For musicians and music critics alike, Friday morning at 12:01AM is a sacred minute: the fruits of their labors, their next listens and the next number one single is released to the public for the first time. Every Friday, thousands of singles, EP’s and records vie for attention in physical sales, digital streaming and radio play, but only a select handful make it to the top.
After months of delays and slow release schedules due to the COVID-19 pandemic, studios, artists and labels are beginning to realign their Friday release schedules, seemingly backloading 2020 with dozens of high-profile releases, from Drake to Juicy J to the renowned Kanye West himself. Here are seven of the most promising albums to look for this fall.
Drake- “Certified Lover Boy” (TBA)
Originally announced in April 2019, Toronto superstar Aubrey “Drake” Graham held all details on his sixth studio album “Certified Lover Boy” until “Laugh Now, Cry Later,” the album’s lead single, released on Aug 14, 2020. After poor critical reception on Graham’s last two projects, 2020’s “Dark Lane Demo Tapes” and 2018’s “Scorpion,” the rapper and singer promised a more concise, to-the-point project in “Certified Lover Boy.” Although no release date has yet been confirmed, executives at Drizzy’s OVO record label have hinted that the album will be here sooner rather than later.
Osees- “Protean Threat” (Sept 18)
Also known as Thee Oh Sees or simply Oh Sees, the San Francisco-based alternative rock band broke onto the scene with their frantic 2017 record “Orc” and their darker 2018 project “Smote Reverser,” are back with their fourth studio record “Protean Threat,” whose teaser tracks seem to take influence from their earliest, heaviest work. After the band released an EP of dual 20-minute ambient electronica tracks in late 2019, fans were happy to hear the group largely return to form on “Protean Threat,” which will release in full on Sept 18.
Sufjan Stevens- “The Ascension” (Sept 25)
After over two decades in the music industry, any musician is bound to have a project fall flat. Sufjan Stevens, one of indie music’s preeminent creators and performers and mind behind acclaimed records like 2005’s “Illinoise,” 2015’s “Carrie & Lowell” and 2017’s “Planetarium,” finally stumbled on his 2020 project “Aporia,” which he co-wrote with his stepfather, Lowell Brams. “The Ascension,” his second project of the year, aims to reclaim the weight that his records once held. “America,” the album’s lead single, is a 12-minute cut which conjures similarities between the Biblical apostles and the titular nation, trades soft guitars for synthesized notes and distant chimes, yet another stylistic change for Stevens this year. Whether fans’ reception of “The Ascension,” which releases on Sept 25, is what Stevens hopes for remains to be seen.
Joji- “Nectar” (Sept 25)
George Kusunoki Miller, better known by his stage name Joji, has had a wildly twisting and turning career in internet fame. First catching attention under the moniker Filthy Frank with his virulent dancing to Baauer’s EDM track “Harlem Shake” in 2013, Miller soon began producing his own head-turning, intentionally obscene music under the name Pink Guy, with his debut album “Pink Season” releasing in Jan 2017. Just over a year later, Miller joined the record collective “88 Rising” and once again reinvented himself, creating the self-described “sadboy” personality of Joji, under which he soon released his debut LP “BALLADS 1,” a lofi R&B-inspired collection of surprisingly well-produced crooner tracks that carried legitimate weight. Now, Miller is releasing a second, more visible, collection of tracks under his Joji name that seeks to capture the same atmosphere that “BALLADS 1” worked towards. “Nectar,” which was originally scheduled to release in late July, will see public release on Sept 25.
The Mountain Goats- “Getting Into Knives” (Oct 23)
Whether through albums like 2005’s “The Sunset Tree,” reminiscent of 80’s caricatures like Men at Work or 2017’s “Goths,” which calls on elements of established groups like Neutral Milk Hotel, The Mountain Goats have covered their bases when it comes to artistic experimentation through any number of alternative and post-punk genres. But after their 2019 record “In League with Dragons,” a rock opera inspired by fantastical literature, which was largely regarded as a misstep, their 19th studio album, “Getting into Knives,” is expected to be somewhat of a return to their post-punk and grunge form last seen on 2017’s “Goths.” “Getting into Knives” releases on October 23.
Yellow Days- “A Day in a Yellow Beat” (Sept 18)
Four years after his debut EP “Harmless Melodies,” full of gorgeous, soaring, buttery-smooth vocals and psychedelic production, Manchester, UK’s George van den Broek is teasing tracks from his forthcoming sophomore LP, “A Day in a Yellow Beat.” After moving from the United Kingdom to Los Angeles, CA, the singer/songwriter seems to have transitioned from psychedelic soul-pop to a full embrace of groovy R&B and soul- but his captivating vocal still manage to shine through the excellent production. “A Day in a Yellow Beat,” my most anticipated album of 2020, releases in full on Sept 18.
Kanye West- “DONDA”/ “God’s Country” / “Turbo Grafx 16” (TBA)
So little is known about the deistic rapper’s 11th studio album that no official title for the record has yet been confirmed. West himself, amid a half-baked presidential run widely considered to be a PR stunt to promote the record, has released conflicting information, titles, covers, and teaser tracks about his forthcoming project. It appears that the record will take influence from Kanye’s gospel renaissance in 2019’s “Jesus Is King,” but “Wash Us in the Blood,” the album’s first teaser track, featured psychedelic trap titan Travis Scott and production reminiscent of West’s 2013 record “Yeezus.” Whether the album is entirely gospel-driven or drops that angle altogether, or even takes a political turn due to Kanye’s recent media attention, is unknown. Whatever the record entails, Kanye is sure to keep all eyes on him when it finally releases.