APOSTLE OF HUSTLE
TITLE National Anthem Of Nowhere (Arts & Crafts)
RELEASE DATE February 6
ADVANCE BUZZ Another trip through indie exotica by Broken Social Scene's guitar great.
Though he takes pains to separate himself from the notorious T.O. collective in the advance press material for his new album, Andrew Whiteman's technically stunning guitar pyrotechnics are such a crucial part of Broken Social Scene's sound that it's hard not to hear some overlap. That said, National Anthem Of Nowhere feels like a significant step forward from his Folkloric Feel solo debut. The tidal whoosh of salsa, Afrobeat, spiritual jazz and various other globetrotting influences is still the atmospheric drive behind Whiteman's songs, but an increased emphasis on urgent, polyrhythmic beats and cleaner, stronger vocals tightens up the tunes considerably. It's still a trippy hallucination of an album, but one you'll likely remember clearly the morning after. Whiteman and his Apostle crew will test the waters with a residency at the Rivoli starting January 24.
THE ARCADE FIRE
TITLE Neon Bible (Merge)
RELEASE DATE March/April
ADVANCE BUZZ More epic orchestral anthems of hope and hopelessness from the kids who ignited international hype for the Montreal scene.
Now that they count David Bowie and David Byrne among their legions of fans and can sell out a five-night stand in London in a matter of minutes, the heat is on the Montreal seven-(plus)-piece indie heroes to release a worthy follow-up to 04's mega-breakout, Funeral. The Arcade Fire attempted to sate jonesing fans by setting up a curious toll-free number (1-866-NEON-BIBLE ext 7777), where you can hear a fuzzy sneak preview of upcoming album track Intervention. The pipe organ core and hymn-like repetition of the tune suggest that the process of recording in a church in rural Quebec (the band purchased the building to turn into a studio) may have brought the Fire flock even closer to their ecclesiastical roots, though Cold Wind, the song penned for Six Feet Under that (fingers crossed) will hopefully turn up on Neon Bible, hews closer to the restrained shimmery starkness of Funeral's Haiti. At any rate, it's certain to be an arena-sized, multi-instrumental spectacular.
CECIL BARFIELD, BUDDY MOSS, LEON PINSON, LONZIE THOMAS, BIG JOE WILLIAMS, etc.
TITLE The George Mitchell Collection (Fat Possum)
RELEASE DATE January 16
ADVANCE BUZZ The year's most-anticipated Southern blues reissue series.
While roots folk music fans are excited about Dust-to-Digital's planned release of the five-disc Art Of Field Recording later in 2007, Fat Possum's eight individual 7-inch discs in its George Mitchell Collection have got blues enthusiasts salivating. Documented by travelling folklorist George Mitchell from the mid-60s through the early 80s, these no-frills recordings of mostly lesser-known rural blues artists like Alabama's Lonzie Thomas - blinded by a gunshot to the face in 1943 - and guitar evangelists such as slashing acoustic slide-master Rev. Leon Pinson, offer a rare glimpse of real Southern blues at its rawest.
TITLE Woke Myself Up (Endearing)
RELEASE DATE January 16
ADVANCE BUZZ A return to lo-fi Broken Girl form from 90s Canuck indie rock's one-time poster girl.
A sort of daylight companion to the dusk-shaded, Feist-y red-wine-and-slippers vibe of her last album, 04's Goodnight Nobody, Woke Myself Up finds Doiron getting back to the charmingly ragged twang-folk strumming that was her stock-in-trade after Eric's Trip folded. Though it's still definitely a brooder of an album, the singer/songwriter's latest has more bite than her most recent work, due in part to the fact that instead of working with Swedish wusses Herman Dune, who produced her last album in Paris, she's reconnected with erstwhile bandmate and long-time collaborator Rick White. He helps add some necessary crunch and crackle to even the softest of Doiron's wistful, low-key musings about family and fallibility.
THE BESNARD LAKES
TITLE The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse (Outside)
RELEASE DATE February 20
ADVANCE BUZZ Your new favourite breakout Montreal indie rock band.
Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas of space-rock crusaders the Besnard Lakes have been not-so-quietly toiling in the Montreal underground for years, guesting with pals like Krista "Lederhosen Lucil" Muir, engineering discs by peers, playing live freakout jams and releasing dreamy recordings that have been largely ignored by folks outside their hometown (though it must be noted UK label Earworm picked up their 03 debut about a year ago). That should change with the galloping turbo-charged explosion of their oAre The Dark Horse debut for Outside (Jagjaguwar's releasing the disc in the U.S.). A colossal faceoff between 70s guitar rock operatics, delicate vocal harmonies and intimate string arrangements, the Lakes' Dark Horse nails the perfect balance between big-canvas psychedelic grandeur and headphone-friendly details. An early contender for the best of 07.
TITLE Weekend In The City (Vice/Warner)
RELEASE DATE February 5
ADVANCE BUZZ 05 critics' darlings struggle with quarter-life crises, fame and the toll of hedonistic excess.
It's not like Kele Okereke's ever been a ray of merry sunshine (even This Modern Love approached 21st-century romance from a cynic's perspective), but the general ethos of Bloc Party's hugely anticipated follow-up to Silent Alarm is one of intense disaffection. It sounds like the grotty bathrooms, post-pub shags and amphetamine comedowns of London club culture have taken their toll on the unassuming frontman. Those who haven't already downloaded the leaked version of Weekend In The City may be surprised by its expansive, softened tone, which moves away from the immediate angular assault of Bloc Party's debut in favour of string arrangements, measured pacing and a handful of mushier downtempo tracks that verge on (eek!) Coldplaydom.
DEAN & BRITTA
TITLE Back Numbers (Zoë/Rounder)
RELEASE DATE March 7
ADVANCE BUZZ : Indie rock power couple Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips do their best Lee & Nancy, dream-pop-style.
Anyone still nursing pangs of heartbreak over NYC indie rock institution Luna calling it quits last year will be thrilled to hear that frontman Dean Wareham and bassist Britta Phillips have rustled up a stellar follow-up to their 2003 collabo, L'Avventura. Back Numbers is the next best thing to a new Luna album - after you hear it, you might even want to argue that it's better than a new Luna album. L'Avventura producer Tony Visconti is back on board for the disc, which combines originals (including an expanded version of the theme Wareham and Phillips penned for The Squid And The Whale, with added lyrics) and, in true Wareham form, a number of spot-on covers, synthed-up takes on obscure sha-la-la 60s tunes. You'll never again dismiss Phillips as just that chick who voiced Jem in the Jem & The Holograms cartoons after hearing her hair-raising yell on the chorus of Lee Hazlewood's You Turn My Head Around (originally sung by Ann-Margret).
TITLE TBA (EMI)
RELEASE DATE TBA
ADVANCE BUZZ They're excited, and so are we.
Hot Chip were the hot shit of the year on many critics' year-end lists, so there's considerable anticipation around the release of their third album. Recording is slated to start soon, and the guys are claiming that this one will sound more like a live band since they are actually a band now rather than just a couple of guys in the studio. We're keeping our fingers crossed.
TITLE Loney, Noir (Sub Pop)
RELEASE DATE February 6
ADVANCE BUZZ Sad sack sissies of the world, meet your new leader.
He's been called the Conor Oberst of Sweden, but one-man orch-pop ace Emil Svanängen shies away from overwrought catharsis and strung-out narratives in favour of keenly observed Dear John songs and pristine songwriting. His Sub Pop debut, Loney, Noir, is a collection of gorgeous vignettes that start small and gradually expand in scope, morphing from humble singer/songwriter fare into glorious mini-symphonies that are equal parts Beach Boys, Sufjan Stevens, Supremes and Belle & Sebastian. Happily, he also has the same wry wit as countryman Jens Lekman, which adds necessary edge to his songs.
TITLE Sound Of Silver (DFA)
RELEASE DATE March 20
ADVANCE BUZZ NYC scenesters keep funking up the punk.
Doesn't look like LCD Soundsystem are veering much from the formula that made them so ubiquitous over the past few years, which could be a mixed blessing. On one hand, it's what we love them for, but will the same sounds and ideas still blow everyone's mind? The album has already been leaked, so if you've got a decent Internet connection you can decide for yourself.
TITLE Miracle Of Five (Zedtone)
RELEASE Date February 6
Advance Buzz A slow and sultry stunner from the genre-jumping Silver Lake siren.
She's proven herself equally adept at country, jazz and torchy cabaret, so you never know what you'll get next from adventurous singer/songwriter Eleni Mandell. But given her track record, it's not entirely surprising that she's following her new-wavey Sex, Fashion And Money recording (with the Grabs) and her snarling version of I Love Paris that accompanied Paris Hilton's too-hot-for-TV Carl's Jr. hamburger commercial with a sombre set of love ballads.
Tastefully produced by Anti label boss Andy Kaulkin, Miracle Of Five shows off Mandell's gorgeous voice while astutely employing clarinet, saxophone, harp and vibes in place of guitar. Certain to be a Valentine's Day fave for years to come.
TITLE Gathering (Kindred Spirits)
RELEASE DATE January 23
ADVANCE BUZZ Prized left-field indie folk-jazz oddity finally resurfaces after 33 years.
The Kindred Spirits label doesn't reissue a lot of recordings, but when it does, it's typically amazing material that has been completely overlooked for decades, like the awesome Alborada album by Carlos Franzetti's Prime Element. Evidently, while flipping through the Jazzanova boys' crates, the Kindred crew came across Gary Marks's fabulous and highly sought-after Gathering debut album, which the then 22-year old folk singer originally released on the Arewea label in 1974.
Thanks to the killer backing band that includes a very young John Scofield, pianist Michael Cochrane, vibraphonist Dave Samuels and drummer Chip White, Gathering rolls with a sweet Strata-East vibe that appeals to the spiritual jazz crowd as well as outsider folk fans, which is why originals command three figures. Grab this reissue.
TITLE TBA (XL Recordings)
RELEASE DATE TBA
ADVANCE BUZZ Bringing politics back to the party.
The promotional strategy for this follow-up is the polar opposite of the heavy Internet hype that propelled M.I.A.'s 2005 debut, Arular. This time very little has been said about the new album, and that was contradicted soon after. Timbaland was involved at one point, but recent talk indicates that M.I.A.'s handling all the production herself. Diplo and UK producer Switch might be involved, but it's unclear whether they're doing anything more than mastering. Secrecy aside, she's previewed a few promising tracks on her MySpace site and shows no signs of reining in her personal politics in favour of vacant club bangers.
SOUTHERN CULTURE ON THE SKIDS
TITLE Play Countrypolitan Favorites (Yep Roc)
RELEASE DATE February 20
ADVANCE BUZZ : North Carolina's go-go country cut-ups play mix 'n' match with their favourite country and rock 'n' roll tunes.
They're calling it Countrypolitan Favorites, but don't think for a minute that Southern Culture on the Skids have recorded a straight-up salute to the string-sweetened Nashville sound of the early 60s. Heavens, no. Instead, they've retrofitted some T-Rex and CCR tunes with country harmonies and twangy guitar and souped-up some Don Gibson and Reno & Smiley classics with high-revving surf guitar sizzle for another crazy SCOTS party platter you'll want for your next twistin' party.
TITLE The Weirdness (Virgin)
RELEASE DATE March 20
ADVANCE BUZZ Iggy Pop and his proto-punk pals return to the studio while they still have some hair and teeth.
If you've heard Iggy Pop's Skull Ring album from 2003, you'll know the last time he got together in the studio with the Asheton brothers produced nothing approaching the power and glory of the Stooges' early 70s classics. But with Mike Watt on bass and Steve Mackay skronking up a storm on saxophone, their recent festival appearances in Europe and Australia haven't been anywhere near as embarrassing as they could've been. Who knows? With Steve Albini (not Rick Rubin, as initially rumoured) overseeing the recording of all new material, you can bet Scott Asheton's drums won't have their old kick, but the Stooges were all about mid-range, so this could actually work out. Fingers are crossed.
TITLE Not Too Late (Blue Note/EMI)
RELEASE DATE January 30
ADVANCE BUZZ The smooth-singing siren tiptoes toward a slightly younger demographic...maybe.
Following the death of long-time producer Arif Mardin, lower-than-projected sales figures for her last effort, 04's Feels Like Home, and the fact that her country side project, the Little Willies, has flown under most folks' radar, Ravi Shankar's kid gets a tiny bit more adventurous with her latest. (There's whistling!) Not Too Late still fits comfortably within the Hammond B3-juiced roots-jazz template Jones established on Come Away With Me, but this time she branches out (sorta) with her guest list, inviting indie kid alt-country king M. Ward and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler of the experimental Kronos Quartet along for the ride. Jones also claims the disc is more personal and darker in tone than her previous recordings, though chances are you'll still be able to grab a copy in every Starbucks across North America.