Woo hoo! Love when these threads get started. Gets me all kinds of excited for a new year of music.
Right now my most anticipated album of 2014 by far is the new release from Alcest. They've been masterfully blending black metal, folk, shoegaze, and dreampop sounds throughout their career, but this upcoming album moves them away from the extreme elements into a purely shoegaze/dreampop sound. The last band that made a conscious effort to essentially remove the metal from their music was Opeth, and as a result they lost me as a fan. I took it as a, "We're sick of metal, so here's some prog-rock wankery" type move, and I personally found it to be an absolute disaster of a career move which led to them putting out their worst album to date. On the contrary, everything about this decision by Alcest seems to be a smart and organic step in the natural progression of their sound. I don't see it as them turning their backs on the metal community or the fans that support them, but more as an exploration of some of the most interesting aspects of their music. Even more exciting is that they brought in Sigur Ros' producer Birgir Jón Birgisson to aid with the album, so I'm certain he'll bring some extra ideas to the table as well.