The 10 Albums We’re Most Excited About in January

New TORRES, Drive-By Truckers & more

Music Lists New Albums
The 10 Albums We’re Most Excited About in January

Welcome to the new decade, children! After months of best-of lists and plenty of other end-of-the-year hullabaloo, we can finally kiss—or kick—the 2010s goodbye. We’re only two days into the new year, but there’s a change in the air, no? This could be the year—we could change the fabric of American politics, we could find solutions to climate change, we could figure out a way to consolidate streaming channels! But no matter what 2020 looks like for us personally and culturally, we can always count on music for comfort and insight. January 2020 is shaping up to be a particularly exciting start to it all, with much-anticipated new releases from indie-rock favorites like Frances Quinlan and TORRES, plus newcomers like Squirrel Flower. And we can’t forget to mention Bonny Light Horseman, the first supergroup event of the year. Take a glance at all the music we’re most looking forward to in the next 31 days.

January 10

Notable January 10 releases: Selena Gomez: Rare, Devon Gilfillian: Black Hole Rainbow, Beach Slang: The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City, Kesha: High Road, Field Music: Making A New World

January 15

Futurebirds: Teamwork
VL/4L Records

Athens, Ga., has been a hotbed for great rock music (and music of all types) for the better part of the last 50 years, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change in the next 10. Raspy roots-rockers Futurebirds are four albums deep a decade into their career, but the arrival of their fifth is still a cause worth commemorating. Their earnest brand of country-tinged, sultry singsong fits right in alongside all your favorite indie-folk and Americana records. But Futurebirds are doing something different from many of those bands: Their three-part harmonies range from heartbreaking to chill-inducing, yet most of their songs possess a laid-back summery feel. The songs on LP5, Teamwork, find Futurebirds leaning into the psychedelic side of things, yet they’re as twangy as ever. “Trippin” takes delight in human error, “All Damn Night” is an escapist mountain holler tune and “Dream, Fam!” is a suspicious jam. This record could take Futurebirds to the next level—bigger venues, heftier touring schedules—but for those of us who’ve been around with this band since the beginning, Teamwork is just another chapter in this century’s great southern rock story. —Ellen Johnson

January 17

Bombay Bicycle Club: Everything Else Has Gone Wrong
Caroline International/Island Records

This is not a drill: Bombay Bicycle Club are back after a three-year official hiatus. Everything Else Has Gone Wrong will be their first release as a group since 2014’s So Long, See You Tomorrow. Along with the album and tour announcements, the band released a playful music video for lead single “Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You).” The song might sound like frontman Jack Steadman can’t get an ex off his mind, but it’s really thoughts of playing with the band that are haunting him and giving him no peace. The new video by their former touring keyboardist, Louis Bhose, who is now a sought-out director, begins with a lament for the troubled times of Bombay Bicycle Club’s hiatus. “Without their music,” it reads, “British society crumbled,” and it seems the band’s members didn’t fare too well, either. A pining Steadman, utterly isolated in drab industrial settings or abandoned countryside, tries desperately to hack making music on his own—only to find that his former bandmates are suffering, too. They’re all gazing at their creepy, candlelit shrines to their bandmates in their prime and tenderly stroking one another’s faces on their Bombay Bicycle Club wall posters. Lucky for us, because “Eat, Sleep, Wake” is a welcome return from a group that’s been greatly missed. —Amanda Gersten

Pinegrove: Marigold
Rough Trade Records

This month the New Jersey alt-country outfit Pinegrove will share Marigold, the group’s debut on their new label, Rough Trade Records, and the announcement arrived with a single and video for one of its tracks, “Phase.” “Phase” feels like a return to Pinegrove’ former sound on their acclaimed record, Cardinal. In it, there’s a driving drum beat and palm-muted guitar setting the stage for frontman Evan Stephens Hall’s ardent yelps. The restrained verse builds to a chorus where everything comes to a crescendo at Hall’s cry of “I’m torn right through / Divided right in two.” There’s some fantastic slide guitar fills within, giving the track Pinegrove’s signature almost-country feeling. Pinegrove took a year-long hiatus after Hall issued a statement in response to an allegation of “sexual coercion” made against him in 2017. Since then, their self-release of Skylight in 2018 and new record deal with Rough Trade have shown the group attempting to put those events behind them. —Hayden Goodridge

More notable January 17 releases: 070 Shake: Modus Vivendi, Holy Fuck: Deleter, Little Big Town: Nightfall, Marcus King: El Dorado, Halsey: Manic, Mura Masa: R.Y.C, of Montreal: UR FUN

January 24

Andy Shauf: The Neon Skyline

Canadian indie-folk musician Andy Shauf has already released a few charming singles from his forthcoming concept album The Neon Skyline, including “Things I Do.” Shauf’s captivating storytelling lays out a crumbling relationship on the single, one piece of the bigger tale told across the record. “Things I Do” opens with a laid-back groove highlighted by a soft chorus of saxophones that give way to Shauf’s anecdote. “Seems like I should have known better / Than to turn my head like it didn’t matter,” he sings at the beginning. In a similar fashion to Shauf’s 2016 record, The Party, The Neon Skyline’s structure follows a storyline that takes place over the course of a night, according to a press release: “The interconnected songs on The Neon Skyline, all written, performed, arranged and produced by Shauf, follow a simple plot: The narrator goes to his neighborhood dive, finds out his ex is back in town, and she eventually shows up.” —Hayden Goodridge

Bonny Light Horseman (Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson & Josh Kaufman): Bonny Light Horseman
37d03d Records

It’s only January, but the folk event of the year could already be upon us. Bonny Light Horseman may sound like a meaningless arrangement of words, but it’s actually Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson and Josh Kaufman, three incredible musicians and creators in their own rights who decided to bless the acoustic music world by joining forces. And their namesake is actually derived from an English-Irish ballad with origins in the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, “Bonny Light Horseman,” which is also the first track on their self-titled debut album and features The National’s Aaron Dessner on guitar. The three artists first gathered at Justin Vernon’s Eaux Claires Festival circa summer 2018, and a year later they rendezvoused at Pickathon. You know the Portland-based Johnson from his band Fruit Bats, and Mitchell is the mastermind behind Hadestown, which won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Musical, and its coinciding concept album, which she first released in 2010. Kaufman is a producer who’s notably worked with Craig Finn, Josh Ritter and The National. Together, they’ve made something truly spellbinding: a folk album whose influences span the centuries and the continents, but whose core is so very of-this-moment. —Ellen Johnson

More notable January 24 releases: Black Lips: The Black Lips Sing…in A World That’s Falling Apart, Wolf Parade: Thin Mind, Okay Kaya: Watch This Liquid Pour Itself, Sarah Mary Chadwick: Please Daddy, Thyla: Everything At Once EP

January 31

Destroyer: Have We Met

Indie-rock’s modern crooners, Destroyer, have released the anthemic lead single “Crimson Tide” from their forthcoming album, Have We Met. The song is rife with singer Dan Bejar’s elegant ramblings and comes with a surrealist music video that’s as invigorating as the song itself. “Crimson Tide” is Destroyer’s first release since 2017’s Ken but shows the outfit continuing down the electronic tone their past record set. It opens with a deep bass line and choral synths, setting the stage for Bejar’s lyrical waltz. In his trademark stream-of-consciousness delivery, he delivers witty quips—odd as they are charming. He sounds delightfully disheveled as he sings, “When lightning strikes twice the funeral goes completely insane.” —Hayden Goodridge

Drive-By Truckers: The Unraveling

The kings of country-rock and outspoken wisdom, Drive-By Truckers, are returning this year with their 12th studio album, following 2016’s American Band and the 2018 release of the long-lost Adam’s House Cat album Town Burned Down, which featured Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley before their Truckers days. The Unraveling arrives after a prolonged period of writer’s block for Hood and Cooley, easily one of the most impressive songwriting pairs in music’s recent history (we named them some of the best living songwriters back in 2006). On The Unraveling, they pick up right where American Band left off, with searing political commentary and a sharp look at the harsh realities of modern American life. “The past three-and-a-half years were among the most tumultuous our country has ever seen,” Hood said in a press statement, “and the duality between the generally positive state of affairs within our band while watching so many things we care about being decimated and destroyed all around us informed the writing of this album to the core.” And there you have it. It’s a new decade, but the Truckers remain dedicated to the same cause: relaying the truth—no matter how difficult it is to speak—by way of deep-rooted, multifaceted and, perhaps most importantly, southern rock ‘n’ roll. —Ellen Johnson

Frances Quinlan: Likewise
Saddle Creek

Frances Quinlan has one of the most instantly recognizable voices in indie rock. As the lead singer of Philadelphia band Hop Along, she’s been at the front of two of this decade’s best rock albums, 2014’s Painted Shut, which landed on Paste’s best albums of the 2010s list, and 2018’s Bark Your Head Off, Dog, one of our favorite albums of that year. Her voice is a raspy force that touches on everything from punk to freak-folk. Hop Along originally began as Quinlan’s solo project, but now she’s releasing her first-ever solo album under her own name. The first single, “Rare Thing,” is a real stunner and surely a harbinger of things to come. Quinlan recorded the album with her Hop Along bandmate Joe Reinhart, who encouraged her to explore new sounds, at The Headroom studio in Philly. “Working with Joe on this made me able to better see that the guitar is just one vehicle … there are so many others to explore,” Quinlan said in a statement. —Ellen Johnson

Squirrel Flower: I Was Born Swimming

Squirrel Flower (aka Ella O’Connor Williams) is releasing her Polyvinyl debut, I Was Born Swimming, at the end of the month. She made a splash with lead single “Red Shoulder,” a wrenching rock tune that pairs her poised vocals with scorching guitars, sounding astoundingly alive. “Headlights,” Williams’ second track from the record, is practically its opposite—a soft, shimmering track that proves she’s just as excellent in the realm of tender introspection. —Amanda Gersten

TORRES: Silver Tongue

This summer, Torres (aka Mackenzie Scott) announced that she was readying an album with her new label, Merge Records, after being dropped by 4AD in 2018 for “not being commercially successful enough.” This fall she finally provided us with the details on her new effort, which follows 2017’s ambitious and critically acclaimed Three Futures. Along with the Silver Tongue album announcement, Scott released the lead single, LP opener “Good Scare.” Like the material on Three Futures, “Good Scare” melds oceanic guitar, percussion and synth, offering a lush and layered complement to Scott’s gravelly lows and tender falsetto. The new track takes up the stops and starts of a budding romance, when the prospect of love feels both terrifying and predestined. —Amanda Gersten

More notable January 31 releases: Son Little: aloha, Dustbowl Revival: Is It You, Is It Me, Loving: If I Am Only My Thoughts

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