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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fall Music Preview

As the weather cools down, so do the sunny musical sensations of the summer. Last week we scoped out what audiobooks to look forward to this fall. Now, let’s set our sights on music.

The Much-Anticipated
No release is more anticipated than Blink-182’s. The pop-punk band that defined late ‘90s teen rock has reunited to release their first studio album in eight years. Entitled Neighborhoods, the album is self-produced and mixes the more mature approach to songwriting they took with their 2003 self-titled release with “tunes that hew closer to the band's origins,” according to Metacritic.

The only upcoming release that made as many fall previews as Blink-182’s Neighborhoods was that of legendary performer Tony Bennett. In a sequel to his 2006 Duets, Duets II features the 85-year-old crooner teaming up with everyone from Lady Gaga to Carrie Underwood to “reinterpret classics like ‘The Lady Is a Tramp’ and ‘It Had to Be You.’”³ The most anticipated track on the album—and one of the reasons the album itself is so highly anticipated—is Bennett’s duo with the late Amy Winehouse. The track “Body and Soul” was Winehouse’s final recording before her death this past July.

Landing eight years after Strays, new album The Great Escape Artist from alt-rock group Jane’s Addiction is only the band’s fourth studio album since 1988—which is one of the reasons this new release is so hotly anticipated. Another reason? TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek and bassist Chris Chaney have teamed up with original members Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, and Stephen Perkins.

This fall will introduce us to music’s first app album as Björk releases her seventh full-length album, entitled Biophilia, October 11th. This truly multimedia album features an already available iPhone/iPad app that enables listeners to “explore each song’s themes through a constellation-filled universe.”⁴

Other long-awaited releases? The BanglesSweetheart of the Sun is their first studio release in eight years. Post-punk band Blondie just released Panic of Girls, and thrash-metal band Anthrax unleashes their first album since 2003. The big deal about this release is that it marks the return of vocalist Joey Belladonna, last heard on their 1990 album Persistence of Time. Two other major releases from famed ‘90s bands: Bush’s The Sea of Memories and Primus’s Green Naugahyde.

Radio-Ready Releases
So what albums are sure to burn up the charts? Well, there’s Drake’s Take Care. The Toronto rapper’s sophomore album made just about every fall preview list, most likely because his debut release has only been out for about a year and has performed amazingly well.

Avant-rock supergroup Coldplay, who could simply shatter dishes and somehow turn it into a number one single, will release their fifth studio album on October 25th. Entitled Mylo Xyloto (pronounced MY-lo ZY-letoe), the album is said to be something of a rock opera, and if their first single, the cheesy-named "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall,” is any indication, methinks this shall be a fine opera.

Kelly Clarkson returns stronger than ever before with her aptly named fifth studio album, Stronger. According to Clarkson (and the Atlantic), the album is “‘influenced by Prince, Tina Turner, Sheryl Crow, [and] Radiohead.’"

It’s been five years since Goth-rock band Evanescence released an album; lead singer Amy Lee is the only original member still with the group. On October 11, the band will release a self-titled album that apparently is more aggressive, both musically and lyrically.

In the realm of country, three albums are expected to perform very well on the country charts and quite possibly on the pop charts as well. Lady Antebellum’s Own the Night has already spawned a hit single, "Just a Kiss." Miranda Lambert’s fiery fourth album Four the Record features many guest spots, including one from husband and Bilboard chart topper Blake Shelton. And LeAnn RimesLady & Gentlemen features famous country songs by men reinterpreted from a woman’s perspective.

Demi Lovato is proving there’s life after Disney with her third album, Unbroken. This is her first release since entering an Illinois treatment facility last October for self-mutilation and eating disorders. Her first single, “Skyscraper,” is already quickly climbing the digital songs chart.

Mary J. Blige adds to her already impressive catalog with the release of My Life II...The Journey Continues, the sequel to her heartbreaking 1994 album. Expect this album to exude more maturity and hope than its predecessor: “‘On the first My Life album, we all were depressed and wanted to die,’ Blige told MTV News. ‘This one, we want to live and we understand with living, life still comes with challenges and triumphs and good times and bad times.’”⁵

Fresh Faces and Up-and-Comers
American Idol winner Scotty McCreery and runner-up Lauren Alaina will both release debut albums within the country genre. Both have teamed up with heavy-hitting producers—Scotty with Mark Bright (Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts) and Lauren with Byron Gallimore (Tim McGraw)—and both leave me wondering when Haley Reinhart is going to release her debut album.

When Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump decided to go solo, he really meant it. Not only does he explore “eclectic, post-emo avenues” and infuse R&B into his debut album, Soul Punk, but he also plays every instrument.¹ USA Today reports the album will be “a decidedly drastic change of pace from Fall Out Boy.”

Apparently, if there’s one thing you need to know about Dev—as proven in her 2010 single—it’s that she likes her beats fresh and her bass down low. First discovered by the production duo The Cataracs, Dev went on to sing the hook for the Far East Movement’s “Like a G6.” In her debut full-length album, Night the Sun Came Up, she infuses pop with dubstep to produce a dance-igniting playlist.

If we were in Europe, Martin Solveig wouldn’t be considered a “fresh face” as he’s “been flooding dance floors with his rock-infused brand of Big Beats for more than a decade.”² However, here in North America, he’s only made a splash recently with his major summer jam, “Hello,” featuring Dragonette. Thus, it’ll be interesting to see how his November release Smash will perform.

It’s no surprise that hip-hop rising star J. Cole—the first artist to sign to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label—has landed on fall music previews for Billboard, USA Today, Metacritic, and The Insider. We’ve been waiting more than two years for his debut to land. Cole World: The Sideline Story hits shelves September 27th and features guest appearances from Jay-Z, Missy Elliott, Trey Songz, and Drake

Hipster Beats
The following albums shone brightly on numerous previews, convincing me that fall might just be the season of indie rock.

In The Whole Love, Chicago alt-country rockers Wilco escape suspicions of “dad-rock complacency”³ and offer a reinvigorated “culmination of the band’s twangy yet experimental discography.”⁵

Grammy-nominated and Canadian singer-songwriter Feist is “both a member of Broken Social Scene and a one-time collaborator with Elmo on Sesame Street.”⁶ If that isn’t reason enough to get excited about Metals, then perhaps this rave review from Spin will: "…[a] gorgeous collection of overtly poppy tunes, cinematic art-rock, and strummy ballads." And according to the Atlantic, “Happily, Leslie Feist's mercurial, lush voice remains at its deserved place—the center of the songs.”

Other highly anticipated indie albums? Florence + the Machine’s second album Ceremonials has been slated for release in the UK. No word on North America yet, much to my dismay.

St. Vincent follows up her successful 2009 Actor and her much-applauded track with Bon Iver on the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack with Strange Mercy. In Girls’ Father, Son, Holy Ghost, “the San Francisco indie rockers go big…trying out genres ranging from soul to metal and even enlisting a gospel choir on several tracks.”⁴

Post-modern punk-poppers Los Campesinos! continue to entertain with Hello Sadness, and electronic-pop group M83’s Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is a double album that plays like a soundtrack to a big-budget, heart-rending, high speed film.

So there you have it: News & Views’ fall music preview. Now, it’s your turn. What fall releases are you and your patrons anticipating the most?

Additional Previews

¹ “Fall’s Biggest Albums.” Entertainment Weekly, September 2, 2011, 40-42.
⁵ “Most Anticipated.” Billboard, July 30, 2011, 24-28.

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