Blimmin’ heck, this year’s been a bit of a mad one for gigantic albums so far, hasn’t it? Beyoncé - by now a veteran of the visual album - blew the world’s minds with ‘Lemonade’- a snarling, empowered record that quite literally made music out of life’s bitter lemons, and kickstarted months of speculation about the identity of “Becky with the good hair” in the process. 2016 will also go down in history as the year when we all wasted far too much time watching Frank Ocean working on his GCSE woodwork project; not to mention being the year when he gifted us with ‘Blonde’.
Rihanna finally got a bloody move on with ‘ANTI,’ James Blake casually announced his new album ‘The Colour In Anything’ on the radio, Kanye West put out ‘The Life of Pablo (and then revised it about four million times) and Skepta won the Mercury Prize for his self-released ‘Konnichiwa’. Elsewhere this year, we’ve been gifted with storming debuts from Weaves, PARTYBABY, and Shura, along with bold steps forward from Glass Animals, Savages and Wild Beasts. Oh yeah, and some band called Radiohead released an album, and all. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
This year might be three quarters done, with the shops starting to stock their Christmas garb already (!!!) but there are still records a-plenty just waiting to wow the world. From Warpaint, to Honeyblood, we’ve detailed the essential unreleased albums to get properly excited about.
Warpaint - Heads Up (23rd September, via Rough Trade)
Earlier this summer, while supporting Massive Attack in Hyde Park, Warpaint debuted a new song (called ‘New Song’, no messing around here) under a double rainbow. One of those moments where everything aligns, Warpaint were just as beside themselves with glee on-stage as their adoring fans were off it. This was more than just an unexpected sprinkle of magic on that day though; this first debut was a perfect sign of new directions to come from the band. Emerging from the gloomy angst of their self-titled second album, ’Heads Up’ welcomes in a sunnier side of Warpaint; far more more akin to their personalities and their live shows.
Anyone who’s ever been to a Warpaint show will know that they’re not the sullen, moody band that their deeply swirling jams might suggest. When they play shows Warpaint come alive with energy; twirling and screaming their way through songs that - despite being loved with unwavering passion by their fans - never quite matched their energy. It’s all change on the fittingly titled ‘Heads Up’ - a record with more life, more groove and a double rainbow constantly shining above. Out in just a couple of days, it’s marks a whole new chapter for the LA band. (Henry Boon)
Honeyblood - Babes Never Die (4th November, via Fat Cat)
Honeyblood’s 2012 self-titled debut album came as no gentle introduction. Making a wildly disproportionate amount of noise for two people, they came thundering through, with frontwoman Stina Tweeddale yelling insults like “scumbag!”, “slimeball!” and “you really do disgust me!” on a ferocious, fun-filled ride of a record. It contained some of the most irresistibly angsty lo-fi anthems for soundtracking bitter break-ups. It was unforgiving and unrelenting, and all the better for it.
The follow-up - ‘Babes Never Die’ - was recorded last winter in East London alongside producer James Dring, who has also worked with the likes of Rat Boy, Jamie T, Loyle Carner and Gorillaz. The tracklist promisingly includes titles like ‘Love Is A Disease’ and ‘Justine, Misery Queen’, hinting at more of their characteristic grittiness second time around. With the addition of the mad skills of new drummer Cat Myers, they show no sign of losing any of the fire in the Honeyblood belly. And if the feverish lead single ‘Ready For The Magic’ is anything to go by, it should be a spellbinding concoction. (Emma Snook)
Kero Kero Bonito - Bonito Generation (21st October, via Double Denim)
Since releasing their mixtape ‘Intro Bonito’ two years ago, Kero Kero Bonito have put out a string of singles that could only have come from the London trio of Gus, Jamie and Sarah. In a nutshell, they’re kinda crazy - but that’s definitely a Good Thing. Like some twisted hybrid of Nickelodeon and an overly hyperactive anime, the trio mash together video game noises, 90s house beats, MIDI modules and tropical melodies into perfect pop gems that don’t give a shit about conventions. Just have a listen to the raspberry kisses on ‘Lipslap’ – what other pop group have the balls to do that?
None of that energy is set to be toned down on their debut album ‘Bonito Generation,’ where there’ll be even more earworms made up of retro sounds mixed with J-Pop vigour. KKB have so many ideas, it’s anyone’s guess how they managed to keep the collection to just 12 tracks. The band says that ‘Bonito Generation’ “turned out just how we wanted.” If that’s code for more brilliantly bonkers pop then, if ever you’re feeling deflated this winter, it’s bound to give you the massive sugar rush you need. (Eugenie Johnson)
Bon Iver - 22, A Million (30th September, via Jagjaguwar)
Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon has always been something of an enigma. Whether it’s his time spent as a recluse in that cabin of his, or his sparse touring and release schedule, he’s always been a difficult man to pin down. Until now though, this enigma always left behind a clear image; plaid shirts, picturesque scenery and acoustic guitars cemented in the minds of any Bon Iver fan.
Since the release of his last record though, Vernon has torn that image to shreds. Despite the huge progression from ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ to ‘Bon Iver’, it wasn’t unpredictable. Now though, as he pops up everywhere from Kanye’s headline Glastonbury set to in Francis and the Lights choreographed dance routine for ‘Friends’, gone is the old Bon Iver, cast wildly into a world of confusing symbols, jagged edges and unpredictability.
The music we’ve heard so far from ‘22, A Million’ is similarly erratic, from chugging synths to droning horns, it’s as much akin to Vernon’s work with chief electronic sadboy James Blake as it is to Bon Iver’s earlier, calmer sound. The pitchy vocals and the beautiful nonsensical lyricism of Bon Iver days gone- by is still present but it’s now tumbling in an ocean of innovation, experimentation and personal growth. It’s fitting that half of the track list is made up of unpronounceable symbols that have probably never made their way onto any track list ever, this looks to be Bon Iver as we’ve never seen them before. (Henry Boon)
Two Door Cinema Club - Gameshow (14th October, via Parlophone)
With their new album ‘Gameshow,’ Two Door Cinema Club aren’t just making a comeback; they’re totally wiping the slate clean. As the band explain in their DIY cover feature, getting to this point at all was a real struggle. Faced with more obstacles than an average episode of Total Wipeout, the Irish band had to overcome depression, alcoholism, hospitalisation, and stagnation to make this record.
Ditching all the safe-playing tropes of their second album ‘Beacon,’ early live airings and singles point towards Two Door Cinema Club refusing to conform to expectation. Meddling in funk, twinkling hints of disco, and even the odd meandering guitar solo moment, this return should be even more triumphant than the underdog pulling it back at the final second on a drama-filled Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. (El Hunt)
Sleigh Bells - Jessica Rabbit (11th November, via Torn Clean/Lucky Number)
Since the squalling fret-shredding days of their debut album ‘Treats,’ Sleigh Bells have always specialised in mixing the abrasive with the saccharine. That pop itch has always been there, lingering in the background, but on the duo’s fourth album ’Jessica Rabbit,’ it looks to be pushed to the forefront; messed up, swerving left-field, and weirder than ever. Our latest preview, ’Hyper Dark,’ sees Alexis Krauss stealing her way through a straight-up, infectious pop melody, sparring ominously with looming bass-smashes, and synthetic trills of string. ‘Rule Number One’ meanwhile, sees the pair go positively apocalyptic, letting rip with erratic noise-collisions.
Alexis’ vocals batter with a new aggression, and Derek’s production has similarly upped its game. Out on their own newly founded label, Torn Clean, all signs around ‘Jessica Rabbit’ point to Sleigh Bells being freer, and more experimental. All signs point to this record ushering in a bolder Sleigh Bells; braver, and more in command than ever. (El Hunt)
American Football - American Football (21st October, via Wichita)
To use a fitting analogy; imagine if you will an awkward American teenager, shuffling out onto the football field for gym class, kit a little too big, their throwing arm a little too puny. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the boy sets up a play even the coach had never seen before- one that goes on to influence the way the cream of crop in the sport play for years to come. Sloppy sport analogy aside (it’s fine, very few American Football fans actually know anything about the sport do they?) this is just what American Football did, too. Quietly, unexpectedly, they made an album that would shape an entire scene.
That iconic, shabby artwork would appear on the bedroom walls and t-shirts from their hometown of Illinois and around the world. Their innovative use of time signatures, a diverse range of instruments and Mike Kinsella’s ability to tap into the soul of every awkward teen would go on to influence every noise, post, emo, indie rock and pop-punk band; so much that an American Football reference in a pop-punk song is now a cliché.
Following a worldwide tour that was Never Meant To Happen, and a string of teasers shot inside that iconic house, American Football finally announced the new album that fans had given up hoping for, 17 years after that debut. Alongside came ‘I’ve Been Lost For So Long’, a track that wouldn’t have felt out of place on ‘American Football’ version one, and yet doesn’t feel stagnant. 17 years later, that same kid steps onto the field at the Super Bowl, the eyes of the world (or at least some of it) on him. With the pressure to produce that same magic again mounting, it’s a big weight to bear. (Henry Boon)
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