1. The OutKast reunion is coming
After seven years apart, the Atlanta rap duo are getting the band back together, and they’ll be hard to miss this spring and summer, with 40-plus gigs—including Coachella in California and Governors Ball in NYC—lined up as of press time. That’s all well and good, but it’s really the possibility of new recorded material that gets us going. Both Big Boi and Andre 3000 have announced plans to release solo albums in the near future. Real question is, will the time together inspire to them to put out a proper joint record?
2. Unannounced album releases are a thing
Since December 13, 2013, when Beyoncé’s Twitter-exploding self-titled album landed unheralded on iTunes, the world has been on notice that a Queen-Bey-level blockbuster can drop out of the sky at any time. Think of it as another level of justification next time you refresh your Twitter feed from bed.
3. Long-awaited records might finally come out
At this point it’s more likely that Dr. Dre’s much-delayed Detox album is filed away in some bureaucratic warehouse à la Raiders of the Lost Ark than the album will actually be released. But then again, this might be the year Andre finally decides to send out his decade-in-the-making pet project. In the meantime, his Beats brand has expanded into online music streaming, buying out competitor MOG and forcing its users to switch to the start-up. Gee, I can’t think of any promotional tie-ins that would boost interest in a fledgling streaming service.
Chance the Rapper
4. Some of the best music is available for free
Even if that long shot doesn’t come through, it’s doubtful you’ll be hard pressed to find things to listen to. And if 2013 is any indication, many of the best records will be available for free. Consider the fact that Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap, Run the Jewels’ self-titled debut and mixtapes by Future, Action Bronson, Migos and others were (and still are) available for zero money down. Just point your browser to DatPiff or LiveMixtapes and head in.
5. Yeezus Tour Pt. II
Kanye’s mountain-moving stadium show rolls on, with a new leg of North American dates set for in 2014. A pardon for anyone who slept on getting tickets to round one—or maybe you had a thing that weekend. Either way, there’s already buzz that a new Yeezy album could be on the way—maybe these concerts are the place to test out some of that new material.
6. Not-dead legends are still touring
Marble-mouthed as Ozzy might be, it’s nothing short of a miracle that he’s still alive and on stage in 2014, to say nothing of the highly respectable effort that is Black Sabbath’s newest album, 13. The band presses on with yet more live dates, even as guitarist Tony Iommi continues his battle with lymphoma. Not to be morbid but…you might want to catch one while they still feel like schlepping around (while we’re at it, go see Bob Dylan next time he’s in town).
7. Music festivals that dare to be weird
Knoxville, TN’s Big Ears Festival, which made a name for itself in 2009 and 2010 as a top destination to see experimental musicians, modern-classical ensembles and brainy indie-rock acts, returns in 2014 after a three-year hiatus (this year brings minimalist composer Steve Reich, Radiohead member Jonny Greenwood, avant-rock guitarist Marc Ribot and others). Organized by the same people who do Bonnaroo, its comeback is a heartening sign that ambitious programming can exist in a field of homogenous, middle-of-the-road fare. It’s not alone either: shindigs like MoogFest and Hopscotch, both in North Carolina, also manage to put together lineups that avoid the same four bands that end up at every other fest.
8. Country music is worth paying attention to
I’m the first to admit when I’m late to the party, and that’s definitely the case with the glut of quality Nashville-produced country music, which I’ve basically spent my whole life avoiding. I listened to Kacey Musgraves’s Same Trailer Different Park (and Taylor Swift’s Red for that matter) more than almost anything last year, and I look forward to adding more twangy ballads and lap-steel-accompanied tunes to my listening diet in 2014.
9. Punk rock lives
Ignore the parade of stale emo reunions and ill-advised comeback records if you can. This young year has already produced a bonafide punk rock flag-bearer: Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues, which follows news of the band’s songwriter coming out as a transgender woman. The record is hard-edged and cathartic, and hopefully a harbinger of good punk things to come.
10. So many new albums (that we know about) and those we don’t
First, the promising records that have been announced. A woefully short survey could include new music from Kendrick Lamar buddy Schoolboy Q, indie-rock guitarist St. Vincent, folk-tinged songwriter Sharon Van Etten and pop savant Beck. Second, and maybe it’s obvious to say, but the real things that will pay dividends this year are the bands yet to be formed, albums yet to be recorded and (maybe) reunions yet to reunite. Here’s to a musical 2014.