Albums of 2011 - A Preview
While the album highs of 2010 are still visible in the rear view mirror - find our writers' and recommenders' favourite discs of the year here - the time has truly come to press onwards: into 2011, and all the great, good, so-so and deeply rotten releases to come.
Where better to start a preview of what's forthcoming* with something that's already on shelves. British Sea Power have followed-up their Mercury Prize-nominated album of 2008, Do You Like Rock Music?, with Valhalla Dancehall (review), a collection that furthers the Brighton group's singularly skewed take on pop-rock songwriting. Fellow big-hitters in the indie world, White Lies, release their second album Ritual (review) on 17 January. The successor to their chart-topping debut, To Lose My Life, some might say it's more of the same - bleak, but packed with massive choruses. And some might also say that if something's not all that broken, why fix it.
January is also the time when the first acts listed in the BBC Sound of 2011 come out to play with their debut collections. Brian Eno-feted songstress Anna Calvi's eponymous set (review) will jostle for attentions when it's released at the same time as White Lies' latest, while Brightonian gothtronica trio Esben and the Witch wait until the end of the month to issue their Matador-released 10-tracker, Violet Cries. Both suit the seasonal gloom fairly excellently. Crossing-over dub-stepper James Blake releases his much-anticipated debut on 7 February - expect high-scoring critiques - and lo-fi rockers Yuck drop their self-titled 12-track debut two weeks later.
Other Sound of 2011 artists breaking cover in the first few months of the year include Clare Maguire, with Light After Dark released on 28 February; New Zealanders The Naked and Famous, whose Passive Me Aggressive You earns a UK release on 14 March; and The Vaccines, who step into the commercial light a week later with the two-fingers-up-but-tongue-in-cheek title of What Did You Expect From The Vaccines gracing the packaging of their first long-player.
Rockers are well catered for during 2011's opening months - Californian punk legends Social Distortion unveil Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes on 17 January, and also coming this way from across the Atlantic are new discs from ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (Tao of the Dead, early February) and a long-awaited comeback from Walter Schreifels' Rival Schools, whose new set Pedals arrives a decade after their acclaimed debut. Larger venues will shake to new tunes from Foo Fighters, who reportedly finished their seventh studio effort on 3 January, and Jane's Addiction - expect both to release their latest wares this side of the summer festivals. Another US act to have completed their latest LP is Limp Bizkit, but the nu-metallers' Gold Cobra collection is yet to receive a release date. Keep eyes and ears open, too, for a new album from The Mars Volta - still a work-in-progress, but expected this year. Or might there actually be an At the Drive-In reunion instead? Personally, I know what I'd vote for.
Closer to home, and domestic acts Architects (The Here and Now, 24 January), Funeral for a Friend (Welcome Home Armageddon, 14 March), Mogwai (Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, 14 February) and Lower Than Atlantis (World Record, 4 April) all have new really-rather-heavy sets on the release slate. But should those ears be in need of something a little less raucous, there's plenty of shiny pop forthcoming, too. The most immediately notable is Adele's follow-up to her superb debut, 19 - a collection of barrelling barroom stompers and tear duct-tickling ballads, 21 is released on 24 January. Another Londoner due for a return in 2011 is Estelle, but exactly when third album All of Me is going to see the light of day is not clear - work began on the follow-up to 2008's Shine back in 2009. And - if we're really, really lucky - we might just get a new disc from a certain Amy Winehouse. With second album Back to Black rather fading in the memory, released as it was back in 2006, it's time (surely) for the queen of British soul to return and cast all pretenders aside. Last summer its release date was said to be this month - if we see it by the end of this summer, it'll be a result.
Fans of Sound of 2011 winner Jessie J will have to wait until June for her debut album - but an American superstar who the Essex singer is quite clearly influenced by, Lady Gaga, will release her second album a little sooner. Born This Way will explode across global charts in May. Similarly likely to cause countdowns the world over to go into spasms of superlatives, the twin kings of contemporary rap, Kanye West and Jay-Z, release collaborative album Watch the Throne later this year. It's said to be dark and sexy - and it's sure to sell by the skip-load. The pop world will also bear witness, over the next 12 months, to new records from: Avril Lavinge (Goodbye Lullaby, 7 March), Britney Spears (title TBC, March), Alexis Jordan (Alexis Jordan, 7 February), Sara Bareilles (Kaleidoscope Heart, 21 February) and The Wombats (This Modern Glitch, 11 April).
We're not quite through, yet. A few crackers are coming up. Not least of all a new album from R.E.M., Collapse Into Now - the Jacknife Lee-produced 15th album from the enduring Athens, Georgia outfit is scheduled for 7 March. And there's also a new disc soon to drop from New York's coolest exports of the last decade, The Strokes - word on the internet grapevine is that the five-piece's fourth album will be released on 22 March in the US, so expect it in the UK a day earlier. More big names from the USA releasing big albums in 2011 include: Dr. Dre (yes, Detox is really coming, really - hopefully - in February); Lupe Fiasco (Lasers, 7 March); Beastie Boys (Hot Sauce Committee parts one and two, the latter preceding the former, probably in the spring); Fleet Foxes (no release date, but working titles have apparently included Deepwater Horizon and Slaughternalia - apparently); Bright Eyes (The People's Key, 21 February); Diddy - Dirty Money (Last Train to Paris, due in the UK at the end of January); and Lil Wayne (the prison-term-delayed Tha Carter IV, expected sometime before the end of 2011).
Finally, a handful of British acts return to the fray in the coming weeks with new selections sure to win a place in the hearts of their many fans. PJ Harvey's Let England Shake, released on Valentine's Day, has been three years in the making and represents a departure from the introspection of 2007's piano-driven White Chalk (in other words, expect noise). Indie-folkers Noah and the Whale will look to make up ground lost to Mumford & Sons in 2010 with their third long-play set, Last Night on Earth, which lands on 7 March. Jamie from The xx has remixed all of Gil Scott-Heron's I'm New Here album, and the results - titled We're New Here - are to be revealed on 21 February (it's bleepy and twitchy and ever-so-slightly great). The Human League release their first studio album for 10 years, Credo, in early March; though Gang of Four will have gone 16 years between studio albums when seventh LP proper Content is released on 24 January, so what's a decade, really?
Sorry, just two more names: U2 and Radiohead. They're fairly popular, right? Too right, and both are expected to release new albums in the next 12 months. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm all previewed out. If what you're waiting for isn't mentioned above, tell us about it by posting a comment below.
(*Do please note that this is incredibly far from an exhaustive list, and that release dates are subject to change.)