The 30 most anticipated albums of 2021

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By all accounts, 2020 sucked. Live music came to a screeching halt. Clubs across the world closed. It was a dismal year. But if one good thing should come out of last year’s lockdown, it’s the possibility of incredible new music. With little else to do, many artists hunkered down in their studios to work on new material. I expect this year will be filled with a ton of great releases, the return of live music (hopefully), and likely some big surprises.

Before we look at this year’s potential albums, let’s check in on how I did last year. My list of the most anticipated album of 2020 featured 15 artists, and only five of them released albums in 2020. An additional three artists from the list released new songs. That’s a pretty poor forecast, around 50 percent, but I have more confidence in this year’s list. I’ve been keeping notes.

ACTORS

Title: Acts of Worship
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Confirmed

Canada’s premier post-punk band ACTORS will finally release the follow-up to their incredible debut, which was my favorite album of 2018. We’ve already heard the first single, “Love U More,” which adds more of Shannon Hemmett’s synths and vocals to their polished post-punk sound.

Affet Robot

Title: Fiyasko
Release date: January 29
Likelihood: Confirmed

Affet Robot (Forgive Robot) is an Istanbul based dark-synthpop project building a lot of buzz for their sophomore album and drawing comparisons to fellow Turks She Past Away. First single “Budala” is a fiery thriller that showcases the bands atmospheric sound and Turkish vocals.

Ashbury Heights

Title: Ghost House Sessions
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Confirmed

Dark synthpop duo Ashbury Heights is getting set to release a collection of “the unreleased, the rare, and the weird” from their back catalog. If the other tracks sound anything like the amazing first single, “Spectres From the Black Moss,” this should be great.

Beyond Border

Title: Triage
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Good chance

German electro band Beyond Border burst onto the scene last year with a collection of club-friendly anthems that led me to dub them best new artist of 2020. In an interview, they told me they’re planning to release their debut album this year. Expect first single “What Makes the World Go Round” in the spring.

Chvrches

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Good chance

Let’s get this out of the way: Chvrches third album, Love Is Dead, was a big break for mainstream success that backfired. Its lazy songwriting (“Get get-out, get get get-out”) betrayed the clever lyrics and stellar synths I loved from their first two albums. I still have hope though. In a recent interview, frontwoman Lauren Mayberry seems to atone for bad choices (Marshmello anyone?) and promises they’ve been mining influence from Depeche Mode and The Cure.

Code 64

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Good chance

The beloved futurepop band from Sweden, Code 64, seemingly imploded in 2013, and most of the original members moved on to new projects (Xenturion Prime is the most notable band to rise from its ashes). Last year, Code 64 reemerged on Facebook and started teasing new music that should be out this year.

††† (Crosses)

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Unclear

At the very end of 2020, ††† (Crosses), the electrorock side-project from Deftones singer Chino Moreno, surprise-released their first new song in six years, a very DM-sounding cover of Cause & Effect’s “The Beginning of the End.” Does that mean a new full-length is on the way? I sure hope so.

The Cure

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Unclear

The Cure has been teasing new music for a while now, and they reportedly completed their next album during last year’s lockdown. At one time, the album had the working title Live from the Moon, though nothing official’s been announced. Guitarist Reeves Gabrels said in a recent interview that the album is dark and heavy. The Cure’s last album, 4:13 Dream, was released in 2008.

Dead When I Found Her

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Good chance

Portland’s Dead When I Found Her is my favorite of the bands reviving the electro-industrial sounds of the ’80s/’90s. The project, known for combining dense electronic soundscapes and Skinny Puppy influences with modern pop melodies, makes exceptionally cohesive albums about loss and despair (see their masterpiece All the Way Down), so I’m weirdly excited to hear what they deliver in a post-COVID world.

Eva X

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Good chance

Canadian synthpop newcomer Eva X recently began teasing her debut full-length album, which is coming this fall. In December, she dropped a hard-hitting “Dance and Destroy” remix of her single “Black Blood” that offers a taste of the forthcoming album’s fierce, cybergoth sound.

Edge of Dawn

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Unknown

Songwriting maestro and singer of 1,000 bands, Frank Spinath, was weirdly absent in 2020 (maybe he was busy publishing psychology research about behavioral genetics). His Edge of Dawn bandmate Mario Schumacher said they were working on new material I thought would be out last year—it will be their first new music in 10 years. Hopefully, this is the year.

Foretaste

Title: Happy End!
Release date: January 29
Likelihood: Confirmed

The enigmatic French electropop band Foretaste returns this month with an album called Happy End! that promises to reflect the end times themes we’ve all been living through. In December, they gave us a sneak preview, a four-track EP called “Lost: Run!” that sounds raw and chaotic.

Felix Marc

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Unclear

Felix Marc is threatening to overtake Frank Spinath as the busiest vocalist in the scene. Two of his projects, Frozen Plasma and Diorama, released albums in 2020, and he revealed on New Years Day that he’s already at work on his fifth solo release. Will it be completed by end of the year?

Fïx8:Sëd8

Title: The Inevitable Relapse
Release date: January 22
Likelihood: Confirmed

German dark electro band Fïx8:Sëd8 will soon release their fifth album, the prophetically titled The Inevitable Relapse. Conceived and recorded during the coronavirus pandemic, its sound reflects the harsh, brutal realities of human destruction and despair.

Fragrance.

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Good chance

French synthpop artist Fragrance. made his debut in 2019 with the throbbing, sensual sounds of Now That I’m Real, one of my favorite albums of the year. His sophomore album, coming this year, will include the already released single “Crisis.”

Front Line Assembly

Title: Mechanical Soul
Release date: January 15
Likelihood: Confirmed

I wasn’t expecting a new Front Line Assembly album so soon after 2019’s Wake Up the Coma, but perhaps Bill and Rhys were feeling inspired by last year’s pandemic and unrest, topics they cover frequently. Mechanical Soul mostly serves up mid-tempo FLA that doesn’t stray far from their core sound. The standout track for me is “Barbarians,” which features the distinctive vocals of Front 242’s Jean-Luc de Meyer, a team-up that thrills my boyhood EBM dreams.

Gary Numan

Title: Intruder
Release date: May 21
Likelihood: Confirmed

Legendary synthpop pioneer Gary Numan is on a hot streak. His last two albums, Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) and Savage (Songs from a Broken World), are some of his best work. Upcoming album Intruder, a dark companion to Savage, is about the planet purging its inhabitants. I can’t wait.

Imperative Reaction

Title: Mirror
Release date: January 15
Likelihood: Confirmed

Dark electro stalwarts Imperative Reaction return ten years after their last album. Mirror contains 11 tracks that cover the gamut of the band’s historic sound, from early electro-industrial aggression to latter-day melodic futurepop. Frontman Ted Phelps calls it the band’s most diverse release.

Kanga

Title: You and I Will Never Die
Release date: March 26
Likelihood: Confirmed

Kanga rocketed onto the scene in 2016 with her abrasive debut album, which drew comments that called her “the female Nine Inch Nails.” Her sound evolved in a more polished and melodic direction on follow-up release Eternal Daughter. “Godless,” the first single from her upcoming album, demonstrates further direction with a lighter, bubblier take.

Light Asylum

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Unclear

I am not-so-patiently awaiting a new album from dark electronic project Light Asylum. Last January, the band’s only remaining member, Shannon Funchess, told an online music magazine that she was looking forward to releasing a new album in August. It never showed. Maybe this will be the year.

Mesh

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Unclear

It’s been a long five years since we last heard from one of the leaders of modern synthpop, Mesh. They are working on a new album and have been providing sporadic updates on Facebook, but it’s unclear if we’ll get it this year. Despite that, Mark Hockings will release music from his new solo project Blackcarburning—he’s already finished recording a full album that is currently being mastered.

mind.in.a.box

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Unclear

What is going on with mind.in.a.box? In late 2019, the Austrian cyberpunk project teased, “Bad times are coming. Always remember, never trust the agency,” indicating that the story of Mr. Black would continue. Well, it did, sorta. Stefan Poiss released one new song in 2020 called “Television Nation” that was weirdly credited to both of his projects, mind.in.a.box and THYX. What does that mean? Will there be more this year? We’ll find out.

Mordelin

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Maybe

In 2019, dark synth duo Mordelin released a six-song EP called Preface that was so good, I made it number five on my list of the best albums of the year. In 2020, they debuted a new song called “Wingspan” at a virtual music festival. It’s yet to be officially released. I’m desperately hoping we’ll get that song and more this year.

Scheuber

Title: Numb
Release date: February 11
Likelihood: Confirmed

German electronic musician Dirk Scheuber, cofounder and keyboardist of Project Pitchfork, will release a new solo album in February called Numb. Weirdly, it won’t include last year’s stunning new songs “Burn the Sun” and “Never Been Missed.” But that does mean we get 10 brand new tracks from Scheuber.

Solar Fake

Title: Enjoy Dystopia
Release date: February 12
Likelihood: Confirmed

It’s been three years since Solar Fake released their last album, You Win. Who Cares? The band is about to unveil its follow-up, Enjoy Dystopia, which frontman Sven Friedrich says is “dominated by aggression that is sometimes more direct and sometimes more subtle.” You get an idea of what he means on the excellent first single, “This Pretty Life,” which blasts off with twirling stabs of electronic noise.

Terminal

Title: Blacken the Skies
Release date: February 5
Likelihood: Confirmed

Terminal is a brand new artist from South Africa that recently signed to Metropolis Records. Their debut album sounds really promising: “Hard-hitting lyrics address the amoral decay of authoritarian regimes, the devastation of our planet, and our spiral into a dark dystopian future.”

Tobias Bernstrup

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Good chance

Swedish artist Tobias Bernstrup says his next full-length album is coming this year. He’s already released a handful of fantastic singles, including “Challenger,” “Private Eye,” and his most recent, “Stranger.” If all three of those tracks appear on the forthcoming album, we already have our first contender for best album of 2021.

Unroyal

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Maybe

My favorite new artist of 2019 was Unroyal, a Swedish synthpop duo who make timeless, emotional music that recalls greats like OMD. In 2020, they mysteriously appeared on the Progress 100 compilation despite not being on the label’s roster. We still don’t know if they’ve signed to the label (they’d be a great fit!), but they’ve told me on Facebook that more music is on the way.

Wingtips

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA
Likelihood: Good chance

Chicago darkwave band Wingtips is one of my favorite new bands. Their debut album, Exposure Therapy, was number three on my list of the best albums of 2019. Last week, their label Artoffact Records posted on Facebook: “New year. New WINGTIPS album. Get ready.” My body is ready.

:Wumpscut:

Title: Fledermavs 303
Release date: April 2
Likelihood: Confirmed

:Wumpscut: was at one time the leading purveyor of dark electronic music (Bunkertor 7 still rules). Proving the old adage that more is less, Rudy Ratzinger risked his credibility in certain circles by releasing a new album every year, to ever-diminishing returns. In 2017, Rudy said he was done. So it was a bit of a shock last year when he teased a new album with samples from 2010: The Year We Make Contact. Track titles like “Squeal Like a Pig” don’t pique my interest (didn’t Revolting Cocks already do that?), but I suspect many of his most devoted fans are anticipating his return.

 

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