Getting back on the musical horse can be one of the trickiest feats to achieve. Once the spotlight has passed and a significant amount of time has gone by, finding that special ingredient again can be incredibly difficult.
Whether it’s Guns ‘N’ Roses’ failed attempt Chinese Democracy, or The Pixies’ mediocre effort Indie Cindy – there’s certainly plenty of examples out there for what can happen when it all goes wrong. Fortunately, the rust isn’t always prevalent for a select few, many of whom defy the odds by returning bigger, stronger, and sometimes, better than before.
This list includes those records that brought their respective artists back with a bang in the 21st century, with the criteria being a gap of ten years or more between releases. These albums prove what can happen when seasoned musicians find a renewed sense of vigor, releasing not just great comeback albums, but in some cases, discography highlights for that particular act.
Here are a few honorable mentions that almost made the cut:
Death from Above 1979 – The Physical World
Blur – The Magic Whip
Dexys – One Day I’m Going to Soar
Soundgarden – King Animal
With that said, let’s get into the best comeback albums of the 21st century (so far).
10. Suede – Bloodsports (2013)
British alternative rock group Suede re-entered the fray in 2013 with one of the year’s best albums – the reinvigorated stunner Bloodsports. It marked the band’s first new material in 11 years, serving as the ultimate revitalization of one of Britpop’s most underappreciated acts. For fans, this is the same measured rock music that Suede so effortlessly mastered in the ‘90s, with some modern flourishes thrown in for good measure too. The play like a band with a point to prove – and they go above and beyond the call of duty on tracks like “It Starts and Ends with You,” “Hit Me,” and the moody climax “Faultlines.”
9. Dr. Dre – Compton (2015)
When hip-hop legend Dr. Dre scrapped his whole Detox album, many rightfully feared for the worse. Coming almost 15 years after his second LP 2001, there was a lot riding on his comeback record Compton. However, those fears were put to rest when it finally dropped, showcasing the pristine production skills that the rapper has become renowned for. While it does feature an almost overwhelming number of guest spots, Compton still oozes the undeniable confidence synonymous with Dre’s best material like The Chronic. The hugely successful performer certainly found a renewed sense of vigor on the highlight-littered release.
8. David Bowie – The Next Day (2013)
Before pop icon David Bowie dropped his 2013 record The Next Day, most had just assumed that the Thin White Duke had simply retired. However, they couldn’t have been more wrong. The album is a testament to the performer’s intense love for music, stripping away the glam rock theatrics to reveal the singer’s greatest trait – his songwriting ability. His art rock sensibilities are on show throughout the slightly askew album, becoming especially prevalent on cuts like “Love is Lost,” “Where Are We Now?” and “Dancing Out in Space.” Commercially and critically, this return was an overwhelming success.
7. Black Sabbath – 13 (2013)
Listening to Black Sabbath’s ferocious comeback album 13, you really wouldn’t think it was made by a band that had released their debut album almost 45 years prior. However, that’s exactly what it is. 13 was the heavy metal group’s first LP with original frontman Ozzy Osbourne back in the fold since 1978’s Never Say Die, and surprisingly, they do anything but go through the motions for the majority of the sinister record. Lead guitarist Tony Iommi once again proves why he’s one of, if not, the greatest guitar player in the genre’s history, turning his instrument into a fiery weapon on songs like lead single “God Is Dead,” “Age of Reason,” and the terrifying album closer “Dear Father.” This could’ve been terrible, but due to the band’s insatiable appetite, it was the exact opposite.
6. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (2016)
Almost two decades after their 1998 release The Love Movement, prolific hip-hop outfit A Tribe Called Quest finally got together again for their ambitious 2016 return We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. Remarkably, it’s like they were never gone. They pick up right from where the left off, utilizing their trademark jazz-rap fusion style, and wowing critics with their slick production, clever lyricism, and intoxicating beats. On top of some monumental critical acclaim, the record also made a big dent commercially, reaching the top spot on the Billboard 200, and setting a new record for longest gap between two number 1 albums from a hip-hop group. Impressive!
5. Kate Bush – Aerial (2005)
You’d think there’d be enough pressure coming back after 12 years with new material without making it an epic double album. Well, try telling that to angelic singer-songwriter Kate Bush – a performer who fearlessly roared back with those lofty ambitions in 2005. Entitled Aerial, the 80-minute long LP showcases Bush’s uncanny pop sensibilities, along with her limitless musical outlook when it comes to merging genres. She incorporates elements of prog-rock, pop, folk, reggae, classical music, and more in her quest to push her music skywards. Admirably, she achieves that feat with stunning consistency throughout this invigorating masterpiece. There’s no two ways about it – Aerial is simply a joy to listen to.
4. Portishead – Third (2008)
While trip hop is sometimes synonymous with easy listening and chill-out music, there’s nothing easy about Portishead’s enthralling return to form in 2008. Coming 11 years after their self-titled sophomore effort, Third finds the erratic group in dark, dangerous territory. The shrill vocals, lurking instrumentals, and blurry production combine to create an unsettling journey that’s as alluring as it is spooky. Veering out of their trippy cocoon, Portishead delve into krautrock-styled repetition, avant-garde-inspired flirtations, and airy psychedelic transcendence to create an astonishing piece of work that just improves with every spin. Atmosphere is one of the most overlooked components in music, and with Portishead’s Third, they don’t come much more atmospheric than this enticing amalgamation of sounds and moods. Sonically, this LP is pure audio gold.
3. D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah (2014)
R&B artist D’Angelo returned in 2014 after a 14-year gap between albums, and he didn’t disappoint. With the help of The Vanguard, the soulful performer delivered an album of stunning proportions – the funk-infused Black Messiah. Literally, everything’s firing on all cylinders on this scintillating comeback. Whether it’s the ingenious use of beats, the powerful lyrical themes, or the warm, inviting production – the album is the perfect mix of digital and physical, never overly relying on either one. More importantly, the release of Black Messiah marked the tortured artist’s dream finally come to fruition after a turbulent, arduous time in his professional life and personal life. After 14 years of being rejected and sidelined, Black Messiah finally dropped. And you know what – it’s better than anyone could have even thought possible.
2. Faith No More – Sol Invictus (2015)
Releasing new material 18 years after your last album is bold. Luckily, for genre-fusion masters Faith No More, they’ve been doing things their way since the start of their unique history. So it was in 2015 when the group decided to boggle the listener’s mind once again with one of their best LP’s to date – the transcendent cracker Sol Invictus. The whole album isn’t going to please everyone – which is more down to the fact that the band style hop so often – but even the most stubborn music fan would have to take their hat off to songs like the middle-eastern inspired barnburner “Superhero,” the eerie, claustrophobic nail-biter “Separation Anxiety,” and the tension-ratcheting epic “Matador.” Sol Invictus finds Faith No More at their inventive best.
1. My Bloody Valentine – MBV (2013)
The return of Irish sound experimenters My Bloody Valentine was always going to be a noisy affair, but few could have predicted just how noisy it would be. 22 years after their groundbreaking 1991 release Loveless, the wall of sound that emanates from their powerful third album MBV is almost overwhelming. Songs like “Only Tomorrow” and “Wonder 2” soar so far into the heavens that you’ll wonder if they’ll ever make it back down to earth again. The answer, of course, is rarely. The words ‘beauty’ and ‘majestic’ quickly spring to mind while absorbing this thrilling, musical tour de force, proving that this influential shoegaze group have lost nothing during their long absence. Here’s hoping it’s not such a long time again before we get new material from these alternative rock stalwarts.