December 11, 2011

AwkwardSound's 10 Most Anticipated Albums of 2012

To hell with 2011, amiright? Just kidding. It was a pretty good year for music, but it's time to move on and set sights on the future. Looking into the crystal ball before the year even begins, no one can say exactly what's in store as release dates change, bands break up, bands reform and some are just really good at keeping mum until a new LP is done. In the past, AwkwardSound has been burned by past hopes that never came to fruition (here's looking at you Portishead, Sunny Day Real Estate and any project tied to Thom Yorke) so this year, let's play it safe by addressing only those which are absolutely without a doubt known to be in the works. To make it a little interesting, however, AS thought it would limit and rank its picks for 2012's most anticipated albums to 10. This will mean nothing come next December...

10. Mission of Burma - TBA | Expected: ???
Post-punk pioneers Mission of Burma have consistently been on a roll since their reformation in 2002. Since then, the Boston act has released three solid full-lengths which arguably best or match their influential work from the early '80s, and what more is the energy conveyed in the Boston-based punk vets' sound still has the ability to surpass that of bands half their age. Mission of Burma is currently in the studio working on their follow-up to 2009's The Sound the Speed the Light. The details are still tight-lipped as to when we can expect their sixth LP on Matador Records, but if a few tour dates early on in the year throughout their hometown and NYC area are any indication, its arrival is imminent.

9. Sparta - TBA | Expected: ???
Formed from the ashes of At the Drive-In, Sparta are a band who had a big impact on the post-hardcore scene in the early 2000s, but as the genre began to become bastardized and watered down by young bands who really had no place in the scene to begin with, the El Paso Texas quintet decided to step away from the stage and take on an indefinite hiatus. In 2012, Sparta returns with a new perspective and their first new effort since 2006's Threes. Of their comeback LP, drummer Tony Hajjar says the break allowed them to start afresh, and that they've "put together a heavier groove and feel" and "the old Sparta formula has been forgotten." This one can only go in one of two directions...

8. Xiu Xiu - TBA | Expected: Early 2012
The peculiar mind of Jamie Stewart works in wonderful ways, and he's yet to disappoint in his plight to twist and contort pop music with his unique -- and often comically disturbing -- vision under the Xiu Xiu moniker. 2012 brings a lot of changes for the experimental act. While Stewart remains the mastermind behind the project, the newest version of the avante garde group now includes Parenthetical Girls' Zac Pennington and Dead Science's Sam Mickens, making it a quartet. Perhaps the biggest switch by the San Jose-based act however is aligning themselves with Polyvinyl Records, the most high profile label they've been on yet. How this influences Xiu Xiu's always evolving sound (if at all) is any one's guess, as this cover of a Rihanna hit might suggest.

7. Disappears - Pre Language | Expected: March 1, 2012
Experimental kraut rockers Disappears have made releasing a new album sort of an annual tradition since their 2010 debut, Lux, followed by this year's listmaking sophomore effort, Guider. Where as the two previous LPs revolved around darker themes in death and protection, their third full-length, Pre Language is said to be about, of all contrasts, love. It's also the first recording by the Chicago band that will have Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley's finger prints all over it since being absorbed into the group last year. Disappears' Pre Language will bloom just in time for the spring calendar on Kranky Records.

6. Mr. Dream - Montreal Sex Machine | Expected: ???
Considering the band consists of dudes who know the insides and outs of working the buzz in the music industry, I suspect that 2011 was just the beginning of a multi-tiered plan by Mr. Dream to achieve indie rock domination. The Brooklyn-based punks had a breakthrough year here on AwkwardSound backed by an aggressive-sounding debut in Trash Hit, a national tour opening for Mr. Heavenly (and an upcoming one in the new year with Cloud Nothings,) making 2012 the perfect time to capitalize on the building momentum. Earlier this summer, Mr. Dream offered up a new cut, "Moneybags". Whether or not it appears on the tentatively and awesomely titled sophomore LP, Montreal Sex Machine isn't yet known, but it at least shows these guys plan to continue rocking their way up the ladder of success.

5. Black Face - TBA | Expected: ???
The music world's new found interest in hardcore is heading toward another peak, making for no better time to debut a new project if you're one of the genre's most influential veterans. Just as Keith Morris has proven with the success of OFF!, his fellow ex-Black Flag cohort Chuck Dukowski will take a stab at the hardcore supergroup thing with Black Face. Alongside vocalist Eugene Robinson of Oxbow, Tom Dobrov, also formerly of Oxbow and Milo Gonzalez of Insects vs. Robots, the quartet plan to release a four-song 7" in 2012 that includes unreleased tracks Dukowski originally had written for Black Flag's 1984 album, My War. A word of warning: If you're banking on grabbing this one on digital once it's released, you're out of luck. On top of reigniting DIY hardcore, Black Face want to reconnect listeners with physical releases through vinyl-only outputs in an effort to curb file sharing.

4. Mazzy Star - TBA | Expected: Late 2012
Potentially 2012's reunion story of the year, slocore luminaries Mazzy Star are marking their return to the music scene with first new full-length in 16 years. Hope Sandoval and David Roback have already given the world an early glimpse into their new material with this year's single, "Common Burn" b / w "Lay Myself Down," and it sounds like the duo hasn't skipped a beat in being able to deliver their signature dusty vocals and romantic sliding guitars. Mazzy Star plans on releasing their fourth album in late 2012 following a worldwide tour that will likely see them hitting up every major festival the globe has to offer.

3. Japandroids - TBA | Expected: ???
Japandroids' fuzzy and furious debut Post-Nothing was one of 2009's few noteworthy highlights while the Vancouver duo's single series last year provided further proof that they're true '90s indie rock nostalgists. This past year, Brian King and David Prowse concentrated on writing a new batch of songs and test-driving them out on the road. A few of those performances have since made their way onto the web, and having attended this past summer's FYF Fest where Japandroids performed, AwkwardSound can attest: They sound awesome. Look for the finished product to arrive on their sophomore LP due out in 2012 via Polyvinyl Records.

2. Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory | Expected: January 24, 2012
Dylan Baldi and the rest of Cloud Nothings made quite the impact here on AwkwardSound in 2011, being the only band to earn themselves spots on this year's best albums, songs, videos and breakthrough lists. In the new year however, the quartet typically known for its punchy brand of pop punk gets angry and aggressive on their sophomore LP, Attack on Memory. Upping the level of anticipation is that they've hooked themselves up with arguably the best producer of our generation, Steve Albini, with the results thus far indicating that Cloud Nothings's future is absorbed by growth and an angst-ridden heaviness.

1. Ceremony - TBA | Expected: February
Saying that AwkwardSound is merely "anticipating" the Matador Records debut from Best Breakthrough Artist alumni Ceremony is a huge understatement. For one, it's been a exciting to hear the Cali punk band rampage through humble hardcore ethos on their 2006 debut Violence Violence, make a slight left of the dial turn on 2008's Still Nothing Moves You and experimentally evolve into a band with ambitions beyond the genre on 2010's incredible #2 album of the year, Rohnert Park. Not much is known yet about LP 4, other than "it's gonna be weirder" and -- according to a recent preview in Alternative Press -- is drawing heavily from a post-punk influence. In that same preview, frontman Ross Farrar also mentioned that his interest in the hardcore scene has been fleeting. Ceremony's 2012 album is definitely one of the year's most mysterious projects, but AwkwardSound has a feeling they will be one of the new year's most talked about artists.

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