It’s 2019 and my anticipation is starting to rise. Not for anything personally significant of course, like a year without unnecessary stress, cutting back on booze, or just generally having a better time than last year. No, all my anticipation is spent on the music that’s gonna be coming out for the next 365 days.
As always, there’s a whole load of awesome artists that are due to release albums this year. Some of them, as always, will come out of nowhere and slap us around the face with something incredible like stealthy music ninjas. But then there’s the others that are on everyone’s radar, the ones that have the handshakes reserved, the thrones dusted, and the balloons and bunting ready to go as soon as the first note of the first track plays.
I’ve gotta feel sorry for those artists. I mean, talk about pressure. Warranted or not, there are some unfortunate musicians who are popping up on just about every ‘albums to anticipate in 2019’ list around, and that’s gotta be making them sweat just a little bit. I start sweating when anyone expects me to do a half decent job of anything, let alone millions of people waiting with confetti and champagne to celebrate my accomplishment.
So which artists have the tallest order of champagne waiting on them? Well, talking about lists, here’s one I’ve narrowed down to just five.
Lana Del Rey
It was 2012, and I was one of those angsty teenagers who believed good music died when the 70’s ended. I had Hendrix and Beatles posters on the walls, every 60’s rock n’ roll artist on my iPod, and an obnoxious belief that anything new getting spun on the radio was generally shit. It was an unlikely turn of events when Lana Del Rey turned that around.
But then, her debut album Born To Die was kind of the perfect segue. It celebrated the feeling of the old with something that sounded new, and I was hooked from the very first vintage soaked note. In the next three years she would release two more albums, Ultraviolence and Honeymoon, both of which stripped back the r&b vibes to favour a more live feeling instrumentation. They made for an interesting evolution of her songwriting, but in the end neither were as interesting or engrossing as the cocktail she’d created for the debut.
Cue Lust For Life, Lana’s fourth effort back in 2017, and she was aiming for that sweet spot again. With tracks like “13 Beaches”, “Heroin” and “Tomorrow Never Came”, it was clear the blend of new and old influences were coming through in a way they hadn’t since Born To Die. And this time they were even better, more mature, more adventurous, less calculated.
So naturally, it can only go uphill from here, right? Absolutely, according to most publications. Norman Fucking Rockwell, Lana’s fifth record coming in 2019, can be found on numerous ‘most anticipated’ lists, and the two songs she’s released in the build up has only upped the expectation even more. Produced by Jack Antonoff, they’re smooth, stylish, and a sure inclination that this record could be up standing on a pretty neat pedestal by the time this year is out. No pressure then.
Radio silence can be a dangerous thing. It’s been four years since Kevin Parker released Currents, an album which, weirdly, people still seem to be talking about. It was a drastic evolution from Tame Impala’s previous two efforts, catapulting their sound into a more pop-friendly stratosphere, and the results were pretty much spellbinding.
“Let It Happen” rips through a seven minute run time like it’s made of butter, “Cause I’m A Man” feels like a long lost Michael Jackson hit, and “Eventually” boasts drum patterns that are so damn good that Samm Culley actually mistook them for his own (seriously, look it up, he wanted to sue them). Hell, Rihanna liked it so much that she put one of the songs on her own album and essentially karaoke’d over it. This album was really fucking good.
But since 2015, there’s been nothing. The creator of Currents left the party and didn’t call back, like the album was little more than an amazing one night stand. I mean, Kevin Parker’s been around. He’s shown up on a Lady Gaga track, coupled with Mark Ronson, and he’s done his bit in producing some stuff for his band buddies in Pond. But new Tame Impala has remained elusive. And man, does that whet the appetite.
There’s something about hearing absolutely nothing that just sets the mind’s racing. Most artists might release a couple of songs down the road, perhaps a few teasers on Instagram, some sound bites, but Kevin Parker seems content in making everybody wait. And waiting with nothing often leads to expecting everything. It’s a risky game, but at the same time it’s made his next effort one of the most anticipated albums in 2019. Whether it actually comes out this year is anyone’s guess.
Ordinarily I’m not one to care about a musician’s personal life, but with Grimes (a.k.a Claire Elise Boucher) it’s kind of impossible not to be aware of it. If people weren’t already talking about her relationship with billionaire tycoon Elon Musk, then they were definitely going to be after the release of her new single “We Appreciate Power.” As a track, it’s the ultimate troll.
No, Grimes isn’t advocating the future of A.I, she hasn’t fallen into the clasp of trans-humanism, if anything this song does it’s best to warn against the horrors of it all (which ultimately makes her relationship with Musk a bit of a head fuck, but there we go). It’s bold, disconcerting, and riffs playfully off all the backlash. But most importantly, it sets her up for her biggest and most discussed album yet.
Her last effort, Art Angels came out about four years ago now. And whilst the 50 minute running length was more than enough to quench the appetite at the time, I get the feeling she’s preparing to return with something way more topical, way more polarising, and way more epic. With “We Appreciate Power” she’s done enough to steer the extra attention in her favour, but with more attention comes more expectancy; and that makes it crucial for the album to not only meet the potential of this single, but ultimately surpass it.
It’s fair to say Donald Glover was already popular going into 2018. He was starring in the award winning show Atlantla, on the comedown from the critically acclaimed album Awaken, My Love!, and just cast as the loveable Star Wars character Lando Calrission. In short, things were going pretty well for the guy. Then a little music video happened, and things went from “pretty well” to “fucking crazy” more or less overnight.
Even he couldn’t have suspected the cultural explosion that was “This Is America”. Receiving just about 13 million Youtube views in 24 hours, the music video now has just about half a billion, and it’s slated as being one of the best of the 21st century. It’s also procured him a headline spot at Coachella, and put universal expectation on an album that is sure to resonate just as much hype. Personally, I don’t envy those last two things.
Childish Gambino definitely has a lot on his plate. The guy asked people to listen, and people are now listening. And it’s not hard to understand why. “This Is America” is a perfect amalgamation of everything fucked up about society. It’s a track that puts into words something that tonnes of people attempt to put into words everyday, and it does so with such a simplicity that it’s almost hard to comprehend how it says anything at all.
But now everyone’s waiting on Donald Glover for more. He’s opened up the conversation, and he has to keep it going. It would be an understatement to say there’s a lot of waiting ears, and if anyone’s going to be feeling the pressure now, it’s him. It probably doesn’t help that he’s let slip this album could be his last under the Childish Gambino pseudonym. As if there wasn’t enough expectation already.
Love them or hate them, UK band The 1975 are hard to ignore. Late last year they released their third album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships to critical praise, ending up on a load of ‘best album of the year’ lists, whilst the breakout single “Love It If We Made It” similarly got a load of people talking when it dropped over the Summer.
It’s not the magnum opus everyone seems to be making it out to be, but to give them their due, this latest album is certainly a step up from the menswear retail shop playlists The 1975 had been dropping before. In terms of their already widespread popularity, it gets the job done, it keeps them at the top of the British band ladder, it secures them a few potential headlining spots in the immediate future. And most importantly, it leaves a good taste in the mouth of those publications who think they’re the bees knees. For around five more months, anyhow.
That’s right, The 1975 have another album coming out this year. It’s called Notes On A Conditional Form, and the first single is due to be released just a month from now. To use a slightly shitty metaphor, this is like a surfer passing on a fifty foot wave because they’re sure the next one will be even bigger. It’s a ballsy move. And it could potentially be catastrophic, because this band would have undeniably surfed the wave of A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships for a good few years yet, but instead everyone has already shoved it aside in wait for the next one. The grass is always greener on the other side, after all. Or at least, The 1975 are really hoping it is.