Summer Music Preview: Lana Del Rey, Halsey, Fleet Foxes, and Much More

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Photo-Illustration: Maya Robinson/Vulture

Right now, Kanye West is recording an album at the top of some mountain in Wyoming. In the past, that’d mean we had a year or more until we heard it, but now? For all we know, we could be listening to a new Kanye album come Friday. Such are the perils of the music industry in the internet age. This summer, we know we can expect albums from Fleet Foxes, Halsey, Grizzly Bear, Lil Yachty, Lana Del Rey, and more. There are uncertainties too: When will LCD Soundsystem finish their album? Is Jay Z actually going to release something? And what’s going on with that all-singing Young Thug record executive-produced by Drake? The only thing we do know for sure is that as the weather warms, big-deal albums begin to drop at a steady clip. Below is a list of just a few highlights you can expect to hear in the coming months.

The Mountain Goats, Goths (May 19)
Mountain Goats concept albums tend to go for the jugular with their titles. This spring’s Goths is indeed a string of musings on the history and iconography of the goth movement. “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back to Leeds” imagines the Sisters of Mercy singer returning home to survey dying old haunts. “Abandoned Flesh” obsesses over the peculiar dissolution and rebirth of Gene Loves Jezebel, the early-’80s act run by twin brothers who had a falling-out and splintered into separate bands using the same name. Goths houses the Mountain Goats’ lushest production in years, like a deliberate study of beauty in apparent darkness. —Craig Jenkins

Lana Del Rey, Lust for Life (May 26)
It’s been clear for some time now that Lana Del Rey walks on holy ground. If lead singles “Love” and “Lust for Life” are any indication, Lust for Life promises to be yet another triumph from an artist who hasn’t taken a single false step in recent memory. She’s not just an artist who doesn’t disappoint, but an artist one can trust entirely. If everyone knew what they were doing the way she knows what she’s doing, the world would be paradise. That’s not happening anytime soon, but thankfully the album is. —Frank Guan

Lil Yachty, Teenage Emotions (May 26)
The cover of Lil Yachty’s official debut says it all. On it, Yachty is sitting in the center of a movie theater, wearing a pink denim jacket completely unbuttoned with no shirt underneath. He’s surrounded by teenagers laughing, making out, and eating popcorn. It’s a genuine moment from an artist who is so unabashedly genuine that it makes cranky older rappers even crankier. To be sure, we’ve seen this before: Young rapper appears on the scene, older rappers think he can’t rap, and endless arguments about what it means to be a “good” rapper ensue. But Lil Yachty is onto something: He’s got the naïveté of Lil B, and he’s able to bounce effortlessly from craggy, idiosyncratic verse to warped croon. Is this the album where Lil Yachty focuses? Should he ever focus? Part of the fun is that he’s impossible to pin down. —Sam Hockley-Smith

Bleachers, Gone Now (June 2)
When Jack Antonoff isn’t busy fine-tuning songs for every female pop star in his Rolodex, he’s got his passion project, Bleachers. Somehow, between working with Taylor Swift and Lorde — and even curating a remix of Bleachers’ debut album entirely featuring pop’s women — he found the time to make a new Bleachers album. (Though he still had some help from Lorde.) Just when you thought he’d crafted all his best ’80s tributes for his girlfriend’s friends, songs like “Don’t Take the Money” are reminders that he’s been keeping some gems for himself. —Dee Lockett

Halsey, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom (June 2)
One glance at the title of Halsey’s next album suggests another Shakespearean tragedy spoon-fed to her teen fan base. That assumption isn’t wrong — it’s yet another melodramatic spin on Romeo and Juliet. But for her next reenactment, Halsey has matured. “Now or Never” is a misguided first single that doesn’t do the rest of the record justice. It’s a mostly strong pop album that features newfound vocal confidence (on “Sorry,” especially) and a new supporting cast that includes Sia, the Weeknd (both with writing credits), and Migos’s Quavo, plus a winning army of producers (Greg Kurstin, Benny Blanco, Cashmere Cat, Lido). The album could also court the same controversy that seems to follow Halsey: No spoilers, but there’s a duet with Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui that’s bound to get a lot of chatter. —DL

Amber Coffman, City of No Reply (June 2)
If Amber Coffman and Dave Longstreth were the Beyoncé and Jay Z of indie pop, then it’d easy to assume her new album would be a response to Longstreth’s recent Dirty Projectors release. That’d be a mistake, though. Longstreth channeled all his hurt, frustration, and spite over Coffman leaving both him and the band into that self-titled solo album, but Coffman’s solo debut doesn’t appear to do the same. For one, it was co-produced by Longstreth, already a sign that this album won’t dwell. “All to Myself” and “No Coffee” are two songs centered on resilience that signal a singer ready to step out from the shadows of the Dirty Projectors and come into her own. —DL

Katy Perry, Witness (June 9)
In pop time, nearly four years away may as well be retirement. And Katy Perry’s reemergence has so far been clumsy: First there was the woke-pop experiment “Chained to the Rhythm,” which sought to capitalize on her Hillary Clinton campaigning with boilerplate messaging about the resistance in the wake of Hillary’s loss. It, like Katy’s Hillary anthem “Rise,” landed with a thud. Her food-innuendo-heavy latest single, “Bon Appétit,” featuring, for some reason, Migos, hasn’t clicked either. How Katy will continue to navigate the pop waters without her disgraced go-to producer Dr. Luke — he co-produced the majority of Prism — will be one of the more interesting music stories to follow this summer as her album approaches. —DL

Big Thief, Capacity (June 9)
Capacity is the most brutal record you’ll hear this summer, but you might not realize it if you aren’t paying close attention. Lead singer Adrianne Lenker writes about her own past with unflinching detail, switching perspectives within her family. Each track plays out like a short story. Give it time to sink in and it might become one of your favorites of the year. —SH-S

Phoenix, Ti Amo (June 9)
I don’t think Phoenix ever set out to become one of the most enduring rock bands we’ve got, but that’s what they are now. Phoenix albums — all of them — sound like being in love, and that goes pretty far in explaining their appeal. But what it really boils down to is that Phoenix have so meticulously perfected a specific sound that seems like it should be easy to replicate, but isn’t. There’s a fastidiousness to their recordings — an obsession with every gesture and how it goes toward conveying a mood. According to the band, Ti Amo is the sound of “summer and Italian discos,” which sounds pretty escapist considering the circumstances of our world. And, yeah, it might be escapism, but it’s perfectly done escapism. —SH-S

Fleet Foxes, Crack-Up (June 16)
Fleet Foxes always seemed beamed in from an alternate reality where forests and glens never got overtaken by the cities and suburbs that pepper the North American landscape, and wispy vocal harmonies and airy guitars evoke boundless rustic magic. Crack-Up is Fleet Foxes’ first new album since 2011’s Helplessness Blues, and it’s somehow the more abstract record. The band shakes off its penchant for baroque arrangements for a string of two- and three-part epics with sudden shifts in tone, while singer Robin Pecknold peppers personal reflection with musings on beautiful mountains and cryptozoological wonders like nymphs and monsters. It looks heavy on paper, but in headphones, Crack-Up is light as a warm afternoon breeze. —CJ

Kevin Morby, City Music (June 16)
After leaving the New York band Woods and going solo, Kevin Morby’s been something of a shapeshifter. Across his three previous LPs, he’s moved from a Dylan-worshipping, brooding, East Coast folkster to a laid-back desert denizen of Los Angeles, where he calmed down, zoned out, and focused on a sound that exists somewhere between throwback folk and just plain solid modern songwriting. City Music doesn’t really jettison his Dylanesque tendencies, but it does draw inspiration from the way Lou Reed could find beauty in ugly places, or the claustrophobic big-city loneliness Patti Smith was always so good at writing. A lot of the time, it’s damning to heavily reference a young artist’s influences, but with Morby it feels like it’s kind of the point. —SH-S

Lorde, Melodrama (June 16)
New Zealand’s very own is nothing if not patient: Since releasing her debut, Pure Heroine, in 2013 the singer has been on her own schedule. (The success of Pure Heroine meant she could afford to be.) The euphoric post-breakup single “Green Light” suggests that, after introducing herself as a figure looking for others on the sidelines, she’s adjusted fully to being center stage, with all the posturing (melodrama, even) that implies. —FG

Beth Ditto, Fake Sugar (June 16)
For years, Beth Ditto put her thunderous voice to work as the front woman of the Gossip. Now that that band has run its course, she’s finally breaking loose with Fake Sugar, her first solo album. Fans of her previous songs with the Gossip might’ve expected more of the same electro-rock, but she’s quick to kill that wish. Fake Sugar is ferocious, swaggering, southern-influenced rock. You can’t hear a song like “Fire,” or its more commercial follow-up “Oo La La,” and not want to start a bar fight. Ditto’s voice has never sounded better. —DL

Jeff Tweedy, Together at Last (June 23)
True Jeff Tweedy diehards know you have to follow at least five bands to keep up with everything the Chicago singer-songwriter puts out. There’s the flagship Wilco, its godfather Uncle Tupelo, the Wilco offshoot Loose Fur, associates the Minus 5 and Golden Smog, and the father-son side project Tweedy. In Tweedy’s sporadic solo acoustic shows, the dividing lines in his back catalogue disappear as he plucks gems from 30 years’ worth of gifted songwriting. The new Together at Last attempts to bottle that experience on a studio project. The record, technically Tweedy’s first full-fledged solo album, plants Wilco classics like “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” and “Ashes of American Flags” alongside Loose Fur and Golden Smog cuts “Laminated Cat” and “Lost Love” in an intimate man-and-his-guitar setting, where they shine in spite of the guitar-rock theatrics and studio flourishes that push the originals over the top. —CJ

Calvin Harris, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (June 30)
In the clash of the producer album, this summer both Calvin Harris and DJ Khaled will likely go to head-to-head. But while Khaled waits for all the vocals to come in to set a date for his album, Calvin has already announced the impressive lineup on his: Snoop Dogg, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Future, John Legend, Big Sean, Travis Scott, Kehlani, Schoolboy Q, Lil Yachty, PartyNextDoor, and more. (A Taylor Swift co-write, perhaps?) And that’s not even mentioning the two buttery summer scorchers we’ve already heard from the album – “Slide” with Frank Ocean and Migos, and “Heatstroke” with Pharrell, Young Thug, and Ariana Grande. Calvin dominated last summer with “This Is What You Came For,” but it doesn’t look like that song even made the album. It appears this summer he’s aiming to repeat with a more challenging sound that explores what he can do with funk and soul now that he’s outgrown EDM. We’re already anticipating Vol. 2. —DL

TLC, TLC (June 30)
When the popular ’90s girl-group TLC returned in early 2015 with a Kickstarter campaign for a new album, it became a minor scandal. First, the group hasn’t released a studio album since 2002’s 3D, the last with founding member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, whose untimely death in a car crash that year set remaining members Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas adrift. Second, they raised a half-million dollars and then took over two years to come out with a single song. Luckily, it was very, very good. The smooth G-funk remembrance “Way Back” showcases a group that knows both its strengths and its audience, which is the best anyone can expect from this kind of circumstance. Hopefully the album, simply titled TLC, follows suit. —CJ

Haim, Something to Tell You (July 7)
The trio of Californian sisters’ debut LP, Days Are Gone (2013), recycled the synth-winged soft rock popular during the ’80s with efficiency, fidelity, and care, and after four years, they’re returning with Something to Tell You. Lead single “Want You Back,” with its harmonies, crisp vocals, and spotless production, indicates that the time off hasn’t changed them much. —FG

Broken Social Scene, Hug of Thunder (July 7)
It truly is a boom time for Canadian artists who released major records in the first half of the 21st century. Feist is back, the New Pornographers are back, and now we’re getting Hug of Thunder, the first new Broken Social Scene album since 2010’s Forgiveness Rock Record. The big joke with Broken Social Scene is the actual size of the group. There are currently 13 people in this band. How can so many people be in one band? What does everyone actually do? At what point is it officially designated a cult? But the joke is also the thing that makes them great: Broken Social Scene songs are propelled by the size of the group, and when it all converges they’re able to pull optimism from fear of aging, heartbreak, and the rigors of modern life. —SH-S

Shabazz Palaces, Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star / Quazarz vs. the Jealous Machines (July 14)
The new music from Seattle’s hip-hop mystic Shabazz Palaces introduces a character called Quazarz, an extraterrestrial sent down to “Amurderca” tasked with “raising these musics a joy/cry that way into these aquadescent diamondized ethers of the Migosphere down on Drake world.” Wild? Yes. Inscrutable? Sorta. But Shabazz Palaces has long been obsessed with outer space (“Dawn in Luxor”) and the state of hip-hop (“The King’s New Clothes Were Made By His Own Hands,” “…down 155th in the MCM Snorkel”). The story of Quazarz — spread out across Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star and the sibling full-length Quazarz vs. the Jealous Machines — weaves both threads together in an Abstract Impressionist hip-hop space opera, a cracked, vibrant Ziggy Stardust for the Afro-futurist set. —CJ

Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm (July 14)
2015’s Ivy Tripp was a breakout record for Katie Crutchfield, the woman behind Waxahatchee, but Out in the Storm is the bigger sonic leap forward. The quieter moments are gone, now replaced by vintage alt-rock power chords, but Crutchfield’s husky voice isn’t lost in all that fuzz, instead it rises above. The best part? She’s lost none of her verve for detail-rich lyrics, even when intimacy has been replaced by confrontation. —SH-S

EMA, Exile in the Outer Ring (August 25)
Albums about America are often misunderstood. Even Bruce Springsteen, the master of writing songs that capture the conflicted feelings of living in this country, has experienced blatant misreadings of his lyrics. EMA’s Exile in the Outer Ring, an album about, and for, people that have been pushed from city centers, is probably not in danger of being misunderstood. It is a stark collection of songs of desolation and isolation, but they aren’t without compassion. Exile in the Outer Ring comes at a time of extreme cultural dissonance. It’d be too much to ask for an album like this to bridge any major cultural or political gaps, but it does something that feels important anyway: It tells stories. —SH-S

Grizzly Bear, TBA (TBA)
Grizzly Bear were not ideal candidates for indie-rock crossover stardom, but it’s what started to happen with 2009’s Veckatimest and continued through 2012’s Shields. Then the band went quiet, and who could blame them? Grizzly Bear’s brand of indie rock has always been informed by chamber pop and intricacy — each song dense with subtle flourishes that build into soft-focus psychedelia rounded out by Ed Droste’s haunting vocals. “Three Rings,” the first single from their upcoming Shields follow-up, is anchored by staccato drums and a slack, vaguely dubby guitar line. They’re still the Grizzly Bear we know and love. —SH-S

Wiki, TBA (TBA)
As the main mouthpiece of Ratking, Wiki’s lyrics emerged as gnarled, detail-heavy, spit-coated missives about life as a New York kid. The music was a reflection of that: busy, chaotic, and full of sharp angles. His solo material — thus far a mixtape and a few scattered verses — sees the rapper smoothing out his edges and slowing down a bit. If this verse — his best yet— is any indication, his official solo LP will be a personal affair, and that’s great news. —SH-S

SZA, CTRL (TBA)
Few artists know the harsh reality of being jerked around by their own record label better than SZA. Toward the end of 2016, TDE’s only female signee threatened to quit music altogether if the label — home to Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q — didn’t release her debut album, ironically titled CTRL. Whether she’s pushed through the dejectedness or admitted defeat, for better or worse, CTRL will be released this summer through a partnership between TDE and RCA Records. If its first couple singles, the bloodthirsty Travis Scott–featuring “Love Galore” and resentful ballad “Drew Barrymore,” are indicative of what’s to come, the album sounds to be as entrancing as her self-titled EPs, with her moody R&B only sharpened by the knife of vindication. —DL

DJ Khaled, Grateful (TBA)
It’s normally not a compliment to say that you know exactly what to expect from anything, but we know exactly what to expect from DJ Khaled’s upcoming Grateful: It’ll be a showcase for Khaled’s Rolodex, it’s supposed to feature Beyoncé and Jay Z, and we’ve already experienced the single “I’m the One,” which marked a new pinnacle of opulence for Khaled and his famous friends. The most common question anyone asks about Khaled is, But what, exactly, does he do? And the answer is — officially — it no longer matters. DJ Khaled yells sometimes, and then he gets every popular rapper of the moment to do songs together. Some of them are corny, some of them are ridiculous, a couple are forgettable, and a few are always genuine gems. —SH-S

Summer Albums Preview: Lorde, Halsey, Bleachers, and More