So, it’s official: the album is in crisis.
With not a single new UK artist going gold in 2016 and the three biggest selling albums of the year being Now compilations, does anyone really have the time or patience for the longer format anymore?
Well, a quick look at our albums to listen to from this time last year shows that we were still treated to a feast of great records, with the likes of David Bowie’s Blackstar, Daughter’s Not To Disappear and Biffy Clyro’s Ellipsis being genuine start-to-finish albums that demanded an hour or so of your attention. Mind you, Bradley Walsh scored the highest-selling debut album of the year, so maybe the public didn’t agree.
As Calvin Harris has announced his intention to stick to singles from now on, let’s enjoy the LP while we can – starting with these picks for 2017.
The xx – I See You
Despite the record initially being mooted for last year, the third album by The xx is finally here – and you won’t have to wait too long, with I See You set for release on 13 January. The two tracks released already – On Hold and Say Something Loving suggest that this will definitely have a different sound to their first two records, showcasing a move away from their trademark minimalism to a more expansive feel, with both songs being strikingly melodic - almost saccharinely so. As ever, let’s immerse ourselves in the full album before we jump to any conclusions: hopefully another classic awaits us.
Sample track: On Hold
Liam Gallagher – TBC
He might have reached the grand old age of 44 but Liam is still probably the best ‘young’ rock star we’ve got, and a lot rests on his forthcoming debut solo album, both for guitar music in general and for the man himself. Both are currently teetering on the edge of irrelevance right now, but if he’s given the right material (whether written by himself or not), and the right production, then there’s no doubt that Liam’s vocals are the amongst the very best in the business. Wouldn’t it be great to get a snarling, blistering record full of anthemic stadium-ready tunes from a fired-up Liam with something to prove - not least to his brother, who has blossomed since leaving Oasis? Then let’s hope that’s exactly what we’ll get when it lands later this year.
Sample track:Rock ‘N’ Roll Star
Stormzy – TBC
We’ve been waiting and waiting for the debut full-length from Stormzy, and 2017 should be the year it finally arrives. With Skepta bringing grime to the masses with his Mercury-winning debut Konnichiwa, the stage could not be set any better for Stormzy to ride in and become a fully-fledged superstar. 10 tracks of the, erm, standard of the brilliant Standard and we’ll be good to go.
London Grammar – TBC
London Grammar’s first new track in more than 3 years, Rooting For You, unveiled on New Year’s Eve, reminded us just what a potent weapon singer Hannah Reid’s voice is. Not many acts – Whitney Houston aside – would have either the guts, or the quality of vocal, to open up their comeback single with fully two minutes of acapella singing, but that’s exactly what they did, before the track opened up into orchestral majesty, suggesting that the follow-up to If You Wait could be something very special indeed.
Sample track:Rooting For You
Elbow – Little Fictions
Let’s face it, we know exactly what we’re going to get from Elbow’s seventh studio album, due 3 February. It’s going to be sonically interesting, at times celebratory, at times heartbreaking and by the end you’ll have fallen love with Guy Garvey’s giant bearhug of a vocal all over again. You know what you’re getting, but you know it’s going to be brilliant, as lead single Magnificent (She Says) aptly demonstrates. Just let it warm the cockles of your heart.
Sample track:Magnificent (She Says)
Major Lazer – Music Is The Weapon
They’ve proved they can write chart-busting singles, but can Major Lazer finally put together a coherent long-player? Given the long list of collaborators from Diplo’s contacts list – Justin Bieber, MØ, Showtek, Sia, Bonnie McKee, Iggy Azalea, Nicki Minaj, Kyla and many more besides – it’s likely to be another ‘compilation’ of tracks rather than a body of work. But then, if those singles are all as good as Cold Water or Lean On, who really cares? Whether you like it or not, their songs will be inescapable on Spotify over the next 12 months.
Sample track:Cold Water
The Stone Roses – TBC
We featured the Manc legends in last year’s list, more out of hope than expectation, but blow us down if they didn’t then go and release two really quite good tracks out of nowhere. While neither were really at the level of either their impeccable debut record or the much-better-than-commonly-thought Second Coming, both were undeniably hugely enjoyable – the sound of a band who actually sounded like they were having fun just making music again. All For One harked back to that carefree debut, while Beautiful Thing had the classic groove of that second record – a full record with tracks on a level (or maybe even better) than those and we’d be pretty happy.
Sample track:Beautiful Thing
LCD Soundsystem – TBC
They made their not-actually-that-long-awaited comeback last year, playing a load of festivals including Coachella, before binning live dates prematurely, in August, in order to finish their comeback album. Now 2017, we’re still waiting for the follow up to 2010’s This Is Happening, but we’re happy to wait for James Murphy to get it just right and treat us to some musical excellence once more.
Sample track: All My Friends (from Sound of Silver)
Sampha – Process
Sampha has been a respected figure on the music scene for a good few years now, working with the likes of SBTRKT, Jessie Ware, Solange, Katy B and even Drake and Kanye. Now he’s finally striking out on his own and expect soulful vocals, considered production and – likely – an actual, proper long-playing ‘record’ to get your teeth into. It’s been a long time coming, let’s hope it’s worth the wait.
Sample track: Blood On Me
Taylor Swift – TBC
Technically, the follow-up to 1989 was due last year, as Swift had maintained an album every other year ever since her 2006 self-titled debut, but – given the enormous global success of that record, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised it’s taken a little longer than normal. Besides, it’s probably – with her relationships with Calvin Harris and Tom Hiddleston having been and gone - given her even more material to write about. So why should you care about a pop princess? Well, 1989 – as with the preceding albums Red and Speak Now – was an almost perfect pop album, choc full of brilliantly-written, brilliantly-observed and brilliantly-produced songs, cementing her position as a genuinely superb artist. If you ignore Swifty, you’re seriously missing out.
Sample track:Style (from 1989)
Ryan Adams – Prisoner
And speaking of Swifty fans, Ryan Adams releases his first record since that 1989 cover album in the form of Prisoner, due 17 February. It’s his first album of original material since 2014’s Ryan Adams and is bound to feature material influenced by his divorce from wife Mandy Moore. If emotional turmoil produces great art, then us listeners could be in for a treat.
Sample track:Do You Still Love Me?
Fleetwood Mac – TBC
You can file this one under wishful thinking, but there have been murmurings (or, OK, Rumours) of a new album coming out ever since Christine McVie rejoined the band. They haven’t made a full-length since 2003’s excellent Say You Will, but they did self-release a four track EP, Extended Play, in 2013 which featured the tracks Sad Angel and Without You, which were both performed on their recent tours. Who knows if this will finally be the year they get together and make an album – Stevie Nicks has her own tour this Spring, while the band are likely to be back on the road in October. But with 2017 being the band’s 50th anniversary, is it too much to ask for a lovely new record full of amazing songs somewhere in between?
Sample track:Sad Angel
System of a Down – TBC
Time for a bit of rock on this list, and the legendary quartet System of a Down are set to release their first new album in 12 years (which featured a four year hiatus in the middle). It was confirmed in November by drummer John Dolmayan that they have 15 tracks written, while various social media posts show that they’ve definitely been in the studio. They’re booked for a host of massive European festival shows in June and July (including Download Festival), so we’d hope something will drop before then. Never less than a truly unique and interesting band on record, and a thrilling live act, we can only guess at what the hell it’ll sound like, but we bet it’ll be brilliant.
Sample track:B.Y.O.B. (from Mezmerize)
Rag'n'Bone Man – TBC
Rag’n’Bone Man, aka Rory Graham, has been knocking around for a while, but it feels like 2017 could finally be his breakthrough year. Of course, he’s guaranteed a ton of exposure as the winner of the BRIT Critics’ Choice award but – if you ask last year’s winner Jack Garratt – that doesn’t necessarily guarantee big sales. Nevertheless, in Human, he boasts an indisputable hit record. It’s a track that feels a little like Hozier’s Take Me To Church – a track that just works, and feels almost spiritual – and while Hozier didn’t really have another song as big as that one, he didn’t need one to become one of the biggest new artists around (nor to create an excellent, coherent album). His album will be well worth checking out when it arrives later this year.
Depeche Mode – Spirit
The Basildon electro gods are back with their fourteenth studio album this spring, in the form of Spirit, their first since 2013’s Delta Machine. James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Klaxons) is in the producer’s chair this time around and it’ll be fascinating to hear the results. They’re also using 2017 to remind everyone just how enormous they are in Europe, embarking on a stadium tour between May and July.
Sample track:Heaven (from Delta Machine)
Gorillaz – TBC
Another record that’s a hangover from last year’s list, we’re still waiting for a follow-up to 2010’s underrated Plastic Beach and, although Damon’s put out about a thousand other records in the meantime, we’d like it sooner rather than later please. Albarn has previously said that the new record is "really fast, and it’s got quite a lot of energy," – frankly, we’ll take anything as long as it’s good.
Sample track: Stylo (from Plastic Beach)
Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone
One of the most intriguing new artists around, Carner was originally featured on a host of ‘Sound of 2016’ lists last year. Wisely deciding to give the year a miss, we’re now looking forward to his debut record this coming year instead (it’s due 20 January). We wrote this last year and it still stands: “His tracks so far have showcased a distinctive voice, downbeat, measured production and a general sensitivity which is rare in the genre. If he gets it right, he could produce a stunning debut.” Let’s have it Loyle.
Sample track: Cantona