Question: What do Congratulations, Surfing the Void, Total Life Forever, and (to a lesser extent) Odd Blood have in common?
Answer: All were eagerly awaited sophomore albums by rising alt-music bands (MGMT, The Klaxons, Foals, and Yeasayer, respectively) that came up just a hair short of commercial and/or critical expectations.
In the case of Congratulations, it was a long-ass hippie hair, but a hair nonetheless.
That second album can be a bitch, no? Matching the success of your debut disc is important, but you also want to explore new territory, lest you repeat yourself and people accuse you of being a one-trick pony or, worse, Kings of Leon.
It's a difficult, infuriating calculus, which is perhaps why the following emerging acts are taking their sweet time releasing that all-important follow-up. We say: Just release it already. You'll be that much closer to your obligatory, career-reviving third album.
Battles: The New York-based experimental-rock foursome — spot-welded into existence from ex-members of Don Caballero, Helmet, and Lynx — made a splash in 2007 with their funky, frenetic debut disc Mirrored and placed a song ("The Line") on the Twilight Saga: Eclipse soundtrack. So what's the problem? Founding member Tyondai Braxton quit the group in August, leaving Battles without a vocalist. Somewhat quixotically, they still intend to record and tour in 2011. Album ETA: The safe money's on 2012, if at all.
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Magic Wands: Married mates Chris and Dexy Valentine make the catchiest, most blissed-out space pop you've never heard. Self-promotion isn't their strong suit. Hell, they don't even have a Wikipedia page, which is both cute and shockingly irresponsible. But they built a solid fan base at Lollapalooza in 2008, and their debut EP, Magic Love, and Dreams was song-for-song the best record of 2009. So what's the hold-up with their long-promised album, Aloha Moon? Label shenanigans, mayhap. Album ETA: spring 2011.
White Lies: A post-punk revival band in the vein of Interpol and Editors, these natty British pups made the festival rounds in 2009, supporting their debut album, To Lose My Mind, which hit number one in Ol' Blighty. Will the band fine-tune its darkly theatrical sound to mimic that success in the U.S.? Their follow-up disc, Ritual, looks to get a big push from the band's label, Fiction. Album ETA: January 2011.
Fleet Foxes: Singer-guitarist Robin Pecknold has been talking about a follow-up album since the Seattle chamber-pop outfit's self-titled debut dropped to giddy critical praise in 2008. Initially, they were thinking 2009. Then it was latter-half 2010. Assuming the band makes its current 2011 target date, Pecknold promises the album — tentatively titled Deepwater Horizon — will be "less poppy, less upbeat, and more groove-based" than the first album. Uh, might want to talk with MGMT about that. Album ETA: summer 2011.
Japandroids: Hailed for their elaborate and energetic live shows — at one point, they toured with a wind machine — this Canadian garage-rock duo loves, loves, loves the road. That's great for their fans, but it also means that guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse (also the name of the guy who wore the Darth Vader outfit in the Star Wars flicks, by chance) leave themselves scant time to write and record. Though their Post-Nothing debut made every year-end 2009 "Best of" list from Pitchfork (number 15) to Spin (number 16), they won't be hitting the studio until sometime next year. In the meantime, they've released a compilation album (No Singles). Album ETA: 2012.