30 Most Anticipated Albums of 2011

    As venerable 20th-century philosopher Thomas Earl Petty and his Breakers of Hearts once posited, “the waiting is the hardest part.” Petty probably wrote that sentiment with things like waiting to bone until marriage, waiting on a Hot Pocket to finish microwaving, and waiting until you’re old before you start touring fairs regularly in mind. But we here at Prefix like to think that he was thinking of the interminable waits for albums by bands we like.

    With that, welcome to our Most Anticipated Albums of 2011 list, in which 10 Prefix writers share their picks for the albums we’re most excited for in 2011. 2010 was a great year for music, with many surprises announced right before they happened. (Who in 2009 really expected Kanye to put an album out this year, or Robyn to put out more than 30 songs?) So with the fact that we can’t predict who will be putting out surprise albums next year (Bon Iver? It’d be about time), here are the 30 albums we’re most looking forward to in 2011 as of 2010.


    Kanye West & Jay-Z: Watch The Throne [Label TBA]

    Release date: TBA

    It’s safe to say that most of us have been waiting for a Watch The Throne since Kanye West produced Jay-Z’s “This Can’t Be Life.” From there, the two were nearly inseparable as Yeezy would produce/rap on numerous Jay hits and vice-versa. As such, the news of Watch The Throne, their collaborative album, was certainly welcomed. Let’s just hope we actually hear it in 2011, especially after Kanye said the production will be better than that on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. And hearing them rap over Q-Tip, Madlib, and Pete Rock should be pretty damn amazing. ~Andrew Martin



    Santigold: Title TBA [Downtown]

    Release date: TBA

    Santigold’s fantastic debut, Santogold, was released in 2008, and was met with all sorts of praise — as well as some ill-conceived M.I.A. comparisons. Since then, she has changed her name (by one whole vowel!), and began plotting her highly anticipated, as-yet-untitled follow-up LP. But damned if it hasn’t been over a year since it was reported that she was beginning work on said album with Pharrell Williams, among others. While the aforementioned promise of buckets as well as Otis Redding is intriguing and all, it would seem that there is a massive info dump needed in regards to this particular work. ~Daniel Rivera


    The Smith Westerns: Dye It Blonde [Fat Possum]

    Release date: Jan. 18

    The Smith Westerns might be brats, but they’re talented ones. With their self-titled debut they displayed a knack for aping T.Rex riffs, but it remains to be seen if they can evolve their sound beyond mere pastiche. “Weekend,” the first track released from their upcoming sophomore LP, Dye It Blonde, doesn’t definitively point to any major changes to their basic formula, but maybe that’s a good thing. After all, remember when people wanted the Strokes to stop sounding like the Strokes? I’d much rather see the Smith Westerns deliver a Room On Fire than a First Impressions Of Earth. ~Wolcott Katzenbach


    The Strokes: Title TBA [RCA]

    Release date: Spring 2011

    It’s been five years since the last Strokes album, sure, but it’s also been a decade since Is This It (we’re getting old, Internet!). If we’re talking well-known Strokes reference points, a decade into their respective careers the Velvet Underground was already broken up and Television was just starting its protracted hiatus. We know, at the very least, that these guys haven’t forgotten how to write songs: with the exception of Nick Valensi, who seems cool with kicking back and living off of Is This It royalties, each Stroke has started a side-project in the interim. But that’s pretty much all we know regarding this still-untitled fourth LP, about which frontman Julian Casablancas recent tweeted “Still not going to be out for a few months-mixing, etc, but JUST finally finished it yesterday actually!?” They better get on it: The last time these guys released an album, Twitter didn’t even exist. ~Daniel Kolitz


    Yelawolf: Title TBA [Interscope]

    Release date: TBA

    One of the bigger disappointments of 2010 was that we never got to hear Yelawolf’s awaited Interscope LP. Instead, in November, the Alabama MC dropped the awesome Trunk Muzik: 0-60, a nearly perfect update of his popular early 2010 mixtape, Trunk Muzik. The big question looming over Yela is whether or not he retain some of his anti-commercial qualities — the machine-gun flow, the songs about axe murders, the fetishization of rusted cars — or if he’ll bow to the pressures that come with a major label deal. Even if Yela bends, we’ll be there, eager to hear what Catfish Billy has in store. ~Andrew Winistorfer  

    Iron and Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean [Sub Pop]

    Release date: Jan. 25

    Sam Beam’s body of work in so esteemed in the music community that he took absolutely no heat for putting a song on a Twilight soundtrack. When a talent this bulletproof puts out a full-length record, it’s an event. Listing Kiss Each Other Clean as most anticipated is almost cheating, since I’ve already heard the album to review it. Trust me: It’s transcendent. ~Mike Burr

    James Blake: James Blake [ATLAS/Universal]

    Release date: Feb. 7

    Producer wunderkind James Blake released three EPs in 2010: The Bell’s Sketch, CYMK, and Klavierwerke. Yet I still have no idea what direction the man is going to go on his debut LP. Each EP showcased a different facet of Blake’s style. Check “CYMK’s” spliced R&B and compare it to the pastoral pianos of “I Only Know (What I Know Now)” or the straight-forward beauty of Feist cover “Limit To Your Love.” If the man’s debut takes only one of these directions, it’ll be exciting enough. But a full-length that adequately describes all of Blake’s multiple personalities would be epic. ~Chris Bosman

    Mogwai: Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will [Sub Pop]

    Release date: Feb. 15

    Glaswegian post-rock quintet Mogwai let slip earlier this year that work had begun on its seventh album. That album now has a release date (Valentine’s Day) and an awesome title: Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. The band had been moving away from the labyrinthine guitar workouts of its early years, opting for short and lushly orchestrated songcraft instead, but when we spoke to multi-instrumentalist Barry Burns back in September he seemed to indicate that they were working on heftier tunes again. ~Craig Jenkins



    PJ Harvey: Let England Shake [Vagrant]

    Release date: Feb. 15

    Stepping away from the piano-driven balladry of 2007’s White Chalk, Polly Jean Harvey’s upcoming Let England Shake (her eighth studio album) is reportedly aiming to return to the more aggressively opaque atmosphere of the alternative work of her earlier days. First single, “Written on the Forehead” is a moody hybrid of soulful histrionics and dimly lit undertones, hinting at an upcoming LP that will potentially be as enjoyable as it will be artistically dense. ~Daniel Rivera



    The Go! Team: Rolling Blackouts [Memphis Industries]

    Release date: Jan. 31

    It’s been nearly four years since the Go! Team’s last frenetic album, Proof of Youth, and six since their debut, Thunder, Lightning, Strike. In all that time, their cheerleader anthems for b-boys and girls don’t seem to have changed a bit. Rolling Blackouts, the English sextet’s third album, out Jan. 31 on Memphis Industries, will feature appearances from Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki, Tampa teenage rapper Dominique Young Unique and Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino to help keep things as riotous as ever. Judging by first single “T.O.R.N.A.D.O.,” the energy isn’t letting up. ~Julian Hattem

    Destroyer: Kaputt [Merge]

    Release date: Jan. 25

    It’s been three years since Dan Bejar’s Destroyer last graced up with a dense, self-referential full-length, but he definitely hasn’t been slacking off in the interim. Since 2008’s Trouble in Dreams, Bejar has written the best three songs on the most recent New Pornographers album, put out an LP with his other Canadian supergroup, Swan Lake, and released the ambient Bay of Pigs 12-inch. Those hoping for an entire album’s worth of “Bay of Pigs”-styled electronic experimentation will probably be disappointed by Kaputt, if lead single “Chinatown” is any indication. So, too, will folks hoping for more of the literate glam rock Bejar perfected on his last two releases. “Chinatown” is an altogether smoother (and more trumpet-y) affair, as casually cool as its audience is sexless and nerdy (but lovably so!). ~Daniel Kolitz



    My Morning Jacket: Title TBA [ATO]

    Release date: TBA

    My Morning Jacket proved with 2008’s Evil Urges that it wasn’t afraid to shake things up a little bit. Predictably, a segment of the band’s fans threw up their hands and lamented the death of their melodic, AM-evoking heroes. This schism ratchets up the anticipation for the MMJ’s forthcoming record. Will Jim James pander to those who would keep him in It Still Moves mode, or go further down the rabbit hole of his own inventiveness and return with a spiritual successor to Purple Rain? ~Mike Burr

    Games: Title TBA [Hippos In Tanks]

    Release date: TBA

    Games, a collaboration between Oneohtrix Point Never’s Daniel Lopatin and Tigercity’s Joel Ford, is an exercise in recreating the unfairly maligned sounds of mainstream ’80s electronica. Their 2010 release, Games That We Can Play, is the sound of every ’80s film soundtrack, TV theme and glossy pop single distilled into an 18-minute EP.  Lopatin and Ford are clearly committed to further exploring this sound for their upcoming full length, as the two have elected to spend part of their time recording the album at a studio owned by Jan Hammer, the man responsible for the iconic “Miami Vice Theme.” The currently untitled full length is slated for release sometime in 2011. ~Wolcott Katzenbach




    Jeezy: Thug Motivation 103 [Def Jam]

    Release date: TBA

    Since he premiered in 2005 with Thug Motivation 101, Jeezy has palled around with Kanye, dropped the “young” from his name, seen his trademark tinny beats and hollered raps co-opted by fourth-wave Southern MCs like Waka Flocka Flame and Gucci Mane, and had his Thug Motivation 103 pushed back more times than I can count here (the first release date was in November 2009, if that’s any indication). And for right now, 103 has been buried on Def Jam’s shelves, with no release date on the horizon. Maybe it’s L.A. Reid not hearing a single, or maybe the label is concerned that Jeezy’s big, over-blown take on street rap has come and gone. Either way, we’re awaiting Jeezy’s return, hoping to hear visceral dope tales rasped at us in high volume. ~Andrew Winistorfer  




    The Wrens: Title TBA [Label TBA]

    Release date: TBA

    Once every three months a song from The Meadowlands pops up on my playlist and, after vigorously singing along, I immediately run to the Wrens’ web site to check on updates for the new album. 2011 will mark eight years since their last record, with little more than a handful of classic Wrens-sounding demos to sate the public thirst in the interim. With my heart broken every year they promise me something new and then fail to deliver, I’m a little wary, but just how good the Wrens are at victoriously downtrodden indie rock always pulls me back. ~Chris Bosman



    M83: Title TBA [Mute]

    Release date: TBA

    Shoegaze outfit M83’s last official album, 2008’s Saturdays=Youth, was its most concise and tuneful song-based effort to date. Mastermind Anthony Gonzalez has remained busy since, filling his time working on the score for Gilles Marchand’s Black Heaven and recording a new M83 album. Gonzalez has described the new album as being orchestrated and “very, very, very epic.” He says it hews much closer to his dark and cinematic third album, Before the Dawn Heals Us than the pop-leaning Saturdays=Youth. Gonzalez has come into his own as a fiercely talented songwriter and producer, and whatever he creates is bound to be captivating. ~Craig Jenkins



    Cut Copy: Zonoscope [Modular]

    Release date: Feb. 8

    Being an all-male dance trio isn’t necessarily the most appealing schtick to critics, but not only did Cut Copy’s sophomore release In Ghost Colours hit No. 1 in their home country of Australia, it was roundly lauded by critics and ended up on several Best of 2008 lists. The group’s slipped out of the blog cycle in the two years since, but the listeners who enjoyed In Ghost Colours have to be hoping that Zonoscope keeps up the quality of Cut Copy’s output. ~Matthew Richardson


    Hunx & His Punx: Title TBA [Hardly Art]

    Release date: Spring 2011

    Hunx & His Punx have never put out a proper LP, just a bunch of 45s compiled for last year’s aptly-titled Gay Singles. As a band who thrive within the confines of the three-minute pop song, Hunx (born Seth Bogart) and the crew of West Side Story heroines that are his backing band know how to make a catchy hook that’s as much  inspired by ’60s girl groups as the Ramones. Their as-yet-untitled album, recorded at New York’s NY Hed studios and out next spring on Hardly Art, ought to serve as an official coming out party. ~Julian Hattem



    Pusha T: Title TBA [G.O.O.D. Music]

    Release date: TBA

    Let’s face it: While we all love the Clipse rapping together, it’s the younger, grittier Thornton who tends to outshine his brother. So the news that Pusha T and Malice would be recording solo projects was a welcome announcement. That was especially true for Pusha, who moved quickly by signing to G.O.O.D. Music and spitting stand-out verses on My Beautiful Dark Fantasy‘s “Runaway” and “So Appalled.” If those bars are any indication, it’s looking like Pusha’s solo LP could be a lyrical monster. And with Kanye at the helm? Oh boy. ~Andrew Martin


    Panda Bear: Tomboy [Paw Tracks]

    Release date: TBA

    Rather than riding the wave of goodwill hurled upon him after releasing his 2007 masterpiece, Person Pitch, Noah Lennox has opted to release his follow-up Tomboy at a snail-like pace through a series of singles over God knows how many months before finally compiling them into LP form. Consequently, the singles released so far have been amazing, employing a sonic sense that is distinctly Panda Bear, but approaching a sound that is also less polished and slightly sinister. Tomboy still has no set release date save for “…near the end of 2010.” Right. Relax, though, it’s probably worth the wait. ~Daniel Rivera  


    Release date: Jan. 18
    As far as debut singles go, you can’t do much better than Braids’ stellar “Lemonade.” It’s a hazy, ethereal, endlessly engaging track that introduced the band of Montreal-via-Calgary youngsters to the blogsphere and the heads at Kanine Records (the home of Chairlift and Surfer Blood), who signed the band for their debut album Native Speaker. The band has mostly kept the rest of the album under wraps, testing out new material at their live shows, which have been enrapturing audiences at CMJ and other showcases. If this one catches the right hype, Braids could be the third recent band from Kanine to vaunt to major-label territory. ~Andrew Winistorfer

    Tennis: Cape Dory [Fat Possum]

    Release date: Jan. 18

    Tennis, composed of husband-and-wife duo Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, spent eight months sailing along the East Coast then decided to write an album about it. The couple claim that everything from an inability to properly articulate the experience to friends, to a lack of electricity on the boat forcing them to make their own music as the impetus for their debut, Cape Dory. While the backstory to the album makes the project seem like the worst kind of navel-gazing, the songs released so far have been so earnestly affecting that’s it’s easy to forgive the two a bit of self-absorption. Let’s see if they can sustain the charm of the early singles over the course of an album. ~Wolcott Katzenbach


    Hercules & Love Affair: Blue Songs [Moshi Moshi]

    Release date: Jan. 31

    The idea of a disco collective with a producer at its axis is admittedly an anachronistic one, but that didn’t stop Hercules and Love Affair’s self-titled debut from bowling over listeners almost three years ago. Signs indicate that follow up Blue Songs is going to lean closer to house music than the disco of its predecessor, but genre only matters in the context of whether or not this record can bring the bump. ~Matthew Richardson


    Pains of Being Pure of Heart: Belong [Slumberland]

    Release date: March 2011

    The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s self-titled debut was the little indie pop album that could: what might’ve been just another forgotten gem in Slumberland’s back catalog instead launched the Brooklyn foursome into indie-rock’s upper echelon and gained them international recognition. For their follow-up, Belong, they enlisted producers Alan Moulder and Flood, which both makes perfect sense (the former has produced My Bloody Valentine and Ride, two key Pains touchstones) and is totally fucking ridiculous (these are, after all, guys who’ve produced U2 and Smashing Pumpkins. Did the Field Mice ever get to work with, like, Rick Rubin? I think not). Lead single “Heart in Your Heartbreak,” then, sounds just as you’d imagine it would. It’s “pure, perfect pop,” but lighter on the fuzz and heavier on the soaring, daresay radio-ready hooks. ~Daniel Kolitz


    Radiohead: Title TBA [Label TBA?]

    Release date: TBA

    Does this even need an explanation? Every time Radiohead’s blog Dead Air Space even accidentally codes in the word “recording,” the entire Internet is set alight with rumors and postulation and “When is this going to be released?” demands. A mistranslated Italian interview saying the new record was done almost blew Twitter up. People lose their minds for Radiohead, and for good reason, as they’ve consistently challenged themselves to push the boundaries of their sound in intriguing and impressive ways. And, hell, even if you don’t like Radiohead, you can anticipate all the witty backlash repartee you’ll be privy to after the album’s release. ~Chris Bosman


    Drive-By Truckers: Go-Go Boots [ATO]

    Release date: Feb. 15

    Drive-By Truckers have released a slew of classic slabs of Southern Rock, but they have also made a few missteps along the way. Though most fans will point to A Blessing and a Curse as the low point of the band’s career, 2010’s The Big To-Do was relatively directionless, and lacked any killer contribution from Mike Cooley. It’s awful for a fan to live with the psychic weight of having their favorite band’s last album be so mediocre. Hopefully Go-Go Boots, as promised, will tread similar ground to DBT’s vastly superior The Dirty South and Brighter Than Creation’s Dark. ~Mike Burr


    The Streets: Computers and Blues and Cyberspace and Reds [Label TBA]

    Release dates: Feb. 7 and earlier

    U.K. rapper Mike Skinner found near-universal acclaim with his first two albums, but then he became a pop star and things were never quite the same. Now, after a series of online confessions and experiments on YouTube and Twitter, Skinner may have just gotten past all that. For his final album under the Streets moniker, Computers and Blues, due out Feb. 7, and the possibly-a-joke Cyberspace and Reds, due out sometime before then, rumor is that Skinner’s trying to return to his glory days. Streets fans will have to hope he succeeds. ~Julian Hattem



    Big K.R.I.T.: Return of 4eva [Def Jam]

    Release date: TBA


    Big K.R.I.T. was due to blow up, what with five years under his belt. And that’s what happened with the release of 2010’s superb K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. It led to his deal with Def Jam, which brought the announcement of a proper debut, Return of 4eva. Anticipation only grows for the album as time passes as the Mississippi native has impressed whether he was getting introspective over Outkast classics, producing soul-drenched heat for Smoke DZA, or spitting tongue-twisting bars with Yelawolf. It’s that diversity that makes Return of 4eva so goddamned intriguing, along with, of course, K.R.I.T.’s immense talent. ~Andrew Martin


    Battles: Title TBA [Warp]

    Release date: TBA

    New York based experimental supergroup Battles was dealt a critical blow in August when it lost a founding member. Lead singer and guitarist Tyondai Braxton, son of legendary free jazz saxophonist Anthony Braxton, parted ways with the group to pursue his solo career full time in the wake of his latest outing, Central Market. Braxton’s unique and delightfully bizarre voice was crucial to the band’s ascent, and his departure is a major loss, but the trio is plenty talented without him. Battles has been at work on an as yet untitled sophomore album, and nothing is clear about it beyond the capable hands that are crafting it. ~Craig Jenkins

    Lady Gaga: Born This Way [Interscope]

    Release date: TBA

    Even the most strident Gaga detractor had to notice the slight uptick in out-of-the-closet Gaga fans after the late 2009 release of The Fame Monster; the songs on that album seemed to be a little bit more deliberate and less obvious than the work on Lady Gaga’s debut,The Fame. It’s not likely that Born This Way will be a much-revered “work of art” by any means, but it’s reasonable to hope that it keeps up the standard established by its forebear. ~Matthew Richardson


    What album are you most anticipating in the upcoming year? Let us know in the comments below.