Anticipating Albums in 2019

Published

Axel Koch
Music Columnist

What’s going to happen with Brexit? When will Donald Trump get impeached? Will the Beast from the East make a comeback? What cardinal direction or city of the United States will Kanye West and Kim Kardashian name their next child after? Predicting what 2019 will hold in store for the world of music is just as hazy and chaotic as the current state of the world in general. What conclusions can we draw from the fact that the UK Christmas number one last year was literally a song about sausage rolls, or that the soundtrack to one of the worst musicals in recent memory spent 25 weeks atop the British album charts, becoming the year’s best-selling album? Also: what is actually going to be released? With streaming occupying a more and more dominant force in music sales most major stars have switched to releasing singles or albums with little to no advance promotion, making the question of whether we are going to hear music from the likes of Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, or Rihanna this year a game of “Guess Who?”, as arbitrary as trying to predict which of Theresa May’s ministers will resign next. With that in mind, here are 11 albums that we are definitely (well, most likely) going to hear in 2019.

American Football – American Football
I still can’t quite believe that the almost mythological Midwest emo band American Football – three college kids making music together for just long enough to release one masterpiece and then disband, seemingly forever – are now apparently on a regular schedule of touring and writing new music. Their 2016 return still remains in the shadow of their début for me, but the intriguing single “Silhouettes”, released late last year, suggests that their third album (due 22 March) could represent a more experimental update on the band’s trademark sound of autumnal guitars and jazzy rhythms. If nothing else, releasing a third album with the exact same name as the two before will at least make life amusingly difficult for list-keepers everywhere.

Rammstein – TBA
I still remember when the last album from German rockers Rammstein was released in 2009, but I also remember still being young enough to be utterly scandalised by the fact that the music video to their song “Pussy” was in fact a porno with the band members’ faces superimposed over the actors’. Here’s hoping that this late in their career, Rammstein will stop trying to win attention from their shock tactics and focus on their music instead. Their as-of-yet untitled seventh studio album is set to be released in spring.

Gesaffelstein – Hyperion
It’s been six years since his début album, Aleph, but the French producer hasn’t remained quiet, collaborating with the likes of Kanye West, Jean-Michel Jarre, and The Weeknd (although his collaborations with the latter tended to be overshadowed by the R&B crooner’s distinctive style). 2019 could be the year that Mike Lévy finally breaks through into the mainstream with the release of Hyperion.

Ariana Grande – thank u, next
Despite all the media attention and airplay she’s been getting for several years, Ariana Grande actually scored her first US #1 only last November with “thank u, next”, the eponymous lead single to the pop diva’s next full-length album (no release date as of yet). 2018 held successes and tragedies alike for the 25-year-old singer, with the overdose of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller and the breaking off of her engagement to Pete Davidson, but it remains to be seen as to whether Grande will manage to channel her tumultuous personal life into more interesting music than on last year’s relatively bland Sweetener.

Sleater-Kinney – TBA
I wasn’t as impressed with Sleater-Kinney’s 2015 return album No Cities to Love as some, and as such I wasn’t dying with anticipation for the next batch of music from the legendary Riot Grrrl trio. Until, that is, news came out that their next project, expected sometime this year, is being produced by none other than Annie Clarke of St. Vincent, suggesting a fascinating meeting of minds between feminist indie icons.

The 1975 – Notes on a Conditional Form
I’m still somewhat perplexed by just how much I enjoyed The 1975’s eclectic yet cohesive A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, but the quick follow-up to that album could go both ways. Will it be a rich addition to the preceding album, expanding on the first one’s ideas and style while still functioning as a stand-alone set of music, an Amnesiac to a Kid A; or will it end up being nothing but a dump of forgettable B-sides, like the Gorillaz’ The Fall after Plastic Beach? We’ll find out in May.

Carly Rae Jepsen – TBA
Carly Rae Jepsen’s commercial success has taken a steep dip since her international mega-hit “Call Me Maybe” back in 2011. But far away from the charts, the Canadian synth-pop queen has established herself as a reliable purveyor of pop songs so catchy they should be illegal. Her fourth album is as yet unnamed and without a release date, but has been confirmed to be in the works, lead single “Party for One” already stoking up excitement for a brand new collection of infectious and uplifting pop.

Opeth – TBA
The legends of progressive metal are back in the studio for a 13th studio album, twenty years after the release of their magnum opus Still Life. While the Swede’s last three albums saw them softening their sound, not always to the delight of their fan base, guitarist Fredrik Åkesson has promised that the new album, expected in the first quarter of 2019, will be “more complex [and] more energetic”.

Kanye West – Yandhi
With songs such as the confusingly political (or politically confusing?) “Ye vs. the People”, Kanye West is making it more and more difficult to separate his erratic public life from his erratic, possibly genius work as a musician. No one really knows what’s going to happen next with Yandhi (least of all West himself, probably), but its longer gestation period compared with 2018’s good, but never great ye leaves hope that his ninth solo album might present a more coordinated musical vision, perhaps expanding on his inspired psychedelic experimentation with Kid Cudi under the KIDS SEE GHOSTS tag.

Grimes – TBA
Speaking of musicians having their art subsumed by their private lives, Grimes spent most of 2018 in a highly publicised relationship with Elon Musk, leading to bizarre iMessage fights with Azealia Banks and celebrity magazines hilariously struggling to describe the Canadian pop experimentalist (quote Cosmopolitan: “certainly an extremely rad person […] the story behind her name is deeply LOL”). But at the end of the year, Grimes did finally release some new music for an album first announced last autumn. “We Appreciate Power” was a confounding mixture of industrial rock, J-pop, and dystopian (possibly utopian, depending on who you ask) lyrical themes of technological takeover that have very much whet my appetite for another album-length dose of weirdness from Grimes.

Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell
To be completely honest, this is the only album I’m actively anticipating this year. Lana Del Rey hasn’t come through with a completely cohesive and consistent album since her 2012 breakthrough, Born to Die, but all the singles teasing up to the exquisitely titled Norman Fucking Rockwell, scheduled for the 29 March, have hinted at a more self-aware, more romantic, and even more 60s-obsessed iteration of the singer. And while the 10-minute psychedelic freak-out of “Venice Bitch” might prove a false herring for the direction of the album, it was also one of the very best songs of 2018.