2008 was a huge year for rock ... and 2009 looks like it could be even bigger. So all this week, we're taking stock of the things guaranteed to rock this year. From the triumphant returns of some of the biggest bands on the planet to a handful of up-and-coming acts that we're expecting big things from in '09, we've got it all covered. This is Rock Week, on MTVNews.com
It will be pretty difficult to top a year that saw new albums from both Metallica and Guns N' Roses, but 2009's roster of rock includes just as much firepower — including LPs from colossal acts like Green Day, U2 and the Boss, not to mention potential new sounds from young guns like Paramore, My Chemical Romance and Tokio Hotel.
And that's just the headliners. On the undercard, we've got the triumphant return of British songstress Lily Allen, radio-ready rock from the Fray and bludgeoning prog-metal from Mastodon. Plus, there are new albums from critical faves like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Decemberists and Black Lips. And let's not forget sonically adventurous indie hipsters like Animal Collective (who, depending on what you read, may have already released the best rock album of the year), or the gloriously maudlin new album from Antony and the Johnsons. Oh, and Prince is releasing three records this year.
All in all, 2009 looks like it's gonna be a doozy — so to prime your pump, here's our roundup of expected album releases:
» Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion: The blogosphere's favorite sonic experimentalists, who've already notched "album of the year" pronouncements from the Chicago Tribune and Stereogum.com, among others, go "pop" on their upcoming ninth full-length effort — for them, anyway. Expect some hippie-friendly rave-ups; fat, speaker-blowing bass lines; and trippy lyrics about leaving your body for just one night.
» Antony and the Johnsons, The Crying Light: Speaking of blogs, eccentric falsetto crooner Antony Hegarty is promising a gospel/ art-rock meditation on nature ... with some guitars! The twee, gender-bending, Mercury Prize-winning singer seems poised to confound and entertain again with songs that include "Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground," "Epilepsy Is Dancing" and "Kiss My Name."
» Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Working on a Dream: The Boss' 16th studio album was recorded during breaks on the E Street Band's 2007-08 Magic tour and reportedly inspired by the energy generated by the band during that outing. A recent Rolling Stone article described it as largely off-the-cuff, but also intricately arranged, with a combination of the band's dense, swirling live sound and the "orchestral and vocal flourishes that recall classic recordings by Roy Orbison and the Byrds."
» Franz Ferdinand, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand: The Scottish band's third album reportedly has some African influences. Singer Alex Kapranos has described it as "music of the night to fling yourself around your room to as you psych yourself for a night of hedonism, for the dance floor." Be prepared.
» Leathermouth, XO: The debut from My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero's 1990s hardcore-inspired band punches up some raw, in-your-face punk rock with 10 tracks blitzing by in just 23 minutes. Think distorted, chaotic guitars and spazzy vocals from Iero on songs like "5th Period Massacre," "This Song Is About Being Attacked by Monsters" and "I Am Going to Kill the President of the United States of America."
» ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Century of Self: Indie again, the Texas band known for onstage violence has amped up the guitars after two albums that focused on piano-based tunes. Look out for cameos from members of Yeasayer and Dragons of Zynth.
» Black Lips, 200 Million Thousand: Atlanta's finest spit-swapping, flower-punk, throwback rockers suit up for an album that promises "simple, straightforward songwriting," which meshes perfectly with the band's "distinctive howl to create a time capsule rife with nods to simple pleasures and a world of worry." Plus, they appear to pay homage to ODB with tracks like "Big Black Baby Jesus of Today."
» The Fray, The Fray: The Grammy-winning Denver soft rockers finally follow up their 2005 debut, How to Save a Life. The first single, "You Found Me," ponders the question of why bad things happen to good people. The 10-track album was produced by the same duo behind the debut, and "Found" has already gained major traction thanks to placement in an episode of "Grey's Anatomy" and its use as the theme song to promos for the upcoming season of "Lost." Singer Isaac Slade has described the sound as "more extreme" than the debut, with quieter songs that are "a little quieter than our last record, and the rock stuff is a little rockier."
» Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Lonely Road: The Jacksonville, Florida, screamo punkers' second full-length kicks off with the single "You Better Pray." The disc was produced by noted hard-rock helmer Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Hawthorne Heights), and singer Ronnie Winter promised, "Just like Don't You Fake It, you can be sure Lonely Road will tie together these and a bunch of other sounds in a classic, but new-and-improved, RJA-sounding way."
» Lily Allen, It's Not Me, It's You: After a difficult year filled with personal drama, the British pop wreck returns with a more straight-ahead pop album featuring songs about drugs, God and commercialism. Oh, and about that drugs song: Allen recently released a statement claiming "Everyone's At It" doesn't glorify illegal drugs but "talks about a culture of both legally prescribed drugs like anti-depressants and also illegal drug use. ... Lily Allen would like to state unequivocally that she does not condone illegal drug use." Got it.
» U2, No Line on the Horizon: The world's biggest rockers return with their 12th studio album, which sees them reteaming with production wizards Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno and Steve Lillywhite for what sounds like a throwback to 1991's rocking Achtung Baby. The likely first single, "Get on Your Boots," was described by Rolling Stone as a "blazing, fuzzed-out rocker" that picks up where "Vertigo" left off. Other songs include the Zeppelin-esque hard-rocking "Stand Up Comedy," the joyful pop song "Crazy Tonight" and an experimental electronic opera/ arena-rock amalgam called "Tripoli."
» Chris Cornell, Scream: The former Soundgarden/Audioslave singer's solo collaboration with Timbaland will finally see the light of day. From early listens of the surprise collaboration, songs like the title track and "Long Gone" sound kind of like what you might expect — i.e., Cornell's signature sandpaper-velvet croon over club-worthy beats spiked by the occasional Timbo grunt. Both men have claimed the album as the high point of their careers thus far.
» Dave Matthews Band, TBA: Following the death of founding member Leroi Moore, the jam heroes bounce back with a record produced by Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance) on their first new studio effort since 2005's Stand Up. Not much is known about the songs, but the group will celebrate the album's release on April 14 with a show at Madison Square Garden in New York, followed by a spring tour.
» The Decemberists, Hazards of Love: For a band known to delve into arcane historical ephemera in search of song topics, the hyperliterate rockers are preparing to outdo themselves on Love. A single story line — about a woman named Margaret who is ravaged by a shape-shifting animal — weaves throughout the entire record with supporting characters played by some guest singers, including Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond and My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden. Oh, and the group has promised more rocking guitars than on previous efforts.
Spring and beyond
» Against Me!, TBA: All we know is that their last album, 2007's New Wave, totally rocked, and singer Tom Gabel's more stripped-down 2008 acoustic solo EP showed a different, but still agitated, side of the howler. The Florida punk quartet plans to record with Butch Vig again this time around.
» Angels and Airwaves, TBA: When Tom DeLonge isn't busy saving the world for rock and releasing concept albums only he can understand, he's been hard at work on his post-Blink band's third album, which will likely take most of the year to complete. "In the past, we talked about doing a punk-rock record or a drum-and-bass record," DeLonge said in a recent interview. "We all have a lot of ideas. One of which I talked to [bassist] Matt [Wachter] about was to make a record and have Matt engineer something different on the side. The music we create is very atmospheric and can be beautiful on its own without the singing. I think it will be very cool for us to release music for people to play in their houses when they don't want to turn the TV on, just live, and have cool music in the background."
» Green Day, TBA: How do you follow up American Idiot? We'll find out this summer when the pop-punkers-turned-concept-album-kings unleash their Butch Vig-produced album. A recent Alternative Press cover story revealed that the album will have three acts titled "Heroes and Cons," "Charlatans and Saints" and "Horseshoes and Handgrenades" and that leader Billie Joe Armstrong is pushing himself to "be progressive in songwriting," whatever that means.
» Mastodon, Crack the Skye: Is it a concept album about a Russian czar? Who knows? But there's a four-part centerpiece called "The Czar," and given Mastodon's track record, you can bet it's a concept album. Reportedly more "proggy" than previous efforts, Skye still promises to assault your ears, thanks to production by Brendan O'Brien (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen). There is a fairly good chance this will rule.
» My Chemical Romance, TBA: After a mixed response to the band's grandiose 2006 The Black Parade art-rock concept album, MCR decided to go away for a while and regroup. All the while, frontman Gerard Way has been gathering ideas for the next iteration of the band, though, which he said will be much different from Parade. "It is extremely different, and it is more stripped-down too," Way said in August. Then, in December, Gerard specified that after three concept albums, the new one will likely not have a story line that holds it together and that the band is focused on just writing really killer, really loud rock songs that will capture a more real, raw live sound.
» Paramore, TBA: With plenty of emotional rollercoaster moments to draw from over the past tumultuous year — during which the band went from little-knowns to huge stars — Paramore are recording their next album in Nashville and plan to have something in stores by the summer. "[We've been getting inspired by] life, really. It's not one specific instance or record or book or anything. We're constantly taking in new music — that's what we're passionate about — but I think life has given us a lot to say, and I'm really excited," singer Hayley Williams said in December. "[Guitarist] Josh [Farro] has been writing really cool riffs and really cool music that I can't wait to write over. Lyrically, I think it's going to be a very different record — we've learned a lot about relationships and friendships and life in general, and I'm stoked because I don't really know what I'm going to say about it, but I've got a lot that I want to get out."
» Prince, MPLSOUND, Lotus Flower, Elixir: The Purple One has plans to release a trio of albums this year, with the first one reportedly evoking his Purple Rain salad days.
» Tokio Hotel, TBA: All we know is, the German metal-pop heartthrobs expect to put out a new one this year. And, according to German reports, "[Singer] Bill [Kaulitz] writes so intensely on new songs like never before."
» Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TBA: Here's what we know, based on a posting on the New York trio's Web site last year: "Will it sound kind of like Show Your Bones? No, been there done that. What about Is Is? Is that more of the direction it's going in? Absolutely not, it sounds very different from last year's EP. Did we go back to our roots and write something closer to Fever to Tell? No, looking back now [is] silly, just full speed ahead. What does it sound like?? Not much like anything you've heard from us before. Does it sound like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs??? You bet your sweet ass it does."
Check back Tuesday for the first of our looks at some of 2009's most-buzzed new acts, as Rock Week continues on MTVNews.com.