Music We’re Looking Forward To In The First Quarter of 2021


It's that time of the year again! Hope springs eternal in the hearts of music fans (whether we're 10 months into a global pandemic or not), and if you love the promise and possibility of new music there are few things as exciting as seeing the names of artists you know and love alongside album titles and release dates.

As with everything else, this year's schedule looks a little different. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the music industry, bringing touring to a standstill, and causing a lot of planned release dates to be pushed back or indefinitely delayed. Still, while we may not have any live music dates we can look forward to with much confidence, the 2021s are already rolling out!

So what's got your teeth rattling with anticipation? Our staff weighs in on the new releases they're most looking forward to during the first quarter of this new year, as well as some artists we're hoping to hear from before 2021 is history.

Bruce Trujillo / Assistant Program Director/Host

Looking forward to: B.A.R.D.O. "Everywhere Reminds Me of Space"

Out of Los Angeles, this is the new solo project from Bardo Martinez. We know B.A.R.D.O. from Chicano Batman, and even though the band just released their 4th studio album, "Invisible People," Martinez has been making his own work for years. The upcoming album, "Everywhere Reminds Me Of Space" (Yemaya Sol Records), has no solid release date just yet. He is, however, planning on releasing one single a month for the year, along with a new T-shirt for each. The album includes songs he’s had in the vault for years, featuring musical friends from around the country. It’s a sonic departure from his other project, one that he’s calling his personal exploration and expression that he’s been waiting to put out -- quarantine just made it happen. The first taste of the album comes from the earworm, “Take My Hand,” for which the music video (and T-shirt) are already out.

Looking forward to: Julien Baker "Little Oblivions"

Julien Baker has released an amazing amount of music for being just 25 years old, and each release seems to be more and more interesting. Partially because she’s a multi-instrumentalist and plays almost everything you hear on her releases, but also because of the ways she crafts the stories in her songs. Baker integrates delicate melodies below heavy content, including examining her identity as a queer person navigating her Christian upbringing and beliefs, as well as addiction. That is the focus of “Faith Healer,” the first single off the upcoming album "Little Oblivions," out on Feb. 26. Because she can access and share the deepest parts of what we all feel, it makes her accessible, and those delicate melodies and vocals make everything feel like it’s going to be alright.

Hoping to hear from: Lauryn Hill

OK it's a longshot, but... Miss Lauryn Hill recently spoke on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums Podcast about the non-existent follow up to 1998’s "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." The debut solo album from the ex-Fugees member was and continues to be influential and groundbreaking. A sophomore album didn’t seem far off 20 years ago, but Hill says it never happened simply because no one from her label has asked her yet. That leads me to believe she’s got at least one more near perfect album up her sleeve -- all we have to do is ask.

Katie Bradley / Host

Looking forward to: Exploding Hearts Documentary

The Portland-based pop-punk band was inspired by your favorite British punk bands (The Undertones, Buzzcocks, The Clash, The Jam, The Only Ones) and sadly, two years after forming and releasing their debut album, the band was in a horrible car accident after a show leaving three of the four members dead. Their debut album "Guitar Romantic" has been in heavy rotation for me since high school, enough so that in college I jumped on stage during a Halloween house show to take lead with a cover band. There is no release date on the documentary.

Looking forward to: Willie Nelson's Frank Sinatra covers "That's Life"

This Twilight Zone episode needs a closer? In all seriousness I love a crooner and am a sucker for a sap zap in form of an audible ingest. Growing up every Sunday night my family dinners were usually scored by Frank Sinatra compilations. I’d get older and scream them to my family, "Looking at you!" "Luck Be A Lady." I also grew up with Willie, who is the Texas Outlaw version of a crooner who I would have over for dinner in a heartbeat. Look out for my future cookbook, "Cookin’ with Tears Willie Made Me."

Hoping for: The Distillers

I may have removed safety pins as an accessory but I’ll be 15 years old forever. I doubt the new album will go as hard as their first two albums I so adore but at this point in my life if artists I looked up to from my youth are still alive, kickin' it, and making music, well, that gives me a sweet sweet nostalgia drip. No official release date, yet.

Jessi Whitten / Host

Looking forward to: Katy Kirby "Cool Dry Place"

One of my new year's resolutions was to buy more music, so when I saw that Katy Birby’s debut album was available for pre-order on MINI LP I was thrilled! Not only am I supporting a great young artist but this purchase also knocks out my other resolution of having more whimsy in my life. From what I know of her work and this February 19th release so far, this will be the kind of bright mellow vibe I hope to embody throughout 2021.

Seriously, it’s so cute. Don’t think it actually plays but it comes with the digital album and tiny things are so much better than regular sized things.

Hoping to hear from: Colin Stetson

Canadian saxophonist Colin Stetson is the only person I can think of who is capable of providing the appropriate soundtrack to the anxiety, hope, disappointment, loss and possible redemption of our current collective experience. His 2013 trilogy-ending album "New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light" was a regular therapy replacement throughout the panics and lulls of 2020 and now I’m wishing there were something timely to bridge into whatever new phase of existence that awaits us.

Alisha Sweeney / Colorado Music Director/Host

Looking forward to: just about everything!

Every few years I check in on some of my ride-or-die artists and it's about time for some of them to give us new music! Bring on TBD albums by Spoon, Kendrick Lamar, and St. Vincent! I also get excited when icons announce new releases and I'm looking forward to listening to 2021 offerings by Teenage Fanclub and Slowdive. Last, after such a big 2020 for one third of the supergroup boygenius, Phoebe Bridgers, I hope to see equal support for Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus who both will put out new albums by the year's end.  

Hoping to hear from: Former Colorado musician, John Grant

Grant has such a comedic intelligence to his songwriting on top of the occasional pop culture reference that I would love to hear what he has to sing about now. Listen to songs "Queen of Denmark," "Glacier (feat. Sinéad O'Connor)" or "GMF" for a cry. Dance along to "Disappointing" and "He's Got His Mother's Hips."

Zach Producer/Host

Looking forward to: some Indie alternative favorites!

Even though the holidays brought me most of what I wanted, ie. the new Avalanches album, “Hark” from Andrew Belle, Grandson’s “Death of an Optimist,"  Mountain Bird’s new single “It Won’t Be Easy” and more goodness than I have time to list out, my fingers are still crossed, and battery operated tea-candles are still burning with hopes for a full-length Still Woozy album or a Broken Bells newbie. That said, the albums I’m most interested in hearing in their entireties this quarter is the newest musical offering from Black Honey, “Written & Directed” coming out on the 29th, and Royal Bloods fourth album “Filthy Minds” date TBA.

Jason Thomas / Host

Looking forward to: The War On Drugs

The War on Drugs should have a record along at some point in 2021. I’ve been told that they’d really prefer to release the next album when there’s a chance that they’ll be able to tour behind it, so who knows what that means when it comes to nailing down a release date. They performed a new song on Jimmy Fallon’s show recently, so that might hold us over for a bit. Check it out here.

Shawn Brackbill
The War On Drugs album, "A Deeper Understanding," reflects lead singer Adam Granduciel's stronger sense of self.

Looking forward to: Lana Del Rey "Chemtrails Over the Country Club"

What a title, eh? We’ve been playing “Let Me Love You Like a Woman” recently, and the title track debuted not too long ago. Ever since the breakthrough hit “Video Games” popped up somewhat mysteriously back in 2011 by the newly renamed Lana Del Rey (fka Lizzy Grant), I’ve been all-in on her brand of “Hollywood sadcore.” With more right around the corner I couldn’t be happier, oddly enough.

Looking forward to: Romy Madley-Croft

One third of The xx, Madley-Croft wowed us last year with the release of her first solo track, “Lifetime.” As an xx superfan who went nuts for Jamie xx’s solo debut back in 2015, my eyes and ears are wide open, looking and listening for news on Romy’s full-length debut which is due sometime this year. Between Romy, Jamie and Oliver, it’s pretty evident that there’s way too much talent there for one band to contain, and even though all three members of the band are working on solo material, don’t worry, the band is still very much a thing.

Jeremy Petersen / Host

Looking forward to: The Notwist - "Vertigo Days," Altin Gün - "Yol," Teenage Fanclub - "Endless Arcade"

The Notwist - "Vertigo Days" (1/29) The German band has been at it for over three decades at this point, but it’s been seven years since they last released a proper album. That’s reason enough to be excited for the return of a band whose work has always been a delight, but to unexpectedly hear the voice of Juana Molina on early single “Al Sur” ups the anticipation even more. 

Altin Gün - "Yol" (2/26) The “Anatolian rock and Psychedelic Turkish Folk band from Amsterdam, Netherlands” returns with their third album, following up the Grammy-nominated "Gece" (one of my favorites of 2019). They toured the U.S. in the second half of that year and stopped by our studios for a session ahead of opening up for Tame Impala later that night.

Teenage Fanclub - "Endless Arcade" (3/5 UPDATE: delayed to 4/30) It’s always an occasion for me when these guys release a new album. This will be their first in five years and 10th overall. It’s also the first since the departure of co-founder Gerard Love. The lead single, “Home” sounds like vintage TF.

Hoping for: TV On the Radio

I’m not even sure what the status of the band is at this point, but a new TV ON THE RADIO record would be most welcome!

Courtesy of Universal Records
TV on the Radio

Willobee Carlan / Program Director

Looking forward to: The Cure

You never know when Robert Smith might want to spring new music on unsuspecting fans. Well, this just could be the year. Together for 43 years, waiting another decade only makes the anticipation that much more. We have a good feeling about this year as Robert spent a month in the studio back in 2018.  The bad news is the music wasn’t up to par. And since they are in no hurry, what’s a year or two at this point? Robert told Rolling Stone in an interview, “We’ve waited more than 10 years [to make this], and I can’t just think, ‘Oh, that’ll do,'” he said. “It’s kind of hard because I’m measuring the songs and the whole thing up to "Pornography" and "Disintegration.” The good news is, when we finally do get this new album, it should be up to the high standards that put the band in royalty.  Considering Robert collaborated last year with Gorillaz, it might be a sign that the groundhog did not see his shadow and new music is close at hand early spring.

Looking forward to: Spoon

Since their tour with Beck two summers ago, which blew me away, the hot thought of a new record from Spoon has been on the brain. I assume we would have seen a follow-up to "Hot Thoughts" by now if it were not for the shutdown.  They started work on a new album just before COVID hit. Frontman Brit Daniel is very excited about the sound and energy of the new material, comparing it to early Doors and Led Zeppelin.  That’s not to say they’re pulling a Greta Van Fleet, but directing themselves in a shift that will take the band potentially to a new level.  If I were a betting man, I’d look for this before the final snow melt.

Looking forward to: St. Vincent

Before the end of last year, Annie Clark shared news that a new album was just about ready for release. One can only assume the finishing touches are being done as we speak and the label is preparing to drop this one on us like a meteor.  Her excitement has been duly noted on social channels explaining this next album is a major shift in her sound and direction. She said, “I was interested in going back to the music I’ve listened to more than any other — Stevie Wonder records from the early ’70s, Sly and the Family Stone. I’ve studied at the feet of those masters.” High on my anticipatory list is the next (as yet untitled) St. Vincent album.