2013 was a great year for music, across the board. From tongue-twisting rhyme-sayers like Action Bronson to indie rockers like the Arctic Monkeys, both underground and mainstream music has stepped-up their game. After a stagnant few years in hip-hop throughout the mid-2000’s, Kendrick Lamar blessed us with his 2012 breakthrough album, Good Kid m.A.A.d. City. It was a pivotal time for the music industry, and Kendrick was faced with a major decision: piggyback on the trends of yesteryear or challenge the status quo. Thankfully, he chose the latter. 2014 will be another groundbreaking year for so many artists across genres. Why? Good music comes in waves, and the upcoming wave will be tidal.
2014’s Most Anticipated Albums
10. Black Lips — Underneath The Rainbow
9. Young the Giant—Mind Over Matter
Release Date: January 21
In 2010, the California indie-rockers released their self-titled debut album, which received critical acclaim. The LP produced two Hot 100 singles—“My Body” and “Cough Syrup”—reaching number five and number two on the chart, respectively. The lead single, “It’s About Time,” is the most “aggressive” song on the album, according to lead vocalist Sameer Gadhia, and not indicative of the album as a whole. Expect to hear the band’s quintessential dance-pop energy on Mind Over Matter, but with the addition of some heavier, driving guitar.
8. St. Vincent—Self-Titled
Release Date: February 25
Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) will be delivering her fifth studio album, titled St. Vincent, on February 25th via Loma Vista/ Republic Records. Her most recent LP, Strange Mercy, came out back in 2011 and received critical acclaim. Regarding the upcoming album she stated, “I wanted to make a party record you could play at a funeral.” Can’t wait, Annie.
7. Dum Dum Girls — Too True
Release Date: January 28
L.A.-based indie-pop outfit Dum Dum Girls will release their third full-length studio album on January 28th as a follow up to the band’s 2011 album, Only in Dreams. Frontwoman and songwriter, Dee Dee, is taking a more low-key approach on Too True; one of the inspirations for this album is a 1996 letter Nick Cave wrote to MTV, in which he resists being nominated for any award. Additionally, vocal troubles during the recording of the forthcoming LP allowed the lead singer to focus on fine-tuning her songwriting. The band shared an early-release single titled, “Lost Boys and Girls Club,” which should give fans a sneak peak at what to expect.
Release Date: February 18
Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter will be returning with their second studio album this February. The trip-hop duo have released four stellar EPs since their debut LP, Eyelid Movements, setting the bar quite high for the forthcoming album, Voices. But, after hearing the two early-release singles “Fall in Love” and “Black Out Days,” it’s safe to say that expectations will be met.
5. Joey Bada$$–B4.Da.$$
Release Date: TBD
The co-founder of hip-hop collective Pro Era has announced a follow-up album to his two previous mixtapes, 1999 and Summer Knights—the latter of which was met with critical acclaim similar to releases from J. Cole, Kanye West, and Run the Jewels. The 18-year-old “child prodigy”—according to some—is often compared to hip-hop legend Nas, in his early days. This “most anticipated” list is confined to albums with set release dates, but given the mind-boggling lyrical skill of the young rapper, B4.Da.$$ just had to be included. Sorry, Kanye.
4. Sam Smith—In The Lonely Hour
Release Date: March 26
It may come as a shock to some, but In The Lonely Hour will be the London soul singer’s debut album. Sam Smith was the brilliant and beautiful voice behind Disclosure’s hit track, “Latch,” and the Disclosure-Nile Rodgers-Jimmy Napes collaboration, “Together.” He has shared one track, titled “Money On My Mind” from the upcoming LP and has released a two-minute album trailer. Can’t imagine that his debut solo album will be anything less than great.
3. Broken Bells—After the Disco
Release Date: February 4
The Shins’ James Mercer and producer-to-the-stars Danger Mouse are certainly not strangers at this point; Broken Bells combines their honed skills together into one. To promote the upcoming album, the duo released a single of the same name. Danger Mouse a.k.a. Brian Burton told Rolling Stone, “You can dance to it, but it still has the sadness, the darker melancholic thing we like to do.” February 4th couldn’t come sooner.
2. Beck—Morning Phase
Release Date: February (unspecified date)
Beck has been on quite the hiatus; his most recent album, Modern Guilt, was released way back in 2008, believe it or not. The Los Angeles singer-songwriter is perhaps one of the most prolific and musically eclectic artists of the past twenty years, often blending elements of folk, rock, pop, blues and even hip-hop. Morning Phase will consist of twelve tracks, mostly in the “California folk tradition.” On the overall vibe and musical direction of the album, the songsmith veteran stated “There’s this feeling of tumult and uncertainty, getting through that long, dark night of the soul—whatever you want to call it…These songs were about coming out of that—how things do get better.” Beck has shared one track from the upcoming album; “Wave” is a string-adorned, swaying track that he performed live at The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
1. Schoolboy Q—Oxymoron
Release Date: February 25
Like Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q is one of the few-and-far-between rappers who helped change the course of hip-hop. The West Coast rhyme-slinger has had multiple appearances with major hip-hop artists, such as A$AP Rocky, Curren$y, and Ab-Soul, but Oxymoron will be his major label debut (his two previous LPs were produced independently). In an interview with Vibe.com, he said, “The only pressure I got is making sure my album is better or as good as Kendrick’s.” In accordance with Schoolboy’s perspective, “Competition is the incentive to progress.”—Herbert Hoover.
Understandably, there will be a difference in opinion regarding the order of this list. We left out some upcoming albums that had no set release date, like Kanye West; then again, his upcoming album certainly does not need any extra hype.
To the readers: if you have any suggestions or difference in opinion regarding the most highly anticipated albums of 2014, please do not hesitate to comment below; nay, I encourage you do to so. Let’s get the discussion going.
Article by Josh Cranin