|James Mercer and The Shins to release Port Of Morrow on March 20, their first album in six years.|
*Releases dates and titles are in flux that far into the future anyway, right?
Let's Go Eat the Factory (Jan 17) / Class Clown Spots A UFO (May 22)
The classic lineup of Guided By Voices proved that there's more than just bit of nostalgia driving the reunion along -- there's genuine enthusiasm towards making new records, as evidenced by the recently released Let's Go Eat the Factory (Spotify). While that album was good and not necessarily reaching levels high enough to make this list on its own, the fact that the experience has led to another album due in May (Class Clown Spots A UFO), makes this twofer scenario already one of 2012's great stories.
Leonard Cohen Old Ideas (January 31)
The Lord Byron Of Rock ‘n’ Roll seems to be letting go of erotic despair and taking a more direct lyrical route to induce a 'sigh.' Old Ideas (Spotify) is the best the artist has released since Reagan-era I'm Your Man, and that's pretty high praise. Cohen's baritone has gotten even deeper and his lyrical wit has followed suit. Could be that rare instant classic akin to Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind.
Sharon Van Etten - Tramp (Feb 7)
Sharon Van Etten has grown with every release, and her stature has grown with every appearance she's made on other artist releases. Her third album -- her first on Jagjaguwar records -- has her teaming up with The National's Aaron Dessner as producer, and features guest appearances from the likes of Beirut's Zach Condon and Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner, making it easily one of our most anticipated albums of early 2012.
Already streaming on Spotify and NPR First Listen.
Sleigh Bells Reign Of Terror (Feb 21)
Derek Miller's guitars are still larger than life and singer Alexis Krauss vocals' sticky sweet, but the dial has consciously been turned down a bit on the decibel meter. Miller confessed the "in the red" clipping of their amazing debut (Treats) turned him off a bit. While the two singles released thus far ("Born to Lose," "Comeback Kid") do indeed keep in the green, they've sacrificed none of what made their debut such a... um... treat.
Damien Jurado - Maraqopa (Feb 21)
The somber uncle of the Pacific NW's Folk scene reunites with producer/musician Richard Swift to follow up 2010's revelatory Saint Bartlett. Maraqopa builds on that release's atmospherics, taking the sound to dark and mysterious places further into the foggy thicket of Jurado and Swift's imagination. Be sure to leave a trail of breadcrumbs, sweet children.
Download: "Nothing is the News" / "Museum of Flight" [mp3] (via Secretly Canadian)
The Shins - Port Of Morrow (Mar 20)
Speaking of Richard Swift, he now plays keyboards with the James Mercer Players, otherwise known as The Shins. It's been several years since Wincing the Night Away came out (2007), their Sub Pop swan song, but Mercer hasn't been slacking. The success of his Broken Bells project with Danger Mouse is some of the cause of fans having to endure this wait, but Mercer has been working on the album the whole time. First single "Simple Song" suggests that he's comfortable with the band's new home on Columbia Records (via his own imprint, Aural Apothecary Records) and that Port of Morrow will be an even bigger seller.
Justin Townes Earle - Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now (Mar 27)
With this next release, prefacing mention of JTE with "son of Steve" will no longer be necessary. As JTE grows with each release, Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now sees the artist's sound moving away from Nashville towards Memphis, with the addition of that city's traditional Soul sound. Throw in some folk and a bit of Americana and you have a highly anticipated release.
Download: "Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now" [mp3] (via Rolling Stone)
Dirty Projectors - TBA (Spring 2012)
Since they were responsible for the best album of 2009 in Bitte Orca, it only stands to reason that their follow up would be on this list. Not much is known about it -- album title is TBA as is the release date -- but the fact that it's impending is enough for us. Whatever David Longstreth and crew throws at us is guaranteed to get hyped, digested, analyzed and reported.
Santigold - Master of My Make Believe (Spring 2012)
A lot has happened in the world of diva pop since Santi White released her debut under the moniker Santogold. For one, she's now Santigold thanks to a lawsuit, and Lady Gaga has stormed the landscape like some wardrobe-obsessed Godzilla. The first single ("Big Mouth") from Santigold's anticipated Master of My Make Believe seems to tackle both of these items. As a date in time, TBA cannot come soon enough.
Download: "Big Mouth" [mp3] (via Santigold.com)
Assuming that we survive the Mayan Calendar, we're theoretically excited about these releases coming down the pipe... but until there's titles and release dates, we're treating them as hypothetical (I'm looking at you, The Wrens!).
The Wrens - Putting a Wrens release down here is akin to Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown... but reports are they've got enough for two albums' worth. So we'll know by 2014 how they'll proceed.
Fiona Apple - See directly above and add Jon Brion plus some label indifference.
The Xx - They've been in the studio working on their sophomore follow up, which has many excited.
Phoenix - France's pop juggernauts have been writing and recording since last year and are reportedly moving into a more experimental direction, relating to some of their work on Sofia Coppola's Somewhere soundtrack, for whatever that's worth.
Bonus: We have two huge ATL reunions with an ATL follow up cherry on top:
Outkast - Out of the frying pan (Jive Records) and into the fire (Epic Records), Andre 3000 and Big Boi are back together.
Goodie Mob - Cee-Lo, K-Mo, Khujo and Big Gipp reunited recently to perform at the 2011 Soul Train Awards.
Janelle Monae - The diminutive diva is said to be releasing TWO albums in 2012 along with a film.