2020 is a wrap! Despite all the bad parts, it was a really good year for music, and in case you missed it, we recently recapped our favorites with our list of the 55 best albums of 2020, plus our lists of rap, punk/hardcore/emo/etc, metal, screamo, ska, reggae, jazz, and "lost" classic rock that we loved in 2020, and the Indie Basement list.
2021 is shaping up to be a great year for music too. Here are 73 albums we're excited for, across indie rock, hip hop, punk, metal, pop, ska, electronic, and tons more...
Sleaford Mods - Spare Ribs
due 1/15 via Rough Trade
Creative swearing in thick English accents over minimal, punky beats has proven to be a winning, enduring formula for duo Sleaford Mods who capped off 13 years and 10 albums with the 2020 best-of compilation All That Glue. They kick off a new era (and 2021) with their 11th album that continues in the poppier direction of 2019's Eton Alive and features guest appearances from Amyl & The Sniffers' Amy Taylor and, on the killer first single "Mork N Mindy," Billy Nomates.
The Besnard Lakes - Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings
due 1/29 via Fat Cat / Flemish Eye / Full Time Hobby
"Epic" may be an overused term but few bands consistently go big as eloquently as Montreal's The Besnard Lakes. Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is their biggest yet, a 72-minute double LP rumination on death, including a tribute to Talk Talk's Mark Hollis.
Goat Girl - On All Fours
due 1/29 via Rough Trade
For their follow-up to their very good 2018 debut LP, UK group Goat Girl once again worked with producer Dan Carey. Where their first was a rough-and-ragged, guitar-centric record, though, On All Fours adds synthesizers to the mix which, on the singles shared so far, brings bounce to Goat Girl's swaggering sound.
Madlib - Sound Ancestors
due 1/29 via Madlib Invazion
Madlib and Four Tet are two of the most consistently great and innovative producers of the last 20+ years, so it's a match made in heaven that Madlib has a new album on the way made up of music that he sent Four Tet to "arrange, edit, manipulate, and combine."
The Notwist - Vertigo Days
due 1/29 via Morr Music
German group The Notwist's first album in seven years is a collaborative one, with core members Markus & Micha Acher and Cico Beck working with Juana Molina, Ben LaMar Gay, Angel Bat Dawid, Saya of Tenniscoats, and Zayaendo. "We wanted to question the concept of a band by adding other voices and ideas, other languages, and also question or blur the idea of national identity."
Portrayal of Guilt - We Are Always Alone
due 1/29 via Closed Casket Activities
Portrayal of Guilt continue to perfect their mix of black metal, death metal, sceamo, hardcore, post-hardcore, noise, and more, and judging by the singles they've released from their sophomore LP We Are Always Alone so far, this is shaping up to be their best record yet.
The Sonder Bombs - Clothbound
due 1/29 via Take This To Heart/Big Scary Monsters
The Sonder Bombs will follow their great 2018 debut album MODERN FEMALE ROCKSTAR with Clothbound on 1/29, and the singles find them taking their ukulele-fueled indie-pop punk in all kinds of exciting new directions.
Tribulation - Where the Gloom Becomes Sound
1/29 via Metal Blade/Century Media
Swedish band Tribulation have been taking their evil black/death metal sound in more melodic, gothier, trippier, and proggier directions with each album, and we can't wait to find out what they've done with it on this latest LP. (The two singles are great.) It's also their last LP with primary songwriter/guitarist Jonathan Hultén, so that's even more reason not to miss this.
Cult of Luna - The Raging River EP
due 2/5 via Red Creek Recordings
Post-metal greats Cult of Luna released one of our favorite albums of 2019 with A Dawn to Fear, and they're now set to follow it with an EP. It may have less songs, but it is still almost 40 minutes long, and as the nine-minute lead single "Three Bridges" proves, it isn't any less epic. And sweetening the deal is a guest appearance by Mark Lanegan on the song "Inside of A Dream."
slowthai - TYRON
due 2/5 via Method/AWGE/Interscope
UK rapper slowthai's 2019 debut album Nothing Great About Britain felt like an instant classic upon arrival, and it feels just as urgent and original now. slowthai spent 2020 dropping a string of great singles, and now he's got a new LP coming out with appearances by James Blake, Mount Kimbie, Skepta, A$AP Rocky, Denzel Curry, Deb Never, and Dominic Fike. A press release says that the album is split into two distinct halves, one that embraces the "classic hubris, machismo, and braggadocio typical of rap music" and one that shows off a more pensive side.
The Weather Station - Ignorance
due 2/5 via Fat Possum
Tamara Lindeman is about to return with her first Weather Station album in three years and first for Fat Possum, and judging by the singles, this is going to be a more multi-layered, genre-defying record than the vintage-style folk she released in the past.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - New Fragility
due 2/12 via CYHSY/Secretly Distribution
While the days when you might spot David Byrne at a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah show are behind us, Alec Ounsworth has continued to hone his skills as a songwriter. Born out of a dark year, New Fragility finds Ounsworth inspired and the songs shared so far are terrific. If it doesn't end up being CYHSY's best since 2005 it definitely will be the best to feature a song called "CYHSY, 2005."
For Your Health - In Spite Of
due 2/12 via Twelve Gauge
For Your Health shook up the screamo/post-hardcore world with their 2019 split with Shin Guard (Death of Spring), and this year they'll follow it with their first full-length, which makes a major leap from the already-great material on Death of Spring and their Nosebleeds EP. The intense lead single "Birthday Candles in the Effigy" gives you a very good idea of what to expect.
Mogwai - As the Love Continues
due 2/17 via Temporary Residence / Rock Action
Scottish post-rock pioneers Mogwai celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2020, mostly at home due to COVID, and made their 10th album, working virtually with Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann (who also produced 2017's Every Country's Sun). Making their widescreen sound a little grander this time are contributors Atticus Ross (Nine Inch Nails) and saxophonist Colin Stetson (Arcade Fire, Tom Waits, so many others).
Blanck Mass - In Ferneaux
due 2/26 via Sacred Bones
Blanck Mass (aka Benjamin John Power of Fuck Buttons) released one of his best albums yet with 2019's great Animated Violence Mild, and now -- fresh off contributing to Deftones' White Pony remix album -- he'll release a new LP in 2021. Update: album announced!
Julien Baker - Little Oblivions
due 2/26 via Matador
Judging by the first single, "Faith Healer," Julien Baker's official solo follow-up to 2017's Turn Out The Lights will be her most fleshed-out sounding solo album yet. A departure from her more stark, minimalistic material, "Faith Healer" features a full band, drums included, while losing none of the power of Julien's emotionally charged vocals and lyrics. The album -- her first release since 2018's Boygenius EP that had her teamed up with Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers -- was recorded before the pandemic, but we're counting on its arrival to resonate deeply in lockdown all the same.
Arab Strap - As Days Get Dark
due 3/5 via Rock Action
”We're still doing what we always do,” says Arab Strap's Aidan Moffat of the dyspeptic Scottish indie rock duo's first album in 16 years. ”Malcolm [Middleton] gives me some guitar parts then I’ll fuck about with them and put some drum machines and words over the top.” We wouldn't want it any other way.
Teenage Fanclub - Endless Arcade
due 3/5 via Merge
Losing a songwriter as good as Gerard Love, who bowed out of Teenage Fanclub in 2018, would be a blow to any band, but luckily TFC still have two other great singer/songwriters in Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley and now count former Gorky's Zygotic Mynci frontman Euros Childs and Belle & Sebastian's David MacGowan as members. Despite those major lineup shifts, TFC's jangly, harmonious sound is likely to remain unphased.
Tigers Jaw - I Won't Care How You Remember Me
due 3/5 via Hopeless
Judging by the singles, long-running emo/indie-punk band Tigers Jaw appear to be going in more of a power pop direction than ever before on their first album for Hopeless Records, and the new sound suits them well. It's a little more polished, but the songwriting is as strong as ever.
Eyehategod - A History of Nomadic Behavior
due 3/12 via Century Media
Sludge metal legends Eyehategod haven't released an album since their very good 2014 self-titled LP, but that finally changes this year with A History of Nomadic Behavior. Sludge is a crowded space, but nobody does it like Eyehategod, and going by lead single "High Risk Trigger," they've still got it.
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Conway the Machine - God Don’t Make Mistakes
due first quarter via Shady Records
Griselda's Conway the Machine had a hell of a 2020, with his excellent album From King To A GOD (one of our favorites of the year) and two great EPs, and now he's set to follow all that with his first solo album for Eminem's Shady Records (who also put out the Griselda crew album W.W.C.D. and Westside Gunn's Who Made the Sunshine). We haven't heard any of the new album yet, but Conway just gets better and better lately, so -- needless to say -- we are excited.
Chronixx - Dela Splash
due first quarter via Soul Circle
Don't call it a "reggae revival"; the three excellent singles we've heard from Chronixx's upcoming sophomore album have all been forward-thinking, futuristic takes on the genre, and some of the best music he's released yet.
Darkside - Spiral
due Spring 2021 via Matador
Dave Harrington and Nicolas Jaar sent their proggy electronic collaboration Darkside into hibernation not too long after releasing their "Liberty Bell" is excellent.
Lana Del Rey - Chemtrails Over The Country Club
due spring via Interscope
Since releasing Norman Fucking Rockwell! (our second favorite album of 2019), Lana Del Rey did some side projects, but she says 2021 will be the year Norman finally gets its highly anticipated followup, Chemtrails Over The Country Club (which, like Norman, was produced by Jack Antonoff). "I love it. It’s folky. It’s beautiful. It’s super different from Norman," Lana said. This song may or may not be on it:
One Step Closer - This Place You Know
due spring via Triple B Records
We've been anticipating a full-length album from Wilkes-Barre melodic hardcore band One Step Closer ever since hearing their great 2019 EP From Me To You. We got the very good new single "Lead to Gray" in 2020, and now we get the title, artwork, and estimated release date for their LP. You know you wanna hear a hardcore record with art like this:
"My album’s not finished," Adele said when hosting SNL in 2020, but at least we know it exists, and maybe 2021 will be the year we finally get a followup to the world-conquering 25.
Alexis Marshall (of Daughters)
Daughters released their great comeback album You Won't Get What You Want in 2018, and now vocalist Alexis Marshall is preparing to release his debut solo album via Sargent House in 2021. Most info is TBA, but he recently released a standalone single from the sessions, and it's a great dose of gothy post-punk.
Arcade Fire's Win Butler said he's sitting on a lot of new material for the band, and then the band debuted a new song on Colbert. Win said in April that the music was coming "eventually...not soon," so we don't know for sure if it'll arrive in 2021, but we hope.
Archers of Loaf
We were anticipating the first new album from indie rock greats Archers of Loaf last year but the pandemic put the kibosh on that. We did meanwhile get great new single "Raleigh Days," and hopefully there's more where that came from.
The impossible-to-pin-down punk/metal/everything band The Armed recently dropped a ridiculously good song on the Cyberpunk 2077 soundtrack, and if that's a sign of what to expect from their next LP, consider us very excited.
Billie Eilish took pop and indie by storm with her 2019 debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, which helped change the face of mainstream music and led to a historic Grammy sweep. Can she keep the momentum going on LP2? Going by how strong (and popular) new single "Therefore I Am" is, the answer might be yes.
Genre-defying post-hardcore band Brutus released a great new single in 2020, and they say more new music is coming in 2021.
The Callous Daoboys
The Callous Daoboys' 2019 LP Die On Mars is a killer offering of mathy, theatrical metalcore that sounds like a mix of Botch and Every Time I Die (or something), and they recently signed to Modern Static Records, who will release their next LP in 2021. That's all we know for now, but we can't wait to learn more.
Cardi B's instant-classic 2018 debut album Invasion of Privacy (which we named one of the 10 best rap albums of the 2010s) hasn't aged one bit, and her cultural dominance is stronger than ever. "WAP" was the song of 2020, and it wasn't even close.
Philly's Catbite offered up a unique, refreshing mix of power pop, 2 Tone ska, rock & roll, and more on their great 2019 self-titled debut album, and after staying busy in 2020 (they released a split with Omnigone, contributed a song to Ska Against Racism, did a bunch of livestreams, etc), they finally put the finishing touches on LP2 earlier this month.
Alabama rapper/singer Chika had been on the rise for a few years but in 2020 she really blew up. She put out her great Industry Games EP and was later named an XXL Freshman and then nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy. With all this momentum behind her, she's gearing up to release a new project on Warner in 2021, led by the single "FWB."
While there's been no official word about a new Courtney Barnett album, it's been almost three years since Tell Me How You Really Feel. She did play three new songs at her full-band livestream show in mid-December -- one of those is titled "Write a List of Things to Look Forward To," and we're happy to oblige.
Robert Smith said in 2019 that The Cure had three new albums on the way and 2020 saw the release of none of them. We'll be fine with two this year. Come on, Bob!
Denzel Curry - Melt My Eyez, See Your Future
Year after year after year, Denzel Curry releases genuinely great albums. He's been working on yet another one, and recently revealed its title.
Deafheaven were supposed to do a 10th anniversary tour in 2020, which obviously couldn't happen, so instead they released the live-in-studio album of the setlist they planned to play on tour, 10 Years Gone. In a recent interview with The Pit, frontman George Clarke says the band has been creating again, so maybe 2021 will bring an entirely new LP.
Following two terrific 2019 EPs, wiry, angular UK band Dry Cleaning signed to 4AD and went into the studio with John Parish (PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding) behind the boards. While there hasn't been an official announcement about their debut album, new single "Scratchcard Lanyard" bodes well.
Rising Portland metalcore band (and Knocked Loose collaborators) Dying Wish signed to SharpTone in 2020, put out the great new single "Innate Thirst," and got to work on their debut LP. "This time, we promise it’s coming this year," they recently tweeted.
Earl just gets better and better (his latest, Feet of Clay, was one of our favorites of 2019), and The Alchemist spilled the beans in December that the rapper born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile has something on the way. "Thebe in rare form," he tweeted, before adding, "Wait till u hear the new."
Every Time I Die
Long-running metalcore icons Every Time I Die just put out a truly killer two-song single, and they're promising that their Will Putney-produced ninth LP will arrive this year via Epitaph. If it's anything like the new singles, it's gonna rip.
Michigan emo/pop punk band Fireworks returned from hiatus in 2019 with their most ambitious song yet, the post-rock/art-rock-inspired "Demitasse," and they seemed to suggest a new album called Higher Lonely Power would follow. We didn't get it in 2020, but here's to hoping we do in 2021!
FKA twigs returned with her stunning sophomore album Magdalene in 2019, and it looks like we won't have long to wait until her next album, either. Speaking to Scott Goldman on Grammy Museum's Programs at Home series, FKA twigs said she made a whole album while in coronavirus quarantine, working with El Guincho and other collaborators over FaceTime. El Guincho, who has previously collaborated with Rosalía, and Bjork, among others, seems like a natural match to FKA twigs' unique, experimental style.
Foxing sadly parted ways with longtime guitarist Ricky Sampson, but the good news is they've been working on their fourth album with Manchester Orchestra's Andy Hull. We named its 2018 predecessor Nearer My God the second best punk or emo album of the 2010s, so needless to say, we are excited.
Okay seriously, where's the album, Frank???
Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner is releasing her first book this year, Crying in H Mart, and after playing new songs on a May livestream, she's confirmed that Japanese Breakfast's third album in on the way, too. She said she wrote a lot of it on piano, and we're eager to hear how that might influence the band's dream pop sound.
Jeremy Hunter is a very big reason that ska is having a moment right now, thanks to building up a big following of new ska fans with their Skatune Network covers project, their constant dedication to hyping up new ska bands on social media, and playing in the great band We Are The Union. On top of all that, Jeremy makes original music as JER, and after releasing three great singles in 2020, they're set to release their debut album on Bad Time Records this year.
Joey Bada$$ had a pretty solid 2020, sounding better than ever on his three-pack single The Light Pack and with some key guest verses like the ones on Westside Gunn and Statik Selektah's albums, and he said in late 2020 that he's almost done with the followup to 2017's great All-Amerikkkan Badass.
"I spend the whole year just thinking about how I’m gonna execute a new sound, I can’t do the same thing over and over," Kendrick said last year. "I need something to get me excited." Every album Kendrick's done so far has been noticeably different than the last, and it sounds like this new one will be no exception (it might be rock-influenced). We're hoping the long-awaited LP finally sees the light of day in 2021, and our expectations are high. As Kendrick reminded the world with his great verse on Busta Rhymes' album last year, he's still at the top of his game.
For the follow-up to her great 2017 sophomore album Melodrama, Lorde is taking inspiration from a 2019 trip to Iceland. She's releasing a photo book documenting her travels, which she told Newshub also led to her choosing an album title. There's no release date yet, but Lorde seemed excited by her progress earlier in 2019, saying, "The work is so fucking good, my friend. I am truly jazzed for you to hear it."
Philadelphia punks Mannequin Pussy's made their best album yet with 2019's Patience. They've hinted that their fourth is done now, too, tweeting that the new songs include "1 classic MP song. 1 pop song. 1 sad bitch bedroom song. 1 happy slut bad-bitch song. 1 Bear song. These songs make up our collective feelings over this stupid fucking year." Producer Will Yip calls them "bonkers," which has us all the more excited.
Noname - Factory Baby
In 2019, Noname said the followup to her decade-defining Room 25 would be called Factory Baby, but then she said she might quit rap, but then she released one of 2020's best songs, the Madlib-produced "Song 33." We don't really know what her next moves are, but we hope they include releasing that new album this year.
The current wave of OSDM-inspired bands continues to grow, but there are also some actual OSDMers still killing it, like Obituary whose influence can also be heard in some of the most exciting newer hardcore bands. Their last album (their 2017 self-titled LP) was genuinely great, as was their 2019 single "A Dying World," so we're very excited that they're eyeing the first half of 2021 for a new record.
We sadly lost Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest in March 2016, just a few months before the release of Tribe's excellent comeback album We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service, but that album wasn't the only music that Phife left behind. There's been talk of a solo album for years, and Phife's former groupmates say 2021 is the year we'll get to hear it.
One of 2020's very best new punk bands was Baltimore's Pinkshift, who released an increasingly good run of singles and plan to put out an EP and/or album too. They recently told us that they "have the material written, and there are plans to release the songs in entirety (hopefully sooner rather than later)."
Pusha T's Kanye-produced Daytona is one of the best rap albums of the 2010s and his Neptunes-produced albums with Clipse are some of the most classic rap albums of the early 2000s, so it's very exciting news that Kanye and The Neptunes are handling the production of his next album.
Will 2021 be the year we finally get R9?
Robert Glasper - Black Radio 3
Robert Glasper is constantly busy, but he hasn't released a Black Radio album since 2013. That'll finally change with the third edition in 2021. Usually Glasper loads the Black Radio albums with cool hip hop and neo-soul guests, and so far we know two of them: lead single "Better Than I Imagined" features H.E.R. and Meshell Ndegeocello.
Flamenco-inspired Barcelona art pop singer Rosalía has been very busy the past couple years with no lack of new singles and collaborations, but she hasn't released an album since 2018's excellent El Mal Querer. That's supposed to change in quarter 1 of 2021 with her third album, as she recently told Vogue. "This is the moment, I think, where everything is flowing, I’m finishing the songs, and it feels different than the beginning of the year. Now I’m closing the cycle of these recordings, and I’m really happy with them."
Saweetie - Pretty B.I.T.C.H Music
One of 2020's most undeniable singles was LA rapper Saweetie's "Tap In," and she's now finally gearing up for a full-length, Pretty B.I.T.C.H Music. "I know I am known for my nostalgic early 2000s aesthetic, but I want this album to be timeless," she told Teen Vogue. "I want this to be absolutely perfect."
SeeYouSpaceCowboy's 2019 debut album The Correlation Between Entrance (one of our favorites of that year) took the sounds of early 2000s sassy/white belt post-hardcore and made them feel startlingly fresh. It remains one of the best albums of its kind in recent memory, and they've confirmed that it gets a followup in 2021.
UK shoegaze icons Slowdive returned to us after a 20 year absence, first just to play some shows but then they made a new album -- 2017's self-titled -- which was one of the best records of that year. While there's been no official announcement of its follow-up, back in September Rachel Goswell posted pictures of the band in the studio back in October with the hashtag #LP5. When we posted about it, Slowdive Tweeted, "We are indeed."
If it hadn't been for the pandemic, Spoon might've had their 10th album out already. The band were working in Austin with British producer Mark Rankin (Adele, Queens of the Stone Age), going for a more live sound than 2017's Hot Thoughts, and had it nearly done when COVID brought everything to a halt in mid-March. Judging by 2019 single "No Bullets Spent", which they made with Rankin, Spoon are in good hands.
Annie Clark's excellent 2017 album MASSEDUCTION was her glossiest, most accessible release yet, but from the hints she's dropped about its follow up, which is due out this year, she's headed in an entirely new direction. Calling the new work "a tectonic shift," she told Mojo in a recent interview, "I felt I had gone as far as I could possibly go with angularity. I was interested in going back to the music I've listened to more than any other -- Stevie Wonder records from the early '70s, Sly And The Family Stone. I studied at the feet of those masters." It's expected to come out in late spring or summer, and we can't wait to hear it.
State Fault took a long six years to finally release their 2019 album Clairvoyant (one of our favorite screamo albums of that year), and it looks like it won't be taking them as long to follow that one, going by this tweet:
SZA's 2017 debut album Ctrl was one of the very best albums of the decade, and it looks like 2021 is the year we'll finally get its highly anticipated followup. If new songs "Hit Different" and "Good Days" are anything to go by, we have a good feeling about whatever else she has in store.
When Tierra Whack's Whack World arrived in 2018, it sounded like almost no other rap coming out at the time, and it quickly took the music world by storm, winning over giants like Beyonce, Solange, Flying Lotus, and more. She's released a ton of great singles since then (including her recent "Peppers and Onions" and "Feel Good"), and she continues to promise a new album is on the way.
Turnstile really leveled up with TIME & SPACE, a melodic, psychedelic, genre-defying hardcore album that was one of the year's best. We've been very excited to hear what they do next, and this year we'll find out.
Last year, Vein.FM (fka Vein) released the very cool, not-your-average remix album Old Data in a New Machine Vol. 1, and the announcement promised "a new album is coming soon, so stay tuned." Their 2018 debut errorzone was one of the best debuts of this whole recent metalcore resurgence, and the Deftones-y single from the remix album has us very curious about what they'll do next.
Weyes Blood made our favorite album of 2019 so we are very excited to what she does next. With the pandemic cancelling her Titanic Rising tour plans in 2020, she got to work on the new album and told Rolling Stone she plans to have it ready for this year, but whether it will be out before Christmas remains to be seen. “It depends on fate, because you can’t just put something out once it’s done,” she says. “You have to wait for the pressing plants and everybody to be able to do it. So probably more like 2022, but I would love to get something up next year.” Let's hope fate and 2021 make time for it.
What albums are you looking forward to this year?