Albums of 2019: A big year for recording acts of all sizes

Expect newies from Rihanna, Foals, Hozier, Chance the Rapper, Soak, Stormzy and MBV

Rihanna: double helping of Ri-Ri recordings in 2019. Photograph: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Rihanna: double helping of Ri-Ri recordings in 2019. Photograph: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

 

The biggie: Rihanna

It’s a welcome surprise that Ri-Ri is expected to return with a double helping of new music next year, given she switched to the fashion and beauty worlds soon after releasing 2016’s more explorative album Anti. According to sources, one album is set to continue this vibe as an experimental dancehall piece. And, to keep her profile sky-high, another album’s worth of material will focus on the chart-friendly tunes for which she’s best known.

Whether they will be released together or separately is yet to be seen, but names rumoured to help make it happen include Skrillex, R City, Sean Paul collaborator Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor and Linton “TJ” White, who’s worked with Bounty Killer, Beenie Man and Buju Banton. There are less substantiated whisperings of Cardi B, Calvin Harris, A$AP Rocky and Diplo involvement, too.

R9, as is its working title, could be ready to go imminently. But without so much as a teaser right now, we’d guess it’s at least a couple of months off – unless it merits a surprise release. Stay poised . . .

Foals: the best is yet to come
Foals: the best is yet to come

The festival faves: Foals

As part of an announcement that Oxford art-rockers Foals struck a new publishing deal with Transgressive, they also announced that their fifth album would be released in 2019. Good news for fans who’ve been patiently waiting since the group announced they were working on new material in summer 2017.

Since then, the group have shared photos and clips of their studio sessions on social media, and, with the amount of electronics in the mix – plus the departure of bassist Walter Gervers who left at the start of this year “to pursue a new life” – the group might well take a more electronic approach to the album.

Certainly, the sound is expected to evolve from 2015’s What Went Down, and the lyrical content is likely to change too – like many socially aware acts, they’re taking influence from the political and environmental tension in the air.

“It makes me feel really bad to be a 21st-century human. I think, in some ways, that might emanate in the record,” singer Yannis Philippakis told the Oxford Union at the start of this writing cycle.

With promises of it being their best album yet and festival headline slots already penned in, 2019 could well be a key time in their trajectory.

Hozier: Powering with his second album. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times
Hozier: Powering with his second album. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

The sure bet: Hozier

If the Nina Cried Power EP is a hint of what’s in store for Hozier’s next album, due for release before April 2019, we’re assured that the dreaded “second album syndrome” is nowhere to be found here. It’s helped that he continued the momentum from his self-titled 2014 debut and threw himself into creating new songs as soon as a window appeared. “I wanted to empty the pockets and get as many songs down as possible,” the Wicklow native told Rolling Stone. “There was a bit of an urgency to get these songs written.”

The album was written and recorded between London and LA, with producers including Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Coldplay) and Rob Kirwan, who produced his Grammy-nominated song, Take Me To Church. Booker T Jones is expected to feature on the album, in addition to Mavis Staples, who guests on Nina Cried Power.

Chance the Rapper: more boundary-pushing from the DIY hip-hop star. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images
Chance the Rapper: more boundary-pushing from the DIY hip-hop star. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

The hip-hop king: Chance the Rapper

We know 2019 will be a big year for DIY artist Chance the Rapper – he’s already been announced for Longitude Festival. He’s been dropping tracks throughout the year – most recently, the well-received My Own Thing and The Man Who Has Everything – and we’re expecting these teasers to culminate in an album soon.

The details are still in flux, but he has confirmed there will be seven tracks, and it’s expected that his frequent collaborator Kanye West will make an appearance. Given his mixtape Coloring Book was the first streaming-only release to win a Grammy, this release will no doubt push another boundary or several.

The indie kid: Soak

Much has happened since Soak, aka Derry’s Bridie Monds-Watson, released Before We Forgot How to Dream in 2015 aged 18. She earned a Mercury Music Prize nomination, moved to Manchester, solidified her style and sound, and found her profile has grown, so much so that her European tour next May tackles sizeable venues, and takes place around the same time her second album is released.

We already have a taster of the as-yet-untitled LP in the form of Everybody Loves You, a track which demonstrates that while her distinctive voice has matured and strengthened, it’s lost none of the fragility that makes it endearing. Expect great things.

The shoegazers: My Bloody Valentine

We waited 22 years for a follow-up to Loveless, but it seems the follow-up to 2013’s mbv will soon be upon us. Speedy. The shoegaze legends already have much of this new material in the can; they road-tested new songs when they made their live comeback this year, and pushed back the release of two EPs in order to elongate them for next year.

Kevin Shields has said that we can expect “about two new records” soon, though cynics among us might point out that given MBV aren’t concerned with timelines, their plans are subject to change.

The bright hope: whenyoung

Based in London and originally from Limerick, whenyoung have already made enough of a glowing impression to earn supports slots with The Vaccines and Blossoms, and release their recent Given Up EP on Virgin/EMI in the UK and Universal in Ireland. This promising trajectory will continue in 2019: they begin by showcasing their sounds and boiler suit stagewear at Eurosonic in January, then SXSW in March, around which time they’ll drop their anticipated debut album.

Produced by Al O’Connell aka Alalal – who’s also worked with Duran Duran, Little Boots and Django Django – they’re currently deciding which of the many tracks they’ve recorded will make the cut. Expect the result to be a fully formed slice of indie-pop goodness.

The force of nature: Stormzy

The grime star and activist made a game-changer of an album with Gang Signs & Prayer, so all eyes are on what the follow-up, due in 2019, will uncover.

There aren’t many hints about the direction, but producer Fraser T Smith, who also worked on the debut, has let slip that there will be a significant progression. He told Music Week: “It’s going to be an incredibly exciting journey and an incredibly exciting sophomore album.” All the more reason to wait semi-patiently.

The dance legends: The Chemical Brothers

Paving the way for a summer of festival appearances, The Chemical Brothers are due to release their ninth album, No Geography, in spring 2019. If the lead track of Free Yourself is anything to go by, it’s likely to be an uninhibited party album aimed squarely at their spiritual homes of the live and club arenas.

The comeback: The Who

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend have returned to their Who guise in recent years, first with a live airing of Quadrophenia in its entirety, then with their two-year 50th anniversary tour. Buoyed by the response, they’re now set to make an honest reunion out of it and release a new album in 2019. It will be their first recorded material since 2006’s Endless Wire.

The curveball: Ed Sheeran

While Ed is still busy touring his record-breaking album ÷, he already has his mind on the next release. But don’t expect another shiny, radio-friendly LP. He told the BBC: “I’d like to bring out a project next year that isn’t an album. Something that isn’t pushed on radio. Something that’s not what I usually do, that just clears the air a little bit.” So we’ve yet to find out if that takes the form of a collaboration project, which would hark back to his early days, or another idea entirely.

The rest

Already, 2019 is looking to be an action-packed year for new music. On the home front, Joe Chester releases She Darks Me at the end of January, All Twins will release second album Just to Exist in the late spring, and Picture This will continue their dominance with another album this year. There are also releases from Rory Gallagher, Sibéal and Walking on Cars amongst others.

Also on the cards is Kanye West’s Yandhi, which will steer conversations back to his musical output, with any luck. The Dandy Warhols’ new album Why You So Crazy is due out on January 25th, and indie folks of a certain age will also appreciate that Weezer return with The Black Album on March 8th. The acts shortlisted for the Brit critics’ choice prize, Lewis Capaldi, Mahalia and winner Sam Fender, are all likely to capitalise on the accolade by releasing new material. Madonna will also return with her 14th album.

Elsewhere in the music sphere Elbow, David Gray and Ian Brown are plotting their return, as are Ellie Goulding, Cardi B and Dua Lipa. Lana Del Rey returns with an album with producer du jour Jack Antonoff, plus there’s releases slated for Bruce Springsteen, The Specials and Sophie Ellis-Bextor. And that’s just the ones we know about . . .

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