Ten Albums You Should Listen To In 2012
The next 21 could be in here.
2012 is three days old and I'm already drooling over this year's upcoming releases. A lot of these are still up in the air: at this time last year, Watch the Throne was allegedly dropping in February. But my fingers are still crossed for these, the most anticipated albums of 2012. I will gladly die in the Mayan apocalypse if I finally get to hear D'Angelo's follow-up to Voodoo.
1. Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas (January 31)
Seventy-seven-year-old Leonard Cohen might have a few years on Tom Waits in their battle for the title of "Most Grizzled Literate Old Man Chronicling the Human Condition," but they're not weighing on him at all. Some of the songs on Old Ideas (his first album since 2004's Dear Heather) have been circulating in Cohen's repertoire since his 2008 comeback tour, and the title track has been online for a while — it's vintage Cohen, featuring his velvet-grit baritone and stirring imagery.
Listen: “Show Me the Place”
2. Sleigh Bells, Reign of Terror (February 14)
Sleigh Bells were either awesome or grating in 2011, depending on your particular taste and how much your could stand their "BOOM BOOM *girl vocals* SUPER LOUD GUITAR" formula. But there's no denying their impact, and Reign of Terror is definitively one of the most anticipated sophomore efforts of 2012. The band will be touring with "hipster black metal" (an obnoxious if semi-accurate term) band Liturgy and Diplo in Florida in support of the album. Stock up on earplugs now.
3. Dr. Dog, Be the Void (February 7)
Dr. Dog have been churning out solid, '60s-sounding indie rock since 1999, and though they're not exactly the most avant-garde or extreme band making the rounds, they've steadily racked up a pretty great discography in that time. (My personal favorite is 2010's Shame, Shame.) New tracks "Control Yourself" and "Warrior Man" show that the band's quirky, hooky sensibilities are still firmly in place.
Listen: “Control Yourself”
4. The Magnetic Fields, Love at the Bottom of the Sea (March 6)
The Magnetic Fields' ambitious 69 Love Songs was followed by a "no-synth" trilogy; Love at the Bottom of the Sea promises to reunite Stephin Merritt's acerbic baritone with any number of squalling electronic noises. With song titles like "I've Run Away to Join the Fairies" and "All She Cares About is Mariachi," Love at the Bottom of the Sea will at least maintain the streak of romantic absurdism that first brought the band attention.
5. The Shins, Port of Morrow (March)
The first Shins album in five years, Port of Morrow should mark a return to form for Epileptic Natalie Portman's favorite band from that movie about Jersey. Leader James Mercer spent recent years collaborating with Danger Mouse under the Broken Bells name, and it'll be interesting to see how that collaboration may have affected his main band. Not that 2007's Wincing the Night Away was a departure, exactly, but I'm excited to hear what five years off did for The Shins.
Listen: “Unknown Title”
6. Tyler, the Creator, Wolf (May)
Tyler has stated that Wolf will be a departure from the uber-dark violence, misogyny, and homophobia that characterized Goblin. "Talking about rape and cutting bodies up, it just doesn't interest me anymore… What interests me is making weird hippie music for people to get high to. With Wolf, I'll brag a little more, talk about money and buying shit. But not like any other rapper — I'll be a smart-ass about it… People who want the first album again, I can't do that." It'll be interesting to see if Wolf will alienate Tyler's fans, or earn him some new ones.
7. Santigold, Master of My Make Believe (Spring)
Santigold's first album, Santogold (the name change was precipitated by a lawsuit) dropped in 2008 and quickly developed a lot of buzz over skittering, danceable tracks like "L.E.S. Artistes" and "Creator." She's since spent time collaborating with everyone from GZA to Julian Casablancas, and hopefully that wildly eclectic spirit will continue to animate her long-awaited follow-up. (And maybe let her finally shake all those pesky M.I.A. comparisons.)
8. D'Angelo, James River (TBA)
I am so fucking excited about this album it makes me want to stand naked on my specially-constructed rotating platform and sing "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" for days. According to Questlove, the long-awaited follow-up to D'Angelo's modern-soul masterpiece Voodoo is "99% done." It's doubtful that James River will live up to the backstory surrounding Voodoo and D'Angelo's subsequent meltdown, but man, I hope it will. D'Angelo deserves it. We all deserve it.
9. MGMT, MGMT (TBA)
Wesleyan University's favorite alumni (sorry, Michael Bay) took a slight hit with their sophomore release, Congratulations, though nothing could have matched the hype that surrounded their debut, Oracular Spectacular. Founder Benjamin Goldwasser hinted at songs "that can easily be extended or have sections that could turn into a really trance-y, repetitive thing live" in an interview, but that was in November of 2010, so who the hell knows what they've been at in the interim. Personally, I'm hoping for a sequel to Congratulations' hyper-caffeinated "Brian Eno." Maybe "Robert Fripp?"
10. The Mars Volta, TBA (TBA)
After their disappointing "acoustic" album, Octahedron, the Mars Volta scrapped the album they'd already recorded, and leader Omar Rodriguez-Lopez backed away from what he called his "benign dictator" approach to composition and moved towards a more collaborative approach. Vocalist/spaz Cedric Bixler-Zavala took to his surreal YouTube channel last year to report the following on the sixth album: "Sorry no Spanish on this record, no Zeppelinesque voyages, no Santana-like flourishes or Vishnu accuasations. No congas, no Hammond organ stabs, no thirty-minute songs, no drums that sounds like mosquitos buzzing in your ear. Just future punk. That's the only way to describe it from my point of view." Got that?