As indie darlings The xx gear up for their second album, Coexist, they’ve dropped off a solid array of singles that have been, for the most part, favorably received. With each leak, the pressure wanes slightly (as it becomes evident that the album may in fact live up to expectations) and rises (as expectations increase, often to impossible heights). All that got us thinking: making a second album is hard, especially if people loved your first release.
Dealing with the hopes of fans, artistic desires, critical reactions, and marketing potential can cripple creativity and crush an album’s chances before it even sees the light of day. These same forces can also elevate an artist to craft something new and memorable. Then, of course, there are those unburdened by the weight of public memory–artists whose debuts slipped quietly under the radar, buzzing enough to keep an artist moving, but never enough to paint an immovable picture.
So here’s a toast to breaking the sophomore slump, whether fueled by doubters, motivated by prior success, or liberated by near-anonymity. Check out 20 artists who put their best foot forward with their second album.
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