36 Albums We Can’t Wait to Hear in 2019

Written by on January 7, 2019

Photo: Photo Illustration: Maya Robinson/Vulture

Last year, we were bombarded by big-deal releases. Beyoncé and Jay-Z released an album together. Kanye West was involved in no less than five albums in as many weeks. Christina Aguilera made a comeback and the year was so packed that it barely got noticed. Mariah Carey came in at the end of 2018 with a lean, thoroughly modern album that is still yielding great moments … we could go on, but the point remains: There’s a wealth of great music out there, and 2019 is going to bring plenty more. Below are some highlights from the year ahead, including some wild speculation.

Deerhunter, Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared (1/18)

Deerhunter co-founder Bradford Cox writes pointed songs about inner turmoil, but this month’s Why Hasn’t Everything Disappeared? turns his focus outward as he surveys a world in political and ecological disarray through a song cycle informed by recent and historical tragedy. In place of the jangly guitars of Deerhunter albums past is a collection of stately acoustic guitar, piano, and harpsichord compositions that have more in common with old Byrds and Kinks records than anything on Microcastle or Monomania. —Craig Jenkins

Maggie Rogers, Heard It in a Past Life (1/18)

Maggie Rogers gained some notoriety after, having played a song for Pharrell while he was visiting her class at NYU, he compared her songwriting to Stevie Wonder’s. She signed on to open for Mumford & Sons, released a bunch of singles — all earworms rooted in modern pop, but with a depth and sadness that permeate even the euphoric moments — and then got to be the musical guest on SNLHeard It in a Past Life is her debut album, and she did all that before it even came out. —Sam Hockley-Smith

Pedro the Lion, Phoenix (1/18)

Seattle singer-songwriter David Bazan hasn’t made a Pedro the Lion record in 15 years, partly because his interests carried him away from the lean indie rock nuggets of the Pedro classics Control and It’s Hard to Find a Friend and into the synth-pop textures of his 2005 Headphones side project and the folkier vistas he visited in a string of pensive solo albums. Returning to Pedro for this year’s Phoenix meant revisiting the writing and recording process, i.e., assembling a scrappy three-piece rock album from the ground up, on his own. His instincts paid off; Phoenix is Bazan’s best work in years and a worthy successor to a back catalog beloved by indie rock and emo fans for over 20 years. —CJ

Sharon Van Etten, Remind Me Tomorrow (1/18)

There’s a certain career arc that seems increasingly rare in today’s musical landscape. If an artist is lucky, they may move from promising newcomer to genre vanguard, and then toward veteran-who-can-do-no-wrong, even though they sometimes actually do wrong. This last status is typically reserved for older artists: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen … but Bill Callahan, Will Oldham, and Cat Power should all be folded into these categories, and it’s time to put Sharon Van Etten there, too. Remind Me Tomorrow is her best album to date, but she’s surely got plenty more greatness in her. —SHS

Steve Gunn, The Unseen In-Between (1/18)

Every Steve Gunn song is hypnotic. The way his voice lilts with his guitar might lull you into a sort of half-awake state, but it’s his chops as a songwriter that’ll keep you coming back. His recently released single “Stonehurst Cowboy,” a tribute to his late father, approaches family history, and how stories can become legends, with reverence and grace. The rest of The Unseen In-Between is just as good. —SHS

Toro y Moi, Outer Peace (1/18)

We’re now ten years on from 2009’s stoned, blissful “summer of chillwave,” when Neon Indian, Washed Out, and Memory Tapes put out singles that sounded like beautiful funk sides melted in the sun. Since 2009’s woozy, delicate “Blessa,” Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi has built a solid catalog of wistful dance pop and indie rock tunes that flex his versatility while maintaining a warm, familiar sound. This year’s Outer Peace is another balanced platter of heady grooves that adds wry, self-deprecating trap to the singer and multi-instrumentalist’s formidable arsenal of vibes. —CJ

DAWN, New Breed (1/25)

Singer, producer, and actress Dawn Richard returns from the intergalactic odyssey detailed in her Heart album trilogy — comprising 2013’s Goldenheart, 2015’s Blackheart, and 2016’s Redemption — on this January’s New Breed. The new album is a love letter to the people and culture of the sometime Danity Kane singer’s hometown of New Orleans and a subtle pivot away from the space-age electronic music she cut her teeth on as a solo artist. New Breed adorns Dawn’s rich voice with a smart blend of soul, trap, funk, reggae, and screw music, pushing boundaries and challenging conventions but never losing focus. —CJ

Say Anything, Oliver Appropriate (1/25)

Say Anything front man Max Bemis is stepping aside from his flagship band this year to take care of his family and sort through mental health struggles detailed in a long “goodbye summation” published to the band’s website this summer. Before he takes a break, Bemis will release Oliver Appropriate, a concept album inspired by Say Anything’s own … Is a Real Boy album and the unrequited love stories of Alex, I Am Nothing, by his friends in the North Carolina punk band Museum Mouth. Oliver imagines an epilogue to the rock star paranoia of … Is a Real Boy as it catalogs the future of drugs, nostalgia, and fear of letting go at the end of the protagonist’s time in the spotlight. It’s the quietest Say Anything album, but even amid Oliver’s sedate, acoustic sing-alongs, Bemis remains biting and vibrant. —CJ

James Blake, Assume Form (1/25)

Rumor has it that James Blake is dropping an album at the end of this month, and that it’ll feature Rosalia and Travis Scott and Andre 3000, which is good news for anyone who enjoys downer electronic jams that treat breakups and romance as a concept in general with the kind of hushed reverence normally devoted to witnessing the Northern Lights for the first time. This isn’t a bad thing! Blake has perfected the art of the sad electronic song, and he’s also coming off of a year that involved contributions to some pretty major albums, including Travis Scott’s Astroworld, and the still very excellent “King’s Dead.”—SHS

Girlpool, What Chaos Is Imaginary (2/1)

Girlpool’s debut, Before the World Was Big, was intimate and wide-eyed — a touching look at youth and friendship and tragedy. The follow-up, Powerplant, lost some of the intimacy of that first LP, but still managed to sound like wisdom whispered to you by your best friend. It was clear then that Girlpool had no interest in recreating the same album over and over (and if they did, they would’ve had enough goodwill to keep it going for a couple more records at the very least). Their third full-length, What Chaos Is Imaginary, is expansive but still personal, the kind of album made by artists who sound older than their years. —SHS

Beirut, Gallipoli (2/1)

Named after the Italian town where Beirut’s Zach Condon wrote the album, Gallipoli looks to be an organ-heavy album that, like previous Beirut records, sounds cannily retro but builds subtly upon itself with more modern sounds. Also, the dude wrote this album in an Italian town. What did you do in an Italian town? Sometimes being a musician sounds like a pretty sweet deal. —SHS

Cass McCombs, Tip of the Sphere (2/8)

In the book I Was Looking for a Street, writer Charles Willeford recounts his young years as a hobo during the Great Depression. It’s not a romantic book. Willeford writes about the hard truths of life in an unsentimental and straightforward way. The musician Cass McCombs, who also writes about strained moments, quiet epiphanies, and hard times, has a lot in common with Willeford, to the point that I semi-arbitrarily group them together in my head all the time. The difference, though, is that McCombs never seems to lose faith in human beings. Part of that could be due to his voice: it’s slightly nasal, but goes down like honey. —SHS

HEALTH, Vol 4: Slaves of Fear (2/8)

Is 2019 officially the year of the nu-metal resurgence? This is not the first year someone has posited as the time when we’d finally critically reevaluate the maligned genre, but to my ears, it’s the first year where it feels like musicians of other genres will successfully interpolate aspects of nu-metal into their sound. Enter HEALTH’s Vol 4: Slaves of Fear, a whirlwind of an album pulsing with fury that evokes the primal elements of nu metal without, you know, actually being nu metal. —SHS

Jessica Pratt, Quiet Signs (2/8)

Imagine an old world where, upon waking up, there was no Twitter to check. No cell phone to use for anything at all. Things are slower and quieter, and everyone is, like, 10 percent more oblivious about everything than they are now. Jessica Pratt’s music — hushed, intimate, and perpetually beautiful — is a nod to simpler times, but not in that overly self-conscious way that posits the past as objectively better than the present. Instead, she’s part of a long lineage of folk music that quietly dazzles the more you return to it. Quiet Signs is as good as 2015’s On Your Own Love Again, which is as good as 2012’s Jessica Pratt—SHS

Panda Bear, Buoys (2/8)

Panda Bear’s Person Pitch was such a distinct and out-of-the-ordinary release that it feels like the artist, Noah Lennox, has been trying to escape its sparse, dub-y, watery aesthetic ever since. His records have gotten incrementally busier and trippier in the intervening decade; by 2015’s Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, Lennox’s productions bore a closer resemblance to genre-hopping UK dance pioneers like Primal Scream and the Stone Roses than the hooky experimental pop of his other project, Animal Collective. This year, Buoys carries Lennox back out to sea, quite literally so in the first line of opener “Dolphin.” The new music filters the aquatic sonics of Person Pitch through the refined structures of more recent Panda Bear outings. It’s the kind of record he should be making — a little bit of the past informed by the lessons of the present. —CJ

Weezer, The Black Album (3/1)

If SNL’s bizarre Weezer sketch taught us anything, it’s that there is apparently still a robust public market for arguing about Weezer. If you’re like Matt Damon and unabashedly love Weezer’s more recent albums, then you’re probably excited for The Black Album; if you’re like Leslie Jones and you hold the opinion that Weezer fell off after Pinkerton or, maybe, like, some of the Green Album, then you’re probably cautiously excited for The Black Album, which may or may not be a return to form for the band. But should they even go back to their roots? Maybe the Weezer we have now — the Weezer of Hurley and Raditude — is the real Weezer. Still, a couple years ago, Rivers Cuomo said that The Black Album was “maybe going to be like Beach Boys gone bad,” which is an interesting framework. —SHS

American Football, LP3 (3/22)

With the release of March’s LP3, Chicago emo outfit American Football will officially have made more music since reuniting in 2014 than it did in its brief but beloved late-’90s heyday. LP3 hews closer in spirit to patient LP1 jams like “Honestly?” than the catchy, compact tunes of their 2016 comeback album. The band’s trademark gauzy math rock moods and sentimental lyricism haven’t lost any luster, but this time there are famous guests! Hayley Williams of Paramore, Rachel Goswell of Slowdive, and Elizabeth Powell of Quebec indie rock trio Land of Talk all pop in to trade vocals with singer-guitarist Mike Kinsella. —CJ

Lil Pump, Harverd Dropout (TBA)

Lil Pump and Kanye’s “I Love It” was one of the biggest songs of last year, so it’s pretty safe to assume that Pump’s Harverd Dropout is being positioned as a Post Malone-esque chameleonic superstar-in-the-making arrival album. If those connotations bother you, think about it this way: Sometimes the major label music machine so successfully molds and sculpts an artist that they become a sort of platonic pop ideal, and sometimes those platonic pop ideals offer up so many conflicting ideas and musical viewpoints that despite being hugely popular, they can’t help but be really, really weird. Lil Pump’s musical viewpoint is not yet fully formed, so it’ll be interesting to see where he takes this one. —SHS

Ariana Grande, Thank U, Next (TBA)

In the race to be as prolific as inhumanly possible, Ariana Grande has taken the lead. Moving on from August’s Sweetener, she’s set to release her second album in less than six months, following yet another year from hell in which she lost two important men in her life: Mac Miller and Pete Davidson. Both the viral title track “Thank U, Next” and the soaring mid-tempo ballad “Imagine” have hinted at even deeper levels of reflection from Ari, who was just about as emotionally naked as it gets on Sweetener post-Manchester and her breakup from Mac Miller. So, uh, about not having any tears left to cry? False alarm, folks. —Dee Lockett

Rihanna, TBA

You can all stop harassing Rihanna now; the album is coming! Or should we say, albums? Rih has confirmed that #R9, the follow-up to 2016’s Anti, will bless our lives in 2019 and scrub 2018 from memory. According to reports, she’s plotting a double whammy — one reggae album and a second, poppier album. There hasn’t been a single nanosecond of advance music to tide us over, just the odd tease from the studio. But one piece of evidence to support the reggae album theory? Rih recently began following Jamaican dancehall star Buju Banton on Instagram just after his release from prison earlier this month and a collab is already said to be in the works. Skrillex is also apparently involved in the reggae album, for some reason. Just keep Diplo and his “airport reggae” at a safe distance! —DL

Kanye West, Yandhi (TBA)

Oh boy, here we go. —SHS

SZA, TBA

Despite that fake-out in which someone uploaded an entire album’s worth of old SZA demos to Spotify, an actual new SZA album is coming. She’s promised as much, having even shared snippets of it on social media. (What’s more, she recently blacked out her Instagram — the telltale sign of the modern music age that something’s up.) Her 2017 debut CTRL was acclaimed (five Grammy noms!) and her Black Panther collab with Kendrick Lamar, “All the Stars,” is now in the race for an Oscar. How she’ll top all of that is anyone’s bet. —DL

Solange, TBA

Though originally promised for the fall, Solange’s follow-up to her 2017 masterpiece A Seat at the Table is now looking more like “prolly next year” (2019), according to her Instagram bio, which has now put us all on the edge of said seat. In teasing what’s to come of her new work, Solange told the New York Times it’ll have jazz “at the core,” mixed with electronic music and drum and bass, because she intends on “making your trunk rattle.” Its inspirations include dancer-choreographer Diane Madden, director Busby Berkeley, Joni Mitchell, Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, Sun Ra, Rotary Connection, and Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants, which is the kind of mixture that immediately gets our attention. But, as with ASATT,don’t expect much warning before it drops: She’s said it’ll be “in progress until the very end.” —DL

Jenny Lewis, On the Line (Spring)

Here’s what we know so far. On the Line is coming out sometime in the spring; Jenny Lewis has brought in Ringo Starr, Beck, Don Was, and others. We don’t know, however, how this will all sound, but it’s a safe bet that it’ll be the kind of carefully thought-out album that isn’t flashy about the care and time that went into making it. In other words, it’s a pretty safe bet that it’ll be a Big Deal Album that doesn’t make a whole thing out of being one. —SHS

Lizzo, TBA

If you’re late to the Lizzo party, first of all, bye, bitch. Second, know these two things: Lizzo can twerk while playing the flute like it’s nothing (she’s classically trained! In both, probably) and Lizzo’s Instagram will change your entire outlook on life. Lizzo is, among many things, a supremely talented musician whose every song doubles as an anthem for saving your spirit from life’s evils (like, say, dusty dudes). But mostly, she is a walking mission statement for confidence; expect nothing less from her forthcoming album. —DL

Normani, TBA

You may know her as a former member of Fifth Harmony, but prepare to soon get acquainted with Normani Kordei on her own. She’s a double threat, both a dancer (she nearly won DWTS) and a singer whose honeyed vocals are finally stepping into their own center stage. She’s got the kind of captivating star power that’s made her beloved by Beyoncé and Barack Obama alike, and if you haven’t heard her single with Khalid, “Love Lies,” you’re missing out on the future of R&B. After also dropping a pair of sizzling songs with Calvin Harris, her debut album is slated for early 2019. —DL

Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell (TBA)

It is not entirely surprising that Lana Del Rey is emerging as one of the musical voices best equipped to write about America’s “current situation.” In a sense, it’s what she’s always been doing, but it feels more powerful now. She sings everything with a sort of detachment that, in the wrong hands, could come off as apathetic, but with her, all you can hear is sadness and frustration. Lana Del Rey’s music is not optimistic, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to listen to. Norman Fucking Rockwell is right. —SHS

Chance the Rapper and Kanye West, Good Ass Job (TBA)

One of my favorite Chance the Rapper moments happened in 2014. Already on a course to superstardom, Chance had been anointed as a part of XXLmagazine’s Freshman Class, which meant that in addition to appearing on the magazine’s cover alongside his peers, he’d also be grouped with some of those peers in a freestyle video. It’s a telling moment: Chance has probably the shortest verse, but it’s all manic energy. He’s wearing overalls, bouncing around the room. Basically, he’s having fun in a room full of people who seem largely reluctant to act like they’re having fun. His verse is not the best in the video (that honor goes to the perpetually underrated Isaiah Rashad), but it is the most exciting. Watching it, it’s hard not to think back to when Kanye first made the jump from producer to rapper — he was young, kind of corny, endlessly endearing, and inhabited a landscape that initially seemed unreceptive to what he had to offer. Can these two dudes — now older, more cynical, (and in the case of one of them, flailing — guess which one!) recapture their own magic via a shared hometown and dedication to sonic adventurousness? Will this album even come out? Should it? —SHS

The 1975, Notes on a Conditional Form (May)

Notes on a Conditional Form was always meant to be the the almost-immediate follow up to A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, so it’s a pretty good bet that’ll it’ll come out this year. So far, we’ve seen it describedas a “nighttime record,” which could mean pretty much anything. That said, the 1975 love to make songs about the apocalypse and ennui and the aimlessness of modern life, and there’s plenty more to be drawn from that well before the actual apocalypse hits. Love it if we made it. —SHS

Ty Dolla Sign, TBA

Ty Dolla Sign is a treasure. He’s been involved in just about every big album in recent memory. His solo work is warm and weird and catchy. We are not talking about Ty Dolla Sign enough, but when he next releases an album, that should change. —SHS

Billie Eilish, TBA

No one loves Billie Eilish more than the internet. She’s a Tumblr sensation, a YouTube phenom, a Spotify star (a billion streams and counting), and practically a SoundCloud invention. Where most of her peers can’t boast more than a certain level of social media clout, Eilish stands among the bunch whose talent supports the fame. She’s visually striking — care to watch her “eat” a tarantula alive? — with a quietly forceful vocal and lyrical presence that makes it even harder to turn away. (Let “when the party’s over,” one of the best songs of 2018, into your life and you’ll get what all the fuss is about.) She’ll soon release her debut album, which is sure to hit critical mass with both the teens and a couple generations removed. —DL

The Weeknd, Chapter VI (TBA)

After defining a melancholic, drug-soaked strain of R&B with House of BalloonsThursday, and Echoes of Silence, Abel Tesfaye had to figure out how to remain true to his sound while ditching some of the murk and more alienating downer moments that characterized his early work. It took awhile, but by the time he’d released 2016’s Starboy, he’d figured it out. He was still recognizably the Weeknd, only … slightly more optimistic, or at least more willing to revel in the happy moments that came with the bummer ones. Chapter 6, whatever it is, whenever it is, will be huge — there’s no questioning that, but it is worth wondering where Tesfaye will take his sound next. —SHS

Cardi B, TBA

On Instagram, Cardi B said that “of course” she would release a new album in 2019, and why shouldn’t she? She’s in the midst of an astonishing run: raking in awards and dropping singles at a rapid pace. We should enjoy her music while we can, because I fully expect her to end up as a talk show host someday in the near future. That’ll be great too. —SHS

Vampire Weekend, Mitsubishi Macchiato (TBA)

Admittedly, these lists sometimes devolve into a level of speculation pretty much built on the notion that if a band or artist hasn’t released anything in awhile, they surely will this year. That is not the case with Vampire Weekend! This summer, frontman Ezra Koenig said the album was done, and it even has a tentative title so spot-on that I will forever complain about their not using it if they go in a different direction. —SHS

Grimes, TBA

It was by no means set in stone that Grimes would reach the level of fame that she’s currently at, but it’s good that she has. While it has become something of a trend to poke fun at the basic facts of her current life (the pictures of her and Elon Musk at a pumpkin patch), as a way of reveling in the dissonance that comes with a major pop figure also being “very online” and interested in pushing the boundaries of her sound while also spending a lot of time with an eccentric millionaire who really loves tunnels, it should be noted that we need people like Grimes. We need them to point to a way forward. To change what pop music could be. Even if she fails, it’s still interesting. Plus, what does failure even mean in this context, anyway? —SHS

Tame Impala, TBA

At the top of this year, it was announced that Tame Impala would be one of Coachella’s headliners. In a way, this was inevitable from the second they popped onto the scene. What was not inevitable, however, was their ascent to the place they currently occupy. Tame Impala are now part of a rare breed of current rock bands that are (relatively) young, critically acclaimed, and hugely popular. Not too many other bands sit in the center of that Venn diagram right now, and considering the fact that they released Currents in the ancient days of 2015, a headlining spot at the biggest music festival in the country is not a bad peg to hang an entire new album on. —SHS


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