As the last jingling echoes of Christmas carols gratefully fade away, it's the perfect time to look forward to 2012, which is already shaping up to be a momentous year in music, with enough reunions, debuts, comebacks and rumors already announced to carry listeners through until Bublé starts boozily singing about silver bells yet again. To help kick things off, here are some notable names to watch out for in the New Year:
1. Reunited (and it feels so profitable): Recent weeks have seen both the Beach Boys and now Van Halen put aside years (and in the case of Brian Wilson, decades) of bad vibes to announce massive reunion tours in 2012. Details are scarce, but the lineups are as strong as they are ever likely to get (Wilson, Love, and Jardine for the Boys; Van Halen: no Michael Anthony, but also, no Hagar. Diamond Dave scissor kicks for all!).
2. The Elder Statesmen: Not to be outdone by their geriatric peers, Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen are both releasing albums in 2012. As Rod Stewart did before him, the ageless Sir Paul is turning to standards for a jolt of nostalgia, but also plans two new tracks. Springsteen and his E Streeters, still mourning the loss of the Big Man, have announced both a tour and album (as yet untitled) for the coming year. Safe bet: they are playing Jersey.
3. Harlem Heat: Two names to look out for in 2012 both hail from uptown. The torrid talents of A$AP Rocky and Azealia Banks have laid the groundwork for an explosive year in hip hop, with late-2011 releases of a critically acclaimed mixtape ("LiveLoveA$AP") and a gleefully raucous track ("212"), respectfully, as their calling cards for success.
4. Hype Machine: Since the release of her first single "Video Games," the blonde, laconic singer Lana Del Rey has become the Tim Tebow of the music scene, a passable talent inspiring passionate arguments about her authenticity. Her proper album "Born to Die" will release on Jan. 31, but first is a Jan. 14 appearance on "SNL," sure to inspire an online tsunami of snark and rebuttal.
5. Arena Rock: Following in the knowing footsteps of the "Twilight" series, the soundtrack for the first "Hunger Games" film will be produced by T Bone Burnett ("Crazy Heart," "O Brother, Where Art Thou?") and features new and unreleased tracks by The Decemberists, Arcade Fire, and Taylor Swift, whose Civil Wars collaboration "Safe & Sound" has already shot to the top of the iTunes singles charts.
6. Brooklyn's Finest: Swathed in rusty waves, the massive bulk of the Barclays Center now sits at the Atlantic Terminal hub, mere yards away from 560 State Street, the former residence of one Shawn Carter, a.k.a. Jay-Z. With the center's opening currently scheduled for the Brooklyn Nets 2012 season, the rapper (and minority team owner) is planning a run of September shows to kick off the new era with a pageant of BK pride.
7. Space Cadets: Aficionados of ultra-chilled 90's music will realize new opportunities to nod off on the subway while listening to upcoming releases by French downbeat duo Air (Feb. 7), woozy Californians Mazzy Star (TBD) and the cosmic Brits of Spiritualized (Mar. 19).
8. G.O.O.D. Mob: Kanye West is said to be marshalling the prodigious forces of his G.O.O.D. Music label for a group effort that certainly won't lack for attention. Pusha T has reportedly already recorded 4 tracks, and with a roster rounded out by Big Sean, John Legend, and Kid Cudi, among others, it could be something spectacular.
9. Roman Candle: It's been over a year since her debut "Pink Friday" was released, but the ubiquitous Nicki Minaj is still riding the wave. Set for a Valentine's Day release, her follow-up ("Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded") should keep the pop radio hopper filled with triple-A grade audio insanity at least through the summer.
10. The Kids are OK: The year of the supposed Mayan apocalypse will also feature new albums from Justin Bieber (TBD) and Willow Smith (Apr. 3). Coincidence? Absolutely.
Wait for it
These are just a sampling of the other big artists with releases planned for 2012:
50 Cent, Aerosmith, Busta Rhymes, Dr. Dre ("Detox," anyone?), Fleetwood Mac, Janelle Monáe, Madonna, No Doubt, Outkast, Rick Ross, Rufus Wainwright, The Shins, T.I., Tyler, The Creator