It's getting dark before 8, booze-carrying college kids are reinvading your city, and Decorative Gourd Season is not too far off. It's fall! (Almost.) The festival circuit has wound down, but The Year of the Comeback continues with a slew of new releases exciting enough to almost make you forget the music industry is a smoking wreck. Joining together mainstream names with left-of-center talent worth paying attention to, we bring you The Atlantic Wire's 2013 Fall Music Preview. It's obviously not exhaustive, but it covers a lot.
Franz Ferdinand, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action (8/27)
The Details: The Scottish quartet's fourth album revolves around "the idea of the cynic's search for optimism and the sceptic's search for a manual crop up here and there," whatever that means. The band has otherwise remained pretty quiet because their last record was "tainted by bullshit," after which they considered breaking up. Few in America would have noticed, but that's not to say the band's simplistic brand of New Wave revivalist swagger is unwelcome—first single "Right Action" is as funky and basic as you could want or expect.
Should You Care: Do you long desperately for 2004? Can you still recite the chorus of "Take Me Out" on cue? Do New Wavey backbeats make you more nostalgic for the mid-2000s than the mid-1980s? Then sure, why not.
Drumgasm, Drumgasm (8/27)
The Details: This head-throbbing improvisational free-for-all brings together three formidable rock drummers—Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag, Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, Zach Hill of Death Grips and Hella—for a gleefully unholy drum circle of death. Writes SPIN: "It's somewhere between transcendent blast, jitter-causing fireworks display, and total endurance test."
Should You Care: Don't delude yourself—you will know within 20 seconds of sampling this record whether or not you're part of its niche.
August is shaping up to be a major month for minor hip hop, with new releases from King Krule, Big Sean, and Goodie Mob (all 8/27) ... Acoustic indie duo The Dodos are about to release their fifth record, Carrier (8/27), which seems to sound like The Dodos, not a cause for complaint ... Avenged Sevenfold also will release Hail to the King (8/27), joining Franz Ferdinand on the 2004 flashback side of things.
Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks (9/2)
The Details: One among 2013's many high-profile comebacks, Trent Reznor has lots of pent-up energy. After announcing a revamped live band featuring Jane's Addiction's Eric Avery and King Crimson's Adrian Belew, Reznor waited until just after the release of How To Destroy Angels' debut to announce a new NIN album, which features help from frequent collaborators Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder and is "frankly fucking great." Since the announcement, there have been plenty of revelations and plenty of drama: Avery quit the band. Belew isn't participating in the tour. The artwork, by Downward Spiral artist Russell Mills, is classic NIN and incorporates blood. We've also gotten a taste of the record: "Came Back Haunted" is a fun, spastic Fragile throwback. "Everything" is generic industrial-punk sludge.
Should You Care: Eh. It's Reznor's first album as Nine Inch Nails since 2008's The Slip, so any new material is of interest. But the previews suggest that there's little distinguishing it from the other post-Fragile albums whose names you can't remember. If you're in it for the nostalgia value, you're better off revisiting NIN's iconic '94 Woodstock set. It's just hard to relive teen angst with a suited 48-year-old dude who wins Oscars for composing Hollywood soundtracks. (On the bright side, the tour's supposed to be a trip.)
Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady (9/10)
The Details: The follow-up to Monae's debut, The ArchAndroid, apparently continues the singer's unshakable cyborg fixation: "I started thinking about a new 21st-century breed of women," she told Rolling Stone. "These questions led me to a portal into the future." The future comes with an impressive guest list: Erykah Badu, Solange, Prince, and Miguel are all slated to appear on the record. Not that Monae needs household names to flesh out her talent, but "Tightrope," her 2010 collab with Big Boi, shows it can't hurt.
Should You Care: You probably should, unless you know of someone else to fill in the R&B-beamed-down-from-Mars niche while you wait for the Andre 3000 solo album that may never happen.
MGMT, MGMT (9/17)
The Details: Ah, the luxuries of unhindered creative seclusion. Indie whizkids Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser have spent some months camping out in an upstate New York cabin. According to Rolling Stone, they will "get even wilder" on a "synth-heavy third album," which tells us little. MGMT loves talking up how experimental their work is, and of course it's synth-heavy—all of their music is synth-heavy. The rest of what we know: the duo has been listening to Aphex Twin and House Music while endlessly programming synth loops throughout the rooms of their house; the members recorded alone instead of with their live band; the record is self-titled and features the thrillingly angry "Your Life Is a Lie," as well as "Alien Days" ("about that feeling when a parasitic alien is in your head"); the album will come with an enhanced optical listening experience called "The Optimizer"; and this is the sweet album cover. Oh, and Flaming Lips knob-turner Dave Fridmann produced yet again.
Should You Care: Yes—if only to soak in the sheer boldness of the band's ambitions. 2010's Congratulations was uneven, thanks to a few ill-advised prog experiments, but still revealed a thrilling, almost gleeful willingness to subvert expectations after the hits they knew they couldn't match. Eight years past their name-making Time to Pretend EP, they've only sank further into their own heads, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Jack Johnson, From Here To Now To You (9/17)
The Details: According to Rolling Stone, Johnson's sixth LP "features sweet acoustic tunes that touch on emotional themes from fatherhood (the campfire-ready 'Radiate') to marriage (the flamenco flavored 'Never Fade')." So yeah—it's a Jack Johnson album, full of
lethargic chilled out surfer-bro grooves, imported from Hawaii with just the slightest hints of adulthood.
Should You Care: Did you find yourself wishing this spring's Iron & Wine reboot had just a little more beach flair? Are you in fact on a beach right now? Then maybe.
Mazzy Star, Seasons of Your Day (9/17)
The Details: The semi-forgotten (and sorely under-appreciated) '90s dreampop outfit, best known for the shimmering makeout anthem "Fade Into You," has returned for their first record since 1996. The album was recorded all over the place between 1997 and 2012, which makes it hard to pin down, but it does feature all original members, as well as Hope Sandoval collaborator Colm Ó Cíosóig and a guitar duet with the late Bert Jansch. In some ways, the group's long absence remains unexplained: "We never stopped writing or recording," David Roback told Rolling Stone. "We just stopped performing and releasing things."
Should You Care: Sure. Between Superchunk and My Bloody Valentine, 2013 has been rife with '90s reunions. It's unlikely those who aren't old enough to remember Mazzy Star's first run will care, but given the success of Beach House and Widowspeak, fuzzy, mumbled dreampop has never really gone out of style.
Elvis Costello and The Roots, Wise Up Ghost (9/17)
The Details: The union between Elvis Costello and
Philadelphia's America's hardest working band was announced back in January and may soon be followed by a new Roots LP, tentatively titled & Then You Shoot Your Cousin. As the story goes, The Roots bonded with Costello during his appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and initially considered reinterpreting his classic cuts (can you imagine how good "Pump It Up" would be?). Originals were probably the right choice, though. Excellent first single "Walk Us Uptown" gives us a hint of what to expect: Costello at his snappiest, invigorated by one of ?uestlove's sharpest grooves.
Should You Care: For sure. The Roots have been on a near-ceaseless creative roll since 2010's How I Got Over, and this seems like the most intriguing old school/new school collaboration since St. Vincent and David Byrne joined forces last fall for Love This Giant.
Avicii, True (9/17)
The Details: EDM knob-twiddler (sorry, "button-pusher") Avicii has assembled a bizarre roster of guests for his upcoming debut LP: Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger, Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers, the band Imagine Dragons, and Elvis songwriter Mac Davis. According to Rolling Stone, he had a "basically unlimited budget" for the record, though money hasn't been enough to help his notoriously decadent concerts, which resulted in six hospitalizations and one public defecation at Cornell.
Should You Care: A full-length album? Eh. If Avicii really gets you going, it's probably the club-ready singles you're looking for. Here's the irritatingly saccharine "Wake Me Up."
Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2 (9/27)
The Details: As ?uestlove revealed way back in March, Timberlake is following up The 20/20 Experience with round two. It drops September 27 and features first single "Take Back the Night"—which is decidedly not about the sexual assault awareness foundation—among ten other tracks, whose intriguing titles include "Murder" and "True Blood." Timberlake recorded the album in just four weeks to fit in filming for Runner, Runner. J-Roc assisted with production yet again; much of the material consists of outtakes from the original volume.
Should You Care: Well—maybe? After waiting more than six years between FutureSex LoveSounds and The 20/20 Experience, perhaps we've earned another 70 minutes or so of Timberlake. But between the singer's Live Nation partnership, summer tour with Jay Z, VMAs hoopla, new deal with Target, and upcoming new tour, it's not altogether sacrilegious to wonder whether Timberlake is risking overexposure. 20/20 Experience was a good record, albeit overlong and arguably a bit too enamored of its own luxury-brand soul. If first single "Take Back the Night," a diluted "Rock Your Body" rewrite, is any indication, 2 of 2 won't be too different, and you can already smell the critical cliché: "not bad, but imagine how good this would have been if he'd whittled down the best parts to one album."
Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven (9/30)
The Details: The experimental electronic composer (born Daniel Lopatin) has remained rather vague about his debut for Warp Records, unless you can decode the artist's indecipherable explanation behind "Still Life," a sample track that "pushes the disembodied voices of a choir through a maze." The track itself is a glitchy and unnerving tangle of loops, as you'd expect. Fun fact: Lopatin also recently helped compose the score for The Bling Ring.
Should You Care: If the album turns out to be even half as good as 2011's Replica, yes.
Speaking of flashbacks, R&B singer Ashanti is still doing her thing and has an album called BraveHeart due out (9/3). We suppose the capitalized "h" is to distinguish it from the Mel Gibson soundtrack ... Early September is also a boom time for indie/alt-country, producing new releases from Califone, Okkervil River, and occasional New Pornographers singer Neko Case, whose forthcoming disc, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, has been attracting early reviews that are much more appealing than its dreadful title (all 9/3) ... Hazy California vocalist Chelsea Wolfe has a new LP, Pain is Beauty, slated, which could be a wonderful counterpart to the Mazzy Star reboot (9/3) ... Arctic Monkeys are returning with AM, not to be confused with the Wilco debut of the same name (9/10) ... Industrial noise-makers Ministry are set to release an album that is actually titled From Beer to Eternity (9/10) ... Keith Urban will release a new LP called Fuse, which he says takes its name from the drive "to fuse elements together" (9/10) ... Speaking of record titles, Sheryl Crow poached an old Norah Jones title for her upcoming Feels Like Home (9/10) ... Acclaimed indie R&B mixtape-maker The Weeknd is finally dropping his first commercially available album, Kiss Land (9/10) ... 2 Chainz's second album, B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time, has a lead single featuring Pharrell Williams, because you haven't heard his voice enough this summer ... Five For Fighting still exists and is releasing an album called Bookmarks next month (9/17) ... Husky-voiced QOTSA contributor Mark Lanegan is dropping his second solo disc of the year, capping off the spring's near-excellent Blood Pudding (9/17) ... Bill Callahan, otherwise known as Smog, is back with Dream River on the same date (9/17) ... Lovably innocent '90s has-beens Toad the Wet Sprocket have completed a successful Kickstarter campaign; the fruits of their fundraising, New Constellation, is out next month (9/17) ... Yoko Ono's latest is titled Take Me to the Land of Hell, a title all too good for late-night hosts and Yoko Ono haters (9/17) ... Cher, Elton John, and Sting are sharing an album release date so the boomer crowd can snatch up all three in one trip (9/24) ... The punishing post-metal group Jesu's latest is called Every Day I Get Closer to the Light from Which I Came (9/24) ... Kings of Leon are dropping Mechanical Bull on the same date (9/24) ... Swedish producer and critical favorite The Field is serving up another looped out song cycle, titled Cupid's Head (9/30)
Pearl Jam, Lightning Bolt (10/15)
The Details: You'd be forgiven for missing this high-profile rock comeback in a massive sea of high-profile rock comebacks. There was a countdown involved to make it seem like a bigger deal than it was. Here are the basics: Pearl Jam is back and still sound like Pearl Jam. It's been just about four years since 2009's Backspacer, the longest gap between Pearl Jam records ever. What we know about the new release is that Pearl Jam recorded a bunch of songs two years ago and returned to them in 2013. They were produced, again, by Brendan O'Brien. The album will be longer than Backspacer. Not much to report, really.
Should You Care: In an era where Nirvana and Soundgarden are fodder for classic rock radio stations, give Eddie Vedder and co. some credit for writing new records and trying to be more than a nostalgia act. But when's the last time they produced a memorable record? 2006's Pearl Jam was largely forgettable modern-rock sludge. Backspacer had some inspired pop elements—and some embarrassing schlock. So proceed with caution. (In the live department, though, PJ remains a formidable force.)
The Dismemberment Plan, Uncanny Valley (10/15)
The Details: With 1999's Emergency & I, this Washington D.C. band became one of the most beloved and largely indescribable outfits in late-'90s indie-rock. Then they released one more album and called it quits and disappeared for more than a decade. But now they're back, after reissuing Emergency (hear it if you haven't). First single "Waiting" bears most of their stylistic trademarks—spastic funk rhythms, abrupt synth patterns, off-kilter talk-singing—though it veers a bit too close to Sublime territory. (But you have to respect the publicity stunt to hear it.) Here's singer Travis Morrison on the record: "It's like speed-dating with the Dismemberment Plan. 'Where do you work?' 'What are your hobbies?' And then after awhile, it's like, 'Let me tell you about my mother.'"
Should You Care: If you're a fan, you already do. If you're not, revisit a '90s cult band that burned out far too soon.
Katy Perry, Prism (10/22)
The Details: The follow-up to 2010's stupidly successful Teenage Dream is not an ambitious concept album about the NSA surveillance program of the same name. We think. It does contain the largely irresistible "Roar," and if that track's any indication, the production will be a step up from "I Kissed a Girl." We also know that it has "darker elements" and that some songs were inspired by Perry's break-up with John Mayer. Here's a quote from Perry's designer, without comment: "Literally, the other day, we heard this new song for her next album and I was like, 'Oh my god I see the video,' and she was like, 'I see the video too,' and we were totally on the same page."
Should You Care: Your call. We won't judge.
The Arcade Fire, Reflektor (we think?) (10/29)
The Details: The well-awaited follow-up to 2010's The Suburbs arrives October 29 and may or may not be titled Reflektor. The band has kept most details quiet, only sneakily dropping hints via an Instagram account chronicling street art and a direct reply to a seemingly random fan on Twitter. (Of course, you can do that when your band is big enough that people are paying attention to your random @ replies on Twitter.) What we do know is that they've been working with former LCD Soundsystem shouter-in-chief James Murphy at his DFA Records studio in New York, among other recording locations. Maybe that means a push in more aggressive, beat-driven directions—"Power Out," anyone?
Should You Care: Probably! The band seems to be on a pretty strict one-album-every-three-years schedule dating back to their 2004 debut, so a new record is generally a big deal. That's not to say they've dramatically changed up the formula with new material—Neon Bible and The Suburbs tweaked more than upended the Funeral approach—but for fans of majestic, emotion-soaked indie rock, few bands can match. Plus, James Murphy is involved, which is an interesting wild card. "I think it's going to be a really great record," said Murphy, who has a history of making really great records.
Blitzen Trapper is titling their seventh record VII, possibly because Led Zeppelin never got to that one (10/1) ... Pennsylvania indie-poppers Dr. Dog may never recapture the ramshackle psychedelia of 2007's We All Belong, but that isn't stopping them from releasing B-Room (10/1) ... The alternative hip hop supergroup Deltron 3030 will soon be resurrected with Deltron Event II, their first since 2000 (10/1) ... Joan Jett, whom you may not have realized still exists, will release Unvarnished on the same date ... Speaking of things that apparently still exist: Korn (10/1) ... Polvo, the brilliant and criminally unappreciated '90s math-rock group, will release Siberia, the second LP of their reunion era (10/1) ... Moby has a collaboration-heavy disc titled Innocents, which features Wayne Coyne, Mark Lanegan, and others (10/1) ... Much like his former bandmates, Lee Ranaldo is looking past Sonic Youth and focusing on his own project, Lee Ranaldo & the Dust, whose album is titled Last Night on Earth (10/8) ... Miley Cyrus is releasing Bangerz, God help us (10/8) ... Elephant 6 alums Of Montreal have stumbled upon what may be their most awful album title yet with Lousy with Sylvianbriar (10/8) ... Cults are still riding the wave of their 2011 breakout and are prepping a new disc called Static (10/15) ... Gary Numan is onto his 20th(!) album, which is intriguingly titled Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) (10/15) ... The Avett Brothers and The Head and the Heart are competing for the indie-folk crowd's affections with duel releases, Magpie and the Dandelion and Let's Be Still (10/15) ... Kelly Clarkson is dropping a Christmas album, Wrapped in Red, just in time for Halloween (10/29)
M.I.A., Matangi (11/5)
The Details: Finally. Originally slated for last December, then April, M.I.A.'s long-awaited fourth record got yet another release date after the artist threatened to leak it herself (and who can blame her?). This time it's for real (we think). Matangi was initially pushed back for being "too positive," which is intriguing in and of itself; it was recorded all over the world and has been compared to her previous albums as being "basically all of them together." Here's an eight-minute mix of cuts from the album.
Should You Care: You've waited too long not to.
Eminem, MMLP2 (11/5)
The Details: Eminem waited until the VMAs to announce that his eighth album will be titled MMLP2—a reference to 2000's The Marshall Mathers LP—and will be released November 5. Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin served as executive producers; the album features "Survival" (which you can listen to here) and first single "Berserk."
Should You Care: You probably don't need us to tell you whether or not you're excited for a new Eminem album. If you are, you know it. If not, ask your doctor if a Marshall Mathers LP follow-up is right for you.
Lady Gaga, ARTPOP (11/11)
The Details: Here, have a 1,500-word Wikipedia article, why don't you. Like Matangi, this one has been pushed back for months; Gaga recorded it throughout the Born This Way world tour with help from DJ White Shadow. According to producer Fernando Garibay, "Some of it's structured as songs and some of it is structured as madness, and she goes through it like a gold miner." According to Gaga herself, ARTPOP is "a celebration and a poetic musical journey through my friends and I hanging out and enjoying being pop stars." Here's "Applause."
Should You Care: It's Gaga, and this seems like it'll be her best LP yet or a trainwreck—either way, it'll be interesting. Plus, there's a song inspired by Princess Diana's death, and another called "Sex Dreams." We're intrigued.
Not a whole lot that's been announced yet, but we do know relentless sludge-metal band The Melvins will be releasing Tres Cabrones, which reunites the group with its original drummer, Mike Dillard, who ditched the band waaay back in 1984 (11/4) ... AOR crooner James Blunt is going all outer-space on us with his forthcoming album, Moon Landing (11/5) ... Midlake, the emotionally charged Texas group best known for The Trials of Van Occupanther, also returns with Antiphon (11/5)
Beck (sometime this fall)
The Details: The pop chameleon will be releasing two albums this fall (or some time thereabouts) according to various reports. The first, as Beck revealed back in April, will be an acoustic album in the vein of One Foot in the Grave; this will be "a self-contained work" that came "as a burst of inspiration" following last year's Song Reader experiment. The second will be a "proper follow-up to Modern Guilt," so you can imagine it'll be a Beck album of the meticulous, eclectic sort. No word on a release date, but in the meantime you can listen to his excellent latest single, "I Won't Be Long."
Should You Care: Yep. We haven't had a proper studio album from the shape-shifting Scientologist since 2008's Modern Guilt (Song Reader was just that—an unrecorded songbook), so an impending creative burst is good news indeed. Plus, the artist tends to reinvent himself after lengthy breaks between albums: 2002's Sea Change revealed the heartbroken troubadour beneath all the irony, while 2005's Guero marked a return to sampledelic pop eclecticism.
Paul McCartney (sometime this fall)
The Details: Word is the wayward Beatle's 16th solo record will be out this fall, though we're skeptical until we see a release date. According to McCartney, "It's a fucking great album, man!" Again: skepticism is healthy. At any rate, McCartney's been recording everywhere from New York to, err, London, and here's who's helping him out at the production boards: Mark Ronson, Paul Epworth (known for co-writing Adele's "Rolling in the Deep"), and Ethan Johns.
Should You Care: Just buy it. If it sucks, there's always your dad's birthday coming up...
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.