The top-20 most anticipated albums of 2018

Brandi Carlile, Franz Ferdinand, Calexico and more new tunes to look forward to this year


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Annie Zaleski
January 5, 2018 11:58pm (UTC)

The music industry generally takes the first week of a new year to ease back into business. That wasn't the case with 2018: January 2 brought word of a new Justin Timberlake solo album, "Man of the Woods," that came complete with an intense, nature-heavy teaser video (and an abundance of Bon Iver jokes) and the decidedly non-rustic single, "Filthy."

From there, the week just got better. Bruno Mars released an updated version of "Finesse" with a Cardi B feature and New Jack Swing-inspired retro grooves. News broke that Kendrick Lamar was co-curating the "Black Panther" soundtrack, which he previewed by releasing a duet with R&B upstart SZA. And wiry punks Titus Andronicus announced a new album, "A Productive Cough."

In other words, 2018 is already shaping up to be a fantastic year for music — and that's just taking into account the records that are officially confirmed. Dozens of other artists — including country star Kacey Musgraves, rap upstarts Migos and Rae Sremmurd, and '90s indie icons the Breeders — are still sorting out their release plans for the year.

Of course, another part of the anticipation equation involves prognostication about what might happen. Will Tinashe's long-gestating album, "Joyride," finally see the light of day? Is Kevin Shields' promise of a new My Bloody Valentine album more than idle talk? Will Nicki Minaj finally release a new record in 2018? Nile Rodgers promised in December that the Chic record he's been working on, "It's About Time," is due this year — can we dare hope so? And what exactly is the status of Kanye West's "Turbo Grafx 16"?

So, because so much is still up in the air in this very young year, the list below of the 20 anticipated records includes entires whose existence and release dates have actually been confirmed. As for the rest, well, we'll just have to see what happens, won't we?

tuneyards-gatewaytUnE-yArDs, "I can feel you creep into my private life" (January 19)
Merrill Garbus has kept a low profile since releasing the last tUnE-yArDs album, 2014's "Nikki Nack." Judging by the forthcoming "I can feel you creep into my private life," which a press release described as "protest music you can dance to," that's only because she's been gathering trenchant societal observations and sculpting rhythm-heavy electro. The album's first single, "Look At Your Hands," is a glossy '80s dance-pop number whose implied message is that we need to face up to our role in various forms of oppression, while "ABC 123" examines the emotional and political divisions currently dominating our communities. Smartly, however, the record contains a multitude of approaches and styles. The desolate "Who Are You" incorporates glittering keyboard sweeps and wailing saxophone, which lends gravitas to solemn proclamations such as, "My thoughts are not my own," while the sonic pastiche "Home" incorporates plodding piano, church-like ethereal harmonies, red-hot perforated beats and jazz-soul vocal scatting.

Pre-order it here.

 

 

mudhoney-gatewayMudhoney, "LiE" (January 19)
In the pantheon of bands hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Mudhoney always seems to be overlooked, or at least not given as much credit as they deserve for releasing some of the region's most indelible work. It's long overdue: Thirty years into their career, the Mark Arm-led group still raise a ferocious ruckus revolving around bluesy garage rock and abrasive scuzz-punk. The forthcoming "LiE," which was recorded on the band's 2016 European tour, is the band's first widely released official live record. Older tunes such as the Stooges-esque "Suck You Dry" and churning "Broken Hands" are still rabble-rousing, while newer numbers, like the dirge-like funk of "What To Do With the Neutral," embrace more sophisticated ways to exude aggression. To top it off, there's the band's take on Roxy Music's "Editions of You," a stomping howl which upends the original's snarling glam veneer. Keep "LiE" cranked at full volume for maximum enjoyment.

Pre-order it here.

calexico-gatewayCalexico, "The Thread That Keeps Us" (January 26)
It's far too easy to take Calexico for granted. The Arizona-based desert-folk group, which is headed by two principal members, vocalist/guitarist Joey Burns and drummer John Convertino, is remarkably consistent and prolific. In fact, on their ninth studio album, "The Thread That Keeps Us," described as having "less polish and more grit than ever before," Calexico are reaffirming that laurel-resting is not in their vocabulary. Recorded in Northern California, the record is a melting pot of eras, approaches and influences. "Bridge to Nowhere" resembles Radiohead soaking up some Southwestern musical flair; "Under the Wheels" hints at both loping dub and brassy mariachi; and "The Town and Miss Lorraine" is lovely indie-folk with Jon Brion-caliber orchestral sparkles. Even better is the bustling "Another Space," which boasts stuttering funk grooves, conspiratorial speak-singing and a vibrant sonic underbelly mixing together organ, keys and brass. "The Thread That Keeps Us" is a classic, headphones-worthy record full of intriguing nuances.

Pre-order it here.

 

 

brandicarlile-gatewayBrandi Carlile, "By The Way, I Forgive You" (February 16)
When Salon checked in with Brandi Carlile last May, upon the release of a re-imagined version of her breakthrough album, "The Story," the singer-songwriter was already excited about her next studio album. She had good reason to be: That effort ended up being the stunning "By The Way, I Forgive You." Sonically, it's a marvel. Carlile teamed up with producers Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton) and Shooter Jennings, and recorded the album in Nashville's famous RCA Studio A, which means that every instrumental detail is crisp and deliberate. Highlights include the soaring, orchestra-burnished "The Joke," on which Carlile channels Chrissie Hynde's ragged-but-tender vocal delivery; the vintage-crackled country ballad "The Mother" and its honeyed acoustic guitars; and the opening track "Everytime I Hear That Song," on which Dolly Parton-caliber introspection pairs with the haunted harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel. If there's any justice in the world, "By The Way, I Forgive You" should catapult Brandi Carlile into music's upper echelons.

Pre-order it here.

brockhampton-gatewayBrockhampton, "Team Effort" (2018)
The eclectic Los Angeles hip-hop troupe Brockhampton, which splices together disparate genres and sonic approaches with gleeful energy, released a whopping three albums in 2017. Expect this momentum to continue apace. Near the end of the year, the group announced that another new album, "Team Effort," would be coming sometime in 2018.

 

 

blackrebelmotorcycleclub-gatewayBlack Rebel Motorcycle Club, "Wrong Creatures" (January 12)
The long-running California trio Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has built a career by cultivating noir-ish, atmospheric rock 'n' roll. The band's latest, "Wrong Creatures," is once again full of tough-as-black-leather psych-rock and smoldering shoegaze.

Pre-order it here.

shopping-gatewayShopping, "The Official Body" (January 19)
The music crafted by U.K. band Shopping is the next best thing to crate-digging for early '80s dub and minimalist post-punk LPs. The group's taut, Edwyn Collins-produced "The Official Body" is focused and danceable, and contains an abundance of roiling bass, buzzy keyboards and speak-sing vocals.

Pre-order it here.

 

 

firstaidkit-gatewayFirst Aid Kit, "Ruins" (January 19)
The Swedish duo First Aid Kit is known for frosty, folk-rooted indie-pop. On album number four, "Ruins," expect more of the same, thanks to meticulous production from Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, Laura Veirs) and contributions from Peter Buck and Wilco’s Glenn Kotche.

Pre-order it here.

rickspringfield-gatewayRick Springfield, "The Snake King" (January 26)
Before he was an '80s star — or a "General Hospital" heartthrob for that matter — Rick Springfield was learning the music ropes by listening to great rock 'n' rollers. His latest studio effort hews toward the blues and is a showcase of his (underrated) skills as a guitarist.

Pre-order it here.

 

 

thewombats-gatewayThe Wombats, "Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life" (February 9)
The title of the Wombats' fourth album is a bit cheeky, just like the U.K. band's music itself. Still, it's that hint of an edge which makes the group's sugary indie-pop so irresistible.  

Pre-order it here.

franzferdinand-gatewayFranz Ferdinand, "Always Ascending" (February 9)
Despite the departure of guitarist Nick McCarthy, dapper U.K. post-punks Franz Ferdinand show no wear and tear on their forthcoming studio effort, which contains the band's usual mix of pogo-punk, propulsive electro-pop and arch humor.

Tune into SalonTV live on January 19 at noon ET / 9 a.m. PT when Salon interviews Franz Ferdinand about the new album. SalonTV streams live on Salon.com, Facebook and Periscope.

Pre-order it here.

 

 

brianfallon-gatewayBrian Fallon, "Sleepwalkers" (February 9)
It's good to be Brian Fallon. At June's Governors Ball Music Festival, the singer-songwriter is reuniting with his band, the Gaslight Anthem, to perform their breakthrough record, "The '59 Sound." But before that, he's issuing the solo record, "Sleepwalkers," an amalgamation of classic rock grit, bluesy R&B and Jersey swagger.

fischerspooner-gatewayFischerspooner, "Sir" (February 16)
The New York duo Fischerspooner has always embraced avant-garde performance and electro techniques. Produced by R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe — and featuring contributions from Chairlift's Caroline Polachek, producer BOOTS and Now It's Overhead's Andy LeMaster — "Sir" is no different: It's a 21st-century synth-pop excursion boasting sinewy grooves and new-wave seductions.

 

 

laurieandersonkronosquartet-gatewayLaurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet, "Landfall" (February 16)
It's almost preposterous that this effort is Laurie Anderson's first-ever musical collaboration with the adventurous string quartet. Naturally, the results are predictably inspired: Initial tracks released from "Landfall," which sprang from Anderson's "experience of Hurricane Sandy," are moving and thought-provoking.

Pre-order it here.

superchunk-gatewaySuperchunk, "What a Time To Be Alive" (February 16)
Looking for a loud, raucous punk record bristling with frustration about our current political and social climate? Look no further than Superchunk's forthcoming album, which assesses the ongoing frustrations and oppressions with an incisive eye.

Pre-order it here.

 

 

screamingfemales-gatewayScreaming Females, "All At Once" (February 23)
One of America's best rock bands, Screaming Females, returns with their first album in three years. It's worth the wait: Marissa Paternoster's commanding vocals and charred guitar elocutions are bruising.

Pre-order it here.

buffalotom-gatewayBuffalo Tom, "Quiet and Peace" (March 2)
The erstwhile Boston band's first studio album in seven years is a moody and introspective joy from start to finish, full of melancholic rockers (the brisk "All Be Gone"), sublime sonic progressions (the gospel choir-augmented "Overtime") and a barn-burning cover of the Who's "The Seeker" for good measure.

Pre-order it here.

 

 

fanny-gatewayFanny Walked the Earth, self-titled (March 2)
Three members of the pioneering '60s all-female rock band Fanny — Brie Darling and sisters June and Jean Millington — have reunited under a slightly different name. With any luck, the group's forthcoming self-titled effort will finally give the musicians the wider audience (and respect) they deserve.

Pre-order it here.

manicstreetpreachers-gatewayManic Street Preachers, "Resistance is Futile" (April 6)
The U.K. rock demigods have a low profile in the States these days, although they've never stopped cranking out (rather excellent and ambitious) records glinting with pop smarts. The Manics latest studio effort, introduced by the glammy, string-skewered "International Blue," promises much of the same.

Pre-order it here.

 

 

belly-gatewayBelly, "DOVE" (May 2018)
The beloved '90s alt-rock band reunited in recent years for some well-received shows. In even more exciting news, Tanya Donelly and co. are also making a new record, which is slated to emerge in the spring.

Pre-order it here.


Annie Zaleski

Annie Zaleski is a Cleveland-based journalist who writes regularly for The A.V. Club, and has also been published by Rolling Stone, Vulture, RBMA, Thrillist and Spin.

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