Now that most everyone has gotten their Best of 2010 lists out of the way, it’s time to look towards the future. For you, dear reader, we have attacked the ginormous pile of promos on our desk and in our iTunes queue to bring this list of our 30 most anticipated albums of 2011. And guess what? From pop to hip-hop to noise, it looks like it’s going to be an excellent year, featuring buzzy debuts, long-awaited projects from beloved bands, and collaborations so stellar we still can’t believe they’re really happening.
Wire — Red Barked Tree (Pink Flag)
Why: We’d never pass up an offering from one of post-punk’s most consistently fascinating bands — and since we’ve been waiting since 2008 for a new Wire album, it’s about time. Plus, our friends at The Quietus are already predicting it will be among the year’s best albums.
Download: “Two Minutes”
Smith Westerns — Dye It Blonde (Fat Possum)
Why: Who can resist a lovable bunch of kids barely out of high school who find their inspiration in ’60s garage rock and ’70s glam?
Tennis — Cape Dory (Fat Possum)
Why: It’s a perfect story: the couple that is Tennis started writing songs together during their seven-month sailing excursion. The lush, beautiful, semi-sleepy pop that resulted may make them the Beach House of 2011.
Download: “Take Me Somewhere”
Braids — Native Speaker (Kanine)
Why: This group of longtime pals from north of the border mix the angular with the inviting, creating pop tinged with delightfully odd moments, stunning experimental flourishes, and idiosyncratic vocals. It seems like they’ve been getting buzz forever, so it’s high time we got a chance to check out their debut album.
Download: “Plath Heart”
The Decemberists — The King Is Dead (Capitol)
Why: Have The Decemberists still got it? Indie rock’s favorite literary allusionists didn’t impress critics with their last album, 2009’s The Hazards of Love. But they’re certainly selling the new record — which some speculate will be Smiths superfan Colin Meloy’s homage to The Queen Is Dead — hard, with ultra-deluxe box sets already available to pre-order at $165 a pop.
Download: “Down by the Water”