The big ball dropped in NYC. Many drinks were spilled on carpets, creating stains that may never be fully extracted. Across the nation, millions woke up to the grinding, soul-crushing pain of a hangover. It’s 2014, and with all your resolutions and celebrations comes a new year of wonderful, wonderful music.
In 2013, we saw a lot of major artists break the rules to stunning success. Beyoncé shattered sales records thanks to her gutsy marketing strategy and video-album format. Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet pushed the boundaries of a concept album by including a short film screenplay and multiple hidden tracks. Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City saw a successful band radically change the scope of their musical narration. We also saw gems here in Vancouver: the stunningly mature hawaiii from Said the Whale, We Are the City’s sonically and emotionally epic Violent, and the spacey electronica of Rykka’s Kodiak, just to name a few. Meanwhile, artists who tried to keep it safe were critically panned—namely Jay Z’s Magna Carta, Holy Grail. 2013 made it clear that with millions of people creating and innovating music, you need to shake the game a little bit if you want to stay relevant. How will this affect what artists put out in 2014? Frankly, we’re excited for this year in music, and there are plenty of reasons why you should be too.
Warpaint — Warpaint (Rough Trade)January 17th
Warpaint’s brand of trippy, lush psychedelic indie rock took the world by storm with their 2010 album The Fool, but the band found itself troubled by a constantly changing drum slot. With the addition of drummer Stella Mozgawa, the lineup is able produce a new type of music. Promotional tracks for their new album, like the trippy 6 minute “Biggy,” are largely influenced by mixer Nigel Godrich, the acclaimed producer for Radiohead. The jury’s out until the album is, but Warpaint is looking to be a surreal treat.
Young the Giant — Mind over Matter (Fueled by Ramen)January 21st
Young the Giant captured the audience with the sad, enrapturing melodies on their debut album that created a platform for plain faced emo attitude. Singles like “Cough Syrup” gave them indie cred, and soon even Morrissey was praising them, which is pretty much the epitome of accomplishment for their genre. The lead single from Mind over Matter, “It’s About Time,” shows a rougher, more aggressive approach to their music. They’ve stated that it’s not representative of the whole album, but it’ll be interesting to see if the California band can earn some more stripes.
Drowners — Drowners (Frenchkiss)January 28th
This New York garage rock outfit has the good-night-feel whirling guitar energy that gave name to the Strokes, paired with the smooth, sad melodies reminiscent of the Smiths, or some of the slower Arctic Monkeys jams. It’s the musical equivalent of a buzz followed by the realization of ultimate loneliness, and it’s gorgeous. They’re a little bit too infatuated with Britpop for their own good, but this new record could be a chance for these rockers to break out of the Big Apple.
Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron (Top Dawg/Interscope)February 25th
Schoolboy Q has the misfortune of being a talented and technically proficient rapper who is signed to a label that only promotes his friend, Kendrick Lamar. Oxymoron has been pushed back multiple times already but seems to have finally fallen into a sure slot for release. The singles “Collard Greens” and “Man of the Year” both show off the solid production and lucid wordplay of a rapper about to break into the mainstream.
Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Tastes (Interscope/Polydor)March, TBA
Few artists have experienced as much drama as Azealia Banks while releasing so little music. Banks is an undeniably talented Harlem MC, sealing her first record deal at 17. She quickly won an audience with solid EP and mixtape releases. Her debut album has been pushed back since September of 2012, taking her out of the musical limelight. That—along with her constant Twitter rants – has resulted in the loss of support from people like producer Pharrell Williams. Hopefully, Bank’s album will not only be worth the wait, but will make up the for mistakes she made during the process.
Frank Ocean – TBATBA
Odd Future’s most mysterious member stirred up 2012 by being one of the first people in the hip hop industry to publicly come out as gay. More significant, though, was the release of Channel Orange, one of the most critically acclaimed R&B records in recent memory. Little is known about the new record, except the expected appearances from Odd Future friends Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, among others. There are also potential showings from John Mayer and even Jay Z, who has done two tracks with Ocean. The bar is high for the young crooner; we’ll see if he can reach it.
Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence (Polydor/Interscope/Stranger)TBA
Lana Del Rey caught millions of hearts when she released the single “Video Games” in 2011. The song’s irrevocable sadness and the glittering nostalgia of the accompanying video won Del Rey record deal and an audience seemingly overnight. Yet with popularity came massive backlash. People claimed that Del Rey’s background was inauthentic for an indie artist, that she had undergone plastic surgery, and that she was musically a one trick pony. But with her more recent efforts, like the song “Young and Beautiful” or the short film Tropico, Del Rey has taken an edgier, more serious tone with her music. Ultraviolence won’t be about whether she can maintain her popularity, but to see if she can win back both the airwaves and those who doubt her.
Kanye West — TBATBA
Yeezus was a molotov cocktail of grinding and lush sounds, egoism, and minimalism. West stirred up trouble for comparing himself to God, getting really, really nasty with some of his lyrics, and for releasing a 4 minute music video featuring himself and a naked Kim Kardashian on a flying motorcycle (“Bound 2”). This new project, which will be done with West’s old friend Rick Rubin, as well as Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, is still largely hush-hush, but we wouldn’t know what to expect from Kanye anyway. What worries many about this record is his persona, his pursuits outside of music, and his work ethic during recording. He recorded crucial components of Yeezus days before release—will Kanye actually put out this record? We hope so.
Foo Fighters — TBATBA
Last year, frontman Dave Grohl was busy working on the Queens of the Stone Age record, …Like Clockwork, leaving the band to take a much needed break after the success of their 2011 record Wasting Light and the touring that followed. With Wasting Light, the Foo’s proved that an older group can still rock it, breaking out an arsenal of classic riffs, gnarly vocals, and killer percussion, sending their album to the top of the charts. If Dave’s work on …Like Clockwork is any hint, we can expect some influence from across the metal-sphere and some DIY recording techniques. Expect it to be raw.
Adele — TBATBA
You’re lying to yourself if you say you don’t know the lyrics to every songs from 21. Adele shocked us all with her powerful vocals and emotional songs, and her new album is bound to be successful. After a series of health scares, notably her near voice loss due to strain, Adele took home an armful of Grammy’s and went incognito for a few years. Her new release is a surefire for radio play, but what will be interesting is if the singer can change the tone of her songs, which are typically in the heartbroken vein. With that many awards, she doesn’t have much to cry about.