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2016 was a big year for albums. Many of the world’s biggest entertainers – Beyoncé, Kanye West, Drake, David Bowie, Radiohead, Lady Gaga – put out career-defining full-lengths, so what could that possibly leave for 2017, the year of Trump?
Quite a lot, it turns out. We’ve put together a list of the albums we hope will ease us through what will no doubt be a troubling year. From imminent releases like Migos’ eagerly-awaited C U L T U R E and Kehlani’s SweetSexySavage to new records from FACT favorites Mr. Mitch and Kelela and banner releases from Björk and LCD Soundsystem, not to mention the exciting return of At The Drive-In and Slowdive, at least we have plenty of music to look forward to.
Alice Glass released her first post-Crystal Castles solo single ‘Stillbirth’ last year, pointedly donating all proceeds from digital sales to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence. Co-written and produced by HEALTH’s Jupiter Keyes, that track was an industrial-sized missile that got us immediately excited for her solo debut album, which Glass has described, tantalisingly, as like “a kitten eating their hoarding owners after they die”.
Arca used last year’s incredible Entrañas mixtape to contrast his most caustic sound design with some of his prettiest production yet, drawing on Cocteau Twins samples and twisted a cappella voices. Meanwhile, Björk has described their work on her next album as “heaven” to Vulnicura’s “hell”. All signs point to Arca making his most angelic music yet on this year’s Reverie.
At the Drive-in
After 17 years, two live reunions and six questionable Mars Volta albums, At The Drive-In fans are being rewarded this year with the seminal post-hardcore band’s first new album since 2000. If it’s even half as good as Relationship of Command, we have every reason to be very excited.
After blinding us with neon lights and electrical crackle on 2013’s A U R O R A, the definitive “power ambient” record of that year, Ben Frost is set to return with his fifth official full-length in 2017. Given his dramatic pivot from the tactility and acoustic space of his stunning early albums to the dense luminescence of his last album, there’s no telling what direction the Icelandic composer will be going in this time, but we’ll hazard this guess: it will be loud. In the meantime, he’s reunited with artist Richard Mosse for a politically charged sound and video installation on show at London’s Barbican this spring.
(One Little Indian)
Few duos have an alchemy as fiery as Björk and Arca, a pair who could probably move mountains with their art and minds. This album, their second collaboration following 2015’s spectacular Vulnicura, is even bigger than that – get ready for “paradise” and “utopia”, as Bjork promised last year. So with the “hell” of Vulnicura now firmly behind them, we’re ready for the second coming.
(Italians Do It Better)
The only reason Dear Tommy wasn’t on this list in 2016 was because it appeared on 2015’s list too and we’d given up hope. But after so many promising glimpses, Johnny Jewel finally seems ready to unveil Chromatics’ next opus, which has now been cooking just as long as their 2012 masterpiece. Please?
(October’s Very Own)
Drake’s biggest successes of 2016 (‘One Dance’, ‘Controlla’) were all about celebrating the music (UK funky, dancehall) of the cultures the Toronto rapper admires, so it’s a good thing his next release has been described as a “playlist”. With the right approach, he’ll be able to explore other genres without the pressures of having to make a ~classic~. But get weird, Drake. It’s about time.
Water You Cup Too
In 2015, Alexandra Drewchin hit us with two albums of dazzling, one-of-a-kind psychedelic music on Chicago’s Hausu Mountain label, Metalepsis and RIP Chrysalis – and she was already talking about LP3. Her cosmic soundscapes and dense poetry have only got better after a few trips around the sun, and we’re ready for more.
Four years since we snapped on our aviators to cruise through the digi-glossed streets of Ikonika’s Aerotropolis, her sophomore album of sun-dappled boogie, electro and synth-pop, the London producer is set to drop her next full-length for longtime label Hyperdub later in 2016. After hearing her swerve into steelier club territory on 2014’s aggressively good Position EP, this time she’s said to be moving in an R&B direction.
Jlin has promised that the follow-up to 2015’s genre-shattering Dark Energy will swerve “very far left of footwork,” and if the djembe drums and war cries of her forthcoming Dark Lotus 12” are anything to go by, expect to set sail for choppier waters when Dark Origami parks up on Planet Mu later this year.
Blade Runner 2049
Due: October 2017
Vangelis’s original Blade Runner soundtrack is rightly hailed as not only one of the best movie scores of all time, but one of the most influential electronic albums ever. So Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson has an elephantine task ahead of him. Thankfully, his work on last year’s exemplary Arrival has left us extremely hopeful – his subtle reaction to that film’s themes of language and time makes us believe that he’ll have no trouble folding Blade Runner’s complex philosophy into his haunting suite of drones.
Due: Feb 3
Kehlani marked herself out as one of the most promising voices in R&B with the release of her tape Cloud 19 in 2014. Her music builds on the cool and casual style of Mary J. Blige and girl group Total, so it’s no wonder last year Puff Daddy, who signed both, thanked Kehlani for “saving” the genre. We don’t know if R&B necessarily needs saving, but Kehlani knows what works and the rawness and honesty likely to come from SweetSexySavage has her primed to have her biggest year yet.
Kelela is one of R&B’s foremost innovators and her long-awaited debut full-length is primed to push the genre another step forward. Details are scarce for now, but FACT Rated alum Kelsey Lu has contributed strings. Our hearts hurt already.
Tears in the Club
(Fade To Mind)
Due: Feb 24
It’s about damn time we got a full-length from Fade To Mind ringleader Kingdom, although we can’t decide if Tears in the Club is the best album title of the year so far or the worst idea he’s ever had. Regardless, the Kelela producer’s debut is likely to be a scorcher, featuring collaborations with TDE singer SZA and Syd of The Internet on its “erotic, melancholy and resilient” R&B mutations.
An army of cynics and “betrayed” fans are no match for James Murphy’s perfectionism. The letter he wrote to fans in January last year explained why he’d decided his now-legendary band must not only return but surpass their meteoric first era. So now he basically wants to catch a meteor. Be smart, bet on Murphy.
C U L T U R E
Due: January 27
Migos closed out 2016 with their biggest hit to date – the ubiquitous (and completely fucking banging) viral hit ‘Bad & Boujee’. As if that track wasn’t enough to whet our appetite for a full-length, follow-up single ‘T-Shirt’ is just as good. The trio’s debut album Yung Rich Nation was mostly overlooked for whatever reason, but after their unbeatable 2016 run, it feels as if C U L T U R E will be their moment to shine.
A few years back Mr. Mitch opened a door into grime’s hushed and heartfelt side with his Peace Dubs and his masterful full-length Parallel Memories, our #2 album of 2014. Casting off that album’s lonesome mood, on Devout he’s bringing in a cast of MCs and singers – as well as debuting his own singing voice – on a set of songs themed around love, relationships and fatherhood.
Porter Ricks are one of dub techno’s most beloved acts, and their 1996 album Biokinetics is still held up as one of the genre’s best. They returned with the Shadow Boat EP in late 2016 to prove they haven’t lost their special touch; expect their new album to be one of the year’s most essential techno LPs.
Due: Feb 3
Sampha’s release schedule makes Frank Ocean look like Legowelt, frankly, and we’ve had just about enough of it. But the Young Turks jewel has promised to put us out of our misery in February with his debut album after years of tantalising guest spots, lighting up tracks by SBTRKT, Drake, Solange, Jessie Ware and more. Three stunning teasers from last year – ‘Timmy’s Prayer’, ‘Plastic 100°C’ and ‘Blood On Me’ – suggest Process could be worth the seven-year wait.
Last year Second Woman made dub techno and IDM sound completely fresh with their ASMR-inducing debut album on Spectrum Spools, a self-titled collection of complex electronic music that was one of 2016’s most absorbing listens. It was one of FACT’s best albums of the year, so we can’t wait to see what they do on the rapid follow-up.
We know Sky is a perfectionist from the amount of her own time (and money) she spent making sure her debut Night Time, My Time was exactly what she wanted. The result was our number two album of 2013. Almost four years later, there’s hardly a doubt she’s using the same precision to deliver something just as divine.
It was 22 years ago in 1995 when maligned British shoegaze pioneers Slowdive released their final album Pygmalion, disappearing into the sunset along with it. In 2014 they reformed, finally giving fans a chance to hear beloved late-period gems like ‘Crazy For You’ on stages throughout the world. But jamming old classics wasn’t all the band were up to – they’ve been hard at work in the studio crafting a fourth full-length, and from what we’ve heard it’s very, very good indeed. Let’s get sad.
Annie Clark sheds her skin to give us something disorienting and unique with every release. She’s called the follow-up to 2014’s David Byrne-inspired self-titled album her “deepest, boldest work” yet, and we’d be foolish not to trust her.
After winning Best Grime Act at the MOBO Awards twice and almost getting a Christmas number one single in 2015, Stormy retreated to the bunker last year to put the finishing touches on his debut album. With all the talk of grime finally tipping into the global mainstream, eyes are on Stormzy to make it happen. If he can’t manage it, what hope do we have?
Due: Early 2017
Tinashe’s long-delayed Joyride was expected to appear in fall 2016, but never materialized. Instead we were treated to an excellent (and free) collection of loosies, Nightride, and honestly, if the official full-length is even that good, we’ll be fully on board.