Was it just me, or was 2014 kind of a snooze-fest? Sure, there were pockets of greatness to be found, but on the whole, 2014 just didn’t reach the heights that 2013 did. The great albums of 2013 (Yeezus, Reflektor, Modern Vampires of the City) all had a killer combination of mass appeal and iconoclastic ambition. Feel free to disagree with me, but I don’t think I could say that about any of 2014’s best albums. But hey, that’s how the world works. 2013 was a watershed year for music. 2014 was a transitional year. What will 2015 be? I don’t know, but I’m feeling optimistic. Here are 4 reasons why.
1. Surprise Albums Are Becoming the Norm
Contrary to popular belief, Beyoncé was not the first person to surprise release an album. In fact, major acts like David Bowie and My Bloody Valentine released surprise albums the same year as her. In 2014, this practice was continued, and even slightly ramped up. D’Angelo waited a decade and a half to release his 2014 album Black Messiah on December 15. Azealia Banks came out of nowhere and dropped Broke with Expensive Taste, her debut studio album. What does this mean for 2015? Well, it means that we don’t even know which artists are going to drop a bomb on us this year. It could be anyone. And since the major surprise albums of the past few years have been uniformly good, if not great, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens this year. But I’m not expecting it too much. Then it wouldn’t be a surprise.
2. The Return of the Rap Gods
Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar, the two era-defining figures of modern rap, are set to make their respective comebacks this year. Kanye said he was going to release a new album in the summer of 2014. Well, that was like forever ago and he still hasn’t. But, the release of his new song “Only One” on New Year’s Eve was highly symbolic. We’re looking at another year of Yeezus, folks. Kendrick Lamar dropped his instant classic debut good kid, m.A.A.d. city in 2012, and since then has been all over the music world, with featured spots on songs by everyone from A$AP Rocky to Alicia Keys to The Lonely Island. Kendrick’s funky new single “i” reestablished him as a solo artist. Add that to his recent Colbert Report appearance, and it’s obvious that an album rollout is incoming. I for one can’t wait.
3. Some Blasts from Indie’s Past
Belle and Sebastian. Modest Mouse. Sleater-Kinney. Panda Bear. My Morning Jacket. Sound familiar? These classic indie acts are all gearing up to release albums in 2015. Panda Bear already has. But the most important, of course, is Sleater-Kinney, who haven’t released an album in a decade and just recently reunited. Their new album, No Cities to Love, is out January 20. Belle and Sebastian are releasing their new record, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, on the same day. And the rest are TBD. Keep an eye on the internets to find out when these and other albums are due to drop.
4. A Solution to the Spotify Problem?
Spotify has its fair share of opponents in the music industry. Thom Yorke, Beck, and David Byrne have all spoken out against the paltry sums paid to artists by the popular music streaming service. But their protests pale in comparison to the pure, unadulterated wrath of Taylor Swift. “I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the creators of this music,” Taylor snapped after pulling her entire catalog from Spotify following the release of her new album 1989. Though Spotify has seen an exponential increase in their number of subscribers despite Swift’s objections, I can’t help but feel that they have to change their business model sometime soon. More artists are going to follow Taylor’s lead in abandoning the music service, and when they do, Spotify will reach a turning point, possibly in the next year. Let’s hope they rule in favor of artists getting proper compensation for giving us the music that we couldn’t live without. Here’s to a great 2015!