Now that January is upon us it is time, as every January, to look forward with some optimism to all the potentially awesome music slated to enter our lives. I've got reasonably high hopes for a lot of records slated to come out in the next three months. As underwhelmed as I ultimately was with indie rock circa 2009, bands like Midlake, Spoon, Four Tet, and the Ruby Suns have all factored significantly into my love of indie in the last five years or so.
Vampire Weekend: Contra (January 12)
Maybe it's a little disingenuous to say I'm "looking forward" to Contra, considering that I've already listened to it twice through since they started streaming it from their MySpace this week. My impression of the record is still fresh and vague, but I'm eager to sink my teeth into a bit more. My initial sense is that it's not terribly different from their debut, barring a few ill-fitting new coats here and there (auto-tune, for instance). How much that's a good thing or bad thing I don't really know yet; but Contra has made a good enough first impression that I want to keep getting to know it.
Spoon: Transference (January 19)
A new Spoon album is both exciting and not exciting. Not exciting because by now you know more or less what to expect: cool, full of swagger, kinda minimalist, exquisitely produced. Exciting because, oh yeah, Spoon are awesome. Two out of their last three albums are the best they ever did, and "not their best" is still pretty damn enjoyable. Of all the albums I'm looking forward to, this is the surest bet and that's fine by me. I thought "Got Nuffin," the single from this record which they released last year, was somewhat run-of-the-mill and not terribly thrilling, but then yesterday I heard "Written in Reverse" and all the thrills were there.
Beach House: Teen Dream (January 26)
Devotion, Beach House's last album, was mostly good or great and a little plodding in spots. It wasn't a perfect record, mostly owing to the band's dedication to their clearly defined aesthetic—slow tempos, drum machine, crystalline guitar, looming organ, and Victoria LeGrand's commanding vocals. That is, it's a beautiful combination but it begins to feel a little stale after a while. What little I've heard of Teen Dream has me at least a little excited. The tempo seems to have picked up in spots and at least a couple of songs have taken on a 70s, Fleetwood Macky vibe. I don't want the whole record to feel like that, but I like the idea that some of the record might feel like that. The slightest variety would go a long way.
- Beach House: Norway
Four Tet: There Is Love In You (January 26)
It's been five years since the last proper Four Tet album, though Kieren Hebden has been busy enough during the interim with his jazz/electronica hybrid albums with Steve Reid and a few sporadic Four Tet EPs and singles. Reemerging full force as Four Tet, it seems Hebden has developed a yen for actual dance music, as opposed to the more heady stuff of his earlier releases. 2008's wonderful Ringer EP reminded me of Orbital—not necessarily a bad thing—and "Love Cry," the first single from There Is Love In You, seems even more tailored toward the rave set. I'm not totally sold on it, but Four Tet's last three albums (plus Ringer) have garnered enough good will that I'm going to trust Hebden's got more up his sleeve.
- Four Tet: Love Cry
Midlake: The Courage of Others (February 2)
Of everything listed here, this is the one I'm looking forward to the most. I must have played The Trials of Van Occupanther for nearly a year straight; it easily stands as one of my favorite records of the last five years. And when I finally tired of that album, I was pleased to find that their debut, Banman and Silvercork, is also quite terrific, if in a less 70s-inspired way. The Courage of Others is an album I've been waiting a good year for, maybe more, so my hopes are probably abnormally high. I've chosen not to listen to any advance mp3s or leaks, and I'm trying not to read too much about the album either (though that's a little hard to do), all in the effort to hear the whole record fresh from start to finish. The cynic in me says that's all probably a recipe for disappointment, but the optimist fanboy in me has told the cynic to shove it.
Shearwater: The Golden Archipelago (February 23)
At the other end of the spectrum, this is probably the one album on this list that I might not actually bother to buy. I spent a good part of 2007 listening to Rooks, and while I liked a lot of it I was also put off by Jason Meiburg's vocal mannerisms in a number of songs. And really, you've got to either love that aspect of Shearwater or hate it. "Castaways," the first single, clearly lets me know that nothing has changed on that front. I liked Rooks at the time, but two years later I rarely feel the desire to put it on. Still, I'm a little curious to hear the new one.
- Shearwater: Castaways
The Ruby Suns: Fight Softly (March 2)
I seem to be the only person, other than my brilliant wife, who really got into the Ruby Suns' last album, 2008's Sea Lion. Something about the watery effects, the world rhythms, the spaciness, the Os Mutantes-meets-Jesus and Mary Chain vibe—it got under my skin and I really dug it. I haven't heard anything about this newest album; should I expect it to be similar to Sea Lion? Should I expect it to be wildly different? I don't think I'd be surprised either way, nor do I think I'd be displeased. This band deserves more love, so keep an eye out for this record.
Am I missing anything? What else should I be excited about? Take a look at the next three months and let me know what's got you stoked.