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The most anticipated albums of early 2021

Scott Mervis
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Foo Fighters, seen here at Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2015, are coming out of the gate with a fresh party record early this year.

Among the highlights of 2020 were surprise album releases from Taylor Swift, Eminem and Childish Gambino. We can't predict those, but we can say what's scheduled for the first quarter of 2021, and that slate includes new material from major stars like Foo Fighters, Florida Georgia Line and Sia, as well as such indie faves as Cloud Nothings, The Hold Steady and Julien Baker.

Last year, release dates were bumped all over the place as artists tried to navigate the pandemic. This year should be a little less volatile. Here's the first look. Keep an eye out for releases from Adele, Cardi B, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Lorde, Rihanna, St. Vincent, Travis Scott and more.

JAN. 15

Shame, "Drunk Tank Pink": The acclaimed British punk band promises a "bigger, bolder" sound on the follow-up to the 2018 debut "Songs Of Praise."

Why Don't We, "The Good Times and the Bad Ones": The LA boy band follows its 2018 debut with a sophomore album that features the singles "Fallin'," "Lotus Inn" and "Slow Down," which samples Smashing Pumpkins.

Sleaford Mods, "Spare Ribs": The 11th album from the British electropunk duo was preceded by the single "Mork N Mindy."

David Bowie, "Brilliant Live Adventures Part 3: LIVEANDWELL.COM": This third in a series of six live releases was recorded in New York, Amsterdam and Rio De Janeiro during the 1997 Earthling tour.

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JAN. 22

Steve Hackett, "Under A Mediterranean Sky": The new acoustic album from the former Genesis guitarist was inspired by his recent travels in the Mediterranean.

Bill Champlin, "Livin' for Love": A new album from the former Chicago singer-guitarist-keyboardist who sang lead on the hit "Hard Habit to Break."

TRZTN, "Royal Dagger Ballet": The latest from the Paris-based musician, composer and producer features collaborations with Interpol's Paul Banks and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O.

JAN. 29

Ani DiFranco, "Revolutionary Love": The 22nd album from the indie-folk icon was inspired by Valarie Kaur's book "See No Stranger."

Langhorne Slim, "Strawberry Mansion": The Americana rocker from Nashville, via Langhorne, Penn., addresses his struggles with debilitating anxiety and depression on his seventh album.

Lucero, "When You Found Me": The veteran alt-country band from Memphis reunited with Grammy-winning producer Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price, Drive-by Truckers) on this 10th album.

The Notwist, "Vertigo Days": The first album in seven years from the German post-rock band plays as "one long, flowing suite" with collaborations with Saya (Japanese pop duo Tenniscoats), Ben LaMar Gay, jazz clarinetist Angel Bat Dawid and Argentinian electronic artist Juana Molina.

The Besnard Lakes, "The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings": Sixth album from the Montreal psych band is a double LP themed around the death of co-founder Jace Lasek's father.

Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, "Macca to Mecca": A 13-song love letter to the Beatles recorded at the Roundhouse in London in November 2017 with a special appearance by Paul McCartney.

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JANUARY TBD

Drake, "Certified Lover Boy": The Canadian rap star's sixth album and follow-up to 2018's "Scorpion" was bumped from summer 2020 to some time in January.

FEB. 5

Foo Fighters, "Medicine At Midnight": The 10th album from Dave Grohl and company, finished in early 2020, promises to be a party record that clocks in at nine songs in 37 minutes.

Femi Kuti & Made Kuti, "Legacy+": The son and grandson of Fela Kuti continue in his spirit with this package that combines Femi's album "Stop the Hate" and Made's album "For(e)ward."

John Carpenter, "Lost Themes III: Alive After Death": The first album of non-soundtrack music from the electronic composer/director in nearly five years finds him working again with son and synth player Cody Carpenter and guitarist Daniel Davies.

Slowthai, "TYRON": The UK rapper's follow-up to his Mercury Prize-nominated 2019 debut, "Nothing Great About Britain," features help from James Blake, A$AP Rocky, Denzel Curry and more.

FEB. 12

Florida Georgia Line, " Life Rolls On": The fifth album from the pop-country duo of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, co-produced with Corey Crowder, features the hits "Long Live" and "I Love My Country."

Sia, "Music — Songs from and Inspired by the Motion Picture": The Australian pop star wrote all of the songs on this 14-track accompaniment to her directorial debut. An original cast soundtrack will also be released.

The Pretty Reckless, "Death By Rock And Roll": The fourth album from the New York City alt-rock band led by Taylor Momson features a title track that spent multiple weeks at the top of the rock charts.

Pentatonix, "The Lucky Ones": The a cappella group follows "We Need a Little Christmas" with their first full-length album of original material since 2015.

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FEB. 19

The Hold Steady, "Open Door Policy": The Brooklyn indie-rock band's eighth album "was written and almost entirely recorded before the pandemic started," according to frontman Craig Finn, "but the songs and stories explore power, wealth, mental health, technology, capitalism, consumerism, and survival — issues which have compounded in 2020."

Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, "Hunter and the Dog Star": Brickell referred to the band's fifth album and follow-up to 2018's "Rocket" as "a collection of songs reflecting the mystery of self-expression, loyalty, companionship and love in the darkest sky just before dawn."

Mogwai, "As The Love Continues": The Scottish post-rock band worked remotely with producer Dave Fridmann on this 10th album, which features contributions from Nine Inch Nails' Atticus Ross and saxophonist Colin Stetson.

Julia Stone, "Sixty Summers": On her first album since 2012, the Australian folk singer-songwriter takes a turn toward cosmopolitan pop, working with Thomas Bartlett, aka Doveman, and Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent.

Grandaddy, "The Sophtware Slump ..... on a wooden piano": A stripped-down take on the indie-rock band's classic 2000 album.

FEB. 26

Alice Cooper, "Detroit Stories": The shock-rocker pays homage to his hometown with this album produced by longtime collaborator Bob Ezrin and featuring such Detroit music legends as the MC5's Wayne Kramer, the Detroit Wheels' Johnny "Bee" Badanjek, Paul Randolph and the Motor City Horns. It includes a cover of The Velvet Underground's "Rock 'n' Roll," which was recorded by Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels.

Cloud Nothings, "The Shadow I Remember": The Cleveland noise-rock band reunited with Steve Albini, who produced breakout album "Attack on Memory," for this seventh album, of which frontman Dylan Baldi said, "I want the three-minute song to be an epic. That's the short version of the long-ass jam."

Willie Nelson, "That's Life": Following his Grammy-winning 2018 album, "My Way," this is a second collection of Frank Sinatra covers, recorded in the spare style of "Stardust."

Melvins, "Working With God": The Washington state sludge punk/metal band assembles the 1983 lineup — Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover and Mike Dillard — for an album that will include a re-imagining of The Beach Boys' classic "I Get Around" along with a song about their junior-high biology teacher.

Julien Baker, "Little Oblivions": The Memphis indie artist played nearly all the instruments on her third album, which will be a sonic shift to a more expansive sound.

Architects, "Those That Wish To Exist": Ninth album from the British post-metalcore quintet follows 2018's "Holy Hell."

Sting's "Duets" collection includes collabs with Mary J. Blige, pictured, Julio Iglesias, Annie Lennox and more.

MARCH 5

A Day to Remember, "You're Welcome": The Ocala, Fla., metalcore band moves to Fueled by Ramen for its seventh album and first in five years. "We took what we envision modern music to be and made a hybrid of who we were, who we are, and who we want to be," said frontman Jeremy McKinnon.

Teenage Fanclub, "Endless Arcade": The Scottish power-pop band's 10th album is the first since the 2018 departure of co-founder Gerard Love and marks the debut of Euros Childs, from Gorky's Zygotic Mynci.

Pat Metheny, "Road To The Sun": A collection of two new works for classical guitar, one featuring Jason Vieaux and one a six-movement cycle with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet.

Arab Strap, "As Days Get Dark": "It's about hopelessness and darkness...but in a fun way," frontman Aidan Moffat said of the Scottish indie/slowcore band's first album in 16 years.

MARCH 12

Rob Zombie, "The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy": The shock-rocker told Kerang! that on his seventh album "the songs are very catchy, but the structures are way more complex than they've been in the past." It's advanced by the single "The Triumph Of King Freak (A Crypt of Preservation And Superstition)."

Ringo Starr, "Zoom In": The five-song EP from the Beatles legend features contributions from Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Diane Warren, Robbie Krieger, Steve Lukather and more.

MARCH 19

Sting, "Duets": Collection of previous duets with the likes of Eric Clapton, Mary J. Blige, Julio Iglesias, Shaggy, Herbie Hancock, Annie Lennox and Charles Aznavour.

MARCH 26

Evanescence, "The Bitter Truth": The follow-up to 2017's "Synthesis," which featured orchestral arrangements of previous songs, is the gothic metal band's first album of original material since the 2011 self-titled album.

APRIL 16

Greta Van Fleet, "The Battle At Garden's Gate": The young Grammy-winning band's follow-up to its 2018 debut was recorded in L.A. with Greg Kurstin (Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney) producing. 

Singer-songwriter Julien Baker, seen here at Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2016, has a new album out in 2021.