With David Bowie's 25th studio album/masterful farewell, "Blackstar," already on the books, no matter what happens in 2016 it's going to be a good year for music. Fortunately, the next few months are absolutely stacked with efforts from Kanye West (probably), Chance the Rapper and Sia expected to come out (well, we don't know exactly when Chance's third mixtape will drop, but it seems soon).
Like any year, there's so much new stuff to check out that it can seem pretty overwhelming. RedEye is here to help; below you'll find the 31 most exciting albums about to hit Chicago's record stores and streaming devices this winter and spring. Check out RedEye's 10 most-exciting early 2016 concerts here.
P.S., in the TBD section, these are just informed to semi-informed guesses. We know exciting artists like Radiohead, Haim, Rihanna, Frank Ocean and Lorde are prepping new releases, but it seems more likely those efforts will drop later, instead of sooner, this year. Like I said, totally guessing here! Also stay tuned for local efforts like Mick Jenkins' "The Healing Component," Vic Mensa's "Traffic," Lupe Fiasco's three albums he's expected to drop in 2016 and to-be-named full-lengths from Al Scorch, Oshwa, Marrow, Ne-Hi, Joey Purp and Eryn Allen Kane a bit later this year.
Who: David Bowie
Album title: "Blackstar"
Backstory: What is there to say about this album that hasn't already been said? His "parting gift" to his fans stands among his best work.
Sound: If you ask producer Tony Visconti, Bowie listened to a lot of Kendrick Lamar and Boards of Canada before teaming up with a quartet of jazz musicians he heard at a small Greenwich Village club. Even at the end of his career, the icon was always sonically innovative.
Why I'm excited: As Rolling Stone editor Simon Vozick-Levinson noted on Twitter, an amazing part about this release is that it's not just good for a 69-year-old artist—it's just a great album. RIP, Starman.
Album title: "Bloodiest"
Backstory: Six-piece Chicago metal act.
Sound: Blending the line between gorgeous, guitar-based harmonies and ragged abrasiveness.
Why I'm excited: I admit I don't write about or listen to metal as much as I used to, but this album is bringing me back to those awesome head-banging days. This record rules.
Who: Anderson .Paak
Album title: "Malibu"
Backstory: California native crooner-rapper Anderson .Paak was the first voice you heard on Dr. Dre's better-than-it-should-have-been "Compton."
Sound: A fiery hybrid of soul, funk, pop and hip-hop that shows a talent as versatile as it is instantly likable.
Why I'm excited: With the Doctor's previous co-signs being Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar, .Paak's in great company.
Album title: "Adore Life"
Backstory: U.K. post-punks took the music world by storm with its brooding, Joy Division-indebted 2013 debut, "Silence Yourself."
Sound: Anxiety, clanging guitars and enthralling vocals from Jehnny Beth.
Why I'm excited: I'm digging the new singles ("Adore," "The Answer" and "T.I.W.Y.G.") more than some of the best cuts off the first record.
Album title: "This Is Acting"
Backstory: Pop singer-songwriter Sia eschews traditional celebrity by never showing her face. While her songs like "Breathe Me" and "Chandelier" have been pretty much ubiquitous (not to mention her videos), her songs for other people have been just as well-received. This is an album of songs originally written for other artists.
Sound: Passionately sung pop resonant enough to make you well up.
Why I'm excited: Sia is just as good as a solo artist as she is writing songs for other people (um, like our No. 3 song of 2015, "Boy Problems" by Carly Rae Jepsen).
Album title: "Don't You"
Backstory: Rising Columbia Records-signed trio from Western Mass.
Sound: Slick, R&B-infused electro-pop.
Why I'm excited: I'm a sucker for anything that reminds me of a Blood Orange song like last year's aquatic "Deadwater," but the band's recent output, like 2016's just-released "All the Ways," is inviting enough to stop comparing Wet to other acts.
Who: The Lemons
Album title: "Hello, We're The Lemons"
Backstory: Self-described "bubblegum maniacs" from Chicago are re-releasing some old material and new songs as the band's debut album for Burger Records.
Sound: Charming indie pop that sometimes feels as if it's about to fall apart at the seams but stays the course with some simple and sweet songwriting. It comes in at a whopping 28 songs but only runs 34 minutes for a compact dose of pop goodness.
Why I'm excited: This band is so much fun—happy a larger audience is about to take notice.
Album title: "Pool"
Backstory: Aaron Maine started his prolific career making acoustic guitar bedroom folk that surpassed many of his colleagues with its immediacy and tendency to experiment with genre.
Sound: Maine has drastically changed his musical approach. He's kept his delicate but sturdy croon and added a cornucopia of lush, '80s-inspired electronics and nostalgia.
Why I'm excited: I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of this from the label before Christmas break, so let's just say this was my favorite 2016 album I heard in 2015.
Who: Sunflower Bean
Album title: "Human Ceremony"
Backstory: Prediction: This Brooklyn band is going to be what everyone is talking about at this year's South By Southwest.
Sound: Reverb-heavy indie rock.
Why I'm excited: One listen to any of the singles off "Human Ceremony" should answer that question.
Who: Kanye West
Album title: "Swish"
Backstory: Originally called "So Help Me God," Kanye named this follow-up to 2013's "Yeezus" after his wife, Kim Kardashian.
Sound: Like Kanye, we hope? His output over the past year and a half has been a little varied, with no song sounding alike; we could get an album full of cuts like the just-released "Real Friends," or we could get something more subdued like the Paul McCartney collabs "Only One" and Rihanna-assisted "FourFiveSeconds." As long as it doesn't have "Facts," it should be perfect.
Why I'm excited: He's never let us down with a full-length before.
Album title: "Cardinal"
Backstory: A Montclair, N.J., band fronted by one of the sharpest new songwriters in Evan Stephens Hall.
Sound: The best thing you'll probably hear this year. Like I mentioned in an earlier write-up, it's like if Built To Spill, The Replacements and Wilco had a baby that listened to a lot of punk and country.
Why I'm excited: Holy shit, is this album incredible or what? I was lucky enough to get a promo of the entire thing a week ago, and I must've gone through the whole thing a couple dozen times already.
Who: Animal Collective
Album title: "Painting With"
Backstory: One of the strangest, most psychedelic and interesting pop bands returns with a follow-up to 2012's "Centipede Hz."
Why we're excited: My favorite album from this Baltimore band is 2009's "Merriweather Post Pavilion" because it kept the pop backbone of each song no matter what experimental flourishes came at it. Recent single "Floridada" does the same thing, and it might be one of my favorite songs AnCo has ever released.
Who: Jack Garratt
Album title: "Phase"
Backstory: Talented multi-instrumentalist from the U.K. who won BBC's Sound of 2016 poll and now has a place in Chicago.
Sound: An explosion of electronic, rock and soul from a guy who loves Stevie Ray Vaughan as much as he does Stevie Wonder.
Why I'm excited: Garratt is as friendly as he is talented. My interview with him late last year puts me firmly in his corner.
Who: Lushlife / CSLSX
Album title: "Ritualize"
Backstory: Philadelphia gets more attention for its ridiculously stacked punk and rock scenes, but veteran Raj Haldar has been making incredible rap as Lushlife for a few years now. His collab LP with CSLSX poises the artist to go above and beyond his previous work.
Sound: Cerebral, guest star-heavy hip-hop with a singular vision and impeccable wordplay.
Why I'm excited: A recently released single with Killer Mike called "This Ecstatic Cult" has been taking over my earbuds. Along with the rest of the project.
Who: Wild Nothing
Album title: "Life of Pause"
Backstory: Jack Tatum has been an expert at creating larger-than-life indie rock as Wild Nothing, but now he's taking the sound to unexpected territory with inspirations from krautrock and Steve Reich.
Sound: Probably the most elaborately pretty indie rock record of 2016.
Why I'm excited: Wild Nothing's last album, 2012's "Nocturne," was my most-played album of that year—yes, amazingly, more than Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean's.
Album title: "When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired"
Backstory: Athens, Ga.-based band that made my favorite songs of 2015 list not even a day after I first heard "It Hurts Until It Doesn't."
Sound: Remember all the goosebumps you got when you first heard Angel Olsen's voice? It's like that.
Why I'm excited: See above.
Album title: "Plaza"
Backstory: East coast band.
Sound: Kinks-indebted psychedelic folk-pop.
Why I'm excited: This band's last album, 2014's "Held In Splendor," didn't blow me away, but I have a good feeling about this one.
Album title: "99¢"
Backstory: One of music's most underappreciated pop talents is back with another gem.
Sound: The best song on your summer playlist.
Why I'm excited: From the second I heard 2008's "Lights Out," I knew I'd devour everything she'd put out since. No disappointments yet.
Who: Into It. Over It.
Album title: "Standards"
Backstory: Chicago's Evan Weiss hashed out this album with his bandmate and writing partner Joshua David Sparks at a secluded cabin in Vermont. The entire project was also recorded in San Francisco with producer John Vanderslice.
Sound: On Twitter, critic Ian Cohen described the first single, "No EQ," as [Death Cab For Cutie's] "'The Photo Album' with a live drum-n-bass beat." He's right!
Why I'm excited: Evan Weiss for mayor.
Who: The Falcon
Album title: "Gather Up The Chaps" (rumored this spring)
Backstory: A punk project of Lawrence Arms' Brendan Kelly that features TLA's Neil Hennessy, Dave Hause (The Loved Ones) and Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio) that hasn't released a record since its 2006 debut.
Sound: Guitarist Hause told New Noise Magazine that the record is like, "If Modest Mouse were to make a really uptempo punk record."
Why I'm excited: I've heard multiple demos from the entire project, and the whole thing is a ton of fun—there's even a song called "Hasselhoff Cheeseburger."
Who:Daddy (James Franco and Tim O’Keefe)
Album title: “Let Me Get What I Want”
When: March 18
Backstory: Famous actor prone to self-indulgent projects teams up with film composer Tim O’Keefe (his old art school buddy, naturally) and Smiths bassist Andy Rourke (which is actually pretty cool).
Sound: It’s a whole album inspired by the Smiths; from what I've heard it’s exactly how you’d imagine James Franco doing a Smiths impression would sound like.
Why I'm excited: I’m not entirely sure, but the unpredictable Franco could throw a worthy musical curveball (probably not though).
Who: White Denim
Album title: "Stiff"
Backstory: Austin, Texas' best psychedelic rockers return with a new guitarist and drummer, which hopefully won't make us miss the ex-members currently working with Leon Bridges.
Sound: If Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak" tried to "keep Austin weird."
Why I'm excited: What? I can't hear you over this guitar solo.
Album title: "Lost Time"
Backstory: A Seattle-based band with a name that's either the best thing ever or a little too pandering but it doesn't matter because the songs are great.
Sound: If humor and heart started a punk band with a classic, garage-rock sound.
Why I'm excited: Its latest single is called "I Hate The Weekend."
Who: Andrew Bird
Album title: N/A (rumored this spring)
Backstory: A formerly Chicago-based violinist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and whistler responsible for some of the most charming releases in the aughts.
Sound: Immensely talented and intricate compositions that are heavy on the loop pedal and the violin.
Why I'm excited: After hearing some new songs off the release during one of Bird's yearly "Gezelligheid" shows at Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church, this is a return to form that'll satiate longtime fans and newcomers.
Who: Chance the Rapper
Album title: N/A
Backstory: In 2015, Chance threw a curveball by taking a backseat to Donnie Trumpet on the marvelous "Surf," my favorite album of the year. Now, with an "SNL" appearance under his belt and a bonkers upcoming music video for "Angels" on the way, he's ready to ride the train beyond everyone's expectations.
Why I'm excited: What publication do you think you're reading?'
Album title: "Views From the 6"
Backstory: The Toronto-based meme who made your entire family do the "Hotline Bling" dance at Christmas dinner is ready for his big album.
Sound: The sound of the Internet scrambling to create a GIF.
Why I'm excited: There's no artist that I've done more of a heel turn on than Drake. I used to hate him, and now I'm all in.
Who: Fort Frances
Album title: "Alio" (rumored this April)
Backstory: Local folk-rock mainstays return for another full-length of songs that'll make you think, "Why isn't this on the radio yet?"
Sound: Rafters-reaching rock.
Why I'm excited: After premiering the stream of this band's latest (and great) EP "No One Needs To Know Our Name," I'm very excited to hear what's next.
Who: Frankie Cosmos
Album title: N/A
Backstory: New Yorker Greta Kline is a prolific bedroom pop songwriter who soundtracked a lot of my lazy 2014 mornings with her breakout album "Zentropy."
Sound: The heart-filled music you wish you'd made in your bedroom on rainy days.
Why I'm excited: Between this and her boyfriend Aaron Maine's upcoming album as Porches, "Pool," 2016 is looking fine.
Who: NoName Gypsy
Album title: "Telefone"
Backstory: Chicago rapper NoName Gypsy, who recently appeared on "Surf" and had an excellent single with Chance the Rapper called "Israel (Sparring)," has been working on this Donnie Trumpet-produced project for a while. We hope it drops soon.
Sound: Poetic, confessional rhymes with a lot of heart. She came up in the open mic poetry scene and graduated to something grander. A true local talent.
Why I'm excited: She was one of the many highlights on "Surf."
Album title: "Think Tink"
Backstory: Calumet City-raised talent who excels at both singing and rapping. Timbaland is producing the album as well.
Why I'm excited: I've been in the tank for Tink for a long while. She was one of the first artists I wrote about almost a year ago for this job, and the anticipation for this release hasn't wavered since.
Album title: N/A
Backstory: Ex-members of Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra formed a Chicago- and Portland, Ore.-based band.
Sound: Big Star meets the Band with a whole lot of shimmery pop.
Why I'm excited: Sources have told me there's an exciting new record deal on the way, and hearing these songs live was one of my favorite local live experiences ever. These guys have it.
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