Despite what you might have heard elsewhere, 2015 was a vintage year for music.
Don’t believe the naysayers – there was plenty to get excited about, whether you wanted to hear dance deconstructions from M.E.S.H., Rabit and Fis, club-ready rap from Future and Young Thug or instant classic prog tomes from Kendrick Lamar, Grimes and Dawn Richard.
We’ve got faith that 2016 will prove just as essential, and after liaising with our network of spies, we’re confident it’s looking damn good already. Here are 30 records – not including whatever Frank Ocean is up to – that we reckon will wrench you out of an apathetic stupor this year. And don’t worry, purists – there’s no Bieber (yet).
There was a lot of obvious excitement when we learned the artist formerly known as Antony Hegarty had enlisted two producers as bombastic and different as Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never for her new album Hopelessness, but let’s not forget who the star of the show is here. It’s been half a decade since the last album from Antony & The Johnsons, but from the beautiful, apocalyptic and terrifyingly relevant first single ‘4 Degrees’, the singer’s return to music has never felt more essential than right now.
Thumb your nose at the trap wave all you want, but Baauer – whose range is way wider than 808 festival bangers, anyway – is one hell of a producer, and his debut album promises to be impressive both in scope and enviable guest features.
Babyfather first appeared to be just another odd stopgap in Dean Blunt’s career — a one-off moniker, perhaps, or just another one of his releases that floats on the internet for a time before dissolving into digital ether. His teasingly brief mixtape last year proved this wasn’t the case, and now, Babyfather begins 2016 with an official Hyperdub single co-produced with Arca. ‘Meditation’ is a true meeting of the minds — a Bluntian groove sewn to choruses of screaming babies and dream logic murmurs – and once again, he’s left us with no idea of what will come next.
The Red Era
(Our Dawn Entertainment)
Dawn Richard’s Blackheart certainly stands alone (it was our album of 2015, after all) but in fact it’s part of a trilogy, the final chapter of which is promised for this year. The Red Era is touted as more uptempo than its predecessor, and first single ‘Dance’ sets it in good stead.
Views From The 6
(October’s Very Own)
The follow-up to Nothing Was The Same has been on the board for what seems like forever, but Drake has hardly gone away in the meantime – in fact, he ended up having his biggest year yet in 2015 off the back of a couple of mixtapes and a Moncler jacket. All of which is to say that we have no idea what lies in store for us with Views From The 6, but it seems like we’ll find Drake in R&B mode for some radio-friendly unit-shifters. He can’t fail, really.
It’s been four years since Evian Christ made his debut, during which he’s released a mixtape and an EP on Tri Angle, worked with Kanye West and rebranded himself as a contemporary Lord of the Trance. If his recent live show is anything to go by, his first album for Warp will be worth the wait, whatever form the music takes.
Ghostface & DOOM
So, will it or won’t it? The second most anticipated album from DOOM’s catalogue of records-he’s-promised-but-hasn’t-delivered appears to finally have something resembling a release date. Ghostface claims it’s spring – but we’ve heard it all before at this point.
Jessy Lanza’s Pull My Hair Back was one of 2013’s low-key pop gems, combining the spaciousness you’d expect from a Hyperdub record with some of the year’s best hooks. Lanza has since gone on to work with footwork producers Spinn and Taso, so we’re expecting her second album to be quite a departure from the R&B-inspired original.
Jesu & Sun Kil Moon
Jesu / Sun Kil Moon
Yeah, you’re all probably sick of Mark Kozelek at this point, but how could we possibly miss this one off the list? Godflesh’s Justin Broadrick, under the Jesu moniker, working with Kozelek is one of those dream collaborations you’d never expect to happen. Broadrick has already showed his sensitive side on the incredible Silver, and imagining that on a larger scale, assisted by Kozelek’s romantic nihilism – well, it’s a no-brainer.
Black Origami: The MotherBoard
Dark Energy was one of our favourite albums of 2015 and one of the best footwork LPs yet, full stop, so it goes without saying we’re excited to see what Jlin has planned next. Now that she’s taken on music full-time, we expect Black Origami: The MotherBoard to take the genre into even more unexpected places.
In a touch of narrative synchronicity with Drake, we’ve been expecting the Yeezus follow-up for a very, very long time now – that’s what happens when you give us an album title long before you’ve actually recorded the album, guys! The title change from So Help Me God to SWISH hints at the lighter mood we can expect from Kanye’s seventh solo album; he’s suggested it’ll be a record of “cookout music that just feels good.”
If her off-kilter, halfway-garage collaboration with Four Tet and Floating Points is anything to go by, Katy B’s third album will to seal her legacy as one of the UK’s finest modern pop stars, continuing to straddle the underground and the mainstream with ease.
Should Kelela manage to best her practically perfect 2015 EP with her debut full-length, which is exactly what she’s threatening she’ll do, then we’ll be pretty much lost for words. Even if the as-yet-untitled record only has one song as good as ‘All The Way Down’ – one of our absolute favourite tracks of last year – it’ll be a minor kind of triumph, but we predict an album packed with razor-sharp modern diva-pop that picks up where Janet and Aaliyah left off.
(Bread Winners Association)
After a huge 2013 and 2014, Kevin Gates took a step back last year to work on debut album proper Islah, and if it’s anywhere near as good as The Luca Brasi Story and its sequel, we’ll be in for a treat. If lead single ‘Really Really’ is anything to go by, we won’t be disappointed.
It’s no huge stretch to imagine that the Boxed resident’s second album for Keysound will drop this year, following his fine debut Cold Mission. Logos has always balanced weightless weirdness with more percussive fare, both as a producer and a DJ, so will album number two see him finally jet off into space?
The past few years have seen something of a trance reappraisal, and Lorenzo Senni has done more for the cause than anyone else. On 2014’s Superimpositions he showed that he could turn a trance build-up into accessible pop, and his follow-up promises to be a full-on blast of neon euphoria that takes his formula to the next level.
It’s been more than a decade since her last album, The Cookbook, but no one’s forgotten about Missy – the world collectively flipped its lid when she dropped her Pharrell-assisted comeback single ‘WTF’, and rightly so – she’s still one of the best in the game.
Mr. Mitch’s isolationist grime epic Parallel Memories was our second favourite album of 2014, and the sequel is pencilled in for release late this year. Our bet’s on slower tempos and power drums.
The grime starlet’s recent tracks are self-produced and vexed at the system, and one comparison keeps springing to mind: Dizzee Rascal circa his classic Boy In Da Corner. There’s no public word on who’s releasing Nov’s album (his most recent releases have been through XL and Rinse) but he’s gone on record as saying it’s 100% produced by him and Grandmixxer.
We’re not expecting to Omar-S to reinvent the wheel with his next album, but he doesn’t have to: nobody does soulful, bumping, acid-tinged house music like Detroit’s most acerbic producer. Any house producers releasing an LP in 2016 should be worried about the competition – past albums have shown that Omar-S thrives on the format.
King Push’s pre-Christmas mixtape Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude was a timely reminder that he’s still at the top of his game. He might have moved into an executive position as the new President of Kanye’s GOOD Music, but we’ve got a sneaky suspicion that King Push will be his best solo offering to date.
(Blackest Ever Black)
The Blackest Ever Black duo’s Quarter Turns Over a Living Line was a success story even by that label’s standards, and a “more rhythm-orientated” follow-up is due this spring.
After dishing out a couple of epic sci-fi-inspired concept albums, the former Vex’d lad has joined Tri Angle for what promises to be his most experimental slab yet, leaving dance music behind to explore rhythm, bass and sound design through his own unique filter.
Jerome Raheem Fortune
We’ve been banging on about Rome Fortune for what seems like aeons, and it’s finally time for him to unleash a “proper” album, on Fools Gold no less. Signs point to it being as diverse as we’ve come to expect from the genre-bending Atlanta maverick – he might have a “hip-hop” tag, but he’s never been comfortable in any box.
Istanbul’s Sami Baha has transformed from relative unknown to SoundCloud powerhouse in a short space of time, with the likes of Kuedo and Total Freedom repping his tracks. He recently signed to Planet Mu, never a label to wait around when it comes to coaxing albums from their new acts. Fingers crossed we’ll get one from fellow new recruits Silk Road Assassins to boot.
Grime’s heavyweight champion has some new competition on the rise, so he’ll be doing everything in his power to make sure the long-anticipated Konnichiwa lives up to expectations. That said, if he really has signed to OVO we might have to wait a little longer – say hi to Makonnen over in that waiting room, Skep!
We didn’t see it coming, but Sky Ferreira’s Night Time, My Time was the best drunk-in-the-rain pop-rock album in donkey’s. Masochism, we’re told, is an angrier record and features work from Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie and Andrew Innes as as well as regular collaborators Ariel Rechtshaid and Justin Raisen. Frankly though, we’d take more of the same. What’s our age again?
When Michael Gira brought Swans back from the dead in 2010, he was quick to stress it wasn’t a “reunion”, and we were quick to embrace his sincerity. In the end, they did something unprecedented — they became more popular than ever and produced the most powerful, ambitious and alive music of their entire 30-year run. Now Gira is ready to give his band a Viking funeral with one final album. We don’t know when it’s coming, we don’t know what it will be called, but trust us — this thing is going to be fucking loud.
Tinashe’s 2014 debut Aquarius is one of those albums that just gets better and better with every play. It’s still getting regular rotation at FACT HQ, so the very idea of a follow-up has us weak at the knees, and last year’s sublime ‘Party Favors’ with Young Thug has only made us more eager, even if for some inexplicable reason it’s not going to be on the album.
Do we even need to explain why we’re excited about this long-promised Thugger missive at this point? Barter 6 was great, Slime Season and its sequel were almost better. If Thug wants it, 2016 is his for the taking.