December is usually a quiet time for music — not including the endless onslaught of Slade, Mariah and Bublé, of course — with the album release cycle gently winding to a close before it springs back into life in the new year.
That said, there are still a few gems set to appear this month. Aside from arguably the UK’s biggest rock band releasing a new live album, there are EPs, compilations and retrospectives to look forward to.
There’s also the small matter of one of the most famous living musicians releasing a long-awaited follow-up, more than four decades after the last.
Here are the new music releases you need to know about in December.
Arctic Monkeys — Live At The Royal Albert Hall (December 4)
Back in the summer of 2018, just as they were kicking off their Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino tour, Alex Turner and the gang stopped off for a show at the Royal Albert Hall. This 20-track, career-spanning live album is taken from that night. It’s a welcome reminder of what a massive live gig is like, and all proceeds will go to the War Child UK charity.
Yungblud — Weird! (December 4)
Doncaster’s alt-pop-punk sensation is back with his second album. He’s described the release as sounding “like an episode of Skins” — so expect lots of adolescent angst packaged up in Yungblud’s own distinct style, mixing throwback sounds with a keen pop sensibility.
Khruangbin — Late Night Tales (December 4)
This is the latest addition to the Late Night Tales series, a series of compilation albums that collate songs best experienced during the wee hours. Previous curators have ranged from Agnes Obel to Four Tet, and now it’s the turn of Texas psych-funk outfit Khruangbin. Expect South Korean rock, Soviet folk and more.
The Avalanches — We Will Always Love You (December 11)
Best known for their 2000 album Since I Left You, which featured something close to 3,500 samples, Aussie duo The Avalanches are returning with their third full-length. Proving they’ve still got a penchant for variety, this one will feature a glittering cast of contributors: Blood Orange, Johnny Marr, Karen O, MGMT, Neneh Cherry, Jamie XX and more.
James Blake — Covers EP (December 11)
James Blake has also been a bit of dab hand at covers — his 2011 version of Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You was a spellbinding take on the original. He’s been posting covers online during lockdown, and now he’s dropping an EP of his favourites, including a reworked recording of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.
The Kills — Little Bastards (December 11)
A deep dive for fans of Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, this album will gather a wide-ranging collection of B-sides and rarities as The Kills. The tracks date from their first 7-inch singles in 2002, up until 2009. It’s all been newly remastered, and some of the songs will be pressed onto vinyl for the first time ever.
Lanterns on the Lake — The Realist EP (December 18)
For many, the Newcastle group’s Mercury Prize nomination earlier this year was the first introduction to their work. They’re following up on that wave of interest with this five-track EP, led by the eponymous lead single, a lush and swaying song that didn’t make it onto their Spook The Herd album.
Nilüfer Yanya — Feeling Lucky? EP (December 11)
West Londoner Nilüfer Yanya’s upcoming three-track EP is all about how the things out of our control are the things that control us. A timely release, then. Lead single Crash is a chunky, fuzzy stomp, inspired by Yanya’s growing anxiety each time she boarded a plane while touring.
Hayley Williams — Petals for Armor: Self-Serenades EP (December 18)
Hayley Williams stepped away from her role as the lead singer of Paramore earlier this year with Petals for Armor, her debut solo full-length. It was a great success, versatile and progressive, and now she’s releasing acoustic versions of two album tracks on this new EP. There’s a brand new song, Find Me Here, too look forward to as well.
Paul McCartney — McCartney III (December 18)
It’s been a long time coming — 40 years, 7 months, 2 days to be precise — but now Sir Paul is finally going to deliver that third installment of his self-titled McCartney trilogy. It was written and recorded during lockdown, with Macca playing pretty much every instrument. It’ll be fascinating to see where one of the all time great songwriters takes us next.