Hot New Albums of 2011
26 albums we can not wait to pick up.
Having rung out the old, music fans are looking ahead to fresh music from their favorite artists. Given the predictably unpredictable release schedules of some A-listers, consider this a first look at the sounds of music in 2011, with surprises and disappointments yet to appear. Music journalist Jonathan Zwickel brings us this preview of the full-length sets slated to drop in the months ahead.
Lady Gaga, “Born This Way” (Interscope), May 23
Lady Gaga follows up 2009’s “The Fame Monster” — at 6 million units, the top-selling album of 2010 — with “Born This Way,” which she described to Rolling Stone last summer as “a cake that has a bitter jelly.” Here’s hoping said cake is iced with gloating over the recent repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Gaga may not have been responsible, but her denouncement of the failed military policy didn’t hurt.
Green Day, “Awesome as F—” (Reprise), March 15
Title says it all, dunnit? The kings of political hooliganism continue to appeal to the angry adolescent in all of us. Green Day’s upcoming live album — their sixth — documents the Bay Area veterans’ arena-punking 21st Century Breakdown tour, with accompanying DVD footage of a pair of shows in Tokyo.
Duran Duran, “All You Need Is Now” (Tapemodern), digital available now, physical album in March
If the title were true, Duran Duran wouldn’t need Mark Ronson to kick their glossy ’80s pop into the new millennium. Instead, the aging pretty boys (today we say “metrosexuals”) paired with Grammy-winning superproducer Ronson for album No. 13. The result, demonstrated by lead single “All You Need Is Now,” is surprisingly spry for a band whose first album was recorded during the Carter administration.
Britney Spears, TBA, TBA
“Hold It Against Me,” Brit’s first single since 2007, leaked on Jan. 11, previewing her upcoming seventh album. The dance floor-oriented track finds Brit rap-singing the titular double entendre over a blippy, techno-inflected future-pop beat. Produced by Dr. Luke and Max Martin, who also fabricated “Tik Tok” and other songs for Ke$ha, it marks Brit’s dubious re-emergence into the newly coined “slutwave” genre.
Gregg Allman, “Low Country Blues” (Rounder), Jan. 18
He’s been performing with an oxygen tank alongside his Hammond organ for a few years, but rumors of Gregg Allman’s demise are greatly exaggerated. His first solo album in over a decade finds Allman cranking out bluesy, swampy soul with guitarist and Grammy winner T-Bone Burnett, Nawleans boogaloo shaman Dr. John on piano, a horn section, and an upright bassist — not to mention a newly transplanted liver.
Kanye West and Jay-Z, “Watch the Throne” (Def Jam), TBA
Less than a month after a zillion music publications rated Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” the best album of 2010, he and fellow hip-hop don Jay-Z dropped “H.A.M.,” the baroque first single to “Watch the Throne,” their upcoming collabo album. Hope you’re not tired of Ye yet: “Throne” is sure to be one of the most-talked-about — and egomaniacal — records of the new year.
Lupe Fiasco, “Lasers” (Atlantic), March 8
The delays in the release of Lupe Fiasco’s third album have made more news than its impending release. No matter: “The Show Goes On,” its Modest Mouse-quoting first official single, and leaked predecessors like “I’m Beamin'” and “Shine Down” are as attention-grabbing as any pop music right now. The Chicago MC set his sights on mainstream America and came up with a slew of inspirational hip-hop anthems, all the better to bow out with. “Lasers” is purportedly Lupe’s last.
Brad Paisley,”This Is Country Music” (Arista Nashville),April 9
As if, from his dozens of CMA awards and Grammys, Brad Paisley’s oeuvre wasn’t evident, the title of his eighth album should settle the issue. Its eponymous lead single, released late last year, is more straightforward and sentimental than the clever, referential hits he’s known for, even throwing in a few “God bless America”s to really get the point across.
Adele, “21” (Columbia, XL), Feb. 22
The sophomore record from Adele Laurie Blue Adkins should rocket the London-born diva into the highest heights. Not only because of the involvement of über-producer Rick Rubin or the Grammys Adele racked up on the strength of her 2008 debut, but because her music, evidenced from lead single “Rolling in the Deep,” has progressed from well-sung soul-pop to visionary alt-gospel thunder, as striking as it is powerful.
PJ Harvey, “Let England Shake” (Island), Feb. 14
The haunting, ethereal dub-folk of “Written on the Forehead,” lead single from Harvey’s upcoming eighth album, reveals yet another dimension to one of the most consistently surprising pop artists of the last 20 years. Harvey returns with longtime production pals Flood, John Parrish, and Mick Harvey. Expect the unexpected.
The Decemberists, “The King Is Dead” (Capitol), Jan. 18
Americana darling Gillian Welch’s appearance on “Down by the Water,” the first single from the Decemberists’ sixth album, indicates the band’s current direction: “The King Is Dead” displays a decidedly rustic, twangy turn. It’s less busy than previous records, reminiscent of Neil Young and early REM, whose Peter Buck plays guitar on three tracks.
Beastie Boys, “Hot Sauce Committee Vol. II” (Capitol), spring
Though Adam “MCA” Yauch refuted Michael “Mike D” Diamond’s claim that he’s cancer-free, the hip-hop elder statesmen maintain that “Hot Sauce Committee” will be released early this year. We’ll see Vol. II before Vol. I, though the track lists look surprisingly similar (there’s something Beastie going on here, we think). Word from the third Beastie, Adam “Adrock” Horovitz, as posted on BeastieBoys.com days ago: “2011 is gonna be stress free.”
Paul Simon, “So Beautiful or So What” (Concord Music Group), spring
Check out the weirdly filtered guitar on “Getting Ready for Christmas Day,” the lead single from Rhymin’ Simon’s upcoming 12th album: He’s still pushing the folk-pop envelope (though the song’s blue-collar perspective is far below Simon’s rarefied status) (and he’s Jewish). Simon recently told a reporter that the bluegrass-tinged album is “the best work I’ve done in 20 years.”
Lucinda Williams, “Blessed” (Lost Highway), March 14
With the arrival of “Blessed,” fans of tough-as-nails country-rock chanteuse Lucinda Williams will get studio versions of several recent concert staples, including “Buttercup” and “Kiss Like Your Kiss.” After recently marrying her longtime manager and adding newish guitarist Val McCallum, expect a batch of tunes more upbeat than Williams is known for.
R.E.M., “Collapse Into Now” (Warner Bros.), March 8
As of last summer, R.E.M. had wrapped their 15th album in the same Berlin studio where U2 recorded “Achtung Baby” and David Bowie “Heroes.” Production comes courtesy of Jacknife Lee, who also worked on “Accelerate,” and guests include Eddie Vedder, Peaches and Patti Smith. Roaring lead single “Discover” is already making rounds on the Internet.
Dr. Dre, “Detox” (Aftermath/Interscope), February
Rumored since 2003(!), Dre’s “Detox” is hip-hop’s “Chinese Democracy.” Ask anyone — OK, ask Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Eminem or Dre’ mom, most of whom are featured on the record — and they’ll tell you that not only is it almost done, but it will change the game entirely. Recently leaked tracks were eliminated from the record, except “Kush,” a weed anthem that found its way online in November. Said Dre around the same time, “I see the finish line.”
Bright Eyes, “The People’s Key” (Saddle Creek), Feb. 15
“We’re over the Americana, rootsy, whatever that sound is,” Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst told Billboard in December. Fans of the plaintive Midwestern folkie should expect a more “rocking, contemporary” sound when the band’s seventh record hits this spring.
Avril Lavigne, “Goodbye Lullabye” (RCA), March 8
In November, after two years of delay, the 26-year-old pop-punk poppet issued an open letter to fans about her upcoming album. “For the first time I experienced a bunch of bureaucratic BS,” she explained in appropriately PG-13 language. There was also, during that time, her divorce from hubby/Sum 41 frontdude Deryck Whibley, who she says assisted greatly with the album. Lead single “What the Hell” is currently streaming from a teenage girl’s laptop near you.
Pitbull, “Planet Pit” (J), March 22
Bringing 2006 into 2011, bilingual Cuban-American rapper Pitbull releases his fifth record of shiny-shirt/micro-skirt, by-the-numbers club-hop bangers, abetted, at least on lead single “Hey Baby (Drop It to the Floor),” by Auto-Tune jester T-Pain.
Foo Fighters, TBA, March
No album title, track list, or single yet, but we know a fair amount about Foo Fighters’ upcoming fifth album: It was produced by ’90s alt mastermind Butch Vig, there are 11 songs, and former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and guitarist Pat Smear guest. Frontman Dave Grohl recently told the BBC, “It just sounds big.”
Rush, “Clockwork Angels” (Atlantic), TBA
The prelude to album No. 19 for the Canadian cult trio is “Caravan,” a spiraling five-and-a-half-minute epic and staple of their ongoing Time Machine tour. “I can’t stop thinking big!” bassmeister Geddy Lee croons in the chorus. Prog rock truly never dies.
Snoop Dogg, “Doggumentary Music” (Capitol), March
Rumor: Prince William recently requested a performance by the Doggfather at his royal bachelor party. Fact: The video for “Wet,” the Cataracs-produced lead single from Snoop’s upcoming album, features a couple stand-ins for the British monarch and his brother.
Van Halen, TBA, TBA
Last summer, Internet rumors circulated of an album featuring David Lee Roth, the Van Halen brothers, and Eddie’s teenage son Wolfgang on bass. Said rumors were refuted by the band’s publicist, Larry Solters, in November. We’ll keep you posted.
Radiohead, TBA, TBA
Guitarist Jonny Greenwood recently told Rolling Stone Italy that The World’s Most Important Band are close to finishing their follow-up to 2007’s groundbreaking “In Rainbows.” No details on how it’ll be released; we’re predicting in pill form.
Jeff Bridges, TBA, TBA
El Duderino recently told AskMen.com, “I’m going on 61, and I’ve been doing music since I was a kid. I always had to put that on the back burner as an actor. But I’m in the studio recording an album with T-Bone Burnett [see previous Gregg Allman blurb] for Blue Note. We’re writing songs now — we’ve got a slew of them that I’ve written over the years. We’ll be touring for the album after that. So far, we call ourselves the Royal We.”
Coldplay, TBA, TBA
Obsessive Coldplay fans have stockpiled info about the band’s fifth album like Tom Hanks decoding Da Vinci. Things we know: Brian Eno is at least partially producing, it’s not a concept album, the album title is probably two words beginning with M, and HBO crime drama “The Wire” is an influence on the lyrics. Singer Chris Martin recently told the BBC that the as-yet-untitled album is not a concept album, but rather a “thinly veiled account of what happens within the group.”