summer 2021

56 Albums We Can’t Wait to Hear This Summer

And — gasp! — the return of live music???

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Labels
Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Labels
Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Labels

With venues, bars, and clubs reopening after a year-plus in various states of lockdown, don’t expect summer 2021 to just go back to normal — prepare, instead, for a level of intensity not seen since the first Roaring ’20s. To help make this summer as wild as can be, there’s a slew of albums on the way that, fortunately, this year, we’ll be able to enjoy the way they were intended: collectively, and ideally, at parties with all the loved ones we haven’t seen in ages. Some of our favorite pop, indie-rock, and hip-hop stars are back with new LPs on the horizon to soundtrack our vaccinated, hedonistic summer, while many others have teased long-awaited records that might just drop out of nowhere. Indeed, expect surprises all season now that artists can get back on the road and share all the work they crafted while stuck inside. Here’s what we’re looking forward to in summer 2021, from confirmed releases to ones that we hope will finally come out of hibernation with the rest of us.

Confirmed Releases

Lana Del Rey, Rock Candy Sweet (June 1, maybe) and Blue Banisters (July 4)

Just after releasing Chemtrails Over the Country Club earlier this year, Lana Del Rey said she’d be following it up with another album, Rock Candy Sweet, on June 1. Then, in April, she announced the July 4 release of a maybe-different-but-maybe-the-same LP Blue Banisters. While not helping clear up the confusion of whether she’s releasing one or two albums this summer, she did release three singles in May: the title track for Blue Banisters, “Text Book,” and “Wildflower Wildfire.” The first two were collaborations with Gabe Simon, who worked with Lana on her scrapped covers album that produced the single, “Summertime (the Gershwin Version),” in 2020, while the piano-based “Wildflower Wildfire” was made with the help of producer Mike Dean (Kanye, Beyoncé, Frank Ocean). So, whether it’s one album or two, we do know that we’ll get a new collection of tracks from Lana that, if what we’ve heard is any indication, lean toward soft and sparse. It might not be the perfect match for a 4th of July barbecue, but it is pretty ideal for a cozy, mellow night in for whenever you inevitably get sick of going out with your friends.

Sleater-Kinney, Path of Wellness (June 11)

On Path of Wellness, their tenth album and first since the departure of drummer Janet Weiss, Sleater-Kinney found inspiration from punk, classic rock, and the tumult of 2020. Recorded in Portland last summer during the racial-justice protests that began with the murder of George Floyd, the album infused a yearning to live and love normally again while “thinking about death, and life, and longevity, and mortality,” as singer-guitarist Corin Tucker recently told Vulture. Expect more of the guitar-heavy interplay between Tucker and Carrier Brownstein from the group’s earlier work and less of the pop leanings of the St. Vincent-produced The Center Won’t Hold, and catch Sleater-Kinney back on the road this August with Wilco.

Maroon 5, Jordi (June 11)

Despite frontman Adam Levine’s complaint that “there aren’t any bands anymore,” his band Maroon 5 is returning with an album that touches on the pandemic, the George Floyd protests, and the sudden passing of their manager Jordan Feldstein. It’s also filled to the brim with guest stars, including Megan Thee Stallion, Stevie Nicks (!), H.E.R., and posthumous appearances from both Juice WRLD and Nipsey Hussle, among other collaborations.

Migos, Culture III (June 11)

Delayed by the pandemic, Migos’ final entry in the Culture trilogy finally arrives, led by the singles “Give No Fxk,” “Need It,” and “Straightenin,” which features a statement of purpose from Quavo: “Turn a pandemic into a bandemic / You know that’s the shit that we on.” It’ll be interesting to see what the album holds, considering the Atlanta trio’s controversy-filled year, but given its timing, it’s guaranteed to be the marquee rap record of summer’s onset.

BTS, THE BEST (June 16)

The K-pop superstars are back with a compilation of their Japanese hits, plus the newer singles “Film Out” and “Dynamite.” Here’s hoping that, after the recent smashing success of “Butter,” even more is coming soon from the boys.

Lucy Dacus, Home Video (June 25)

Dacus’s third album is her most personal yet, delving into her Richmond, Virginia, upbringing across 11 tracks. Thus far, she’s released the singles “Hot & Heavy,” which reflects on how much she’s changed since her teenage years, and “Thumbs,” a longtime fan favorite about wanting to kill a friend’s deadbeat dad. Dacus also brings her boygenius bandmates Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker in for guest vocals on a couple tracks, but make no mistake — this is her time to shine, bigger than she ever has before.

Eve 6, Grim Value (June 25)

Following his ascent to Twitter’s superstar shit-poster, Eve 6’s Max Collins is back with actual music in the form of this EP, which features the abrasively catchy track “black nova.”

Modest Mouse, The Golden Casket (June 25)

It’s been six years since Isaac Brock & Co. put out Strangers to Ourselves and now they’re back with this LP, produced by Dave Sardy and Jacknife Lee. Over its dozen tracks, led by the propulsive single “We Are Between,” you’ll get the controlled madness you’d expect from Modest Mouse, from roaring rockers to lush psychedelia that’s destined to thrive in an outdoor-concert setting when the band eventually hits the road in the coming months.

Billie Eilish, Happier Than Ever (July 30)

Using her pandemic time to the fullest, Eilish not only underwent her blonde makeover but recorded this 15-track album with the sole help of her brother, Finneas. She’s already unleashed the slithery, playful “Therefore I Am,” the breezy “my future,” and the folky ballad “Your Power” to widespread acclaim, so now the questions are, “What else does she have in store for us?” and, “After When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, how much bigger can she get?”

Prince, Welcome 2 America (July 30)

It’s been five years since Prince’s tragic passing and his estate is finally releasing one of his many rumored lost studio albums. Recorded then shelved in 2010, Welcome 2 America tackles racial and political divisions with Prince’s hopes and visions for a better future, an album perfectly suited for the powder-keg nature of 2021. The gospel-funk lead single’s lyrics like “Land of the free, home of the slave” and “Hope and change, everything takes forever / And truth is a new minority” were more prescient than the Purple One could’ve ever imagined when he put this LP in the vault.

Bleachers, Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night (July 30)

After a year of production and collaboration with the likes of Taylor Swift, the Chicks, Lana Del Rey, and Carly Rae Jepsen, Jack Antonoff is finally coming back to the forefront with Bleachers’ third album. He’s already gotten an assist from Jersey brother Bruce Springsteen on “Chinatown,” and he shares writing credits on two of the LP’s songs with Del Rey and Zadie Smith, leading us to believe that this will be one of the more interesting power-pop albums of the season, if not the year.

Torres, Thirstier (July 30)

Yeah, we’ll say it: The synth-drenched “Don’t Go Puttin’ Wishes in My Head” is a top contender for indie-rock song of the summer.

Also Coming Soon

Rostam, Changephobia (June 4)

Japanese Breakfast, Jubilee (June 4)

Liz Phair, Soberish (June 4)

Polo G, Hall of Fame (June 11)

Garbage, No Gods No Masters (June 11)

Twice, Taste of Love (June 11)

Marina, Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land (June 11)

Rebecca Black, Rebecca Black Was Here (June 16)

Mykki Blanco, Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep (June 18)

Mountain Goats, Dark in Here (June 25)

Faye Webster, I Know I’m Funny haha (June 25)

Isaiah Rashad, The House Is Burning (June TBD)

Laura Mvula, Pink Noise (July 2)

Half Waif, Mythopoetics (July 9)

Leon Bridges, Gold-Diggers Sound (July 23)

Yola, Stand For Myself (July 30)

Don Toliver, L.O.A.D (Life of a Don) (July TBD)

Potentially Coming Soon

Drake, Certified Lover Boy (TBD)

We were led to believe that this album would drop in January, but one transformative winter and spring later, we’re still waiting. Not that Drake hasn’t kept us entertained with the Scary Hours 2 EP, the Drakeo the Ruler collab “Talk to Me,” and the appearance of his 3-year-old son, Adonis, at the Billboard Music Awards. And yeah, we know he had to recuperate from surgery, but patience is a virtue that’s been tested enough for everyone throughout quarantine, so we humbly ask him to get this to us ASAP.

Lorde (TBD)

What we know about Lorde’s upcoming third album is that it was done remotely with Jack Antonoff, with the young New Zealand singer deciding to focus more on quality and deep emotions than rushing out a bunch of pop bangers. Here’s hoping she can get back to her pre-COVID momentum and deliver the follow-up to 2017’s Melodrama before the temperatures start to dip. (And well before her headlining set at Primavera Sound next summer, the first show she’s booked in years.)

Kendrick Lamar (TBD)

A Pulitzer win should earn anyone a nice, long vacation, but it’s been four years since DAMN., so we’d really love for one of the greatest rappers alive to come back with his next full-length.

Cardi B (TBD)

The glorious chart-topper “Up” and her amusing spat with Candace Owens kept us busy for a while, but it’d be great if Cardi B’s long-promised, feature-filled second album would arrive posthaste.

Adele (TBD)

After dashing our hopes by hosting SNL without singing any new tunes, Adele said we’d have to wait until at least 2021 for a new album. We know she’s been working on new songs with producer Rick Nowels, but that’s about all the knowledge that’s out there about her follow-up to 2015’s 25. She’s also never released an album in the summer, so we’re not banking on this one, but it’d sure be nice, right?

Rihanna, R9 (TBD)

We’ve been waiting on this one since (at least) 2019, with sporadic, vague updates coming from RiRi herself. We know that Pharrell/the Neptunes, Diplo, and Skylar Grey have contributed to the album, which we still only know as R9, but that’s about it …

A$AP Rocky, All Smiles (TBD)

Speaking of Rihanna, her new beau, A$AP Rocky, has said the release of his latest, the more mature and romantic, Rihanna-focused All Smiles, is imminent. In a May GQ interview, Rocky said it was 90 percent done, and that (sigh) Morrissey is on it.

J Balvin (TBD)

After dropping “Ma’ G” earlier this year, Balvin said his fifth album, the follow-up to 2020’s Colores, would be coming “soon.” As for what to expect, he told Rolling Stone, “This new album is all about me. It’s the first time I’m going to talk about personal stuff. I’ve never done that before.”

Kacey Musgraves (TBD)

As of early 2021, the country-crossover star had 39 songs written for her next album. She’s reteamed with Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian, who produced 2018’s Grammy-winning Golden Hour, and says the new material will take inspiration from Greek tragedies, the pandemic, and her divorce from fellow singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly. Oh, and also, ’shrooms.

Lil Nas X, Montero (TBD)

Hot on the heels of the successes of “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” and “Sun Goes Down,” plus what almost became a literal “breakout” moment on SNL after that wardrobe mishap, we wouldn’t be shocked if Lil Nas X has something bigger in store for us this summer.

Silk Sonic, An Evening With Silk Sonic (TBD)

It’s been months since Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s “Leave the Door Open” topped the Hot 100, making us even hungrier for this soul-throwback project’s debut LP to arrive already.

Noname, Factory Baby (TBD)

Since dropping “RAINFOREST” back in February and announcing her next album, Factory Baby, we haven’t heard much from the bold young rapper aside from her vital tweets. Here’s hoping that changes soon!

Saweetie, Pretty Bitch Music (TBD)

With the spring release of her EP, Pretty Summer Playlist: Season 1, and the video for the single “Fast (Motion),” we’re hoping the next bit of news to come from the Bay Area rapper is a release date for her debut full-length, Pretty Bitch Music.

Travis Scott, Utopia (TBD)

It’s been almost a year since Travis announced that his next album would be Utopia, but we’re still waiting on more details. Maybe his July headlining set at Rolling Loud (a preview of the return of his own Astroworld festival in Houston in November, and still-delayed Coachella headlining set in 2022, perhaps?) will bring us some good news.

Halsey (TBD)

While juggling the demands of impending motherhood, Halsey’s had the time to lead fans to a cryptic website with the title LPIV, which many believe is a hint that her fourth album is imminent. That’s all we have to go on for now.

Meek Mill (TBD)

After releasing the surprise EP Quarantine Pack last November and his own version of “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” this spring, Meek’s only hint that he might have a new record coming this season was in an April tweet: “This summer ima terrorize this rap shit.” Count us in!

Willow Smith (TBD)

Willow spent quarantine playing guitar and writing, revealing the fruits of her efforts with the Travis Barker pop-punk collab “t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l.” It’s said to be the first single from her upcoming fifth album, due this summer from Roc Nation.

Sky Ferreira, Masochism (TBD)

Sure, we could wait a little longer for Sky’s follow-up to her 2013 debut, Night Time, My Time, but we’d really rather not. Masochism has long been in the works, with the pandemic cited as the reason for its most recent delay, so this one could be imminent. Unfortunately, she has no tour dates booked this summer (but is on the billing for Primavera Sound 2022!), so we won’t hold our breath.

Doja Cat, Planet Her (TBD)

So far this year, Doja Cat has teamed up with Ariana Grande, Megan Thee Stallion, Saweetie, and, most recently, SZA on the pop gem “Kiss Me More.” Her latest album, Planet Her, is expected sometime this summer, with the next planned single, “You Right,” featuring the Weeknd. We can only imagine how many other features are going to pop up on her much-much-much-anticipated third LP.

Also Potentially Coming Soon

Nicki Minaj

Vince Staples


Mickey Guyton


Summer Festivals

Why settle for one-off concerts when you can see dozens of acts at once? Yes, music festivals are back in full swing, here to sate all your bacchanalia needs. (Some require proof of vaccination, so be sure to check ahead of time; we also recommend still packing a mask for the dirt, dust, and germs alone). Here are some of the best ones happening, for real, this summer.

Roots Picnic — June 5, Philadelphia, PA
Sled Island — June 25–27, Calgary, AB
Four Chord Music Fest — July 17, Washington, PA
Under the Big Sky — July 17–18, Whitefish, MT
Latitude — July 22–25, Suffolk, UK
Rolling Loud Miami — July 23–25, Miami, FL
Newport Folk — July 23–25, Newport, RI
Camp Fuzz — July 27–30, Woodstock, NY
Lollapalooza Chicago — July 29–August 1, Chicago, IL
Hard Summer — July 31–August 1, San Bernadino, CA
Gathering of the Juggalos — August 4–8, Springville, IN
Pukkelpop — August 19–22, Kiewit-Hasselt, Belgium
Summer Smash — August 20–22, Chicago, IL
Fuji Rock — August 20–22, Nigata, Japan
Psycho Las Vegas — August 20–22, Las Vegas, NV
Reading and Leeds — August 27–29, Reading and Leeds, UK
Tomorrowland — August 27–September 5, Boom, Belgium
Railbird — August 28–29, Lexington, KY
Bonnaroo — September 2–5, Manchester, TN
Summerfest — September 2–18, Milwaukee, WI
Electric Daisy Carnival Mexico — September 3–5, Mexico City, Mexico
Made in America — September 3–5, Philadelphia, PA
Electric Zoo — September 3–5, New York, NY
Bottlerock — September 3–5, Napa, CA
Hopscotch — September 9–11, Raleigh, NC
Pitchfork — September 10–12, Chicago, IL
Riot Fest — September 16–19, Chicago, IL
Isle of Wight — September 16–19, Isle of Wight, UK
Life Is Beautiful — September 17–19, Las Vegas, NV
Governors Ball — September 24–26, New York, NY

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56 Albums We Can’t Wait to Hear This Summer