The new decade has already seen the release of Mac Miller’s posthumous album, Circles—an early candidate for best of the year. 2019 was seemingly one of the greatest years, in recent memory, for music. It was a year of explosive political chaos, revolutions, healing, and glamour. 2020 should be no different, having already begun with an extra goodbye given to us by Miller. Music’s heavyweights are set to drop new albums in 2020, some even pinned down with official release dates. Here’s an early look at the most-anticipated albums of the year.
CAR SEAT HEADREST
In 2015, Will Toledo, aka Car Seat Headrest, signed with Matador Records, took the best cuts from his previous Bandcamp albums, re-recorded them, and threw together Teens of Style. Followed up by, what Rolling Stone listed as the fourth-best album of 2016, Teens of Denial, Toledo finally found his rhythm. After a re-recorded release of his critically-lauded concept album Twin Fantasy, it appears that 2020 will be the year for new material. After debuting two new songs on their last United States tour, and given Will Toledo’s creative algorithm, we should expect a record sometime in the back half of the year.
If there’s anything we’ve learned about Frank Ocean, it is that he works on his own time. It has never been about when the fans want a new album. After almost five years of on-again-off-again teasing, listeners received the random gifts of Endless and Blonde back-to-back. Usually, talk of a new Frank Ocean album starts with no evidence. However, in the last part of 2019, Frank dropped two singles: “DHL” and “In My Room.” The cover art for those singles appear to have clues surrounding other tracks, along with the handful of cuts Frank premiered at his PrEP night club events. If Frank Ocean does drop an album this year, it’s likely to have little-to-no pre-release promotion.
Kendrick Lamar is an artist with a release algorithm that’s hard to pin down. There was a three-year gap between Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and To Pimp a Butterfly, but only two years separated TPAB and DAMN. We rarely hear about Kendrick in-between albums, so his radio silence could mean absolutely nothing. However, he is off tour right now, and it’s been three years since DAMN. Kendrick’s never gone longer than that without releasing an album. It wouldn’t be crazy to expect a new record from him sometime in the back half of 2020.
Notes on a Conditional Form, the follow-up to The 1975’s 2018 critical darling, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, will be released on February 21st. The band has already released three singles from the upcoming record, including one featuring climate change activist Greta Thunberg. Inspired by his time as a touring musician, living in vans and eating fast food, Matt Healy is taking a new approach on this record, which is the second of the two promised records favored instead of the now-scrapped Music for Cars.
The last time Tame Impala dropped a new album, Barack Obama was still our president. Currents, their critically-acclaimed 2015 album (registered an incomparable 9.3/10 Pitchfork score), highlighted frontman Kevin Parker’s psychedelic rock genius. We’re four singles in (“Borderline,” “Posthumous Forgiveness,” “It Might Be Time,” and “Lost in Yesterday”) and Tame Impala looks to have finally honed in their craft with tight vocal performances and even dreamier instrumentals than from their first three records. on The Slow Rush, which is due out on February 14th.
At the end of 2019, The Weeknd dropped two singles, “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights,” potentially teasing a new album in 2020. The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) was already having a great year, due to his hilarious performance in Uncut Gems, but “Heartless” hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The two teaser tracks, each soaked in 1980s pop-synth, are rich and mesmerizing. The urgency in the two singles suggests a different attitude and emotional approach to his new project than what he presented to fans on My Dear Melancholy—his 2018 release. No album or release date has been announced yet, but it would be surprising if we didn’t see a full-length from Abel before 2020 is over.
LANA DEL RAY
After taking 2019 by storm with Norman Fucking Rockwell!, her critically-acclaimed sixth studio album, Lana is set to grab ahold of 2020 with her forthcoming record White Hot Forever. On NFR!, Lana reached new heights and provided her fans with her most-well-rounded album to date—both Pitchfork and Rolling Stone listed NFR! on their year-end lists (#1 and #3, respectively). If you can’t wait for the late-2020 release, Lana is putting out a poetry book and spoken-word album in February, both titled Violent Bent Backwards Over the Grass.
In the two years since the release of KOD, J. Cole has been relatively quiet, except for his 2019 single “Middle Child,” which became the best-charting song of his career, and his participation in the 2019 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Last November, Cole announced that his new album, The Fall Off, would be released in 2020. There isn’t a release date yet, but, if his teaser ad, which included political undertones, we can expect it to drop before the election in November.
Halsey’s Manic, is due out January 17th. Her last record, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, received mixed reviews across the board, but Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone praised Halsey for the way she “showed off all her wild musical ambitions.” The first single from the new record, “Without Me,” is a jammable pop song with hip-hop influence, but Halsey told her fans that Manic is “her most diverse-sounding” record yet. With collaborators ranging from Alanis Morissette to BTS, Manic should be the album that pushes her even further into stardom.
Grimes’ last album, Art Angels, came out five years ago. Many consider it to be her magnum opus, and the hype surrounding her seminal follow-up, Miss Anthropocene, has only continued to build-up since. Miss Anthropocene, which Grimes herself calls “a concept album about the anthropomorphic goddess of climate change,” comes out February 21st. With four singles already streaming worldwide, we have a lot to keep us busy until the full-length’s release.
Honorable Mentions: Moses Sumney – grae (February/May 15th), Destroyer – Have We Met (January 31st), Playboi Carti – Whole Lotta Red (TBA), and Soccer Mommy – TBD