Today, two of the last decade’s most influential and critically acclaimed groups announced that they have new albums coming out early next year.

On Sunday, Consequence of Sound reported that The Decemberists will be releasing a new album entitled The King Is Dead on Capital Records. Pitchfork confirmed today that the album will arrive on store shelves January 18. Both articles mention that this new album is heavily influenced by R.E.M. That band’s guitarist, Peter Buck, contributed in part to some of the album’s tracks. Though the band has played several of the songs from the new album live, they have offered the official studio version of “Down By The Water” as a free download on their website in exchange for an email address. After the hit or miss reception of last year’s full-on rock opera, The Hazards of Love, the band plan to make this album a more traditional affair. If this means another Picaresque, I will be more than satisfied.

The tracklist is below:

1. Don’t Carry It All
2. Calamity Song
3. Rise to Me
4. Rox in the Box
5. January Hymn
6. Down By the Water
7. All Arise!
8. June Hymn
9. This Is Why We Fight
10. Dear Avery

On top of that, Spin reported that Australian electro-pop outfit Cut Copy will be releasing their new album, entitled Zonoscope, on February 8. This will be the band’s first release since 2008’s near universally acclaimed In Ghost Colours, the album that elevated them from also-rans into the upper echelons of their genre. The Spin article says that the group recorded the new album in a Melbourne warehouse, with band member Tim Hoey explaining that  “We have created this new world with this record.”  While a tracklist has not been made available, the band were kind enough to release the amazing cover art for the album, which Hoey says inspired the band’s sound. It is posted below in all it’s glory via Spin.

With these announcements, 2011 can’t come soon enough. Here’s hoping more bands reveal their new projects before year’s end. I wonder how The Avalanches have been doing lately…