Kiwi Jr., Football Money (out now)
In a world full of drum machines and bedroom R&B, discovering a new band that makes rollicking, guitar-driven indie-rock is an increasingly difficult task. But here's one: Kiwi Jr., a fresh-faced Toronto quartet whose debut album Football Money gets a worldwide release this month. In just over 27 minutes stretched across 10 tracks, the band — which includes a member of Canadian indie-pop perfectos Alvvays — fuses Pavement's pouty deadpan, the Strokes' barbed garage-rock, the Clean's droning surf-pop and R.E.M.'s gorgeous guitar jangle into one perfectly punchy package. (BS)
Kvelertak, Splid (Feb. 14)
With 2013's Meir and 2016's Nattesferd, this raucous Norwegian hard-rock band released two of the best heavy albums of the 2010s, both built around their uncommon combination of punk ruckus, pop sensibility and Erlend Hjelvik's howling, growling vocals. But Hjelvik left the band a couple years ago, and he's been replaced by Ivar Nikolaisen. So have things changed on their fourth album Splid? Well, lead single "Bråtebrann" reveals Nikolaisen has a pretty sturdy growl of his own, and that the rest of the band may be leaning into more of a classic rock sound. I always said Kvelertak was just one melodic vocalist away from sounding a lot like Foo Fighters. Well, they had their chance to make a change... and they chose to remain Kvelertak. (BS)
The 1975, Notes on a Conditional Form (April 24)
This polarizing British emo-pop-funk-rock band could use an editor. Both of their last two albums — 2016's I Like It When You Sleep for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It and 2018's A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships — were packed with thrilling songs, but also padded with momentum-killing forays into ambient music and soft jazz. It's exactly that ambition, however, that makes magnetic frontman Matty Healy and his mates one of the world's most interesting bands... and maybe the world's best singles band. They've been teasing this, their fourth album, for what seems like forever. It's finally, almost here. (BS)
Moses Sumney, græ (May 15)
After a couple of buzz-worthy EPs, shapeshifting singer-songwriter Moses Sumney made a huge splash in 2017 with his debut LP Aromanticism, a concept album about the absence of love that carried his stirring brand of art-pop and electro-soul to a much larger audience. Later this year, he'll return with a sprawling double album, græ, which has been described as "a conceptual patchwork about greyness." The three singles that have already been released reveal a new maturity to Sumney's sound that bodes well for the album. Expect to see græ on just about every "Best of 2020" list in just under 12 months. (BS)
Kathleen Edwards (TBA)
Kathleen Edwards owns and operates a coffee shop just outside Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. But before she did that, she was one of the most celebrated folk-rock singer-songwriters of the early 21st century, a master connector of notes and strings and stories and feelings, and a rising star with a loyal and growing fan base. Her 2012 album Voyageur was her fourth consecutive excellent full-length, and its broadening sonic palette hinted that she was just getting started. Then, in 2014, she walked away from it all and opened the coffee shop. (Ever the jokester, she called the cafe Quitters.) Five years later, Edwards appears to be edging ever closer to a return. She plays the occasional gig, she co-wrote a song on Maren Morris' album GIRL, and in March, she signed a record deal and started working on a new album. No release date has been announced, and who knows if new Kathleen Edwards songs will come out in 2020. But if they do, they'll be very, very welcome. (BS)
And keep your fingers crossed...
Fiona Apple. In fall 2019, shortly after her '90s hit "Criminal" was used to memorable effect in the film Hustlers, the singer-songwriter agreed to a rare interview with Vulture wherein she teased a followup to her great 2012 LP The Idler Wheel... "I go off and I take too long making stuff," she said of an impending release. "It's hard to say."
Frank Ocean. No less reclusive than Apple is this R&B crooner, who hasn't released a full-length album since 2016's acclaimed Blonde. He premiered a couple new songs during concerts in late 2019, and diehard fans have even used vague social media clues to speculate on a potential LP's track listing. If it does drop in 2020, expect the unexpected.
Run the Jewels. The hip-hop duo has left a four-year gap since their most recent album, the longest wait for a Jewels LP yet. They've said the album should be out before they play this year's Coachella music festival, which gives them less than four months; a deadline should encourage them. "I'm not mad at people wanting the record," producer El-P said on Twitter. "That's love." (NW)♦