Music

The albums we’re looking forward to in 2015

Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Kendrick Lamar.

Sneak-attack releases might be the new normal for the biggest albums, but here are some major releases already scheduled for the first few months of 2015 — subject to change, naturally.

Kendrick Lamar

Title TBA

The Los Angeles-based MC has the daunting task of following up his critically and commercially successful “good kid, m.A.A.d. city,” but if any artist is up to the challenge, it’s Lamar. The mercurial rapper has debuted two songs, the well-received, Isley Brothers sampling “i,” and a dazzling, determined untitled track he performed on “The Colbert Report.” Lamar is poised for a banner year; some reports claim his sophomore set could be imminent, possibly with a Beyoncé-like stealth launch. (Early 2015) KEN CAPOBIANCO

JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE

“Absent Fathers”

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A bookend to September’s “Single Mothers,” Earle’s latest is the other side of the coin. “Absent Fathers” completes a poignant song cycle about the messy nature of family dynamics. The country singer-songwriter knows plenty about the subject matter: His single mother mostly raised him while his father, alt-country renegade Steve Earle, struggled to kick drugs and get his life back on track. (The younger Earle would follow in Dad’s footsteps, too.) “Absent Fathers” was recorded in the same sessions for its predecessor, but Earle felt like he had made two separate albums. (Jan. 13) JAMES REED

SLEATER-KINNEY

“No Cities to Love”

Ever since Sleater-Kinney went quiet in 2006, guitarist Carrie Brownstein’s comedy career has taken off in earnest thanks to “Portlandia.” But anyone counting on “No Cities to Love” to show nine years of accumulated dust hasn’t been paying attention: Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss blew the doors off in 2011 with Wild Flag, and singer/guitarist Corin Tucker dropped the fiery “Kill My Blues” the next year. With John Goodmanson producing — who knows better than anyone how to hone Sleater-Kinney’s power and focus to a diamond-hard point — “No Cities” could be plenty of things, but “rusty” won’t be one of them. (Jan. 20) MARC HIRSH

Paul Kelly

“The Merri Soul Sessions”

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A national icon in his native Australia who also happens to be one of the world’s finest singer-songwriters, Paul Kelly offers a bit of a change-up on his new record — no surprise from an artist whose catalog is full of them. It’s a self-described “soul-revue type record” that features songs old and new, recorded live in studio, one song a day over a two-week period, by Kelly, his touring touring band, and a revolving cast of lead singers. (Jan. 27)
STUART MUNRO

Bettye LaVette

“Worthy”


After decades out of the limelight, LaVette came back to the world’s attention in ferocious fashion with her superb 2005 record, “I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise.” Her upcoming release finds her once again collaborating with Joe Henry, who was in the producer’s seat for her 2005 return, and applying her singular interpretive gifts to another eclectic batch of songs from the likes of Jagger and Richards, Lennon and McCartney, Dylan, Mickey Newbury, and Mary Gauthier. (Jan. 27) S. MUNRO

Ne-Yo

“Non Fiction”

Ne-Yo, among R&B’s finest songwriters and smoothest performers, finally releases his long delayed sixth studio effort, seemingly geared toward crossover success. The large guest list includes T.I., Jeezy, Schoolboy Q, Pitbull, and Juicy J. Hopefully he also doubles down on his specialty, the narrative love song. (Jan. 27) K.C.

PUNCH BROTHERS

“Phosphorescent Blues”

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Love in the time of iPhone — how direct connections are formed and preserved in a digitally mediated age — is the thematic heart of the latest album by mandolin genius Chris Thile and his virtuoso homeboys. The album mixes chamber-music intricacy, improvisational flash, lump-in-throat balladry, and a puckish Debussy cover; T Bone Burnett’s canny production simultaneously captures the band’s woodsy caress and enhances its emotional impact. (Jan. 27 )

STEVE SMITH

JOHN CARPENTER

“Lost Themes”

Taking a cue from fellow director David Lynch, who began releasing albums under his own name a few years ago, Carpenter is about to become more known for his musical chops. Set for release on Sacred Bones Records, which also puts out Lynch’s albums, “Lost Themes” pulses to electronic beats both menacing and suspenseful, not unlike Carpenter’s films (“Halloween,” “The Fog”). The 66-year-old is by no means new to music — he composed and performed the chilling theme to “Halloween” — but this instrumental collection is considered his proper debut album. (Feb. 3) J.R.

FATHER JOHN MISTY

“I Love You, Honeybear”

As Father John Misty, Josh Tillman is a cosmic cowboy in the grand tradition of Gram Parsons, Harry Nilsson, and Lee Hazlewood. Tillman’s songs are rooted in storytelling but gussied up in spectral arrangements and the inherent romance of his croon. Tillman, who had released a handful of solo albums and played drums with Fleet Foxes, finally broke out with 2012’s “Fear Fun.” The two released tracks from his forthcoming “I Love You, Honeybear” are polar opposites — the majestic “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins),” the stark piano ballad “Bored in the USA” — but intriguing snapshots of where Tillman is taking Father John. (Feb. 10)
J.R.

6 String Drag

“Roots Rock ’N’ Roll”

Remember alt-country? 6 String Drag was in the thick of it with its Stax ’n’ tonk swagger and highline harmonies, and seemed poised to be a bright light after making one of the whatever-that-is genre’s standout entries, 1997’s “High Hat.” After that, the band seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. No telling what they’re going to bring some 18 years later, but the title of their new one certainly offers a tantalizing hint. (Feb. 10) S. MUNRO


BADBADNOTGOOD with Ghostface Killah

“Sour Soul”

Canadian instrumental trio BADBADNOTGOOD continues its exploration into hip-hop on this collaboration with the ever-restless Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan. The first track released, “Gunshowers,” is promisingly terse and tense. (Feb. 17) K.C.

Estelle

“True Romance”

Somehow, this supremely talented British R&B/hip-hop singer-songwriter has gotten lost in the pop shuffle since her 2008 breakthrough single, “American Boy,” so her fourth record has a lot riding on it. Reportedly preoccupied with love and sex, the disc includes the nasty-as-she-wants-to-be “Make Her Say (Beat It Up).” (Feb. 17) K.C.

The Mavericks

“Mono”

The title piques your interest: Are the Mavs going throwback on their next record? Or will “Mono” simply be another serving of the band’s genre-surfing mix of full-tilt dance-floor music, sweet-spot swing, and aching, tremulous balladry? Whichever way it goes, with the “Mono Mundo” tour kicking off here two days after the album is released, Boston fans will be the first to hear the band playing it live. (Feb. 17) S. MUNRO

KATE PIERSON

“Guitars and Microphones”

Talk about long overdue: This is the first solo album from Pierson, the longtime singer and fashion-plate deluxe of the B-52’s. The album’s title is bland, but the debut single, “Mister Sister,” is anything but: It rocks in a vintage B-52’s style, with Pierson telling a transgender male “you make a beautiful girl” (the video features Fred Armisen, “Portlandia” star and “Late Night With Seth Meyers” bandleader). Expect optimistic rockers co-written with “Chandelier” star Sia, and some guitar from Nick Valensi of the Strokes. (Feb. 17)
STEVE MORSE

THE DARKNESS

“Cliffhanger”

Back in 2003, Britain’s the Darkness became all the rage when helium-voiced singer Justin Hawkins evoked memories of Queen with the hit “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.” Hawkins ended up leaving and going into rehab. But the Darkness reunited a few years ago, including a new drummer, Emily Dolan Davies: a “hard hitter” who has “revitalized” the band, Hawkins told Classic Rock magazine. That would be good news if it’s true; Hawkins describes the album’s sound as stripped-down “medieval rock” or “medi-urban rock.” We’ll see. (March release) S. MORSE

BRANDI CARLILE

“The Firewatcher’s Daughter”

In music as in gambling, it can be dangerous to trust a streak, which does nothing but lull you into a false sense of security. But facts are facts: Brandi Carlile has released four albums with zero duds among them. Whether “The Firewatcher’s Daughter” continues the country-folk flirtation of 2012’s “Bear Creek,” returns to the warm adult songcraft of “The Story” and “Give Up the Ghost,” or explores some other direction entirely, she’s sure to bring emotional intelligence, thoughtful clarity, and, most importantly, the most arresting female voice in pop this side of Adele. I’m betting on her. (March 3) M.H.

STEVEN WILSON

“Hand. Cannot. Erase.”

Rush fans and Radiohead devotees could find common cause when prog-rock maven Wilson — whose principal band, Porcupine Tree, remains on hiatus until 2016 at least — issues this, his fourth solo album. Wilson reunites the scarily chopsy band he convened for 2013’s “The Raven That Refused to Sing,” but replaces that album’s supernatural fables with a contemporary melancholy inspired by a haunting true story, involving a young English woman whose death at home went undiscovered for more than two years. (March 3) S.S.

Jack DeJohnette

“Made in Chicago”

Recorded live at the 2013 Chicago Jazz Festival, this album reunites drum legend DeJohnette with two of his college classmates, reed/flute players Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill — all now in their 70s — along with their mentor, pianist/composer Muhal Richard Abrams, 84. Joined by bassist/cellist Larry Gray, the band recalls the creation in Chicago of a new kind of ’60s avant-garde: riding the winds of free jazz, but with fresh attention to European modernism. No nostalgia here, just an ageless in-the-moment immediacy. Future gigs are promised; here’s hoping they hit Boston. (March 10) JON GARELICK

Wale

“The Album About Nothing”

Somehow, Jerry Seinfeld — yes, that Jerry Seinfeld — is involved in Wale’s fourth studio effort. Details are sketchy, but hopefully this time the cerebral, Washington, D.C.-based MC makes the long awaited creative leap to the next level. (March 31) K.C.

COLDPLAY

“A Head Full of Dreams”

Coldplay always wanted to be the next U2, and singer Chris Martin got a partial wish come true when he literally joined U2 (replacing an injured Bono) in last month’s World AIDS Day concert. Martin is hinting that this could be the group’s last record — “The way we look at it, it’s like the last ‘Harry Potter’ book,” he recently told BBC radio. “That’s not to say there won’t be another thing one day, but it’s the completion of something.” We hope the album rocks harder than last year’s downtempo, ballad-bloated, and overproduced “Ghost Stories.” (Spring release) S. MORSE

MADONNA

“Rebel Heart”

The bad news is that an online leak of unfinished demos forced Madonna to suddenly release six new songs last month. The pop icon was, understandably, not happy about that. The good news? Those six songs are among the freshest work she has done in recent memory, a promising glimmer of what will be Madonna’s 13th studio album. Madge recently told Billboard that “Rebel Heart” is “the old me and the new me all mixed in together.” Produced by Diplo, “Living for Love” certainly gives that impression with its mashup of house music and gospel overtones. “Ghosttown” is exceptional, a big-hearted ballad you could easily hear nonstop on the radio. Nicki Minaj turns up for a cameo on “Bitch, I’m Madonna” (just in case you forgot). Give us more, please. (March 10) JAMES REED

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly listed the Punch Brothers album release date. It is Jan. 27.

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