2020 Releases: Moses Sumney, Tame Impala, Ashley McBryde, Anaïs Mitchell From Moses Sumney's upcoming double album to a folk supergroup starring two of the minds behind Hadestown and Fruit Bats, here are some of Stephen Thompson's early picks for 2020.
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An Early 2020 Preview: 5 Upcoming Albums We Can't Wait To Hear

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An Early 2020 Preview: 5 Upcoming Albums We Can't Wait To Hear

An Early 2020 Preview: 5 Upcoming Albums We Can't Wait To Hear

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With the new year comes new music, and today we're going to get an early listen to some of the best new music coming out in 2020, chosen by Stephen Thompson of NPR Music. Stephen, thanks for being here.

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: It's great to be here, Noel.

KING: OK, so who is your first pick?

THOMPSON: Well, there's an artist named Moses Sumney who's been coming up for the last few years. He's been collaborating with a lot of major artists like Solange and Bon Iver and Beck. And he has this grand double album coming out in 2020 - it's going to come out in two pieces, one in February and one in May. It's called "grae." Let's hear a little bit of the song "Virile."


MOSES SUMNEY: (Singing) And I realize none of this matters, 'cause I will return to dust and matter. Cheers to the patriarchs...

KING: It's very chill. I like that.

THOMPSON: Yeah. I mean, Moses Sumney is a guy who is not really bound by any of the strictures of genre. You know, he's bringing together soul music and pop and folk and classical music, and there are just ideas kind of bursting out of every corner of the mix. When he played a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR Music fairly recently, he, like, decided that he wanted to do this thing where he started playing at a piano across the room and then wanted a camera to track his march to the Tiny Desk.

KING: Nice.

THOMPSON: You know, he's just, like, a guy who just brings big ideas to everything that he does, and so this album is, like, a concept album about gray areas and kind of about a lot of, like, in-between spaces. So it's just a mind at work at all times.

KING: Is this going to be a breakout year for him, you think?

THOMPSON: I think this is going to be a big, big year. I mean, I think anytime an artist decides, going into a year, here are the two albums I'm going to release, in 2020, that's actually - that's a pretty big swing.


SUMNEY: (Singing) To stake dominion over all that one surveys is the virile, viral way. Here's to the boys...

KING: That was Moses Sumney with "Virile." OK, who's next?

THOMPSON: One of my absolute favorites - a country singer born in Arkansas now based in Nashville named Ashley McBryde. Let's hear a little bit of the song "One Night Standards."


ASHLEY MCBRYDE: (Singing) I ain't going to stay for the weekend. I ain't going to jump off the deep end. I ain't going to ask where your ring is. Thing is, we all got secrets. You don't want to hear about my last break up. I don't want to worry about space you take up. I don't even care if you're here when I wake up.

KING: It's like me on a date.


THOMPSON: Well, I mean, you listen to Ashley McBryde's songs and you just hear everyday life. You hear impeccable word choice. And the chorus of that song goes - the way it goes is, bar closes, no king bed covered in roses.


MCBRYDE: (Singing) There's no king bed covered in roses, just a room without a view. I don't want a number you ain't going to answer. Let's just stick to the one night standards.

KING: God, that's pretty.

THOMPSON: That is painting a very vivid picture. I think she's absolutely remarkable. If you're looking for sort of - I don't like to do, like, this person is the next so-and-so, but the way that I reacted emotionally the first time I heard Kacey Musgraves is very much the way I react to her. It's not just, like, a beautiful voice, not just, like, a terrific lyricist, but somebody whose tiny little inflections will just cut right to the heart of emotions. That can't be taught. I think she's an astonishing talent.

KING: Poetry. Ashley McBryde with "One Night Standards." And then your No. 3 pick is?

THOMPSON: Well, I want to go with Bonny Light Horseman, which is kind of a folk supergroup with Anais Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson from the band Fruit Bats and a guy named Josh Kaufman who's worked with a bunch of people. Let's hear a song called "Deep In Love."


BONNY LIGHT HORSEMAN: (Singing) Gathering flowers, both red and blue, I little thought of what, what love could do. Don't you...

KING: We're swaying.

THOMPSON: Now, the listeners at home, they can't see that Noel has done the, like, slight head tilt of wistfulness.


KING: It's true.

THOMPSON: You get a little lost in that. So these three voices kind of come together over the course of this album, and Anais Mitchell had a huge year in 2019. She wrote a folk opera about 10 years ago called "Hadestown," and "Hadestown" finally premiered on Broadway in 2019 and won eight Tony Awards, including best musical. So she's had this massive year. This is kind of what is coming next for her, and it is this really beautiful project that mixes a lot of, like, traditional works with a lot of original music that evokes traditional sounds, all kind of swirling together to create that perfect mix that makes you tilt your head in a wistful way.


BONNY LIGHT HORSEMAN: (Singing) Break my heart...

KING: All right. Bonny Light Horseman with the song "Deep In Love." And last up. What do you got?

THOMPSON: Well, I've got one of the biggest rock bands in the world. There aren't a lot of big rock bands left, right? I mean, you don't have a lot of new-ish bands that are able to fill arenas, and one of those bands is Tame Impala, led by an Australian singer-songwriter-producer named Kevin Parker. Tame Impala has a new record coming out in February called "The Slow Rush." Let's hear a little bit of the song "It Might Be Time."


TAME IMPALA: (Singing) Hey, there's nothing wrong. I'm only tired of all these voices, always saying love can last forever. It might be time to face it.

THOMPSON: You know, so much new music now is made by people who do not care about genre. You know, Kevin Parker's an interesting guy. You know, he's collaborated with people like Travis Scott and Miguel and Lady Gaga and Kanye West. You know, he's in that, like, pop marketplace, and it's really interesting to see the way Tame Impala has become this huge, huge, huge band with a sound that's very introspective.

KING: Tame Impala with "It Might Be Time." So here's to 2020, the genreless year.

THOMPSON: A big genreless year for everyone.

KING: Stephen Thompson from NPR Music, thank you so much for coming in.

THOMPSON: Thank you, my pleasure.


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