A new year, a whole new batch of music to get excited about. Will the pandemic have a delayed effect on this year’s releases? Only time will tell, but – as you’ll hopefully glean from this list – we’re still getting pretty hyped up.
We’ve decided to divide our most anticipated albums into four sections, which may be inaccurate or futile, but we wanted to bring some semblance of order to proceedings. So we have:
Confirmed: Title and release date have been revealed – there’s no stopping them coming now.
Almost Certain: There has been some kind of unofficial announcement or acknowledgement from the artist that they have something coming – a lead single, a tweet, images from the studio etc.
Hopeful: Ones that we hope to see in 2021, either because it just feels like it’s time, or credible rumours have been swirling.
Long shots: Albums that we hope for, year in year out, without much real hope that they might actually arrive.
Pearl Charles – Magic Mirror [January 15]
The much-awaited follow-up to debut Sleepless Dreamer, Magic Mirror sees L.A. musician Pearl Charles mixing her signature 70s Country vibes à la Flying Burrito Bros with soft rock and disco in what she considers to be her strongest album yet. The LP was preceded by singles “What I Need”, “Imposter”, and “Take Your Time”, which echo Stone Poneys-era Linda Ronstadt whilst showcasing an exciting maturity both in terms of songwriting and production. – Ana Leorne
Anna B Savage – A Common Turn[January 29]
Across 2020, London-based songwriter Anna B Savage released knock-out single after knock-out single, each one more devastating than the last. With a fearless approach to expressing her own emotional trials and shortcomings, and a voice that is powerful, precise and dextrous enough to add serious weight to all the drama, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve been dealt a body blow when listening to Savage’s songs. Her debut album, A Common Turn, collects together all of the recent singles along with a bunch of new stunners – make sure you’re lying down when you listen. – Rob Hakimian
Goat Girl – On All Fours [January 29]
London upstarts Goat Girl were plenty of fun on their debut album, but the early singles from their follow-up display a huge artistic leap. Utilising more synths, hallucinogenic lyrics and a collaborative writing process, the quartet have ventured well beyond what we expected. With “The Crack” and “Sad Cowboy” they’ve pushed their sound into apocalyptic kraut and hopeless house, and who knows where else they might end up on their second outing. – Rob Hakimian
The Notwist – Vertigo Days [January 29]
The long-running German indie electronic rock band The Notwist have endured several pivots over the years. Starting out as heavy metal, then pushing towards indie rock with 1998’s Shrink, the band has morphed even further from that designation with Vertigo Days, which will be their first non-instrumental album since 2014’s Close to the Glass, and comes after a quietly released Ship EP last summer. Leaning away from the traditional electronic rock that’s followed them since their classic Neon Golden, The Notwist are culling darker trip-hop tones on early teaser “Oh Sweet Fire”, which also uses a spoken word section. – Tim Sentz
Portrayal of Guilt – We Are Always Alone [January 29]
Austin, Texas post-hardcore-blackened-screamo-grind act Portrayal of Guilt are the kind of post-genre metal band that make absurd sentences like this one necessary. After their astonishing 2018 debut Let Pain Be Your Guide melted your mum’s face off, expectations are unreasonably high for the follow-up. Spoiler alert: they meet them. – Andy Johnston
Madlib [& Four Tet] – Sound Ancestors [January]
My mouth was left agape on the announcement of this one – hopefully my ears are left in a similar state after listening. Two of our favorite producers, the illustrious Four Tet and the multi-faceted Madlib, are uniting for what is sure to be one of the most intriguing releases of the year. The album, Sound Ancestors, releasing only under Madlib’s name has a brilliant premise: Four Tet arranges and masters Madlib’s beats.
“I put this concept to him when we were hanging out eating some nice food one day and we decided to work on this together with him sending me tracks, loops, ideas and experiments that I would arrange, edit, manipulate and combine,” Four Tet explained on the album’s announcement. “I was sent hundreds of pieces of music over a couple of years stretch and during that time I put together this album with all the parts that fitted with my vision.” If single, “Road of the Lonely Ones” is any indication of this vision, we’re in for a treat. – Evan Kaloudis
Black Country, New Road – For the first time [February 5]
Every year it seems there’s a post-punk revival that transcends the typical hodgepodge of Joy Division/Bauhaus imitators. Recently, it’s been exciting acts like black midi and Iceage who have proven that this tired old genre has life left in it. Case in point: Black Country, New Road. Finding the warm center of the crossroads between post-rock, jazz, and post-punk, BC,NR aren’t like anything else we’ve heard this century – jarring signature changes, anti-melodic tones, and a quaking vocal delivery by front man Isaac Wood. Their debut album seems set to culminate what has earned them such attention so far. – Tim Sentz
Julien Baker – Little Oblivions [February 26]
Tennessee’s Julien Baker has been keeping busy since the 2017 release of her devastating second album Turn Out The Lights with standalone singles and teaming up with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus as boygenius. Her star will no doubt continue to rise with the release of album three, Little Oblivions, out in February via Matador. Lead single “Faith Healer” finds Baker considerably embellishing her sound, and with a full-band approach taken this time around – playing almost everything herself – her latest batch promises expanded arrangements married to her usual hard-hitting, autobiographical lyrical outlook. It’s sure to be beautiful. – Gareth O’Malley
Arab Strap – As Days Get Dark [March 5]
Arab Strap’s last album came out in 2005, and even when they re-formed for some live dates in 2016 it didn’t seem likely that the cantankerous Scottish duo would bother to record together again. Well, we were wrong, as Arab Strap are back and are as bold and bothered as ever; As Days Get Dark, their unexpected first album in 16 years, arrives in March. With a couple of singles already out, including opening track “The Turning of Our Bones”, which begins with the lines “I don’t give a fuck about the past, our glory days gone by / All I care about right now is that wee mole inside your thigh,” it’s safe to say that they’ve slotted comfortably right back into their gnarled and beloved old groove. – Rob Hakimian
Josef Salvat – The Close/Le Reveil [March 26]
Australian pop artist Josef Salvat will treat fans to a new EP after releasing the excellent and wholly underrated Modern Anxiety in May last year. The singer deals in intimacy, his voice unflinchingly emotional, as he confronts the complexities and desires that constitute the human experience. With two beautiful tracks already released from the project (“First Time” and “Swimming Upstream”), this will be yet another high-calibre addition to his immaculate discography. – JT Early
The final instalment in the alternative band’s Tomorrows trilogy is set for release on April 16th and will no doubt immerse listeners in more of their epic and emotional soundscapes. It truly is a testament to Son Lux’s ambition that they have wholly committed to delivering a cohesive, multi-album project that gives a sonic voice to the human and planetary apocalypses. While some people are ambivalent about the order of things, it is highly recommended you check out the excellent first two instalments and immerse yourself in the bleak yet beautiful world Son Lux paints. – JT Early
Darkside – Spiral [Spring]
Just a few weeks ago it would never have crossed our minds that a second Darkside album might materialise, but the duo’s surprising and taciturn nature is part of their mystique. What’s even more appealing is that lead single “Liberty Bell” shows that Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington’s chemistry is still intact – and they have probably picked up a number of new tricks and secrets in the intervening years since 2013’s Psychic, as they have both been involved with a considerable number of projects. We don’t know much yet about Spiral, but that’s just the way it should be; Darkside’s music is meant to be experienced, and the less we know about it before we get to hear the full project will ensure maximum impact when we do get to wade in to their psychedelic offering. – Rob Hakimian