Raise your hands if you’re relieved that 2016 is now in our collective rearview mirrors, never to be experienced again? OK, everyone can put their hands down now. 2016 was indeed a trying and disenchanting twelve months for many of us, for a whole host of reasons. But as always, there were redemptive glimmers of hope to be found in all of the wonderful new music that graced our ears as the year progressed.
And now, as we embark upon the new year either with renewed optimism or cautious apprehension or a hybrid of the two, it’s as good of a time as ever to take stock of the forthcoming albums that are slated to surface in 2017. So without further ado, and based on information available as of today, here are our selections for the 17 long players that we can’t wait to hear this year, plus a few honorable mentions based on more ambiguous info (and our own wishful thinking) listed at bottom.
Though more than four years have elapsed since the London trio released their acclaimed sophomore album Coexist (2012), the mystique surrounding (and adoration of) The xx has only grown more pronounced in the interim. Due in part to the 2015 release of Jamie xx’s excellent, Mercury Prize nominated In Colour LP, the attention the band has continued to garner unabated can largely be attributed to the enduring impression their first two efforts of dark, sparse, and gorgeously constructed electro-pop laments and love songs made on listeners’ ears. Their 10-track follow-up I See You promises to build upon their proven sonic and lyrical template, while expanding their creative ambitions as well. The new album is “a collection of quite different sounding songs,” the group’s Romy Madly Croft explained during an interview with Beats 1 in November. “We let go of any sort of rules we had for ourselves before....We wanted to open the windows and be like, ‘let’s try completely new things, let’s get out of our comfort songs.’”
TEASER TRACK: “On Hold”
Simon Green’s magnificent fifth studio album The North Borders (2013) is one of our team’s favorite albums of the past five years, and arguably the strongest album yet from the multi-talented soundsmith more affectionately known as Bonobo. His Ninja Tune supported follow-up LP Migration is set to arrive next week on January 13th, and if the terrific lead single “Kerala” is any indication, Green’s sixth is destined to match—and quite possibly eclipse—the brilliance of its precursor. The album is inspired by “the study of people and spaces,” according to an official statement. “It’s interesting how one person will take an influence from one part of the world and move with that influence and affect another part of the world,” Green explains. “Over time, the identities of places evolve.”
TEASER TRACK: “Kerala”
It’s tough to fathom that more than a quarter-century has passed since a 21 year-old Omar Lye-Fook dropped his acclaimed debut album There’s Nothing Like This (1990). In the years since his initial breakthrough, the UK soul man has cultivated a loyal fanbase on the strength of six more exquisitely crafted LPs, the most recent effort being 2013’s The Man. And later this month, Omar returns with his eighth studio effort entitled Love in Beats, bolstered by top-notch contributions from the likes of Robert Glasper, Leon Ware, Ty, Jean-Michele Rotin, Natasha Watts, The Floacist and Mayra Andrade. We’ve learned to always bet on Omar over the years, and we’re betting that he comes through in top form with his new effort, which promises to be one of the year’s finest and purest soul offerings.
TEASER TRACK: “I Want It to Be”
This June marks the 15th anniversary of Tift Merritt’s debut album Bramble Rose (2002) and we’ve been captivated by her music—both in the studio and on stage—ever since she released her sublime inaugural effort. Informed by her love of old Bonnie Raitt records and featuring the creative input of Sam Beam (of Iron & Wine), Merritt’s sixth studio LP Stitch Of The World is inspired by a series of life changes during the past few years.
“What strikes me most when I am writing these days is the changing nature of things,” Merritt recently confided in an official press statement. “Sometimes sex matters deeply, sometimes family eclipses all; sometimes aloneness is hell, sometimes it is a refuge. Sometimes hometowns are constricting; sometimes they are a sight for sore eyes. We do our damnedest. For all the times we are watered down and compromise, we can become rigid and impossible just as easily. We right ourselves as best we can and carry on. It is a loose thread that holds us best together in this life.”
TEASER TRACK: “Dusty Old Man”
Nearly three years since Elbow released their sterling sixth studio album The Take Off and Landing of Everything (2014) and in the wake of drummer Richard Jupp exiting the band in the interim, the acclaimed UK band are set to return next month with their anxiously awaited follow-up Little Fictions.
In a recent interview with BBC Radio 2’s Jo Whiley, charismatic frontman Guy Garvey explained that the new album is “really quite chunky and beat-heavy. There’s a sparseness to the songs which perhaps we’re not known for. The themes are ranging as always, great big themes and concerns for the world at the same time as falling in love, looking forwards and backwards and all of the things.” While the band may have bestowed the diminutive title Little Fictions upon the album, we’re expecting that the songs contained therein will sound grand.
TEASER TRACK: “Magnificent (She Says)”
Arguably one of the most prolific singer-songwriters of the 21st century (and further back if you consider his pre-solo Whiskeytown recordings back in the 1990s), Ryan Adams has delivered 14 studio albums of original material dating back to his debut LP Heartbreaker released in September 2000. His workhorse reputation has been further cemented by a handful of EP releases, the expansive Live at Carnegie Hall and underappreciated Taylor Swift covers album 1989 (both released in 2015), and his stellar production work on recent albums by Jenny Lewis (2014’s The Voyager) and La Sera (2016’s Music for Listening to Music to).
Prisoner, his sixteenth studio album and first album featuring original compositions since his divorce from actress/singer Mandy Moore, arrives in stores next month courtesy of his PAX AM label and Blue Note Records. “I started writing this record while I was going through a very public divorce, which is a humiliating and just a fucking horrible thing to go through no matter who you are,” Adams recently confided to The Japan Times in advance of his December 9th performance in Tokyo. “To be me and to go through that the way that I did was destructive on a level that I can’t explain. So a lot of extra work went into keeping my chin up and remembering what I did and what I loved about who I was.”
TEASER TRACK: “Do You Still Love Me?”
The most consistently impressive discography of the past ten years? Laura Marling makes a convincing case. Still just 26 years old, the devastatingly talented, UK-bred singer-songwriter has released five sterling long players beginning with her dazzling 2008 debut Alas, I Cannot Swim through to her most recent effort, 2015’s Short Movie. In conjunction with the recent unveiling of the self-directed video for lead single “Soothing,” Marling announced the forthcoming arrival of her sixth LP Semper Femina on March 10th. “I started out writing Semper Femina as if a man was writing about a woman," Marling recently explained to The FADER. "And then I thought it’s not a man, it’s me—I don’t need to pretend it’s a man to justify the intimacy of the way I’m looking and feeling about women. It’s me looking specifically at women and feeling great empathy towards them and by proxy towards myself.”
TEASER TRACK: “Soothing”
DEPECHE MODE | Spirit
Release Date: Spring 2017
In his 30th anniversary tribute to Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration last year, Albumism editor-in-chief Justin Chadwick suggested that the beloved band “has always been—and will likely always be—a class act.” The trio of Dave Gahan, Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher is indeed a class act, and one that is still going strong 35 years after they delivered their debut album Speak & Spell (1981). This spring, the group will release their fourteenth studio LP entitled Spirit and hit the road for a 32-date European tour, much to the collective delight of millions of fans eager to hear how the band have evolved their sound since their most recent effort, 2013’s Delta Machine. Produced by Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford, the album should prove a fine addition to Depeche Mode’s sterling discography to date.
CLASSIC TRACK: “Enjoy the Silence”
GORILLAZ | Title TBD
Release Date: TBD
Never one to place his creative eggs in one basket, the Britpop hero turned musical renaissance man Damon Albarn has spent the past few years supporting his sublime debut solo album Everyday Robots (2014) and Blur’s stellar return-to-form, The Magic Whip (2015). Now, Albarn has transitioned his restless soul’s focus toward finishing Gorillaz’ fifth album first studio affair since 2011’s The Fall with longtime collaborator Jamie Hewlett.
He recently confided to Rolling Stone that the project may take a few different turns relative to previous Gorillaz fare, admitting that “So far, it's really fast, and it's got quite a lot of energy. I've been stuck on piano, somewhere off Broadway, for years now. I want to go somewhere completely opposite of that.” While details about the forthcoming project are few and far between, rumor has it that former Gorillaz collaborators De La Soul and Snoop Dogg are set to contribute, in addition to the Chicago-bred emcee Vic Mensa. Whatever the record ends up sounding like and whenever it arrives, it’s bound to be an aural treat of the highest caliber.
CLASSIC TRACK: “Feel Good Inc.”
PHIFE DAWG | Give Thanks
Release Date: Early 2017
In his review of A Tribe Called Quest’s 2016 comeback LP We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service, Albumism’s Jesse Ducker confided, “It’s a little strange to say that Phife haunts this album, but it’s sadly apt. He contributes to most of the songs on the album, and his presence is tangible even when he’s not there.” Granted, while hearing the late-great “Five-Foot Assassin” on wax posthumously is bittersweet, it’s also a welcome reminder that Phife Dawg’s spirit and voice will endure for eternity. And now the emcee’s loyal devotees have a brand new solo joint to look forward to, according to his wife Desha Head Taylor, who recently suggested to Okayplayer that the follow-up to his 2000 solo debut album Ventilation: Da LP “will be out probably sometime during the first quarter of 2017.” Fingers crossed.
TEASER TRACK: “Nutshell”
FLEET FOXES | Ylajali
Release Date: TBD
Don’t call it a comeback, but after a nearly six-year hiatus since releasing their sophomore album Helplessness Blues (2011), golden-voiced Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold has been periodically dropping hints about the alt-folk band’s third album for the past year or so. Most recently, on Christmas Eve a few weeks ago, Pecknold shared a photo via his Instagram profile that appears to show the album’s presumed artwork, title (Ylajali) and record label (Nonesuch), though no indication of a release date has surfaced thus far. The image has since disappeared, further shrouding the much-anticipated project in mystery and fueling fans’ collective restlessness for new Fleet Foxes songs to get them through the long winter days.
CLASSIC TRACK: “Blue Ridge Mountains”
Like the aforementioned Robin Pecknold, the London-based electronic-pop duo Goldfrapp have recently teased the first visuals for their seventh studio album via Instagram. And while Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have yet to offer any insights into the project’s sonic direction, based on their proven penchant for adventurism so gloriously captured across their six albums to date, we’re looking forward to a creative pivot from their most recent affair, 2013’s lush and minimalist Tales of Us.
CLASSIC TRACK: “Number 1”
PETE ROCK & C.L. SMOOTH | Title TBD
Release Date: TBD
Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth’s musical partnership regrettably proved an ephemeral one, but their output from 1991 to 1994 yielded some of the greatest and most enduring records in hip-hop history. Last year, the Get On Down record label reissued their underrated debut EP All Souled Out (1991), their masterful first LP Mecca and the Soul Brother (1992), and their sophomore album The Main Ingredient (1994), renewing interest in the duo’s classic discography and, hopefully, introducing their music to a brand new generation.
In even more promising news, the pair reunited for a recent west coast tour last summer in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of All Souled Out, and reports have surfaced over the past handful of months that the pair have returned to the studio together. The most recent inkling arrived from none other than Pete Rock himself last month, when he told New York’s Power 105 that the album is “coming in 2017” and it’s “gonna be awesome.” Twenty-three years after their last formal recording together, the pending return of the Chocolate Boy Wonder and Caramel King is cause for much celebration.
CLASSIC TRACK: “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)”
LORDE | Title TBD
Release Date: TBD
Professionally speaking, the past few years have been relatively quiet for the precociously talented Lorde, who took the pop world by storm in 2013, aged 17, with the release of her excellent debut album Pure Heroine propelled by her chart-topping, Grammy Award-winning single “Royals.” The most recent music we’ve heard from the New Zealand born and bred singer-songwriter appeared in the form of her underappreciated collaboration with UK house duo Disclosure on 2015’s “Magnets,” which only served to further whet the insatiable appetites of her legion of fans for new original material.
Well, recent signs suggest that the wait is nearly over, as earlier this week, Lorde announced feature slots on this spring’s Coachella and Governors Ball festivals, a few months after tweeting an image of her holding headphones accompanied by the caption “Listen to the record on these every day. Wanna hear it exactly how you will.” Sophomore slump be damned, we would be shocked if Lorde’s second isn’t one of the year’s most celebrated albums.
CLASSIC TRACK: “Magnets” (with Disclosure)
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE | Title TBD
Release Date: TBD
If anyone is giving the aforementioned Damon Albarn a run for his money where recent extracurricular activities are concerned, it’s Josh Homme. In late 2015 into early 2016, his “other band” Eagles of Death Metal resumed touring in the aftermath of the infamous November 13, 2015 terrorist attack during their show at Paris’ Le Bataclan theatre and amidst divisive public comments his bandmate Jesse Hughes subsequently made that were interpreted by some as insensitive to Muslims.
On a brighter note, Homme produced Iggy Pop’s critically acclaimed 2016 album Post Pop Depression, which also included contributions from his Queens of the Stone Age comrade (and The Dead Weather co-founder) Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders. And with reports circulating last summer that Queens of the Stone Age were headed back to the studio before the end of 2016 to record the follow-up to 2013’s …Like Clockwork, it appears more than likely that the new album will emerge sometime in 2017. "[…Like Clockwork] was a big record for us 'cause it was the hardest record to make," guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen explained to Matt Pinfield this past July. "And we're trying to not do that again. We just want to keep things simpler and try that, I guess."
CLASSIC TRACK: "Go With The Flow"
BECK | Title TBD
Release Date: TBD
Originally rumored to be landing in 2016, Beck’s follow-up to his Grammy Award-winning Morning Phase (2014) has been delayed until further notice, though we suspect it’s likely to arrive soon. With lead single “Wow” offering a preview of the project’s sonic direction, Beck has promised a return to the musical frivolity and jubilance akin to that found on Odelay (1996) and Midnite Vultures (1999). "This record is much more celebratory and hopefully uplifting," he recently confided to Entertainment Weekly. "There's a joy in Stevie Wonder, or early Beatles, or the Clash at their most rocking and experimental. I wanted to find some of that." And we definitely can’t wait to hear more of that.
TEASER TRACK: “Wow”
LONDON GRAMMAR | Title TBD
Release Date: TBD
London Grammar’s debut album If You Wait seemingly emerged from thin air in the summer of 2013, but upon initial listens, we were mesmerized by the group’s melodic, understated electro-soundscapes combined with the expansive range of Hannah Reid’s soaring vocals and emotional depth of her evocative lyrics. And now, with the surprise New Year’s Eve release of their new single “Rooting For You,” the trio’s sophomore song suite appears imminent.
Speaking with Australian radio station Triple J back in early 2015 as the band was winding down its world tour, guitarist Dan Rothman explained, “[Hannah]’s like ‘I’ve been thinking about the new songs we’ve been doing and what we’re going to be doing when we get home and I really think it’s going to be like a cross between Pocahontas and Fleetwood Mac.’” Though a release date has yet to be confirmed, we’re clearing room on our shelves as we speak for what promises to be one of 2017’s most intriguing LPs from the humble, yet hugely talented band.
TEASER TRACK: “Rooting For You”
10 Other Albums We'd LOVE to See Emerge in 2017:
RAPHAEL SAADIQ | Title TBD | Release Date TBD
ST. VINCENT | Title TBD | Release Date TBD
MARY J. BLIGE | Strength of a Woman | Release Date TBD
NOEL GALLAGHER'S HIGH FLYING BIRDS | Title TBD | Release Date TBD
THE NATIONAL | Title TBD | Release Date TBD
DJ PREMIER | Last Session @ 320 | Release Date TBD
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN | Title TBD | Release Date TBD
AIMEE MANN | Mental Illness | Release Date TBD
MISSY ELLIOTT | Title TBD | Release Date TBD
SPIRITUALIZED | Title TBD | Release Date TBD