I think that I speak for at least some kind of majority when I say "2012, don't let the door hit ya!" Although dates are arbitrary and calendars are but constructs to keep us from acknowledging the timeless chaotic void of reality, 2013 — at least based on this formidable slate of first-quarter releases — looks to be shaping up as an impressive spin around the sun, music-wise.
1. A$AP Rocky ::Long.Live.A$AP [A$AP Worldwide/RCA] :: January 15 :: A$AP has blown up from mixtape kid to full-on sensation, getting Long.Live's lead single in the Billboard Top 50 despite it being called "Fuckin' Problem"; this follow-up to his smash mixtape LiveLoveA$AP is worth the hype and the wait.
2. Holy Grail ::Ride the Void [Prosthetic] :: January 22 :: The Pasadena quintet have ridden the thin line between envelope-pushing and classic-thrash-worship since 2008; here, they burst out in both directions, tempering their ultra-aggressive technical death sound with classic shreddage and Ozzy-esque wails.
3. Tomahawk ::Oddfellows [Ipecac] :: January 29 :: Among Mike Patton side projects, Tomahawk are the most low-concept (even if their last album, 2007's Anonymous, was a rocked-up batch of Native American tunes). This, the band's fourth, is perhaps their most head-down-rock album, with Patton toning down the weirdness to let the crunching sparks fly.
4. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds ::Push the Sky Away [Bad Seed Ltd.]:: February 19 :: Cave and Co. continue to live out the louche Euro-dream that we all pine for: wearing tailored suits, ladykilling, and filling the halls of a 19th-century French mansion with their languorous rock-music-as-sea-shanty confessionals. They emerge from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence this winter with this, their 15th long-player.
5. Beach Fossils ::Clash the Truth [Captured Tracks] :: February 19 :: Dustin Payseur's sophomore offering (see Liz Pelly's piece on Captured Tracks, page 24) is melodic bliss under layers of haze, with an aggressive propulsion that belies the band's reputation for dreamy slacker-pop.
6. Major Lazer ::Free The Universe [Mad Decent/Downtown] :: February 19 :: Diplo and his cartoon posse return, this time upping the ante in both bombastic reggaepop and sheer star power, with a vast entourage, including everyone from Bruno Mars to Wyclef Jean.
7. Atoms for Peace ::AMOK [XL] :: February 26 :: It may have originated as a party joke, but now Atoms for Peace, with this debut, is more than just a Thom Yorke afterthought. Between Yorke, producer Nigel Godrich, erstwhile RHCP bassist Flea, and a few other dudes, it sounds a bit like Radiohead without guitars — so basically, Radiohead post-'99.
8. Rhye ::Woman [Loma Vista] :: March 5 :: Standouts from 2012 like "The Fall" made Rhye one of the year's intriguing mysteries. Who was the woman behind this beguiling minimal techno-soul? Turns out that she's two DJ dudes, and their blurred-edge R&B may be the official sound of 2013.
9. Depeche Mode :: [Title TBA, Columbia] :: March/April:: When Martin Gore said recently that the new DM "has a similar vibe to Violator," it made sense: after all, the band is back working with Flood for the first time since 1993. Maybe their 13th album will see a return to the twang-meets-Kraftwerk ur-sound that made the band soccer-stadium-filling new-wave messiahs.