Stuart Murdoch (Photo: Steve Jennings/WireImage via Getty Images), Pharrell Williams (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images), and Miguel (Photo: Paras Griffin/WireImage via Getty Images). Graphic: Libby McGuire.

Although 2017 is already wrapping up with best-of lists and the like, December still promises a handful of new records from Miguel, Belle & Sebastian, Brian Eno, and N.E.R.D., to name a few. Here are the ones we’re looking forward to the most from the last remaining releases of the year.


December 1

Miguel, War & Leisure

Miguel kicks off December with the release of his fourth full-length, War & Leisure, the much-anticipated follow-up to 2015’s Wildheart. The 32-year-old has spent the year speaking at length about his newfound political engagement, even covering Pussy Riot’s “Make America Great Again.” War & Leisure isn’t outright political, but it does see the singer and producer mature, while still very much having a good time. Tracks like “Told You So” and “Pineapple Skies,” both of which nod to good-time greats like Prince and Marvin Gaye, continue to anchor Miguel’s experimental R&B to a rich lineage, while songs like the Travis Scott-featuring “Sky Walker” remind us why he’s one of R&B’s foremost and most charismatic artists. This album is going to be a lot of fun. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Advertisement


Prurient, Rainbow Mirror

With 2015’s Frozen Niagara Falls, venerable noise sculptor Dominick Fernow delivered one of his most acclaimed works in a 150-releases-strong discography—and one of the year’s most punishing listens. The ambition certainly hasn’t dwindled on the three-hour-long Rainbow Mirror, but the anxiety has: Fernow’s latest finds the more ambient side of existential despair, his icy doom electronics subdued beneath calming drones and undulating waves of static. Rainbow Mirror also commemorates 20 years since Fernow first started Prurient, back when he was just a screaming, pissed-off teenager redlining PAs, so Rainbow Mirror has the natural feel of self-reflection—its cover is even the very first collage Fernow ever made for the project. But don’t expect any sort of wistful nostalgia here. Even at their most patient, Prurient’s bleak soundscapes seethe with pain and tension. This album is not going to be fun. [Sean O’Neal]

Advertisement


Cindy Wilson, Change

In between touring with The B-52’s, the band she helped found 40 years ago, Cindy Wilson has been working on the first solo recordings of her career. Change marks her full-length debut after already releasing two lengthy EPs, whose solid synth pop feels like a natural extension of her legendary group. It sports two standout tracks from her 2016 collection Sunrise—including a great cover of “Brother,” originally by fellow Athenians Oh-OK—as well as eight originals, like the string-laden new-wave jam “Mystic.” [Matt Gerardi]

Advertisement


Neil Young & Promise Of The Real, The Visitor

Neil Young’s partnership with The Promise Of The Real finds his sights taken off the destructive nature of MP3s and set squarely back on political and social strife. Young’s stint touring with the band, led by two of Willie Nelson’s sons, resulted in The Monsanto Years, a half-cocked nine-track concept album that railed against the agribiz giant and pervasiveness of GMOs, as well as Earth, a bizarre project that took 98 minutes of live-performance audio and overdubbed it with animal sounds. The Visitor sounds like a far more straightforward reaction to—you guessed it—the rise of Donald Trump, with songs like “Already Great” taking belated aim at his campaign slogan. [Matt Gerardi]

Advertisement


December 8

Belle & Sebastian, How To Solve Our Human Problems Part 1

In what seems like a clear bid to recreate the magic of 1997, Belle & Sebastian will release three EPs over the next few months, all under the title How To Solve Our Human Problems. (The Scottish band did something similar 20 years ago, and those three EPs contain some of the best music it ever made.) It’s an interesting way to tackle the notion that nobody cares about albums anymore, and perhaps a way to get some sustained interest in a band that feels more like a comfy blanket than a vital source at this point in history. “We Were Beautiful,” from the first EP, has a definite Tigermilk vibe to it, so that’s a good start. [Josh Modell]

Advertisement


Charles Hayward & Thurston Moore, Improvisations

Thurston Moore’s 2017 album Rock N Roll Consciousness was his most satisfying work yet outside the confines of Sonic Youth—unless you’re the kind of Sonic Youth fan who prized the band’s trippy, dissonant freak-outs over Moore’s street poetry. If that’s the case, you might find yourself more satiated by Improvisations, an album of, yep, completely improvised music that Moore hammered out in a single afternoon with This Heat drummer Charles Hayward, who brings a typically sinewy, tribal underpinning to Moore’s scratchy guitar flights and pings. The album features seven untitled tracks of fluid drones from two of music’s most venerated architects of noise, and for a certain kind of listener, nothing could sound more beautiful. [Sean O’Neal]

Advertisement


Tom Rogerson & Brian Eno, Finding Shore

While most of us would probably waste a chance bathroom line encounter with Brian Eno, just blathering on and on about Roxy Music, Tom Rogerson managed to turn it into an album. The pianist and co-founder of post-rock band Three Trapped Tigers ran into the ambient godfather at a show, and after bonding over their shared hometown, the two began working on Rogerson’s solo debut, a record that harkens back to Eno’s watershed series of collaborative works in the ’70s and ’80s. Combining Rogerson’s talent for improvisation with Eno’s love of letting technology take the wheel, Finding Shore was created by training infrared signals on Rogerson’s piano and using it to trigger vintage Moog gear, with Eno spontaneously generating tones and directions that transformed it all into something new and unpredictable. It’s a typically engrossing listen from an old master and his latest protégé, and easily the best thing to ever happen in a restroom queue. [Sean O’Neal]

Advertisement


December 15

N.E.R.D., No_One Ever Really Dies

Although N.E.R.D. released its last album, Nothing, in 2010, Pharrell Williams’ pop outfit feels like it was gone for longer—maybe because tracks like “Lapdance” practically serve as mini time capsules for the bad ol’ days of the early ’00s. N.E.R.D. has also been eclipsed by Williams’ solo career; Nothing was well in the rearview by the time “Happy” became inescapable in 2013. But the upcoming No_One Ever Really Dies is all au courant, with appearances by Kendrick Lamar, Gucci Mane, Future, and—of course—Ed Sheeran. Bouncy lead single “Lemon” boasts Rihanna, but manages to sound both minimal and crowded, its simple beat competing with a persistent vocal sample. Expect a lot more overproduced, if catchy, hip-hop-inflected pop when No_One Ever Really Dies finally drops. [Kyle Ryan]

Advertisement