Say it with me: Taylor Swift isn't the only artist releasing new music this fall. That doesn't mean we're not excited to hear the final version of whatever exactly we made the controversial pop superstar do, but to view the rich musical landscape of the moment through the lens of Swift-mania would be a mistake. She's big, but, unlike the moon, she cannot cause a total eclipse. There's still light to be found.
So what should you get excited about? For one thing, there's an array of reliable career artists releasing new records this fall, including steady rock groups with back-to-basics LP's, prolific rappers with newfound swagger, and pop singers with carefully crafted new personas to trot out. With each fall, there's always new discoveries to make and old favorites to return to. As the unavoidable grabber of the limelight might ask, are you ready for it? The answer, hopefully after reading this list, will be yes.
Rapper E-40 Tries Portland Fried Lobster Tail With a Twist
Release date: September 8 Label: Polyvinyl Why we're excited: The blissful jangle pop of this Canadian group recalls the best head-in-the-clouds Slumberland bands of the '90s, but the wry, cutting lyrics of frontwoman Molly Rankin keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. "Can't buy into astrology," she sings on "In Undertow," the first single from Antisocialites. "And won't rely on the moon for anything." It's a practical approach that has served them well in the past: The group's self-titled album from 2014 was a thoughtful gem, the type of record that nourishes over a long period, and there's no reason to expect the new one won't deliver the same bittersweet pleasures.
Ted Leo, The Hanged Man
Release date: September 8 Label: Self-released Why we're excited: It's been seven years since the last solo record from Ted Leo, the New Jersey punk lifer. In the meantime, he toured relentlessly and recorded an album with Aimee Mann under the name The Both, but that's still a long time not to hear from him. As he revealed in a bracing interview with Stereogum this past July, he went through a tough personal and financial period following 2007's The Brutalist Bricks, and his new record The Hanged Man, which he crowdfunded through Kickstarter and is releasing himself, is a reflection of those struggles. Expect those soaring, throat-searing vocals, but also, judging from the piano diddie "Can't Go Back," a more varied, adventurous musical approach.
The National, Sleep Well Beast
Release date: September 8 Label: 4AD Why we're excited: The National, the brooding and perpetually melancholy five-piece, are back with another record of impeccably recorded, lyrically obtuse gloom-rock. Only, this time the band has a spring in its step, reportedly returning to the more propulsive sound of their break-through 2005 LP Alligator, and even enjoying each other's company a bit more as they recorded together in scenic Upstate New York. "There's also a pond right outside the studio that just constantly gets wildlife -- bullfrogs and turtles and herons and ducks landing on it," singer Matt Berninger told Pitchfork earlier this year. "It's hard to be a dick when you look out the window and there's this tranquil pond."
Zola Jesus, Okovi
Release date: September 8 Label: Sacred Bones Why we're excited: The gothic murmurs of Zola Jesus leave a mark. After 2014's pop-tinged experiment Taiga, which was released by Mute, the doom-obsessed singer-songwriter has returned to her previous label Sacred Bones, the home to a wide range of mercurial and vaguely sinister artists. It appears to be a good fit. Listening to a song like "Exhumed," a twitchy and string-soaked banger, is like getting chased through the woods by a ghost. Home sweet home, basically.
Release date: September 15 Label: Nonesuch Why we're excited: "Gwan," the cello-driven single from Rostam Batmanglij, is one of the year's best songs, a track that engulfs you in a mood of searching optimism and grace. Last year, the former Vampire Weekend member released I Had a Dream That You Were Mine, an impressive collaborative album with ex-Walkmen singer Hamilton Leithauser, and found time to produce tracks for pop artists like Solange Knowles, Frank Ocean, and Haim. Clearly, he's in a rich creative zone right now. Whatever shape Half-Light ends up taking, we'll be there.
Foo Fighters, Concrete and Gold
Release date: September 15 Label: Roswell/RCA Why we're excited: The Foo Fighters are no one's idea of a "new" or "exciting" band. Like fellow rock standard-bearers U2, they've hung around long enough to become the elder statesmen of a genre that's faded from the pop charts in recent years. But, unlike 2014's Sonic Highways, which arrived with a HBO mini-series about Dave Grohl and Co. recording in studios around the country, the focus of Concrete and Gold isn't on an elaborate conceptual hook. Yeah, some of Grohl's celebrity friends are along for the ride -- Paul McCartney plays drums on a track and Justin Timberlake provided backup vocals on one song -- but the focus seems to be on the mining that classic Foo sound. For some bands, "back-to-basics" is a good look.
Open Mike Eagle, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
Release date: September 15 Label: Mello Music Group Why we're excited: There's an elasticity to Open Mike Eagle's drolly funny, casually vulnerable hip-hop. That ability to toggle between moods and tones in a single verse should serve him well on Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, a concept album centered around the Robert Taylor Homes, a public housing project in the Southside of Chicago that was torn down in 2007. With his first solo album since 2014's Dark Comedy, the imaginative rapper and writer, who recently sold a show to Comedy Central, appears to be getting even more ambitious with his music, tackling themes both socially significant and deeply personal.
Gucci Mane, Mr. Davis
Release date: September 15 Label: Atlantic Why we're excited: While it probably won't generate the same level of excitement as 2016's Everybody Looking, which was released right after the beloved Atlanta rapper was released from a stint in prison, the latest studio effort from the newly slimmed-down Radric Davis is still worth checking out. Will he ever recapture the lyrical magic of his near-mythical mixtape runs? Probably not, but he's still a reliable and inventive artist who can bring talent together. Just check out the Mr. Davistracklist, which features contributions from Migos, Monica, The Weeknd, Big Sean, Schoolboy Q, Ty Dolla Sign, Nicki Minaj, Young Dolph, and more.
Release date: September 22 Label: Constellation Why we're excited: The totemic drones and thundering guitars of Godspeed You! Black Emperor have a hypnotic pull that's only deepened since the Canadian post-rock group returned from a nearly 10-year hiatus with 2012's Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! What should we expect from the ominously titled Luciferian Towers? According to a statement that accompanied the album announcement on the band's website, this new record had an interesting development process. "We aimed for wrong notes that explode, a quiet muttering amplified heavenward," they write. "We recorded it all in a burning motorboat." Sounds about right!
The Killers, Wonderful Wonderful
Release date: September 22 Label: Island Why we're excited: Brandon Flowers, the well-coiffed frontman for The Killers, has a gift for teasing out the contradictions that power most rock myths. On the band's debut Hot Fuss he was a glitzy Vegas showman, while the controversial sophomore record Sam's Town found him taking on a flashy Springsteen-on-speed persona. For Wonderful Wonderful, which follows a Flowers solo album from 2015, the group is again trying out new moves and theatrical costumes, like on the cheeky disco mash-up "The Man." By now, that chameleonic take on rock stardom has become their most consistent feature.
The Clientele, Music for the Age of Miracles
Release date: September 22 Label: Merge Why we're excited: This quietly consistent British band specializes in a type of tightly controlled, vaguely psychedelic rock that hits that "mild rainstorm on a lazy Sunday morning" sweet spot. (We're assuming you have that highly specific sweet spot.) Music for the Age of Miracles, the group's first new full-length in seven years, promises more of the same: gently melodic guitars, pitter-patter drums, and the delicate, whisper-like vocals of lead singer Alasdair MacLean. Bliss, pretty much.
Wolves in the Throne Room, Thrice Woven
Release date: September 22 Label: Artemisia Why we're excited: The ominous rumble of "Angrboda," a 10-minute journey into the abyss, also serves as a siren call to the faithful. Wolves in the Throne Room, the black metal group from Olympia, Washington, are back with purpose and intensity. They've emerged from the woods with a new offering, a full-length that sounds like it will split the difference between their louder, more aggressive side and their more ambient, star-gazing leanings.
Release date: September 29 Label: RCA Why we're excited: In what's turning into an eventful year for high-profile pop star pivots, Miley Cyrus's turn towards her pop-country roots might scan as the most dramatic, but it's really the most inevitable. After partying with Mike Will Made It on the mega-successful Bangerz and zoning out to the Flaming Lips on the sneaky fun psych project Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, her new record boasts a collaboration with her godmother Dolly Parton. It feels more than a little cynical, like a pandering appeal to Walmart shoppers, but if she can deliver a collection of soft rock ear candy as effective as "Malibu," this might be a rebranding that's worth sticking to. At least until the next album cycle.
Shania Twain, Now
Release date: September 29 Label: Mercury Nashville Why we're excited: After conquering the charts and the Grammys with hits like "You're Still the One" and "Man! I Feel Like a Woman," Shania Twain took a well-deserved break following the release of 2002's Up -- and hasn't released a new album since. She returns after going through a difficult divorce that played out in the tabloids, but that won't stop her from still frankly speaking her mind in her songs. "My songwriting is my diary and it is my best friend,” she told the The New York Times in a recent profile: “It’s a place I can go to where it’s not expecting anything from me. There’s just no inhibitions there. It’s a complete free place to say whatever I want to say.”
Kelela, Take Me Apart
Release date: October 6 Label: Warp Why we're excited: The wait for Kelela's debut studio album has been long, but it's clear she's using that time to develop and grow as an artist. Songs like "LMK" and "Frontline," which recently debuted during an episode of HBO's perfectly soundtracked comedy Insecure, are filled with the moments of vulnerability and strength that have made the soulful singer a favorite of discerning R&B and electronic music fans. With contributions from trusted collaborators like Arca and Jam City, Take Me Apart should be an adventurous next step in her musical evolution.
Release date: October 13 Label: Capitol Why we're excited: Beck has been teasing this record, his follow-up to the Grammy winning Morning Phase, since he released the funk-inflected "Dreams" in 2015. It looks like Colors is actually coming out this fall, and, based on the singles and interviews, it will find the 47-year-old slacker going back to his genre-hopping roots, ditching the sad-sack Sea Change vibes of his last record. Welcome back, fun Beck. We missed you.
Release date: October 3 Label: Matador Why we're excited: Between the two of them, Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett have written some of the most beguiling guitar jams of the last few years. Obviously, it's only natural to get psyched for a collaboration between the two smart-alecks, which promises to combine Vile's languid stoner vibes with Barnett's slightly more frantic storytelling. Check out the first single "Over Everything" and try not to be completely charmed by the duo's playful camaraderie.
Pink, Beautiful Trauma
Release date: October 13 Label: RCA Why we're excited: Just when you finally got 2013's chart-topping ballad "Just Give Me a Reason" out of your head, Pink is back with another record of glass-raising anthems, party-starting barnburners, and empowerment pop. Judging from her Instagram, she's got President Donald Trump in her sights, but don't expect apocalyptic musings about the end times or gloomy predictions for the future. That's not her style. If her recent speech at the VMA's about her daughter is any indication, she's still looking to inspire.
St. Vincent, Masseduction
Release date: October 13 Label: Loma Vista Why we're excited: If you have 20 minutes to spare, it's worth checking out the dryly funny fake press conference Annie Clarke held as part of the promotional roll-out for the latest St. Vincent album, the follow-up to 2014's excellent self-titled collection. She even takes questions "in the style of Sarah Huckabee Sanders" at one point, a reminder of the acerbic wit that makes her art-pop experiments so rewarding to puzzle over. "This record is from my heart to yours and I hope it finds its way there," she deadpans during the press conference. "Lots of love and peace to you all. And thank you -- you can go back to bed soon."
Release date: October 20 Label: Merge Why we're excited: "Walk into a room and everything clicks," sings Dan Bejar on "Sky's Grey," the mournful and pastoral first single from his new full-length ken. That's a pretty accurate description of what makes Destroyer, the singer's long-running band, such an enduring presence in indie rock. When he finds the right surreal phrase, the perfect wiry guitar line, or the ideal synth flourish, everything just clicks. You don't know why you're in the room, but you feel like staying for a while.
Release date: November 10 Label: Big Machine Why we're excited: Come on, you knew it had to be on here. Even if it's a creative disaster -- and if the first single "Look What You Made Me Do" is any indication, that's a real possibility -- it will be most talked about record of the year, and it will sell an ungodly amount of copies. (Likely shipped to you by UPS.) Taylor Swift doesn't do anything small, and she clearly doesn't retreat in the face of negative press. As the headline-strewn cover art for the record suggests, she always leans in. Expect a chaotic few months -- and use the rest of this list to stay sane.
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