45 Lost Albums We Want To Hear
Have you ever really stopped and thought about how intricate and difficult the process of making a successful album must be? There is, of course, the basic issue of inspiration. Every artist must wring something out from deep within themselves and try to make it cohere outside in the world, make it tangible enough that it communicates something to the listener — and even icons have their struggles with writer’s block. You might come up with seven or 10 brilliant compositions, but then still have nothing lyrically, or vice versa. And that’s just the writing. There are the players, the recording circumstances, the money, the ability or luck that results in a once-in-a-lifetime performance. While not quite on the level of, say, a major blockbuster production, it can be dizzying to consider the amount of factors that must fall into place for something as comparatively contained as an album to work. It’s a wonder we get as many great ones as we do.
There are also the great ones we don’t get. The ones that get stunted somewhere along the way, never having their chance to reach completion. There are the ones that get discarded, ones that get edged out and never see the light of day. Because there’s a whole other battle to be fought even once an album has been written and recorded: the battle of actually releasing it.
Pop history is littered with the albums that could’ve been, the albums we could’ve heard. Sometimes we call these “lost” albums, the works that never quite came into focus, that suggest some path not fully taken. Sometimes we simply call them “unreleased,” albums we know were supposed to exist and were supposed to materialize and yet were held back. A more aggressive term there could be “shelved,” albums seemingly complete and ready to be unveiled and subsequently met with a concrete decision that there was some reason they shouldn’t be.
There are as many possibilities for what that “reason” might be as there are permutations in the actual crafting of an album. Sometimes an over-eager artist begins talking up a new album as they are working on it, with a name and set of themes all figured out, only to run into creative burnout and abandonment of the project; on the other hand, sometimes new inspiration strikes in the moment and takes them to a totally new place, one necessitating they don’t look back and muddle the story. And while concerns of vision might be the more righteous cause for an album disappearing into the ephemera of time, more often it has to do with the bleaker realities of life, and of the music industry.
When it comes to a “shelved” album, the cause is almost always some kind of label or industry machinations — they receive the would-be Next Big Statement from a major artist and then recoil at the lack of singles, lament its lack of commercial viability, or even find it artistically misguided and request a re-do. You know those old stereotypes, “the Man” getting in the way of unfettered creative output. But sometimes those business or logistic decisions come from the artist, too. A band might go into implosion mode and break up before finishing their latest opus; they might dissolve and decide the story ends right there instead of offering one last swan song. In graver circumstances, artists have died in the midst of working on something that could have been great, leaving us to wonder not only what could’ve been in that moment but also in all the remaining years that never were.
Regardless of the cause, this is why the specter of the unreleased album is such an enticing one. They become a piece of lore, whether it’s the Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis collab that never happened or the tragedy of Dennis Wilson succumbing to alcoholism and eventually drowning during the recording of Bambu, thus not being able to follow-up his cult masterpiece Pacific Ocean Blue. Those are the more unfortunate cases of what could’ve been, but that same lure and mystery exists for projects with less dire conclusions. There’s something about the unheard that is always going to be exhilarating, the anticipation preceding discovery.
In hindsight, you could mull over the other avenues an artist could’ve traveled; the unreleased albums become the counter-narratives, the stylistic detours (or plateaus) that were traded for something different. People’s careers, in some cases, could have progressed entirely differently if a shelved album had been released instead of what did come out. There are all kinds of “What if?” games you can play, and it can dance towards fan fiction, but it’s also about digging into an artist’s career and seeing the connective tissue that happened in the backdrop, offscreen, hidden from fans for some time. And years down the line, whether an artist is still alive or not, the prospect of lost albums from their earlier days become something like a Holy Grail: the promise that there’s more totally finished music from one of the greats in their prime, waiting to sit alongside the classic albums you’ve already known for decades. Also, it should be noted, sometimes the labels and artists are right. Some lost albums were complete trash and didn’t deserve to be released.
You can never really say whether a lost album would’ve been great. It may have arrived at a high point in an artist’s career, but been put to the side for good reason. Still, this list is a collection of unreleased albums we’re at least interested in hearing — whether because of what unknown moment in an artist’s career they might represent, the work’s presumable quality, or out of sheer curiosity. It’s not an exhaustive list: There are always new lost albums being discussed, from old ’60s and ’70s legends through to contemporary artists.
We also have to put some parameters around what constitutes a “lost” or “unreleased” album, simple as it may seem. The last couple years have brought us the release of lost albums from the likes of John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. Later this week, Alan Vega’s lost ’90s album Mutator is coming out, while last week Duff McKagan released a lost album from his pre-Guns N’ Roses band, the Living. A lost 2010 Prince album is on the way in July. There’s always some leftover music from a deceased artist getting revisited and released, like Harry Nilsson’s Losst And Founnd in 2019. Meanwhile, some elder artists, like Neil Young, are constantly in the process of emptying out their vaults — Young’s Homegrown, probably one of the most sought-after lost albums in pop history, finally came out last fall. The last couple years have also brought us continuing delays for albums we’ve been awaiting for a long time already. The Wrens’ long-gestating followup to The Meadowlands and Sky Ferreira’s Masochism don’t quite count as lost albums just yet, because we’ve been getting incremental hints of them and the continuing promises that they are on the way.
You’ll also notice some notable albums missing from this list, perhaps most importantly Smile, the legendarily fraught Beach Boys recording. On the other hand, you might currently be thinking, “Didn’t Smile eventually come out?” And you would be right, sort of — some shelved albums resurface over and over in various forms, recorded with different personnel, as the decades roll on. We’re aiming to avoid lost albums that have since been thoroughly mined and repurposed, as Smile has; incidentally, former Beach Boy Dennis Wilson’s Bambu is disqualified too, as we’re avoiding lost or unfinished albums that have subsequently been released regardless of their state or the status of their creator.
There are always grey areas. Plenty of artists are known to talk up an upcoming release as if it’s more solidified than it really is. Sometimes you can’t quite discern how complete a project was, and sometimes it’s evident that there was a fully-formed album put on the shelf. Sometimes a couple songs get mined from an abandoned project; sometimes the album itself sort of morphs into the one that does come out. Given we’ve never heard these albums, given the mystery they are shrouded in, there’s an inherent lack of clarity in certain situations. In constructing this list, if we came across a lost/shelved/unreleased album that is on YouTube in fairly refined shape, we considered it ineligible for inclusion; we’re focusing only on albums that, as we understand it, have not leaked in their final form. It can get a bit murky, with something like Clipse’s erstwhile debut or Juliana Hatfield’s God’s Foot existing in seeming near-complete form on the internet, but something like Charli XCX’s XCX World being compiled by fans from a series of leaked tracks/singles, and presumably not representing the album the artist had been plotting originally.
That being said, this list is a collection of projects that at least supposedly existed in something approaching completion, that are formed enough that artists or other personnel have discussed their existence or their plausible release somewhere down the line. Some of them had even been in the process of being rolled out before getting pulled back into the shadows. We’ve heard songs from some of them, and for some we can only trust the words of the artist. But either way, each of these selections is a lost album that gets at some element of why we’re interested in these things in the first place. Each of these selections makes us want to know the rest of the story.
Jimi Hendrix – Black Gold (1970)
When Jimi Hendrix died, he left behind a lot of unreleased music. Much of that has been picked over and repackaged several times over in the five decades since, but there’s one recording fans are still waiting to hear: the Black Gold suite. Black Gold was intended as an ambitious concept album, Hendrix drawing on pieces of his own life within a song cycle that was to be accompanied by a superhero cartoon. Black Gold is all solo acoustic recordings made direct to tape; Hendrix had given them to Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell in a suitcase, left forgotten for decades. While some songs — “Drifting,” “Machine Gun,” “Stepping Stone” — appeared in other forms elsewhere, Black Gold seems to be one of the only pieces of Hendrix work that still has some new material. So far, it still hasn’t made it out into the world, despite Janie Hendrix stating way back in 2010 that a Black Gold release would happen by the end of the decade.
Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young – Human Highway (1973)
When Neil Young joined up with Crosby, Stills, & Nash, it resulted in the 1970 album Deja Vu, one of the great rock albums of its time. The group was as popular as it was combustible, and anticipation for a followup swelled through the early ‘70s, the same years when the four musicians were growing tired of each other. In 1973, they attempted to make a new album called Human Highway, and it never quite worked. For a few years, Human Highway lingered, but the four kept splintering off into duos or solo projects. Nearly 50 years later, many of the songs once intended for Human Highway were used by the respective writers on other albums, like when Young’s would-be title track eventually appeared on 1978’s Comes A Time. Just last year, one of Young’s archival releases included some material from these years, prompting Rolling Stone to provide a big deep dive into the tangled history of Human Highway if you want to learn more.
Pink Floyd – Household Objects (1974)
In 1973, Pink Floyd found massive success with Dark Side Of The Moon. Somewhat reeling from the reception of that album, they plotted something, um, different for its successor. Pink Floyd of course came from more experimental roots, and they initially planned to follow their biggest success to that point with an album called Household Objects, on which they would trade their instruments for, well, household objects like pencils and wine glasses. They never actually finished the project, or even necessarily got finished songs out of it depending on how you define “finished songs.” But some tracks appeared decades later in reissues for Dark Side and Wish You Were Here, the other classic album they wound up releasing after abandoning Household Objects. One of those tracks, “Wine Glasses,” was later folded into “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”
Paul McCartney – Hot Hitz / Cold Cuts (1975/1981/Late ’80s)
Back in 1975, Paul McCartney planned to release a casual album called Cold Cuts and/or Hot Hitz, collecting a few non-album singles with a bunch of outtakes, including both solo and Wings material. According to McCartney in 2019, the label wasn’t all that interested in “cold cuts,” and the project never came together. It was revisited in 1981 and again in the late ’80s, before McCartney decided to abandon it. Given that timespan, there are a ton of songs that were at some point considered for inclusion on Cold Cuts, and many of them later appeared on other albums or in some kind of archival fashion down the line. Whatever Cold Cuts would or could have been, it’s probably been harvested for parts to the point that it seems unlikely McCartney will ever return to the idea and compile a lost album of his ’70s/’80s work.
Neil Young – Chrome Dreams (1977)
For years, the lost Neil Young albums were a whole mythology unto themselves — there were so many that they almost formed a whole shadow discography to the one that already existed. Thanks to Young’s ongoing archival release series, some of the most hallowed lost albums of all time are no longer lost, like Hitchhiker and Homegrown, released just last year. A couple months ago, Young announced plans to release Johnny’s Island, a renamed version of his shelved early ‘80s album Island In The Sun. One album that remains unearthed is the original Chrome Dreams, which also still features some songs that haven’t appeared elsewhere since. Given that Young seems to be steadily making his way through all these abandoned projects, hopefully some day the work will be complete and we’ll get to hear Chrome Dreams and everything else that’s been waiting in the vault all these decades.
Matt Johnson/The The – Spirits (1979)
Matt Johnson has a bunch of unreleased The The albums, spread out through the decades. But there are some early notable ones, would-be debuts that never materialized. One of those is The Pornography Of Despair, which would’ve come out in 1982 but was shelved; Soul Mining became The The’s debut instead. Before that, in 1979, Johnson had another album called Spirits, which remains unreleased. While Soul Mining stands as a stunning debut in The The’s story, these early albums are intriguing, an as yet unheard portrait of Johnson figuring out his voice.
Marvin Gaye – Love Man (1979)
After the commercial disappointment of his 1978 divorce album Here, My Dear, Marvin Gaye decided he was going to push back against younger artists like Michael Jackson and Prince and reclaim his pop stature by going full disco on a planned 1979 album called Love Man. Gaye completed the album — there was even some very expensive artwork made for it — but he grew disillusioned with the material and the aim. These were tumultuous years for Gaye, beset by relationship and financial problems as he was falling deeper into addiction. You can find approximations of Love Man online, with a few of its songs having been reworked for 1981’s In Our Lifetime; even while trying to make a fun dance album, the anguish of Gaye’s life was coming through. He scrapped the album and turned his attention to what would become In Our Lifetime, which in turn wound up becoming the second to last album released while he was alive.
Bruce Springsteen – Electric Nebraska (Early ’80s)
Bruce Springsteen is one of those iconic artists who had a legendary run of albums at his peak and then made a whole lot of other music that, while it may have diluted the narrative if released at the time, is often of the same high quality as the classic albums that did see release. Springsteen fans have now learned over and over that there are whole other albums’ worth of songs surrounding Darkness On The Edge Of Town and The River and that Born In The U.S.A. could’ve been something like three or four completely different albums. For a while now, there have been rumblings that the latter would get an archival expansion treatment akin to its predecessors, and that collection would, in theory, include a Springsteen fan holy grail: the electric versions of Nebraska.
The existence of a full-band Nebraska was rumored for years, and Max Weinberg talked about it in more detail back in 2010, saying those sessions were “killing” and very “hard-edged.” Nebraska is, of course, iconic in its own right — a sparse and haunted album that had unexpected influence on generations of indie and lo-fi artists. Springsteen was right to scrap the band versions and go with the original demos. But at the same time, anyone who’s heard how the E Street Band interprets “Atlantic City” or “State Trooper” live has pictured this alternate version, where these songs are heavy and foreboding in a different way.
There are a lot of other abandoned projects in Springsteen’s history — another particularly intriguing prospect is the 1994 albums, one titled Waiting On The End Of The World and another that would presumably be the album Springsteen’s discussed that relied on loops and synths just as “Streets Of Philadelphia” and “Secret Garden” did at that time. In recent years, it seems Springsteen’s been deep in the mode of exhuming and finishing projects — Western Stars, like Devils And Dust before it, had roots in the ’90s — so along with the possibility of a Nebraska and Born In The U.S.A. boxset, hopefully we’ll get to hear all these albums in the coming years.
Prince & The Revolution – Dream Factory (1986)
Prince was basically unstoppable in the ’80s. He was insanely prolific, churning out classic albums and penning immortal pop songs for other artists. And there’s a ton of music we still haven’t heard from those peak years. In 1986, he was working on an album with the Revolution titled Dream Factory, intended as the followup to Parade. Instead, he started to rework the album for a planned triple album called Crystal Ball, which in turn was rearranged and cut down to eventually become Sign O’ The Times. (Another would-be 1986 album, Camille, was going to be a full project featuring Prince singing in falsetto and/or speeding up his vocals, and some of those songs were also repurposed for Sign O’ The Times or other projects.) You can find bootlegs of at least one iteration of Dream Factory, but it would be interesting if all the would-be classics of Prince’s ’80s get a proper presentation. Given the treasure trove of material Prince reportedly left in the vault and indications that much of this music would see the light of day after his death, perhaps it’s only a matter of time before we get to truly dig into Dream Factory and other abandoned projects.
Also in the late ’80s, Bonnie Raitt was apparently going to make an album with Prince. In a 2019 Billboard feature, one of Raitt’s managers says nobody felt like it was quite working at the time, and it seems they only cut a few songs — but the prospect of a Prince and Raitt collab is another curious possibility that would be interesting to hear.
Daniel Johnston – If (1996-2003, ’10s)
The legendary outsider musician Daniel Johnston basically stopped putting out music for the last 10 years of his life, though he did manage to tour amidst declining health. In April 2019, several months before Johnston’s death, Vulture published a lengthy profile focusing solely on a lost album of Johnston’s. Titled If, it was a collection of music taken from the era between 1996 and 2003, when Johnston and producer Brian Beattie were working on the material that would become Rejected Unknown and Lost And Found. At the time of Vulture’s piece, Beattie was back to visiting Johnston and trying to finish the material, but even then was already at odds with Johnston’s family and management. As of October 2019, it seemed legal difficulties and differences of opinion between Beattie and Johnston’s camp were still keeping the album in limbo.
Missing Beck Albums (’90s-’00s)
In certain stretches of his career, Beck has been not only creatively restless and shape-shifting but furiously prolific. Turns out we haven’t even heard the whole story yet. In recent years, he’s talked about a bunch of albums waiting in the vaults. One is apparently an electronic album from the ’90s influenced by Aphex Twin and Kraftwerk. When news of the 2008 Universal Studios warehouse fire broke in 2019, Beck expressed concern that several shelved projects of his might’ve been destroyed. One of those was a double album of solo Hank Williams covers recorded in 2001; another was an album he made with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in 1995. He also made reference to a country album he made in two days in Nashville, as well as rock albums from the ’90s — including one from before Odelay that he compared to Pavement and Sebadoh. While Beck worried all of this was gone forever, it later turned out that his losses in the fire were “minimal.” So hopefully he starts unveiling all these forgotten projects sometime soon.
The New Radicals’ Glut Of Unreleased Albums (’00s Onwards)
Just a few years into the existence of his project the New Radicals, Gregg Alexander scored a major hit with the eternal late ’90s jam “You Get What You Give.” But fame and playing frontman didn’t suit him, so Alexander disbanded the group before their second single even came out, meaning that their 1998 album Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too was their only one. Since then, Alexander has been busy, writing songs for other artists. He apparently also wrote and recorded as many as 10 New Radicals albums he had no intention of releasing. “Sting once said music is its own reward,” Alexander told Billboard in 2018. “In that context, it’s been its own reward for me. I still scheme sometimes about the idea of maybe putting records out. Maybe after I die, I’ll put them out every year.” New Radicals reemerged to play “You Get What You Give” as part of Joe Biden’s inauguration earlier this year — maybe next Alexander will finally decide to put out some of that music.
Seal – Togetherland (2001)
In the late ‘90s, Seal started working on what was meant to be his fourth album, Togetherland. It found him going in more of a club music direction, but the label wasn’t happy with it in the end. Instead, Seal went away and wrote Seal IV. Apparently he’s not such a big fan of Togetherland anymore either. In 2010, he tweeted that the album would “NEVER see the light of day while there’s blood in my veins.” It appears Seal fans should not be holding their breath for this one.
Zack De La Rocha’s Long-Gestating Solo Debut (’00s/’10s)
When Rage Against The Machine first broke up, Zack De La Rocha started work on music that would presumably kick off a solo career. At this point you know the story: De La Rocha has had various high profile collaborations, including early attempts at solo albums working with producers like DJ Shadow and Trent Reznor, but has yet to release a collection, instead going through long periods of reclusiveness, occasional guest verses, and Rage reunion tours.
One of the other producers De La Rocha was working with way back when was El-P. Apparently the two reconvened over the years; and, of course, all you need is Run The Jewels’ “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” to know how potent the combination of El-P’s noisy, muscular production and De La Rocha’s fiery rapping can be. In 2016, we at least got to hear one piece from their collaboration, the visceral “Digging For Windows.” When that song came out, El-P claimed the album was finished and coming out in 2017. The album has still not arrived, and given that Rage’s reunion tour (with Run The Jewels opening) has now been pushed back another year to spring 2022, it seems unlikely that De La Rocha is going to be releasing a lost solo album anytime soon.
Green Day – Cigarettes And Valentines (2003)
In 2003, Green Day were all set to followup 2000’s Warning with a new album called Cigarettes And Valentines. The album was pretty much complete, and supposedly found the band returning to a faster, punchier sound after some of the mellower/poppier elements of Warning. The master tapes were stolen from the studio, which led to the band deciding to scrap the project entirely rather than try and re-record it. This, in turn, led to the band making American Idiot — which, considering the towering achievements of that album, makes the whole Cigarettes And Valentines debacle something of a serendipitous situation for the band. They eventually recovered the tapes and revisited some of the material — some songs appeared as B-sides, the title track was performed live, and other tracks were theoretically harvested for new material. Maybe someday we’ll still get to hear the whole thing, intact, as it was intended back in 2003.
Peter Gabriel – I/O (Early/Mid-’00s)
Ever since his initial run of four self-titled solo albums, Peter Gabriel has taken his time between albums. Four years passed before the monumental So arrived in 1986, then six before Us in 1992, and then 10 before Up in 2002. As you can tell, the gaps keep getting longer and longer. Pretty much as far back as Up there has been talk of I/O. It was meant to be linked, and perhaps could have come out of the same history as Up; Gabriel apparently exited the ’90s with over a hundred songs he was whittling down to a few albums. As the years have yawned on, Gabriel’s changed his story about I/O — back in 2012, he was saying it was really a collection of unfinished song ideas. Who knows the state of I/O or any other prospective Gabriel release at this point. In recent years he’s made comments about having an album close to completion, or new songs nearly ready to see the light of day. For now, I/O remains lost, and it’s closing in on two decades since Gabriel’s released an album of original material.
Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Unreleased Album With John Frusciante (2004)
The first half of the ’00s were a productive time for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There was the great By The Way in 2002 and then Stadium Arcadium in 2006, a double album that had about a whole third disc’s worth in B-Sides. But in between, the band had recorded enough material for a whole other album. Some of these songs have crept out into the world — “Fortune Faded” and “Save The Population” to promote their greatest hits, “Rolling Sly Stone” and “Leverage Of Space” played live. In some ways, this was a peak era for the band — at least if you prefer the more melodic version of RHCP that resulted from Frusciante steering them a bit more in the ’00s. Especially during the years he was no longer in the band and the group lost its spark, it was easy to yearn for more material from that Frusciante-dominated late ’90s/’00s run. Now that he’s returned to the RHCP fold for a third time, chances are we’ll hear new music featuring Frusciante a lot sooner than the band will spend any time exhuming the rest of that 2004 material.
Dr. Dre – Detox (’00s)
Another one of the fabled, Chinese Democracy-style enigmas. After his blockbuster 1999 album 2001, Dr. Dre spent a lot of the ’00s producing other artists. But along the way he was also supposedly working on his third solo album, Detox. Various release dates floated around in the late ’00s, and every now and then someone who wasn’t Dr. Dre would show up in the news claiming Detox was finished. Given the enormous weight of expectations and Dre’s perfectionism, Detox never made it out into the world — he officially shelved it in 2015, before suddenly releasing Compton just a week later. While at the time he seemed to have moved on from the album entirely, now it looks like Dre may be returning to the project — or at least something under the name Detox. After suffering a brain aneurysm earlier this year, Dre was photographed in the studio, with Dem Jointz posting an Instagram that originally said “#Detox21.”
Roxy Music’s Reunion Album (Mid-‘00s)
At the beginning of the ’00s, art-rock heroes Roxy Music reunited to tour and celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band. Apparently it clicked, to the point that the group tried to make a reunion album in the mid-’00s. The sessions even involved Brian Eno, so this would have marked the first time Eno was on a Roxy Music album since 1973’s For Your Pleasure. At various points in the late ’00s and early ’10s, Phil Manzanera offered different takes on why it fell apart. At one point he said the band collectively decided to abandon the project because it wasn’t good enough, but he later alleged that work reached an impasse because Bryan Ferry couldn’t write lyrics. At this point, 10 years since Roxy Music have been active, it seems unlikely they’ll return to finish the material.
MF DOOM & Ghostface Killah – Swift & Changeable (2006)
Given the general layer of mystery that shrouded MF DOOM throughout his life, it’s hard to pinpoint the legitimacy of various lost projects. But one that seems real is his collaboration with Ghostface Killah, Swift & Changeable. The project dates back to 2006, when DOOM was producing some tracks for Ghostface’s Fishscale. DOOM teased it here and there through the years, but like other purported projects — such as a Madvillainy followup with Madlib — Swift & Changeable remains out there in the ether somewhere. Perhaps on some level that’s fitting for DOOM, to have all these mythologized projects lost to time. But of course, any new DOOM music would be welcome in the wake of his loss, and Swift & Changeable is a particularly enticing prospect. After all, we all know what DOOM was capable of when he linked up with another master of the craft.
Shirley Manson’s Solo Album (2008)
When Garbage were on hiatus in the second half of the ’00s, Shirley Manson set about working on a solo album, which reportedly featured a collaboration with Rivers Cuomo. But when she brought the material to her then-label Geffen, she was told it was “too dark.” “They wanted me to have international radio hits and ‘be the Annie Lennox of my generation,'” Manson told Vanity Fair in 2012. She and Geffen subsequently parted ways and she continued working on solo material, but also considered leaving the music industry behind entirely. Garbage reunited and released albums in the ’10s, and they have a new one on deck for 2021, so it seems Manson’s would-be solo stint has now been left behind.
Deftones – Eros (2008/2009)
In the late ’00s, Deftones were working on a new album called Eros, holding a fairly open process where they kept fans updated along the way. Recording halted after Chi Cheng’s tragic car accident left him in a coma. In the years immediately following, Deftones recruited Quicksand’s Sergio Vega to replace Cheng on bass and pivoted to writing a new album — one intended to be more optimistic. After Cheng’s death in 2013, talk of Eros has surfaced from time to time, even as the band has continued to focus on other projects. The album was about half done at the time of Cheng’s accident, and Chino Moreno has spoken about adding vocals to the remaining instrumentals. But last year, Abe Cunningham offered an update that the band wasn’t entirely satisfied with some of the material anymore, and mulled over the possibility of culling the Eros sessions down into an EP of the songs they felt still worked.
Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part 1 (2009)
Before Adam Yauch’s cancer diagnosis, Beastie Boys had planned a two-part album called Hot Sauce Committee. In 2009, they delayed Part 1 while Yauch battled cancer, and subsequently shelved it when Yauch passed away in 2012. In the interim, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two came out in 2011; it still stands as the final Beastie Boys album. Last year, during a Reddit AMA promoting Beastie Boys Story, Ad-Rock gave an update on the lost project, explaining that the “lost” designation is quite literal: “We lost it. We can’t find it. If we find it, we’re gonna try to work on it and put it out.” While fans keep their fingers crossed that Beastie Boys can locate their lost-harddrive-lost-album, Ad-Rock also hinted there’s a lot of other old, unreleased material that may yet see release.
Sunny Day Real Estate’s Unfinished Reunion Album (2009/2010)
When the beloved ’90s emo band Sunny Day Real Estate reunited to tour in 2009, there was talk of new material. The band got together to record, but depending on who you ask, there is either a bunch of unfinished material that never clicked or a great SDRE album hidden in the vault. In 2018, a clearly frustrated William Goldsmith — SDRE drummer and disgruntled former Foo Fighter — wrote he had been “reminded of the fact that the greatest Sunny Day Real Estate record ever made remains silenced, abandoned and buried within the murkiest depths of David Grohl’s sock drawer.” Goldsmith later admitted there were a lot of factors that led to the abandonment of a fifth SDRE album. In the meantime, his fellow SDRE members didn’t seem as confident about those sessions. Nate Mendel — Goldsmith’s SDRE bandmate, as well as the longtime bassist for the Foo Fighters — claimed in 2013 that the sessions just fell apart, and rejected Goldmsith’s story in 2018.
Black Thought – Dangerous Thoughts (Late ’00s)
When we interviewed Black Thought last year, there was talk of several projects the Roots MC had taken on outside the group, but never completed. While he’s now released a handful of Streams Of Thought EPs, there are things from the past left unfinished and unreleased, including a would-be project with Jim James. But otherwise, Black Thought also started working on an album with Danger Mouse almost 15 years ago, appropriately titled Dangerous Thoughts. As of last September, he seemed to think the project was wrapping up and might make it out into the world soon. “We revisited it over the past year and some change, and it’s pretty stellar,” he said then. “It’s one of my proudest moments.”
U2 – Songs Of Ascent (2009/2010)
Bono loves to talk about what U2 is working on, and as a result it can be hard to discern which paths the band fully ventured down and abandoned, and which endeavors were folded into the albums that eventually did come out. In the five-year stretch between No Line On The Horizon and Songs Of Innocence, the band was reportedly working on dance music with RedOne, doing sessions with Rick Rubin, and exploring a rock-oriented sound with Danger Mouse; at least in the case of the latter two, it’d seem we got Innocence and Experience. But all along the way there has still been Songs Of Ascent, an album Bono was talking about way back when No Line first came out.
At various times it’s been described as moodier, beautiful, more reflective — all rooted in their time in Fez, it was meant to be the strange Zooropa to No Line‘s intended Achtung Baby-style reinvention. Since No Line didn’t fully commit, hedging on its adventurousness, it’s easy to wonder whether Songs Of Ascent would’ve truly gone further. But for fans who are tired of U2’s more middle-of-the-road approach on latter-day albums, the prospect of Songs Of Ascent remains a glimmering hope of one more slightly experimental album from U2. The ghostly “Soon” hints at what could’ve been, though “Every Breaking Wave” eventually wound up on Innocence — with an unfortunate new chorus courtesy of working with Ryan Tedder. But the bones of that song and snippets like “Soon” suggest Songs Of Ascent could someday be the most alluring album U2 have made this century.
Noel Gallagher With Amorphous Androgynous (Early ’10s)
In the immediate wake of Oasis, Noel Gallagher was talking about solo plans and a promising collaboration with Amorphous Androgynous. The album was touted as an exploratory, far-out collection of songs that ranged from space-rock to krautrock. But instead we got the more straightforward High Flying Birds solo debut from Gallagher, and by the middle of the ’10s he was disowning the lost Amorphous Androgynous album. When we interviewed Gallagher in 2017, he was plain and upfront about it: He felt the project didn’t have good songs and “was a bit too psychedelic for its own good.” He also took most of the blame for the project stalling out, which AA’s Garry Cobain certainly echoed in a 2015 conversation with The Guardian.
Cobain detailed the whole process, from his initial excitement to eventual trepidation and disenchantment, and said while he remained open to collaborating with Gallagher in the future the former Oasis man had also become “too afraid to be weird.” While it seems the album was a circumstance of two different perspectives not quite clicking, what we have heard from it was promising — like the Chasing Yesterday track “The Right Stuff.” The Amorphous Androgynous collab is a particularly enticing counter-narrative in Gallagher’s solo years, allowing us to imagine what might happen if he pushed the boundaries of his songwriting. Unfortunately, it seems Gallagher’s dead set on never releasing or revisiting the material. He claims he was the only one with the masters, and that he destroyed them.
Q-Tip – The Last Zulu (Early ’10s)
For almost 10 years, Q-Tip has been planning a new solo album called The Last Zulu. The album seemed on the horizon in 2012, when Tip signed to G.O.O.D. Music with plans to release it. Along the way he’s released other projects — including A Tribe Called Quest’s brilliant swan song We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service — but The Last Zulu never seems to materialize despite recurring promises that it’s coming soon. One of those was in 2018. Then, last year, Q-Tip posted a video for his 50th birthday now promising three new albums — The Last Zulu, alongside other projects called Algorhythms and Riot Diaries. A year later, the wait continues.
Gwen Stefani’s Pre-Divorce Album (Early ’10s)
When Gwen Stefani released This Is What The Truth Feels Like in 2016, it had been almost an entire 10 years since her last solo album. In the interim, she reunited with No Doubt, and she worked on a big solo comeback with songwriters like Benny Blanco. Ultimately it seems Stefani wasn’t happy with the album, saying she hadn’t been as present in the process and that it felt “fake” to her. But her personal life also necessitated a new direction: After her tumultuous divorce from Gavin Rossdale, she instead turned to writing what would become This Is What The Truth Feels Like. While it seems obvious Stefani might not want to return to this time period, it also seems like that other solo album might be left unreleased for a while yet — she’s currently in the process of rolling out a new collection that seems to return to the fun, sometimes-goofy strain of pop music she excels in.
More Rap Music From The Black Keys (2010-2013)
In 2010, the Black Keys were becoming a much bigger, hotter name in the music ecosystem. People were catching on to them, and big names wanted to collaborate. At one point, they wound up beckoned to Malibu by Rick Rubin, who wanted them to jam with Billy Gibbons. While nothing came of that, the duo spent their nights across town in Eagle Rock making music with RZA. One of those songs, “Baddest Man Alive,” was used in RZA’s 2012 film The Man With The Iron Fists. When we interviewed Patrick Carney earlier this year, he mentioned “Baddest Man Alive” was one of eight or nine songs they made with RZA, but also claimed they weren’t all as complete and that the Black Keys would rather make something new if they were to join back up with RZA. These sessions were around the same era in which the Black Keys made Blakroc with Damon Dash and a whole host of famous MCs; while a sequel was supposedly in the works, Carney also remarked he wouldn’t be in a hurry to work with Dash again. Either way, if you’re a fan of when the Black Keys make rap music, there seems to be a good amount of it lost in the vaults.
Drake – It’s Never Enough (2011)
Back in early 2011, Drake was a young and exciting artist on the cusp of becoming an icon. While promising that the followup to So Far Gone was on the horizon, he was also teasing an R&B-leaning mixtape called It’s Never Enough, highlighting “I Get Lonely Too” as a favorite. Of course, Drake’s 2011 took a different turn, when he instead focused on the monumental turning point Take Care. In the 10 years since, there have been so many Drake loosies and mixtapes and sprawling albums. He became one of the central forces in pop music. There’s a ton of Drake music in the world, and he probably doesn’t have much reason to revisit his early days, with so many songs from this era floating around on the internet anyway. But this was also a year where Drake was operating at a very high level — and he has shown a willingness to canonize his early work in recent years, first bringing his So Far Gone mixtape to DSPs and then giving a bunch of his loosies an official release via the Care Package comp — so maybe there’s still hope yet for It’s Never Enough. If there’s anything left from that time, it’s bound to at least be an interesting glimpse into what became a key juncture in Drake’s career.
Grimes’ Pre-Art Angels Album (Mid-’10s)
Grimes obviously underwent a huge transformation between 2012’s Visions and 2015’s Art Angels. In between, she released the divisive (but awesome) “Go,” which eventually fueled a narrative that after some fan backlash to the song’s more mainstream sound, she scrapped a whole album. In 2015, she took to Tumblr to explain she never abandoned anything because of a fan reaction, but instead found the album too depressing and didn’t want to tour it. While Art Angels was obviously an excellent alternative — our staff voted it the best album of 2015 at the time — Grimes was on fire during these years. Before it ended up on Art Angels, “REALiTi” made it out into the world as a demo left over from the abandoned album. That’s one of Grimes’ most beloved songs. Who wouldn’t want more of where that came from? Back then, Grimes said she might still release the album someday, so hopefully we eventually get to hear it.
The Replacements’ Reunion Album (Early/Mid-‘10s)
When the Replacements got back together in the early ‘10s, the once extremely unstable group seemed to be having an oddly optimistic reunion. Those shows were revelatory, with the band sounding better than they had any right to, and Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson openly talked about recording new music. At various points it was suggested the Mats had several songs done, but the reunion ran out of steam abruptly and unceremoniously. Afterwards, Stinson said they’d given making new music a shot and that it didn’t feel good, and that he had taken songs he’d written for the Replacements and repurposed them for his solo work. Whatever state that reunion album was in, it doesn’t seem like we’ll hear it anytime soon.
In the year following Mac Miller’s death, rumors swirled about a collaboration with Madlib. The two had met while working on Freddie Gibbs’ 2015 release Piñata, and Miller started messing around with some beats provided by Madlib. What resulted wasn’t a full album, but an unfinished EP’s worth of material. Madlib talked about it a bit in 2019, claiming the collab was “to create for creation’s sake” and that there were no plans to release the EP. Every now and then, Madlib has dropped one of the Miller songs into live sets.
Chromatics – Dear Tommy (2015)
The great, infamous lost album of our time. A couple years after their landmark Kill For Love, Chromatics began teasing a new album called Dear Tommy. There was art, a tracklist, and a series of advance singles, but the album never materialized. And then it didn’t materialize again, and again, and again, despite various hints and updates from Johnny Jewel along the way. Dear Tommy was supposed to come out at various points throughout the second half of the ’10s. We got at least one story behind the mysterious delays: Jewel allegedly destroyed all physical copies of the album in 2016, following a near-death experience in late 2015. The album was supposedly re-recorded, with a new and theoretically better version on the horizon. It is 2021, and obviously Dear Tommy has still not arrived. Instead, Chromatics surprise-released Closer To Grey in the fall of 2019, while insisting Dear Tommy was still the next release. If the album ever arrives, it’ll be to impossibly high expectations — but at the same time, there’s still a sense that, when or if it ever comes out, it could be the absolute realization of Chromatics’ shadowy synth-noir.
My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall III (2015)
Clearly My Morning Jacket were tapped into something in the middle of last decade. In 2015, they released The Waterfall, which boasted many completely mesmerizing songs. Not too long after, the group was already talking about all this other leftover material from the sessions. Nothing — not more Waterfall, not a new MMJ album separate from that — materialized for five years, until Jim James revisited some of the songs during early quarantine in the spring of 2020. That became The Waterfall II, which presented an altogether more somber and reflective iteration of My Morning Jacket. At the time, they talked about how The Waterfall at one point could have been a triple album; presumably the third part that remains unreleased might feature the dancier material the group discussed back in 2015. For whatever reason, it seems the rest of The Waterfall will remain unheard since MMJ chose not to release it alongside II last year. That felt like a long-awaited end to one chapter of the band, as they also promised a full-fledged new album on the horizon for, presumably, this year, when they’re able to play shows again.
Soundgarden’s Final Album (Mid-‘10s)
When Chris Cornell died in 2017, he and the rest of Soundgarden had been working intermittently on a followup to their 2012 reunion album King Animal. In the years since, the remaining members of Soundgarden have been entangled in a long legal battle with Cornell’s widow over royalties and the rights to seven unreleased Soundgarden songs. While it’s unclear just how much of a complete album there was, details of the lawsuits included that Cornell had tracked vocals for the new songs. There have been other posthumous releases from the Cornell Estate, but of course the idea of one last Soundgarden album is poignant. It seems it’ll be a while longer before the situation is resolved and the band might be able to complete it: Vicky Cornell just filed a new lawsuit against Soundgarden in February.
Lemmy Kilmister’s Solo Album (Mid-‘10s)
Around the time of Lemmy’s death in late 2015, there was talk of a solo album he had recently completed. It apparently featured collaborations with Joan Jett, Reverend Horton Heat, Dave Grohl, and the Damned. While it’s not entirely clear, this is presumably the same solo album the Motörhead singer and bassist talked about back in the middle of the ’00s. Back then, it was going to be called Lemmy & Friends; it also reportedly featured collaborations with Metallica, and Lemmy said he wanted to get Janet Jackson on a track. As of 2017, Skew Siskin’s Jim Voxx said he was completing work on the album and it was due out by the end of that year. The collection still hasn’t materialized, but presumably it will someday.
Charli XCX – XCX World (2017)
Charli XCX had been planning a third album, billed as the poppiest thing she’d yet done, for a late 2017 release. Singles like “Boys” were poised to be on it. Instead, several of the songs intended for the album leaked and Charli wound up shelving it. In the time since, she’s suggested the album wasn’t yet a complete thought; the title XCX World, and a theoretical tracklist, were concocted by fans, not Charli herself. This era has a lot of fan favorite Charli material, and music she still stood by in interviews — but at the same time, she remarked on how the album would never be revisited because that experience warped her attitude towards the music. “Even though I think the music is still brilliant, it’s just that time is really tainted because somebody hacked me,” she explained to FADER in 2019. As a result of the XCX World debacle, we got not only the pivotal Pop 2 mixtape but also the great Charli. Charli’s never been one to look backwards, so it seems like a full-fledged release of XCX World will remain unlikely for the time being.
Speedy Ortiz’s More Personal Album (2017/2018)
In 2016, Speedy Ortiz were in the midst of recording a new album that, as Sadie Dupuis told NPR in 2018, was full of songs that were “strictly personal or lovey-dovey.” But when Trump was elected in November of that year, the band felt it needed to change gears and write something that was more directly responding to the tumultuous times we were living through. The band wound up making Twerp Verse instead, with Dupuis writing at the time, “Social politics and protest have been a part of our music from day one, and I didn’t want to stop doing that on this album.”
The Weeknd’s Pre-Breakup, Pre-Melancholy, LP (2018)
In 2018, Abel Tesfaye released a collection of music — depending who you asked, it was a LP or an EP — with the extremely Weeknd title My Dear Melancholy,. Those songs worked through feelings in the wake of Tesfaye’s breakup with Selena Gomez, but before the end of their relationship he’d had a very different plan. “Prior to Melancholy, I had a whole album written, done,” Tesfaye said at the time. “Which wasn’t melancholy at all because it was a different time in my life… It was very upbeat — it was beautiful.” Even the Weeknd’s breakthrough pop moments have been defined by a nihilistic hedonism, so the prospect of a happier pre-breakup album remains a curious case in the context of his career. Back then Tesfaye also said that lost album would “never” see the light of day, which he seems to have stuck to for the moment. Instead, we got last year’s After Hours, which despite all the recent Grammys nonsense has stood as another strong chapter in the Weeknd’s story.
Ultimate Painting – Up! (2018)
Three years ago, the psych-tinged British rock group Ultimate Painting were getting ready to release their fourth album, Up!. It had already been announced, and the rollout was already in process, when the band abruptly broke up with Jack Cooper citing “an irreconcilable breakdown” with bandmate James Hoare. Ultimate Painting had some great songs to their name. It remains a bummer that the band fell apart, and a disappointment that Up! never saw official release.
Carly Rae Jepsen – Disco Sweat (2019)
Following an album as intensely adored as E•MO•TION is no small task, and apparently Carly Rae Jepsen tried out a few different approaches before she eventually found her way to Dedicated. One of those was an album called Disco Sweat, which she told SFWeekly was inspired by going to Sweden, digging into ABBA’s music more, and thinking maybe she’d go for a ’70s aesthetic following the more ’80s-indebted synth-pop she’d recently been mining. She also said Disco Sweat “will probably never be released, and shouldn’t” and that she was going to bury it in her backyard. While it’s hard to grapple with the idea that even while retro-inspired albums like Future Nostalgia and What’s Your Pleasure? are getting all this love, there is a whole Carly Rae Jepsen disco album we haven’t heard, we’re probably going to have to live without it. As of last year, Jepsen was moving right along into the next chapter, working on an album in quarantine.
The 1975’s Lost Music From The Drive Like I Do Years (’10s)
The 1975 have been together a long time, since they were kids. But they haven’t always been the 1975. They took on a bunch of other monikers over the years, and made a bunch of more emo-leaning music as Drive Like I Do. Matty Healy has talked for years about reviving the project to release an album under the name. At the same time, there’s a lot of Drive Like I Do music floating around on the internet. Apparently one of Healy’s quarantine activities has been digging through Drive Like I Do rarities for some kind of new release. At some other points in time it sounded like something of a secret, proto-1975 album. While Healy offered an update from the studio on socials claiming “it’s not a full album,” it still sounds like there’s a substantial body of music that will help fill out the story of the 1975’s earlier years.
Scrapped Purple Mountains Projects (‘10s)
After ending Silver Jews, it took David Berman over 10 years to return with his new project Purple Mountains. The album that did come out in 2019 was an instant masterpiece, but it wasn’t the music he was working on through that entire interim. Instead, there were several other Berman projects that were apparently almost totally finished but abandoned. One of those was an album he made with the band Black Mountain. Another was an album he made with Dan Bejar and Stephen Malkmus in 2017. Bejar detailed it in an interview from early 2020, and it sounds like a wildly different album than what Purple Mountains eventually became — featuring “manic” Berman lyrics over improvised music, the album was reportedly “incredibly loud and brittle and dry and compressed, with this Serge Gainsbourg-style voice of god over whatever is happening beneath.” Like so many beloved artists whose lives end tragically too soon, the chance of hearing more albums from Berman is hard to shake off. Apparently it’s up to Drag City whether the Bejar collaboration ever sees the light of day, but who knows if it ever will. Bejar also added: “I don’t know if he would have wanted the world to hear it.”