It’s a new year now, and of course it looks just the same outside, but this day does mark a good opportunity to think of what we have to look forward to in the coming 12 months, musically. (I’ll also be giving an opportunity to look backward at the last 12 in a few days).

A couple important 2008 albums have already dribbled out onto the internet. We are not surprised, nor particularly displeased. The most notable for me is the new British Sea Power disc entitled Do You Like Rock Music? (2.12 on rough trade) It’d definitely worth a listen and a thankful change of pace from their last one, the beautiful but plodding Open Season. The Mountain Goats’ Heretic Pride (2.19 on 4ad) is also a notable one; though I haven’t spent much time with it, it seems to be more of the same (which is usually a good thing where John Darnielle is involved) with production flourishes expanding a bit beyond The Sunset Tree and trademark thoughtful lyrics.

Goldfrapp’s Seventh Tree (2.26 on mute) sees her going back to more ethereal territory than her last two albums, a welcome return to some approximation of her brilliant debut Felt Mountain. Beach House’s Devotion (2.26 on carpark) seems a bit more lush and busy than their rather haunting debut. Magnetic Fields’ Distortion (1.15 on nonesuch) was definitely enjoyable on a cursory listen. And Sons and Daughters’ This Gift (1.28 on domino) started off wicked strong but had trouble keeping the awesome on till the end.

There are albums coming out every week. Tons of ‘em. And despite all the people too eager to proclaim that music these days is crappy, if you ignore the radio and just throw yourself into the bottomless pit of musical obsession, there are many, many gems to be found. It’s basically futile trying to predict which albums will end up being the best, and with the number of bands I love, it’s just as pointless to talk about all the upcoming releases I’m interested in. So, I’m going to touch on what’s coming out of the hands and mouths of some of the bands that have been with me for a while, on my top bands list for many years now.

Although I tend to forget about it more than I should, there is a new Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album itching to get out there. It’s called Dig, Lazarus, Dig and you can already listen to the title track on the official seedy site. It’s sounding rough and grimy not unlike Grinderman with some throwbacks to garage rock of yore and some wonderful lyrics. It’ll be officially out on March 8th, so that means it’ll probably leak somewhere around tomorrow? And then with any luck Nick and his Seeds will finally stage some concerts in North America—something I’ve been waiting for with varying degrees of patience since he became one of my most revered artists 4.5 years back.

It’s been almost six years since the release of The Notwist’s latest album Neon Golden. They’re finally giving us something new in late spring (if you’re not counting 13+God). The Wrens, who gave us The Meadowlands and in so doing gave me one of my very favourite rock albums of all time (and were, unknown to me at the time, playing in the same building the night I saw Notwist live in Toronto), might give us a new album this year—they’ve been saying that for a while now though, so don’t get too excited.

R.E.M.’s new album Accelerate is being hailed as a return to their rocky roots and a lot of the songs have already been played live so we can have an idea of what to expect. Jacknife Lee is producing, though, and he’s not got the best track record: from all I can tell, stripping both U2 and Bloc Party of their interesting qualities, and giving us Kasabian, Snow Patrol and the Editors (a.k.a. oh so mediocre) is the best thing he’s done. I’m not gonna bother getting my hopes up, but ya never know.

Elbow and Doves are two bands I tend to think of together, and just like 2005, they both have albums coming out this year. Elbow’s well-titled The Seldom Seen Kid comes out in March, but information on Doves new disc is sparse, so probably not till a bit later. Sigur Ros are also expected to release a studio album this year, and it’s being produced by Flood. I can only hope they can reclaim the heights of Agaetis Byrjun. I suggest a little more intricacy and creativity, a little less bombast and whining. I hope they can do me proud.

On the oft overlooked hip hop side of things, Big Boi (of Outkast) has a solo disc allegedly coming up, though there’s not too many details, other than that the first single was supposed to be out by now. Andre 3000 might also have new stuff, but let’s face it these guys are taking it real slow these days. The hip hop I’m most looking forward to, personally (if Anticon even counts as hip hop), is ExitingArm, the new album from Subtle due out in May. It will complete the Hour Hero Yes trilogy that began with A New White.

Electronic music for me tends to not work the same way. I don’t find myself anticipating too many techno/house/ambient etc releases… I am more likely to hear about tracks/albums after they’ve already leaked and gotten approved by some series of random internet music junkies. This is a bit of a new policy since I was hotly anticipating Twine’s new album that someone said was going to come out last year, and then I suddenly couldn’t find any info on it anywhere. I’m sure there’ll be great stuff, though, because my anticipation or lack thereof won’t change that.

There are some synth driven releases I do need to tip, though. One of my favourite aspects under the whole umbrella of electronic music (one might call it a subgenre) is trip-hop, even though there’s not all that much linking it to electronica. While the genre per se has largely died, elements of its aesthetic are still making appearances (such as Burial and Various). But! If trip hop is dead then why are Massive Attack and Portishead both releasing albums this year? (Allegedly MA’s The Weather Underground will be released in the summer, though I’m not crossing any fingers, and Portishead’s first album in 11 years is reportedly complete and will be finally released in April). Not to mention The Prodigy… no seriously, there’s not really any reason to mention them.

As a proud Canadian, it’s important to turn an inward eye at my own country’s burgeoning indie scene, because there are a number of things to keep an eye on (even if, like me, you’re not that excited about Jason Collett and Islands).

First (and in this case in very particular order), The Constantines have a new album coming out (April, allegedly, on Arts&Crafts)! They’re a strong three for three so far, with the middle one being one of my favourite albums of all time. If they can approach the heights of Shine a Light, I will be ecstatic. I’ll also probably get the chance to see them live for the seventh time.

Ever since his performance at LOLA, I’ve been a bit in love with Owen Pallet (aka Final Fantasy), and his new album tentatively titled Heartland (which was first announced in 2006) should find its way into our ears this year. Owen’s one of those dudes whose live show really gels in a way that his recorded output doesn’t quite manage to (hopefully not just because his looping pedal talent is so uber), so I’m looking at this one as a big opportunity.

Since a year can’t go by in which Spencer Krug doesn’t release some sort of album (or Dan Boeckner either), look for a new Wolf Parade in the first half of the year (hopefully!). This one has seen some delay, too, as most of the songs have been played on tour and it was mostly recorded in May of last year. The problem with record labels and their outdated methods of distribution is much apparent for Mr. Krug: when he does interviews he’s almost always put the material up for discussion out of his mind months before to work on something new. And it’s almost always rather good.

13 Blues for Thirteen Moons by Thee Silver Mt. Zion, or whatever they’re calling themselves now, will come out March 11 on Constellation. Efrim seems to have left Godspeed You Black Emperor out in the cold, but that’s fine by me because I actually like these guys better. Even though they sound really pretentious on paper, their live shows are one of the most ridiculously inspiring experiences experiencable. You feel like you’re freaking part of them and they’re part of the world, man. On CD, they struggle a bit, but there’s usually enough awesome moments to make it oh so very worthwhile.

The Born Ruffians, who I had the pleasure of seeing opening up for Caribou earlier this year, are releasing Red, Yellow And Blue (2.26, warp). It’s their debut album, and while it could go either way, I’m really looking forward to it, because they’re a really fun bunch of guys with oodles of potential.

And that’s about it for now, except to mention that hometown heroes the Junior Boys (who are absolutely brilliant) have hinted that some kind of release will be revealed very soon. Knowing them it could be just some EP full of remixes, but it’s been a few years, they might have another album up their sleeves.

And that’s it for now.

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