2012 Music Preview: What to Expect in the Year Ahead

  • Comments: ↓ 14 user comments
  • Publish Date: January 19, 2012

The year's key albums: Confirmed releases and wishful thinking

Need something else to look forward to this year? Below, we've selected nearly 100 artists who either have confirmed releases scheduled for 2012 or have recently been in the recording studio and are getting close to announcing a release date. (Album titles and release dates are listed where available.) There are also a handful of more speculative names on the list, where some evidence points to an upcoming album, but there's nothing yet to verify that the album will arrive this year. As always, for an even more thorough (and frequently updated) list of upcoming release dates, you can also check our Album Release Calendar.

Aerosmith

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Previous album:

Honkin' On Bobo 69 (2004)

The rockers' first album of new songs in over a decade is expected to arrive in 2012 (possibly in May) after years of false starts and a near-dissolution in 2009. There's no word on whether the still-untitled 15th album will include tracks from earlier sessions produced by Brendan O'Brien, though it will definitely include material recently recorded with producer Jack Douglas, who previously worked with the band on many of their 1970s classics.

Aesop Rock
Skelethon

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Previous album:

None Shall Pass 74 (2007)

The hip hop artist has had a relatively quiet five years, but 2012 is shaping up to be much busier. Aesop Rock has recently finished recording his next solo album, Skelethon (though no release date has been announced), and he is also working on a new project with Kimya Dawson, under the name Uncluded; their first album, Hokey Fright, will also surface this year.

Air
Le Voyage Dans La Lune due February 7

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Previous album:

Love 2 65 (2009)

The French duo's seventh studio album is inspired by the 1902 sci-fi classic of the same name (A Trip to the Moon) directed by Georges Méliès, after Air were drafted to soundtrack the film for a presentation at last year's Cannes Film Festival. Beach House singer Victoria Legrand guests on the track "Seven Stars," which is streaming at NME.

Animal Collective

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Previous album:

Merriweather Post Pavilion 89 (2009)

The band has just begun recording its follow-up to the critically acclaimed Merriweather Post Pavilion after working some of their new songs into live sets over the past year.

Atoms for Peace

Though the supergroup of Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, and veteran drummer Joey Waronker have performed together live, they have not released any recorded material prior to this year. But the group has reportedly completed recording sessions for an album, which should surface at some point during 2012 after producer Godrich works his magic.

The Avalanches

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Previous album:

Since I Left You 89 (2001)

We don't have any convincing evidence that their sophomore album will finally see the light of day in 2012; it's simply that the template we use for our annual music preview articles is hard-coded with a spot for The Avalanches. Still, we're hoping. (And the head of their label, Modular, did claim recently that recording has, in fact, been completed.)

Bat for Lashes

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Previous album:

Two Suns 76 (2009)

At an album-every-three-years pace, Natasha Khan is due to release a new Bat for Lashes LP—which will be her third overall—in 2012. However, reports last month indicated that she is still in the writing stage and wants to take her time with this album, so expecting a follow-up to the acclaimed Two Suns this year might be overly optimistic.

The Beach Boys

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Previous album:

The SMiLE Sessions 95 (2011)

What's left for The Beach Boys to accomplish after finally releasing their lost 1960s album The SMiLE Sessions last year? How about a 50th anniversary tour and a new album from the reunited band that once again counts Brian Wilson among its members. While live dates are a certainty for 2012, the album is more speculative, though Wilson did suggest that he could record with the band this year, and songs have already been written for the project.

Beach House

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Previous album:

Teen Dream 82 (2010)

There's nothing set in stone, but a follow-up to Beach House's breakthrough 2010 album Teen Dream is likely to arrive this year; the band is currently in the middle of recording the album, which will be their second release for Sub Pop.

Best Coast

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Previous album:

Crazy for You 76 (2010)

The California band worked with producer Jon Brion (but not drummer Ali Koehler, who has been kicked out of the group) for their sophomore album, which should arrive this spring. Expect more of a focus on Bethany Cosentino's voice and a bit more polish all around, especially when compared to their lo-fi debut.

Big Boi

Will Big Boi release his long-in-the-works solo album Daddy Fat Sax: Soul Funk Crusader this year? Will his OutKast partner Andre 3000 release his long-rumored solo album first? Or will we finally get the next OutKast album that supposedly is also in the works and was originally targeted for a 2012 release? Our money's on the Big Boi album (after all, it is the only one of the three projects to progress to the stage where it has a title), but any, all, or none of the above are all possible outcomes for 2012.

Big K.R.I.T.
Live from the Underground

Originally scheduled to be released last September, rapper/producer Justin Scott's debut album has been delayed to an unspecified date in 2012. But thanks to the critical success of his 2011 mixtape Return of 4Eva, Live from the Underground is easily one of the year's most-anticipated hip-hop albums, assuming it finally drops. Even if it doesn't, K.R.I.T. has another mixtape, 4Eva & A Day, arriving on February 20.

Andrew Bird
Break It Yourself due March 6

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Previous album:

Noble Beast 79 (2009)

Multi-instrumentalist and whistler extraordinaire Andrew Bird returns in March with his first album in three years and sixth solo outing overall. St. Vincent guests on one track. Watch a brief trailer for the album, which he recorded at his Illinois barn, at Vimeo.

Blur

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Previous album:

Think Tank 83 (2003)

While there's no guarantee that the Britpop legends will ever record another album together—let alone release one in 2012—Blur have been playing and recording sporadically over the past few years, and conflicting reports from the band members indicate that a new LP is possible at some point. (File this one mainly under wishful thinking.)

David Byrne & St. Vincent

A collaboration between St. Vincent's Annie Clark (who recently released one of 2011's best albums, Strange Mercy 85) and Talking Heads frontman David Byrne? Sounds good to us. As of last fall, the album—which finds the pair sharing vocals and songwriting duties—was halfway to completion, and a 2012 release is probable.

Cat Power

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Previous album:

Jukebox 72 (2008)

Chan Marshall hasn't released an album of original material since 2006's The Greatest 80, but the singer-songwriter is expected to issue a new LP this year, having recently tweeted that she is nearly done with the album. The album has been in progress for several years, with Marshall indicating that she was handling all of the production and instrumentation herself, which, if true, will be a first for the artist.

Leonard Cohen
Old Ideas due January 31

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Previous album:

Dear Heather 74 (2004)

The 77-year-old singer-songwriter will release his 12th studio album at the end of the month. Old Ideas finds him working again with longtime collaborators Sharon Robinson, Anjani Thomas, and Jennifer Warnes. The New Yorker is streaming album track "Going Home," while Soundcloud has the track "Darkness."

Graham Coxon
A+E due April 2 (UK)

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Previous album:

The Spinning Top 66 (2009)

While a new Blur album, though possible, is no sure thing for the coming year, Blur guitarist Graham Coxon will certainly make himself heard in 2012; his eighth solo album, A+E, arrives in April. It will be the first release in three years for Coxon, whose solo work has been generally well received over the past decade (especially 2006's Love Travels At Illegal Speeds 81). While his previous effort was a mostly acoustic affair, the 10-song, Ben Hillier-produced A+E (on which Coxon plays every instrument) veers from garage rock to post punk to Krautrock.

Cursive
I Am Gemini due February 21

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Previous album:

Mama, I'm Swollen 65 (2009)

Matt Bayles produced this seventh LP (a concept album about twin brothers separated at birth) from the Saddle Creek indie rockers. Stream the album cuts "The Sun and Moon" at Rolling Stone and "The Cat And Mouse" at Stereogum.

Dead Can Dance

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Previous album:

Spiritchaser (1996)

A new album from Dead Can Dance? It's true; the duo of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry—who recorded seven world music-meets-Gregorian chant albums for 4AD in the 1980s and 90s—have reunited and will release their first new material in 16 years, with a tour to follow.

Lana Del Rey
Born to Die due January 31

Brian Williams may not be a fan (thanks to the singer's much-maligned SNL performance last weekend), but the world will certainly be curious to see how this once-rising star sounds on record when she releases her major-label debut at the end of the month. Riding a wave of buzz (both good and bad) thanks mainly to just one song (the internet-driven hit "Video Games"), the 25-year-old, New York-based singer Lana Del Rey (born Elizabeth Grant) has a new modeling contract to fall back on should her Interscope LP Born to Die prove unsuccessful.

Dirty Projectors

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Previous album:

Bitte Orca 85 (2009)

After releasing a collaborative EP (Mount Wittenberg Orca) with Bjork last year, the arty indie group look ready to release a successor to their 2009 breakthrough Bitte Orca in 2012, perhaps as soon as the spring. Leader David Longstreth has been crafting the album alone in a rural upstate New York house, and that "creepy," wintry vibe would seem to be a good fit for the band's music.

The Dirty Three
Toward the Low Sun due February 28

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Previous album:

Cinder 79 (2005)

The instrumental rock trio of violinist and Bad Seeds/Grinderman member Warren Ellis, drummer Jim White, and guitarist Mick Turner return with their first album in seven years. Toward the Low Sun is produced by Casey Rice (who also worked on Cinder) and features varied instrumentation, but, unlike its predecessor, no vocals. Listen to the album track "Rising Below" on Soundcloud.

The-Dream
Love IV: Diary Of A Madman due March 20

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Previous album:

1977 66 (2011)

The singer's fourth solo album was originally slated to appear last fall, but was delayed due to a contract dispute with his record label. (To tide fans over, he released a free album, 1977, under his real name, Terius Nash.) The guest roster may include Kanye West, Jay-Z, Drake, R. Kelly, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, and Lil Wayne, though the final tracklist has yet to be confirmed. One song that is likely to appear is the new single "ROC," which you can hear at The-Dream's official site.

Earth
Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II due February 14

The Seattle drone-rock band's seventh album will be a continuation of its acclaimed 2011 release, which impressed critics with its atmospheric, intricate, and accessible approach. Will the mostly improvised second volume be worth the year-long wait?

Field Music
Plumb due February 21

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Previous album:

Field Music (Measure) 79 (2010)

The English band's last release was a double album. This year's Plumb isn't quite so ambitious (it runs a mere 15 songs and 35 minutes), but another album of compact, melodic art rock from the Brewis brothers is always welcome ... even if the advance word on the LP suggests a more fragmented and "surreal" approach to songwriting.

Craig Finn
Clear Heart Full Eyes due January 24

The first solo album for the Hold Steady frontman was recorded relatively quickly in Austin last summer with producer Mike McCarthy. Expect a "moodier and twangier" sound on Clear Heart Full Eyes (yes, that title is a play on the Friday Night Lights catchphrase), but don't expect the solo release to mean an end to Finn's main gig; another Hold Steady album is in the works and could also arrive before the year is up. Listen to Clear Heart track "Honolulu Blues" at Pitchfork.

The Flaming Lips

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Previous album:

Embryonic 81 (2009)

While The Flaming Lips didn't release a conventional album in 2010, last year saw the group create a day-long song and work with Yoko Ono, among other projects. That collaborative spirit will continue this year (perhaps as soon as April) when the Lips release a new LP filled with collaborations with artists including Ono, Bon Iver, Nick Cave, and Neon Indian. While the tracklist and final roster of collaborators is still being worked out, we are pretty certain that the final product will clock in at less than 24 hours.

Flying Lotus

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Previous album:

Cosmogramma 85 (2010)

Details are scarce about the next album from the Los Angeles-based producer, but according to tweets by the artist, the LP is done, and he'll be debuting it at Coachella in April.

Garbage

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Previous album:

Bleed Like Me 56 (2005)

Aside from a single new track on their 2007 best-of compilation, the alt-rock band led by Shirley Manson and Butch Vig haven't released new material in seven years (and it has been over a decade since they released anything good). But their long-in-the-works fifth studio album is set for a 2012 release, and could arrive in April or May even though recording is still in progress.

Green Day

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Previous album:

21st Century Breakdown 70 (2009)

While no release date is set for Green Day's ninth album, the LP could surface in 2012, since the band has plenty of material to choose from: they've been playing at least 15 new songs in their recent live sets.

Grizzly Bear

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Previous album:

Veckatimest 85 (2009)

The band began work on its next studio album late in 2011, so if it hits in 2012, it'll likely be late in the year.

Hot Chip

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Previous album:

One Life Stand 79 (2010)

The electropop band has recently announced via Twitter that they are merely one song away from completing their still untitled fifth album, which may feature Buddhist chanting monks. Early this year, Hot Chip member Joe Goddard will also release his first full-length album with The 2 Bears, his side project with Raf Rundell.

How to Destroy Angels

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Previous album:

How To Destroy Angels EP 61 (2010)

Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor has spent the last few years concentrating on his burgeoning career as a film composer (where his most recent effort was the acclaimed soundtrack for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) with partner Atticus Ross. The upcoming year, however, will see Reznor return to more conventional music when he finally releases his first LP with his new trio How to Destroy Angels (a group that includes Ross as well as Reznor's wife, Mariqueen Maandig), which has been in progress for over a year but is nearly complete and could arrive in the spring. Reznor recently told Billboard that a new Nine Inch Nails record is also possible for the upcoming year.

Islands
A Sleep & A Forgetting due February 14

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Previous album:

Vapours 79 (2009)

Minimalism is the word on A Sleep & A Forgetting, the fourth album from the Canadian indie rockers. The stripped down, piano-driven, and personal new disc finds band leader Nicholas Thorburn surrounded by mostly familiar faces for a change (sans the once again departed Jamie Thompson), and follows two years after Thorburn's album with side project Mister Heavenly (Out of Love 68). Listen to the album track "Hallways" at Soundcloud.

Damien Jurado
Maraqopa due February 21

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Previous album:

Saint Bartlett 77 (2010)

Fellow singer-songwriter Richard Swift returns as producer for the Seattle-based Jurado's 10th studio album. Download the lead single "Nothing Is the News" at Stereogum.

Kaiser Chiefs
Start the Revolution Without Me due March 6

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Previous album:

Off With Their Heads 70 (2008)

Last summer, the English rockers released their fourth album, The Future Is Medieval, though it never crossed the Atlantic. That is, until this March, when the album will get a new title (Start the Revolution Without Me) and a drastically reconfigured tracklisting for its American release. The new album will include five brand new songs produced by Stephen Street as well as eight tracks from the original UK album, including singles "Little Shocks" and "Man on Mars."

Alicia Keys

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Previous album:

The Element of Freedom 67 (2009)

The superstar singer recently reported that she is nearing completion of her fifth album (currently, recording continues in Jamaica), which follows after taking time out to produce a Broadway play ("Stick Fly") late last year.

The Killers

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Previous album:

Day & Age 69 (2008)

Four years is the longest gap yet between Killers albums, but frontman Brandon Flowers has promised that a new album will definitely arrive in 2012, likely in the second half of the year. The tracklist is still in flux, but the group has recorded (separately) with producers Steve Lilywhite and Brendan O'Brien (who co-produced Flowers' 2010 solo outing Flamingo 59).

The Knife

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Previous album:

Silent Shout 74 (2006)

Has it really been six years since the wondrous Silent Shout? True, The Knife haven't been completely silent in the interim: the duo's Karin Dreijer Andersson has recorded with Röyksopp and released an excellent self-titled album in 2009 under the name Fever Ray 81, while the Knife also collaborated on the score for an opera in 2010 (Tomorrow, In a Year 67). However, there is a good reason to believe the Swedish electronic duo will finally return with a proper album this year: The Knife issued a quick statement on their website announcing a 2012 release. Further details have yet to emerge.

Kendrick Lamar
Good Kid in a Mad City

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Previous album:

Section.80 80 (2011)

The young West Coast rapper's iTunes-only 2011 album Section.80—his first full-length release—only added to his growing internet fanbase, and the set appeared on at least half a dozen critic year-end top 10 lists. Now, Kendrick Lamar is nearing completion of his proper debut album, Good Kid in a Mad City, which should arrive at some point this year.

Lambchop
Mr. M due February 21

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Previous album:

OH (Ohio) 76 (2008)

Mr. M marks the 11th studio album for the Nashville-based alt-country outfit led by Kurt Wagner. Expect a "dreamy" and polished affair, complete with strings. Download the album track "Gone Tomorrow" at Stereogum, or another track, "If Not I'll Just Die," at the same site.

Mark Lanegan Band
Blues Funeral due February 7

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Previous album:

Bubblegum 85 (2004)

Former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan will release his first solo album in eight years next month, following a trio of collaborations with Isobel Campbell and a stint in Queens of the Stone Age. Produced by Alain Johannes, the album also features contributions by Greg Dulli (who plays with Lanegan in their side project The Gutter Twins) and QOTSA's Josh Homme. Listen to lead single "The Gravedigger's Song" at Spin.

Liars

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Previous album:

Sisterworld 78 (2010)

Predicting what a Liars album is going to sound like is a foolish hobby, but the band is offering a few hints this time, albeit ever so cryptically, at its website. There's still no title or release date, but the album will surface at some point in 2012.

Jason Lytle

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Previous album:

Yours Truly, The Commuter 67 (2009)

The former Grandaddy frontman looks to be nearing completion of his second solo album since the group's breakup. Lytle hasn't been totally silent in the three years since his solo debut; he has also released an album with his new group, Admiral Radley. For his 2012 effort, expect an album of lengthier tracks, perhaps with a vague "search and rescue" theme, as he discusses in this YouTube clip where he plays one of the new tracks.

Madonna
MDNA due in the spring

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Previous album:

Hard Candy 65 (2008)

Madonna is set to make her Interscope debut with her first LP since 2008's disappointing Hard Candy. MDNA features production work by Martin Solveig, William Orbit and Benny Benassi, and a March release is likely, coming about a month after the singer performs at halftime during the Super Bowl. The first single, "Gimme All Your Luvin'," is set for February 7, and finds Madonna collaborating with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.

The Magnetic Fields
Love at the Bottom of the Sea due March 6

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Previous album:

Realism 72 (2010)

Stephin Merritt & co. return to Merge for the first time since 1999 for a new album that hearkens back to the Magnetic Fields' catchy, synth-driven sound of the 1990s. Stream the cut "Andrew in Drag" at Soundcloud.

The Mars Volta
Noctourniquet due March 27

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Previous album:

Octahedron 66 (2009)

The Texas prog-rock group led by the duo of Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez return with their first album in three years. Noctourniquet is another narrative-based collection, reportedly inspired by Greek mythology and 1980s rockers The Godfathers, among other things. The pair's other band, At the Drive-In, has also announced that it will be reuniting in 2012 for the first time in over a decade, though at the moment their plans only include touring (including stops at this year's Coachella festival).

Mazzy Star

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Previous album:

Among My Swan (1996)

After a 15-year recording hiatus, the Los Angeles-based alt-rock outfit known for hazy, dreamlike songs (basically, a more psychedelic version of slowcore) returned with a new single last fall. That will be followed in 2012 by a tour and likely a new album, their fourth overall, toward the end of the year. The band hasn't been entirely quiet over the past decade; frontwoman Hope Sandoval has released a pair of albums with her band the Warm Inventions.

On the next page ...

Continue reading for another 40+ albums expected in 2012, from artists ranging from Janelle Monae to Orbital to Bruce Springsteen.

Comments (14)

  • MooziikMaster  

    Can't wait for:
    - Animal Collective
    - The Avalanches
    - The Flaming Lips
    - The Mars Volta
    - Metallica
    - Phoenix
    - Queens of the Stone Age
    - The Shins
    - Tool
    - Vampire Weekend
    - Yeasayer

    Maybe this year will be just as amazing as last year!

  • sadrans  

    I just have one question. Where's Spoon?

  • IsaacHale  

    Can't wait for:

    2 Bears
    Hot Chip
    The Avalanches
    St. Vincent and David Byrne
    The xx
    Janelle Monae
    Phoenix

  • evergreenOldboy  

    heres hoping for the new album Franz Ferdinand promised back in 2009 as well as a new system of a down album

  • LancelandHts  

    JENS LEKMAN man. Come on. How's that not on the list?

  • bl_nk  

    Woo! Lots of great releases! Beach House, Sleigh Bells, MGMT, Animal Collective, The Killers, Springsteen, the xx, Atoms for Peace, and more. Pretty much every other album is a blockbuster. No album from the National though, that's a shame.

  • BLuder  

    Don't forget about the new Fanfarlo album coming in Feb.

  • fuzzy_dunlop  

    I like how Dr Dre's Detox wasn't on the list, lol. I mean seriously, who even cares anymore. Plus it probably won't even come out this year anyway.

  • MattSDC  

    File this one in the "wishful thinking" category, but a new album from The Wrens would be nice.

  • Renaton  

    La Roux! Where's La Roux?

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