spring preview

Cardi B, Jack White, and More Albums We Can’t Wait to Hear This Spring

Photo-Illustration: Maya Robinson/Vulture and Photos by Getty Images

Spring is almost here, which means the music industry wakes up from its early year hibernation and starts pumping out albums that are meant to soundtrack being outside, thinking about being outside, or staring wistfully out your window while you imagine what it must be like outside. Before we get started, it’s worth noting that the albums below are by no means a complete list of everything coming out. This is the music industry, after all. Albums are pushed back, shelved indefinitely, or surprise released at any moment. Will Nicki Minaj finally resurface — and haven’t we asked that question before? Will Kanye come down from his (literal) mountaintop? Who knows! We’ll wait and see together. In the meantime, here’s a list of a bunch of records worth checking out in the next few months.

Jack White, Boarding House Reach (March 23)
When Jack White found enough time off from crafting experimental vinyl last year to workshop new songs, he decided to shake up his method. He sought out session players he’d never worked with before and laid down tracks in cities he’d never recorded in before. Early tracks from the incoming Boarding House Reach sound looser and funkier than anything else in the back catalogue, full of wigged-out choir vocals and unexpected hip-hop flourishes. White could be sitting on the best album of his solo career. —Craig Jenkins

Preoccupations, New Material (March 23)
Not too long ago, this band recorded post-punk under the name Viet Cong. After generating some buzz, they opted to change their name for obvious reasons. Normally, when a band changes their name after getting attention, it results in a lengthy, if not permanent, decrease in people caring about them. It’s an aesthetic thing, but sometimes it really matters. That did not happen with Preoccupations, who seemed to lose no listeners and found time to tighten up their sound and make New Material, an album light on warmth but heavy on emotion. —Sam Hockley-Smith

Chloe x Halle, The Kids Are Alright (March 23)
Sister act Chloe x Halle are known for being signed to Beyoncé’s label, but you might also know them now for being the best reason to watch Freeform’s Grown-ish. (They’re hilarious, give them a spinoff to the spinoff.) They sing the show’s catchy-as-hell theme song, which was just a preview of what’s to come. They’re putting out their second project in as many years, but The Kids Are Alright is considered their debut album. Its title track is a stunning showcase of their harmonies that celebrates the freedom of self-discovery afforded to teens with this gem of a line: “If I’m in the mood I can get as ratchet as I wanna, turn around and show you I can bless you with some culture.” —Dee Lockett

Frankie Cosmos, Vessel (March 30)
Vessel is Frankie Cosmos’s third official studio album, but she has recorded approximately 100 billion albums prior to this one, which means if you’re already a Frankie Cosmos fan, you’ve already got your favorite songs, and you’ve probably made a compilation of said favorite songs and sent your friend and/or crush a playlist of those songs over WhatsApp. If you’re not, Vessel is where you’re going to want to start. The songs are intimate but not cloying, and if you haven’t already heard it yet, you will likely hear someone say that Greta Kline, the woman behind Frankie Cosmos, sounds wise beyond her years, which is true. —SH-S

Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour (March 30)
Texas singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves has been itching to switch her style up ever since admitting she’s a die-hard emo fan during a gig at Brooklyn’s Northside Festival, alongside Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, in the summer of 2016. Her new album, Golden Hour, is still very much a country collection, but this time, Musgrave and her co-producers trick out her lyrics and vocals with bits of outside genres, nudging her sound a little closer to mainstream pop without washing out any of the twang and homegrown charm that made her a star. —CJ

The Voidz, Virtue (March 30)
The curse of making an all-time classic first album with the Strokes will follow Julian Casablancas for the rest of his music career. It’s a bummer. How do you explore new ideas when everyone’s constantly sizing you up against your old ones? For Casablancas, it means working with a new crew of musicians, subtly tweaking the formula that made the Strokes great. Will Virtue be as good as Is This It? No, probably not, but maybe we should just let this one flower. —SH-S

Rich the Kid, The World Is Yours (March 30)
Heralded by the success of the snazzy lead single “New Freezer,” the debut album from Atlanta rapper Rich the Kid is shaping up to be a major event. The track list alone shows that Rich has plenty to boast about: Along with a Kendrick guest appearance on “Freezer,” features from Future, Khalid, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Bryson Tiller, and more are sure to lift the chart performance of The World Is Yours, not to mention the diss track aimed at Lil Uzi Vert. —Frank Guan

Dr. Octagon, Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation (April 6)
The world was not exactly clamoring for a new Dr. Octagon album, but it’s great that it’s going to be here soon anyway. For the uninitiated: Dr. Octagon is the alter ego of Kool Keith, a living legend who has pushed rap into the stratosphere. Though his discography is somewhat spotty, Dr. Octagon was initially the most focused of Kool Keith’s sonic experiments, due in a large part to the lush and consistently fascinating production of Dan the Automator. But after years recording under other aliases and a few Dr. Octagon albums that suffered from a notable lack of Dan the Automator’s production, they’re back with another album that is about … uhhhhh, whatever Dr. Octagon albums are about? Maybe outer space? —SH-S

Hop Along, Bark Your Head Off, Dog (April 6)
It’s a function of razor-sharp pop smarts that the subtly technical guitar theatrics of Philadelphia indie-rock quartet Hop Along almost never get it branded with the “math rock” tag. Singer-songwriter Frances Quinlan and her drummer/multi-instrumentalist brother Mark’s knack for making winding riffs and complex rhythms go over smoothly puts them in the lineage of early aughts bands like Rilo Kiley, whose old label Saddle Creek Records naturally picked them up. Bark Your Head Off, Dog ups the ante on 2015’s Painted Shut, somehow serving hooks that are at once more intricate and more accessible. —CJ

Kylie Minogue, Golden (April 6)
We didn’t know we needed a country album from Kylie Minogue until we heard “Stop Me From Falling.” Up until that moment, we thought of her as one of the greatest living pop stars who never truly got her due. It seems likely she’s about to become one of our greatest living country stars who’ll also never get her due. Whatever! Golden was recorded entirely in Nashville, so don’t call her use of the “country” genre tag here a gimmick. —DL

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Sex & Food (April 6)
Boredom sucks, but making songs about life that also sort of sound like what happens when you run out of things to distract you from your life, is hard to do. Credit where it’s due: UMO front man Ruban Nielson knows how to write compact psychedelic songs that sound like they’re on the verge of crumbling apart at any second. —SH-S

King Tuff, The Other (April 13)
After years of nonstop touring, Kyle Thomas, who records as King Tuff, was burned out. Thomas’s King Tuff character was wacky and over the top, and he was feeling boxed in by the persona he’d created. The Other, an upbeat but significantly less cartoonish album than his previous ones, is the sound of a guy trying to figure out who he’s supposed to be all over again, and how to move forward. —SH-S

Pentatonix, PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. I (April 13)
Do you like when Pentatonix do covers? Do you specifically like it when they cover Top 40? You’re in luck! That’s what this album is. —DL

A Perfect Circle, Eat the Elephant (April 20)
It’s been 15 years since the last batch of original songs from A Perfect Circle, but luckily for the long-suffering diehards, that wait ends next month. The band will release Eat the Elephant on 4/20, because Maynard James Keenan loves a gag. The new collection is a mix of the allegorical writing of 2000’s Mer de Noms, the downcast moods and arrangements of 2003’s Thirteenth Step, and the offbeat, earnest politics that inspired the band to cover Marvin Gaye, Black Flag, and Depeche Mode songs as protest on 2004’s Emotive. —CJ

Alexis Taylor, Beautiful Thing (April 20)
Alexis Taylor, the front man of Hot Chip, may have one of the most quietly compelling voices in music. It is, at times, borderline invisible — softly floating over intricate electronic instrumentals that manage to read as pop music even at their most quirky. Sharp-eared listeners will notice that Taylor now seems to be grappling with the very act of creation. For much of this album, he interrogates empty slogans, finds nothing to say, and gives up. Taylor’s been in the game for a long time now — it only makes sense that he’d make an album that puzzles over how to keep going. —SH-S

Brothers Osborne, Port Saint Joe (April 20)
Maryland sibling duo Brothers Osborne broke out big with 2016’s Pawn Shop, which spawned the Nashville chart hits “Stay a Little Longer” and “It Ain’t My Fault.” The former spotlighted the pair’s slick pop-country smarts, and the latter was a calling card for their band’s blistering interplay. This spring’s Port Saint Joe brings the two sides together; the hooks are bright, and the fretwork is killer. See: lead single “Shoot Me Straight.” —CJ

Sting and Shaggy, 44/876 (April 20)
Do not bother trying to figure out how or why Sting and Shaggy decided to make an album together. Do not bother wondering if this is some kind of cash grab from two stars who could very easily coast on previous hits until the end of time. Technically, this doesn’t even have to be good. We live in a streaming era — you’re probably not even paying for this album, so if you’re curious, give it a go. The worst that’ll happen is that you’ll end up spending some time with two guys who happen to be responsible for some of the most infectious pop music of all time. —SH-S

Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer (April 27)
There is no album I’m more excited about this spring (and possibly this year) than Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer. It’s also one of the albums we’ll have waited longest for on this list — her last was 2013’s phenomenal The Electric Lady. Since then, she’s pivoted to acting, won an Oscar with Moonlight, and can’t help but brag about it. On one of her two new songs, “Django Jane,” she raps (!) about being “moonlight, nigga,” speaks her hunger for an EGOT into existence, and drops my favorite line in recent memory: “we highly melanated.” Say it louder, for the people in the back. Then there’s “Make Me Feel,” a kinky Prince-indebted (he apparently composed some of it!) sexual awakening. We’re in for a real treat, folks. —DL

Speedy Ortiz, Twerp Verse (April 27)
The western Massachusetts indie-rock outfit Speedy Ortiz had a batch of new songs written and ready to record two autumns ago, but the presidential election knocked everything off course. Singer-songwriter Sadie Dupuis suddenly felt as though the material she’d written was too light for her frame of mind and went back to the drawing board. The new record, Twerp Verse, is dark and full of panic and anxiety, but it never loses sight of Dupuis’s golden ear for an offbeat but gratifying melody. —CJ

Twin Shadow, Caer (April 27)
Actor, novelist, fashion model, and Grand Theft Auto radio host George Lewis is nothing if not culturally versatile, but it’s the three albums he’s recorded as Twin Shadow that he’s still best known for. Forget, Confess, and Eclipse carved out a lane for Lewis as synth pop’s most heartless romantic, a bad boy destined for big things; with Caer, listeners will learn whether he’s learned any new lessons, and whether he’s finished trying to pivot to pop or not. —FG

Willie Nelson, Last Man Standing (April 27)
Country-music lifer Willie Nelson turns 85 in April, and he’ll mark the occasion with a new album. Last Man Standing — which is something like Nelson’s 12th album just in this decade — follows last year’s God’s Problem Child in sorting through the quirks of old age. The title track muses on whether Willie will be the next up in a line of dearly departed ’70s outlaw-country greats that includes Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Merle Haggard. Where other artists grow solemn in their twilight, Willie goes for laughs. —CJ

Cardi B (April TBD)
If you’ve been following Cardi’s Instagram Stories lately (which you should), she has given her word that her debut album is nearing completion. And, during her win for Best New Artist at the iHeartRadio Music Awards, she announced that the album will finally drop in April: “Stay tuned, motherfuckers.” All we ask is that she ignore whatever her fiancé Offset might’ve said about tacking on unnecessary tracks. No! Thanks! —DL

DJ Koze, Knock Knock (May 4)
The cover of Knock Knock features DJ Koze perched on the limb of a Joshua Tree, the sky behind him a surreal shade of purple. It’s a little bit absurd, but beautiful too — which is exactly the vibe of his music, including his latest. —SH-S

Eleanor Friedberger, Rebound (May 4)
Eleanor Friedberger’s career really kicked off as part of the theatrical pop duo Fiery Furnaces, but her solo work — which tends to be more subdued than her work with FF — holds its own delights. Conceptually, Rebound is based on her time in Greece and the nights she spent at a club called, you guessed it, Rebound. Mostly though, this is a quirky synth-pop record with some very high highs: “Are We Good?” already sounds like a classic. —SH-S

Iceage, Beyondless (May 4)
Iceage is a Danish punk band that made brutal punk music before transitioning to a screwed-up, expansive form of drunken American bar rock. Beyondless is their latest step in that direction, and it’s formidable. —SH-S

Charlie Puth, Voicenotes (April 11)
With “Attention” and “How Long,” the two lead singles off Puth’s sophomore effort, it’s likely that the brutal reviews that greeted the artist’s debut are no longer the first thing on his mind. But only if the full album is tolerable will the pop singer be able to put Nine Track Mind, an album as terrible as its title, firmly behind him. —FG

Parquet Courts, Wide Awake! (May 18)
The Brooklyn indie rockers in Parquet Courts work relatively quickly, at a pace of about an album a year (sometimes two), and they’ve never made a bad one. May’s Wide Awake! closely follows October’s Milano, a collaboration with composer Danielle Lippi and singer Karen O. Awake! is produced by Danger Mouse, who nudges the group’s taut punk and slacker rock sound the closest its ever been to straight-up funk. The best songs sound like artifacts from the era where the Minutemen and Camper Van Beethoven walked the earth. —CJ

Courtney Barnett, Tell Me How You Really Feel (May 18)
Anxiety’s the running theme of Melbourne singer-guitarist Courtney Barnett’s sophomore solo album, Tell Me How You Really Feel. It’s a world where feelings suck, and people suck, and gender relations suck, and cities suck, and the only thing that soothes the gnawing feeling that we’re all fundamentally screwed is the buzz of an electric guitar and Courtney’s world-weary sigh. That sounds depressing, but her ear for melody is so tight you might forget the song you’re listening to is about crippling doubt. —CJ

Chvrches, Love Is Dead (May 25)
With two stellar albums under their belts, expectations are high for the Scottish trio to deliver yet another dose of crisp, dark, impassioned synth pop. Anyone can tell you love is dead, but hearing the message delivered by Chvrches’ singer Lauren Mayberry is surely one of the better ways to have the news broken. — FG

Ariana Grande (TBD)
Ariana has already completed the follow-up to 2016’s Dangerous Woman. TMZ reports that she’s played the album for her manager and label — she also shared a photo on Instagram from that listening session — and it’s ready to go. Reports say it was produced entirely by Pharrell and Max Martin, in halves, and is described as her most “personal” to date, which, really, could mean anything. Since her last album, she’s experienced tremendous tragedy with the Manchester bombing, but also love, with her boyfriend Mac Miller. Expect a mixed bag of emotions, carried by some of the best vocals in the business. —DL

Beyoncé (TBD)
There’s no way to be sure what’s coming next from Queen Bey, who runs one of the tightest ships in the business, but it’s a safe bet that the follow-up to Lemonade is going to be less vexed regarding her husband. (She and Jay-Z just announced their second joint On the Run tour together.) It’s an even safer bet that the intensity that’s endeared the artist to her fans will remain as high as ever. Given that she’s been rapping an awful lot recently, it’s tempting to speculate on what a Beyoncé rap album would be, and the safest bet of all would be that such an album would be an occasion for unprecedented frenzy. Beyoncé with bars! One can dream. —FG

Azealia Banks, Fantasea II: The Second Wave (TBD)
The unfortunate trajectory of Azealia Banks’s career has made it so that we spend more time talking about her controversies than the thing that made her relevant in the first place: her music. Feel how you want about her as a human, but her music blows many of her contemporaries out of the water. Her 2012 debut mixtape, Fantasea, was the first inkling that she was onto something (“Luxury,” “L8r,” and “Esta Noche,” especially), and now she’s prepared to give it a sequel. Fantasea II: The Second Wave, her first full project since her 2014 debut album, doesn’t have a release date yet (she says March), but Banks has been teasing it to no end. We’ve got a track list, collaborators (Busta Rhymes! Mel B!), and the promise of secrets. It’s hard to take Banks’s word at face value, but if you believe her, she’s also got a new “million dollar deal” and is readying for a comeback. The question is: Has she left herself anything to come back to? —DL

Blood Orange (TBD)
Last summer, we learned that Dev Hynes was working on the follow-up to his excellent last Blood Orange album, 2016’s Freetown Sound, and in October, he said it was nearing completion. In February, Hynes also put out a two-song EP, released for Black History Month, that’s not connected to the album. But if it’s any indication of where his head is at, prepare for more powerful, enriching sounds and lots of tears. —DL

Drake (TBD)
Drake’s last two collections were released in April and March, respectively, so it won’t be a shock if Toronto’s biggest star launches a third in the same time frame. (He recently announced that an album dedicated to his city is in progress.) And with a team of accomplished producers and writers around him and superstar status already achieved, it’s a given that any Drake album is going straight to the top of the charts. —FG

Grimes (TBD)
Though it goes without saying that Grimes’s next album will likely be great, right now, it’s the story surrounding the album that has our attention. After teasing on social media that new music was close, she recanted that statement and started firing off subliminals at her indie label 4AD, complaining about longtime shady behind-the-scenes sabotage blocking its release. Then, she apologized for “spreading bad vibes.” The latest is that we’ll be getting two projects from Grimes — one “highly collaborative and most glorious light” to fulfill her album contract, and another that she’s described as “extreme darkness and chaos,” which she’ll potentially release independently. There’s no word yet on when either project will arrive, so it’s probably best to keep an eye on her socials for the next time she’s feeling chatty. —DL

Nicki Minaj (TBD)
Where in the world is Nicki Minaj? Working on her album, one would assume. Since the end of last year, Minaj has gone dark on social media, which is what all the pop stars do when they’ve got something cooking. And she was also only spotted out in public for the first time in months just the other day, which is what all the rappers do when they’ve got something cooking. Back before her hiatus, she talked about her inevitable fourth album being “epic” and “personal.” And so we wait! —DL

Sky Ferreira (TBD)
When she’s not busy working with David Lynch and Edgar Wright, Ferreira is supposedly working on the follow-up to her 2013 debut, which she’s hinted will be a visual EP. She shared a photo in January that she said is for her “upcoming music release,” and last November, she promised new music “very soon.” But, you know, we all have our definitions of “soon.” —DL

Tinashe, Joyride (TBD)
It sounds too good to be true, but believe it: Tinashe’s indefinitely delayed sophomore album is coming. Well, allegedly. No release date has been announced, but it’s in the pipeline (we’re hearing this spring), as evidenced by its excellent first two singles — “No Drama” featuring Offset, and “Faded Love” featuring Future. They’re attached to a full project, we swear. —DL

Troye Sivan (TBD)
One of the better pop albums of the last five years comes to us from Australian YouTube star turned singer Troye Sivan. He possesses one of the dreamiest voices around (swoon along to “The Good Side” and tell me I’m wrong). The follow-up to his 2015 debut, Blue Neighborhood, is coming soon (featuring Ariana Grande!) and, by now, you should already be using “My My My!” as your personal anthem for all occasions. —DL

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