Though the year is nearly halfway over, there are still a lot of releases that I’m looking forward to in 2021. While a few artists have actually announced records to be released this year, there are many who have only hinted at the possibility of future projects. As such, this list will include both artists who have set details for their upcoming releases, and those that I’m just keeping my fingers crossed will put out something.
St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home (5/14)
As I’ve already talked about in this column, lead single “Pay Your Way In Pain” did not give me high hopes for this record. It was just too weird, and not in a good way. Second single “The Melting Of The Sun” is actually pretty cool, though! The background vocals are a bit overbearing at times, but overall it’s a groovy, well-written piece of old-school pop. The production is warm and clear, and it sounds like it could be an interesting new direction for her. It definitely appears like she’s going for a full reinvention of herself on this album, as seen in her new look complete with blonde wig and vintage fashion, and I’d love to see how that might be shown in the new sounds she’s working with. That being said, I admittedly didn’t love her last project Masseduction, so I’m nervous about her working with Jack Antonoff again (who seems to work with just about every female pop artist these days). I guess all I can do is trust in her immense talents as a songwriter and musician, and hope for those talents to be realized.
Black Midi – Cavalcade (5/28)
While not entirely familiar with experimental rock band Black Midi, I’d heard a lot of buzz around their 2019 debut Schlagenheim but never quite got into it. However, by the recommendation of a friend, I checked out the singles for their album Cavalcade due out at the end of the month. My feelings on the three songs (one of which is a b-side not included in the tracklist) are pretty mixed, to say the least. Lead single “John L” is, put simply, absolutely insane. The track is characterized by a squawking, stuttering melody, ominous spoken word vocals, uncomfortably long moments of silence, and each instrument making as much noise as possible. I certainly can respect the raw talent and creativity of the members, but I can’t say I fully “enjoy” it, per se. On the other hand, b-side “Despair” is a gorgeous alt rock ballad akin to something off Radiohead’s In Rainbows with its yearning vocals and twinkly arpeggios. It’s a real shame it didn’t end up on the album. The most recent single, “Slow”, features a sharp, panicked melody similar to the one on “John L”, but it’s pulled off a bit better here due to its variations throughout the song. It’s not my favorite track of the year, but it’s a great piece of supremely off-kilter rock music complete with strings, horns, and incredible drumming. Despite having mixed feelings on the tracks so far, the idiosyncrasy of the music as well as the colorful album art have me looking forward to see what the rest of the album has to offer. If nothing else, it’ll be an experience.
Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend (6/4)
Wolf Alice have never fully wowed me with an album, unfortunate as that is. Earlier this year, I heard their popular single “Don’t Delete the Kisses” and was floored with how one song could capture adolescent angst and yearning so beautifully and succinctly. I checked out their two records, My Love Is Cool and the Mercury Prize-winning Visions Of A Life, and was only somewhat impressed. There were certainly great songs, like “Bros”, “You’re A Germ”, and “Yuk Foo”, that showed there’s some real genius present in the band, but I couldn’t get into many of the songs from either album. I pretty much forgot about them after that, until they released the lead single from their upcoming record Blue Weekend, “The Last Man On Earth”. I listened to it out of mere curiosity, and can now say it is easily one of my favorite songs of the year. The song shows so much growth from the band, as if all of the potential I’ve heard only in small parts from them has finally been fully realized. It swells from a somber piano ballad to a swaying rock anthem, with some of the best vocals and lyrics I’ve heard from singer Ellie Rowsell as she bemoans the arrogance of people who act passively in their lives with the expectation that God will “shine his light on [them]”. The following single “Smile” isn’t quite as mature with its half-spoken, half-rapped vocals and muscular riffs, but it’s a strong song. The performances are energetic, and I like that the band sounds like they’re having fun, something I’ve always admired about their music. If the band keeps things as well-written and engaging as the singles, they just might release an album I love from front to back.
While nothing’s been officially announced, Deafheaven’s management Sargent House confirmed in a tweet last month that they will be releasing new music in 2021, along with labelmates Lingua Ignota and Detroit band The Armed. They’ve received acclaim for just about everything they’ve released so far, including their most recent and arguably most accessible album Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, and I’m excited to see how they continue advancing the sound of modern metal.
The world needs another Lorde album. It’s been nearly four years since her incredible sophomore record Melodrama, and she’s remained largely out of the public eye since touring in support of it. She’s given occasional updates to fans through her mailing list, detailing her time mourning the loss of her dog Pearl, working with Jack Antonoff (again), and a trip to Antarctica documented in a new photo book. She says the new album is “so f**king good”, and I’m inclined to believe her. I just hope I can verify that claim sooner rather than later.
Beach House (unannounced)
There are no set plans for a follow-up to 2018’s 7, but Beach House have remained busy since, most recently soundtracking a Las Vegas art exhibit by the collective Meow Wolf. In an interview on the exhibit in Rolling Stone, the duo claimed to be working on new music, but “without any set endpoint in mind”. I personally would love to hear them explore a bit sonically, despite loving how consistent their sound has been throughout their career. I thought 7 was a decent record, but it just didn’t have the same otherworldly quality present in their best work (and some of my favorite albums of all time; more on that next week). Nonetheless, they’re one of my favorite artists for a reason, and they’d have to do a lot to disappoint me.