Here’s my list of most-anticipated albums of the year, in alphabetical order (by last name and excluding ‘the’). Included only are officially announced albums, so there’s a short list at the end for unofficial and speculative releases.
The 1975 – If singles like “Love Me” and “UGH!” are any indication, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It might be one of the best pop-rock records of all time. If not, it’ll still be a stellar follow-up to the band’s smash debut.
Ryan Adams – After releasing his version of 1989, Adams announced in an interview alongside Taylor Swift that he has a 2xLP that’s just about ready to go. Coming off of an incredible self-titled record, Adams is raring for another golden release.
Backstreet Boys – For anyone not keeping score, BSB released new albums in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2013. All high-quality releases, the five singers are keeping up the pace with an album that will surely be one step further into musical maturity.
Chairlift – Moth can be pre-ordered now on Amazon, and the four songs already released should comfort all Chairlift fans that this album will be just as great as the last two.
Deaf Havana – Deaf Havana’s last album was a step backwards, an attempt to be something more than the rock band that they’re so good at being. First single “Cassipoeia” is proof positive that the rock band is back and stronger than ever.
From Indian Lakes – I’m not a huge fan of FIL’s recorded works, but I’m a massive fan of their live show, so I’ll always be excited to see what’s next. Triple Crown Records has stated that we can expect a new album in 2016, alongside new albums from Into It. Over It., Tiny Moving Parts, and O’Brother.
Vince Gill – My favorite country artist continues to amaze about three decades into his career. Down to My Last Bad Habit is due for a February 12th release, and first single “Take Me Down” is one of his best songs in years.
House of Heroes – After softening up with each new release, the boys in House of Heroes look to get experimental again in Colors, the band’s first true concept record, following the story of a love triangle in a Detroit-like town.
Dustin Kensrue – In December, Kensrue recorded two concerts for an upcoming live album of acoustic covers. A video was released for his cover of Brand New’s “Jesus Christ” and other artists expected to appear in the track listing range from Tom Waits to Miley Cyrus.
letlive. – One of the best post-hardcore bands out there, known for frontman Jason Aalon Butler’s philosophically informed lyrics and dangerously wild stage antics, letlive. truly believe the new album will be the band’s best. The Blackest Beautiful will be awfully hard to top, but it’ll be fascinating to hear letlive. give it the best try they’ve got.
AJ McLean – Due to come out before his band Backstreet Boys’ new album, The Anthem was expected in 2015. But as the only BSB member who has actually made a good solo album before (check out Teenage Wildlife if you missed it), AJ McLean promises to deliver the goods once again. It should be worth the wait.
Norma Jean – Although the band has basically emptied itself of all original members, the world’s first notable Christian metalcore might be releasing its third masterpiece in a row. Norma Jean has also never released a bad album, so don’t bet on that happening now.
Now, Now – Little is known about this album except that it’s coming. If it’s anywhere near as good as Threads, it’ll be great.
The Rocket Summer – The Rocket Summer is one of the most famous one-man-bands, but bandleader Bryce Avary was starting to fall into the expected rut of doing the same schtick over and over again. And while he played his genre very well, it’s much more exciting to finally be getting something very different from the Rocket Summer camp. Zoetic comes out February 26th.
Saosin – Anthony Green is back to give us the Saosin album we have always wanted. Reportedly the heaviest output in the band’s history, this will be a historic release that no one would want to miss.
School of Seven Bells – This band has had a seemingly torrential history, but the new, kind-of self-titled album SVIIB sounds like it’ll be the band’s best yet. Look for it February 26th or preorder it here.
Shearwater – Shearwater’s last album, Animal Joy, is almost singlehandedly the reason I like indie rock. Nearly my #1 most anticipated album of 2016, Jet Plane and Oxbow thankfully won’t have anyone waiting long. It’s streaming now on NPR with a January 22nd street date.
Thrice – Drums and bass are seemingly done being recorded for my favorite band’s first post-hiatus release. On social media, the band has been using the hashtag #TBEITBN, which some believe to be the album title To Believe Everything is To Believe Nothing.
Usher – The album is titled Flawed, but we know little else except for a “sometime in 2016” release. 2012’s Looking 4 Myself was uneven but showed fans that Usher still has a desire to push himself as a vocalist and expand the R&B genre as a whole.
Weezer – I’m not usually excited for Weezer albums (and haven’t cared for the past few), but my favorites are the self-titled albums (Blue, Green, Red). That means the April 1st release of the White album will be one for the books, especially since the decisive single “Thank God for Girls” is a genius spectacle of Weezer-level weirdness.
Wolves at the Gate – Consistency can be a rare thing in the music world, yet Wolves at the Gate have released an EP every odd year and an LP every even year since 2011. With the most theologically astute lyrics in the business, the band might be making an album that’s increasingly melodic but heavy in subtle, complex ways.
Xerxes – In September, the band tweeted “#LP3.” Perhaps I’m being too hopeful now?
Unconfirmed hopefuls and predictions:
Acceptance, Brand New, Dirty Loops, The Killers, Kendrick Lamar (potentially with J. Cole), Let It Happen, Okkervil River, Paramore