Bruce Springsteen

Gazing into the musical crystal ball… (The QH Jan 2014)

Gazing into the musical crystal ball… (Originally published in The QH in January 2014)

Our retinas are at long last being given a break from gaudy Christmas chintz. Leftover turkey and mince pies seem but a distant memory, the New Year’s Day hangovers have finally subsided and Crème Eggs are already in your local Tesco. Yep, it’s January. The drudgery of the four weeks following festive excess may feel like a lifetime, and the weather certainly isn’t helping. Depressed yet? Yup, me too. Not to worry however, a sure fire way to beat those start-of-the year bouts of soul obliterating misery is to look at the year ahead. Plan a holiday. Dust off those summer clothes. Decide to learn a language. Or in the case of this column, time then to stare forth into the vast chasm of possibility that is 2014, in order to seek out for you some of the new year’s upcoming albums.

It’s shaping up to be a bit of a corker of a year, musically speaking. Beginning the year’s schedule of exciting releases is Iller Than Most, the new record from the hilariously named MC Del The Funky Homosapien. You won’t find this one plonked on the shelves of your local HMV though (yes, it’s still there) – Del has released this one completely free under the name Zartan Drednaught COBRA via SoundCloud. He describes the self-produced record as “fun to listen to, nothing super heavy”. Go forth and check it out. Post-grunge (no, I have no idea what it means either) stalwarts  Switchfoot have a new album heading your way on January 14th about kittens, clouds and clowns. Probably.  Rock cornerstone Bruce ‘The Boss’ Springsteen releases High Hopes on the same day, and on our side of the ocean Sophie Ellis-Bextor releases Wanderlust less than a week later. Out of interest, did anybody know she had actually released anything since 2003 sophomore album ‘Shoot From The Hip’? Came as a surprise to me, put it that way – and I’d bet I’m not the only one. Metallers Within Temptation unleash the highly anticipated Hydra at the end of the month, rounding off January with a blast of symphonic metal histrionics.

Probably the world’s most unlikely pairing release Cheek to Cheek during January too. Go on, take a guess. A fiver says you won’t get it. Give up? Think wrinkly American crooner and arguably the weirdest contemporary pop singer around. No? Alright. Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett. I’ll give you a moment to process that. I don’t know about you, but I’m tentatively curious.

Desperately trying to cling onto the last vestiges of a genre they helped define in the early 2000s, boorish nu-metal clowns Limp Bizkit are sadly due to release the follow up to 2011’s laughably awful Gold Cobra at some point this month too.  For a band that occasionally had moments of inspired inventiveness early in their careers (take ‘Re-Arranged’ from Significant Other or ‘Boiler’ from Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavoured Water for instance) its massively disappointing that their recent output has been such utter tripe. Also noteworthy in 2014’s formative month – for more positive reasons – is Ghosts of Download, the new album from eighties pioneers Blondie. The follow up to 2011’s rather excellent Panic of Girls, this is one to watch out for.

February brings new releases from Katy B, quirky northern indie-ers Maximo Park, the seemingly limitless talent of Ed Sheeran as well as the alliterative Nina Nesbitt, to name but a few. March is big-name fest, with new material from Imogen Heap, Example and Lily Allen. Here’s hoping the turgid cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ isn’t indicative of the rest of the albums content. Inexplicably March will also see the posthumous release of Out Among The Stars by country rebel Johnny Cash.

At the time of writing, the rest of the year is rammed fuller than Robin Thicke’s hate mail inbox with new releases. Heading your way is brand spanking new stuff from rockers AC/DC, The Cult, Enter Shikari and the Foo Fighters, frankly terrifying metallers Arch Enemy and a new record from one quarter of the ‘Big Four’ of metal – namely Anthrax. Ageing pop punkers Bink 182 follow up sombre 2009 album Neighbourhoods this year too, and following suit are the Californian contemporaries The Offspring with what has to be about their 393rd release. We’re also going to be treated to another posthumous release, this time from King of Pop Michael Jackson, and there’s something for the hipsters too; a new opus from the ironically named Fun. Lana Del Rey and Emeli Sande have new stuff in the pipeline, and irritatingly so does Kanye West following up 2013’s collection of odes to intelligence and humility that was Yeezus.

Much for us to get excited about then. Happy 2014, everyone.