A few weeks into January, the album release slates for each week start getting fuller, more surprising and more high profile. The industry’s release schedule usually peaks a few times a year, a bit different from movies where largely the best are saved for last around the holidays.
Look out for a few snacks in March, the big indie releases of May and September, pop songs vying for Song of the Summer status throughout those hottest months, and one late release gem that might bubble up mid-December.
Unlike movies, too, album release plans are shorter, sometimes dropped in complete surprise for those special few artists who can afford to do so. With all that in mind, let’s preview, and wildly speculate, the albums to get the most hype for this year -- ranked from most sure to most deliriously hopeful.
Frances Quinlan - Likewise (January 31)
Known as one of the most distinct, athletic and moving voices in the last decade of indie rock, former Hop Along frontwoman Frances Quinlan is releasing her first solo album this Friday. She has already dropped a few stunning singles, and this slightly more stripped down approach should allow her vocals and songwriting to step even more to the fore.
Grimes - Missanthropocene (February 21)
Since we last received a full-length record from Grimes — 2015’s Art Angels — the enigmatic pop iconoclast has begun a relationship with one of the world’s richest men, Elon Musk, gotten pregnant (possibly with that same wealthy man), made lots of music videos, produced for other pop icons including Janelle Monae and continued dressing in a different head-spinning fashion style with every public appearance.
Now, she’s finally ready to release her hotly anticipated third LP, coming after public disputes with her label back in early 2018 when she called 4AD a “s--- label” in a since deleted tweet. You can listen to the single, “Violence,” now.
Soccer Mommy - Color Theory (February 28)
This may be my personal most anticipated album for the entire year, because Soccer Mommy has signaled so far in her all lowercase singles that she has gone up a level. Her first album for the Fat Possum label, Clean, was one of my favorite albums of 2018, largely because of lead songwriter Sophie Allison’s knack for melodies that nestle their way into your heart and stay with you far longer than most folk-twinged indie rock.
This time around, Allison is channeling what Avril Lavigne never quite got to be with heavy instrumentation backing her on “circle the drain,” and a strange song structure that carries “lucy.” The most exciting part of any young artist’s career is when they really make good on the promise they showed when you first found them, and Soccer Mommy is preparing to own indie rock in 2020.
Let the speculation begin!
The 1975 - Notes on a Conditional Form (April 24?)
This 1975 album was originally announced during the press tour before their previous album, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, even came out. It was at one point meant for June 1, 2019, but frontman Matty Healy has a history of getting overly excited about these things and subsequently having to push back album release dates all the way to April 2020. Notes was originally marketed as the second part of their Music for Cars era, though Healy has also said that Brief Inquiry was the end of a kind of trilogy, but that plan was apparently scrapped.
We’ve already heard lots of singles, though! “People” is a kind of 21st Century Manchester punk that Healy can wear for 2 minutes, if not, luckily, for an entire record. “Frail State of Mind” samples “Archangel” by legendary British dub-house producer Burial. “Me and You Together Song” is classic, shiny, britpop 1975 with a very Healy hook of, “I’ve been in love with her for ages.”
Whenever this record finally drops, I will be there, ready to forgive all of Healy’s past grievances.
Lady Gaga - LG6 / Babylon (TBD)
Lady Gaga’s fanbase is possibly unmatched in their fervor for a new full-length album to follow-up 2016’s Joanne, going as far as to look at the lines of code in Lady Gaga’s new website to find mysterious terms “Babylon” and “Stupid Love,” the latter leaked as a possible album cut from whatever “LG6” ends up being.
Gaga hasn’t released much in the way of solo music since her role in A Star Is Born. Sources have been telling me that the Rara B---- is back.
Car Seat Headrest - TBD (TBD)
Will Toledo is due, and as a Car Seat Headrest fan, I feel due for a new emo-twinged, wordy, bloated indie rock record in 2020. He released his true Matador Records debut in 2016 with Teens of Denial, one of the best rock albums of the 2010s for my money, and then re-recorded a Bandcamp classic of his, Twin Fantasy, in 2018.
The band’s Twitter account posted a mysterious photo of a hard drive labeled Madlo, with the caption “somewhat done” on Jan. 16.
Sky Ferreira - Masochism (TBD)
I shouldn’t let myself hope like this. I don’t deserve anything more from Sky Ferreira ever since she released “Everything Is Embarrassing” back in 2012, one of the iciest, and knowing songs about what it means to exist as a young person making decisions and being in love in this vaguely defined era. Her debut album came out in 2013; she starred in “Baby Driver” in 2017.
She finally released a new single last summer, “Downhill Lullaby” which sounds more like The Goo Goo Dolls than it does her past synth-pop work. Masochism may never come in the form we want it to, and maybe that will be part of the point of this entire Sky Ferreira experience, but I’d like to hear it. Please, Sky, you’re so close. I can feel it.
Contact contributor Conner Evans at email@example.com.