With just a month under our belt, I must say 2008 has been awfully good, sonically speaking: Cat Power made her sultry and long-overdue return to covers; Vampire Weekend’s so-called "Upper West Side Soweto" style has everyone in the tri-state area doing the rhumba; not to mention the cow-punk of Drive-By Truckers and garage-rock foot stomps of the Whigs continuing the Athens, Ga., legacy. But what about the next 11 months? Who’s making a valiant return? And what brand-spankin’-new artists are going to rise up out of obscurity? In order of anxiousness, here are 10 albums I can’t hardly wait to tear the packaging off of — or click the download button for, as the case may be.
My Morning Jacket (pictured), Evil Urges, June 10
It’s been almost three solid years since we’ve heard anything new from the echo-y vox of Jim James & Co. He teased us with Calexico, singing that sublime rendition of Dylan’s "Goin’ to Acapulco" for the I’m Not There soundtrack in 2007. (I was lucky enough to see him perform it live at the Beacon Theater back in November, my only disappointment being that the shaggy hair was no more.) For Evil Urges, just the band’s second major studio release on ATO, MMJ promises more Kentucky two-step and some calypso. James has even been reported as saying a little of that old-time gospel has caught hold of him — which might actually get me up for church on Sunday morning.
Wolf Parade, As yet untitled, spring 2008
Spencer Krug is a machine. No, really. Somehow he of the manic vox found the time to release two debut albums with two different bands in 2005 (Sunset Rubdown and Wolf Parade); follow up with two more in 2006 (with Sunset and second side project Swan Lake); and deliver one of my top-10 albums of last year in Sunset’s Random Spirit Lover. Krug’s sidekick (and Wolf Parade’s Adderall, if you will) Dan Boeckner even tinkered around with the drum-kit during his spare time in ’07, resulting in Handsome Furs. The two reunite and try and match the critical acclaim of their debut, if that’s possible. You’ll likely hear more soaring guitars, more strobing synths, and, apparently, a 12-minute song that evokes, er, Slayer? If anyone can pull it off, it’s these Canadians.
Black Keys, Attack & Release, April 1
Just forget the White Stripes’ comparisons. Without prefix, suffix, or apology, Black Keys play the blues. And it’s damn good, too. A year and a half removed from the gritty rawk of Magic Potion, the Keys were flipping the script, enlisting Danger Mouse and Ike Turner for what was to be the band’s fifth album and first proper studio record. Even though Ike’s passing put a damper on things, Danger Mouse’s stamp is still on Release — although it’s nothing "Crazy."
Gnarls Barkley, The Odd Couple, April 2008
Speaking of Danger Mouse, the mulit-tasking producer has put together another mashup of uncoventional beats to go with Cee-Lo Green’s uber-tenor. The duo said it won’t be too far removed from 2006′s St. Elsewhere. Which begs the adage, if it ain’t broke, well, you know…
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Fleet Foxes, Self-titled, summer 2008
Already referenced as "one to watch" in last week’s EW, this recent Sub Pop signee is releasing a tour EP as it treks from Seattle to NYC with Blitzen Trapper.A little less freak folky than their tourmates, Fleet Foxes has enoughof a reverb-laden sound to draw quick comparisons to MMJ and labelmatesBand of Horses — only I detect more of a Rocky Mountain spring aesthetic, than a backwoods creek.
Sun Kil Moon, April, April 1
A minimalist title for a minimalist frontman. From Red House Paintersto Sun Kil Moon, Mark Kozelek’s folk-tinged songs have aged like awhiskey in oak, much more defined and poignant with each passing year.2003′s boxer-tragedy piece Ghosts of the Great Highway was a debut that you didn’t want to end, while 2005′s Modest Mouse-inspired Tiny Cities was less so. Here’s hoping Kozelek’s return to the ring will pack as much punch as Highway.
Weezer, The Pure Sound of Weezer, April 22
Besides being released on Earth Day (and yours truly’s b-day), it’ll beinteresting to see if the 15-year-old West Coast rock group returns tothe organic days of The Blue Album for its sixth release.
Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s, Animal!, 2008
After much critical acclaim for its 2005 debut, Dust of Retreat,the Indianoplis-based indie-pop octet has been touring relentlessly,and we’ll see what two-year’s worth of buzz has done for their wry yetsugary sound.
Los Campesinos!, Hold on Now, Youngster, February 28
With what will probably be the freshest breath of twee-pop air thisyear, the debut LP from this seven-member Wales group already has theInternet abuzz. Just listen: "You? Me? Dancing!"
UPDATE: On Tuesday morning, Jan. 29, PopWatch learned that the previously untitled Gnarls Barkley album will be called The Odd Couple, and Sub Pop let us know that Wolf Parade’s album may not be called Pardon My Blues but is still currently untitled. We’ve corrected this post accordingly.