This part of the year feels pretty bland as far as music goes. There have been a couple of stellar releases in 2019, but for the most part, this year has had me returning to old favorites or exploring classics that I’ve put off for way too long. I think that a large deal of this season’s anticlimactic feeling comes from how much more excited I am about what’s on the horizon. It’s impossible to keep up with everything that comes out in a given year, but here are some of my most anticipated upcoming releases.
Run the Jewels – “Run the Jewels 4”
Coming in at No. 5 is the hugely acclaimed rap duo Run the Jewels. Killer Mike and El-P have confirmed that they will release a record in the latter part of the year, and given their track record, it will no doubt be one of the most important hip hop releases of the year. This will be the duo’s fourth record together, and each project they’ve released has impressed me more than the last. I would highly recommend giving all three of their self-titled projects a listen in preparation for this one, and I cannot speak highly enough of either member’s solo records.
Swans – “What is This?”
Next up is the enigmatic experimental rock outfit Swans. I usually hate describing an artist’s work as being “experimental” without any other kind of qualifiers, but Swans are a band unlike any other. Over their sprawling, three-decade-long career, the band has moved through multiple iterations with wildly different musical outputs. Given what we’ve been seeing from Swans in the most recent chapter of their career, this album will feature momentous, morbid post-rock masterpieces that will leave you physically affected hours after the record stops spinning. Swans are a notoriously difficult band to get into, but their music does a lot of things that I’ve never seen anyone else do. Their last two records, “To Be Kind” and “The Glowing Man,” are excellent places to start, especially in preparation for “What is This?”.
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib – “Bandana”
I’ll have to be honest here: A Freddie Gibbs album probably wouldn’t have me excited enough to make this list. A Madlib-produced Freddie Gibbs album, on the other hand, has me waiting like a kid for Christmas. Their previous joint, “Piñata” is one of the best hip hop albums ever made — and the second best record that Madlib has produced. Madlib’s production is immaculate and varied. Soul samples, goofy movie dialogue and beats that no one else could make come together to create music as colorful as the “Piñata” moniker would suggest. If “Bandana” is even three-quarters as good as its predecessor, it will be the hip hop album of the year.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Title to be announced
Nick Cave could have been satisfied with being the godfather of goth. Rather than resting on his laurels, however, he has continued to release record after record for over 30 years, with none that I would consider duds. This will be the 17th studio album released under the Bad Seeds name, and it follows a high point, even for Cave’s illustrious career. 2016’s “Skeleton Tree” is a minimalist masterpiece that followed the death of Cave’s son, Arthur. This is the first we’ve heard of Cave since, and no one knows whether this record will follow in the somber footsteps of “Skeleton Tree,” or move back to the more life-affirming things that Cave was doing at the turn of the century. What I do know is that I can’t wait to find out.
Lana Del Rey – “Norman F***ing Rockwell”
If you had told me even a year ago that my most anticipated release in 2019 would be a Lana Del Rey record, I would have blocked you on the spot. Three singles have released since then though and, make no mistake, Lana is on to something here. Her brand of over-the-top commercialized sadness never did much for me in the past, but the singles for this upcoming record show an amazing amount of maturity. It truly feels as though Lana has grown into an honest-to-goodness singer-songwriter. There’s no persona or gimmick, only emotion. If the three songs she’s shown us so far are any indicator, this record is my early pick for album of the year.
Editor’s note: This version of the story corrects the name of Nick Cave’s referenced son from Luke to Arthur.