It’s a brand spankin’ new year, (or a few weeks into one, anyway), and that can only mean one thing: new music! Yes, a bewildering array of new album releases is coming our way. Only time will separate the classics from the crap, but while they all still lie in the future, it’s possible—nay, necessary!—to be hopeful about every single one of them. But which ones to look forward to the most? Amid the breakthroughs and comebacks, running the gamut of pop music genres, here is a small selection of albums, some actually scheduled and some mere whispers of rumors, to prime those expectations for in 2018.
My Bloody Valentine, [TBA]
Comeback albums have a spotty track record to say the least. Sometimes a band releases new music out of nowhere that turns out to be a pleasant surprise. Sometimes a band has nothing new or valuable to say, and a comeback album is pointless. And sometimes, a band drops one of the greatest albums of all time, breaks up, goes all but radio silent for over two decades, and then reunites to drop a kickass new album like they never missed a goddamn beat. My Bloody Valentine pulled this off with the release of MBV in 2013. That album struck an astounding balance between the comfortingly consistent and the current, and somehow managed to be a worthy successor to 1991’s Loveless. All of which means that when lead vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Kevin Shields starts making noise about a new album, the hype is actually justifiable on the strength of recent output rather than past greatness alone.
Sky Ferreira, Masochism
It’s about damn time Sky Ferreira released a new album. Way back in 2014, she tweeted she had already begun working on her second, just a year after her dynamite debut dropped. Night Time, My Time, along with her earlier EP Ghost, confidently announced her arrival as a musical badass capable of seamlessly merging rock and synth-pop with as much or more verve and skill as anyone out there. But since then we’ve only been teased with some guest appearances here and there as Ferreira collaborated with the likes of Primal Scream and DIIV, and some minor film and television roles. All that networking seems to have paid off, at least, because her long awaited follow-up Masochism will apparently credit Bobby Gillespie in some capacity while featuring a “more aggressive” sound. She can be as aggressive or as mellow as she wants as long as we get some new music.
Kanye West, Turbo Grafx 16
Ye’s seventh album might be called Turbo Grafx 16, but then The Life of Pablo might have been called SWISH before going through several name changes. It might feature a track list of video game titles, or fans on social media may have been taken in by a red herring list of… video game titles. It might feature Sufjan Stevens, and it might feature Migos, A$AP Rocky, Li’l Yachty, and more. What it will ultimately sound like is anyone’s guess. The marvelously chaotic, living document of Pablo is inevitably a tough act to follow. Add to that an emotional breakdown in late 2016 and a new daughter (Chicago!) just the other day, and the trepidation over just who the newest iteration of Kanye will be is almost unbearable. But trust in Yeezus. It is rare that self-proclaimed titles acquire any kind of legitimacy, but other genii have corroborated Yeezy’s brilliance. The answer to the timeless question “WWYD,” pretty much always, is, “Make awesome hip hop.”
Carly Rae Jepsen, [TBA]
The vaguely kazooey synth that peals forth to open Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion acted both as a siren’s song of pure pop bliss and a dramatic statement of improvement over the somewhat more bubblegummy music that had previously propelled her to the rarefied air of one-hit wonder stardom. That 2015 album, along with 2016 follow-up EP Emotion: Side B, demonstrated that not only was Jepsen not a one-hit wonder, but that she was capable of a more mature kind of pop sound that could even appeal to the Pitchfork set. Jepsen has reportedly written a boatload of songs for consideration on her next album while listening to artists like Ariel Pink, but that’s still all we know about the as-yet-untitled project. If summer banger “Cut to the Feeling” is any indication, we’re in for more 80’s-inspired synths and uncut dopamine injections. One way or the other, we can safely expect a healthy dosage of immaculately crafted pop ecstasy.
Frank Ocean, [TBA]
It’s hard to know what to believe when it comes to hints of new material from Frank Ocean, who is no stranger to vague teasers as well as surprise releases. But late last year he strongly indicated that he’d already finished a new album, so his dulcet tones should be gracing our earballs again sometime this year. His last release, 2016’s Blonde, was less purely ambient than the same year’s Endless, but was nonetheless a further entrenchment into ethereal and intensely introspective R&B, and away from the hookier sounds of 2012’s (also kind of beautiful) Channel Orange. It’s the kind of album that offers a truly rewarding experience for the listener willing to undergo full immersion. Reviewers should rate the next album not in points or stars, but in goosebumps raised.
Charli XCX, [TBA]
There is a constant, restless energy to Charli XCX. A budding pop star of almost limitless possibilities, she knows it, and chafes against any and all limitations. This can make for an equally thrilling and frustrating listening experience. Charli’s last proper album, the wonderfully brash Sucker, came out back in 2014, showcasing her devil-may-care willingness to explode formulaic pop and reshape it to suit her own creative ends. But since then she’s been dicking around with a couple of mixtapes, Number 1 Angel and Pop 2, as she wrangles with her own teeming ideas. They’re both decent records, but their evident lack of a unitary vision justifies their mixtape status. Ostensibly these releases are heralding a new album this year, but more recently, she told Vulture that she might not even release it at all. So this one might not happen, but it makes the list out of the sheer audacity of hope.
Rich Brian, Amen
At the tender young age of 16, an Indonesian kid going by Rich Chigga released a hip hop track cryptically titled “Dat $tick” as a joke, and proceeded to take the hip hop world by storm, as rappers from Ghostface Killah to Desiigner swooned over his shockingly deep voice and smooth flow. Now 18—women can legally have sex with him—he’s signaled his newfound maturity by changing his stage name to Rich Brian and preparing to drop his debut album, Amen. This is the kind of release that can define a career: will he go down as a joke artist with a handful of YouTube hits, or will he emerge as a legit rapper with staying power? We’ll find out February 2nd.
When Chvrches arrived in 2013 with the excellent The Bones of What You Believe, they were suddenly at the very vanguard of the 80’s synth-pop revival the world didn’t even know it was experiencing. If there was any knock on 2015’s Every Open Eye, it was that it was more of the same. By 2018, synth-pop is a feature rather than a bug of the pop scene, so the Scottish outfit is going to have to dig a bit deeper in order to remain a relevant force. From what we know so far, they just might: lead singer Lauren Mayberry has promised this album will be the “most pop” yet, a statement backed up by the band’s working with big-time producer Greg Kurstin. A poppier sound might disappoint those on the indier side of the indie-pop spectrum, but the prospect of Chvrches riding a slight change in direction into superstardom is undeniably exciting.
2016’s Puberty 2, true to its name, saw indie rocker Mitski exploring a wide array of twenty-something emotional themes, from depression to sex to racial belonging. It was a lot to tackle, but had the benefit of being written by an incisive lyricist backed by alternating doses of crashing guitars and more contemplative electronics, making for a standout album in a crowded scene. Mitski has been noncommittal about her next album’s release, but has hinted to Stereogum that it will be “different”: “Whenever someone says they like something about my music, I tend to not want to do that anymore…. I keep trying to find ways for people to dislike me.” Here’s hoping we get to find out whatever that could mean sometime this year.
Chromatics, Dear Tommy
Since 2012’s Kill for Love, Chromatics have stayed intermittently busy with contributions to Ryan Gosling films or David Lynch shows. Band leader and Italians Do It Better label frontman Johnny Jewel has certainly been active, with a new album slated for release later this week. But Chromatics’ fifth studio album, Dear Tommy, has proven difficult to complete, to say the least. Back in May of last year, Jewel reportedly destroyed every copy of the project and began rerecording the whole thing. A complete teardown like that may bode well or ill for a 2018 release, but in the meantime there’s always “Cherry”.
Father John Misty, [TBA]
Mere months after last year’s release of Pure Comedy, Josh Tillman announced that he was finishing up work on his next Father John Misty album, which he described to Uncut as “I Love You, Honeybear but without the cynicism.” It’s interesting that he would so quickly return to that 2015 album after the critical acclaim he received last year, but it could signal a reinvigorated lushness in his music, which was the main thing missing from Pure Comedy. It’s hard to imagine a complete lack of cynicism from an artist who in his songs has constantly decried contemporary society and contemplated a very real solipsism, but he’s certainly capable of biting humor. At any rate, no one thinks of Tillman as the former drummer for Fleet Foxes anymore.
Cardi B, [TBA]
Time will tell what kind of staying power trap music ultimately has, but Cardi B has the goods to stick around as a leading hip hop artist for years to come with or without the subgenre that made her. After getting noticed with her Gangsta Bitch Music mixtapes, she blew up in summer 2017 with the unapologetic Bronx brashness of “Bodak Yellow”, and has promised a full album by the end of January. Expectations are high and she knows it: “It’s got to be good,” she told Capital XTRA. Yeah, it does, but for a rapper so obviously brimming with talent that shouldn’t be too difficult.