For starters, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: music is full of surprises. That’s what makes it fun. In January of last year, we certainly wouldn’t have guessed at the rapid ascension of Lorde, nor were we expecting album releases from Justin Timberlake or My Bloody Valentine. We certainly wouldn’t have guessed Vampire Weekend would release the best album of the year. We did, however, predict Haim—we’re not total amateurs.
Nevertheless, let’s be clear: there some guesses on here.
But that’s part of what makes it fun too. The anticipation. And while not all these bands have made official statements about this year, these are the ones we feel confident will be releasing new music in 2014, and why you should care. And if we missed anyone (doubtful, but possible) well, that’s what the comment section is for.
John Mark McMillan – Borderland
Release Date: March 4
For his follow-up to 2011’s acclaimed Economy, John Mark McMillan went independent, raising nearly $70,000 via a Kickstarter campaign. The results, according to an update from the singer/songwriter, are the “most mature” songs he’s ever written. If this live version of the title track “Borderland” is any indication, it’ll be a step forward for one of worship music’s most interesting artists.
TV on the Radio – TBA
Release Date: TBA
A few weeks back, the influential Brooklyn outfit announced via a Facebook update that they were at work on the follow-up to 2011’s Nine Types of Light. As always the case with the indie rock collective, the album will likely contain some high-profile collaborations, envelope-push genre mashing and some surprisingly catchy songs that blend experimental sensibilities with pop smarts.
Broken Bells – After the Disco
Release Date: January 14
When he hasn’t been busy writing music with Beck, reuniting Gnarls Barkley or mixing the new U2 album, Danger Mouse has been working with Broken Bells partner James Mercer (The Shins’ frontman) on After the Disco. The album’s first single “Holding on for Life” contains the mellow beats, soulful vocals and retro melodies that picks up where Daft Punk’s disco-inspired Random Access Memories left-off.
U2 – TBA
Release Date: April
U2 teamed with super-producer Danger Mouse for their first studio album since 2009, that according to an interview bassist Adam Clayton gave to a radio station in Ireland, is “a bit of a return to U2 of old.” Though the record may be a callback to the stripped down rock sound that made U2 one of the biggest bands in the world, expect some modern influences: Photographers recently captured an image of Chris Martin hanging around the U2 gang, fueling rumors that the new record may contain collaborations with the Coldplay frontman.
Switchfoot – Fading West
Release date: January 14
For their upcoming album, Fading West, Switchfoot stuck to their surf-rock roots—the latest album serves as the soundtrack to a surf/music/travel documentary that came out in September by the same name. Expect big hooks, guitar-heavy melodies and a world-music influence on the five-piece’s latest collection of alt-rock anthems.
Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes
Release date: January 14
At an age where most of his contemporaries are better known for what they did than what they’re doing, Springsteen seems to have hit a ninth inning stride. His recent string of albums have been among his strongest ever, which is part of why the media push around High Hopes has been so big. He’s proven capable of meeting and even exceeding the expectations his legendary status brings.
Frank Ocean – TBA
Release date: Summer
In 2012, Frank Ocean jolted the music world awake with Channel Orange, a mellow, hypnotic infusion of R&B, hip hop and lyrical dynamo. He’s promised new music by the summer, and if it’s half the revelation his last album was, it’ll be one of the year’s best.
Fleet Foxes – TBA
Release date: TBA
Seattle’s finest have had a stormy season since the release of 2011’s masterful, criminally underrated Helplessness Blues. Following the band’s very public break with drummer J Tillman (now going by Father John Misty and carving out a nice indie-folk name for himself), there was some speculation that Fleet Foxes was done for. Such speculation seems to be empty, however. The band is hinting at a release later this year.
The Black Keys – TBA
Release date: TBA
No guarantees on this one, but The Black Keys are one of the most prolific bands in the business, and there are rumors that they’ve been going to the studio quite a bit lately, so we feel confident saying we’ll be hearing something from Akron’s finest this year. But will it be a gutsy, bluesy stomp in the vein of Attack and Release? Or rollicking, driving rock anthem like El Camino? Or maybe something new altogether? Stay tuned.
St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Release Date: February 25
Annie Clark has yet to experience the broad success of some of her indie-pop peers, but she’s absolutely one of the most fascinating musicians on the market. She’s in the vein of David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens and other wonky, experimental geniuses whose music might just be a little too smart for the rest of us. St. Vincent’s new album isn’t going to blow up the charts, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be listening to it. Quite the contrary.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.