I'm just back from a vacation (I missed you, too!), it's been a slow week for shows for me (Mew? More like Meh, amirite?), and I'm all occupied with year-end stuff, so this week's column is just going to look ahead to the few albums I'm most anticipating for the early part of 2010. Merry Christmas to me, bah humbug, whatevs.

Vampire Weekend – Contra

Okay, I'm not so much looking forward to this one as I am already caning the hell out of a streaming promotional copy of it, but I am really excited about unpacking the thing. There's going to be a lot to talk about this, the band's sophomore album, of course: its merits relative to the band's debut, the increasing presence of keyboardist/arranger Rostam Batmanglij, the meaning of the Auto-Tune on "California English," the provenance of the background vocals on "Diplomat's Son," the decoding of Ezra Koenig's winningly playful lyrics. And then there's the band's expert baiting of their detractors (Contra as in contrarianism) by means of lyrical signifiers of/references to their reputedly privileged class status: the balmy winter vacation described on fine lead single "Horchata," the scenes of Manhattan leisure life on "White Sky." I'm sure I'll say this again, but disliking VW for playing with this stuff is like dismissing Wes Anderson because you didn't grow up a Tenenbaum (or a fantastic anthropomorphic fox).

Hot Chip – One Life Stand

Hot Chip's last album, Made in the Dark, was a relatively downbeat electro-soul affair, despite spinning off a few great singles and remixes, so I'm hoping their forthcoming fourth album will see tempos kicking back up a bit. The two songs released from the album so far, the title track (which has a fairly cute music video as well) and "Take It In," seem to point gently in that direction, with one affectingly melancholy dance-floor number each from covocalists Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard.

Los Campesinos! – Romance Is Boring

Okay, I'm technically not looking forward to this one, either, as I've already snagged a promo copy, but I am looking forward to its proper release so that I can dissect the thing in print—and I'm crossing my fingers that the band announces some West Coast U.S. tour dates soon. Anyway: third album from the Welsh twee-core septet, recorded with prolific producer John Goodmanson in Connecticut and here in Seattle, with contributions by the Dead Science's Jherek Bischoff, Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart, and Parenthetical Girls' Zac Pennington. At first listen, I thought this record was going to be hugely disappointing—nothing here is as immediately appealing as the best bits of the two (!) albums the band released in 2008—but a few more spins suggest that it's going to be another richly rewarding record, full of overblown angst, tremendously frantic songs, and a maze of hot messy lyrics that should take some time to fully sort out.

Other acts I'm eagerly anticipating new albums from in 2010: Of Montreal, LCD Soundsystem, Lindstrøm & Christabelle. Add in a Pavement reunion, and it looks like it should be one hell of a year. recommended