Essentially a side project for Zachary Cole Smith from Beach Fossils, DIIV made some waves in indie pop circles when they released Oshin in 2012. Like many side projects that garner attention, time becomes a challenge, specifically getting back into the studio. The new album is out on February 5, and my hope is it leans toward some of the more jangly guitar songs from the debut.

Ra Ra Riot
I maintain a tremendous soft spot for this Syracuse collective. They surfaced in 2008 with a fabulous and eclectic debut record called The Rhumb Line. They return with their fourth album, Need Your Light, on February 19. Here is hoping they stick to the wonderful melodies and orchestral influences that have made all their albums so unique and engaging.

Animal Collective
It took me a while to warm up to AC. Much of their earliest material is still admittedly quite elusive to my palette, but their last few albums, to me, represent some of the most fascinating compositions of the last ten years. Still not for everyone, they have tended to be much more comfortable with hooks and melody in recent times, much to the chagrin of some older hardcore fans who prefer the noisier and more abrasive side of AC. Regardless, Painting With drops on February 19, and will undoubtedly sound a lot like Animal Collective which also means it will sound like nothing else out there right now.

The Jesus and Mary Chain
The band is working on a new album. They have not released an album since Munki in 1998. For a band that seems to have been around forever, it is only their seventh record. It has been described by Jim Reid as being "mature." Fans of the band will recall Stoned & Dethroned (my favourite JAMC record) being described similarly at the time in 1994, and most agree that worked out just fine. A tremendously influential band, who are welcome to bring us new fuzzed out jangly music any damn time they wish.