10 Albums You Need to Hear in December

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And to think we used our smarty-pants Waste Land intro last month. As we should have remembered, November is a cornucopia of releases compared to the barren expanse that is December — unless, of course, you’re into Christmas albums, AOR piffle, and commercial hip-hop, in which case you’re probably not reading this in the first place. If you are still reading, then you’ll be happy to know that we’ve crossed the desert and found ourselves ten new releases that really are going to be worth hearing in December. Result. Check out our selections after the jump, and let us know if there’s anything else on your Christmas list that we’ve missed.

The Cure — Bestival Live 2011 (December 6)

If you missed out on tickets to the Cure’s recent, epic three-albums-in-their-entirety shows, then this is the next best thing: a double live album of their performance at Bestival on the Isle of Wight in the UK earlier this year. The album comprises the entire 32-song set they played to headline the festival, and it’s apparently also for a good cause — proceeds from the album’s sales go to something called the Isle of Wight Youth Trust. Hardcore fans will probably be most interested in the performance of “The Caterpillar,” which is only only the second time the band have played the song live in 25 years.

Amy Winehouse — Lioness: Hidden Treasures (December 6)

Also for a good cause: £1 from every sale of this posthumous compilation of Amy Winehouse’s work goes to the foundation set up by Winehouse’s father to provide support for young people with addiction problems. Given the level of demand for pretty much any new Winehouse material, we’re guessing that’ll add up to a lot of £s. The album itself promises to be interesting listening — it’s worth noting that this isn’t the new material she was working on at the time of her death, but rather a grab bag of rarities and cover versions spanning nearly a decade, with the earliest recordings dating from 2002. If it all sounds a bit like the barrel being scraped, well, just think of the good cause, eh?

The Roots — Undun (December 6)

We attended the listening session for this recently, and we’re fairly confident that it’s not just the free champagne talking when we say that it sounded pretty fine. The album’s a narrative that was inspired by a Sufjan Stevens song (specifically “Redford,” from Michigan), and traces the rise and fall of a character of the same name, set against the rise and rise of gangsta rap culture. First impressions are that it’s a characteristically thoughtful and considered piece of work from one of hip-hop’s most original groups — we look forward to hearing it again in an, um, more sober context.

The Black Keys — El Camino (December 6)

We have to be honest and admit that our affection for The Black Keys took a bit of a hit after we read Pat Carney’s ex-wife’s excruciatingly sad article in Salon earlier this year — and yes, we know that this is inherently irrational and that we’ve only read one side of the story, and that it’s really none of our business anyway… but still, it’s hard to listen to Thickfreakness quite the same way. But despite all this unpleasantness, we’re still looking forward to El Camino — particularly if all its videos involve middle managers gyrating in front of depressing shipment offices.

Jónsi — We Bought a Zoo OST (December 6)

The fact that Sigur Rós have a new album due out means that we’re not quite as excited for this as we might otherwise have been — but still, considering that it’s the only new Sigur Rós-related material we’ll be hearing in 2011, it remains one of December’s more noteworthy releases. It also promises to be about a bazillion times more interesting than the film, too.

Boris — New Album (December 6)

As far as we’re concerned, this album pushes Boris ahead of Thee Oh Sees in the race for the coveted title of Hardest Working Band of 2011 — it’s their third studio release of the year, coming after the joint release in May of the loud ‘n’ nasty Heavy Rocks and the surprisingly poptastic Attention Please. Curiously enough, New Album was released before those two records in Japan — it came out in mid-March — but for whatever reason, it’s only getting a US release now. This album falls more toward the Attention Please end of the band’s sonic spectrum, and in fact shares several tracks with that album (they’re different mixes, though) — it’s perhaps more shoegaze-y than anything, as first single “Spoon” (above) will demonstrate, although to be honest, with all this new Boris to digest, it’s getting hard to keep up.

Gary Numan — Dead Son Rising (December 6)

Another belated US release, although this one is only three months late, rather than nearly a year. Anyway, given that this album came out in the UK back in August, Numanoids will most likely have heard it already — like our friends at The Quietus, who said very nice things about the album on its release.

Zomby — Nothing EP (December 6)

Meanwhile, 4AD-approved UK producer Zomby’s Nothing EP follows in the footsteps of his successful Dedication album, which was released earlier this year. In fairness, the EP hasn’t exactly been getting rave reviews thus far, but Zomby remains one of the dubstep world’s more interesting producers, and we’ll be interested to hear this when it drops next week.

The Raveonettes — Rarities/B-Sides (December 15)

Fifties-obsessed Danish duo The Raveonettes have long been fond of working within self-imposed restrictions — like recording the songs on their first two records in Bb minor and Bb major, respectively — but they’ve also fallen foul of the restrictions that every band has had to work within since the advent of the LP: namely, that you can only fit so many songs on a record. The various scraps and leftovers from their decade-long career are being collated on this 27-track compilation — it’s limited to 1000 copies, so if you’re a fan, you’ll probably want to be pre-ordering sooner rather than later.

Gruff Rhys — Atheist Xmas (December 19)

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and all that. Or so everyone keeps bloody telling you throughout December, anyway. If your idea of Christmas is more of the hide-under-the-couch-and-watch-Bad-Santa-repeatedly persuasion, you may well enjoy Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys’s EP of atheist Christmas songs, which we wrote about last week. Merry Christmas? Bah humbug!