Hopeful

Animal Collective

Over 10 years after Merriweather Post Pavilion ended a decade packed with Animal Collective releases, the loose quartet has recently been busy with solo records that ranged from brilliant (Sleep Cycle, Cows on Hourglass Pond) to flat out weird (Buoys), with only three ‘real’ AnCo albums in the 2010s. Slyly hinting at ‘new material’ on their social media, it will be interesting to see how the band follows up an era of strong but divisive material, especially as their solo outing clearly showed their individual talents. – John Wohlmacher

Azure Ray

Dream pop duo Azure Ray (made up of Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink) announced this fall that they would be reissuing their beloved self-titled debut in 2020 for its 20th anniversary. What they have also said, though, is that there’s even more on the way. Confirmed in our chat for Meet Our Makers, Maria and Orenda told me they have been writing and even recording new material, and that they have been extremely happy with the results so far. Hopefully we get to hear what they’ve been cooking up in 2021. – Jeremy J. Fisette

Ben Howard

The elusive singer-songwriter tends to keep information about future releases clutched so tightly against his chest that predicting a future album’s release date from him is downright impossible. However, in December a technical error occurred on his YouTube channel where two new songs (“What A Day” and “Crowhurst’s Meme”) were accidentally uploaded earlier than intended. Unfortunately, these were taken down almost immediately with only a handful of Howard’s fanbase being quick (and lucky) enough to hear them before their deletion. The silver lining however is that there does appear to be a follow-up to his beautiful third album Noonday Dream on the horizon even if it was unintentionally revealed. – JT Early

Black Country, New Road – LP2

The London septet’s debut album isn’t even out yet and we’re excited about their second one. With For The First Time set for release in February, the band have revealed that they already have a stock of new songs in the bank (some of which people will have enjoyed if they managed to catch them live pre-pandemic). Since recording their debut album last March, BC,NR haven’t had too much to do, so working on new material was a natural outlet for this hive of young creatives, and they’re excited enough about it that they’re hoping to see it released before 2021 is out. For The First Time is already massively thrilling for a debut record – imagine what they might do on their second. – Rob Hakimian

black midi

Back in December of last year, fellow Windmill alums Black Country, New Road and black midi came together to put on a Christmas benefit show to raise funds to save the endangered but beloved Brixton venue from shutting down. The two bands coalesced as one beautifully disastrous super band during the live event, improvising and playing covers of Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen, and a few timeless Christmas tunes along the way. But, as the live-stream concert came to a close, the most intriguing moment came when the mic was passed to the eccentric black midi front person Geordie Greep, who briefly mentioned to viewers to look out for the “two of the best ever albums early next year.” If Greep’s coy statement is, in fact, an indication of a new black midi record (with the other obviously being the BC. NR debut, out Feb. 5), then it’s time to sound the sirens. With the noise-rock collective releasing one of the most outrageous and clangorous debuts in recent memory back in 2019, Lord knows what a collective of this peculiar magnitude could have up its sleeve for LP2. Still, fans can rest assured that it’ll be one bat-shit crazy follow-up, nonetheless. – Kyle Kohner

Boldy James & The Alchemist

How do you follow up perfection? Sure, it can be risky to tempt fate by taking a second shot at the same, but when has The Alchemist ever really steered an artist wrong? True, in actuality it’ll be the third full length release from Boldy James and the ever-dependable producer, but there’s no denying they tapped into something truly special with The Price of Tea in China, which kicked off a beyond stellar year for the grim yet laid back Detroit MC. There’s no release date as of yet, but James has promised another effort from the two is in the works. This alone already makes it a contender for the hip hop project of the year. Prepare. – Chase McMullen

CLC

There’s no other way to put it: CLC deserve this. They’ve been perfecting their defiant brand of K-pop since 2015, culminating in their strongest statement to date: the rollicking, in your face feminist smash that was 2019’s “No”. It was their first major win in far too long, and yet their label, Cube, followed it up with next to nothing in 2020, aside from the fun “Helicopter”. Rumors abound, then and now, about the group finally getting their shot at a full-length LP, and given the genre’s fickle lack of support for all but the most successful groups, this year is likely their last hope for one. I’ll repeat: they deserve this. We all do. – Chase McMullen

The Cure

Another year means fans and music journalists alike have to resurrect any and all hopes for a new record from The Cure. It’s been now 12 years since we’ve last received an album from the legends themselves, but it seems the band is closer than ever to actualizing the last few years of empty promises. In an interview last year, Robert Smith mentioned that he was using time granted by the quarantine to polish up the record (and a solo project), which will reportedly be their “darkest,” “saddest,” and “most intense” since Disintegration. With a working title of Live From The Moon, Smith maintains that the project record will be released soon and that it just needs to be mixed. Recent discussions surrounding the album from Smith have been encouraging, but considering that it’s been more than a decade since the release of 4:13 Dream, this is a classic case where seeing is believing. Robert Smith—our dear goth king—if you are reading this, please, please release the album (or albums) you promised us. – Kyle Kohner

Kelela

While FKA twigs enjoys the very-well-deserved laurels so often thrown at her feet, some folk seem to forget just how masterful Kelela’s Take Me Apart was and remains. Experimental and endlessly catchy at once, her absence has left a great gap in R&B, one that desperately awaits to be filled. Let’s hope 2021 is the year. – Chase McMullen

Kendrick Lamar

Even if we include the Black Panther OST, this is the longest period between Kendrick Lamar projects – and folks are hungry. So much has happened since the post-2016 election DAMN, and despite a few mediocre guest spots on various 2018 projects, there’s unlikely any project more anticipated in 2021 than the return of Lamar. Anyone who managed to hear the few leaked demos earlier this year (including a hilarious reimagining of Eminem’s “Guilty Conscience”) knows that Lamar’s fifth album is shaping up to be another powerhouse. – Tim Sentz

Kenny Segal

Los Angeles-based DJ Kenny Segal’s stock has risen significantly in the last few years. Before his 2019 breakthrough Hiding Places with Billy Woods, Segal had a backlog of instrumental sets and random credits for a decade or so. Now he’s one of the best independent producers in modern rap, assisting top indie rappers like Seregenti and R.A.P. Ferreira to deliver their respective best albums in 2020. There’s no question – we’re sure to hear from Segal in 2021, the question is merely: who will he collaborate with next? – Tim Sentz

Low

Low don’t have a bad album under their belt, truth be told. For the uninformed though, their stellar 2018 ‘comeback’ Double Negative may have seemed like a hard-right turn for the slowcore pioneers. With acclaimed producer B.J. Burton (Bon Iver, James Blake) building to this moment starting with 2015’s Ones & Sixes, one has to wonder if the band will continue down this path of experimental noise or will they pivot again to something even more risky? Burton retweeted in October that the band was working on another record, will he be involved? – Tim Sentz

Red Velvet

Even beyond the tragic mess of a worldwide pandemic, 2020 was a tough year for Red Velvet. Known for releasing K-pop bliss like clockwork, with key member and leading vocalist Wendy recuperating from a tragic, preventable stage injury for the bulk of the year, the other members were somewhat left to their own devices. Joy largely focused on modeling and being an Instagram delight, Yeri hosted a show, and besties Irene and Seulgi formed a duo for the intoxicating Monster. With Wendy healed, 2021 is sure to be different. They’re bound to return with something to prove. Little could be more exciting. – Chase McMullen

Sampha

Who knows what’s going on in the world of Sampha? Endlessly uncomfortable with his relative fame, he shelters himself from the outside world in a way that makes even Marshall Mathers seem a forthcoming public presence. Having seen him live in Seoul, he proved an expectedly shy presence, illuminating a space all while all but concealing himself. Since the practically essential Process, he’s appeared in places both likely and surprising, but there’s been no real word on a sophomore album. It’s been a painful wait for fans, and there’s no telling when it’ll, but, hey, we can hope. – Chase McMullen

The Smashing Pumpkins

It’s a great time to be a Pumpkins fan! Chamberlain and Iha are back, Cyr was a pretty great pop abum, Machina is getting a totally reworked reissue and the band is working hard at a sequel to Mellon Collie… and Machina, forming a Rock Opera trilogy. According to Corgan, the as-of-now untitled record, said to feature about 33 (!) songs, will follow its predecessors with a typically eclectic mix of styles and genres, culminating in a Mellon Collie-themed world tour. Oh yeah, and Shiny Vol. 3 is also being worked on. If anything, this switch from solemn hermit to rock’n’roll high priest is finally allowing Corgan to show that the Pumpkins haven’t lost their wild, anarchic spirit of undermining any and all expectations. – John Wohlmacher

Tirzah

There’s no real telling when – or even if – Tirzah will return. She’s surely busy with parenthood, and aside from a sole appearance on Mura Masa’s R.Y.C., she was scarce in 2020. Yet, with how excellent Devotion was, we can’t help but pray for her return. There’s no evidence to go off of whatsoever here, we’re just keeping our fingers crossed. – Chase McMullen

Vince Staples

When he’s not stirring up controversy or delivering countless zingers via Twitter, Vince Staples is teasing his fans with new music. It’s been over two years now since FM!, but Staples has kept busy with a handful of singles in 2019, and a few guest spots in 2020. Following 2014’s Hell Can Wait he was keeping a consistent release schedule with an album one year, an EP the next, but that changed after FM!. With the world constantly changing, and Staples’ undeniable gift of dramedy in his rapping, 2021 seems like the right time for a new record. – Tim Sentz

Westside Gunn & Madlib

Did anyone really think Westside Gunn’s 2020 ‘retirement’ was going to stick? Granted, he still hasn’t spoken out to explicitly call it off, but with the long-promised Madlib full length still unreleased, how could he leave without such a potentially glorious project hitting shelves? There’s no reason to believe that we won’t still receive MadGunn (or whatever they call the damn thing), and that instantly counts it as among the year’s most exciting hip hop prospects. – Chase McMullen

The Wrens (aka the band that’s been keeping people waiting since 1989)

In lieu of writing a blurb about The Wrens’ ‘forthcoming’ new album, I could just post links to all the times I’ve trolled Charles Bissell on Twitter about how long it’s taking for us to finally get a follow-up up to 2003’s The Meadowlands. However, recent social media posts do indicate that the record is done, a record label has been instructed, and Charles has been holding private listening parties in his home for some time. 2021 would appear to be our best shot yet at finally getting to hear that new record, but take that with the biggest pinch of salt you can fit between your greedy little fingers. – Andy Johnston

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