Sleater-Kinney – Little Rope

It seemed questionable whether Sleater-Kinney would ever record another album – their last, 2021’s Path of Wellness, attracted the usual critical acclaim but was marked by the departure of longstanding drummer Janet Weiss – yet here we are. Little Rope is likely to be a powerful, moving release: part of it was written and recorded in the wake of Carrie Brownstein’s mother and stepfather dying in a car accident.
19 January

The Smile – Wall of Eyes

The Smile – Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood and Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner – have thus far released two orchestrated singles from their forthcoming second album: Bending Heretic unexpectedly turned into a snarling guitar anthem; the title track was more misty and subdued. Expectations understandably run high.
26 January

Endlessly inventive … Margo Price
Endlessly inventive … Margo Price. Photograph: Alysse Gafkjen

Margo Price

It says something pretty damning about Nashville’s music industry that a country artist as great as Margo Price exists out of its sight, forced to make her way through non-country channels. Not that it seems to have hindered her. She is a fantastic singer-songwriter, her music endlessly inventive. These live shows should be a treat.
UK tour begins 26 January, Gorilla, Manchester

The Last Dinner Party – Prelude to Ecstasy

The most hotly tipped alternative rock band of 2023 – theatrical; given to encouraging fans to wear fancy dress to gigs; possessed of a striking frontwoman in Abigail Morris; a little indebted to Kate Bush and Sparks amid the distorted guitars; four rapturously received singles to date – release their much anticipated, James Ford-produced debut album.
2 February

Slowdive

The return of Slowdive is an example of how reputation can shift: derided in the early 90s as wispy latecomers to the shoegazing genre, their impressively experimental oeuvre has been burnished by time, their reformation has been greeted with something approaching rapture, and the audiences at their gigs are now bigger than in their heyday.
UK tour begins 16 February, Brighton Dome

L’Rain

Unique universe … L’Rain
Unique universe … L’Rain. Photograph: Alice Plati Pet Rock

Multi-instrumentalist Taja Cheek’s musical approach has attracted a lot of different descriptions, from shoegazing to what one website called “indie dad rock and experimental electronics”. The truth is that her last album, I Killed Your Dog, sounded exhilaratingly like someone creating their own unique universe: experimental but also melodic, witty, lo-fi, fragmented.
UK tour begins 19 February, Hug and Pint, Glasgow

Nadine Shah – Filthy Underneath

The ominous, Bo Diddley-esque thunder of lead single Topless Mother was a particularly appetising taster for Shah’s forthcoming fifth album, written in the wake of a series of traumatic incidents. If it’s anything like as good as its 2020 predecessor Kitchen Sink, it’s guaranteed to be great.
23 Feburary

Hurray for the Riff-Raff – The Past Is Alive

Singer-songwriter Alynda Segarra’s previous album as Hurray for the Riff Raff – a band, but one in which Segarra is the only constant member – was one of 2022’s delights: garlanded with praise, noticeably rockier than their previous folk-facing outings. Its follow-up is apparently inspired by “radical poetry, railroad culture and outsider art”. Intriguing.
23 February

Potter Payper

Smooth flow … Potter PayPer
Smooth flow … Potter PayPer. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

Potter Payper’s 2023 debut album, Real Back in Style, highlighted his place within the UK rap firmament: gravelly vocals – their gruffness at odds with his smooth flow – minimal beats, unflinching reflections on a disturbing past, broadsides at politicians and the failings of the criminal justice system.
UK tour begins 26 February, Limelight, Belfast

Say She She

Say She She’s 21st-century take on New York’s post-punk disco-not-disco sound – the kind of stuff that Ze Records released in the late 70s and early 80s – has been a dependable delight over the last few years. Their two albums to date have offered an embarrassment of funky, poppy, off-beam, spacey riches.
UK Tour begins 5 March, Komedia, Brighton

Sky Ferreira

Thrillingly distinctive … Sky Ferreira performing at Primavera Sound
Thrillingly distinctive … Sky Ferreira performing at Primavera Sound. Photograph: Xavi Torrent/WireImage

It’s now more than a decade since Sky Ferreira released her debut album Night Time, My Time, which unveiled an artist with a thrillingly distinctive, artily skewed take on pop. Its follow-up, Masochism, was supposed to come out in 2015; fans who flew a “Free Sky Ferreira” banner over her label Capitol Records are hopeful of her independence after the label removed her from their website. Presumably these gigs will feature said new material.
UK tour begins 19 March, TV Studio SWG3, Glasgow

Ghetts

Ghetts is one of UK rap’s most prodigiously gifted lyricists, and his slow-building success is founded not on pop accessibility but his talents as a born storyteller with a cinematic scope. His previous album came out in 2021; its follow-up, On Purpose, With Purpose, precedes these gigs.
UK tour begins 22 March, O2 Institute, Birmingham

Gossip – Real Power

Propulsive, jubilant … Gossip
Propulsive, jubilant … Gossip. Photograph: Cody Critcheloe

Incredibly, it is 12 years since Gossip last released an album. A tour to celebrate the 10th anniversary of 2009’s Music for Men led to a reunion with that album’s producer, Rick Rubin; what was a projected Beth Ditto solo album became Real Power, which promises propulsive rock and jubilant disco.
22 March

Black Pumas

You could describe Black Pumas as classic soul revivalists, but their two albums to date have sounded too fresh, too sparkling for the retro tag to fit: vocalist Eric Burton is frankly amazing, and not for nothing has their live show been described as “electric church”.

UK tour beings 23 March, O2 Victoria Warehouse Manchester

Thundercat

It’s been a while since he last released an album – the superb, star-studded It Is What It Is – but, off the back of his fantastic 2023 collaboration with Tame Impala, No More Lies, Thundercat returns to the UK, touting his idiosyncratic take on psychedelic jazz-infused funk, the line-up of gigs including a four-night residency at London’s Koko.

UK tour begins 25 March Glasgow O2 Academy

Jalen Ngonda

The real deal … Jalen Ngonda
The real deal … Jalen Ngonda. Photograph: Rosie Cohe Photo

One of 2023’s real finds: a UK-based, US-born soul singer blessed with a voice that’s equal parts Marvin Gaye and David Ruffin and writes killer songs to boot. His debut album Come Around and Love Me is great; live, it’s even more evident that Ngonda is very much the real deal.

UK tour begins 15 April Brighton Concorde 2

Sampha

A huge one-off London show in the wake of Sampha’s unexpected but triumphant comeback. Arriving six years after his Mercury prize-winning debut, Lahai was one of 2023’s highlights, as rich and rewarding a musical account of a writer’s block-fuelled existential crisis as you could wish to hear.

26 April London Alexandra Palace

Lil Yachty

Artistic shift … Lil Yachty
Artistic shift … Lil Yachty. Photograph: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Lil Yachty executed a remarkable artistic shift in 2023: from purveyor of featherweight, TikTok-friendly “bubblegum trap” to releasing the critically acclaimed Let’s Start Here, on which hip-hop collides with psychedelic soul, Pink Floyd-influenced interludes and atmospheric shoegazey rock. How he squares the two polarities of style onstage remains to be seen.

UK tour begins 29 April London OVO Arena Wembley

Olivia Rodrigo

The solitary artist to join the upper echelons of multi-million-selling pop in recent years brings her second album, the chart-topping pop-punk influenced Guts – its contents designed, she says, for “people to be able to scream in a crowd” – on tour: expect scenes of frothing, angsty teen pandemonium.

UK tour begins 3 May, Manchester Co-op Live

From England’s Dreaming to 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded, Jon Savage’s books are always a treat. Weighty, meticulously researched histories packed with super-sharp original analysis, they invariably shed new light on their subjects. His take on queer culture’s impact on pop has been a long time coming, but will almost undoubtedly be worth the wait.
6 June

Classical and opera

Elektra

Though he will be returning to Covent Garden to conduct further instalments of The Ring, Antonio Pappano’s final new production as the Royal Opera’s music director is Christof Loy’s new staging of Strauss’s caustic tragedy. Nina Stemme takes the title role, with Sara Jakubiak as Chrysothemis, and Karita Mattila as Clytemnestra; Lukasz Goliński is Orestes.
12-30 January, Royal Opera House, London

Bryce Dessner premiere

Artist-in-residence at the Southbank Centre this season, Alice Sara Ott joins the Philharmonia to give the UK premiere of the piano concerto written for her by composer and guitarist Bryce Dessner. Elim Chan conducts, and the programme also includes Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.
15 February, Royal Festival Hall, London

Song from the Uproar

Uk premiere … Missy Mazzoli
Uk premiere … Missy Mazzoli. Photograph: Marylene Mey

The climax of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Total Immersion day devoted to the music of Missy Mazzoli is the UK premiere of her 2012 multimedia chamber opera. Subtitled The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt, it explores in music and film the extraordinary experiences of the early 20th-century traveller; Sofi Jeannin conducts the BBC Singers and members of the BBCSO, with mezzo soprano Kitty Whately as Isabelle.
25 February, Barbican, London

Big Bruckner Weekend

Performances of Bruckner’s symphonies will no doubt abound during his bicentenary year; the Royal Northern Sinfonia offers the opportunity to experience three of them in three days. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Hallé and the BBC Scottish Symphony bring the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Symphony respectively, while the Sinfonia and its chorus perform Bruckner’s great F minor Mass over a weekend.
1-3 March, The Glasshouse, Gateshead

Death in Venice

Tenor Mark Le Brocq is Gustav von Aschenbach, with Roderick Williams in the multiple baritone roles, Alexander Chance as the Voice of Apollo and Antony César as Tadzio, in Welsh National Opera’s new production of Benjamin Britten’s final opera, which is based upon Thomas Mann’s novella. Olivia Fuchs directs and Leo Hussain conducts.
7 & 9 March, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, then touring to 11 May

Time and Tides

Director and soloist … violinist Pekka Kuusisto
Director and soloist … violinist Pekka Kuusisto. Photograph: Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Violinist Pekka Kuusisto joins the Scottish Chamber Orchestra as director and soloist. Their programme frames the UK premieres of Anna Clyne’s violin concerto Time and Tides, and Helen Grime’s It Will Be Spring Soon, in which Kuusisto is joined by soprano Ruby Hughes, with works by Erkki-Sven Tüür and Einojuhani Rautavaara.
13 March, Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews; 14 March, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh; 15 March, City Halls, Glasgow

Simon Boccanegra

One of the highlights of Mark Elder’s final season as music director of the Hallé is a concert performance of one of Verdi’s greatest operas. Elder conducts the orchestra, together with the chorus of Opera North, in the rarely heard original 1857 score of Simon Boccanegra; Igor Golovatenko is Boccanegra, Eleonora Buratto Amelia and Iván Ayón-Rivas Gabriele Adorno.
18 April, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Vespers of the Blessed Earth

Introducing an epic … conductor Ludovic Morlot
Introducing an epic … conductor Ludovic Morlot. Photograph: Lawrence K Ho/LA Times/Getty Images

In 2016 the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra gave the UK premiere of John Luther Adams’s outstanding Become Ocean, and they now introduce another epic Adams score, again conducted by Ludovic Morlot. Vespers of the Blessed Earth is a 50-minute choral celebration of the natural world, its landscapes and the sounds of the birds that inhabit them.
6 June, Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Aldeburgh festival

Judith Weir and Unsuk Chin are the featured composers at Aldeburgh this summer. The festival opens with a new staging of Weir’s opera Blond Eckbert. and also includes the first performance of her Second String Quartet. There are the UK premieres of two works by Chin, while cellist Alban Gerhardt and pianist Steven Osborne recreate the historic recital given in 1961 by Mstislav Rostropovich and Benjamin Britten.
7-23 June, various venues, Suffolk

Wagner’s Ring

Wagner has been the raison d’être of Longborough festival since it began in 1991, and though it spreads its operatic net much wider now, those operas, and The Ring especially, remain at its core. This year it presents its second complete staging of the tetralogy, directed by Amy Lane; as before the conductor of the three cycles is Anthony Negus, with Paul Carey Jones as Wotan, Lee Bisset as Brünnhilde and Bradley Daley as Siegfried.
16 June-9 July, Longborough, Moreton-in-Marsh



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