Owl and Bear’s Most Anticipated Albums of 2011

As a music fan, I’m waiting for the release that defines the new decade. You know what I’m talking about; every 10 years or so, a band comes out of nowhere with the perfect storm of style, lyrics, and — oh yeah — music.

The 80s had Guns ‘N Roses, the 90s Nirvana, and the 2000s gave us The Strokes. Granted, none of those bands dominated for a full 10 years, but they spawned countless imitators, some enjoyable and some terrible. That feeling of uncharted territory and danger rolled up into one is what I miss and am still waiting for. Remember when you first heard “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” or “Last Night”? I’m guessing you were instantly on board, just like I was.

Being the cynic that I am, I often struggle to believe that such a feeling can ever be captured again. The only release since then that has came close to musical providence is Funeral by Arcade Fire, but they aren’t exactly overflowing with the type of rock and roll swagger that Guns ‘N Roses brought to the table.

Sure, Arcade Fire’s music is captivating and visceral — like all the great bands — but I want the “fuck you” rock star back: the one who knows he makes good music and doesn’t care about anything else. He has to be out there somewhere, chain smoking, drinking whiskey from the bottle, and generally raising hell. It’s hard to understate how rare and entertaining this creature is in today’s modern music landscape. This archetype has become a cultural cliche — with many bands trying on the image like an oversized suit — but we forget that the real thing existed and we all fucking loved it.

As we enter a new decade, I’m patiently waiting, listening to obscene amounts of new music, hoping for the day when I push play and hear a chord progression or voice that shoots rock and roll shivers down my spine, sending me scrambling to tell everyone I know about the glorious return of the rock star. Will 2011 be that year? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, we’ve compiled a list of our most anticipated albums. Truth be told, you probably won’t find my guy on this list, but these future releases should hold you off until He emerges from whatever smoke-filled dive bar He calls home.

James Blake – James Blake (2/07 via Atlas/A&M)
BRAIDS – Native Speaker (1/18 via Kanine Records)
Cloud Nothings – Cloud Nothings (1/24 via Carpark)
Cornershop – Cornershop & The Double ‘O’ Groove Of (TBA via Ample Play)
Cut Copy – Zonoscope (2/08 via Modular)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – (TBA via Quite Scientific Records)
The Decemberists – The King Is Dead (1/18 via Capitol)
Deerhoof – Deerhoof Vs. Evil (1/25 via Polyvinyl)
Dr. Dre – Detox (February via Aftermath/Interscope)
Fleet Foxes – (TBA via Sub Pop)
Gauntlet Hair – (TBA)
The Kills – (TBA via Domino)
Lykee Li – Wounded Rhymes (3/1 via LL Recordings)
Mr. Heavenly – (TBA via Sub Pop)
Panda Bear – Tomboy (TBA via Paw Tracks)
Radiohead – (TBA via The Internet)
The Rome (Danger Mouse & Daniele Lupi) – The Rome (TBA)
Santigold – (TBA via Downtown/Atlantic)
The Shins – (TBA via Sub Pop)
Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde (1/18 via Fat Possum)
The Strokes – (TBA-early September via Rough Trade)
Tennis – Cape Dory (1/18 via Fat Possum)
Kayne West & Jay-Z – Watch The Throne (TBA via Roc-A-Fella)
Wild Flag – (TBA via Merge)
The Wrens – (TBA via Absolutely Kosher)

Which albums do you look forward to hearing in 2011?

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