We're all done reflecting on 2011 now, right? No more 'best of' lists and nostalgic reflections? Sure, the year kicked ass, but the past has been milked for all it's worth, and 2012 is absolutely packed with enough new releases to make last year look like a slacker's calendar.
Legendary reunions, promising newcomers and highly anticipated return albums abound, and 2012 is already shaping up to be a kickass year for music. Here's our list of the 50 or so most anticipated albums of 2012!
Black Sabbath – TBA
The rumors have finally come to an end, and the decades of metalhead fantasies have at long last come true: the architects of heavy metal themselves, Black Sabbath are reuniting to record their first studio album with original frontman Ozzy Osbourne since 1978, and will support it with a massive 2012 tour. Legendary producer Rick Rubin will produce the album, which would be the first with the original lineup since 1978's Never Say Die.
This Rubin quote from the same press conference is certainly encouraging: “I’ve been in the room while they’ve played, and they sound remarkably like Black Sabbath. It’s inspiring hearing what’s coming out.” Or, as bassist Geezer Butler put it, “It really is back to the old Sabbath sound.”
Queens of the Stone Age – TBA
The kings of the desert are bunkered in at Rancho De La Luna, laying the groundwork for the band's first studio album since 2007's remarkable Era Vulgaris. Frontman/band nucleus Joshua Homme mentioned a while back that the grind-thrust power groove of "Misfit Love" is his favorite song off the aforementioned release, and based on that fact – not to mention QOTSA's track record so far – if there's one release we're most excited for in 2012, this is it.
Fiona Apple – TBA
Rumors abound that record label issues and delays are once again stifling Ms. Apple's creative release, a damn sorry development in our quest for another fix from the man-eating scorned songstress. We're confident that the sounds will drop eventually, a continuance of the broken beauty's incredible track record.
Pearl Jam – TBA
We've been hearing about the band putting in studio time in Los Angeles throughout the course of 2011, and it's not a stretch to predict that we'll finally see some new jams from the Seattle grunge survivors in the new year. With any luck we'll see a bit less of Vedder's quiet introspectives (they're great, but let's keep 'em on the solo records) and more brooding, bombastic grooves, but ultimately any new PJ is welcome in our book.
Soundgarden – TBA
In an interview with Billboard, frontman Chris Cornell described the band's new material with all the vagueness of a man who knows the weight of the post-grunge world is on his shoulders: “It sounds to me exactly like it should sound — like we took a break and we got together and we’re making an album.” He goes on to say, “We’ve all had a decade-plus of more experience in writing and recording and took a long break… So it’s very refreshing and it feels to me like the next logical step in Soundgarden, creatively.”
Producer Adam Kasper (Pearl Jam, Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters) is on board, and this release can't come soon enough.
How To Destroy Angels – TBA
Trent Reznor’s new band with his wife Mariqueen Maandig, as well as longtime Nine Inch Nails producer/collaborator Atticus Ross, showed serious promise with the (free) release of their six-song EP last year. Reznor has confirmed that HTDA are currently mixing their first full-length record, a much more evolved and realized effort than the initial experimental EP, and it will see a release in 2012.
Nine Inch Nails – TBA
Mr. Reznor has also announced that he’ll soon, at last, begin work on new material for his signature project, adding that it will be his specific writing focus throughout 2012. This is thrilling news for fans, who've been mourning the band's departure from the live circuit and recording hold while Reznor scratches his Oscar-winning film scoring itch and dives into a new project with his wife (see above).
Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania (TBA)
Billy Corgan has unveiled the tracklisting for their ninth studio album Oceania, which is set for formal release later this year. A number of the tracks have been released as part of the band's ongoingTeargarden By Kaleidyscope project, which sees the band releasing new songs online in batches and then making them available for download.
Corgan has said that the collection is the best work he's done since Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, but we'll see how much hype that amounts to when the chips fall.
The Killers – TBA
The Killers have been hinting at a new album for a while, and the band is actually a few songs into the new album already, with the finished title of a "killer" new track being "Battle Born," Flowers told the BBC (it's also the name of the studio they record in). Expect the Killers to try to bring the circus full circle this time around: "I think the consensus within the band is to take those things that we've done well and really hone in on that," Flowers said. "We don't want to make Hot Fuss 2 or Sam's Town 2, or Day & Age 2. We'll maybe take all that stuff, the best of all of it and do what we know how to do."
Watch The Throne 2 – Kanye West / Jay-Z – TBA
It appears as if the most gluttonously decadent album of 2011 is getting a sequel – that is, if Jay-Z's enthusiasm becomes kinetically active. While deep in the paces of his Watch The Thone tour with Kanye, Jay-Z said: “It depends on how this thing finishes up,” He added: “We — I say ‘we’ because I’m in Throne mode — we’re in a great place creatively. You might see a Jay, then Kanye and a Throne album next year. You know, we’re really in a great place creatively. We really found our zone.”
Needless to say, we're all over this one.
G.O.O.D. Music – TBA
The entire G.O.O.D. Music crew is pooling their talents under the grand orchestration of Kanye West, for a collaborative album that's bound to be the talk of the town in 2012. Kanye's label imprint and management company, which stands for "Getting Out Our Dreams," will join the ranks with Young Money and Maybach Music Group with a new group album that is said to include Kanye, Common, John Legend, Big Sean, Kid Cudi, Malik Yusef, Mr Hudson, Cyhi Da Prynce, Mos Def, Pusha T, D'banj and Teyana Taylor. In other words, we're going to have a beast on our hands when this one arrives.
Pusha T confirmed that he had already recorded multiple tracks for the album, telling MTV News, “The beats are there and they’re laid out but the finished product still has to go through the Kanye West wizardry wall. I’ve recorded four songs for the G.O.O.D. Music album, and hopefully there will be a couple more. I know me and [Big] Sean should definitely be on two songs together, if not more.”
Green Day – TBA
Last August, fans South of Los Angeles got to see Green Day play a “secret” show at which they debuted more than 15 new songs, which confirms that the band is hard at work on their next release. With any luck we'll see a departure from the high-arcing rock operatics of the last two albums, and truth to the rumors of the new stuff sounding like a cross between Warning and Foxboro Hot Tubs.
Enter Shikari – Flash Flood of Color (January 16)
Enter Shikari have emerged from a year of relentless touring with their most outspoken and pointed effort to date. A Flash Flood Of Colour pushes the boundaries and puts an emphasis on the message at hand, with the band's trademark incendiary magnificence. We're amped for this one.
Alice In Chains – TBA
Rolling Stone reports that guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell confirms the band will be working on the follow-up to their last album, their first to feature new singer William Duvall.
"We started writing last year," Cantrell dished at the recent Dimebash tribute in L.A., the annual show in honor late guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott.
According to Cantrell, the group will hit the studio in the Spring – something everyone involved has been chomping at the bit to return to. Cantrell had some medical ailments to deal with, however, which kept him out of full work mode: "I had shoulder surgery. I had to get some bone spurs and torn cartilage taken care of, so that put me back a little bit," he says. "But we’ve been writing through the whole process."
Cat Power – TBA
Last year, the inimitably gorgeous, breathy Chan Marshall spoke to Rolling Stone about writing her ninth album, her first collection of new songs since 2006’s The Greatest: “I’m working on a new album and I’m trying to play all the instruments myself… I think I was inspired by being disappointed in myself that I’d just been holding the microphone and I was disappointed in myself that I hadn’t been playing an instrument. And I think I wanted to prove to myself that I could try to create a relationship with it again — or something — and feel like I felt close to it. ‘Cause it is definitely there and it’s a need and it just hasn’t been around.”
Ani Difranco – ¿Which Side Are You On? (January 17)
OG Rock Grrrl Ani DiFranco returns with ¿Which Side Are You On? on January 17, her first album since 2008's Red Letter Year and the one which she truly feels is an accurate reflection of who she is as a guitarist and songwriter. With members of the Neville Brothers, Galactic and Norah Jones’ band helping DiFranco add touches of New Orleans parade jazz and reggae to her folk/punk sound.
Lamb of God – Resolution (January 24)
We've heard it, we love it, and we're confident that Resolution will up the ante for every metal or hard rock band hitting the studio this year. Like the band's previous release, the Richmond, VA quintet's seventh album was produced and mixed by Josh Wilbur. Hell, by this time next year it may just be mandatory listening, being that frontman Randy Blythe is actually running for president.
Leonard Cohen — Old Ideas (January 31)
Since the release of 2004'sDear Heather, Canadian poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen has been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and been named Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec. But the legendary weathered baritone isn't ready to hang it up and reflect just yet, and we're concretely certain that Old Ideas will breathe new life into the public's fascination with the man.
Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth (February 7)
A Different Kind Of Truth is Van Halen's first original studio album with singer David Lee Roth since the band’s classic multi-platinum album 1984. With Mr. Roth back in the fold after a 22-year absence, a renewed dedication and sense of perfectionism is driving the band to produce material that lives up to their own legend. Mark Tremonti, guitarist for Alter Bridge, has heard the new material and reports that it sounds like “vintage Van Halen.” Fingers crossed.
Janelle Monáe – TBA x 2
Monáe is planning on releasing two new albums in 2012, which is very exciting news indeed. The less encouraging news is that she plans to release them “according to my soul clock,” which means there's no way at all of knowing when they’ll appear. She was hesitant to announce any additional information other than saying she’s “84.799 percent” done with writing the new material.
Mark Lanegan Band — Blues Funeral (February 7)
lone-wolf rock veteran Mark Lanegan, man of many hats and collaborations Some of you know him from his work with Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures (indeed, the haunting zombie moans are reminiscent of the two), while others are familiar through his stunning debut solo album. Either way, what’s important is that you’re aware.
It’s been eight years since the release of the incredibleBubblegum album, and while Lanegan’s been active in the ensuing years – he’s worked Queens of the Stone Age, Greg Dulli as Gutter Twins, and Isobel Campbell, among others, there's a special kind of excitement reserved for the man's solo work – particularly because six-string wizard Alain Johannes is his chief collaborator on the record.
Brother Ali: Mourning In America and Dreaming In Color – (TBA)
I spoke with Rhymesayers' inimitable not-so-secret weapon Brother Ali roughly a year ago about the music he’s been recording lately with Jake One, as a potential follow-up to his incredible 2009 release Us. He had the following to say on the issue then:
“I’ve known Jake One for a long time, since 2000 or 2001 or something, and we’ve been talking about doing stuff together for a long time. Me and Jake have made probably like 15 songs, and I think I really like maybe 4 or 5 of them. I’m not mad at any of ‘em, but there’s like 4 or 5 that I think are really good. So hopefully I’ll have some time where I can really focus on making an album and try to figure out what it’s going to shape up like. Maybe go hang out in Seattle for a couple weeks (where Jake lives).”
Ali wound up taking so many trips to the Pacific Northwest that he actually rented a Seattle apartment for the Summer. Progress has indeed been made as a result, and Mourning In America and Dreaming In Color is not far from seeing the light of day. As he outlines in the new, Jake One-produced burner "Writer's Block," Ali isn't "trying to be one of them fools that makes hundreds of new songs but none of them are good."
Air — La Voyage dans la Lune (February 7)
Every new release from Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel is an exciting leap of ethereal soundscapes and enchanting scope. With Moon Safari, Talkie Walkie and The Virgin Suicides holding a firm grip on the term "modern classics," we now see the duo enter their French short film adaptation phase: Le Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip To The Moon) is a classic silent film by revered French director Georges Méliès, released in 1902. This legendary 16-minute film is widely considered one of the most important works in film history, and the very first to use science fiction as its theme, incorporating special effects that were very state-of-the-art at the turn of the 19th century. Spurred on by their work on this short movie, AIR decided to develop the project into a full album inspired by the film.
Of Montreal — Paralytic Stalks (February 7)
The band’s label promises “dark ruminations on human existence, revenge, self-hatred, and [Kevin Barnes's] relationship with wife Nina,” while song titles include “We Will Commit Wolf Murder,” “Spiteful Intervention,” and “Exorcismic Breeding Knife.” Casually.
All Photos: Johnny Firecloud
The Mars Volta – (March 27)
The sixth-dimension latin-funk math rockers, founded by vocalist/lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist/composer Omar Rodríguez-López, will be roaring back to life on record in 2012 with their much-anticipated sixth album, rumored to be titled Absentia. While there haven’t been any specific official announcements regarding the band's upcoming LP yet, after traveling the world and rocking the festival circuit throughout 2011 as The Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group the band reclaimed their moniker and toured as The Mars Volta once more, premiering live versions of several new songs. In short, they're beyond awesome.
Nicki Minaj: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (February 14)
Young Money's pink-wigged & thick-assed queen Nicki Minaj has announced plans release her sophomore album Pink Friday:Roman Reloaded on February 14, and with the stabby little taste "Stupid Hoe," it's clear that we're in for some deep sonic lunacy.
The LP, which apparently will be a continuation of her male alter ego 'Roman Zolansk,' has some serious shoes to fill after her platinum-selling debut Pink Friday a year ago. Pink Friday features production styles crossing the genres of pop, hip-hop and R&B, with production from a wide range of producers including J.R. Rotem, Bangladesh, Swizz Beatz, T-Minus and Will.i.am.
Garbage – TBA
The first Garbage release since 2005′s Bleed Like Me is likely going to be a modern leap in a new direction, but wherever Shirley Manson leads us, we'll gladly follow.
Cursive – I Am Gemini (February 21)
The Saddle Creek stalwarts have announced the release of their seventh full-length album as a high-concept story of the surreal tale of Cassius and Pollock, twin brothers separated at birth. One good and one evil, their unexpected reunion in a house that is not a home ignites a classic struggle for the soul, played out with a cast of supporting characters that includes a chorus of angels and devils, and twin sisters conjoined at the head.
Recorded in the summer/fall of 2011 at Omaha, NE’s ARC Studios and mixed at Red Room in Seattle, WA with producer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Minus The Bear, Isis), I Am Gemini is reportedly Cursive’s musically heaviest in years, which is quite literally music to our ears.
U2 – TBA
Originally called Songs of Ascent, U2’s been working on their 13th studio album for nearly three years. The album since is described as something “with a rock ‘n’ roll heart, even if it’s not rock ‘n’ roll music,” according to frontman Bono. Will.i.am and Danger Mouse will co-produce the record, which is tentatively scheduled for release in the fall.
The Shins — Port of Morrow (Spring)
What amounts to essentially a James Mercer solo album (he’s the only original member of The Shins left, and plays most of the instruments) should be a fascinating experience for longtime Shins fans, but the jury's still out on whether Natalie Portman's going to be swooning on this go-round.
Slaughterhouse – TBA (April)
Royce, Joell, Crooked Eye, Joe Budden – the collective known as Slaughterhouse – has signed to Eminem’s Shady Records, and the excitement is palpable around the unit's sophomore release. Budden explained to MTV: "We picking beats in unison. We all going in different rooms, different beats, different verses, different zones so the process is the same but like Joell said we have more time and we have more money allocated to be able to do something. So now we just sit in a session and say ~Hey, maybe Nicki Minaj would sound good on that. I think it's safe to say each one of us are approaching it like it's the most important album of any one of our careers."
Color us excited.
Black Star – Black Star Aretha (TBA)
Yes, Mos Def and Talib Kweli are making a new album — a mixtape inspired by Aretha Franklin, according to the Guardian. Apparently Madlib is on production duties throughout, which pleases us greatly.
Bruce Springsteen – TBA
The first album from The Boss without the late, great Clarence Clemons is expected to bring some strong reflective emotion, and we're hoping for a return to the raw lyricism of early Bruce.
The Knife – TBA
The reclusive Swedish duo announced that they're “recording a new album for 2012″in a post on their website about rights for Romani people, sending fans into a frenzy of excitement. So far, that’s all that’s been revealed, but it's enough to pique our interest in the new year.
Mazzy Star – TBA
No title or release date, but with a promising new single, we're looking forward to the album coming some time this year.
Sabrosa Purr – TBA (March)
Founded by native Floridian Will Love (Guitar/Vox) upon his arrival to California, the power-thrust dirty-strutters of Sabrosa Purr have been cutting their way through LA’s music scene with their two self-produced EPs Volaras and Music From The Violet Room, and one full album To the Crickets And The Ghosts produced by Tracy Chrisholm (Stone Temple Pilots, Scott Weiland). If you've never heard of 'em, strap in. Those who have, you're in for a rockin' little treat.
MGMT – MGMT (TBA)
They’re recording in April, and the album will reportedly be their “stereotypical third album.” These guys sure know how to hype themselves, eh?
No Doubt – TBA
The band are currently working on the follow-up to 2001's Rock Steady, and it will be interesting to see how No Doubt fits in a post-"Hollaback Girl" climate. Tracks slated to appear on the as-yet-untitled album include "Undercover," "Settle Down," "Easy," "Heaven" and "Dreaming The Same Dream". Is one of those the new "Don't Speak"? If Satan exists, then yes, most likely.
Serj Tankian – TBA
The System of a Down frontman was last heard mixing his next solo album, and at a time of the most perilous assault on our rights as Americans in any of our lives, some politically-fueled intelligent incendiaries sound right up our alley.
DO WE DARE?? – Albums We Shouldn't Hope For, But Do
Rage Against The Machine – (TBA)
They proved last year that they can still get along long enough to rock our asses in a live setting, and after completely missing the boat on the most fertile political ground of our lives (the Bush administration's catastrophic eight-year run) there's a greater need than ever to give art a real revolutionary kick in the ass.
Tool – (TBA)
Tool is writing its next record, but if history proves anything, it's that "Tool is writing its next record" doesn't indicate the slightest thing about a release timeline. The group’s last LP was 2006’s 10,000 Days, and the typical five-year waiting period between albums come and gone, there still doesn't seem to be any urgency to get the next batch out. While Keenan has penned potential lyrics for the new material, he’ll wait until Adam Jones and drummer Danny Carey finish refining their trademark maze-like arrangements. “I’m allowing them their space to do what they do, so we’re still in that mode,” Keenan said. “Even if they told me how close they are to being done, I couldn’t tell you because if I say 60 percent people will start counting down. When it’s done everyone will know.” You can't rush greatness.
Outkast / Andre 3000 / Big Boi(TBA)
While we've been hearing about a new Outkast album for years now, it seems as if things may be beginning to materialize in the studio. Andre 3000 is reportedly rapping once more, and is currently putting the finishing touches on his next solo project. Big Boi’s next album, which is going to be called Daddy Fat Sax, is already in the works, and a reunion doesn't seem out of the question. All the same, we're not holding our breath any longer – our faces are already blue from the past several years.
All photos: Johnny Firecloud