Janelle Monáe (Credit: Alamy)
The Atlanta-based psych-soul talent has gained plaudits for her acting skills over the past couple of years, with memorable big screen and TV roles including Moonlight, Hidden Figures and Electric Dreams. Monáe guested with Grimes on the deliciously out-there Venus Fly in 2017, and she is releasing hotly anticipated new material in 2018: expect a new single in February, followed by a full album follow-up to 2013’s immaculate The Electric Lady.
Multi-ranging Canadian experimental pop producer/singer-songwriter/visual artist/fashion icon Grimes has sealed her cult heroine status; in 2018, her upcoming album (due for an autumn release) should propel her fame to stratospheric levels. Grimes draws inspiration from “comic book heroines, gaming, dystopian worlds, ecology and technology”, and right now, her possibilities sound limitless.
The animated outfit’s co-founder (with Damon Albarn) and legendary illustrator, Jamie Hewlett, has revealed that 2018 will yield a follow-up to the apocalyptic blast of their 2017 album Humanz. During an interview for the German art books publisher Taschen, Hewlett explained: “Usually, we have a good five-year break between each album, but we decided, you know what? Let’s keep going. Because there’s ideas for a few more albums, so let’s go straight into that.”
Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig (Credit: Alamy)
Back in September 2017, Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig confirmed on Twitter that the New York art-pop band’s fourth studio album was already “80% done, but the last 20% is always the hardest”. He also mentioned that the new material is “a lil’ more springtime” than its predecessor, 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City. This will be the band’s first album without co-founder Rostam Batmanglij, though they haven’t relinquished their hipster flipster roots, if the working title is anything to go by: Mitsubishi Macchiato.
Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist Laveaux has built a loyal following for her rootsy indie melodies and finger-style playing, ever since her 2006 debut album – but there’s also a sense of fresh discovery in her new album, Radyo Siwèl, set for release in February. This collection explores 32-year-old Laveaux’s Haitian heritage, inspired by her first trip to her parents’ homeland for 20 years, the strength of its Creole language and people, and the vintage works of Haitian singers Martha Jean-Claude and Emerante de Pradines.
Björk's Utopia (Credit: Björk)
Björk’s live concerts have progressively evolved into something more like musical art installations. Her Utopia world tour, named for the Icelandic icon’s ninth studio album, promises to take both sounds and visuals into even more dreamily experimental, multi-instrumental territory. The dates begin on 27 May, with a headline set at the inaugural All Points East festival in London’s Victoria Park.
If Taylor Swift’s acid-laced Reputation album represented a sharp change of direction for the breathy pop superstar, then her 44-date Reputation world stadium tour promises big tunes and attitude on an epic scale. If Swift repeats her last tour’s pattern of revealing a surprise guest every night, it’s possible that Right Said Fred (whose 90s smash I’m Too Sexy is credited for inspiring her comeback single Look What You Made Me Do) might crop up at some point. Swift kicks off on 8 May 2018 at the University of Phoenix Stadium, Arizona.
Following the rave reviews and Grammy predictions for his 2017 album DAMN., Compton hip-hop star Kendrick Lamar commences the European half of his latest tour on 7 February, in Dublin. The New York Times praised the intensity of his Stateside performance, saying that “Lamar’s art… is anti-flamboyant, interior and complex. He is a blazing technical rapper”. There’s also powerful intimacy in the form of his European support act: London electronic musician, vocalist and pianist James Blake.
Lady Gaga's Joanne (Credit: Lady Gaga)
Gaga’s Joanne World tour dates elicited rave reviews across North America, but the avant-pop megastar was forced to postpone its final European leg, after she was hospitalised for body pain caused by fibromyalgia. These 18 rescheduled shows should represent a triumphant return, with Gaga bringing vocal extravaganza, a lavish set-list, and genuinely jaw-dropping multi-platform stage design.
The Womad Festival continues to joyously represent a ‘World of Music and Dance’, through events around the globe. In 2018, Womad brings excellent line-ups to Chile (16-18 February; including Chilean folk veteran Manuel García, Syrian electro-crooner Omar Souleyman, and Italian troubadour Vinicio Capossela), Australia (9-12 March, including LA sax dude Kamasi Washington, Tuareg blues rockers Tinariwen, Ghanaian highlife legend Pat Thomas, and multi-genre bass whiz Thundercat), and New Zealand (including Lebanese diva Ghada Shbeir, Tinariwen, Kamasi Washington and many more). Tickets are also already on sale for Womad UK (26-29 July).
The intoxicating, brooding and brilliant soul of this Brooklyn-based artist (aka 29-year-old Josiah Wise) really demands widespread attention; the sweetness and fierceness of his voice has been likened to Nina Simone, and his visuals are aptly dramatic. He has remixed Björk (who is a huge fan), and his single Four Ethers samples the 19th-Century composer Hector Berlioz. A new album is due in spring 2018, with international tour dates starting in Poughkeepsie, New York on 4 March.
Korean musician Park Jiha previously led the neo-traditional outfit SU:M, who’ve performed to acclaim around the world. She’s now embarked on a solo career with her album Communion, which receives a global release in March; it features beautifully delicate yet resonant melodies, and displays her impressive range on traditional regional instruments including the saenghwang (a mouth-blown pipe organ), piri (double-reed bamboo flute) and the yanggeum(hammered dulcimer).
The latest signing to celebrated hip-hop/indie label Stones Throw, Stimulator Jones specialises in “super-smooth baby-making music”, and draws inspiration from different decades, believing that all music “stems from the original vibration”. His debut album is due in 2018, following the deliciously persuasive 80s-styled soul jam of his track Need Your Body.
London ‘industrial noise-punk’ duo Black Futures bring extra-terrestrial atmospheres to their sound, as demonstrated on their buzz-inducing debut single Karma, Ya Dig!? and the bass-heavy riffs on LOVE. They’re deliberately mysterious (the members introduce themselves as ‘SPACE’ and ‘VIBES’), but their hard-edged, insistent riffs evoke references from Nine Inch Nails to The Chemical Brothers, and leave you wanting to hear more.
Billie Eilish (Credit: Alamy)
At just 15, LA singer-songwriter Billie Eilish is the youngest music talent to have ever been nominated in the BBC’s Sound Of poll for 2018. She has definitely established serious respect for her indie pop melodies, combining coolly sweet delivery and offbeat twists; she’s also earned props from young music stars including Charli XCX and rapper Vince Staples (who guests on her latest single, &Burn). Tickets are already selling out for her 2018 international tour dates (starting in Singapore on 27 January).
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