Divination in the ancient world was the job of people who commanded as much fear as respect, and were often not believed and were sometimes killed when their words didn't match what fate and the gods had in store. I don't have to dig around in sheep entrails to tell you a few things that will almost certainly happen in the New Year, and a few others that should (or shouldn't).
Four in the bag
Leonard Cohen returns in January with a new disc called Old Ideas, proving once again that our unofficial poet laureate's charm is grounded in self-deprecation. Mark Lanegan Band launches Blues Funeral in February, eight long years after the gravel-voiced doom rocker's underrated (and poorly named) Bubblegum disc. Also in February, alt-country chameleon Kurt Wagner leads Lambchop back to the table with Mr. M, and Montreal indie rockers Plants and Animals return with The End of That. Many other discs are coming, along with regular predictions of the CD's demise, but experience has shown that release dates are as changeable as the moon, though far less predictable.
Said to be on the way
We all seem to have a favourite band that broke up with a bang or a sigh, but lives on as the focus of hints about a reunion tour or album. The Fugees, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin – can we just agree now that these people are quits, for good? Outkast, however, has shown real signs of reanimation lately, with strong indications that Andre 3000 and Big Boi will cease their wayward ways and rejoin for another disc from the great Atlanta rap duo later in 2012.
The name's Saariaho, Kaija Saariaho
We're approaching high noon in Canada for contemporary Finnish music, as Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's New Music Festival and the Canadian Opera Company prepare to fete Kaija Saariaho, a celebrated figure in European music. It will be interesting to see whether the WSO and COC can jack up her profile here quickly enough to sell all the seats reserved for her music – especially the 16,000 seats booked for the COC's eight-show run in February of her luminous 2000 opera, L'Amour de loin, in a 2009 production by Cirque de Soleil director Daniele Finzi Pasca.
The way up and the way down: Black Keys & Arctic Monkeys
Opening for the red-hot Black Keys must feel like a bit of a come-down for Arctic Monkeys, who were the biggest new rock bands in the world after their debut disc landed in 2006. Or is it just that the concert business is temporarily too frail for the polar primates to front their own stadium tour? Either way, it's double fun for everyone, as the two-band pairing arrives at Montreal's Bell Centre (March 13) and Toronto's Air Canada Centre (March 14).
What we need:
Signs of life from Remy Shand. 2012 will mark the 10th anniversary of Shand's debut album, The Way I Feel, which sold like crazy, got four Grammy nominations and made Winnipeg a new home of sweet-and-steamy soul music. Within a year, Shand had dropped from sight, with a wave of the hand and a promise for a new album soon. Ten years later, it's time we sent a search party after this dude, with dogs. Also: Some Canadian opera at the Canadian Opera Company. Or at least we could use a signal that the country's biggest, richest producer of music drama intends to produce something in its six-year-old theatre that was actually made here. No, it's not easy, but yes, it's absolutely necessary.
What we don't need:
Over a year since Roger Waters's The Wall Tour Live is still rolling on, with eight Canadian dates in May and June and enough after that to fill out the summer. The spectacular show has been well-received, but is a disturbing symptom of the whole bovine, four-stomachs-of-nostalgia phenomenon, according to which any album that was big decades ago must be regurgitated, remastered, expanded and played out in grand multimedia splendour. Done to death, more like it. Can we move on, please? That and more botox, plastic surgery and steroids in music recording. I'm talking about all the nasty nips and tucks with pitch-correction software and other synthetic twiddly-bumps that have bounced the human voice off the radio and replaced it with the cooing of androids. Ugly, ugly! Computerized pitch correction is art corruption, plain and simple.