Pop music stays warm in indoor spaces in the early parts of the year, hunkering down in cozy clubs and theaters.
The chronologically arranged mix of shows and albums that follows includes a number of highly anticipated releases - by Beck, Lorde, St. Vincent - that don't have official dates yet. Pop music is very secretive these days, with the element of surprise paramount. Fans are hoping that sometime in 2017, new music will arrive from Kendrick Lamar, Haim, Taylor Swift, Kanye West, and others, but that info is kept close to the vest in order to maximize the marketing aspect of the big reveal.
Meanwhile, there are many more noteworthy shows on the way than those detailed below. Philly rapper Meek Mill plays the Wells Fargo Center on Feb. 10, and the South Philly arena is busy with Red Hot Chili Peppers (and opener Trombone Shorty) on Feb. 12 and 13, Ariana Grande on March 1, and Bon Jovi on March 31.
At the Electric Factory, 1980s Brit crooner Rick Astley sings on Feb. 11, Swedish pop siren Tove Lo arrives on Feb. 20 and Mastodon and Eagles of Death Metal are parts of a hard-edge outdoor parking lot show on May 6. Philly rocker Dave Hause does the Boot & Saddle on Feb. 22, and Diet Cig are there on April 6. The Ardmore Music Hall plays host to Canadian songwriter Rose Cousins on Feb. 9 and Son Volt on April 5.
Rickie Lee Jones and Madeleine Peyroux team up at the Scottish Rite Auditorium on March 3, Los Lobos do the Sellersville Theater on March 5, Drive-By Truckers are at World Cafe Live at the Queen on April 20 in one of the final shows before the venue is rebooted as just the Queen, and Buddy Guy plays the blues at the Borgata in Atlantic City on April 29.
Noname (March 1, World Cafe Live). Chicago is a hotbed of fearlessly creative hip-hop. Add Fatima Warner (a.k.a. Noname) to the Chance the Rapper-headed list of rising stars. Last year, she released her promising debut, Telefone, and guested with Chance on both his Coloring Book album and on Saturday Night Live.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (March 2 and 3, Johnny Brenda's; new album The Tourist on sale Feb. 24). Conshohocken's Clap Your Hands Say Yeah leader Alec Ounsworth led the band on a 10th anniversary tour of their blog-buzz breakthrough self-titled debut in 2015. Now, the singer-guitarist is back with his fifth album, sparked by the tightly coiled lead single "Fireproof" and a tour that kicks off in Philadelphia.
Thundercat (March 4, Union Transfer, Drunk). Monster funk-jazz-hip-hop bassist Thundercat's third album, on sale Feb. 24, will feature guest appearances by many of the luminaries whose work he has contributed to, including Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington, Pharrell, Wiz Khalifa, and Flying Lotus, plus a smooth-as-silk Yacht Rock excursion called "Show You the Way" with Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald.
Strand of Oaks (March 10, Union Transfer). Chestnut Hill's Tim Showalter returns with Hard Love, the rocked-out, heart-on-its-sleeve "hedonistic" follow-up to his 2014 breakthrough album, HEAL. He revels in the transporting power of music in the lead single "Radio Kids" and stretches out expansively on "Taking Acid and Talking to My Brother." Album on sale Feb. 17.
Sting (March 11, the Fillmore). Last year, Tom Petty reunited with his pre-Heartbreakers band Mudcrutch and left arenas behind for a relatively intimate club show in Fishtown. Now, the former Police man born Gordon Sumner is following suit, touring behind 57th and 9th, his uneven 2016 return to pop music-making, with a club tour of cozier venues than those he is accustomed to.
Magnetic Fields (March 15 and 16, Union Transfer; new album 50 Song Memoir on sale March 3). Stephin Merritt is at his best when most task-oriented. The New York songwriter's signature achievement with his Magnetic Fields project remains 69 Love Songs, his truth-in-titling 1999 opus. He's back with another ambitious undertaking, a five-volume autobiographical collection with one song for each year of his life.
Amy Helm (March 15, 22, and 29, MilkBoy Philly). Before putting out her solo debut, Didn't It Rain, in 2015 - which contains the final performances of her drumming father, Levon - Amy Helm established Americana bona fides with the roots quintet Ollabelle. As winter turns to spring, she and her quartet will go on an East Coast residency tour, playing single shows three weeks in a row in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.
Jens Lekman (March 17, Union Transfer; new album Life Will See You Now on sale Feb. 17). On his 2015 Postcards project, the Swedish songwriter released a song a week for a full year. Some of those tunes made it onto the playful, electronic-flavored Life Will See You Now, which he's described as "an existentialist record about seeing the consequences of your choices."
Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood (March 25, Wells Fargo Center). Nineties country-pop megastar Brooks' 2000 retirement turned out to be an unkept promise: By 2009, he and his country singer wife Yearwood were regular performers at the Wynn casino in Las Vegas. It's only been since his 2014 comeback album, Man Against Machine, however, that Brooks has returned to touring in earnest, and this is his first arena date in Philadelphia since 1998.
Big Thief/Palehound (March 26, Johnny Brenda's). This Brooklyn band led by songwriter-guitarist Adrienne Lenker released one of the best, most underappreciated albums of 2016 in Masterpiece, a collection of acutely observed, deeply felt songs recommended to fans of literate rock and roll everywhere. Strong double bill with opener Palehound, the rock project of Boston songwriter Ellen Kempner.
Lionel Richie/Mariah Carey (March 28, Wells Fargo Center). The ebb and flow of pop music fortune is apparent on this arena pop bill. Last year, former Commodores leader Richie won lifetime achievement awards from the Grammys and songwriters Hall of Fame and came to mind whenever Adele sang "Hello." Meanwhile, Carey's downward trend continued with the sound-system malfunction that marred her New Year's Eve TV performance. She's using a support slot with super-professional headliner Richie to get her career back on track.
Tinariwen (April 18, Union Transfer; new album Elwan on sale Feb. 10. The Tuareg desert-blues trance-music kings return with an album (whose title translates as "Elephants") exploring ideas of the endless road and memories that get made and erased along the way. Recorded in the Mojave Desert and Morocco, and including a guest appearance by Philadelphia guitarist Kurt Vile.
The xx (May 19, the Mann). The British trio of Oliver Sim, Romy Madley Croft, and Jamie Smith pulled off the coolest concert-tour announcement ever when they mailed tickets to fan-club members for shows they didn't know were happening. The chilled-out, transfixing group is touring behind their-more-fleshed-out-than-usual I See You.
The Weeknd (May 19, Boardwalk Hall). The high-haired Toronto pop star born Abel Tesfeya headlined Made in America in 2015 while breaking big with his 50 Shades of Grey-fueled "I Can't Feel My Face," but he's not slated to return to Philadelphia on the tour for last year's Starboy. Instead, fans will need to plan a weekend with the Weeknd at the Shore when he brings his elastic voice and kinky inclinations to Atlantic City.
Ryan Adams, Prisoner. The prolific songwriter returns with his first album of original songs since he raised his profile with his 2015 song-by-song cover album of Taylor Swift's 1989. Early tracks suggest the album is a return to form, plus the deluxe boxed set version comes with 17 unreleased tracks on seven-inch vinyl and a model stage setup complete with action figures of Adams and his band. On sale Feb. 17.
Wesley Stace, Wesley Stace's John Wesley Harding. The new album by Philadelphia's multi-talented transplanted Englishman is the first by the songwriter and novelist to use both the moniker he was born with and the nom de rock stage name he used for the first two-plus decades of his career. Recorded with the Jayhawks, it shows that whatever he's calling himself, Stace remains a top-notch tunesmith and lyricist. On sale Feb. 24.
Jesus & Mary Chain, Damage and Joy. Scottish brothers Jim and William Reid of Jesus & Mary Chain haven't released an album since 1998. "Amputation," the first single from their comeback, suggests the band hasn't altered the layered feedback and guitar squall approach pioneered on their bracing 1985 Psychocandy debut. That's a good thing. On sale March 25.
Bob Dylan, Triplicate. For everyone who thought two albums of the craggy-voiced Nobel laureate interpreting the Great American Songbook weren't enough, here come three more. Dylan follows 2015's Shadows in the Night and 2016's Fallen Angels with this three-volume set of covers, many associated with Frank Sinatra. Funniest title: "It's Funny to Everyone But Me." Most unanswerable question: "Why Was I Born?" On sale March 31.
Father John Misty, Pure Comedy. When we last encountered Josh Tillman (a.k.a. Father John Misty), he was on stage at the Xponential Music Festival in Camden on the day after the Republican National Convention, questioning the value of entertainment in the face of real-world events. Expect that debate to continue on Pure Comedy, his likely-to-be pointedly funny follow-up to 2015's tender and intelligent I Love You, Honeybear. On sale April 7.
Ray Davies, Americana. The first album of new songs in nine years by the 72-year-old Kinks leader, the frontman of the most underrated of the four great first-generation British Invasion bands. Featuring backup from the Minneapolis band the Jayhawks - who also play on Wesley Stace's new album - Americana is a companion piece to Davies' 2013 memoir, Americana: The Kinks, the Riffs, the Road, the Story. On sale April 21.
Lorde. When Ella Yelich-O'Connor, the New Zealand singer known as Lorde, hit pay dirt with "Royals," the antimaterialist hit single from her debut album, Pure Heroine, she was just 16. Now 20, the global pop star who addressed fans in a recent "note from a newborn adult" is set to a return with an-as-yet-unnamed follow-up album that will test whether her thoughtful teen fan base is ready to grow up with her. No release date set.
St. Vincent. The Texas-born indie rock songwriter and feminist guitar hero recently appeared on the cover of Guitar World wearing a dress with a printed picture of a bikini on it to cheekily mock the publication's tradition of featuring scantily clad cover models posing amid music gear. The former David Byrne collaborator promised the magazine her 2017 album "will be the deepest, boldest work I've ever done." No release date set.
Beck. It stands to reason that the follow-up to 2013's Morning Phase - you know, the becalmed mood piece that irritated Kanye West by winning Grammy album of the year honors - will be an upbeat funk- or hip-hop-flavored party-starter. That's been the downer-followed-by-an-upper yin-yang pattern that the songwriter and collage artist has followed going back to the the early 1990s. No release date set.
Girlpool, Powerplant. The indie duo of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad's Before the World Was Big, which came out when the native Los Angeles band members were living in Philadelphia, was one of the most arresting releases of 2015. Sadly for us, the songwriters have since moved back to L.A., where they recorded this full-band follow-up that was supposed to be produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco but that Tucker and Tividad went ahead and recorded without him rather than wait around for his schedule to clear. No release date set.