Rock and pop highlights of 2015: From Bob Dylan to Nicki Minaj

Your guide to the albums that will provide the soundtrack to the year

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The Decemberists: ‘What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World’

The Decemberists’ first album in four years marks a shift away from the conceptual approach of previous recordings, with songwriter Colin Meloy indulging his more introspective inclinations. A new, more grandiose sound is also promised, apparently based on Leonard Cohen’s Spector-produced Death of a Ladies Man.

Rough Trade, 19 January

Mark Lanegan Band

The most intriguing performance prospect of a fairly docile January is the arrival of the Mark Lanegan Band for a clutch of shows in support of the recent masterly album Phantom Radio. Expect soul-ravaged blues fatalism as Lanegan confronts dark memories and apocalyptic visions with apparent sangfroid, his baritone croon traversing soundscapes of chugging electropop, spiralling guitars and courtly pop melancholy.

UK tour from January 20

Bob Dylan: ‘Shadows in the Night’

An album on which Dylan sings Sinatra, a performer in whose voice he claimed to hear “death, God, the universe, everything”. He’s eschewing the usual swaddling orchestrations in favour of relaxed small-combo versions, recorded with his own band. They’re not cover versions, he explains: “They’ve been covered enough. Buried, as a matter of fact. What me and my band are basically doing is uncovering them. Lifting them out of the grave and bringing them into the light of day.”

Columbia Records, 2 February

The War on Drugs

2014’s breakout US indie band will arrive for a string of British dates. Songwriter/frontman Adam Granduciel’s blending of Dylanesque vocals, stadium-pop melodies and guitar drones should appeal to fans of Neil Young and My Bloody Valentine alike, and these shows offer the perfect opportunity to check whether they’re as loud and overbearing as Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek claims in his amusing song “War on Drugs: Suck My Cock”. Thankfully, music is big enough to accommodate both.

UK tour, from 16 February

The Jesus and Mary Chain

Having bowed to the demand to perform their debut Psychocandy in its entirety – a move that places them firmly in the rock-heritage classicist ranks, rather than the punk-nihilist cadre of their original 1980s inception – the re-formed Mary Chain take their sweet white whine around the country. Expect: great tunes; loud feedback. Don’t expect: a revolution.

UK tour, from 16 February


Having finally completed the modestly titled Black Messiah, his follow-up to 2000’s Voodoo, reclusive soul legend D’Angelo is suddenly scheduled to tour the UK in February – though we’ve heard that all before, without any fulfillment, so it’s probably best not to arrange your diary around his proposed dates just yet. If he does make the stage, can it possibly live up to a decade and a half’s expectations?

UK tour, from 17 February

The Pop Group: ‘Citizen Zombie’

Returning, like some league of downbeat super-antiheroes, to fight the venality and corruption of modern life with their avant-punk-jazz-funk tirades, The Pop Group confirm that it is possible to retain the sternest of musical and political principles for more than three decades. Their secret weapon on the new Citizen Zombie album, though, is hot producer Paul Epworth, who will hopefully bring bullet-hard impact to their scarified sound.

Freaks R Us, 21 February

Nicki Minaj

Initial reaction to Nicki Minaj’s new album The Pinkprint is mixed, but however its more assertively autobiographical songs transfer to the live arena, bangers like “Want Some More” and “Anaconda” suggest that her upcoming shows should pack some punch. And the flamboyant diva can surely be relied on to put on a show. But what will be the colour-scheme? Think pink.

UK tour, from 28 March