It's Never Too Early To Celebrate The Music Of 2018

Dec 31, 2017
Originally published on December 31, 2017 5:54 pm

NPR Music has spent the past few weeks hashing out the best albums and songs of 2017, with a bountiful assortment of lists, discussions, essays and roundups that attempt to make sense of a chaotic and exciting year in music. But we're also mere days away from what promises to be a tumultuous and fascinating 2018.

The new year should bring hotly anticipated albums from Jack White, Nicki Minaj, Charli XCX, Vampire Weekend, Cardi B, Major Lazer, Arctic Monkeys, My Bloody Valentine and many others. For this admittedly very early preview, Ray Suarez and I highlight a few songs you can already hear from intriguing albums due out in 2018: Rhye returns Feb. 2 with a new album of mysterious and seductive bedroom pop, titled Blood; Lucy Dacus leads off her new album Historian, out March 2, with a stunner of an epic breakup song; Dessa stole The Hamilton Mixtape, appeared on Lin-Manuel Miranda's benefit single for Puerto Rico, and returns with Chime on Feb. 23; and Khruangbin is a trio from Texas, but it pulls sounds from all over the world — especially the Middle East and Southeast Asia — on a record called Con Todo Del Mundo, due out Jan. 26.

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Yesterday, we talked with NPR Music writer Stephen Thompson, and he gave us a retrospective - his 2017 top songs list. But it's New Year's Eve, a time to look forward to what the new year has in store for us - a prospective. And with that in mind, Stephen Thompson is back with some music from the future.

Stephen, happy new year.

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Happy new year to you, too.

SUAREZ: I know there's a lot of stuff coming out in 2018 that you're already excited about. The floor is yours, sir. What or who should we be looking out for?

THOMPSON: I'm going start with an artist called Rhye, who makes this beautiful kind of bedroom pop music. The album is called "Blood." It comes out in February. And this song is called "Please."


RHYE: (Singing) I think it came out wrong, a pillow of lies. Oh, baby please. Oh, my heart's on the pavement. Oh, baby please. Oh, my heart's on the pavement, where we're building, you and me.

THOMPSON: When I refer to this music as bedroom pop, it kind of has a double meaning. Like, this is a guy who I think really kind of huddles over this music in a very personal way, kind of like crafting it in his bedroom.

But it's also bedroom music. He's kind of singing to the other half of a couple. These are songs of seduction. But what I love about it is they feel like songs of seduction for lovers who've already seduced each other a thousand times. They're songs about keeping love and relationships fresh.

SUAREZ: Now along with that stage in a relationship, a lot of music is about breakups. Here's a breakup song from singer Lucy Dacus that we can look forward to in March.


LUCY DACUS: (Singing) I feel no need to forgive, but I might as well. But let me kiss your lips, so I know how it felt.

SUAREZ: Stephen, why is this song on your list?

THOMPSON: It's a gorgeous song. It unfurls over the course of about 6.5 minutes. And it starts really slowly and quietly, and it builds and builds until it goes kind of nuts around the 4, 4.5-minute mark. And it's just this visceral epic.


DACUS: (Singing) You got a 9-to-5, so I'll take the night shift. And I'll never see you again if I can help it.

THOMPSON: It really conjures just a lot of big, grand, powerful emotions. And it's just gorgeous.

SUAREZ: Sometimes, Stephen, music makes the news. Other times, news makes the music. That's the case for this next artist, who appeared on Lin-Manuel Miranda's benefit single for Puerto Rico to raise awareness on the devastation of the island from Hurricane Maria. This is "Fire Drills" from Dessa.


DESSA: (Rapping) I've been Wendy, living with the Lost Boys. Youth spent as a deckhand on the convoy. Moved every night to prove we were something. Got confused if it was from or to that we were running. I've seen Gibraltar. I've seen the Taj Mahal. Soweto, Hagia Sophia. Chefchaouen paints the walls blue. I've played to full rooms. I've played the fool, too - burning through the bottoms of a pair of new boots.

SUAREZ: Tell us about Dessa.

THOMPSON: She writes this incredibly powerful kind of half-rapped, half-sung music. This song just builds to just fists flying. I think she is awesome. And speaking of Lin-Manuel Miranda, if you've heard "The Hamilton Mixtape," she did a version of "Congratulations," which was an outtake from "Hamilton" that, to me, is the best song on "The Hamilton Mixtape." I just love Dessa. I'm into everything she does.


DESSA: (Singing) We're running fire drills. We're running fire drills. We're running fire drills. We're running fire drills. We're running fire drills.

SUAREZ: Next up on your list, Stephen, a group called Khruangbin with a number called "Maria Tambien."


SUAREZ: I could drive a long way across Texas listening to that. Tell us a little bit about the group and the song.

THOMPSON: Well, as you said, they're from Texas. But their music is kind of pulled from sources all around the world, kind of the more obscure, the better. They're really into music from the Middle East, from Southeast Asia. Their name translates to engine fly in Thai.

And they just try to incorporate as much new and old music as possible into this very cinematic and propulsive music. The album that comes out in January is called "Con Todo El Mundo."

SUAREZ: That's Stephen Thompson of NPR Music. For more of his suggestions and suggestions from the NPR Music team, visit the NPR Music page at

Stephen, thanks a lot. See you next year.

THOMPSON: Thanks so much. Happy new year.

(SOUNDBITE OF KHRUANGBIN'S "MARIA TAMBIEN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.