POLLY OH: PJ Harvey will Let England Shake in 2011, but fans stateside will be just as moved.
Okay, so by now your eyes have had a thorough glazing after scanning approximately 10 bazillion Best of 2010 lists and trend pieces. Enough of pundits waxing philosophical on the various merits of hashtag rap and Justin Bieber — that's so last year! Instead, let's cast our gaze at a brand-new slate of winter releases to tide us over as the days slowly, slowly grow longer.
And what better way to be serenaded through a long winter deepfreeze than with some glacial stoner metal? Two of the undisputed titans have new long-players coming up: first, UK drop-tune troglodytes ELECTRIC WIZARD grace us with the slightly slaytanic Black Masses (Rise Above, January 11), an unrelenting magick-al gantlet of riff truncheons and endless incantations. And just when you think the punishment is over, EARTH tag-team your cranium with Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I (Southern Lord, February 7). The first of two planned '11 albums, Angels I is a continuation of Dylan Carlson & Co.'s increasing fascination with ways to mix late-'60s folk and blues stylings into their typical drone bluster.
Equally bizarre and morose is the impending debut LP by uncategorizable UK electronic trip-crooner JAMES BLAKE, who follows up his trio of buzzed-about 2010 EPs with a self-titled album (Atlas/A&M, February 7) that is a delirious mix of the beguiling and incomprehensible. Fellow Brit Polly Jean Harvey knows about that particular mix, having spent her last few records exploring such uncommercial avenues as churchy piano hymns (2007's White Chalk) and retardo garage gunk ('04's gnarly Uh Huh Her). But Let England Shake (Island, February 15) is the first PJ HARVEY album in quite a while to showcase her gift for wilting and jittery melodicism, and if there is any justice, it will win her some notice from those too young to have experienced her mid-'90s heydays.
Cold, dark February will be made way more sunny thanks to a trio of high-energy dance jams. First, the third album by Aussie '80s-revisionists CUT COPY, who follow up on the worldwide success of '08's In Ghost Colours with Zonoscope (Modular, February 8), an album whose muscular bounce is the Power Station to Colours' Duran Duran–isms. A few weeks later, the long-delayed debut from M.I.A. protégée RYE RYE finally hits: Go! Pop! Bang! (Interscope, February 22) sounds like the title implies, with Rye's inimitable flow energetically trampolining over track after track of effervescent B'more bounce. Set to release the same day is AKON's much-delayed follow-up to '08's Freedom, the humbly titled Akonic (Konvict Muzik/Universal Motown). The album was made with the working title "Stadium Music," and the final album is exactly that, translating the Senegalese rapper's buoyant dance-floor bounce into huge, arena-filling anthems. Together, these three should make our collective trudges through the inevitable slush a tad more spring-heeled.
Further down the line, massive white whales flop around in the sea, whether it be the promise of R.E.M. returning to their halcyon mid-'80s haziness with their 15th album, Collapse Into Now (Warner Bros., March 8), or the as-yet-untitled fourth STROKES album (RCA), completed amidst a reportedly fractious recording process. And even farther out on the horizon are promises of new albums in 2011 from U2 (working with producer Danger Mouse, who has so far been tight-lipped on details, sound-wise), KANYE WEST & JAY-Z (collaborating on the allegedly stripped-down rap battle Watch My Throne (Def Jam), and LADY GAGA, whose forthcoming Born This Way (Interscope) promises to be her grandest electro-weird statement yet.