For the first time in the years since we got into this racket, we haven't heard a single critic complain that 2010 was a shitty year for music—an unusual occurrence given just how bitchy most critics can be. But it makes a lot sense: 2010 was awesome, with great albums coming from all sorts of genres. Will 2011 be an inevitable letdown? With the slate of artists scheduled to release new music, maybe not.
Coldplay, Title + Date TBA
While it will no doubt be filled with more of the same lifeless arena rock we've come to expect from Mr. Paltrow and the gang, this is a notable release if for no other reason than it's basically mainstream rock music's last great hope for relevance. Which of course does not bode well for mainstream rock music.
The Strokes, Title tba, March (tentative)
In 2009, Julian Casablancas told Rolling Stone that early tracks for The Strokes' fourth album sound like a mix of 70s rock and "music from the future." We're not sure what this means exactly, except that people in the future will probably have awesome hair and wear leather jackets.
Radiohead, Title + Date TBA
No one seems to know what this record will be called, or when it will come out, or what record label, if any, it will come out on. One thing seems certain, though: 10.1, at least.
Bright Eyes, The People's Key, February
Now that indie-rock earnestness is less in vogue than it's been at any other point since Conor Oberst first came crashing onto the scene a decade ago, how will the public react to indie rock's proudest peddler of said earnestness?
Hot Sauce Committee Vol. 2, Spring
We count ourselves as fans of the Beastie Boys, but we've got to say, we're a little confused about just who will buy a new record by them in the year 2011. Do young rap fans care about them? Have the aging frat boys who liked them in college completely forgotten?
Lady Gaga ,
Born This Way, Spring
Forgive us, Ms. Gaga, but we thought you were born as an NYU student of middling taste, performing covers of Led Zeppelin songs at bars downtown. No? Wrong lady? Fair enough.
Kanye West and Jay-Z , Watch the Throne,
It's currently scheduled for a February release, but, admittedly, Kanye West and Jay-Z's collaborative effort, Watch the Throne, feels like the kind of record that could never quite come. If it does, though, there's no telling how much it could sell. This is not unlike, say, the Beatles and Stones teaming up for a record in 1966.
Dr. Dre, Detox, February
Here's another one we'll believe is coming out no sooner than the day we see it on a record store shelf. Dre's long-delayed, much-hyped Detox can't possibly live up to expectations at this point-that is, unless everyone else's expectations have become as low as ours have.
Beck, Title + Date TBA
At this point, we'd be fine with it if Beck just focused on his production work-he did a fantastic job on Charlotte Gainsbourg's IRM, and we're extremely, almost creepily, excited about news that he's working on Thurston Moore's next record. But what the hell? Bring it on.
R.E.M., Collapse Into Now, March
That last record was super blah, so our hopes are not terribly high, but as is always the case with these guys, there's all sorts of talk about a "return to form" or whatever with Collapse Into Now. Would be nice, but we ain't holding our breath.
Fleet Foxes ,
Title TBA, summer
Along with the Decemberists (more on them in a minute) and a few others, Fleet Foxes have come to stand for all that's boring and white and whatever about indie rock. We listened to their first record again the other night, though, and it's still really good. Not sure what everyone's talking about; we're pretty excited for this.
Panda Bear ,
Tomboy, Early 2011
We don't have to tell you that, since summer, the Paul McCartney of indie rock has been rolling out a string of singles from his eagerly awaited forthcoming album, each one getting progressively darker and more varied. But it's still not enough to tell whether Tomboy will be Sir Noah's Band on the Run... or his Press to Play.
Cat Power, Title + Date TBA
Word is Chan Marshall is set to release her first album of new material since 2006's sadly underrated The Greatest. There's no telling what it will sound like, of course, but if she continues with the sultry blues thing she left off with a few years ago, we'll be on board in a major way.
Beirut, Title + Date TBA
Now 24 and all grown up, Zach Condon has returned to the studio to work on Beirut's first proper album in three years. We look foward to wiping a tear from our eye at an elaborately orchestrated show at BAM to celebrate its release.
Title + Date TBA
If Jens' moderately hyped song about stalking Kirsten Dunst—with all its rhymes, melody and charm—doesn't make it onto this album, then he should expect to receive a strongly worded letter from his pals at The L.
Bon Iver, Title + Date TBA
One of indie rock's most unusual success stories, thanks to his dalliance with Kanye West, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon has a much larger audience eagerly anticipating this record than we, and probably he, ever thought possible.
Battles, Title + Date TBA
Even with the recent departure of singer/multi-instrumentalist Tyondai Braxton, Battles have vowed that 2011 will see the release of the follow-up to their brilliant 2007 debut, Mirrored. Maybe 2011 will be all about post-rock
The Decemberists ,
The King is Dead, January
After the massive disappointment that was The Crane Wife, Portland's Decemberists are back, and word is they've dropped the silly prog stuff they're not very good at, in favor of the more stripped-down, folksy material at which they excel.
The Wrens, Title + Date TBA
Considering how consistent a presence frontman Charles Bissel has been here in the city over the years, it's easy to forget that it's been a full seven years since the Wrens released their last album, the critically drooled-over Meadowlands.
Tennis, Cape Dory, January
We're trying hard to ignore the kitschy retro-80s album cover (there's a unitard involved) because from what we've heard of the music inside, husband-wife duo Tennis may be the saving grace of 2011's fuzz-pop bands.
Givers, Title TBA, Early 2011
In their shows opening for the Dirty Projectors, among others, in 2010, Givers proved themselves to be youthful, smart, uplifting, erratic, melodious and interesting—like a cross between said Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend. Expect to be hearing their name a lot in Austin this March.
Native Speaker, January
It'd be weird not to see at least one Montreal band on a list predicting the year's buzz-makers; it's also weird how this particular Montreal band ever so gently turns minimal dream pop on its side, unfolding songs into twinkling seven-minute epics.
The Vaccines, Title + Date TBA
The Brits are losing it over these guys, and the British press never over-hypes well-dressed, punk-loving, guitar-based bands. Even still, we figured it was worth mentioning that The Vaccines' demo is quite good. Now let's see what they can do with a full-length.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Title + Date TBA
Lo and behold, CMJ did what it was supposed to do with glitch-folkies Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. this fall; it made a whole lot of people really excited for their full-length debut, a feat made even more impressive considering their penchant for wearing NASCAR race suits.
Grooms, Prom + Date TBA
We've been told by Grooms frontman Travis Johnson that the trio's second LP will see their most accessible, pop-leaning material to date. This, coming from a band entrenched in 90s noise rock, doesn't lead us to believe it'll be all happy clappy singalongs though, even having made the leap to Kanine Records.
Stay Home, January
Here's hoping they haven't cleaned up their act; we want their comic book garage rock just as scrubby and slapdash as it was the first time around. We're not too worried though: Stay Home includes tracks titled "Pops N Me" and "Eat No Dick 2."
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart , Belong, March
They had us at "Kurt Cobain's Cardigan" years ago, but now comes word that Brooklyn's most endearing fuzz-pop band made a concerted effort to follow-up their debut with a less nostalgic, more dynamic sound. Oh, man. This should be a very good album.
Warma EP, January
All we want for Christmas is for Darlings to receive the widespread attention they deserve when their follow-up EP to Yeah I Know is released in January, primarily because we want to take credit for championing them early on, but also because they continue to embody everything we love about 90s garage rock. And this time, it's louder.
Vivian Girls ,
Share the Joy, Spring
Something tells us they'll be dabbling in this so-called "lo-fi" pop-punk trend, experimenting with things like "girl-group" harmonies and "guitars." For the slightest change of pace, check out debut releases by Kickball Katy and Cassie Ramone's spin-off projects, La Sera and The Babies, due out in early 2011.
Girls , Title + Date TBA
In 2009 came an album from Girls that miraculously sounded like Elvis Costello had covered a bunch of Beach Boys songs, then a stunning EP at the end of 2010 that made us realize this could be a band just beginning to hit its stride. Whatever may come from Christopher Owens and co. in 2011, it could, should, and probably will be wonderful. You guys, THIS COULD BE BIG.
Kurt Vile ,Title + Date TBA
Vile's most recent EP showcased a slower, sadder, cleaner, more detail-oriented version of his roughed-up brand of psych-folk. If this continues to be the case for its follow-up, as a bit of early press would lead us to believe, we're in for something good.
The Dodos , Title + Date TBA
According to The Dodos' Twitter feed, they drove to Portland in August for a two-month recording session in "a truck full of every instrument known to man." Admittedly, we (or maybe just one of us) like these guys more than most, but, damn, that's how you should make a record.
Noah & the Whale ,
Last Night on Earth, March
Putting out a pretty-but-boring sophomore album didn't do much to help gain their charming debut the attention it deserved, but, fingers crossed, Noah & the Whale's latest batch of happy-sad folk pop will to earn them retroactive praise.