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by Justin Farrar

January 11, 2011

Most Anticipated Albums of 2011: Rock

by Justin Farrar  |  January 11, 2011

Last year was a fantastic one for rock music. A lot of new faces, from Laura Marling and Black Dub to Black Tusk and JJ Grey, seized pop's spotlight with some great music. Twenty-eleven looks to be a boss year as well but for different reasons. The next 12 months will surely produce a sizeable batch of new talent, but it looks as if the coming year will mainly revolve around A-list stars dropping high-profile albums, many of them way, way overdue. Now obviously, a good number of these won't even come out. But the list of bands and musicians at least threatening new records is impressive nonetheless: Foo Fighters, Lenny Kravitz, Radiohead, Coldplay, Metallica, Paul Simon, ZZ Top and many more.

Check it out.

Foo Fighters, TBD (spring)
Rejoice, all you Foo Fightin' fanatics: on January 3rd of this young year, nice guy Dave Grohl tweeted, "Ladies and gentlemen we are officially done. Champagne, anyone?" He was referring to the group's new album, which is suppose to be the heaviest, most hard rockin' of their lengthy career. Not only that, it's produced by Butch Vig. In addition to producing some album called Nevermind, the knob-twiddlin' icon played a huge role in sculpting the original grunge sound that emerged in the late 1980s via labels such as Sub Pop, Touch & Go and Amphetamine Reptile.

Lenny Kravitz, Black and White America (aka Negrophilia, aka Funk) (Spring)
Kravitz's artistic consultant must be Axl Rose, because Black and White America, which has gone through numerous title changes already, has been over a decade in the making. So yeah, take a 2011 release date with a grain of salt, people. To keep abreast of Kravitz's s-l-o-w progress, head over to his official website and check out "Lenny TV." In addition to clips featuring two news songs, "Super Love" and "Life Ain't Never Been Better Than It Is Now," fans can watch the studly gym rat brush his teeth shirtless while staying at some posh hotel in Europe.

Radiohead, TBD (TBD)
Outside of a Haiti benefit concert in January, Radiohead were dead silent in 2010. This freed up time for guitarist Ed O'Brien to speculate all year long about In Rainbows' long overdue follow-up. At one point, he even said the record could come out by December. This, of course, did not happen (though we were treated to a slew of Bad Company reissues). Here's to hoping The Head get their crap together for all of us who worship them the way our stoner dads worshipped Floyd back in the day.

The Cars, Sharp Subtle Flavor (working title) (TBA)
Luckily, the "New Cars" experiment, featuring Todd Rundgren, died a quick and quiet death. Runtlestuntle, as John Lennon once called him, is a power-pop genius no doubt about it. But he could never really replace that ghostly beanstalk known as Ric Ocasek. Of course, even with their original frontman back in the fold, The Cars still lack the perpetually underrated Benjamin Orr. The bassist, singer and songwriter who passed away in 2000 was a huge part of the band's core sound. The Cars will definitely be hitting the road sometime in 2011. When they do, all you Weezer fans need to check them out and learn where your boy Rivers Cuomo nicks all his best ideas.

Metallica, TBD (TBA)
I really wouldn't count on a new Metallica record in 2011. For what it's worth, however, the always garrulous Lars has said the band has shifted into songwriting mode in hopes of dropping a full-length this year. Plus, Rick Rubin has already signed on. If the new material sees Metallica further reconnecting with their thrash roots, as they did on 2007's Death Magnetic, that would be a really good thing.

Yes, TBD (Summer)
Does anybody save 50-year-old Guitar Center habitués even care about a new joint from Yes? Chances are NO. The words I'm about to type will make most of you giggle, but I saw Yes at Summerfest last year, and they put on a killer show. The group is an orchestra, basically: exactly who is in the band doesn't matter, so long as each musician nails his (or her) parts. Trevor Horn is once again behind the board. Maybe he can get the group to re-embrace its New Wave phase. Nineteen eighty-two's 90125, in my humble and often skewed opinion, is awesome.

Coldplay, TBD (TBA)
There isn't a whole lot of information out there regarding Coldplay's upcoming fifth studio album. What we do know is this: Chris Martin and company are back to working with the legendary Brian Eno. Coldplay's biggest hurdle, as I see it, is the commercial omnipresence of piano rock these days. This record really needs to be a radical departure, because the world is now overrun with a million Coldplay impersonators.

Paul Simon, So Beautiful or So What (April 12)
Paul dropped the ball big time. This record should've come out two years ago, back when Brooklyn indie nerds such as Vampire Weekend and TV on the Radio were name-checking him (as well as Peter Gabriel) just about every chance they got. Oh well. Street cred isn't everything, I suppose. According to sources (i.e. The Internet), So Beautiful or So What has a strong bluegrass vibe. Very intriguing. I wonder if picking whiz Ricky Skaggs makes an appearance, or maybe even Sam Bush. Both would be super cool.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, TBD (Summer)
First off, the Chilis have a new guitarist, one Josh Klinghoffer. Over the last decade he's played with a dozen or so folks, including Sparks, Vincent Gallo and the Butthole Surfers. Of course, those of you who believe the band is at its best when John Frusciante is in the mix aren't terribly stoked to hear this news nugget. As for the tunes, drummer Chad Smith (who is also busy recording a new album with tequila-soaked rockers Chickenfoot) says the Peps are grooving to a lot of Afrobeat and Afro-pop these days, and this has exerted a huge influence on the upcoming set.

R.E.M., Collapse Into Now (March 8)
Collapse Into Now is a star-studded affair, featuring cameos from Eddie Vedder, Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, Scott McCaughey and, uh, Peaches. Are R.E.M. finally catching up with the state of alternative pop in 1999 by going electro? We here at Rhapsody can't answer that, unfortunately, though bassist Mike Mills has described the record as "expansive."

Rush, Clockwork Angels (TBA)
Chances are good the rock press will frame Clockwork Angels as a comeback album. That would be because its the first record to be released after the excellent documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage, as well as a 2008 appearance on The Colbert Report, made Rush cool to dig for the first time in the power trio's long and insanely underrated career. However, Rush never stopped producing quality music; 2007's Snakes & Arrows was aces. In fact, one could argue Rush has aged more gracefully than just about any other classic-rock band.

Beck, TBD (TBA)
Since the release of Modern Guilt in 2008, Beck has talked often about releasing another album. He's even said 2011 could be the year. Then again, the guy seems fairly content playing the role of celebrity remixer, producer, high-profile cameo and online networker. Who knows?

The Jayhawks, Ready for the Flood (Winter/Spring)
Ready for the Flood is the first Jayhawks full-length since 1995's Tomorrow the Green Grass to feature the silver-coated vocals of Gary Louris and Mark Olson. Olson then left and wound up maintaining a passive-aggressive feud with his former mates for nearly decade. Their reconciliation process, slow and drawn out, appears to be complete. If you're a fan of vintage country-rock, but for some reason you've never listened to The Jayhawks, then 2011 is a perfect time to get acquainted. They're the best harmony-based country-rock group since The Eagles circa their 1972 debut album.

Crosby, Stills and Nash, TBD (TBA)
The bulk of CS&N's recorded output post-1980 is mediocre at best. That's harsh, I know. But face it: when you're jonesing for those sublimely soaring harmonies, the first album you reach for isn't ever 1994's After the Storm; it's the 1969 classic Crosby, Stills & Nash. I don't have any real expectations for this record. That said, the fact that sonic guru Rick Rubin is their producer is very intriguing. He has a real knack for tapping the talent lurking inside grizzled veterans.

Other Noteworthy Forecasts

Aerosmith, TBD (TBA)

Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 1 (Spring)

Beth Orton, TBD (TBA)

Blondie, Panic of Girls (TBA)

Bush, TBD (TBA)

Cage the Elephant, Thank You Happy Birthday (January 11)

Cake, Showroom of Compassion (January 11)

Chickenfoot, TBD (N/A)

Crowbar, Sever the Wicked Hand (February 8)

The Cult, TBD (TBA)

Green Day, Awesome as F*** (live album) (March 15)

Gregg Allman, Low Country Blues (January 18)

High on Fire, TBD (TBA)

Jane's Addiction, TBD (Summer)

Jerry Cantrell, TBD (TBA)

Joe Walsh, TBD (N/A)

Journey, TBD (Spring)

KISS, TBD (TBA)

Kyuss, TBD (TBA)

Lamb of God, TBD (TBA)

Lindsey Buckingham, TBD (May)

Motorhead, The Wörld is Yours (January 17)

Primus, TBD (TBA)

Rage Against the Machine, TBD (N/A)

Sepultura, TBD (TBA)

Social Distortion, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes (January 18)

Them Crooked Vultures, TBD (TBA)

Van Halen, TBD (TBA)

The Zombies, TBD (TBA)

ZZ Top, TBD (Spring)

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