2012 was a stellar year for music. Check out my post here for evidence. Just since I wrote that year-end list, Freddie Gibbs‘ Baby Face Killa mixtape crept onto my list for honorable-mention status, on the strength of this incredible video. Others like Miguel‘s Kaleidoscope Dream, Starlito‘s Funerals and Court Dates, Action Bronson & Alchemist‘s Rare Chandeliers and Roc Marciano‘s Reloaded might make it on there with a few more listens. 2013 has the potential to top that year, good as it was. Already, what I’ve heard from it– new music by A$AP Rocky, Toro Y Moi, Foxygen, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Christopher Owens, and the Azealia Banks dis track Angel Haze put out yesterday– is highly, highly encouraging. Here’s what to expect:
List after the jump:
1. Christopher Owens- Lysandre (1/15)
I downloaded a leaked version of this today (don’t worry, I’m definitely buying it when it’s out officially) and listened to it several times on repeat. This album demands and rewards your attention all the way through. I am happy to report that this album is full of sincerity, love, honesty, beautiful songwriting and musical arrangements. It’s missing some of the more rocking elements of his work with Girls, but this is a mature, classy, delightful concept album. The only comparable record I can think of is Histoire de Melody Nelson. He uses a repeated theme, like 70s albums, such as Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Red Headed Stranger and The Last Waltz. And it stands up against any classic from that time period.
2. A$AP Rocky- Long.Live.A$AP (1/22)
The debut single for this album, “1 Train” features a veritable who’s who of elite up-and-coming rappers: Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf (who steals the show), Danny Brown, Action Bronson & Big K.R.I.T. A$AP is definitely a good dude to see rising in popularity– even if he’s not the most talented rapper, he’s got a definite ear for beats, surrounds himself with talented individuals, and challenges common conceptions of hip-hop. As he puts it in a new interview with Complex: “Why is it so fucking hard to accept the fact that we’re heterosexual men who love fashion? We get along with gay people, we accept gay people. We get along with white people, we get along with Asian people. We love everybody.”
3. Foxygen- We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (1/22)
I’ve covered Foxygen before here. They are a very fun group and this album is a big leap forward from last year’s EP. I pre-ordered this and the label sent me a link to download it even though it hasn’t been officially released yet. “No Destruction” has one of the best lines I’ve heard in a while: “There’s no need to be an asshole. You’re not in Brooklyn anymore.” Hopefully, this album will get a lot of recognition. Foxygen should be a big deal soon.
4. Toro Y Moi- Anything In Return (1/22)
Still associated with the joke-genre, chillwave, Toro left that behind for good in 2011 with the funk-influenced Underneath the Pine and Freaking Out. Now he’s turning his attention to pop. This isn’t exactly the type of stuff you hear on the radio, though. It’s sophisticated, exquisitely crafted, dreamy pop music. Check out the video for “So Many Details”, in which Toro wears a turtleneck and looks moody while his girl’s in the hot tub for evidence of his eccentric genius.
5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra- II (2/5)
The first single for this album, “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)” has been out for a while. It’s one of the best songs released in 2012, a song about isolation and loneliness that is at once beautiful, heartbreaking, and somehow hopeful, much like Tame Impala‘s Lonerism.
6. Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge- Twelve Reasons To Die (3/19)
It’s been seven years since Ghost put out the inimitable one-two punch of Fischscale and More Fish. Though he’s put out a lot of quality material since then, it’s high time for one of the best rappers alive to put out another classic. This one looks like it’s got the potential to be that. Adrian Younge has scored the Black Dynamite soundtrack, and put out the outstanding psychedelic soul record Something About April in 2011. If you’re a Ghost fan, you know the man loves his soul music and is one of the best to spit over soulful beats. So this team-up makes a lot of sense. Plus, RZA is executive producing. And, good lord, that cover is great.
7. Kurt Vile- Walkin’ on a Pretty Daze (Spring)
This is what Kurt’s saying about his new album: “The guitar playing is better and the ideas are new. It’s classic, it’s epic, with many more solos.” Can I get a hell yeah?! I’ve been a big fan of Kurt’s since 2011′s Smoke Ring for My Halo. And I would not expect him to be one for idle boasting.
8. Queens of the Stone Age- TBA (First half of 2013)
The band recently sent out this message to Mojo Magazine. Apparently “the record sounds like running in a dream inside a codeine cabaret.” And even they don’t know what that means. There are a lot of reasons to be excited about this album, especially the return of Dave Grohl and Nick Oliveri to the band (missing since 2002′s classic Songs for the Deaf, which, believe it or not, came out over ten years ago now. You’re old.
9. Danny Brown- Old (TBA)
Danny recently revealed collaborators on this album are going to include A$AP Rocky, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Kitty Pryde and Purity Ring. He also said the album’s going to be “more mature” and “If people are just looking for dick-sucking jokes, there isn’t too many of them this time.” A more mature Danny Brown is almost hard to conceive, but I’m definitely looking forward to hearing what that sounds like. And more collabs with Ab-Soul.
10. Earl Sweatshirt- Doris (TBA)
Earl’s recently released single “Chum” is probably the best thing he’s done so far in his young career– an autobiographical track that shows off his cleverness, way with words, and emotional depth (despite speaking in a monotone). It’s also far more mature than his impressive but definitely immature debut, 2010′s EARL. Maturity definitely seems to be a theme of a lot of these albums in 2013. And that’s not a bad thing. Music can be intelligent and thoughtful without being boring. Especially if you’re as ridiculously talented as Earl.
11. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib- Cocaine Pinata (TBA)
After putting out two excellent EPs together, Thuggin’ and Shame, Gangsta Gibbs and Madlib are putting out a full length. And it’s called Cocaine Pinata. I’m excited, anyway.
12. Pusha T- My Name Is My Name (TBA)
Pusha T was instrumental in bringing Chief Keef to greater attention, telling Kanye West about the young Chicagoan, leading to the G.O.O.D. Music remix of “Shit I Don’t Like.” But don’t forget that Pusha is still capable of being a vital, relevant artist himself. It’s been six years since Pusha released one of my favorite albums with Clipse, Hell Hath No Fury. The debut single off this album, “Pain” is very encouraging, as is the rest of the work he’s been doing since becoming a part of Kanye’s inner circle.
13. The Underachievers- Indigoism (TBA)
This group is signed to Flying Lotus‘ label. They have so far put out a handful of songs and videos on Youtube. Despite the limited output, The Underachievers are a very promising young group, who set themselves apart with some tremendous rapid-fire spitting and lyricism. They also share with Ab-Soul a fascination with the secrets the pineal gland (or “third eye”) may unlock.
14. Ab-Soul & JMSN- Unit 6 (TBA)
Ab-Soul & JMSN released one track together last year called “Nibiru,” which starts out with Ab-Soul theorizing that aliens probably built the pyramids. As with The Underachievers, Ab-Soul comes close to the sort of conspiracy theories you might see on the History Channel. However, that doesn’t take away from how good his music is, and there is something intriguing about this movement in hip-hop. JMSN appeared uncredited on several tracks on Kendrick Lamar‘s good kid m.A.A.d. city, and also released an experimental R&B album, Priscilla last year, which features a gorgeous Sigur Ros sample on “Hotel.”
15. My Bloody Valentine- TBA (TBA)
My Bloody Valentine hasn’t put out an album since 1991′s Loveless, the record that is the definitive, perfect, and pretty much only essential shoegaze album (and also bankrupted their label at the time, Creation). Recently the band announced that they have finished mastering this album, though other details remain sparse.
16. The Arcade Fire- TBA (TBA)
Arcade Fire have reportedly already recorded 35 songs. They’ve also been working with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. I’ll just leave it at that.
17. Snoop Lion- Reincarnated (TBA)
Snoop Dogg has managed to remain one of the most iconic and beloved rappers despite arguably putting out only one classic in his career, Doggystyle way back in 1993 (or two if you count The Chronic). However, his transformation into Snoop Lion will at the very least renew interest in what he’s doing musically. Since converting to Rastafarianism, he’s abandoned hip-hop for reggae and adopted a more positive persona. This isn’t exactly a shocking move for one of the most famous weed-smokers in the world. As Drew Magary puts it in a recent profile in GQ, “A hundred thousand years from now, there’ll be nothing left but a pile of rocks and Snoop, perched upon the rubble, smoking a blunt, having outlived and outsmarted us all. The lion: king of the weed jungle.”
18. Tyler, The Creator- Wolf (TBA)
His last album, 2011′s Goblin was one of the most disappointing albums in recent memory– an album so bad it almost made everyone (including me) look stupid for thinking Odd Future were anything more than a bunch of immature kids who make rape jokes and hate everything. However, Frank Ocean‘s critically acclaimed Channel Orange, Domo Genesis‘ solid No Idols mixtape with Alchemist, and Earl Sweatshirt‘s “Chum” have all proven that Odd Future definitely do have something special to them. Another reason for hope: Tyler has expressed admiration for Toro Y Moi and The Stepkids, artists making music quite a bit more mature and easy on the ears than the nihilistic mess that was Goblin.
Other artists that (hopefully) will be putting out albums in 2013: Action Bronson & Harry Fraud, Andre 3000, Angel Haze, Beck, Boldy James & Alchemist, Cloud Nothings, Deerhunter, DOOM & Ghostface Killah, Dr. Dre, Frightened Rabbit, Iceage, Juicy J, Kanye West, King Krule, The Knife, Madvillain, Major Lazer, Metal Clergy (Ka & Roc Marciano), MGMT, Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, Oab Jenkins, Schoolboy Q, Sky Ferreira, The Stepkids, Talib Kweli, Tinariwen, Vampire Weekend, Yo La Tengo and many, many others. Truly there will be an embarrassment of musical riches in 2013.