Looking back at our 2011 list of Most Anticipated Albums, there is a pretty wide spectrum of releases that fulfilled their potential (Destroyer, Fleet Foxes, James Blake), never quite took off (Danielson, Hercules And Love Affair, Lupe Fiasco), and even a few that we are still waiting for (Dead Man’s Bones, Blur, Portishead). Sorry guys, we couldn’t get them all right.
This year, there seem to be even less announced albums then we are used to, and hopefully we will see a surge in confirmed 2012 releases in the coming weeks. Regardless, we still have our theories about what we will see this year, broken up into Announced, Confirmed, In Progress, and Speculative. We couldn’t blurb everything (shout-outs to Cat Power, Ceremony, Screaming Females, Air, Cloud Nothings, The Men, Miike Snow, Swans, Santigold, Black Star, Die Antwoord, and Band Of Horses – don’t worry, we are looking forward to your releases, too), but we have a pretty good cross-section of what we hope to hear in the coming year. Have a safe and happy new year from all of us at BPM, as we look forward to our website’s best year yet.
– Philip Cosores
Albums that have been announced and given a set release date
Bear in Heaven – I Love You, It’s Cool
Due out April 3rd on Dead Oceans
In 2009, Brooklyn-based trio Bear in Heaven made an impact on the music scene with their highly impressive album Beast Rest Forth Mouth. That album delved into different genres such as shoegaze, psychedelic rock, post-rock, and even krautrock. Basically, they’re not afraid to experiment with different sounds – and they don’t plan on stopping on I Love You, It’s Cool. In their press release, they’ve stated that the album is going to be more “abstract and drone-based” than their previous material and will center on the theme of the current state of the music industry. If you head over to their website, you can stream the entire album. There’s a catch however: the album is slowed down 400,000%. By the time you reach the end of the last track, it’ll be the 3rd of April, which happens to be the album’s release date. What a coincidence!
– Ace Ubas
The Big Pink – Future This
Due out January 17th on 4AD
Way back in 2009, 4AD signed English duo The Big Pink (AKA Milo Cordell and Robbie Furze) and released their debut LP A Brief History of Love, a record displaying jumbo stadium sized anthems and feedback heavy quick-fix blasts of noise in equal measure. Rather than the sublime record however, The Big Pink are perhaps best known for their now calling card hit “Dominos,” a song that has littered many a TV ad and sports montage and even been sampled by mainstream rap’s current queen bee, Nicki Minaj.
The question is, will The Big Pink stick to the winning formula they struck on crowd-pleaser “Dominos” or will they try and shrug the song off as their tag by going in a completely new direction, on forthcoming LP Future This? Well, on current evidence it looks like a change in style may be on the cards. In 2010 there was talk of the duo experimenting with more hip-hop influences in the studio, which are also apparent on recent single and album taster “Hit the Ground (Superman)” which features a sample of Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman.” It’s an encouraging sign that if The Big Pink have made a hip-hop album, they might well pull it off.
– Toby McCarron
Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself
Due out March 6th on Bella Union
Andrew Bird may not have turned many new heads in his direction with his last album Noble Beast, but those who were already looking his direction (and paying close attention) heard the innovative violin-sweeping modern troubadour deepen and sharpen his sound. The line between guitar sounds and violin plucks was shadowed further with stand-out tracks like “Not a Robot, But a Ghost,” while his lyrics became both cleverer and more perplexing, as the opening lines on “Anonanimal” showed. The album also had Bird spreading himself out multiple times during the its runtime – a welcome gesture for those who were fond of his live shows – while showing he could still keep things tightened up and still deliver a jaunty indie-pop hit (“Fitz & The Dizzyspells”). While Noble Beast may not have wowed everyone to use as many superlatives as their mind could create, it was another enjoyable and interesting step for Bird, adding to his consistently great catalogue.
Much like many of his songs, it’s hard to predict where he’ll go next. More electric guitar might find its way onto the record but a very brief teaser trailer only offers a few slowed sweeps of his violin, so it’s anyone’s guess really. Chances are Bird may well stick to an apocalyptic theme as he has addressed on many of his past records but considering Bird has name-dropped things like t-shirt printing and osmosis in the past, who knows what his subject matter will be. On the vocal tracks he contributed to the Norman soundtrack, he seemed fascinated with all things nautical and the night sky, but whether those were themes explored for the film specifically, we’ll have to wait and see. Whatever the material on Break It Yourself is and sounds like exactly, I’m sure it’ll be fascinating in its own particular way.
– Ray Finlayson
Bowerbirds – The Clearing
Due out March 6th on Dead Oceans
Bowerbirds have always seemed one of those bands that is doomed to the fringes of indie consciousness. Their brand of poppy-folk is just catchy enough to flutter into the minds of fans of bands like Fleet Foxes, but as of yet they’ve failed to release an album that has really stuck in any appreciable way. That’s not to say that 2009’s Upper Air wasn’t an astounding achievement, it certainly was, but it just didn’t allow the crossover success that they seem capable of and that bands like Bon Iver and the aforementioned Fleet Foxes have already achieved. However the lead single from this upcoming effort promises something special. “Tuck The Darkness In” seems an important distillation of everything that is good about Phillip Moore and Beth Tacular into a sprawling nearly-five-minute cut. It’s nothing over the top or epic, but its sunny vocal harmonies and trickling strings seem to indicate that they’ve truly come into their own as a musical entity. It’s nothing too far removed from most indie folk, but it feels different and special in a way that their previous material didn’t necessarily approach.
– Colin Joyce
Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
Due out January 31st on Columbia Records
Leonard Cohen spent much of the 90s in spiritual seclusion and had few public appearances in the early 00s. So it was a big deal when he resumed touring in 2008, including a spot at Coachella, to consistent critical acclaim. In January, eight years after his last proper album, the other shoe finally drops and Cohen delivers new songs in the form of Old Ideas. He belongs to class of veteran artists with decade-spanning careers, except his output has been much sparser than those in his company like Dylan or Waits. That’s what makes this return all the more special, and it will be interesting to see what one of folk’s greatest songwriters can do today, especially without any of the co-writers of his last studio albums.
– Justin Pansacola
Leonard Cohen – “Show Me The Place”
Lana Del Rey – Born To Die
Due out January 31st on Interscope Records
With all the hype (and hate) circling poor little Lana Del Rey, the release of Born to Die has become much less about anticipating the album for the fun of listening to it. No, rather, more so than in some time, this debut is a proving ground. Can she successfully capitalize on all the noise surrounding her, or is she simply the next Vampire Weekend? Because the truth is, if the album is sound, all the hipsters’ ire in the world won’t stop her. People are taking sides, indie critics already seem poised to love or hate the record, simply based on their perception of the girl, and not her music. It’s not an enviable position, but with the quality of the tracks released so far – regardless as to who is helping her along with them – it seems Lana will weather the storm. One thing is not up for debate: dig her or despise her, everyone’s waiting and talking in hushed voices about this one. She must be doing something right.
– Chase McMullen
Dirty Three – Toward the Low Sun
Due out February 21st on Drag City
Only two albums in and with an enviable reputation for wild performances, Nick Cave’s recent onstage announcement that Grinderman was over was a bittersweet moment. What is not sad is that no Grinderman frees the four old men in suits to get back to their long-neglected other projects. Will a new Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds record surface? One can only dream. But the revelation that Warren Ellis had been contributing to a new Dirty Three record – their first since 2005 – has already gone a long way in making amends for the fact that we will likely not get to hear Cave scowl “I petted her revolting little Chihuahua” for a very long time.
– Liam Demamiel
Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II
Due out February on Southern Lord
With Earth renowned for melding the subtle with the epic, it was of little surprise when Dylan Carlson decided to release a double-disc thematic suite. However, what was a surprise was the wait for Part II, with label Southern Lord deciding to delay it for a year – disappointing both band and fans alike. Finally slated for release, one can only sense that the wait has been well worth it. Speaking to Carlson last year, he gave me a tantalising yet cryptic hint of what can be expected; “It is closest to the title track of the first part, which was freely improvised in the studio. Part II is all improvisatory, although it has more overdubs than the first part. It is about the restoration of magic and the destruction of Aristotelian logic and our return to our quantum state. It is also about the eventual negation of monotheism.”
– Liam Demamiel
Fanfarlo – Rooms Filled with Light
Due out February 28th on Canvasback Music
With their debut album Reservoir, London-based outfit Fanfarlo created one hell of a catchy album. On record and in a live setting, they play a wide range of instruments that include an eclectic variety to say the least: mandolin, melodica, musical saw, and a sound tube. They’re like the musical offspring of Beirut and Neutral Milk Hotel, but more pop. So far, they’ve given everyone a taste of the new album with songs “Deconstruction” and “Replicate” that shows maturation in their sound. Surprisingly, the tracks are a bit darker and the arrangements are tighter with subtle hints of post-punk, showing that Fanfarlo isn’t afraid to experiment with their music. The shift away from the folk-pop aspect only makes the upcoming sophomore release all the more intriguing.
– Ace Ubas
Fanfarlo – “Deconstruction”
Craig Finn – Clear Heart, Full Eyes
Due out January 24th on Vagrant
The Hold Steady have been one of the most prolific and consistent bands of the 21st century, so a step taken outside that continual work cycle seems sort of strange. But, hell, if anyone deserves a break it’s probably these guys – not that Craig Finn has really taken one. While the rest of the band took time off, he flew to Texas to continue writing songs which he would go on to record with a new band for his solo album. While a lot of The Hold Steady’s charm comes in the form of their riffs and other instrumentation, the thing that keeps you coming back is Finn’s lyrics, so a solo album from the man, which potentially promises to be even more lyric-centric, is very appealing indeed. We’ll find out soon enough if Finn is capable of carrying an album on his own (his live performances as front man of The Hold Steady strongly suggest that this is the case). And if not, we’ll be getting a new album from The Hold Steady soon enough anyway.
– Rob Hakimian
Craig Finn – “Honolulu Blues”
First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
Due out January 24th on Wichita Records
The Swedish folk pop duo First Aid Kit first received attention via their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” a few years back, and since then they’ve gone on to release their debut full-length and tour the world, while continuing to grow as songwriters. The Lion’s Roar will be released on January 24 and it was recorded in Omaha with Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis producing as well as guesting. The album will be the Söderberg sisters’ second LP and so far we’ve been treated with the excellent lead single “The Lion’s Roar” and a session version of their Emmylou Harris tribute “Emmylou” – and by all indications the album is definitely going to be something special.
– Johan Alm
First Aid Kit – “The Lion’s Roar”
Guided by Voices – Let’s Go Eat the Factory
Due out January 1st on Fire Records
Pollard and friends’ first album since Half Smiles… is out January 1, and has been streaming for a couple weeks now. Featuring the lineup that dropped the now-legendary Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes 15-and-change years ago, the album is unsurprisingly jagged and fragmented, favoring brevity and a variety of earworms over any grander scope or unifying principle. This return may not always feel fully conceived (some decisions are pretty bewildering), and fans with monolithic expectations may find it easy to overlook the strength of many of these tunes. But the squall and hunger are there, as are the tiny moments of tenderness that make Guided by Voices a band so easy to have monolithic expectations of.
– FM Stringer
Islands – A Sleeping & A Forgetting
Due out February 14th on Anti-.
When Islands’ creative lead Nick Thorburn talked about A Sleeping & A Forgetting being his most personal album yet, he certainly wasn’t exaggerating. “This is Not a Song,” the first single from the forthcoming album, is a slow, piano driven balled that deviates from the once bubbly pop of Return to the Sea. A Sleeping & A Forgetting is more than an interesting release in the band’s catalogue, as it will assuredly define the rest of the group’s future. I personally found 2010’s Vapours a more than enjoyable effort, but it was swept under the rug after Arm’s Way‘s obvious shortcomings. The critical reaction to the record should be interesting, because if Islands haven’t already been written off by every outlet, I think A Sleeping & A Forgetting could be a pleasant surprise. Fans are never going to get another Return to the Sea or another Unicorns album, but a more grounded and focused approach to songwriting for a musician like Thorburn could make Islands a surprise hit in 2012.
– Erik Burg
Damien Jurado – Maraqopa
Due out February 21st on Secretly Canadian
Of the 9 albums under Damien Jurado’s belt, the best ones seem to suffer from a case of almost-but-not-quite. One of the most promising was 2010’s Saint Bartlett, which elevated his melancholy folk songwriting to a newer, fuller sound. But the success of some turning points is dependent on the follow through. When Jurado releases his big number 10 album in February, the career narrative will be whether or not his last album was a compelling blip, or the warm-up to his best work yet. It helps that he’s bringing along producer Richard Swift for a second go around.
– Justin Pansacola
Damien Jurado – “Nothing Is News”
The Magnetic Fields – Love At The Bottom Of The Sea
Due out March 6th on Merge
There’s no denying the brilliance of Stephin Merritt at this point. His reputation as one of the great songwriters of our era long precedes him, and there’s no doubt that upcoming efforts will be more of the same. Where Love At The Bottom Of The Sea will be particularly interesting, aside from its status as another (likely) solid set of Magnetic Fields songs, is in its supposed return to synthesizer-based composition. We haven’t really seen much of this side since 90s efforts like The Charm Of The Highway Strip and Get Lost, so we’re sure to be in for a treat. Merritt says that many of the synths used on Love At The Bottom Of The Sea didn’t exist when he last made an album based in this sort of technology, so it will certainly be interesting to see how he’ll take advantage of this new gear to return to his songwriting roots.
– Colin Joyce
of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks
Due out February 7th on Polyvinyl
Whether you think Of Montreal have jumped the proverbial shark or not, Kevin Barnes and company are rolling full steam ahead on yet another full length in 2012. Paralytic Stalks is said to feature more of the personal lyrical structure that made Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? so great, which would benefit a band that’s gone completely off the rails in terms of storytelling. I can’t fault the man’s imagination, but if Of Montreal don’t reign in their imagination on the new album, they may as well be forgotten about. Enough with the overwrought sexual symbolism and fetish idealism, more attention paid to crazy song structures and polished production. Thankfully, “Wintered Debts” delivers on some of those suggestions, combining countless string and percussion arrangements in a seven-and-a-half-minute package that’s more about music than fever dream imagery. It could ultimately be a benchmark album for the storied band, because if Paralytic Stalks isn’t the return to earth Barnes needs, it could render Of Montreal the laughing stock of indie music.
– Erik Burg
Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It
Due out February 21st on Matador
Mike Hadreas’ 2010 debut effort under his Perfume Genius moniker was simply some of the most heartbreaking music ever recorded. As bold a claim as that is, there’s no denying the emotional weight of tracks like “Mr. Petersen” or “Learning.” If “All Waters” is any indication of the overall style of the new album, Hadreas might be focusing more on mining the hazy atmospherics of songs like “Gay Angels,” but in any case it’s sure to be majestic. Early reports from Turnstile Music’s (Hadreas’ UK Label) Twitter seem to indicate that we might be in for something even more special than Learning, and if that’s anywhere close to true then the results should be devastatingly beautiful.
– Colin Joyce
Porcelain Raft – Strange Weekend
Due out January 24th on Secretly Canadian
Porcelain Raft is the project of the London-based Italian musician Mauro Remiddi, and Strange Weekend is Porcelain Raft’s first proper record, but Remiddi is far from a newcomer to music even though he’s only had his name on a few singles yet. So far we’ve been treated with one teaser from Strange Weekend – the wonderful “Put Me to Sleep.” It gives us a fair idea of what to expect from Strange Weekend; dreamy and athmospheric electronic pop music, with more than a pinch of T. Rex-styled glam rock thrown in. Porcelain Raft is definitely one of the most promising acts around, and with a support slot for M83 scheduled he’s surely going to be receiving a lot of attention next year.
– Johan Alm
Porcelain Raft – “Put Me To Sleep”
School of Seven Bells – Ghostory
Due out February 28th on Vagrant/Ghostly International
School of Seven Bells (or SVIIB) is a band that I feel has flown under the radar, despite sharing the stage with notable acts such as Blonde Redhead, The Raveonettes, and M83. Last year, they released their sophomore album Disconnect from Desire that landed on many year-end lists. With their upcoming third album Ghostory, they look to build on the success and make an impact with their perfect blend of dream-pop, shoegaze, and electronic music. However, it will be interesting to see if there’s a shift in their sound as guitarist Ben Curtis (who’s also producing the album) and vocalist Alejandra Deheza have moved on without the latter’s twin sister, Claudia (who left the band for personal reasons).
– Ace Ubas
Shearwater – Animal Joy
Due out February 14th on Sub Pop
Few side-projects fully establish themselves as well as Shearwater has managed to. Now seven albums into their career, they are an entirely different band than the one that originally formed to showcase the quieter ideas that didn’t have room in the Okkervil River canon. Lead songwriter Jonathan Meiburg has stated that their previous three albums, (the fantastic Palo Santo, the even better Rook, and the disappointing The Golden Archipelago), formed a trilogy of sorts, leaving this new album Animal Joy to represent another shift in sound. Shearwater has proven themselves talented enough to accomplish many different goals so far in their career so there is no real reason to doubt that this new direction won’t be a welcome one.
– Ricky Schweitzer
The Shins – Port of Morrow
Due out March on Aural Apothecary
It’s been a long time since we’ve heard from The Shins. While James Mercer was off working on Broken Bells, his mildly successful side-project with Danger Mouse, he left the band that jump-started his career to rest on the laurels of its previous three good-to-brilliant albums. After it became clear that Mercer had been kicking out band members, leaving them to submit to wild ideas like opening taco carts (see: Jesse Sandoval), we came to understand that Port of Morrow, the long awaited follow-up to Wincing the Night Away, would showcase a new Shins sound. Regardless of this potential shift, Mercer must have taken up The Shins moniker again for a reason and so expectations understandably are sky high.
– Ricky Schweitzer
Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror
Due out February 14th on Mom + Pop
Building steadily on the hype of early single “Crown On the Ground,” Sleigh Bells had all eyes on them when they finally released their debut album Treats in 2010. Luckily for us they did not disappoint, and Treats not only managed to meet expectations, but exceed them by both intensifying and clarifying what was already known about the band. Sleigh Bells have created one of the least predictable and most outrageous sounds that have been brought into the musical landscape in the last few years so whether or not their sophomore release will follow this mold is anyone’s guess.
– Ricky Schweitzer
Sleigh Bells – “Born To Lose”
Spiritualized – Sweet Heart, Sweet Light
Due out March 19th on Fat Possum
Jason Pierce’s 2008 comeback effort Songs in A&E was probably his strongest effort since 1997’s masterpiece Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. When he took the latter album on the road for a few select shows with a full choir and orchestra, audiences walked out of the concert halls proclaiming them to be the best shows they’d ever seen or would see. So it’s no surprise he brought out a choir and orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall to debut the next Spiritualized album, which will hopefully have the heights of those shows.
– Ryan Nichols
For a better quality recording of this song head to The Guardian
Tennis – Young and Old
Due out February 14th on Fat Possum
Tennis’ debut album, Cape Dory, was released in January of 2011. This seemed like a strange time to release an album that sounds like it would be the perfect soundtrack for the slow orange haze of summer evenings. Unfortunately, the band have gone and done it again, and decided to release their new album in the winter once more. However, our first tastes of Young and Old suggest a slight change in sound to something more full, and altogether more lively. “Origins” suggests neither a specific time or a place where it would be ideal listening, rather it seems as though it could be perfect listening at almost all times. After all, truly good pop music sounds good whatever the occasion. If the rest of the album can follow suit then Tennis may have deftly avoided the “difficult second album” trap, and who knows, they might even convert some haters too.
– Rob Hakimian
Tennis – “Origins”
The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know
Due out February 7th on FatCat
The Twilight Sad have never really taken off as one of the bigger Scottish indie acts, but they are regarded by critics as being a band that should really be listened to and appreciated. Positive reception for their stylish 2007 release Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters put them into the music-lovers vision, and since then, through a series of EPs and a second album in 2009, the band have gained loyal followers owing to their introspective lyrics and dense, melodic arrangements. Early previews of their third LP, No One Can Ever Know, have suggested that this album will shake things up for The Twilight Sad and present fans with a new and formidable sound; this should prove to be a drastic enough change to earn them some new fans whilst maintaining their existing followers. Still a relatively young band, The Twilight Sad have set themselves apart from their peers through their excellent music and their overt national identity. It will prove incredibly interesting to see where they go with their next album, but it will certainly be somewhere that we will want to follow.
– Alex Phillimore
The Twilight Sad – “Kill It In The Morning”
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Due out February 7th on Jagjaguwar
Sharon Van Etten’s third album, Tramp, is set to come out in February. Tramp is Van Etten’s first album on Jagjaguwar and was produced by the National’s Aaron Dessner. Sharon recently released a single from the new album, “Serpents,” which features Bryce and Aaron Dessner, Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner, Doveman’s Thomas Bartlett, and Matt Barrick of The Walkmen. The 12-track album is also set to feature Julianna Barwick and Beirut’s Zach Condon. 2012 is sure to be a busy year for Van Etten and she is currently on tour through the winter.
– Ryan Jordal