Without question, 2015 has already proven to be a fantastically fruitful year for new music, and a forthcoming Long Play Love feature will celebrate the best albums of the year thus far. But before we take a retrospective look back at the year’s first six months, it’s time to take a prospective gaze into the future, toward the fine music on the horizon for the summer and fall. Be sure to add the albums below to your mental checklist, and be on the lookout for their arrival in stores soon.
Note: All release dates and album details subject to change.
De La Soul – And the Anonymous Nobody (Fall TBD)
The feel-good story line of the year to date may very well be De La Soul’s impressive Kickstarter campaign to fund their new album, the legendary Native Tongues trio’s first proper studio LP since 2004’s The Grind Date. Proving that record label support is no longer a prerequisite for more ambitious, larger-budget projects, the trio of Posdnuos, Maseo & Dave flipped the traditional recording model on its head, and did so in a major way. Originally designed to generate just over $100K in contributions, the grassroots crowdfunding effort effectively activated the group’s pious fanbase to the tune of $600,000 from more than 11,000 supporters, including yours truly.
Snippets of information about And the Anonymous Nobody have emerged over the past few months, including the album’s innovative approach to self-sampling and rumored guest contributions from David Byrne, Damon Albarn, 2 Chainz and Little Dragon, among others. Though not slated to appear on the LP, the recently unveiled Nas collaboration “God It” is nevertheless suggestive of things to come, according to the group. Whatever the album ends up sounding like, we can rest assured that in typical De La Soul fashion, the songs will restore our faith in the power of hip-hop to move minds, bodies and souls.
Frank Ocean – Boys Don’t Cry (July TBD)
Three long years have passed since the singing, rapping and songwriting triple-threat Frank Ocean released his universally lauded LP, Channel Orange. But our impatience for the follow-up will be relieved soon enough in the form of Ocean’s sophomore studio album. While mum has pretty much been the word regarding any revealing insights about the pending effort, the typically reclusive artist has shared a few teasers here and there. Most notably, the experimental track “Memrise” and goosebump-inducing Aaliyah tribute via his cover of The Isley Brothers’ “At Your Best (You Are Love),” both of which may signal a more stripped-bare sonic direction to come. More recently, Ocean confided that he will launch a magazine with the same Boys Don’t Cry title in conjunction with the album, reflective of Ocean’s passion for writing to go along with his penchant for mesmerizing vocals and stirring soundscapes.
Disclosure – Caracal (September 25)
Two years have elapsed since UK electronic duo Disclosure dropped Settle, their glorious gem of a debut album. Arguably best known for their massive single “Latch,” which provided the sonic springboard for Sam Smith’s ascendant career, the bevy of other tunes on the album coalesced to make it one of the most rewarding listening experiences in recent past. Not to mention one of 2013’s biggest critical and commercial successes.
Since then, brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence have been busy touring the globe, lending their production prowess to two tracks (“Right Now” and “Follow”) on Mary J. Blige’s phenomenal 2014 The London Sessions LP, and curating their eagerly awaited follow-up album. Like its precursor, Caracal will feature a handful of enticing guest contributions from the likes of Lion Babe, Nao, Kwabs, and Gregory Porter. The latter appears on the euphoric first single “Holding On,” a masterful slice of soulful house that suggests another dazzling collection of dancefloor-driven bliss is in the cards.
Jill Scott – WOMAN (July 24)
In just a few months’ time, Jill Scott (and the Long Play Love column) will celebrate the 15th anniversary of her seminal and undeniably stunning debut LP Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1. In the fifteen years since, Scott has released three excellent studio albums, a handful of compilations and live albums, and has featured on a number of her peers’ projects, including her wonderful recent collaboration “Calls” with the Robert Glasper Experiment. In other words, Jilly from Philly has been, shall we say, productive.
Details surrounding her fifth studio offering entitled WOMAN were few and far between until earlier this week. We recently learned that production duties for the album – which Scott describes as “classic Philly soul meets Country rhythm served with captivating storytelling” – will be managed by the triumvirate of Scott, longtime collaborator Andre Harris (who co-produced the classics “A Long Walk” and “The Way”) and Nashville-based songwriter/producer Aaron Pearce. Additionally, Scott has released two stellar new tracks (“You Don’t Know” and “Fools Gold”) over the past few months, which have gone far in stoking our excitement for WOMAN even further.
Nas – Title TBD (Summer TBD)
One of the best films I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing recently is the 2014 documentary Nas: Time is Illmatic. Filmmakers One9 and Erik Parker did a superb job in faithfully depicting the Queensbridge-bred emcee’s life story and configuring it as a broader tribute to the indelible legacy of hip-hop culture. For me, the film immediately rekindled the same feelings of awe that enveloped me when I first heard the 17 year-old Nasty Nas flex his impressive rhyming muscle on Main Source’s “Live at the Barbecue” (1991) and subsequently on 1994’s Illmatic. A year removed from the 20th anniversary of his classic debut LP, Nas is set to unveil his eleventh studio album this summer, the follow-up to 2012’s Life is Good and his final offering under contract with Def Jam. Not too much information about the album to speak of just yet, though Nas previewed the minimalist J Dilla produced track “The Season” late last year, which may portend the long player’s sublime sonic direction.
Lion Babe – Title TBD (Summer TBD)
Arguably one of the more dynamic new acts to emerge this year is Lion Babe, the experimental NYC-based duo comprised of divine vocalist Jillian Hervey and savvy multi-instrumentalist Lucas Goodman. Inevitable Erykah Badu comparisons notwithstanding, Hervey’s voice is uniquely multi-faceted, and Goodman’s inventive sonics provide the perfect complement. Their debut EP released this past December showcases their uncanny knack for crafting alluring electro-soul-pop, as evidenced by the irresistibly funky singles “Jump Hi,” “Treat Me Like Fire,” and “Don’t Break My Heart.” If these tracks – plus the non-EP release of the Pharrell-blessed “Wonder Woman” – don’t get your heart racing for the full-length album, then it may be time to check that ol’ pulse of yours. Pulling off the ultra-rare feat of infusing leftfield sensibilities to craft universally accessible tunes, Lion Babe is definitely an act to keep a very watchful eye on in the months to come.
Drake – Views From the 6 (TBD)
Rumors surrounding “Views From the 6” – a reference to the 416 and 647 area codes of Drake’s Toronto stomping grounds – have been swirling for about a year now. So imagine our surprise when Drake surreptitiously dropped a completely different new album (If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late) with no advance notice this past February. Details for what Views has in store and how it expands upon what we’ve heard on If You’re Reading have been sparse. However, at the WWDC Conference in San Francisco earlier this month, Drake revealed that the album will be released exclusively through Connect, Apple Music’s new artist-to-fan social platform. Here’s hoping that the songs slated for Views From the 6 possess the spirit of innovation to match their planned means of distribution.
Lianne La Havas – Blood (July 31)
If you’re like me, there are few things more gratifying in life than discovering new music and championing up-and-coming artists. One of the most enchanting talents to surface in the past few years is the lovely singer and guitarist Lianne La Havas, whose wonderful 2012 debut LP Is Your Love Big Enough? was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize and Ivor Novello Best Album Honors. In the past three years, the London-bred siren has bestowed her talents upon a handful of other artists’ work, most notably lending her vocals to four tracks from Prince’s 2014 Art Official Age LP. With songs largely inspired by her Greek and Jamaican heritage, her sophomore album Blood will surely build upon the deserving buzz she has sustained since her debut. The atmospheric first single “Unstoppable” has whet many an appetite for more from La Havas, and thankfully the wait is nearly over.
Years & Years – Communion (July 10)
Deserving winners of the BBC Sound of 2015 honor, the hotly tipped London trio Years & Years embraces an eclectic mix of electronic, house, R&B and synth-pop influences for one of the year’s most thrilling sonic confections. Propulsive grooves combined with frontman Olly Alexander’s earnest and soulful vocals make for irresistibly addictive fare, as evidenced by the band’s string of stellar singles released over the past year or so (“Real,” “Take Shelter,” “Desire,” “King,” and “Shine”). Expectations are sky high for the full-length album Communion, but expect the group to transcend all of the hype by delivering one of the year’s strongest works. In explaining the group’s ambitions to BBC News, Alexander confides that “We all love making music and it feels like there should be more authentic acts in mainstream music and we’d like to be one of those.” Mission accomplished, gentlemen.
Melanie Fiona – Awake (Fall TBD)
During a recent chat with Billboard, Grammy Award-winning singer Melanie Fiona admitted that she wants her third album “To be an awakening. An album people listen to and feel like they’ve really gotten a closer look into who I am. I want people to feel like they’re not alone. I want them to have songs they can listen to, and share, and have conversations about.” Well, if the soaring reggae-tinged soul-pop of fantastic first single “Bite the Bullet” is the harbinger of sounds to come on the new album, plenty of people will be talking about Awake soon enough. Building upon the success of 2009’s The Bridge and 2012’s The MF Life, the golden-voiced Fiona is poised for a big-time breakthrough with album number three and deservedly so.