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Spring Music Preview

Foos! Weezy! My Morning Jacket! Paul Simon! And 39 more of 2011’s hottest albums

Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone Apr 05, 2011
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Foo Fighters
Wasting Light
April 12

For their seventh studio album, the Foo Fighters and producer Butch Vig had three rules: “It’s got to be hooky, heavy and we’re going analogue all the way,” says Vig, who first worked with Dave Grohl two decades ago on Nirvana’s Nevermind. “It needed to sound like an atom bomb,” adds Grohl. “That’s why I called Butch.” Last summer, the Foos set up in Grohl’s two-car garage in Encino, California (“a ballad-free zone,” says the singer), and hammered out face-melting riffs for tracks like ”˜Back & Forth,’ ”˜White Limo’ and first single ”˜Rope,’ which debuted atop Billboard’s rock chart.
A few old friends helped flesh out the album’s sound: Original guitarist Pat Smear is a full-fledged Foo again, Hüsker Dü’s Bob Mould guests on ”˜Dear Rosemary’ (“I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if not for Hüsker Dü,” says Grohl), and Grohl’s former bandmate Krist Novoselic plays accordion and bass on the disc’s darkest tune, ”˜I Should Have Known.’ “I know it’s our best record,” says Grohl. “It’s definitive, like AC/DC’s  Back in Black, Metallica’s Black Album or Nevermind. It takes that last 15 years and reduces it to 48 minutes. It’s bitchin’.”           Austin Scaggs

APRIL

The Kills
Blood Pressures
April 5

The Kills’ previous three discs were all amped, electric blues punk, but for the duo’s fourth, guitarist Jamie Hince broke out a secret weapon: his very first acoustic guitar, a 1935 Gibson L-00 he bought last year. “With an acoustic, you tend to write songs, not riffs,” he says. “This is blatantly obvious to anyone who’s ever done it, but for me it was a fucking breakthrough.” The resulting disc sets singer Alison Mosshart’s wailing vocals against sleazy dub on ”˜Satellite,’ sad Mellotron chords on ”˜Wild Charms’ and sampled ping-pong-ball percussion on ”˜Heart Is a Beating Drum.’ They recorded over 12 months in rural Michigan, with sessions interrupted by a broken arm (“I got in a scrap,” Hince says) and Mosshart’s stint in the Dead Weather. Says Hince, “The longer you’re in a band, the longer it takes to make an album.”

Robbie Robertson
How to Become Clairvoyant
April 5

Robertson returns with his first solo LP in 13 years, with many of the songs emerging from casual songwriting sessions with Eric Clapton almost a decade ago. The reflective, melancholy set ”“ which includes electronic textures by Trent Reznor ”“ is summed up by the title of a key track, ”˜The Right Mistake.’ “I got that phrase from Thelonious Monk,” says Robertson. “I heard him say that in music we’re searching for the right mistake. I thought, ”˜Wow, I completely agree.’ It also applies to life.”

TV on the Radio
Nine Types of Light
April 12

The Brooklyn art-rock crew took things slow while cutting its fifth LP at producer/multi-instrumentalist Dave Sitek’s studio-equipped LA pad last summer. “In New York, time is money,” says Sitek. “This time, we had a chance to process the music and make sure it came across right.” The synth-heavy disc balances jittery, Talking Heads-ish cuts (”˜No Future Shock’) with warm ballads (”˜You,’ the single ”˜Will Do’). “Our slower songs tend to be like an epic journey,” says Sitek. “We finally managed to make slow-jams that are concise.”

****

Lil Wayne
Tha Carter IV
TBD

Starting just days after his release from Rikers Island last November, Wayne has practically lived in Miami’s Hit Factory studio. “We leased it for the whole year ”“ every day, 24/7, so he can just go whenever,” says manager Cortez Bryant. Wayne has already cut dozens of new tracks with help from stars including T-Pain and Kanye West. The schwingtastic ”˜Wayne’s World,’ a contender for the final track list, is three machine-gunning minutes of adenoidal wordplay topped with a triumphant hook. Weezy is confident that his dense, intricately crafted new verses will have the competition reconsidering their future. “There’s a lot of rapping on this,” he says. “I want other rappers to hear it and say, ”˜I quit. I better start making club songs.’”      Josh Eells

*****

Panda Bear
TomBoy
April 12

“I thought playing guitar might force me to write different types of songs,” says Noah Lennox. “And it did.” While the Animal Collective mastermind’s last solo album, 2007’s acclaimed Person Pitch, was a harmony-filled blast of joy, his new one goes way darker. “I was struck by how intense it made me feel listening to it,” says Lennox, who built the album’s sound around warped-beyond-recognition guitars instead of samples. “It’s heavy-sounding to me.” It’s also his most diverse work yet, pivoting from the aptly titled, almost mediaeval ”˜Drone’ to the Afropop-in-space of ”˜Afterburner’ to the hip-hop beat of ”˜Slow Motion.’

Steve Earle
I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive
April 26

“It’s probably the countriest record I’ve done in a long time,” Earle says about his 14th LP, recorded over six days in LA and New Orleans with producer T Bone Burnett. Highlights include ”˜This City,’ a tribute to New Orleans written for HBO’s Treme, and ”˜Heaven or Hell,’ an ominous duet with wife Allison Moorer that he penned for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ scrapped follow-up to 2007’s Raising Sand. Says Earle, “It’s not a song a husband and wife who want to stay married ought to be singing.” Sonically, Burnett added way more reverb to Earle’s growl than usual. “I was OK with surrendering control,” says the singer. “I wanted to focus on writing the best songs I could.”

*****

Alison Krauss & Union Station
Paper Airplane
April 12

After several years touring and recording with Robert Plant, Krauss is back fronting her platinum-selling bluegrass group. Recorded in Nashville starting in summer 2009, their first album in seven years includes heartbroken covers of Richard Thompson’s ”˜Dimming of the Day’ and Jackson Browne’s ”˜My Opening Farewell.’ “I really wanted it to be just the five of us, so it’s pretty stripped-down,” Krauss says. “We all have different tastes, and our backgrounds show up in a wonderful way on this record.”        Patrick Doyle

*****

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MAY

Stevie Nicks
In Your Dreams
May 3

A year ago, Nicks invited Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart to her LA home ”“ where they wrote seven of her new LP’s 13 tunes together, drawing on classic Sixties pop for inspiration. “I had to keep asking Dave whether we were making a Beatles album,” she says of tunes like ”˜Everybody Loves You.’ Stewart compares the album’s retro sound to “a festival in 1969.” Adds Nicks, “This has been the best musical year of my life, honestly. And I’ve done lots of albums with Fleetwood Mac and solo records that have been fantastic.”

Warren Haynes
Man in Motion
May 10

“I’ve been looking forward to doing this for years,” the Gov’t Mule/Dead/Allman Brothers singer-guitarist says of his new solo record, whose sound is steeped in the R&B and soul records of his youth. “I used to sit in my room and sing like Wilson Pickett, Smokey Robinson and Otis Redding.” Cut in January 2009 at Willie Nelson’s studio near Austin with members of the Meters and the Faces, the album emphasises horns and organs as much as Haynes’ trademark guitar solos, and the tunes tip their hat to solemn gospel (”˜Save Me’) and barroom shuffles (”˜Hattiesburg Hustle’).

Booker T Jones
The Road From Memphis
May 10

After ending a 28-year hiatus in 2009 with an album where he was joined by the Drive-By Truckers and Neil Young, Jones enlisted the Roots as his sidemen for his next disc. “I had the best players in the world when I was in Memphis,” says the former leader of the legendary Stax house band, the MGs. “Now I’m almost there again with the Roots.” They recorded in New York throughout 2010 with producers ?uestlove and Rob Schnapf, plus guest vocalists including Lou Reed, the National’s Matt Berninger and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, who wrote the uplifting ”˜Progress.’ “His voice is so reassuring,” says Jones.

*****

Jay-Z and Kanye West
Watch the Throne
TBD

“Mos Def used to talk all the time about how jazz musicians would just come together in a room and see what they came up with,” says Kanye West. “Four songs, five songs, whatever ”“ then they’d put out an album.” Mos’ history lesson is the inspiration behind Watch the Throne, a full-length collaboration between Kanye and Jay-Z recorded in studios from England to Australia. “It’s nonarguable,” says Kanye. “Me and Jay-Z are the two most influential rappers of the last decade, and we connect on all these different levels.” Though their operatic single ”˜H.A.M.’ fizzled on the Hot 100, Kanye predicts another critical masterpiece. “It’s going to be way more awesome than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. My skills are increasing.”    Austin Scaggs

******

Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi
Rome
May 17

Producer Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) and Luppi, an Italian composer, laboured for five years on this heartfelt tribute to Italy’s golden age of movie scores. They recorded in the title city with local musicians who served on films by master directors Sergio Leone and Dario Argento. “We did everything we could to capture the sounds as well as the spirit,” says Burton, who recruited Jack White and Norah Jones as guest vocalists. “We did our homework well.”

Owl City
All Things Bright and Beautiful
May 17

Adam Young returned to his home studio in Owatonna, Minnesota, to cut the follow-up to 2009’s platinum Ocean Eyes, once again playing most instruments himself. While tracks like ”˜The Real World’ and ”˜Astronauts’ recall his sugary electro megahit ”˜Fireflies,’ Young also stretched musically, fusing digital pulses with acoustic country guitar on ”˜Honey and the Bee.’ Other new tunes reflect post-fame experiences, like ”˜Deer in the Headlights,’ which he says details “a bittersweet relational thing.”

Ben Harper
Give Till It’s Gone
May 17

After five records with various bands, for his 10th disc, Harper assembled a broad range of solo material, from acoustic ballads (”˜Feel Love’) to feedback-tinged rave-ups (”˜Rock N’ Roll Is Free’). He recorded the set last year at Jackson Browne’s studio ”“ Browne sings harmony on one track, and Ringo Starr, with whom Harper has recorded and toured, played drums on two more. “It’s the most Beatles-sounding song I’ve ever done,” Harper says of the trippy ”˜Spilling Faith,’ “but it has an actual Beatle on it, so I have license!”

Brad Paisley
This is Country Music
May 24

“”˜American Saturday Night’ sort of was my The Times They Are a-Changin’ album,” says the country megastar. “But you can’t make an album like that every time out.” For the follow-up to his 2009 hit ”“ which defied the conventions of right-leaning Nashville by hailing President Obama’s election ”“ Paisley is serving up a meat-and-potatoes celebration of his home genre. The title track, already a Top Five smash, pays tribute to the unflinching real-ism of country songwriting. “I’m very proud of the fact that this format is so on the nose,” he says. “There’s a sort of bravery in the fact that country songs deal straightforwardly ”“ not metaphorically ”“ with topics like cancer and patriotism and faith and divorce.”

Death Cab for Cutie
Codes and Keys
May 31

Since Death Cab’s last LP, frontman Ben Gibbard got married to Zooey Deschanel, bassist Nick Harmer also got hitched, drummer Jason McGerr had another kid and guitarist Chris Walla moved from Portland to Seattle. New tunes like the sprawling single ”˜You Are a Tourist’ wrestle with the resulting feelings of transition, with analogue synths and a string section taking the place of the band’s usual folk-rock strums. “It’s very 1970s electronic,” Walla says. “We wanted to explore how bands used machines in the pre-computer era.”

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*****

Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues May 3

A few bumps have turned up on the road to the harmony-happy folkies’ second album, including a fire scare at the band’s Seattle studio and a week of recording scuttled by technical difficulties. But Fleet Foxes’ biggest obstacle has been their own high standards. “I don’t think we’ll do a record with this level of scrutiny again, because I like records that feel a little more tossed off,” says singer Robin Pecknold. “We just wanted to make sure we were happy with everything.” Their meticulousness has paid off for fans: The contemplative lead single ”˜Helplessness Blues,’ the eight-minute epic ”˜The Shrine/An Argument’ and the stirring album closer ”˜Grown Ocean’ all hum with an intensity that comes only through great care.     Josh Eells

*****

My Morning Jacket
Circuital
Late May/Early June

Tracked mostly live in a Louisville, Kentucky, church gym, MMJ’s sixth studio album “came out sort of easy,” says frontman Jim James. Songs such as the groove-driven ”˜The Day Is Coming’ and the delicate ”˜Slow Slow Tune’ give the record a more laid-back feel than 2008’s Evil Urges. Drummer Patrick Hallahan delivers his most restrained performances yet, leaving more room for bassist Two-Tone Tommy to stretch out. “I would give them very simple demos,” says James. “There’s something so special about just playing in the room with everybody and letting it be what it’s going to be.”

Summer

Lenny Kravitz
Black and White America
Summer

“My rock’s always got some funk in it, and my funk always has some rock in it,” says Kravitz, who cut his first disc since 2008 at his home studio in the Bahamas. Highlights include the seductive R&B jam ”˜Super Love’ and the raw ”˜Come On Get It,’ on which Kravitz pants like a dog in heat. The title track is about the obstacles his parents endured as a mixed-race couple. “When they walked the streets, they were in danger,” he says. “People would spit at them. Nasty shit. It’s my story. And it’s black and white America. It’s who I am.”

Blink-182
Title TBD
Summer

Blink’s first full album since 2003 amps their bratty, supercatchy pop punk with new moves they learned during the years apart. “It’s a great mix ”“ huge stadium rock, punk and indie-rock elements, with drum-and-bass beats,” says singer-guitarist Tom DeLonge. The self-produced set is still taking shape: DeLonge is laying down his parts in San Diego, while singer-bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker are recording in LA.

Jane’s Addiction
The Great Escape Artist
Summer

The LA alt-godfathers are deep into some forward-looking sounds with the help of their new bassist, TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek. “He’s like a scientist,” says singer Perry Farrell. “It just keeps getting gnarlier and gnarlier.” Produced by Rich Costey (Muse), the album will draw from about 20 potential songs. Adds guitarist Dave Navarro, “We’re in a really good space creatively and emotionally.”

*****

Paul Simon
So Beautiful or So what
April 12

For his first album since 2006, Simon holed up in a guitar-crammed cottage on his Connecticut property and kept the songs and arrangements intentionally simple. “I didn’t want to build the record too much,” he says. “Once I put two or three guitars on, that was all.” He tried out some new sounds, too: ”˜Dazzling Blue’ features a bluegrass vocal group, and the album includes Simon’s first-ever use of sampling (see the bit of blues-harp great Sonny Terry on ”˜Love Is Eternal Sacred Light’). “That opened up a whole new world,” he says. “I like things that sound old and new at the same time.”          David Browne

Bon Iver
Title TBD
June

Frontman Justin Vernon discovered a problem when he sat down to work on his indie-folk project’s second album. “Somewhere along the line, I forgot how to write songs,” he says. So Vernon changed gears, working with studio musicians to build sounds instead of songs. The result is a collage of 10 tracks, each representing a place. Album opener ”˜Perth’ features a marching-band beat and wailing guitars. The disc closes with Vernon’s favourite new tune, the horn-heavy ”˜Beth/Rest.’ “It’s the part where you pick up your joint and relight it,” he says.   Evan Serpick

Also Releasing

Ray Davies
See My Friends April 5

Bob Dylan
Live at Brandeis April 12

The Feelies
Here Before April 12

Jessie J
Who You Are April 12

Emmylou Harris
Hard Bargain April 26

Bootsy Collins
Tha Funk Capital of the World April 26

The Airborne Toxic Event
All at Once April 26

Big Sean
Finally Famous May 3

Donny and Marie Osmond
Donny and Marie May 3

The Cars
Move Like This May 10

Levon Helm
Ramble at the Ryman May 17

Tinie Tempah
Disc-Overy May 17

Beastie Boys
Hot Sauce Committee Pt 2 Spring

Lloyd
King of Hearts June

Dave Matthews Band
Live at Wrigley Field Summer

Mary J Blige
TBD Summer

Das Racist
Relax Summer

Dave Stewart
Blackbird Diaries Summer

Dr Dre
Detox TBD

Reporting by Steve Appleford, David Browne, Matt Diehl, Patrick Doyle, Josh Eells, Nicole Frehsée, Brian Hiatt, Stephen Rodrick, Jody Rosen, Austin Scaggs, Evan Serpick and Simon Vozick-Levinson

Album information and dates confirmed as of press time.

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