The Most Anticipated Albums Of 2021
From local indie faves to global pop superstars - there's so much good stuff coming our way.
Even the most gifted psychics would have had a rotten time predicting the clusterfuck that was 2020. It was a year marked by chaos and uncertainty — and the music industry felt it keenly.
Live music and tours disappeared, and are still largely off the table, leaving labels and promoters in a constant state of flux. World tours were cancelled, albums were shelved, and the year as we knew it was nothing like we envisaged.
That doesn’t mean it was a drab year for music — in fact, it was an incredible year of releases. From veterans like Fiona Apple putting out career-best albums to newcomers like Fremantle’s Spacey Jane putting their stamp on the local scene, there was an excess of excellent music to lose yourself in.
2021 is already looking strong, with plenty of beloved local acts making their long-awaited returns and global superstars set to drop new music. Here are the albums (some announced, some just predicted) that we’re most looking forward to this year.
Gang of Youths
It’s coming, we feel it in our bones. The follow-up to 2017’s beloved and critically acclaimed Go Farther In Lightness is well under way — the band have been busily documenting their time in the studio in London on their socials, and recently introduced their new guitarist Tom Hobden, who has stepped in to replace Joji Malani.
Frontman Dave Le’aupepe had previously said the album would arrive in 2020 — but look, last year was a shit-fight for everyone, so we won’t begrudge them a delay. There’s no official word yet on when the new music will arrive, but we think it will be sooner rather than later in the year.
Middle Kids’ ‘Edge Of Town’ was a one in a million song — simply an impossibly perfect slice of Aussie indie pop. Their 2018 debut Lost Friends scooped up the J Award for Album of the Year, and deservingly so.
They’ve just announced their second album, titled Today We’re The Greatest, will be hitting shelves on March 19. The band recorded the new one in LA with producers Lars Stalfors, who’s previously worked with Soccer Mommy and Purity Ring. They dropped the bounding single ‘R U 4 Me’ last year, and today they’ve followed it up with another excellent single — the beguiling ‘Questions’.
We haven’t heard much new music from Lamar since he curated the Black Panther soundtrack approximately 20 years ago in 2018. That said, last year he was locked in to a bunch of festival performances including a headlining slot at Glastonbury, so we can only assume he had some new music ready to roll out last year.
Kung Fu Kenny has remained tight-lipped about new music, but most critics are tipping that the follow-up to 2017’s DAMN. will arrive this year.
If the excellent first single ‘Rockstar’ is anything to go by, Mallrat’s debut album is going to be a mighty good time.
She’s apparently been working with a whole host of producers and writers for the record — including Tommy English, who you might know from his work on Kacey Musgraves’ ‘High Horse’. So we might not know when it’s coming, but we know it’s gonna be good.
SZA’s been fairly busy since the release of her wildly excellent debut Ctrl back in 2017, chalking up collabs with acts like the Weeknd, DJ Khaled, Kendrick Lamar, and stacks more. More recently, she’s dropped ‘Hit Different’ and ‘Good Days’ — the latter being a particularly strong cut. Expect more to come very soon.
To the public, Amy Shark’s success with ‘Adore You’ and ‘I Said Hi’ came out of nowhere. In reality, it was the result of a steady, 10-year long grind in the music business. The subsequent album Love Monster dominated charts and that year’s ARIAs, taking home the big Album of the Year gong.
Her new album Cry Forever will be landing on April 30, and judging by singles like ‘Everybody Rise’ and ‘C’MON’ it’s going to be another Big Pop Moment.
It’s been five years since Adele’s 25, which is a long, long time in the pop music game. When it was announced last year that she was going to host Saturday Night Live, fans and critics rushed to the barricades in anticipating of the new music assault — but alas, nothing eventuated.
She did, however, sign off her hosting gig by saying “peace out until next year”, so there is very strong likelihood that her fourth album will arrive in 2021. We’d bet on it.
At the start of 2020, Baker Boy — Danzal Baker — said he was putting the finishing touches on his highly anticipated debut. Once again, 2020 intervened, but at least we received the two excellent singles in ‘Move’ and ‘Better Days‘, the latter being a collab with Sampa The Great and Dallas Woods.
Baker hasn’t given an update on when the full-length will arrive, but we’d tentatively guess we’ll see it before the year is out.
Harley Streten reportedly knuckled down to work on his new album during lockdown last year.
“I’ve just kind of been sending demos out and trying to get as much music together before the lockdown finishes and hopefully come out of it with something to show for myself,” he told edm.com last April. “And we’ll see what happens, but yeah, I’m hoping to have a record done before the end of the year.”
Well Flume, the new year has dawned — so let’s have it.
We don’t have long to wait for Odette’s new album: Herald is set to be released on February 5. We’ve already heart two cuts from it, the Hermitude collaboration ‘Feverbreak’, the R&B dream ‘Dwell’, and only last Friday she dropped the heart-cracking ‘Amends’.
Mark it in your diaries — Herald will be a special moment in Australian music this year.
For a few years now, Canberra’s Genesis Owusu has been delivering one of the most explosive live shows Australia has to offer. Now, he’s gearing up to drop his long-awaited debut, Smiling With No Teeth.
The 15-track release will see him flex his muscles across R&B, ’80s rock, punk, and even folk — expect a ride as wild as any sweaty festival slot. It’s set to drop March 5.
We could simply paste in last year’s Anticipated Albums entry for Rihanna here and be done with it. We got a tiny, tiny glimpse of Rihanna the singer last year with her feature on PARTYNEXTDOOR’s track ‘BELIEVE IT’, but we still don’t have any real updates on the follow-up to 2016’s acclaimed ANTI. Watch this space, and pray.
Like Rihanna, it feels like we’ve been waiting on Lorde’s third album for decades — whole Twitter accounts are devoted to whether the singer has dropped The Album. Fans got excited last year when she announced she’d be releasing something soon…only to be slightly disappointed when it was revealed that it was a book about her recent trip to Antartica, not an album.
That said, Lorde said she was very inspired by the trip, and it’s apparently a “precursor” to her next record, meaning we could be hearing new music sooner than we think.
In an interview with Vanity Fair last December, Eilish revealed she and her brother/collaborator Finneas were in the middle of writing 16 songs for her as-yet-untitled new record. “We’ve been working and I love all of them,” Eilish told the magazine.
Eilish hasn’t left the spotlight since releasing her Grammy dominating debut WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? in early 2019, releasing a slew of singles including recent hit ‘Therefore I Am’, which we’re sure to see up the pointy end of the Hottest 100 this year.
She’s not showing any signs of slowing down just yet, so there’s every chance 2021 could herald her second record.
Jules LeFevre is the editor of Music Junkee. Follow her on Twitter.