20 Most Anticipated Albums Of 2014
By Lisa Hresko, Eric Davidson and Lizzie Plaugic

Like Daft Punk and Queen Beyonce, not everyone is beholden to the set-in-stone release schedule of ’90s yore. Such pleasant surprises are warmly welcomed, naturally, but they’re a little tougher to predict than a polar vortex. Perhaps 2014 will bless our little ears with another proper Guided By Voices album. And the Avalanches will finally release the Chinese Democracy of the indie world (although we know the final product won’t be of the “quality” of Chinese Democracy, don’t we?). And maybe even TLC will make a comeback (despite the death of L), and hopefully with the requisite tour too. Some albums on this list are set with definite release dates, others tentative and some just rumored. So pop open a bottle of your local bodega version of Dom, crank up one last go-round of Auld Lang Syne and have a look-see at the sonic treats that we expect to make our 2014 merry, bright and all that. Here they are, in alphabetical order: CMJ’s 20 most anticipated albums of 2014.

A$AP RockyBeauty and the Beast: Slowed Down Sessions, Chapter 1 (Self-Released)

Release Date: TBA
A$AP Rocky is making an album in 2014. And he’s not going to rap on it. Instead, he’s using his production chops (the extent of which we’re about the find out) and cobbling them together into an entirely instrumental album. Not sure if he’s the beauty or the beast in this scenario, but I’m guessing both. Rocky has described the LP as both “druggy” and “ambient,” so that should give you almost no idea of what it’s going to sound like. – LP

Bishop Nehru And DOOM – TBA (Lex/Noizy Cricket)

Release Date: TBA
When I was fifteen, I tried to see how many Oreos I could fit in my mouth while cheating on my Algebra homework. When Bishop Nehru was fifteen, he released his debut mixtape, Nehruvia, which is worth more of your time than Algebra will ever be (Just kidding guys, math is important). 2014 has Nehru teaming up with dark-rap god DOOM (who produced a few tracks on Nehruvia) for a full-length. We don’t know too many details, but we do know that this is gonna be like when Taco Bell first announced the Crunchwrap Supreme. – LP

AJ DavilaTerror/Amor (Nacional)

Release Date: February 18
Wherein the singer/bassist for defunct Puerto Rican party-punk band, Davila 666, goes a bit Cinerama with his former band’s sound on this solo debut, adding horns and special guests like Cole Alexander from the Black Lips. – ED

Joey Bada$$B4DA$$ (Relentless/Cinematic)

Release Date: TBA
You might’ve thought the 17 tracks of sharply sliced boom bap on last year’s Summer Knights mixtape was enough to let you ride the billowing Joey Bada$$ wave straight through till 2015. And if that subsided, there was always the stupidly impressive 1999 mixtape released when Bada$$ was only 17 years old. Well, this month marks Joey’s 19th birthday, and along with it comes the promise that this Brooklyn kid has an entire ocean of faded, thonking beats and sticky verses that we can consume greedily until we bloat up like drowned possums. – LP

Kendrick Lamar – TBA (Top Dawg Entertainment)

Release Date: TBA
Last month, Top Dawg Entertainment CEO Anthony Tiffith announced via Twitter that the label would be dropping six albums in 2014. And the TDE roster boasts a total of six artists. That means we can somewhat confidently be on the lookout for releases from Jay Rock, SZA, Ab-Soul, Isaiah Rashad, Schoolboy Q, oh, and Kendrick Lamar. It’s gonna be difficult to follow-up the carefully structured narrative and the faux-lazy, lemon-squeezed flow of good kid m.A.A.d city, but we’re pretty sure Kendrick is up for the challenge. – LP

Liars – TBA (Mute)

Release Date: March
Despite this era where a band that’s been around more than a half-decade is dubbed “old school,” this long-running, globe-trotting bunch remain intriguing to indie rock followers. Sounds like this one could be a bit looser, as singer Angus Andrew said in a press release, “Instead of being doubtful, work on the new album has been immediate, fun, instinctual and confident.” – ED

MogwaiRave Tapes (Sub Pop)

Release Date: January 20
Thankfully, it won’t be long before we can dig our ears into this presumably great piece of Vocoder-soaked post-rock. It’s been three years since Mogwai’s cozily drifting 2011 effort Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will came out, and we’ve been on the lookout for more extra-long shapeshifting arrangements from the Glasgow group ever since. If the Rave Tapes single above is trustworthy, we’re looking at exactly the kind of billowing fuzz-verb blankets this impending ice age needs. – LP

The NotwistClose To The Glass (Sub Pop)

Release Date: February 25
The German indie group has been relatively off the radar since its critically beloved Neon Golden in 2002. But this past November, Sub Pop posted a sample track from the band’s upcoming album, Close To The Glass, and it sounds like a slap-happy funk enthusiast drowning in an extra-large bottle of Perrier. Since we love Neon Golden, funk, slappy sounds, enthusiasts, and a bit o’ bubbly water, we know this is a can’t-miss. – LH

OwlsTwo (Polyvinyl)

Release Date: March 25
The return of Tim and Mike Kinsella, Victor Villarreal and Sam Zuric—one-time and/or current members of Cap’n Jazz, Make Believe, Joan Of Arc, The Promise Ring, Owen and American Football—is upon us. They’ve been back together since 2013, though so far all we have is a 49-second teaser video of a saucy dog and a sign for cheese, and a brand new track, “I’m Surprised.” So it’s finally official: Owls, which released its singular self-titled album in 2001, will, 13 years later, release a follow-up. Or it is a comeback? It’s irrelevant, really, as long as it arrives ASAP. – LH

Perfect Pussy – TBA (Captured Tracks)

Release date: Spring
After releasing a cassette EP last year, this spastic Syracuse band, led by the strained yowl of Meredith Graves, recently recorded this debut in their hometown. Their rickety punk jitters got ’em jumping at the Pitchfork showcase during CMJ 2013 and at a mess of house and club shows last year. – ED

SaintsenecaDark Arc (Anti)

Release Date: April 1
Columbus, Ohio’s post-punk Appalachian stomping (and CMJ 2013-playing!) Saintseneca will break the mid-winter gloom with its Anti debut of folk-leaning, feverish guitars early this spring. – LH

Sampha – TBA (Young Turks)

Release Date: TBA
Whether you know the name Sampha Sisay from this year’s gut-melting Dual EP, from his work with SBTRKT, or as that guy who sounded even sadder than Drake on Nothing Was The Same, you’re probably a fan of what you’ve been hearing. How could you not be? His voice sounds like it was extracted from an angel’s placenta. And with Sampha’s debut full length out this year via Young Turks, there’s no doubt in my mind we’re all going to fall into some kind of piano-laden R&B k-hole. – LP

Schoolboy QOxymoron (Top Dawg Entertainment)

Release Date: February 25
Look, I know for a while there we had practically given up hope that this was going to happen at all. Originally, Schoolboy Q’s major label debut was rumored to drop in early 2013. But 2013 has come and gone, and we’re still waiting for that debut. At least now, at long last, it’s been given an official release date. Q has already called Oxymoron “a classic” and his “best work yet,” and Mac Miller says it’s better than good kid m.A.A.d. city, so there’s no shortage of hype as far as this one is concerned. But with Q’s heavy-lidded breathiness and guest appearances from Kendrick, A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown, and production from the Alchemist, there’s a chance that all the hype is actually just fact. – LP

Sam SmithIn The Lonely Hour (Capitol)

Release Date: May 26
Sam Smith is calling his debut LP In The Lonely Hour. It’s like he named it once he realized that everyone’s going to listen to the album almost exclusively when they feel like crying alone. If what we’ve heard from the young Brit so far is any indication, we can expect the album to be stuffed with swooning hooks, delicate beat constellations and Smith’s butter-smothered vocals. I’m sure there will be some hip-shakers, like the above “Money On My Mind,” but even that one’s a little desolate, right? – LP

Spray Paint – TBA

Release Date: TBA
After two full lengths last year, interest in the in-the-works third LP from this clanky, post-plunk Austin trio got a little more traction last fall after wowing them at the Memphis trash-rock gathering supreme, Gonerfest. – ED

Swans – TBA (Young God)

Release Date: TBA
Funded with the proceeds from the sell-out live album Not Here/Not Now, Michael Gira and his crew will hole themselves up in the studio, hermit-style, to record something that’s likely equal parts manic lunacy and inimitable brilliance. And, like 2012’s Herculean maelstrom The Seer (which topped our list of favorite records of 2012), it will probably be longer about six days long. Which is totally cool by me. – LH

Tacocat – NVM (Hardly Art)

Release Date: February 25
Hardly Art continue to unearth the peppiest, surfy slop-pop. This time it’s this Seattle foursome who garnered mucho virtual hugs for their chewy 2011 EP, Take Me To Your Dealer. For their debut full-length, they nabbed longtime Seattle odd-pop mastermind, Conrad Uno, to produce. – ED

TWEENS – Self-titled (Frenchkiss)

Release date: Late March
We’ve already raved about this Cincinnati trio since their 2013 Bandcamp demos started eeking out last year, and when it proved to be even more punchy during great CMJ 2013 shows and some convert-winning opening slots for the Black Lips. They whipped up their self-titled debut album over a couple days last fall in NYC, with Eli Janney behind the boards. – ED

Zammuto – LP2 (Temporary Residence)

Release Date: TBA
Zammuto has had a busy year with the release of a new Books album, and a tour with Explosions In The Sky. But it also gave way to a wildly successful Indiegogo campaign that took in over three and a half times the requested donation total to record and produce the band’s sophomore release. In the twilight of 2013, Nick Zammuto and co. noted that its “next record is beginning to take shape.”LH

Zig Zags – TBA (In the Red)

Release Date: Spring
Between releasing a few 7-inch singles and the ubiquitous Burger Records cassette over the last two years, this buzz-punk outfit from L.A. recorded a Betty Davis cover with Iggy Pop for a Light in the Attic single. Add on loads of gigs, and In the Red has seen fit to add them to their esteemed roster of roustabouts. – ED