Flavorpill’s 30 Most Anticipated Albums of 2011


Now that most everyone has gotten their Best of 2010 lists out of the way, it’s time to look towards the future. For you, dear reader, we have attacked the ginormous pile of promos on our desk and in our iTunes queue to bring this list of our 30 most anticipated albums of 2011. And guess what? From pop to hip-hop to noise, it looks like it’s going to be an excellent year, featuring buzzy debuts, long-awaited projects from beloved bands, and collaborations so stellar we still can’t believe they’re really happening.

January 11th

Wire — Red Barked Tree (Pink Flag) Why: We’d never pass up an offering from one of post-punk’s most consistently fascinating bands — and since we’ve been waiting since 2008 for a new Wire album, it’s about time. Plus, our friends at The Quietus are already predicting it will be among the year’s best albums. Download: “Two Minutes”

January 18th

Smith Westerns — Dye It Blonde (Fat Possum) Why: Who can resist a lovable bunch of kids barely out of high school who find their inspiration in ’60s garage rock and ’70s glam? Watch: “Weekend”

Tennis — Cape Dory (Fat Possum) Why: It’s a perfect story: the couple that is Tennis started writing songs together during their seven-month sailing excursion. The lush, beautiful, semi-sleepy pop that resulted may make them the Beach House of 2011. Download: “Take Me Somewhere”

Braids — Native Speaker (Kanine) Why: This group of longtime pals from north of the border mix the angular with the inviting, creating pop tinged with delightfully odd moments, stunning experimental flourishes, and idiosyncratic vocals. It seems like they’ve been getting buzz forever, so it’s high time we got a chance to check out their debut album. Download: “Plath Heart”

The Decemberists — The King Is Dead (Capitol) Why: Have The Decemberists still got it? Indie rock’s favorite literary allusionists didn’t impress critics with their last album, 2009’s The Hazards of Love. But they’re certainly selling the new record — which some speculate will be Smiths superfan Colin Meloy’s homage to The Queen Is Dead — hard, with ultra-deluxe box sets already available to pre-order at $165 a pop. Download: “Down by the Water”

January 25

Cloud Nothings — s/t (Carpark) Why: Cleveland’s newest, youngest lo-fi punks made believers out of us at CMJ, back in October. And his choice of producer for his full-length debut — Baltimore’s Chester Gwazda, who’s made great albums for Dan Deacon and Future Islands — is pretty exciting, too. Download: “Understand at All”

Destroyer — Kaputt (Merge) Why: It’s Dan Bejar. He hasn’t disappointed us yet, has he? Download: “Chinatown”

Deerhoof — Deerhoof vs. Evil (Polyvinyl) Why: No other band can bring the sweet vocals and searing post-punk guitars quite like Deerhoof. And if lead single “The Merry Barracks” is any indication, their tenth album will add some muscular, arena-rock guitars to the mix. Download: “The Merry Barracks”

Talib Kweli — Gutter Rainbows Why: The title of Kweli’s self-released solo album was inspired by an image of “gasoline rainbows” from The Catcher in the Rye, and it sounds like the record will be his love letter to New York. Download: “How You Love Me”

Wanda Jackson — The Party Ain’t Over (Nonesuch) Why: The ’50s rockabilly icon gets a career reboot with help from a producer you might have heard of — Jack White, who made a great album with another grand dame, Loretta Lynn, back in 2004. Listen: Wanda Jackson and Jack White, “Shakin’ All Over”

February 1

MEN — Talk about Body (IAMSOUND) Why: We’ve been rocking out to the new band fronted by JD Samson from Le Tigre since the first singles made their web debut almost two years ago, and since then we’ve had the opportunity to see a few of their exuberant live shows. This one is going to be good. Watch: “Off Our Backs”

February 7

James Blake — s/t (Atlas/A&M) Why: Even if you’re allergic to buzz bands, you’ll want to believe the hype surrounding James Blake, the barely legal British producer who released two gorgeous EPs this year, drawing on a fairly unlikely source — ’90s R&B. If his first full-length is as half as good as its predecessors, it should be among the best albums of the year. Watch: “Limit to Your Love”

February 8

Akron/Family — S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT (Dead Oceans) Why: Few bands can captivate an audience quite like experimental folkies Akron/Family. So ignore the Kid Cudi-like album title and get psyched for some psychedelia. Download: Akron/Family’s home demos

Cut Copy — Zonoscope (Modular) Why: Unless you’re dead inside, more upbeat dance-pop can never be a bad thing. Listen: “Take Me Over”

February 14

PJ Harvey — Let England Shake (Island) Why: Indie rock’s leading lady gives us her first album since 2007’s White Chalk, and the whole thing was recorded in a church. We’re very intrigued by the incantatory first single, “Written on the Forehead.” Download: “Written on the Forehead”

February 14 (cont’d)

Mogwai — Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (Sub Pop) Why: It just wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without the latest cleverly titled aural assault by one of post-rock’s loudest acts. Download: “Rano Pano”

February 15

Bright Eyes — The People’s Key (Saddle Creek) Why: This will supposedly be the last album under the Bright Eyes moniker for Conor Oberst, who hasn’t recorded under it since 2007’s Cassadaga. And we’re liking its fuller sound, compared Oberst’s latest solo work. So just let your inner emo kid have this one, OK? Download: “Shell Game”

February 22

Rye Rye — Go! Pop! Bang! (Interscope) Why: As the title of her long-awaited debut album suggests, this Baltimore rapper is a tiny ball of manic energy. And when we caught her opening for her mentor, M.I.A., a few months ago, she totally stole the show. Download: “Sunshine” (feat. M.I.A.)

Danielson — The Best of Gloucester County (Sounds Familyre) Why: It’s already been half a decade since we heard from indie rock’s weirdest evangelical Christian. The rock-heavy album is something of a musical-locavore manifesto for Daniel Smith, who’s releasing it on his own label. And it features Sufjan Stevens on banjo and backing vocals! Download: “Grow Up”

Julianna Barwick — The Magic Place (Asthmatic Kitty) Why: When was the last time you saw music described as “awe-inspiring” or “transcendent” and actually felt those things while listening to it? Prepare to be blown away. Download: “The Magic Place”

February 22 (cont’d)

Toro Y Moi — Underneath the Pine (Carpark) Why: You may hate chillwave, but it seems like maybe chillwave is no longer what’s going on here… Your move, Neon Indian. Download: “Still Sound”

The Low Anthem — Smart Flesh (Nonesuch) Why: We are not usually ones to quote press releases, but a rootsy album that includes “paranormal hitchhikers, taught highwires, aircraft, swelling tumors, whirring machinery, deserted highways, mannequins, cremation, and formaldehyde” is something we surely can’t resist. Watch: “Ghost Woman Blues”

DeVotchKa — 100 Lovers (ANTI-) Why: We had started to fear we’d heard the last from these gypsy punks! Thankfully, they’re back with an album influenced by frontman Nick Urata’s film soundtrack work.

March 15

J Mascis — Several Shades of Why (Sub Pop) Why: A largely acoustic solo album from the most obsessively prolific member of Dinosaur Jr.? Yes, please. Download: “Not Enough”

March 29

The Mountain Goats — All Eternals Deck (4AD) Why: Any Mountain Goats album is cause for celebration, but this one? This one was made with renowned death metal producer Erik Rutan. Download: “Tyler Lambert’s Grave”

Sometime in 2011

The Julie Ruin Why: A few weeks ago, we got an unexpected live performance from Kathleen Hanna’s new project. It’s called The Julie Ruin, but unlike her earlier solo project, it’s a band — featuring Bikini Kill’s Kathi Wilcox on bass! Hanna claims their album will be out next year, and we sure hope it happens! Watch: The Julie Ruin play their first new song, “Cookie Road”

Lady Gaga — Born This Way (Interscope) Why: We have been cautiously optimistic about Lady Gaga and are hoping that she fills her second full-length with weird stuff — think “Bad Romance” and “Paparazzi.”

EMA Why: We still can’t get over the arresting power of Gowns’ perfect (and only) album, 2007’s Red State. And now, one half of the duo, EMA, tells us her upcoming solo record spans everything from teen murders to ’60s women on the verge of nervous breakdowns to the gorgeous first release, Viking funeral boat-inspired “The Grey Ship”? We simply can’t wait. Download: “The Grey Ship”

The Avalanches Why: The Avalanches have been inching towards releasing their second album for like five years now. And it’s now been over a decade since their brilliant debut, Since I Left You. Guys, you’re getting into Chinese Democracy territory, here. They seem to be catching up on their social media and promising “new announcements” so, hey, that’s a sign it could happen.

Kanye West and Jay-Z — Watch My Throne Why: The hip-hop world pretty much revolves around these two dudes. When their joint album comes out, our heads will probably all simultaneously explode.

Also: Wild Flag, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Aphex Twin, Radiohead, Santigold