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From St. Vincent’s latest to Drake’s playlist: Our most anticipated albums of 2017

The Gorillaz (Illustration: Jamie Hewlett)
The Gorillaz (Illustration: Jamie Hewlett)

While it’d be nice if music releases fit nicely into a year-by-year narrative, the end of 2016 proved that wasn’t the case. Even after we published our feature highlighting some of the best music of 2016, there was still more to be released for the year. In those last couple weeks before 2017 was rung in, we saw new releases from Nine Inch Nails, Krallice, Uranium Club, and Mothercountry Motherfuckers; a two-song 7-inch from Grouper; and Run The Jewels going rogue and releasing RTJ3 weeks early. Not only that, on New Year’s Day Brian Eno released Reflection, the kind of ruminative piece that, as its title would suggest, is the perfect accompaniment for looking back on the year that’s just past (or maybe for nursing a hangover).

Similarly, we’ve already done our best to prepare for the onslaught of January releases, but there’s plenty more already confirmed or, at the very least, hinted at. While this list isn’t exhaustive, it does its best to offer a mix of big names and up-and-comers, highlighting some of the records that are giving us hope for 2017. (For more of what we’re looking forward to in 2017, here’s our list of most anticipated movies.)

Ryan Adams, Prisoner (February 17)

“This record mattered more to me than any record before it,” Ryan Adams claimed in a post on social media when “To Be Without You,” the second single from Prisoner, was released. It’s a strong claim for an artist with a discography as deep as his, but as the single proves, it’s as emotionally raw as anything he’s created before. If anything, it proves Adams is often at his best when he’s using heartbreak as his muse. [David Anthony]

Beck, TBD

Although it was initially scheduled for an October 2016 release, it’s rumored that Beck’s still-untitled new album will finally see the light of day in 2017. He’s released a pair of songs that could possibly be on his Morning Phase follow-up, but with few details out there, all we can do is guess. Though, like all things Beck, it’d be yet another departure in a career full of them. [David Anthony]

Charli XCX, TBD

Last fall Charli XCX released After The Afterparty, an EP setting up her forthcoming third album. It’s suspected that she’ll release the new record this year, which she’s promised will be “the most pop thing, and the most electronic thing” she’s ever done. With a track record as strong as hers and a knack for earworms, that’s something worth getting excited about. [David Anthony]

Chromatics, Dear Tommy (TBD)

Johnny Jewel and Co. have been teasing the follow-up to 2012’s icy cool Kill For Love pretty much since that album’s release, while Jewel, a master at packaging, has been stoking the suspense by dropping appropriately retro, ’80s-horror-themed posters into the myriad EPs the group has stayed busy with since then. There’s still no official release date yet, but judging by its early singles—including the album’s title track, which suggests it has to be getting close this time—Dear Tommy will give us more of the band’s spectral, shimmering, sinister electro-pop, whenever its long-awaited missive is finally delivered. [Sean O’Neal]

Drake, More Life (TBD)

Drake never stops putting out music—he just burns through albums, EPs, three-track SoundCloud blasts, one-off singles, and guest spot after guest spot. This libertine approach to format is part of the reason he hasn’t left rap radio in half a decade; the other is that these tracks are almost all better than whatever else is on rap radio. More Life is being billed not as an album or mixtape but a playlist, which may be a euphemism or a true innovation in format. Either way, it will be welcome. [Clayton Purdom]

Sky Ferreira, Masochism (TBD)

Following the release of Night Time, My Time, Sky Ferreira has found plenty of ways to keep herself busy. Taking roles in films and nabbing a spot in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks revival, while also working on her second album with members of Primal Scream, Ferreira is showing just how multifaceted she is. Masochism has been rumored for years now without a lick of music to sate us, so here’s hoping 2017 will change that. [David Anthony]

Gorillaz, TBD

It’s not uncommon for Gorillaz to go through long stretches of inactivity, but the group’s been promising new music while releasing digital story books and seeing its fictional keyboardist-guitarist start an OkCupid account. While it’s underdetermined when the record will come, or what shape it will take, as with all things Gorillaz, it’ll surely be an event. [David Anthony]

Grizzly Bear, TBD

Grizzly Bear has been quiet since 2012’s Shields, and perhaps with good reason: It’s a pleasant album, but it sort of stops there. This stands in stark contrast to the group’s two previous albums, Veckatimest and Yellow House, which are grand, orchestral rock albums that have only gotten more sublime with time. Hopefully the time off has helped the band brew up something that lives up to those heights or, better, explores a new area yet. [Clayton Purdom]

Haim, TBD

It’s been four years since Haim’s debut album, Days Are Gone, but the band’s kept itself sharp by never receding from the spotlight. Haim’s debut made quick work of classic rock and R&B-indebted ’70s revivalism, and it’s safe to assume the band’s follow-up will be worth the wait. With a knack for writing rafter-shaking anthems, it’s hard to imagine it’ll be anything but infectious. [David Anthony]

The Horrors, TBD

The stylistic leaps made by The Horrors were relatively narrowed between 2011’s Skying and 2014’s Luminous, as the formerly Screamers-indebted goth-punks settled into a smeary, dreamy sound colored by ’80s neo-psychedelia and ’90s shoegaze. Still, the band continues to both broaden and refine its approach with every release, and any new step in its ongoing evolution is a welcome one. “Don’t ask me what it sounds like. I could say anything to you now, and it’d sound completely different by the time we finish,” frontman Faris Badwan told Q in 2015, which is exactly what we want to hear. [Sean O’Neal]

Japandroids, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life (January 27)

With 2012’s Celebration Rock, Japandroids made a record that not only embodied its title but also established a lifelong ethos for the band. While it’s positioned Near To The Wild Hear Of Life as a departure, it doesn’t remove what makes the band work so well. It’s still an album full of riff-forward rock, only with a little subtlety added in this time. [David Anthony]

The Jesus And Mary Chain, Damage And Joy (March 24)

It’s been nearly two decades since The Jesus And Mary Chain last released an album—and just a bit shy of that since the Brothers Reid stopped hitting each other long enough to set their differences aside for a series of reunion tours. Now the group that defined a breed of feedback-drenched laconic cool for a generation of shoegaze bands returns for its first record since 1998’s Munki. Reassuringly, lead single “Amputation” sounds like just the next, heavily reverbed step after that album, thick with a fuzzy blanket of guitars, ’60s pop harmonies, and that oft-imitated, never-quite-duplicated JAMC sound. [Sean O’Neal]

LCD Soundsystem, TBD

Capping off one of music’s shortest retirements since Jay Z’s last one, LCD Soundsystem returned a mere five years after its emotional 2011 farewell concerts to play a series of festival dates, prompting frontman James Murphy to assuage anyone who might “feel betrayed by us coming back and playing” by also setting out to make a new record, one that’s “as fucking good as we can possibly make it.” There’s no release date or concrete details on that just yet, though the warm and witty dance-rock group reportedly canceled a series of tour dates in Asia last year to hole up in the studio and concentrate—which certainly suggests Murphy and his team are taking that pledge seriously. We’d expect nothing less. [Sean O’Neal]

Meat Wave, The Incessant (February 17)

For the band’s upcoming third album, Chicago’s Meat Wave turned to Steve Albini to record its follow-up to 2015’s Delusion Moon. As the album’s title track shows, this time around Meat Wave is getting cerebral, adding an eerier element to its post-punk attack. It doesn’t fully remove the band’s energetic stabs of punk or acerbic melodies, instead letting them linger beneath the surface and hit when they’re least expected. [David Anthony]

The Menzingers, After The Party (February 3)

By now, The Menzingers have been elevated from the heirs of modern punk to one of its leaders. Their fifth album, After The Party, doesn’t drastically change course, but it does offer the most refined version of the band’s narrative-heavy punk songs. As “Lookers” proves, The Menzingers look back without getting mired in nostalgia, instead using their past as a means to move forward. [David Anthony]

Migos, Culture (January 27)

Migos announced its presence with an outpouring of hundreds of tracks and a triplet-laced flow that quickly permeated hip-hop, to the chagrin of many. They’ve slowed their output since then, and to great effect—the tracks are tighter, but they still bounce—and the group is slated to release what will only be its second proper full-length. It has a great name, a great cover, and a leering, infectious first single—all encouraging signs that they’ve got another phase to come. [Clayton Purdom]

The National, TBD

By the time The National’s seventh album comes out, it will have been four years since Trouble Will Find Me—an even longer gap than between Trouble and its predecessor, High Violet. But singer Matt Berninger spent some of that time spreading his musical wings as half of the more electro-dance-leaning EL VY. From what he told NME, some of that vibe may have rubbed off on the upcoming album, which he described as “weird, math-y, electronic-y stuff.” The one song that’s made it out via a live performance—“Prom Song 13th Century (Frankie And Johnny)”—doesn’t bear that out at all, but it hardly matters: Every National record is worth hearing. [Josh Modell]

Nine Inch Nails, TBD

With the release of Not The Actual Events and an expansive rerelease of The Fragile, Trent Reznor promised that Nine Inch Nails will have more new music coming out in 2017. While Not The Actual Events didn’t fire on all cylinders, it showed that Reznor still has plenty to say and is more than capable of tapping into the rage that brought him attention in the first place. [David Anthony]

Pile, A Hairshirt Of Purpose (March 31)

For its fifth album—or perhaps sixth, if you count Demonstration—Pile offers up another batch of songs that only the Boston band could create. What Pile lacks in a sizable fan base it makes up for in the deep-seated passion that runs within those who worship at the altar of frontman Rick Maguire. He writes songs that draw comparisons to Steve Albini and The Doobie Brothers in the same sentence, and A Hairshirt Of Purpose is likely to be another addition to Pile’s unimpeachable catalog. [David Anthony]

PWR BTTM, TBD

On Ugly Cherries, the two-piece punk band that is PWR BTTM made one of the most freewheeling and exciting records of 2015. Since then, the band has joined Polyvinyl Records and released a pair of songs that show that it’s progressing at a wildly rapid pace. Whatever its new record holds will be thrilling and, as its shows often prove, downright life-affirming. [David Anthony]

Ride, TBD

Some 20 years after ’90s shoegaze veterans Ride fell apart amid internal tensions and limp stabs at psychedelic pop, the Oxford group finally made peace with its fractious past and reunited for a welcome series of comeback shows last year. It remains to be seen whether a new album, reportedly due this summer, can summon the same energy the band displayed on stage. But given that the set list was—understandably—heavy on cuts from 1990’s classic Nowhere and its 1992 follow-up, Going Blank Again, it seems like a safe bet that Ride is ready to pretend the years since those two records didn’t happen. [Sean O’Neal]

Sampha, Process (February 3)

Sampha’s got one of those voices: a throaty baritone that’s capable of turning reedy and aching at a moment’s notice. More than that, he’s got taste. In addition to a low-key, lamp-lit EP from 2013, he has turned up on records by SBTRKT, Jessie Ware, Solange, Kanye, Frank Ocean, and Drake. Last year, he quietly released the tense, drum-heavy single “Blood On Me” and the brighter “Timmy’s Prayer,” both of which suggest his full-length debut will show an artist as in control of his music as he is his voice. [Clayton Purdom]

The Shins, Heartworms (March 10)

Although it was initially planned for 2016 and then delayed because of Coachella, James Mercer is finally making good on his promise of a new Shins record—even if his band was snubbed by the festival in the end. Heartworms’ first official track, “Name For You,” is a bouncing pop song that shows The Shins are aging with grace, still capable of busting out a huge hook with seeming ease. [David Anthony]

Spoon, TBD

Spoon cagily announced its return to Matador Records late last year when both band and label put out a mysterious skull image via social media. It’s easy to take the band for granted when it’s been so consistent for so long, but clearly Spoon is in this for the long haul: Album number nine will reportedly be out in March, and the first song—which debuted on an episode of Shameless, strangely—is a corker. [Josh Modell]

Bruce Springsteen, TBD

On the tour for his recently released autobiography, Bruce Springsteen used the platform to pepper in references to a new album. In interviews, he’s alluded to it being a stripped-down acoustic record, in the vein of Nebraska or, more likely, Devils & Dust. It stands to reason it’ll be another intimate look at Springsteen’s life, as he’s been more forthcoming and soul-bearing than ever. [David Anthony]

St. Vincent, TBD

“I think it’ll be the deepest, boldest work I’ve ever done,” Annie Clark told Guitar World of her in-progress follow-up to 2014’s self-titled stunner. It’s a declaration that carries incredible weight, considering the same could be said of every album since 2007’s Marry Me, each of which has been more wildly, confidently experimental than the last. This time around, Clark says that her creative risks are born out of the heightened stakes of our current political climate, as “only music that has something pretty real to say is gonna cut the mustard.” And while we’re not expecting her to go all Pete Seeger, we could certainly use more of Clark’s music to cling to amid this other, far less beautiful chaos. [Sean O’Neal]

Vampire Weekend, TBD

It’s unclear what effect the departure of Rostam Batmanglij will have on Vampire Weekend’s upcoming fourth album, especially considering that the guitarist/chief musical strategist is apparently still contributing to the record. If an Instagram post from singer-guitarist Ezra Koenig is to be believed, the album will be called Mitsubishi Macchiato. Yes, that’s a terrible name, but so was Modern Vampires Of The Cityone of the best albums of 2013 and the best of the band’s catalog. [Josh Modell]