Well. 2014. I promised myself I wouldn’t make the same Death Cab joke again, so I’ll just say happy new year to everyone and move on.
So. How are you? How was your holiday? I had a glorious two weeks off (and a little longer thanks to weather), and I spent it with family and friends. (And with the Doctor Who Christmas special, but we’ll get to that.) It was a marvelous opportunity to recharge, and that’s good, because looking at the year ahead, I’m going to need all the reserve energy I can get. This is the year I turn 40, and it’s getting harder and harder for this old man to keep up with the whippersnappers who keep cutting through his lawn.
But I try. This new year is shaping up to be pretty great already. Granted, 2013 threw down a fairly sizable gauntlet, but one of my new year’s resolutions is to be more hopeful. So I’ve gathered up a few reasons why I think 2014 is going to rock. There are 14 bits of potential awesome listed below, but there are way more than 14 reasons to expect a good year – the new Broken Bells album, for instance, is coming next week, and Phantogram’s second is in February. I also had Neil Finn’s new solo album, Dizzy Heights, on this list a few weeks ago, but then I heard some of it. It’s a stark reminder that potential awesome doesn’t necessarily translate to actual awesome.
Anyway, here are 14 things I’m looking forward to in the new year.
1. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Give the People What They Want. (Jan. 14)
This new release from the queen of old-time soul was delayed last year when Jones was diagnosed with bile duct cancer. Now she’s back, and so is the album, which promises another slab of vintage horn-driven excellence. It’s on this list partially because Jones is fantastic, and her band is one of the few playing this style with a real sense of history. But it’s also here to celebrate her return to better health. Here’s hoping it’s a permanent one.
2. Lost in the Trees, Past Life. (Feb. 18)
I could not be more excited about this one. Lost in the Trees made my favorite album of 2012 last time out, swooping down out of nowhere to tear my heart right open. What I’ve heard from this third album is more stripped-back, but I expect the album will be no less affecting. There’s a spot reserved for this on the top 10 list, and I hope it earns it.
3. Neneh Cherry, Blank Project. (Feb. 25)
I will always love Cherry for being among the first to combine rap, soul and rock on the extremely underrated Homebrew album from 1992. She’s been sporadically active since then, fronting a band called CirKus and releasing a collaborative record with jazz group The Thing in 2012. But this new one, produced by Four-Tet, will be the first time in 18 years that Cherry has given us a personal statement. Should be great.
4. A new Choir album. (February)
Or, Kickstarter is miraculous, part one. The Choir, one of my very favorite bands, is in the process of recording a 15th studio album, which they will chase with their fourth live album. They raised more than $54,000 on Kickstarter to accomplish this, more than twice what they asked for. Over the last two decades, the Choir has created some of the most magical music of my lifetime, and I’m overjoyed to get the chance to hear more.
5. Beck, Morning Phase. (February)
The first album in six years from this extraordinary chameleon (not counting that book of sheet music) has been described as a successor to 2002’s Sea Change, a melancholy affair that ranks as one of the man’s best. It’s a peculiar way to stage a comeback, but this is Beck we’re talking about. Even if I think I know what this is going to be, I’m sure he’ll find a way to surprise me.
6. Imogen Heap, Sparks. (March 3)
A new Imogen album is an event in my house. This one’s doubly special – she’s spent the last few years creating it in a variety of locales and circumstances, and she’s released several tracks from it as online singles. The songs I’ve heard are just as insanely detailed and wondrous as anything she’s done, but somehow more fascinating, pushing her into new realms. “You Know Where to Find Me” is already one of my favorite songs of 2014. I can’t wait for this one.
7. The Veronica Mars movie. (March 14)
Kickstarter is miraculous, part two. In one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever, Rob Thomas raised $5.7 million to bring his beloved creation, Veronica Mars, to the big screen. I happily gave to this effort, and in fact I’m wearing my “official Kickstarter backer” t-shirt as I type this. The fact that this movie exists is one of the most awe-inspiring stories of fan support I can think of. Plus, if the trailer’s anything to go by, this film will be pretty fantastic.
8. Tori Amos, Unrepentant Geraldines. (Spring)
I mentioned above that I’m trying to be more hopeful, right? Geraldines will be Amos’ first pop album in five years, after two dalliances with orchestral music and a stint as a theatrical composer. I like the title, which is pretty much all I know about it right now. But every time out, Amos has the potential to change my life, and even though she hasn’t since delivered anything with the power and force of her first three albums, I still look forward to each new Tori album, hoping this will be the one.
9. A new Steve Taylor album. (April)
Yes, I just typed the words “a new Steve Taylor album.” The man’s a legend, and he hasn’t released a record since Squint in 1993. But he has a new backing band called the Perfect Foil, and he raised an astonishing $121,000 on Kickstarter to make this new one. Taylor is one of the most important figures in this corner of spiritual pop music I love, and I never thought I’d hear new music from him again. Plus, I get to see Taylor and the Perfect Foil live at AudioFeed Festival this summer. Life is good.
10. Andrea Dawn’s second album. (April)
Andrea’s a friend, but even if she weren’t, I’d be excited for her new album. She’s a terrific songwriter and singer, with a dramatic edge – think Fiona Apple, but not as self-consciously arty – and her first record, Theories of How We Can Be Friends, was one of my favorite things in 2012. She raised the money for her second on Kickstarter, and is aiming for a Record Store Day release. If you haven’t heard her stuff, listen to Theories here. You’ll see why I’m anticipating this.
11. Two Bad Plus albums. (Spring/Fall)
I haven’t mentioned The Bad Plus much in this column, which is my bad. They’re one of the most inventive jazz trios you’ll hear anywhere, expanding their piano-bass-drums format to embrace all manner of song. In 2014, they’ll release two records – first, their arrangement of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” which should be amazing, and second, another full album of originals. I should really review them one of these days. They’ve been great for a long time.
12. A new U2 album. (Spring)
There aren’t many bands that can inspire such anticipation and dread in me. The venerable Irish quartet has been working on their 13th album for years, recording and re-recording with several different producers. You never know with U2 – the result might be an absolute mess, like 2009’s No Line on the Horizon, or it might be a masterpiece, like 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. This could go either way, but whatever they do, it will be an event.
13. A new Postal Service album.
And now we’re in the realm of the purely theoretical, of course, but the rumblings are there. A second album from Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello has been discussed, rumored and denied for ages – almost ever since the first one, Give Up, was released in 2003. It may be impossible for a sophomore record to escape the shadow of the incredibly influential debut, but I’ll be glad to hear them try.
14. Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. (September)
And finally, the thing I am perhaps most excited about. Doctor Who has been on an incredible high over the past four years, with Matt Smith playing the titular Time Lord and Steven Moffat guiding his adventures. On Christmas Day, Smith went out on a towering high note – the Christmas special capped off a trilogy of defining episodes, and spun a final fairy tale for this most magical of Doctors. In its final seconds, it also introduced us to Doctor #12, played by the amazing Peter Capaldi. It’s hard to tell how he’ll be in the role – all we know is that he doesn’t like the color of his kidneys, and can’t fly the Tardis. But Capaldi is an astoundingly good actor, and with Moffat still behind the wheel, the show is in good hands. The 34th (!) season premieres in September, and I’ll be right there watching, as I have since I was six years old.
So there we go. This is just the stuff I am most excited about, of the stuff I know about. The best moments of the year always sneak up and surprise me. That’s what makes life so exciting, so worth living. Get out there and live it. See you in a week, as we kick off Year 14 in earnest.
See you in line Tuesday morning.