The xx – I See You
Perhaps it’s their very lack of demonstrativeness that has made the xx so popular – they are a backdrop on to which listeners can project whatever they want. A gap of more than five years since their last record has done little to blunt their appeal, and their third album finds them foregrounding Jamie xx’s status as one of dance music’s more unusual sonic architects and backgrounding the spectral, downbeat elements of their first two.
• 13 January, Young Turks.
Flo Morrissey and Matthew E White – Gentlewoman, Ruby Man
Covers albums are 10 a penny. Covers albums with track listings this eccentric are not. Here, the linchpin of Virginia’s Spacebomb collective teams up with the British singer-songwriter to cover songs as seemingly ill-suited to sit alongside each other as the theme from Grease, Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne, Frank Ocean’s Thinking ’Bout You and the Velvet Underground’s Sunday Morning. Incredibly, it works.
• 13 January, Glassnote.
Austra – Future Politics
Obviously, you wouldn’t expect anything described as a “recording project” rather than a “pop group” to release anything so mundane as a collection of songs. And so the third release from Katie Stelmanis and co turns out to be “a commitment to replace the approaching dystopia … It’s about reaching beyond boundaries, in every single field.” Stelmanis might have intended to reconfigure political thought, but she managed to write some memorable and magical songs along the way.
• 20 January, Domino.
Ty Segall - Ty Segall
Trying to make sense of the San Franscisco garage punk hero’s discography is like trying to count the spots on a cheetah. While it sprints. No matter how prolific he is – as well as his solo career, he’s made records with nine other outfits – he keeps the quality control high. His self-titled ninth album is as fuzzy, gnarly, ugly – and tuneful – as the rest of his catalogue. One to treasure.
• 27 January, Drag City.
Iggy Azalea – Digital Distortion
When the Australian rapper released her first album in 2014, she seemed like another aspiring star whose moment had passed before it had arrived. How wrong that assessment was. The single Fancy gave her a worldwide smash, and she became the centre of a row over cultural appropriation: could a white Australian be justified in taking the music of black America? Expect her second album to make a huge and immediate splash.
• January, Island.
Wiley – Godfather
Skepta’s had the headlines for the last year or so, but Wiley is the MC the grime stars pay homage to. This album was meant to be released last October, and though it’s officially due this month, those of a betting nature might want to slip a fiver on it coming out later in the year. It would be a shame if they collected on their bets though, because Wiley deserves to be in a position to capitalise on grime’s resurgence.
• 13 January, Chasing the Art.
Over 2,000 artists feature in 300 events, filling Glasgow with music and dancing in the dark days of late January and early February. A hugely varied programme features folk, world, roots, blues and all the stuff in between, with Americana strongly represented this year, including Mary Chapin Carpenter and JohnnySwim (Donna Summer’s daughter Amanda Sudano’s band). Laura Marling opens the festival with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra to perform new orchestral arrangements of her music. Other highlights include the 81-year-old folk legend Shirley Collins performing from Lodestar, her first album in 30 years, and Scotland’s own Evelyn Glennie, who joins with fellow virtuosic percussionist Trilok Gurtu to celebrate the 70th anniversary of India’s independence and perform the specially commissioned The Rhythm in Me.
•Various venues, Glasgow, 19 January–5 February.
The godfathers of metal are, they say, taking the doom out on the road for the last time. In truth, it’s not before time – Ozzy Osbourne is no longer the showman he once was – but the band’s downtuned riffs never sound less than thrilling live. The End tour stops off in the UK for nine arena shows, culminating, fittingly, in their hometown of Birmingham. Invert crosses … now!
• Manchester Arena, 22 January. Then touring until 4 February.
An international superstar’s visit to the UK will often be as brief as possible – a couple of London arena shows, one in the north, then back to Heathrow to turn left at the entrance to the jet. Drake, however, is over for a whole month, with shows in Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham as well as eight at the O2 arena in London. Chuck in stops at Dudley JBs and Northampton Roadmenders and it would be like an old-fashioned tour.
• Glasgow SSE Hydro, 25 January. Then touring until 23 February.
Aurelio Martinez is the finest living exponent of the lilting, soulful music of the Garifuna people, with its unique blend of African, Latin and Caribbean influences, and his new album Darandi (released on Real World on 20 January) is a studio set that captures the energy and emotion of his live shows.
•Warwick Arts Centre, 31 January (024-7652 4524). Then touring until 3 February.
Major Lazer – Music Is the Weapon
Like Iggy Azalea, dance stars Major Lazer (makers of Spotify’s most streamed track ever, fact fans) have been trailing their fourth album, Music Is the Weapon, for a couple of years. The notion that it might emerge this new year comes from production mastermind Diplo, who tweeted in October that “new Major Lazer comes out in January”. Expect the dance styles du jour, in a manner that will have those over 30 with their teeth on edge.
• January, Mad Decent.
Sampha – Process
Sampha Sisay has been a familiar figure in R&B and hip-hop for several years, as one of those people whose names pop up with the word “featuring” before it (he’s worked with Kanye West, Drake, Solange, SBTRKT and Jessie Ware, among many others). His solo debut, in which the death of his mother is a recurrent theme, is a vulnerable record, not just emotionally but musically. Its sound is intimate, despite the power of his voice, which sits front and centre on what looks set to be one of the year’s most striking debuts.
• 3 February, Young Turks.
The California pop punks will be sneered at by purists as long as there are purists to sneer, but they’ve done more to smuggle punk politics into the ears of the kids than any number of more earnest and less popular acts. More to the point, their live show – as much Crackerjack as the Clash – is twice as much fun as you’ll have watching the kind of bands who talk in interviews about not selling out.
• Leeds First Direct Arena, 5 February; Manchester Arena, 6 February; O2 Arena, London, 8 February.
Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa
A former model with a colourful backstory – her father was a Kosovar Albanian rock singer – Dua Lipa is viewed as a certainty for success in the industry: the dread words “priority act” are attached to her. She describes her sound as “dark pop”, though the gloom might lift if her album strikes gold.
• 10 February, Warner Bros.
The Magnetic Fields – 50 Song Memoir
It’s 18 years since Stephin Merritt issued 69 Love Songs, one of pop’s most audacious conceptual conceits. To mark him turning 50, he has revisited the multi-album idea, with a five-disc set containing a song for each of the years of his life. Could How I Failed Ethics (for 1986) really be about a university exam? Never mind that: in the track for 1990, he may have created the most universal memory prompt for anyone in their early 20s at that time – Dreaming in Tetris.
• 3 March, Nonesuch. Read our interview with Stephin Merritt
Rag’n’Bone Man – Human
Rory Graham, AKA Rag’n’Bone Man, first gained a reputation singing the blues over hip-hop beats, and became a slow-burning overnight sensation last year, when his single Human became a massive hit across Europe, and then when he picked up the Brits critics’ choice award in December. Some of the rough edges appear to have been sanded off in the process – these days he’s writing with seasoned hitmakers, rather than revamping House of the Rising Sun – but his debut album, also called Human, should make it clear whether he’s going to be living with one foot in the door and the other in the gutter, or whether he’s heading full pelt for the mainstream.
• 10 February, Sony.
Journey to the Unknown: Hidden Orchestra/Evan Parker and Spring Heel Jack
The 2017 UK City of Culture, Hull, celebrates the unique work of its visionary late resident Basil Kirchin – the teenage swing-drummer who became a pop songwriter, then ambient pioneer and sound-experimenting inspiration to Brian Eno and others. This show features electronics-and-samples group Hidden Orchestra and an eclectic ensemble led by Kirchin-collaborating jazz-sax supremo Evan Parker and including former DJs, improvisers and electronicists Spring Heel Jack.
•Hull City Hall, Queen Victoria Square, Hull 18 February (01482 300300).
Nelly Furtado – The Ride
If you’ve forgotten what made Nelly Furtado such a charming proposition when she emerged in 2000 then you can refresh your memory in March, when she releases her sixth album, which she says is a return to the styles of her debut, Whoa, Nelly. At this stage, she says, “you can lay back, look at the whole picture and figure out what brings you the most joy”.
• 3 March, Nelstar.
No one has ever made unlimited sex, unlimited drugs and having your every whim catered to sound less fun than Abel Tesfaye. Rather than making the world tell him to sod off and give everyone a go, though, it has made him one of the world’s biggest pop stars. (Perhaps there is a larger than suspected audience of people bored by too much sex and too many drugs.) Still, the main intoxicant available at his UK shows will be overpriced lager, so there’ll be nothing for him to moan about there.
• Manchester Arena, 5 March. Then touring until 14 March.
The welcome return of one of the finest young bands in Africa. Mokoomba are from Victoria Falls in the north of Zimbabwe, and mix local Tonga styles with global influences including funk and rap, with powerful, soulful vocals from Mathias Muzaza matched by the guitar work of Trustworth Samende. Their new album, Luyando, will be followed by live dates that are still being finalised.
•10 March, Outhere Records
Each year the Country to Country festival seems to get a little bigger, and this year its three days see it operating in a Reading/Leeds festival fashion, with the acts spending the weekend shuttling between London, Glasgow and Dublin to appear across a long weekend in all three cities. This year’s headliners – Brad Paisley, Reba McEntire and the Zac Brown Band – are maybe not the very strongest, but it’s still the UK’s leading celebration of country.
• O2 Arena, London, Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow, and 3Arena, Dublin, 10-12 March.
John McLaughlin/Soweto Kinch/Julian Siegel
Guitar legend John McLaughlin’s powers seem undimmed in his 70s – the same raw blues sound, fuzz-toned avant-rock and violin-like lyrical playing still work their forceful magic. McLaughlin headlines a birthday celebration of British jazz mag Jazzwise on 13 and 14 March. The jazz/rap saxist Soweto Kinch’s Nonagram, reeds-player Julian Siegel’s big band, and trumpeter Nick Smart’s tribute to the singer-songwriter Nick Drake follow later in the week.
•Ronnie Scott’s, London, 13-16 March (020-7439 0747).
The almost universal goodwill he seems to engender has seen Craig David’s comeback make him bigger than ever, with Mobo award wins followed by an arena tour that sees him booking two nights at the O2. That’s 40,000 tickets, and if you had told us two years ago he’d be playing to that many people we’d have laughed in your face. What goes around has come around for a man who simply seems uncomplicatedly nice.
• At Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, 16 March. Then touring until 17 April.
Now down to a threesome – the two who weren’t avoiding taxes are no longer with them – the That set about earning back the £20m they had to pay to HMRC last summer with a new album, Wonderland, followed by a sold-out early summer arena tour that’s going to have them rolling in banknotes in time for their holidays. Expect slick, sleek grown-up pop from album and tour alike.
• Wonderland is released on 17 March (Polydor). Tour begins at Birmingham Genting Arena on 5 May.
How anyone could dislike a band whose members all claim to be called Nameless Ghoul is beyond us. These Swedes might sport corpse paint and celebrate the occult, but they are far from the Scandinavian black metal stereotype, coming closer to a kind of swirling, metallic psychedelia. Think of them as halfway between Goat and Darkthrone.
• UEA, Norwich, 24 March. Then touring until 2 April.
The Jesus and Mary Chain
It’s almost two decades since the Jesus and Mary Chain released an album, but don’t expect the Reid brothers to be out of practice. Since 2007 they’ve been playing blistering live shows, including recent outings in honour of their classic debut, Psychocandy. Hopefully, they’ll conjure that record’s scuzzy intensity, while producer Youth should bring a modern sheen to proceedings.
• March, Warner Bros