Sharing my favourite music of 2013 was a lot of fun, so I’ve decided to write another music post, this time detailing my most anticipated albums for 2014. Some of these artists have been away awhile, and absence has definitely made my heart grow fonder.
Without further ado, here are the albums I’m most looking forward to:
It’s no secret that I love Wilco (I’m currently reading Greg Kott’s band biography, Learning How to Die, and listening to Sansone and Stirratt’s side project, The Autumn Defense), so it should come as no surprise that the forthcoming Wilco record tops my most wanted list.
Reportedly, Jeff Tweedy wants this next record to be ‘a little more fucked up than the last few’ and, elaborating, he said this means he’d like to try more unconventional song structures. The (largely unfounded) critical shorthand for Wilco’s last three records was that they were pedestrian and played things too safe, so Tweedy’s comment can be seen as reactionary. I believe popular opinion has it all wrong – consider: ‘Impossible Germany’, ‘Side With the Seeds’, ‘Walken’, ‘Bull Black Nova’, ‘You and I’ (their first-ever duet), ‘Art of Almost’ and the twelve-minute epic ‘One Sunday Morning’. This band innovates all the time – but, hey, when the hivemind speaks, it likes to do so through a megaphone of ignorance. It seems the average fan mandates experimentation and virtuosity, although I don’t believe those qualities define Wilco.
Still, much as I loathe Wilco’s ‘bro fans’ for banging sippy cups against crib bars demanding more guitar pyrotechnics, I am excited by the prospect of unconventional song structures and weird, progressive sound scapes (a notable strength of the band’s since ‘Via Chicago’). But, really, I’ll be happy with whatever style and genre the band wishes to pursue. I’ve complete faith in them; Wilco’s track record proves their consistency. I’m an unashamedly excited fan who’s eager to surrender to their vision.
The Antlers – Fourth Album
Though I only discovered these guys last year, they have quickly become one of my favourite bands. Hospice, Burst Apart and Undersea EP had me captivated all year long (need to spend more time on In the Attic of the Universe – and invest in a decent pair of headphones!), so I greatly anticipate Peter Silberman and co.’s next release (and tour!). Undersea was a strange, interesting and, dare I say, expansive evolutionary step. If ‘Drift Drive’ is teasing at a future direction, I’m all for it.
Spoon – Eighth Album
It’s criminal that Spoon aren’t held in higher esteem. Don’t get me wrong: I love that I can see them in small clubs for $20, but I feel their fearlessness and consistency has gone unnoticed. I’ve nothing but fond memories of 2010’s Transference – memories that are inextricably linked to learning to drive in my first car. ‘The Mystery Zone’ was the centrepiece of our Moving to Melbourne road mix. The most exciting prospect of a new Spoon album is that I’ve no idea what it will sound like. Pitchfork and other music media sites have reported that track names have now been finalised, so it certainly seems like they’re in the final stages of recording.
It feels like an eternity since we last heard from Isaac Brock and his humble mice. The band’s last album proper was 2007’s (!) nautical-themed, Johnny Marr-assisted We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Even counting 2009’s solid outtakes EP, No One’s First, And You’re Next, it’s still been five years since the band graced us with new material. Fortunately, Brock’s gone on record and confirmed that 2014 will be the year of their return. Expectations are high and I’m tipping they won’t disappoint.
Ryan Adams – Fourteenth Album
In 2011, Ryan Adams made a surprise return from a self-imposed hiatus that many feared permanent. Ashes and Fire – Adams’ quietly assured and critically acclaimed thirteenth studio album – was the result of this well-needed break. It’s been three years since that record – a veritable eternity considering Adams’ prolific past output – and fans like me are hungry for more.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Eleventh Album
Flea dropped this interesting titbit during the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s recent Super Bowl set: ‘We’re just about to go into hibernation and make a new record.’ Reportedly, the band wanted to follow up I’m With You in mid-2013, but had to wait until Flea completed all commitments with Atoms For Peace (his Thom Yorke-fronted side project).
I’m quietly optimistic about the next Red Hot Chili Peppers record. I’m With You may’ve been half-baked, but it was guitarist Josh Klinghoffer’s band induction. The Chili Peppers write collaboratively and favour improvisation, so it was always going to take an album or two to wear in a new member. To draw parallels, previous guitarist John Frusciante’s first Chili Peppers album, Mother’s Milk, was far from his best work, but Frusciante went from strength to strength as his confidence grew.
At any rate, the b-sides from the I’m With You sessions (drip-fed to us over a year and a half, and later compiled in the amusingly titled I’m Beside You) were varied and interesting, showcasing a band with renewed vigour and a newfound willingness to experiment. Klinghoffer’s an indisputably great addition and I look forward to hearing what the band produces now that the new axeman is properly broken in.
My Morning Jacket – Seventh Album
Jim James’s 2012 electro-soul solo record was a treat, but I’m chomping at the bit to see him tour with his band again. My Morning Jacket’s last record, Circuital, was a nice back-to-basics rock record, a reassertion of their identity. Personally, though, I’m hoping they branch out of comfort zones again, like they did on their divisive 2008 release, Evil Urges. I’m also interested to see if and how James’s solo experience informs the band’s next work.
Foster the People – Supermodel
Not sure I’m sold on this band yet, but Torches was a remarkable debut, producing a string of memorable hits. They’ve taken their sweet time following it up, but all reports suggest their sophomore record, Supermodel, should be with us soon. All judgements reserved ’til I hear the final product, but first single ‘Coming of Age’ hasn’t convinced me.
Weezer – Tenth Album
I only got into Weezer last year, and am still steadily working my way through their sizeable discography. The most recent Weezer album I have listened to is 2010’s Raditude (a WTF record if I’ve ever heard one: Weezer attempted career suicide by releasing the most intentionally over-produced, blatantly ridiculous and unapologetically commercial album of their career – not, seemingly, to ‘sell out’, but to troll fans who thought they had the band pegged. How punk is that!?); I’ve yet to listen to their latest: the infinitely better-received Hurley. Even though I’m still playing catch-up with this band, it’s important to note that their last release came out in 2010, making it time for a follow-up. Although few champion latter-day Weezer, long-time fans can take this as a source of encouragement: Rivers Cuomo and the boys are said to be reuniting with Ric Ocasek, who produced their impeccable debut Weezer (The Blue Album).
Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain
I’ve always enjoyed Conor’s work in Bright Eyes (particularly Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and Cassadaga), but his Americana-flavoured 2008 eponymous solo release was what really captured my imagination. I guess I like Conor the carefree troubadour more than Conor the tortured confessional. To simplify it, Conor’s recent solo work sounds looser, sunnier (on the whole) and thematically less overwrought. In Bright Eyes, Conor constantly wrestles with audience expectation; he explores themes that are seldom fitting or appropriate for pop songs, and strains to use literary devices to obfuscate his meaning. Conor’s song writing has always been layered and intricate, but, with the pressure off, I really feel his solo work is more impassioned and personal, offering the truest representation of present-day Conor.
Considering this, I’m thrilled his new album returns to the country style touched upon in Cassadaga and, to an extent, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning.
Shouldn’t include this one; it’s out and I already have it! Bruce dropped this surprise collection of rarities (some tracks are lovingly re-recorded; others never got the studio treatment in the first place!) in early January. More a stopgap release than anything, High Hopes is uneven, Tom Morello-heavy (honorary E-Street member – or perhaps it’s official now), but very forward-thinking. Sonically, this is reminiscent of last year’s Wrecking Ball, but is heavier – in places – and has a welcome Celtic streak running through it.
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What about you guys? What are your most anticipated albums of the year?