This is sure to be an interesting one because Eleanor’s brother Matthew has always been the principal songwriter for the Fiery Furnaces. How will sister Eleanor sound on her own? Well, if “My Mistakes” is any indication, she’ll be releasing the same kind of irresistible pop-rock that we heard on the Furances’ underrated 2009 release I’m Going Away. I hope that album title doesn’t prove prescient and that we hear another Fiery Furnaces record soon; in the meantime, however, a solo effort from Eleanor should hold us over quite nicely. Last Summer is also a noteworthy album title; it reminds me of the Furnaces’ 2005 song “Here Comes the Summer,” which was the highlight of the excellent (thought confusingly titled) full-length EP. If Eleanor’s solo deubt is even half as good as that song was, then we’ll all be in for a treat.
– Josh Becker
Eleanor Friedberger – “My Mistakes”
Fruit Bats – Tripper
Fruit Bats singer/songwriter Eric Johnson and Sub Pop are at it again, pairing up for Tripper; a self-declared “bittersweet meditation on hitting the road, leaving the familiar behind and reinventing yourself.” After playing with The Shins’ on their last world tour and collaborating with Vetiver’s Andy Cabic on a bucolic, gorgeous cover of Bobby Charles’ “I Must Be In A Good Place Now,” Johnson returned to the studio with vogue alt-folk producer Thom Monahan to record Fruit Bats’ fifth album. Johnson gives Monahan some major props, crediting his producer’s “deep knowledge of sonics and a Zen-like approach” for the LP’s tuneful melodies, and “deep, refined sound.”
Tripper isn’t scheduled for release until August 2, but Fruit Bats are offering a free bonus track called “WACS,” featuring J. Mascis of distortion laden alternative rockers Dinosaur Jr. This peppy, effervescent tune begins with Johnson’s call for carefree, aural summertime bliss: “let’s get stoned and play some records.” Articulating a nugget of undeniable truth, he cries in squeaky delight: “music’s better when you’re high!”
– Henry Hauser
Grizzly Bear’s been pretty dormant since their incredible 2009 release Veckatimest. Besides contributing to Dark Was the Night and the unusual appearance on the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack, the Brooklyn quartet seemed to be mostly enjoying their time off. However, with a simple Facebook status update, the band was able to stir the entire music world into a fury once more:
“Towards the end of this month we head to Texas and continue writing new songs and begin recording new album!”
In an interview with HitFix last year, the band mentioned they would begin writing music around Christmas time, but, “It takes a long time for us to write music,” said Ed Droste. He emphasized that it would once again be a collaborative effort; Droste said they would, “start dipping our toes into a writing process and see where that takes us. We want everything to just happen.”
No word yet on when we can expect the latest deliciousness from Grizzly Bear. But, rest assured: the boys are plugging away on it.
– Jesus Lopez
Grizzly Bear and Victoria Legrand – “Slow Life”
The Horrors – Skying
(July 12th/August 9th)
With 2009’s Primary Colours The Horrors shocked everyone; their jump from short bursts of garage-rock to adventurous, lengthy krautrock shocked everyone. It’s certainly one of the biggest leaps in musical styles from a band in the last few years. For Primary Colours The Horrors had their ace in the hole producer: Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, but this time around Barrow’s told the boys to do it themselves. Any fans fearing this will cause them to slip back to old territory should have their fears allayed by the first single from Skying, “Still Life,” a dreamy slice of new-wave influenced rock music. The rest of Skying continues in this same vain, providing a sunny counterpart to their last album and even going above and beyond the scope of that one. It was a shock that The Horrors made a huge step from their first to second album, but it’s perhaps even more exciting that they’ve continued along that same creative trajectory for their third.
– Rob Hakimian
The Horrors – “Still Life”
How To Dress Well
Photo by Philip Cosores
Musician and academic Tom Krell timed the release of Love Remains incredibly well. He, along with a handful of other artists (some of whom also appear on this list) have restored the underground’s faith in R&B in little over a year. While he is undeniably a major player in this movement, Krell’s music is a little different than anyone else’s. They aren’t songs; they’re transmissions, stretched and washed out to the point of incomprehensibility. They aren’t slick and spit shone; they sound like they’re decaying. And even on the rare occasions where you can make them out, the lyrics are of little significance. The creativity that Krell mustered on his debut, coupled with his relative anonymity gives him pretty much free rein to do whatever he wants for a follow up. For those of you who need something to appease you while you wait, check out Transmissions From A Wistful Place, a free mixtape that Krell dropped on Domino’s radio takeover in the UK two weeks ago, which features the new tracks “Suicide Dream 3” and “How Many.”
– Brendan Frank
How To Dress Well – “Suicide Dream 3”
It’s hard to believe we haven’t heard Jens Lekman on record in a little under four years since his quite exceptional sophomore release, Night Falls Over Kortedala, but his boisterous and affecting sincerity laid over rickety analog sheened samples still remains a staunchly singular experience. Little to nothing beyond conjecture and a couple of live unconfirmed-to-show-up-on-an-album “new songs” is known about a third record, but at least there’s some shadowy movement being made in that direction that might hopefully solidify in 2011.
– Will Ryan
Jens Lekman – “Cowboy Boots” (Live on PB Podcast)
Kanye West & Jay-Z – Watch The Throne
While “H.A.M.” might not have been the grand introduction we had hoped for, Watch the Throne is still one of the most anticipated albums of 2011. Fresh off his masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye has a lot of momentum going in his favor. So what better way to capitalize on being one of the most profound artists around today, than working with Jay-Z? Little is known about the album, but Watch the Throne has been said to be a throw back to classic rap. While it remains to be seen if there will be any collaborations, most sources are saying the album is going to be all Kanye West and Jay-Z. This combination of two of hip-hop’s biggest icons makes for unlimited possibilities. It could be a masterpiece, or it could also be a disaster of epic proportions. Either way, it’s the uncertainty of the project and the possibilities that really makes this on of the most fascinating releases of 2011 to watch out for.
– Brent Koepp
Kanye West and Jay-Z – “H.A.M.”
Lil Wayne – Tha Carter IV
By now, the story of Lil Wayne’s rapid rise to the top of the hip hop world is the stuff of legends. An endless amount of mixtape releases and guest features culminated in the release of 2008’s hugely successful Tha Carter III – a record that solidified Wayne’s status as a titan both commercially and critically. A few missteps, (Rebirth, I Am Not a Human Being) and a prison sentence later, the pressure for Wayne to reclaim his throne and deliver a knockout couldn’t be higher.
Tha Carter IV shares its predecessor’s numerous delays and infinite amount of hype, but the two albums diverge from there. While Tha Carter III’s prerelease singles aided in signaling just how strong the record would turn out to be, what we’ve heard of Tha Carter IV, so far, has been less than stellar. In fact, nothing besides first single, “6 Foot 7 Foot,” has managed to capture the energy that Wayne had in spades both leading up to and on Tha Carter III.
Given this, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not the record will live up to the hype. Frankly, the odds stand at 50/50. For as much as he’s succeeded, Wayne’s done plenty of wrong, and his releases following Tha Carter III don’t exactly put the odds in his favor. But whatever the outcome, one thing’s for sure – Wayne’s got the whole world watching.
– Cole Zercoe
Lil Wayne – “6 Foot 7 Foot” (feat. Corey Gunz)
Little Dragon – Ritual Union
Ritual Union is the third album from Swedish band Little Dragon, and is the follow up to 2009’s Machine Dreams, which showed the band stepping away from the electro jazz/r&b sound of their 2007 self-titled debut and leaning towards a more 80s electronic sound.
The soothing, yet danceable title track and the foot stomping single “Nightlight” off Ritual Union shows that the band has retained the electronic vibe present in their past two albums. However, these two tracks don’t have the 80s influence like much of Machine Dreams did. The electronic aspect of the music is more experimental, but not so experimental that it feels out of place. In fact it feels right at home.
Frontwoman Yukimi Nagano’s ethereal vocals ebb and flow with the music. Her voice becomes its own abstract instrument when the music would drown out just about any other singer.
– Nick Preciado
Little Dragon – “Nightlight”
Romance Is Boring was the most fully formed (and in my humble opinion the best) Los Campesinos! album to date, and with an album as put together as that in the bag, most band would be content bask in its success for a little while longer. I mean, they only really toured for about 10 months in support of this album, and some bands are content to coast around on older material for years. This just isn’t the way that LC! operates. Their latest has been completely recorded since at least May 2nd when Gareth posted a seven paragraph missive on his blog that concluded “This is our best album so far, on every level.” If this letter is any indication, as well as acclaim from their peers (“FUCK ME the new LC album is going to be incredible.” says Rebecca Taylor of Slow Club on twitter) then this new album is bound to be the greatest of their career, and we have a lot to look forward to.
– Colin Joyce
Los Campesinos! – “Light Leaves, Dark Sees”
M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez has a knack for the sonically dramatic. He told Pitchfork at the beginning of the year that his next release would be a darker return to the “very, very, very epic” of Before The Dawn Heals Us, seemingly relegating Saturdays=Youth to the only very, very epic. It sounds like the still untitled project will be a double album about dreams with possible guests including everyone from Beck to Zola Jesus as well as the return of Saturdays collaborator, Morgan Kibby. In any case, expect less John Hughes and more Blade Runner this time around.