31 most anticipated albums of 2016
Panic! at the Disco, Death of a Bachelor, Jan. 15
After a few years out of the spotlight, Panic! frontman Brendon Urie will return to the band for a Frank Sinatra-inspired fifth album Death of a Bachelor. “I wrote a new album this year and even in the few songs that don’t sound remotely similar to any of [Sinatra’s] music I still felt his influence in the writing and the need to relate so personally to each song,” Urie wrote on Instagram in October. That said, expect Urie’s passionate vocals to take a turn for the jazzy — and a healthy dose of Panic!-style pop-punk theatrics.
Chairlift, Moth, Jan. 22
You may know Caroline Polachek as the artist who helped produce Beyoncé’s “No Angel.” But since 2008, she’s been the fierce, operatic vocalist of this cool-as-hell Brooklyn duo, whose third album, Moth, features stunning vocal performances and very-of-the-moment electronic production on tracks like “Crying in Public” and “Ch-Ching.”
Bloc Party, Hymns,, Jan. 29
When frontman Kele Okereke was working on Bloc Party’s latest record, their first since 2012’s Four, he wasn’t listening to Top 40. Instead, he zoned in on songs of praise. “During the process of making the record, I was really obsessed with finding out the function of devotional music,” he told Rolling Stone — hence the album’s title, Hymns. Judging from first single “The Love Within” though, the English rockers haven’t completely abandoned their dance-heavy sound, but they aren’t confined to it, either. “Musically and lyrically [Hymns] was all coming from a different place,” Okereke said. “I thought it was a record that I had to make. I think once people start to hear it, they’ll see what I mean.”
Sia, This Is Acting, Jan. 26
Despite having crafted smashes for the likes of Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Christina Aguilera, Sia Furler wasn’t known as a performer until 2014’s 1000 Forms of Fear, a remarkably durable piece of modern pop that yielded the instant radio staples “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart.” With her self-consciousness gradually eroding and her keen visual sense sharpening, Sia is now an elite star on both sides of the recording booth glass, and her forthcoming seventh album, featuring songs she initially pitched for Adele, Rihanna, and others, reflects her newfound comfort with embracing her pop star status. “The last album was a little bit of a departure from the albums that came before, so it was transitional,” says collaborator Greg Kurstin. “On this, I think anything is game, which is very liberating. There’s a lot of songs on here that we maybe would not have put on the last album.” Those tracks include the synth jam “Cheap Thrills” and the sambaesque “Move Your Body,” and once again the tunes will go hand in hand with Sia’s visual flair. “She has such great video ideas, and I think that informs the songs more and more — what’s going to fit the concepts she has in mind,” says Kurstin. “She’s very good at pulling everything together. It always amazes me.”
Charlie Puth, Nine Track Mind, Jan. 29
The 23-year-old crooner’s Nine Track Mind got pushed back from November to January, but he promises “a soulful vibe” on his debut album — all of which was recorded in his bedroom, he told Vulture. The 12-song set will include hit singles “One Call Away,” and “Marvin Gaye” featuring Megan Trainor. Selena Gomez also joins for breezy pop jam “We Don’t Talk Anymore.” Puth played the song for Gomez after its original inception and when the music was complete, he shared it with her again months later. “She started singing under her breath the second verse,” Puth told Access Hollywood of how the duet came together. “I didn’t want to impose the song on her but she wanted to sing on it.”
St. Lucia, Matter, Jan. 29
The indie dance-party album of the year. After releasing the 2014 breakout When the Night, bandleader Jean-Philip Grobler and his crew return with a second album that cops the body-rocking grooves of ’80s new wave greats Flock of Seagulls and the Human League. Standout tracks like “Physical” and “Dancing on Glass” are pure fire.
Elton John, Wonderful Crazy Night, Feb. 5
The 68-year-old icon’s last album, 2013’s The Diving Board, was a minor minimalist masterpiece consisting of little more than John’s sweetly weathered pipes and some simple piano shuffles. He flips the script on his 33rd studio effort, which marks the first time in a decade wherein he’ll be joined by the Elton John Band, including drummer Nigel Olsson and guitarist Davey Johnstone, two musicians who helped craft the signature sound on such classics as Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. A few things remain consistent, though: he’s still working alongside lyricist Bernie Taupin, still co-producing with the renowned T-Bone Burnett, and if first single “Looking Up” is any indication, he’s as feisty and fierce as ever.
Lucinda Williams, The Ghosts of Highway 20, Feb. 5
The legendary roots storyteller has often taken years between albums (she vanished for over half a decade in between masterpieces Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and Sweet Old World). But clearly she has caught a mess of inspiration following the success of the 2014 double album Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. The new collection is inspired by her travels down the titular thoroughfare (which connects Texas to Georgia) and includes both a Bruce Springsteen cover (“Factory” from Darkness on the Edge of Town) and a reworking of an unfinished jam by Woody Guthrie called “House of Earth.”
Kanye West, SWISH, Feb. 11
After promoting SWISH for over a year, Kanye West finally revealed a release date for his Yeezus follow-up this month. The collection is expected to include already released tracks “FourFiveSeconds,” “Only One,” “Wolves,” “All Day,” and “Real Friends,” and will feature Kendrick Lamar on at least one song, “No More Parties in L.A.,” which he teased last week.
School of Seven Bells, SVIIB, Feb. 12
The music world lost one its most promising talents when Benjamin Curtis—one half of this electronic duo and a founding member of Secret Machines—succumbed to lymphoma in early 2013. But his spirit lives on in this posthumous release, which he recorded with musical partner Alejandra Deheza in the summer of 2012. Over nine tracks, the pair weave some of the most dreamy synth-pop you’ll hear in 2016—it’s no wonder U2’s The Edge has said he’s a fan. SVIIB is a heartbreaking but beautifully rendered celebration of an incredible talent that’s been taken too soon.
Ra Ra Riot, Need Your Light, Feb. 19
On their fourth album, the brainy chamber-pop crew return with 10 excellent indie-pop tunes—two of which were produced by their pal, Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij. Highlights include the lead single “Water,” which pairs singer Wes Miles earnest, powerful howl with a heavy boom-bap that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Kanye record.
Santigold, 99¢, Feb. 26
In order to see Santigold’s latest music video for “Who Be Lovin’ Me,” viewers had to make it through parody infomercials for dating apps and selfie printers. This playful satire fits the overall spirit of the singer’s new album, 99¢, which Santi “Santigold” White calls a reaction to modern consumerism. “I wanted to talk about the absurdity of people more interested in capturing moments to market themselves on social media than experiencing things,” White says. The music on 99¢ retains the genrebusting pop sound of Santigold’s previous work, but collaborators like Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij and Patrik Berger (Robyn, Icona Pop) lend new vibes to songs like “Can’t Get Enough of Myself” and “Rendezvous Girl.” “It was so much fresh energy and new approaches,” White says, “which I needed.”
The 1975, I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It, Feb. 26
The 1975’s follow-up to their 2013 debut includes 17 lavishly produced tracks like the strutting Prince-style “Love Me,” the slinky, synthed-out “UGH!” and the ambient, lyric-less, dreamscape “Please Be Naked.” “It’s a very, very produced record,” frontman Matthew Healy, who co-produced the collection, says. “It’s kind of funny — we got lumped in with all these guitar bands in the U.K. at the start, but it was like, you might as well call us a drums band or a microphone band. Guitar is the last thing we think about.”
Bonnie Raitt, Dig In Deep, Feb. 26
The Grammy-winning legend says she overcame loss and heartbreak to write her largest collection of original material in almost two decades. “I was depleted [after my parents and brother died], but like when your car runs out of battery and your friend pushes you, I got a push,” she tells EW. “My guitarist George Marinelli sent me the track, ‘If You Need Somebody,’ and I got the wheels going. I knew I was going to write something about dad, and it was going to be said, so I was glad to break that block.”
Miike Snow, iii, March 4
The Swedish-American trio—Andrew Wyatt and Bloodshy and Avant’s Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg—are promising to return to the glossy pop roots of their terrific 2009 debut Miike Snow, which spawned critically hailed Euro hits like “Animal” and “Silvia.”
Various Artists, Southern Family, March 18
Get ready for the biggest country blowout of 2016. Producer Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell) has rounded up Nashville’s biggest stars for a concept album about family life in the South. Zac Brown, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Jamey Johnson, Shooter Jennings, and more are contributing their own new songs to the 12-track set. “There are some tracks that are deep and slow and brooding,” says Cobb, “and some that are really powerful and upbeat. It’s alive.”
Ray Lamontagne, TBD, March TBD
LaMontagne scored a Grammy for 2010’s God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise while his follow-up, 2014’s Supernova, topped Billboard’s rock charts. But the soft-spoken singer-songwriter isn’t feeling any pressure for his sixth LP. “I just let things happen,” he says. “I don’t force anything.” Last February, LaMontagne joined My Morning Jacket’s Jim James at La La Land studio in Louisville, Ky. Those sessions resulted in eight sprawling, gorgeous meditations, bathed in buckets of reverb. Says LaMontagne: “It was about creating a record that I’d want to listen to if I were in the record store discovering albums. I don’t write singles; I’m not that kind of songwriter. I let whatever creative force just tell me what to do.”
Pusha T, King Push, April TBD
Pusha T may be the newly anointed head of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label, but he’s not abandoning his own music. In December, Pusha released King Push—Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, which, true to its title, is just a precursor to the hotly anticipated King Push. “The [new] songs are more socially driven,” says the 38-year-old rapper. “Hardcore hip-hop is what I’m known for, but it’s just a bit broader.” Expect more of the “dark, sinister records” that are Pusha’s calling card. “When producers get with me, they want to experiment and do unorthodox records. Because that’s what I’m known for: unorthodox music.”
Cyndi Lauper, Detour, Spring TBD
After the success of 2010’s comeback Memphis Blues—not to mention her work on the Broadway musical Kinky Boots—the pop icon, 62, decamped to Nashville for her 11th album, a companion piece focusing on classic country songs of the ’50s and ’60s. Lauper once again teamed up with top-level talent, including Willie Nelson. “I tried to be professional, but you know when you’re overwhelmed—when he came in, I almost cried,” says Lauper. Another influence: Dolly Parton, who doesn’t appear on the record but whose spirit looms large. “The first hotel we stayed at in Nashville had a big art piece on the wall, and in the corner it said ‘What Would Dolly Do?’ ” Lauper says. “I kept thinking that all the way through.”
U2, Songs of Experience, TBD
After surprise-releasing Songs of Innocence on Apple in 2014, U2 spent last year on their massive Innocence + Experience Tour—all while continuing to hone the material for Songs of Experience, a companion of sorts to Innocence. “We’re well into it,” Bono told EW in October. “Edge just came up with a cracker…provisionally titled ‘Tightrope.’ ” Bono revealed the group had around 18 tracks completed, which will be whittled down to about a dozen. “We’re playing out of our skins at the moment,” he joked. “It’s pathetic it took us 35 years to be the band we’ve always wanted to be.”
Beck, TBD, TBD
Beck’s 2015 single “Dreams” whetted the appetites of fans who enjoyed his Grammy-winning Morning Phase but missed the pop-and-lock rhythms that dominated his early breakthroughs. Luckily, there’s more of the latter to come on the 45-year-old’s 13th album. “It’s a lot more up-tempo,” says “Dreams” co-writer/co-producer Greg Kurstin. “It reminds me of some of the stuff I heard from Beck when I first got into him, like Odelay and Midnite Vultures. It’s really fun and beat-driven.”
Ariana Grande, TBD, TBD
Is the pop star’s newest single, the fierce anthem “Focus,” indicative of tracks on her third album? Not quite. “Growth is the key thing,” says studio whiz Savan Kotecha, who’s writing and producing much of it, along with Max Martin. “ ‘Focus’ was throwing something out there as a bridge to a new era. This is pretty diverse. People will be surprised.” Expect Grande’s incredible pipes to be at the forefront. “There’s been a lot of goose-bump vocal moments,” says Kotecha. “We’ve had moments of ‘Oh my God, did she just do that?’”
JoJo, TBD, TBD
It’s never too late to make a comeback if you’re JoJo, the 25-year-old singer behind 2004’s R&B smash “Leave (Get Out).” After nearly a decade out of the spotlight thanks to record-label drama—a binding contract prevented her from releasing new music—the Massachusetts native returns with a new label and a new album, which will feature her already released trio of songs “When Love Hurts,” “Save My Soul,” and “Say Love.” As for the rest of the record, JoJo says, “There’s a mix of hip-hop and R&B and dance, so I’m finding my way and what feels good to me. I just want to represent a young woman who’s finding herself and falling in and out of s—.”
Gwen Stefani, TBD, TBD
The No Doubt frontwoman was poised to release a follow-up to her 2006 solo effort The Sweet Escape in 2015. But Stefani, 46, decided to scrap that collection. “It didn’t feel right,” she told EW in October, two months after she announced her split from her husband, Bush’s Gavin Rossdale. “I needed to write some songs.” Now Stefani, who dropped the single “Used to Love You” in late 2015, is working on an album that will feature hyper-personal songs. Says the singer: “[It’s] about living in the moment, trying to be present and trying to feel.”
M83, TBD, TBD
More than four years after releasing the sprawling, Grammy-nominated double LP Hurry Up We’re Dreaming, Anthony Gonzalez, the mastermind of the electro-pop group, is plotting a follow-up that’s equally epic in scope, which he’s set to put out in 2016. “It’s a very strong album with a lot of eclecticism,” Gonzalez tells EW. “It’s very epic. There’s a lot of different genres that are not supposed to live together but I tried to make them live together, which is quite challenging. It’s also quite different from the previous albums which is what I’m the most proud of.”
Metallica, TBD, TBD
Good news: the metal gods won’t be releasing Lulu 2.0. Instead, Kirk Hammett has said the group’s 10th studio album will be more in vain with 2008’s Death Magnetic. And while it’s been seven years since a proper Metallica album, they have been teasing new material—including the new track “Lords of Summer (First Pass Version)” in 2014 and a snippet of James Hetfield playing guitar in the studio. Metallica has yet to confirm a release date, but it’s safe to say some new music will hit this year. “We’re into it,” Hammett reportedly said in a November radio interview. “I don’t wanna say that we’re a third into it, or two-thirds into it, or an eighth into it, ’cause anything could happen that’ll just change that number. But, eventually, you will see a new Metallica album, and it will most likely be in 2016, and at the very worst, at the beginning of 2017.”
MIA, M.I.A. Matahdatah, TBD
The Sri Lankan MC spent much of 2015 releasing “scrolls” of new music, which included the track “Borders” and the accompanying music video—one of the year’s best. Those creative spurts have been part of her release strategy leading up to the full-length’s release, which is anticipated this year. Sonically, expect the rapper to deliver a genre-busting set that draws on her extensive travels around the world. As she told EW in 2015, “It’s like a journal. And the journal happens to be a really wide journey. It’s about borders and it’s kind of testing the human idea of that—whether it’s physical borders, geographical, or philosophical ones.”
PJ Harvey, TBD, TBD
Whether she’s chronicling life and love in the metropolis (2001’s instant classic Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea) or evoking gothic-Victorian vibes on 2007’s White Chalk, the revered British songwriter seemingly reinvents herself with each album. And for her ninth collection, the British Mercury Prize winner is recording the album in a “glass box” in London and allowing lucky ticket-holders to observe. “I want Recording in Progress to operate as if we’re an exhibition in a gallery,” she told the BBC. While Harvey hasn’t shared any new material yet, expect some fiery, guitar-based rockers, judging by the video she released in December.
Nick Jonas, TBD, TBD
The Scream Queens star teased fans with new songs “Area Code” and “Levels” in the last half of 2015, but he also has plans for a follow-up to 2014’s self-titled album. “‘Levels’ is a good introduction to the next step,” Jonas told EW in September. “I think [the album will] go even a bit further with some more soul and R&B sounds, even hip hop influences in there.” In October, the former boy band member tweeted about recording new music with producer Jason Evigan, who worked with Jonas on his second solo album. Though the untitled record lacks a specific release date, the Kingdom star said fans can expect something “probably [at] the end of February or early March.” Also on deck: his Future Now tour with pal Demi Lovato kicking off June 24.
DNCE, TBD, TBD
Joe Jonas took a break from Uber driving to restart his pop career last year when he joined Cole Whittle, JinJoo Lee, and former Jonas Brothers drummer Cole Jack Lawless, to form dance pop group DNCE. The foursome released “Cake By The Ocean” in September 2015, a fun dance-pop breakdown based on one of their producers’ misunderstanding the phrase “sex on the beach.” “We were working with some producers from Sweden and they kept confusing [it for] cake by the ocean when they were telling a story and the song just kind of launched from there,” Jonas told EW in October. Later that month, the group dropped their four-song EP SWAAY and Jonas shared plans to release a full-length album with J-14, saying fans can expect the record in the spring. The middle Jonas brother added to EW in 2015, “Hopefully next year is just a worldwide world wind of intergalactic touring every single place ever.”
Rihanna, Anti, TBD
The long march to Rihanna’s eighth studio album continues as fans have a title, artwork, and a handful of already released tracks (“Bitch Better Have My Money,” “American Oxygen,” and “FourFiveSeconds”). Little is known about the collection’s production, but her mentor Jay Z spoke about the project last year: “She wants it to be perfect,” he told Vanity Fair. The collection still doesn’t have a release date, but RiRi will begin her global Anti tour in February.