With the flaming shitheap that was 2016 now firmly behind us, we can look firmly toward the rest of 2017. Thank God. And since we’ve looked at our most anticipated films, books and TV shows of the year to come already, here’s the final cog in the cultural machine: music! 2017 looks like it’s shaping up to be a good year for albums, so let’s dive right in.
The xx — I See You (January 13)
People tend to shit on The xx the same way they used to shit on Portishead in the 1990s, and in both cases, it’s ultimately unfair to the bands in question — after all, it’s not their fault what middle-class assholes choose to play at their dinner parties. Of course, if The xx’s third album is half as interesting as Portishead’s, we’re in for a treat; even if it isn’t, though, there’s a lot to be said for quiet, understated music that falls somewhere between Young Marble Giants and, well, Portishead.
Run the Jewels — Run the Jewels 3 (January 13)
This is already out, of course — it was a surprise release over the Christmas/New Year period, and it’s still available (for free!) to download on the duo’s website. This is the date for the album’s physical release, which means that if you want a fancy gold vinyl copy, you’re in luck.
Mick Harvey — Intoxicated Woman (January 20)
This is the fourth (and final, apparently) in Harvey’s series of English-language Serge Gainsbourg covers. The first two volumes were released way back in 1995 and 1997 respectively, and were Harvey’s first solo albums beyond the confines of The Boys Next Door, The Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds; Harvey returned to the idea last year with Delirium Tremens, and concludes his personal odyssey through Gainsbourg’s discography in fine style.
Sleater-Kinney — Live in Paris (January 27)
Before they got back together, a live album was as close as you were ever gonna get to seeing Olympia’s finest in the flesh. Happily, they are now a going concern again, and this record — recorded, yes, live in Paris, in March last year — captures the experience of seeing them in 2016, some 20 years after they first got together to record their self-titled debut album. Curiously, for a band whose visceral live shows are such a key part of their appeal, this is the first (official) document of one of their shows, and it’s ace.
Jens Lekman — Life Will See You Now (February 17)
In which Flavorwire hero and inspiration Jens Lekman returns triumphantly after five years in the wilderness! This is Lekman’s first album since 2012’s I Know What Love Isn’t, and it really does sound like this record reflects a period of soul-searching — on his ever-entertaining and fascinating Smalltalk blog, he relates how he scrapped an “almost-finished” album in 2014 because “no one really believed in it,” and how he spent 2015 working on two non-album projects, Postcards and Ghostwriting. Somewhere in this process, he rediscovered a sense of purpose, as related on this album’s opening track: “I just wanna listen to people’s stories/ Hear what they have to say… In a world of mouths, I want to be an ear/ If there’s a purpose to all this/ Then that’s why God put me here/ I know what I’m here for/ I know who I’m serving/ I’m serving you.” And this record does exactly that: it tells stories, stories about its creator and stories about the people he’s met along the way.
King Gizzard and the Lizzard Wizzard — Flying Microtonal Banana (February 24)
Album title of the year, right there.
Mind Over Mirrors — Undying Color (February 24)
Jaime Fennelly apparently decamped to the Driftless region of Southern Wisconsin — “a geological anomaly, a deeply carved riverine landscape untouched by glacial drift, its soil and topography remaining as a result entirely distinct from its surrounding” — to record this, and while it’s perhaps too easy to invest albums recorded in such exotic locations with a sense of place, this really does sound like exactly the sort of thing one might record in a deeply carved riverine landscape. To this listener, its atmosphere recalls Rivers and Tides, the wonderful 2001 documentary about nature-centric sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, so much so that this’d make a pretty great soundtrack to said film. If you’ve not seen it, do; but in the meantime, if you envisage the sort of starkly beautiful landscapes and grey skies of places like Scotland and Iceland, you’ll get pretty close to how this album sounds.
Crystal Fairy — Crystal Fairy (February 24)
No, not Crystal Fairy and the Magic Cactus, which nestles right next to DMT: The Spirit Molecule in everyone’s I’ll-watch-this-at-some-point-but-not-tonight Netflix queue; this is a new project involving Melvins’ Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover, At the Drive-In/The Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez-López, and, um, Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes. Supergroups are generally a risky business, but I’m including this here because it was the challenge of working within reasonably tight strictures that brought the best out of Rodriguez-López in his At the Drive-In days, and while Melvins don’t provide Jim Ward levels of structure, they’re not gonna be recording 30-minute songs based upon the teeth of a preserved Zoroastrian saint, or something, y’know?
Xiu Xiu — Forget (February 24)
“To forget uncontrollably embraces the duality of human frailty. It is a rebirth in blanked out renewal but it also drowns and mutilates our attempt to hold on to what is dear.” Never change, Jamie Stewart.
Sun Kil Moon — Common As Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood (February 28)
It’s a shame that Mark Kozelek is such a twat, because his music over the last few years has been some of the best he’s ever made. Hopefully this release won’t be accompanied by another onslaught of dickishness; fingers crossed, and all that. Anyway, you can hear “God Bless Ohio,” which he released to accompany the announcement of this album, at his website.
Moon Duo — Occult Architecture Vol. 1 (March 3)
This is part one of a “a psychedelic opus in two separate volumes… an intricately woven hymn to the invisible structures found in the cycle of seasons and the journey of day into night, dark into light.” Hoo boy. It rocks pretty hard, too.
Grandaddy — Last Place (March 3)
A new Grandaddy album! Jason Lytle and band have been back together since 2012 (they first split in 2006), but this will be the first new music they’ve released since reuniting, and the first new album in over a decade. Their late ’90s/early 2000s output was magnificent, mixing alt-country sounds with electronics and synthesizers to idiosyncratic and marvelous effect; the lead single from this album, “Way We Won’t,” suggests that the magic remains.
The Magnetic Fields — 50 Song Memoir (March 3)
Nearly 20 years after his opus 69 Love Songs, Stephin Merritt delivers another beast of a record, this one encompassing a slightly more modest 50 songs. That number isn’t chosen at random: there’s one song for each year of Merritt’s life — or, at least, every year of his life up until his 50th birthday on February 9, 2015, which is when he began recording this album. As its title suggests, it’s a record that finds the singer reflecting on his life; as the press release states, “Unlike Merritt’s previous work, the lyrics on 50 Song Memoir are nonfiction, a mix of autobiography (bedbugs, Buddhism, buggery) and documentary (hippies, Hollywood, hyperacusis).” Huzzah.
Julia Holter — In the Same Room (March 31)
A live album, and one that promises to be interesting listening, given that Holter’s live shows are always a case of never being entirely sure what one will get. This isn’t to say that she’s erratic (unlike, say, Cat Power), it’s just that every time this correspondent has seen her, the experience has been entirely different: sometimes solo, sometimes with band, sometimes with a synth, sometimes with a piano… still, whichever version of Holter this album captures, it’s sure to be worth hearing. (That’s the track from which the album takes its name, off Holter’s 2012 album Ekstasis, above.)
The Jesus and Mary Chain — Damage and Joy (March 24)
Some 18 years after they last got into a room together to record music, Jim and William Reid have managed to put aside their fraternal urges to kill one another for long enough to do so again. Kudos to producer Youth, of Killing Joke, for managing to facilitate this — and on the strength of cheerily-titled lead single “Amputation” (above), East Kilbride’s most notoriously surly brothers are as great together as ever.
U2 — Songs of Experience (TBC)
Look, say what you like about the delivery method of Songs of Innocence, because god knows everyone else (including us) has, but the album itself was pretty damn good as far as late career U2 goes. This album forms the other half of the band’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience” project, which takes its title and concept from a William Blake collection of the same name. Presumably they’ll be playing some of it, at least, on their upcoming tour to celebrate 30 years of The Joshua Tree. (Speaking of which, nothing has been released from Songs of Experience as yet, so that’s a nicely remastered version of The Joshua Tree highlight “Exit” above — remastered version of all the album’s tracks are on YouTube as of this morning.)
Chromatics — Dear Tommy (TBC)
Now that both Chinese Democracy AND the second Avalanches album are out, there’s a vacancy for the title of “Most Notable Album That’s Been Mooted for Years But Shows No Sign of Appearing,” and Dear Tommy seems to be doing its best to claim the prize. It was originally meant to be released in February 2015, and wasn’t; two years later, there’s no firm release date, but it’s rumored to be appearing at some point in 2017. Maybe.
Sky Ferreira — Masochism (TBC)
Also on the long-time-between-drinks front: it’s hard to believe that it’s been three-and-a-half years since Sky Ferreira released the excellent and largely underrated Night Time, My Time. In fairness, it’s not like this album qualifies as “delayed” (as Ferreira herself was at pains to point out on Twitter recently), but it’s been spoken of for quite some time — the first news that she was working on a second album came as far back as mid-2014 — so it’s welcome news to hear that it’ll arrive some time this summer. Ferreira’s had to put up with way more than her fair share of tabloid bullshit over the last few years, and Masochism should place the world’s focus squarely back on where it should be: on the music. (In the meantime, in lieu of any new music, that’s Ferreira’s Primal Scream collaboration “Where the Light Gets In” above — apparently Bobby Gillespie appears on Masochism, too!)
Also rumored for early 2017, with titles and release dates TBC:
At the Drive-In Alice Glass Blanck Mass Dirty Projectors Forest Swords Mount Eerie Phosphorescent Spiritualized St Vincent