Any year that kicks off with Kanye West and Paul McCartney collaborating on a Stevie Wonder-esque ballad is going to be a year of surprises. A mere week into the new year, it’s tough to say what curve balls 2015 will throw at us. Knowing what we know so far, however, there’s still plenty to get excited about on the musical horizon. Here are ten albums I can’t wait for. How about you?
1. SLURRUP (Liam Hayes – 13 January)
Liam Hayes’ soundtrack to the 2012 Charlie Sheen vehicle A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III might’ve brought him to a wider audience had the film not been so roundly panned. Either way, the experience seems to have spurred him into something of a creative renaissance: the film was quickly followed by last year’s endlessly melodic Korp Sole Roller, and this year’s Slurrup is set to drop only six months after its predecessor hit (digital) shelves.
2. GIRLS IN PEACETIME WANT TO DANCE (Belle & Sebastian – 20 January)
Belle & Sebastian’s reputation for wistful indie folk-pop has always concealed a broad range of sounds and influences, from the jagged New Wave edges of Dear Catastrophe Waitress’ “Stay Loose” to the neo-glam stomp of The Life Pursuit’s “The Blues Are Still Blue” to the straight-ahead synth-pop of “Electronic Renaissance” way back on their first album, Tigermilk. This latest record seems set to pick up where that odd-song-out in the B&S catalog left off, if lead single “The Party Line” is any indication. But have no fear: album opener “Nobody’s Empire” and recently-released “The Cat with the Cream” assure us that gorgeous, melancholic indie pop is still on the menu.
3. WHAT A TERRIBLE WORLD, WHAT A BEAUTIFUL WORLD (The Decemberists – 20 January)
I’ve always loved the Decemberists’ brand of theatrical indie folk-rock (especially on what I would consider their masterwork, The Crane Wife), but I have to admit that Colin Meloy’s faux-Gothic literary affectations can get on my nerves. The three new songs we’ve heard so far from What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World still sport Meloy’s expansive vocabulary, certainly. But they dial back the pretense, settling into a more intimate space both musically and lyrically. “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” this ain’t… but I actually rather like it that way.
4. HAND. CANNOT. ERASE. (Steven Wilson – 27 February)
Steven Wilson’s 2013 opus The Raven That Refused to Sing was one of my top records of that year and simply one of the best prog albums in recent memory. Word is that Hand. Cannot. Erase. will feature fewer extended epics, telling its LP-length story (that of a young woman who vanishes one day and whose friends and family do not notice her disappearance for three whole years) through shorter songs instead. But that doesn’t mean it will be more conventional than Wilson’s previous efforts – after all, it’s a long-form concept album by one of the reigning Kings of Prog.
5. GOON (Tobias Jesso, Jr. – 17 March)
Tobias Jesso, Jr. caused quite a stir when he released his home recording of “True Love” this past summer. It’s not every day an unknown singer-songwriter from Vancouver writes and all-but-anonymously releases the Great McCartney Love Song That Never Was on YouTube. And then drops another Great McCartney Love Song That Never Was a week later (“Just a Dream“). Meanwhile, “Hollywood,” the first official track off his upcoming debut LP, demonstrates that a professional studio won’t gloss over Jesso’s homespun charm and gorgeous songwriting.
6. JACKRABBIT (San Fermin – 21 April)
San Fermin’s self-titled 2013 debut, the brainchild of Yale-educated composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone, was a minor masterpiece of artful, artsy avant-pop. “Parasites,” the first singe from Jackrabbit is more frenetic than anything on the band’s first record, replacing the ladies from Lucius with new vocalists Charlene Kaye and Rebekah Durham but keeping baritone Allen Tate and featuring lots of spiky saxophone and dynamic and tempo shifts. I look forward to how Ludwig-Leone incorporates this newfound manic energy into San Fermin’s lush, highly composed sound.
7. 74 IS THE NEW 24 (Giorgio Moroder – TBA)
Giorgio Moroder’s collaboration with Daft Punk on the French duo’s world-conquering Random Access Memories introduced the Italian EDM pioneer to a new generation of eager listeners. In a genre currently dominated by young talent, the title of Moroder’s upcoming album (which is set to feature Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, and Charli XCX, following on the heels of collaborations with David Guetta and Avicii) is nothing if not a statement of purpose.
8. TBA (Jens Lekman – TBA)
To be fair, Swedish indie pop genius Jens Lekman hasn’t confirmed that he’ll have a proper album out this year. But he has confirmed that he’s working on the follow-up to 2012’s exquisite I Know What Love Isn’t (one of the great modern breakup albums). And as he works on the new album, he’s made an ambitious New Year’s Resolution: ” I will sit down once a week, write down my thoughts, turn them into a song and share it with you directly.” If the first of these “musical postcards” is any indication, it’s gonna be a helluva year for Mr. Lekman.
9. TBA (Josh Ritter – TBA)
Not unlike Jens Lekman, Josh Ritter hasn’t technically confirmed a sequel to 2013’s The Beast in Its Tracks (which, coincidentally, is also one of the great modern breakup albums). But he has been posting photos from recording sessions in New Orleans on his Facebook page, and so I for one am holding out hope that the Idahoan Bob Dylan (just listen to “Lantern” and tell me he doesn’t deserve the title) will have a new LP for us sometime in the next twelve months.
10. NO PIER PRESSURE (Brian Wilson – TBA)
So: Pet Sounds is perfect. Like, literally perfect. As is Brian’s 2004 re-imagining of SMiLE. Also, the song “Live Let Live” from That Lucky Old Sun may have played a non-trivial role in my decision to attend seminary at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. My point is that the music of Brian Wilson means a lot to me. So of course I’d be excited to hear Brian’s first album of all-new material in seven years (the lovely Beach Boys reunion That’s Why God Made the Radio notwithstanding), even if it didn’t feature Al Jardine & Dave Marks, Jeff Beck, Nate Ruess, and Zooey Deschanel, among others.
- New Music: Liam Hayes – Fokus (www.backseatmafia.com)
- Listen to Belle and Sebastian’s New Song, “The Cat with the Cream” (www.flavorwire.com)
- The Decemberists – Make You Better (immersedincoolmusic.wordpress.com)
- Press Release: new Steven Wilson. HAND. CANNOT. ERASE. (www.progarchy.com)
- ‘Without You’/’Just A Dream’- Tobias Jesso Jr. (songsfortheday.wordpress.com)
- A Song for the Day #97 – San Fermin (www.toomanyblogs.co.uk)
- [Video Premiere] Giorgio Moroder “74 is the New 24” (thecreatorsproject.vice.com)
- The 10 Best Jens Lekman Songs (13summerdresses.wordpress.com)
- ON THE ROAD: Josh Ritter @ City Winery / New York, NY / September 7, 2014 (www.musiccitymike.net)
- Some Pressure Released, Some Pressure To Look Forward To (www.surfermoon.com)