With 2014 now in our rear-view mirrors, thousands of college students are returning to face yet another semester filled with endless lectures, procrastination that leads to last-minute panic and professors reminding you that they’re not an artist before illustrating an idea on the whiteboard. Nonetheless, a new year and a new semester call for brand new music, so here are five albums debuting in January to help you get through that first test, those late-night study sessions and the dreaded walk to that 9 a.m. lecture.
Panda Bear: "Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper"
Release Date: Jan. 9
You may have seen the name on the huge Daft Punk single, “Doin’ It Right” or maybe you have been unknowingly introduced to him through his other project, Animal Collective. Either way, chances are that you are familiar with the genius of Noah Benjamin Lennox, the mad scientist behind the experimental solo project, Panda Bear. "Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper" is the fifth album from Panda Bear and even though the title of the record suggests a dark menacing theme, Lennox has stated that it is actually intended to be more lighthearted than the previous records. The singles from the album, “Mr. Noah” and “Boys Latin,” seem to stay true to the diverse roots that sustain and champion the classic Panda Bear sound. Expect to be immersed into the acid trip dream sequence with the trademark Panda Bear idiosyncrasies such as the hypnotic repetition, dark atmospheric synthesizers and reverb filled vocals that blend into one psychedelic concoction that is reminiscent of Radiohead and Dirty Projectors.
Mark Ronson: "Uptown Special"
Release Date: Jan. 13
If I told you that 2015 would be the year that funk found its way back onto the national airwaves, you might ask me to get back into my time capsule and to lay off the nostalgia drug. Mark Ronson produced "Uptown Special" with live instrumentation while collaborating with a wide array of artists from Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars, Kevin Parker and Hudson Mohawke to create what should be a slap in the face to the modern mold of music. The first single from the album “Uptown Funk,” featuring Bruno Mars, is a throwback tune that sounds like it is straight out of Motown. Another single, called “Feel Right” featuring Mystikal, will make you double-check the title to see if James Brown has risen from the grave. With its Motown influence and contemporary flavor, "Uptown Special" should be a breath of fresh air and kick off the new year in style.
Enter Shikari: "The Mindsweep"
Release Date: Jan. 20
There are very few acts that can fuse together contrasting genres into a euphonious chaos as coherently as Enter Shikari, the experimental post-hardcore outfit that has dominated the U.K.'s music industry, but has yet to fully break into the U.S. market. If you are familiar with this band, then you know that they make it a point to progress and mature with every record and their latest work, "The Mindsweep," should be no different. The two singles released, “The Last Garrison” and “Anaesthetist,” are packed with a ton of energy, but at the same time, they also have the familiar trance synths and brutal breakdowns. Hellacious screams from Rue Reynolds and backing vocals by Chris Batten complement these arrangements. So far, this album is sounding like an evolved marriage of their previous albums, "Common Dreads" and "Take To The Skies." It has flashes of their post-hardcore beginnings but also showcases a lot of progression and maturity. If you are yearning for a truly different sound that transcends genres, then save your money for this album.
The Decemberists: "What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World"
Release Date: Jan. 20
If you’re looking for an uplifting album that seems like it was specifically made to be listened to in a quiet coffee shop while writing your English 102 essay, The Decemberist’s newest album, "What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World," may be your saving grace. This five-piece indie rock band from Portland is the embodiment of sophisticated easy-listening music. No bells or whistles. Nothing fancy. Just simply good music. The singles released so far may lead long time fans to believe that the band is marching into a more radio-friendly pop direction, however the relaxing appeal still holds strong and appears to not be going anywhere anytime soon. If you have an appreciation for straightforward instrumentals under lyrics that are comparable to 15th century poetry, and you are also fan of acts such as Death Cab for Cutie, The Shins and Dave Matthews Band, then this album should be a must-have for your collection.
Fall Out Boy: "American Beauty/American Psycho"
Release Date: Jan. 20
Am I more than you bargained for yet? The question proposed a decade ago by Fall Out Boy’s frontman, Patrick Stump, may be answered with the new album, "American Beauty/American Psycho." The band's previous album has sold over half of a million copies after its release, so the hype for this one has been through the roof. Billboard magazine has even listed it as the 8th most anticipated album of the year. The first single released, “Centuries,” is full of fun radio-friendly compositions, catchy choruses and big horn and synth sections that makes for one overall arena-ready showpiece. If “Centuries” serves as a prototype of what is to come, then "American Beauty/American Psycho" appears to be yet another step away from their pop-punk origins and one giant step toward being a global mainstream phenomenon that sells out arenas around the world. Cue the deep sighs of disappointment.
Reach the reporter at Zackary.Moran-Norris@asu.edu or follow @_staylost on Twitter.