From Bob Dylan to Green Day to No Doubt to Kanye West, the remaining months of 2012 will see some of pop’s most megalithic acts dropping long-awaited new albums. Call it a sonic backdrop for a fractious election season—the stuff you’ll be listening to as leaves crunch underfoot and a president is selected. Herewith, The Daily Beast’s picks for the most anticipated CDs being released this fall.
Taylor SwiftRedSure, she’s been generating tabloid headlines for dating a teenage Kennedy and changing her personal style from countrified girl next door to Hyannis Port country-club maven. But 22-year-old Swift’s Oct. 22 album promises to do what she does best: lay bare the emotional baggage from previous romantic relationships. “I tend to skew in the direction of writing songs about love-related things, relationship- and feeling-related things, that’s where I naturally go,” the singer said in a live YouTube chat with fans last month. She also explained the CD’s title: “I wrote a song called ‘Red,’ and thinking about what that song means to me and all the different emotions on this album, they’re all pretty much about the tumultuous, crazy, insane, intense, semitoxic relationships I’ve experienced in the last two years—and all those emotions ... are red.”
The KillersBattle BornThis 12-track LP, due Sept. 18, shares its title with a nickname for the platinum-selling quartet’s home state of Nevada. But given its hodgepodge of sounds and styles—shape-shifting bleeps and synths, power ballads, and arena-rock anthems—Battle Born could also refer to the creative process that spawned the CD, which reportedly took these alterna-rock titans an entire year to record. “Pound for pound, this is our strongest record,” singer Brandon Flowers told NME, “and I’m really excited about it.” Drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. was less guarded, telling Rolling Stone: “This is our difficult fourth record.”
Green Day¡Uno! ¡Dos!
¡Uno! arrives Sept. 25, followed by ¡Dos! on Nov. 13—two of three albums the pop-punk trio plans to release in the next five months (the final installment, ¡Tré!, comes in January). The LPs were reportedly modeled on Van Halen’s self-titled album trilogy—Van Halen, Van Halen II, and Van Halen III—and are seen as a sneering rejoinder to having recorded two multiplatinum-selling punk operas in a row. ¡Uno! and ¡Dos! are leaner and meaner than Green Day’s American Idiot or 21st Century Breakdown, a cross between AC/DC and early Beatles mashed up with dance music and garage rock, while ¡Tré! is reported to be more introspective. “We are at the most prolific and creative time in our lives,” the group said in a statement. “We just can’t help ourselves ... We are going epic as fuck!”
No DoubtPush and ShoveThe stadium-packing SoCal ska-pop-rock band hasn’t put out an album since 2001’s multiplatinum Rock Steady, with lead singer Gwen Stefani going off to record two smash solo albums and birth a couple of sons. But that dry spell is set to end Sept. 25 with Push and Shove, an album that reportedly took No Doubt four years to record with a grab bag of hit-making producers, including Diplo (M.I.A., Major Lazer) and RedOne (Enrique Iglesias, Jennifer Lopez). According to early reviews, the new songs encompass ’80s synth-pop, dancehall reggae, epic club bangers, and even boudoir jams. As for the title track, bassist Tony Kanal told Rolling Stone: “Push and Shove is to No Doubt as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was to Queen.”
Kendrick Lamar Good Kid in a Mad CityThe buzz surrounding Dr. Dre’s Compton-born protégé has grown into an overwhelming din with Lamar’s major-label debut, due out Oct. 2, the most anticipated urban-music release of the year. On the strength of the rapper’s iTunes-only 2011 album, Section.80—a Gen Y cri de coeur addressing gang violence, drugs, and political disenfranchisement—Lamar not only has the cosign of hip-hop’s heavyweight champ, he’s already recorded a “collabo” with Lady Gaga called “Partynauseous.” “I don’t have a crystal ball, but I believe that [Lamar] has the potential to do some really great incredible things—things that are gonna make the veterans raise their eyebrows,” Dre told XXL magazine—no small praise from the doctor who birthed the careers of Eminem, Snoop Dogg, and 50 Cent.
Bob DylanTempestThe voice of a generation’s 35th studio album, his first release since 2009’s Christmas in the Heart, has had the singer-songwriter’s faithful salivating for months. In the lead-up to its Sept. 11 release, Tempest has inspired rock critics to compose five-star hosannas to its praises—supposedly the best thing Dylan’s recorded in a decade. And the title track, a 14-minute opus consisting of 45 verses, no choruses, and the accompaniment of Irish-sounding accordion and fiddle, depicts the sinking of the RMS Titanic and includes horrifying scenes of death and chaos—even working in a none-too-subtle reference to James Cameron’s movie about the disaster.
Animal CollectiveCentipede HzThe ne plus ultra hipster band faces a tough climb to live up to the ecstatic reception of its 2009 masterwork, Merriweather Post Pavilion—possibly the best-reviewed album of that year and the sonic crystallization of a pinpoint moment in culture, with its danceable brand of freak folk. Centipede Hz, recorded in Animal Collective’s hometown, Baltimore, is intended as a loose concept album about the radio and what happens to broadcast sounds once they travel beyond earth’s atmosphere. It arrives with what some rock watchers have described as the faint odor of mainstream aspiration—cue disdain in the backbiting Pitchfork universe. The question is, will all that hipster hype and blogger anticipation manage to turn Animal Collective into a bunch of conventional rock stars?
GOOD MusicCruel SummerThe debut collaborative studio album from Kanye West’s GOOD Music record imprint, due Sept. 18, rolls out with all the requisite hype and hyperbole surrounding just about everything the Louis Vuitton Don does. West first hyped the album on his 8.5 million followers–strong Twitter account last October, revealed the CD’s title via a multimedia installation at the Cannes film festival in May, and drew first blood with Cruel Summer’s lead single “Mercy” (featuring himself rapping alongside Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz), which went platinum earlier this year. News of another single off the CD, West’s paean to his girlfriend Kim Kardashian, “Perfect Bitch,” set the Web ablaze this summer. Never mind that the disc has been pushed from a spring 2012 release into the colder months; it’s got guest spots by Jay-Z, John Legend, and Raekwon the Chef from Wu-Tang Clan.
Alicia KeysGirl on FireTo be clear, the title has nothing to do with The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen. Girl on Fire reflects R&B singer-songwriter Keys’s artistic growth and personal transformation—the corrective to years of being misunderstood and “making excuses” for her life, the Grammy winner has said. Keys’s fifth studio release (on sale Nov. 27) certainly impressed one musical tastemaker: her husband, the reigning hip-hop hit-maker Swizz Beatz. “It’s an amazing, amazing album full of timeless pieces—which is what music needs now,” Swizz Beatz told The Hollywood Reporter, and added that the couple limited their collaboration to just a “selected few” songs: “She’s her own creative genius. She needs no handouts from me.”
Carly Rae JepsenKissFew Americans had even heard of the third-place Canadian Idol finalist before Justin Bieber began tweeting about the 26-year old singer this year when she signed to his Schoolboy Records label. The social-media shout-outs helped propel Jepsen’s flirty confection “Call Me Maybe” to unofficial song-of-summer status, with an astounding 240 million YouTube views, hundreds of homemade parody videos, and a nine-week run atop Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Now that a second Jepsen single (“Good Time” with Owl City) has managed to also hit the charts, anticipation for the Canadian songbird’s Sept. 18 album is sky-high, with influential pop watchers such as Perez Hilton writing how he is “BEYOND anxious” for Kiss’s release.