1. The XX, Coexist
The sensuous mood pieces on this English act’s debut—songs equally informed by the Cure, bass music, and foggy R&B—deserved the diverse set of fans they attracted, and all signs point to the follow-up preserving that same sense of intimacy. Sept. 11.
2. Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
Verbally dexterous and philosophically inclined, Lamar is a rapper on the rise—his major-label debut is even scheduled to contain a Lady Gaga feature. The good news is that making music for a larger audience doesn’t seem to be dulling his ear for good production or his tendency to chase big ideas. Oct. 2.
3. Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
Miguel started the year with the release of Art Dealer Chic, a series of free EPs on which he flexed creative muscles, toyed with new ideas, bent R&B into a few fresh shapes—and, we hope, convinced his label it was worth letting him do more of the same on his second full-length. Oct. 2.
4. Titus Andronicus, Local Business
Lately there are plenty of New Jersey punks trading in bull-hearted passion and us-against-them fervor—but this band’s last LP, The Monitor, did a nice job of asking why we crave those feelings, and what we get out of them. Their new material’s been sparking excitement for months now. Oct. 23.
5. Tracey Thorn, Tinsel and Lights
Thorn’s still best known as the voice of Everything But the Girl, but the solo albums she’s spent the past few years working on have been marvelous, full of spare, quietly incisive songwriting about topics—like being surrounded by divorces—that rarely get such keen treatment. Tinsel and Lights is part Christmas album, part covers album, and bound to be good company when it gets colder. Oct. 30.
And We’re Also Anticipating
Cat Power, Sun
Because it’s been far too long since we last heard Chan Marshall’s warm, dreamy, Lilith-friendly (but not in the True Blood sense) voice. Sept. 4
Stars, The North
Because the Montreal quintet’s synthy anthems can put you in the same safe place as a really good John Hughes movie. Sept. 4
Bob Dylan, Tempest
Because the grizzled, weirder-as-he-ages Greenwich Village poet includes a fourteen-minute-long song about the sinking of the Titanic (in which he references Leo DiCaprio). Sept. 11
Ben Folds Five, The Sound of the Life of the Mind
Because, owing to Internet demand, piano-pop savant Folds has reassembled his nineties trio in classic form. Sept. 18.
G.O.O.D. Music, Cruel Summer compilation
Because it’s worth waiting out the constant delays to hear the debut from Kanye West’s crew—including Kid Cudi, Common, John Legend, Pusha T, and Big Sean—which may include Ye’s maybe-tribute to Kim Kardashian, “My Perfect Bitch.” Sept. 18.
Grizzly Bear, Shields
Because if single “Yet Again” is indicative, the twee Brooklyn experimentalists have another album of intricate, rewardingly contemplative harmonies for us. Sept. 18.
The Killers, Battle Born
Because new songs like “Runaways” and “Miss Atomic Bomb” confirm Brandon Flowers’s transformation into the glam Springsteen. Sept. 18
Aimee Mann, Charmer
Because even though we loved her as a fed-up cleaning lady on Portlandia, we’re glad she’s still gainfully employed churning out drily witty tunes. Sept. 18.
Pink, The Truth About Love
Because her songs may be trashy pop candy, but they’re backed up by an utterly convincing powerhouse voice. Sept. 18.
Green Day, ¡Uno! and ¡Dos!
Because no one does insanely catchy election-year skate-park rage better (these are the first two parts of a trilogy; ¡Tré! comes out in enero 2013). Sept. 25 and Nov. 13.
Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1
Because despite its inane title, Lupe’s latest actually sounds like engaged R&B social commentary. Sept. 25
Yoko Ono, Kim Gordon, and Thurston Moore, YokoKimThurston
Because this time Yoko Ono got a great band back together. Sept. 25.
Beth Orton, Sugaring Season
Because we really liked her in the nineties. Oct. 2
The Wallflowers, Glad All Over
Because Jakob Dylan still sounds attractively tortured. Oct. 2.
A.C. Newman, Shut Down the Streets
Because, having emerged from the New Pornographers’ infectious power-pop hive mind, he’s a great writer of deceptively sunny tunes. Oct. 9.
Ben Gibbard, Former Lives
Because it’s been a while since the Death Cab front man was emo’s pinup boy, so we’re hoping he’ll inject a little well-earned bitterness into his trademark plaintive pop-rock. Oct. 16.
Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
Because if we believe his Twitter, the follow-up to Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty means not only more tongue-twisting, booty-shaking rhymes, but that André 3000’s solo album is coming soon, too. Nov. 13.
Soundgarden, Title TBD
Because there’s no reason why the nineties should end for Chris Cornell either. He still has one of the great rock voices of the past 30 years, and he’s thankfully not wasting it on Audioslave. Nov. 13.
Snoop Lion, Reincarnated
Because when a hip-hop icon like Snoop goes to Jamaica and comes back with a new name, declaring he wants to make music “kids and grandparents can listen to,” we’re, uh, intrigued. TBD.
T.I, Trouble Man
Because after a stint in prison and a VH1 reality show, he’s back to actually rapping. TBD.