After a lull in major releases towards the end of last year, January is ramping up with a host of new albums that might prove essential listening. But how will you define your Personal Brand through entertainment consumption? Craft your identity using these helpful suggestions! Go! Listen! Buy the T-shirt!
Kid Ink – My Own Lane
Why You Should Care: This guy was named to the XXL magazine “freshman” class of 2012, a print feature that basically anoints the next big rappers. In the wake of that pressure, some fly, some flail and fold. Not only that, but Kid Ink hails from L.A., home of some of the hottest rappers around right now – Kendrick Lamar et. Al. This will also mark his first major-label album. That’s a lot to live up to.
Recommended If You Like: Machine Gun Kelly, Wiz Khalifa, maybe some people with fewer tattoos too.
Official Release Date: It’s out now, enjoy.
Top Track So Far: “No Option,” feat. King Los. Yep, he’s fast. (If you're at a not-so-liberal office, perhaps it's earbud time.)
Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes
Why You Should Care: He’s the boss. Duh. And he’s one of the few iconic artists who actually still gets better with each album. But beyond that, there’s much that is poignant about this album. It’s the first post-Sandy, the hurricane that destroyed most of Bruce’s beloved Asbury Park, New Jersey and surrounding shore communities. How will that pain translate into Bruce’s usual hard-worn, heart-felt tales? The album is also possibly the last to include E Street Band members Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons, who died in 2008 and 2011, respectively.
Recommended If You Like: Classic American rock song book stuff. Or, if you’ve only been dipping your toes into the pool of newer bands, if you love Gaslight Anthem and company, just go back to the source.
Official Release Date: January 14
Top Track: “High Hopes.” It’s bold, brassy, and just rough enough around the edges.
Rosanne Cash – The River & The Thread
Why You Should Care: If you follow various music sites, a bunch of influencers have been declaring this the year country is going to blow up or get trendy. Yeah, yeah, try to stifle the laughs—country’s been a huge genre and industry forever. It’s not suddenly blowing up because bloggers from the coasts are getting bored with indie rock or whatever. But it’s true – pop music is likely going to continue to explore and cannibalize country this year (pulling on that thread from the latest Avicii album and even Pitbull’s and Ke$ha’s “Timber").
So why not learn more about it from someone who does roots music right? She’s the eldest daughter of the late, great Johnny Cash, so roots-driven narratives are in her blood. The cast of guest stars also serves as a nice primer for artists to further explore. There are older iconic artists like Kris Kristofferson and John Prine, as well as younger talents like the Civil Wars’ John Paul White. The result is more folk and blues-driven than pure country, but it serves as proof that there’s more to American heartland music than glossy radio odes to liquor.
Recommended If You Like: Earnestness, guitars, Southern Gothic imagery and real narratives.
Official Release Date: January 14 – but you can stream it now on NPR music
Top Tracks So Far: “Etta’s Tune” cuts close to the bone, lamenting the passing of a longtime family friend.
Mogwai – Rave Tapes
Why You Should Care: Before trendier bands like Explosions in the Sky, there was Mogwai, a Scottish act that basically coined the term “post-rock.” But what does that (pretty stupid) term even mean? Think guitar music that’s atmospheric, not strummy or crunchy, washing over in waves. Ahhhh.
Recommended If You Like: EITS, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, warm feelings.
Official Release Date: January 20
Top Track: “The Lord is Out Of Control.” Relax. Fire this up. Doesn’t that feel good?
Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Why You Should Care: There was that time that Against Me! voiced all our inner thoughts when they sang “Sink, Florida, Sink.” But this album promises to be, potentially, a tale that both brings on tears and triumphant heartwarming feels. Band leader Laura Jane Grace often hinted at her inner turmoil before, but this is the first Against Me! album to face them head on. The teenage anarchists may have grown up, but they haven’t gone soft.
Recommended If You Like: Like Bruce Springsteen, above? It’s not THAT much of a stretch to scoot on over to Against Me!
Official Release Date: January 21
Top Tracks So Far: “F$#@!LIFE666.” It doesn’t get more punk rock than that, but the puerile-seeming title belies the pained content. (My censors again tell me to alert you that this is, in fact, NSFW.)
Riff Raff – Neon Icon
Why You Should Care: Riff Raff’s been a huge, blinking question mark in the rap world, but everyone needs to stop and accept this James Franco inspiration at face value. Forget the backstory – does Riff brighten your day with his bizarre boasts, oblique references and hammered repetition? Cool. Enjoy. Plus, how will a proper, full-length produced album come out from his mysterious brain?
Recommended If You Like: fun, messing with the squares
Official Release Date: January 28
Top Tracks So Far: “Dolce and Gabbana” let us know definitively that his love for Marc Jacobs has taken a definitive back seat. Plus, there are the visuals of the video. (Click here for some previous thoughts on all that.) (Insert NSFW note here again.)
Limp Bizkit – Stampede of the Disco Elephants
Why You Should Care: This one is still TBD on a release date which is not necessarily a good sign. But what were you expecting, really, from Limp Bizkit’s “triumphant” comeback? This is disturbing for many reasons. Off the bat there’s the fact that it’s being released on Cash Money, so we can likely expect a number of awkward cameos.
Then there’s the other horrifying specter: Has ‘90s nostalgia come so far that we’re now into the terribly, JNCO-ridden late ‘90s? If you lived through this, you know we can’t let that happen. And the first step in fighting evil is to be fully informed about it.
Recommended If You Like: getting slapped in the ass with a towel in the locker room, yelling things out of a Camaro, having low self-esteem.
Official Release Date: TBD
Top Track So Far: Guys, the most recent single is “Lightz” with a Z. NEVER CHANGE FRED DURST! (Censor note again: This includes Fred Durst.)