James Blake – James Blake
Due out February 7th on A&M
James Blake’s releases so far have garnered him some of the most hype an artist has ever had before the release of a full-length. And deservedly so, his three EPs (two of which made our top 10 EPs of 2010) display a wide range of abilities from post-dubstep beat producer to unconventional pop singer. Perhaps most exciting is his ability and willingness to shift his sound in many different directions which all play to his strengths. If his lead single, a beautifully atmospheric cover of Feist’s “Limit To Your Love,” is anything to go by, this could be the surprise cross over hit of the year.
– Rob Hakimian
Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place
Due out February 22nd on Asthmatic Kitty
The most acclaimed artist I have never heard of. Julianna Barwick’s music has been said to resemenble the fictitious sound of Carebears making love, though this album will feature more instrumentation as compared to her previous, nearly all a capella recordings. Barwick’s status as a woman who records under her name may scare away listeners who fear the Lillith Fair-sound, but those who give it a chance will be happy to discover one of today’s most exciting emerging artists.
– Philip Cosores
Kanye West and Jay-Z – Watch The Throne
Expected out March 2011 on Def Jam / Roc-a-Fella
How could you not be excited for this album? Kanye is fresh off the release of the classic My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Jay-Z’s features on that album are of high caliber. Not to mention the fact that many of the tracks destined for Watch The Throne came from the same recording sessions as MBDTF.
What’s even more exciting? The possibility of Jack White being on the album.
– Evan Kaloudis
Lady Gaga – Born This Way
Due out May 23rd on Interscope / Streamline / Kon Live
Born This Way will no doubt be the most anticipated album of 2011. Maybe not for the indie world, blogs and music snobs, but by all accounts, Gaga is currently one of the biggest acts worldwide. Now that Gaga has taken the world by storm, it’s really hers to do what she wants with it.
Perhaps the best indicator of where she plans to go musically, is The Fame Monster EP she released in 2009. “Speechless,” in particular was a change in pace. It was an over the top stadium anthem stripped of her usual processed electronic sound, instead boasting piano and electric guitars. Recently in a BBC interview, Gaga confirmed her next album will still be electronic (no surprise), but that it would also have metal and rock ‘n’ roll anthemic style melodies. No one should really expect her to drop the sound that made her popular, but hopefully Born This Way incorporates more organic instrumentation. What Gaga has done best in her career so far, is be able to appeal to the mass market, but at the same time be respected by critics, and yes, music fans not in her general market.
And perhaps that is the most interesting aspect of this follow up: to see what she does with her music on top of all this fame and interest in her. Will she move away from the formulaic sounds of her debut, and try to make pop music with depth (see Kanye West)? Or will she just fall back into place and continue with what works. Up to this point, Gaga has been a single artist. Born This Way might be her attempt to be an album artist. It just depends on how far she wants to push her creativity.
– Brent Koepp
Lupe Fiasco – Lasers
Due out March 8th on 1st & 15th / Atlantic
Lupe Fiasco is a man who has garnered considerable critical praise with his first two releases, Food & Liquor and The Cool, but has been unable to step out from the shadow of his mentors and into heavy publicity, despite his ability to out-spit and out-smart just about any artist he’s featured with. It may be that the issue holding him back is the very thing many fans appreciate about Lupe; his willingness to call out hip hop for its cliches and intellectual inadequacies. We’ve already heard three cuts from the long awaited and oft postponed Lasers and from the sound of things Lupe has no intention to compromise this standpoint. The fans will likely love him for it, and the media will likely continue to not care; after all, level-headedness never sold records (especially not rap records). However, there’s always the hope that that maybe this time, good music will come out with an upset.
Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
Due out March 1st on LLRecordings
Lykke Li doesn’t come across as a typical pop singer. There is a harshness, something darker and very real seeming that comes across in both her interviews and songs, as if the weather extremes in Sweden had seeped into her personality. The result is pop music that intrigues as much as it entertains. First single “Get Some” is sexy in ways that don’t usually don’t appear outside the bedroom, much less on MTV. Yes, she refers to herself as a “prostitute.” It’s blunt, it’s abrasive, it’s independent and it’s pretty rad. He last album, Youth Novels, had a number of songs that could have been major hits in a perfect world. I’ll bet Wounded Rhymes continues this trend, giving Li a real chance to see mainstream success. I think the mainstream might need her.
– Phillip Cosores
Stream: Lykke Li – “Get Some”
M83 – TBA
Expected out 2011
When Anthony Gonzalez described the 20 or so demos he has for the new M83 record to Pitchfork as “very, very, very epic,” we were sold on the third “very.” It seems that Gonzalez finally had the experience and the confidence needed to produce his masterpiece, which will be darker than 2008’s Saturdays=Youth. The album should be out in spring, positioning itself as a reminder of the colder times we just passed through.
– Philip Cosores
Madvillain – TBA
Expected out 2011 on Stones Throw
In 2004, enigmatic emcee MF DOOM and eclectic producer Madlib teamed up to bring us Madvillainy, one of the most unique and innovative hip hop releases to date. Five years later and we’re still waiting for a follow-up. All signs point to a 2011 release but will it live up to its predecessor?
– Evan Kaloudis
Man Man – TBA
Expected April 2011
Man Man are a band that should be much bigger. Their albums are instensely lively with moments of genuine affection and emotion that pack a serious punch thrown in between. Additionally, everything that makes their recorded material great is only intensified when the band plays live. With their last release, 2008’s Rabbit Habits, it seemed Man Man were finally, slowly building the reputation they deserved via word of mouth. But then they went and took their longest break yet. It’ll be three years on by the time their new album is released and the band will probably have to start work all over again on trying to build up a solid fanbase. There will be those, however, who have been waiting patiently for this new album, and it undoubtedly will have been worth the wait.
– Rob Hakimian
Mesita – TBA
Expected out 2011
During 2010, when James Cooley was somewhat regularly releasing songs he planned to put together for his next album, I began to get obviously excited. Not only was the wait for that next album almost over but because the material he was giving his audience was so promising and impressionable, it made the idea of a full of album of material this strong a really wonderful prospect. I put this into perspective and after “Here For You” dropped I was already thinking that Mesita was set to make the best album of 2010.
Sadly it wasn’t quite to be. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still eagerly anticipating this next album. If anything, the Living/Breathing EP just gave me a solid reason to be excited (have you heard how good it is?). One reason you could fault the original way Cooley was set to release his new album was that he was serving us everything and would essentially be compiling it for us. Now pretty much all the material is going to be new to us eager listeners and that makes it all the more exciting. Cooley might have ditched The New Age as an album title but I swear something life-changing might on the agenda here.