Skrillex's 'Recess' & 10 Other Unexpected Album Releases

Skrillex performs a DJ set by the pool on the roof of Red Bull Guest House, in Miami, FL, on 22 March 2013

Robert Snow/Red Bull Content Pool

From David Bowie to Beyonce, see who else dropped LPs without a ton of warning.

Over the past half-decade, artists have dropped full-lengths with zero, or very little, advance notice, shocking their fans and setting forth some unexpected listening delights. Check out 11 instances of unexpected album releases, from Beyonce to Skrillex to Frank Ocean:

SKRILLEX
"Recess" (2014)

Skrillex's long-awaited debut album, "Recess" arrived in the middle of the evening of March 10, when the dubstep king began rolling out one song after another until all 11 "Recess" tracks were available on a smartphone app as well as through an iTunes stream. With collaborators like Diplo, Niki & The Dove and Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos, "Recess" gives Skrillex an unexpected batch of material to trot out during upcoming performances at Coachella and Bonnaroo, among other festivals.

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BEYONCE
"Beyonce" (2013)

Beyonce has shocked fans before: remember her baby-bump rub at the 2011 MTV VMAs, or the Destiny's Child reunion at the Super Bowl halftime show earlier this year? But the out-of-nowhere release of "Beyonce,"the superstar singer's fifth studio album, just before midnight on Dec. 13 represented a whole different type of sneak attack. With an "exclusive visual album" -- 14 songs, all with music videos, magically appearing on iTunes -- arriving after months of gestation but nary a release date, Beyonce created some "new rules" of her own, to borrow a phrase from Jay Z.

RADIOHEAD
"In Rainbows"/"The King of Limbs" (2007/2011)

In a world where Spotify had yet to exist, Radiohead's "pay-what-you-want" option for seventh studio album "In Rainbows" was seen as a radical move by one of the world's most beloved rock artists. However, that business model should not overshadow the ingeniousness of announcing the follow-up to 2003's "Hail To the Thief" just 10 days before its October 2007 online release, immediately stoking fan anticipation for the 10-song release. Four years later, Radiohead gave fans even less notice: "The King of Limbs" was announced just five days before its February 2011 release, and was packaged with a special "newspaper" edition.

BURIAL
"Street Halo," "Rival Dealer" EPs (2011/2013)

U.K. dubstep king Burial is one of the most secretive artists on the planet, so it's no surprise that his singles and EPs tend to drop from out of the blue. After a long absence as a solo artist following the release of his acclaimed 2007 album "Untrue," Burial returned with little forewarning in 2011 with his "Street Halo" EP, which was announced on March 22 and released on March 28. Similarly, Burial returned earlier this month with the "Rival Dealer" EP, which began streaming online on Dec. 11 after being announced 10 days earlier.

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FRANK OCEAN
"channel orange" (2012)

It's true that Frank Ocean's Def Jam debut was pegged with a July 2012 release date long before it was made available, but the original date was July 17 -- one week after it actually arrived. To prevent "Channel Orange" from leaking online, the R&B renaissance man posted his album for sale on iTunes on July 10, and announced the revised release date after debuting "Bad Religion" on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" on July 9. The misdirection certainly didn't hurt the album, as "Channel Orange" debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart and eventually was nominated for album of the year at the Grammy Awards.

JAI PAUL
Unreleased Demos (2013)

Jai Paul, the mysterious U.K. singer-songwriter responsible for blogosphere-beloved singles "BTSTU" and "Jasmine," apparently uploaded his entire debut full-length on Bandcamp last April. Or did he? Soon after the release, Paul cautioned fans against buying it, claiming that the album was a fake. Eventually, Paul's label, XL Recordings, stepped in, clarifying that the songs were Jai Paul, but "not his debut album - it is a collection of various unfinished recordings from Jai's past." The unauthorized release of the sketches was unfortunate, but further whet appetites for Paul's still-in-the-works first album.

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MY BLOODY VALENTINE
"mbv" (2013)

The 21 years between the landmark release of My Bloody Valentine's 1991 album "Loveless" and this year's "mbv" was filled with a decade of inactivity, various reunions and long-unfulfilled promises of a studio return. When frontman Kevin Shields told the audience at a My Bloody Valentine show in London last January that the follow-up would be out "in two or three days," one couldn't be blamed for some skepticism. Fortunately, MBV finally delivered, posting "mbv" on its website on Feb. 2, and that website proceeded to crash due to heavy traffic.

DAVID BOWIE
"The Next Day" (2013)

Like "Beyonce," a new David Bowie album had been prodded at by the music world for years, but when Bowie announced "The Next Day" on his 66th birthday last January, only his closest collaborators saw it coming. "The Next Day" was recorded in secrecy over a two-year period, even requiring non-disclosure agreements to make sure the cat never left the bag. Two months after the announcement, Bowie's first album since 2003's "Reality" was in stores.

JAY Z
"Magna Carta… Holy Grail" (2013)

Five months before his wife pulled off the surprise of the year, Jay Z delivered a pretty explosive one himself by revealing his twelfth studio album, "Magna Carta… Holy Grail," via a commercial during the NBA Finals last June, with no prior warning that a new solo album was imminent. The commercial was actually a spot for Samsung, which released the album as a free download to the first one million users of a new Magna Carta app on its phones. On July 4 -- less than three weeks after the album was announced on June 16 -- "Magna Carta" was released, with no music leaking to the public ahead of time. "Holy Grail," featuring Justin Timberlake, was eventually selected as the disc's lead single, and became a Top 10 hit on the Hot 100 chart.

DEATH GRIPS
"Government Plates" (2013)

The ever-controversial hip-hop group followed its self-released 2012 album "No Love Deep Web" with "Government Plates," which was posted online last month as a free download with zero advance notice. "No Love Deep Web," of course, was self-released due to complications between Death Grips and its (now former) label, Epic Records. Now free from the major label system, the experimental duo is free to blast out new full-lengths online through its own label, Third Worlds. Just don't expect too much forewarning.

KID CUDI
"Satellite Flight: The Journey To Mother Moon" (2014)

The rapper's follow-up to his 2013 album "Indicud" was supposed to be hitting retailers in early 2014, but few expected a full album release when Cudi tweeted out on Feb. 24 that "Tickets to Copernicus Landing will be available for purchase via iTunes in the next 2 hours." At midnight, "Satellite Flight" arrived in full, and the sneak-attack tactic certainly didn't hurt sales: the album debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart a week later.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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