I’m not sure the mainstream rock/pop landscape promises all that much in 2008. REM have a new album out in April, now rather blandly titled ‘Accelerate’, that promises to portray them as a reinvigorated ensemble. I worry that REM waste too much effort responding to criticism – most critics found ‘Up’ frustrating (although I felt it was by some distance their best record), so they reacted with the much more conservative, conventionally melodic and frequently wishy-washy ‘Reveal’. ‘Around The Sun’ bizarrely concentrated on the weaker aspects of the summery sound of ‘Reveal’, and was justifiably met with complete indifference both critically and commercially. Stipe is right that they had lost their dynamism as a group – but is employing the rather superficial production trickery of Jacknife Lee (the man behind recent efforts from Snow Patrol and Bloc Party) really the right answer? We shall see….
Yet another Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album, ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!’ sounds much more promising – with Cave apparently retaining the self-parodying humour that made ‘Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus’ so enjoyable. Morrissey plans to release both another greatest hits collection (will it be a shrewd enough selection?) and a new album. It’s a return to the mid-nineties trip hop sound with new albums finally from Portishead and Massive Attack. Their continuing relevance will no doubt be severely tested this year. A new Spirtualized album is always welcome, but again I doubt whether it can recapture the elemental power of ‘Ladies and Gentlemen…’. I’m hoping that ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, the upcoming fourth album from Elbow, will forge new paths for the group and fulfil my hunger for epic guitar music. They do this so much more convincingly than the likes of Coldplay and Snow Patrol, who can only grasp at the emotional depth Guy Garvey can muster when at his best. Gnarls Barkley release their second album ‘Atlantis’, which should be one of the pop records of the year, and I may be the only person in the world still excited about the apparent return of the B-52s! What about a new album and tour from AC/DC, seemingly now promised every year for the last five?!
There has been much rumour and gossip about potential albums from Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen in 2008. Nothing anywhere near solid yet – but Dylan was rumoured to have been recording with Rick Rubin, and Springsteen had a whole batch of songs left over from the Magic sessions that may or may not see the light of day.
Elsewhere, there is of course much to look forward to. I’m expecting London’s Loop collective of jazz musicians to extend their influence and reputation in 2008 – particularly with albums expected from Outhouse and Dog Soup. Seb Rochford looks set to be as active as ever – with new Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland albums both due on V2. I’m particularly excited about the former. It’s early days, but Pat Metheny has a new trio set out on Nonesuch at the end of January which should at least be interesting. Another major guitar talent, Marc Ribot, also has a new album of his own due in 2008. The Bruford/Bortslap collaboration also looks highly promising.
If there are new albums from multi-faceted vocalist Jamie Lidell and Type records’ talented Khonnor, then they should be significant highlights of the year. I’d be happy with a new record from Xela too, although I’ve not yet seen anything scheduled. With new records from Boards of Canada, M83, Broadway Project, Fennesz and Autechre, it could be an exciting year for electronic music. I’m already acquainted with the bulk of Hot Chip’s ‘Made In The Dark’, which is oddly both their poppiest and most confusing record so far. I'm not sure whether it will fall more under the 'electronic' or 'rock' banner, but we might finally hear that new album from The Notwist too!
I can’t claim to be a true hip-hop head, but I’m salivating with anticipation at the prospect of new records from Madvillain and Cannibal Ox in 2008, but both were rumoured at the start of 2007 so don’t hold your breath. Solidly confirmed is a second album from the outstanding supergroup Subtle, who made one of my favourite albums of 2006.
Two of my favourite songwriters have new albums out in the early part of the year. Homegrown talent Chris T-T becomes more and more assured and literate with each new release – I’m expecting ‘Capital’, his first album with a band since ‘London is Sinking’ in 2004, to be a real gem. On the other side of the pond, the ever-prolific Stephin Merritt already has a new Magnetic Fields album in the can – ‘Distortion’ would appear to ape the sound of The Jesus and Mary Chain at the time of ‘Psychocandy’.
In other indie prospects – there’s a second album due from the wise and witty Long Blondes, the return of The Futureheads, Grizzly Bear, The Breeders and Clem Snide and a debut from the much-hyped Foals. I’d like to think we might get something new from The Hidden Cameras as well, although no news as yet.
Above all that though, the album I’m currently most anticipating is ‘The Mande Variations’ from the master Kora player Toumani Diabate (who recently guested on Bjork’s ‘Volta’). Reports suggest that it is tremendous. If it’s even half as good as his collaboration with Ali Farka Toure (which I managed to miss at the time of release), it will be set the standard for the whole year.