News Column

New albums coming from Eminem, Danny Brown, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

October 5, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 05--Even in a digital world, old habits can die hard. And for the music industry, one of those well-ingrained routines is the autumn album-release season.

With the busiest part of the concert calendar out of the way and holiday shopping on the horizon, the spotlight begins to turn to recorded music for the year's homestretch -- a period typically reserved for some of the highest-profile releases.

Detroit will be a notable part of the action this time, with upcoming albums from some of the region's best-known names, in a year that already has seen albums from homegrown acts such as Big Sean, Mayer Hawthorne, the Dirtbombs and Sean Forbes.

Here's a look at what's coming down the pike:

Eminem, "The Marshall Mathers LP 2" (Nov. 5)

The world is still awaiting full details about the eighth album by Detroit's hip-hop superstar. But we can presume that Eminem is feeling mighty confident about this stuff, because he's putting something pretty important on the line: the legacy of his career's most cherished title. Em's original "Marshall Mathers LP" is roundly regarded not only as one of hip-hop's all-time masterpieces, but as one of the century's best albums so far, period.

In other words, to the extent that this record is intended as a sequel to that iconic 2000 album, it better be good.

Here's what we do know about the new album, recorded, in part, at his Ferndale studio and Oakland Township home: Veteran rap-rock mastermind Rick Rubin is part of a producer lineup that includes Dr. Dre and DJ Khalil, who handled several cuts on Em's "Recovery" album in 2010. The two tracks released so far -- lead single "Berzerk" and the "Call of Duty" promo song "Survival" -- are heavy, guitar-driven numbers, and "Berzerk" has a retro-rap feel that pays obvious homage to Rubin's vintage '80s work.

A new Eminem album is still an automatic Big Deal, and the public appetite was obvious one afternoon last month when he tweeted the CD's cover image, a new shot of the dilapidated Detroit house famously featured on the original album. And you can expect the hype to kick into sixth gear as we approach the release, including a scheduled performance by Em at the inaugural YouTube Music Awards on Nov. 3.

Danny Brown, "Old" (Tuesday)

Having built his reputation in the hip-hop underground via a series of homemade mixtapes, Danny Brown broke into the wider consciousness with 2011's "XXX," which applied his pitch-bending vocals to a down-and-dirty stew of drugs, sex and Detroit street vignettes, all with a quirky, off-kilter touch to match his distinctively colorful sense of style. His opening line on the new track "Lonely" could well be a pull-quote from his bio: "Hipster by heart -- but I can tell you how the streets feel."

"Old" arrives with big expectations and ample buzz, not least because of April's headline-grabbing incident in which Brown briefly received onstage oral sex from a female fan. Originally titled "ODB" (and planned for release earlier this year), the album includes guests spots from A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX and Schoolboy Q, and has been the talk of the indie-rap world since hitting Spotify last Monday for a free preview stream.

Eschewing traditional hip-hop notions of masculinity for a more eccentric take on gritty urban life, Brown is artistically adventurous and often pointedly introspective. "Old" is a sprawling, 19-track opus that finds the 32-year-old wrestling with his conscience without quite abandoning his taste for the extreme. It may not be the album that propels him to the top of the pop charts, but "Old" will certainly keep Brown on the front burner of music critics and discerning hip-hop fans.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., "The Speed of Things" (Tuesday)

The Detroit band led by Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott scored an indie-pop hit with 2011's "It's a Corporate World," following a batch of basement-studio tracks recorded on a lark -- and strong online word-of-mouth that led to big-label backing from Warner Bros.

"The Speed of Things" is a worthy sophomore successor, fleshing out the duo's vision of classic pop hooks couched in intricate, synth-heavy arrangements, this time with a nod toward more dance-based rhythms. Fans had already gotten a taste of things with the spring EP "Patterns" and the minor summer hit "If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't on the Dance Floor)," and the full album got a high-profile rollout with a streaming debut last week at the New York Times website.

Black Milk, "No Poison No Paradise" (Oct. 15)

After several years in the trenches, Black Milk and his progressive, soul-infused hip-hop emerged onto the wider radar with 2008's "Tronic," followed two years later by his breakthrough record, "Album of the Year."

This new one -- his fifth full-length -- is a concept album featuring a protagonist named Sonny Jr., who becomes a vessel for Black Milk's own reflections on life growing up in the D. Produced by Black Milk and Will Sessions (of Motor City Funk Night renown), it's a warm album with a classic hip-hop feel, featuring guests such as Detroit soul singer Dwele, pianist Robert Glasper and the Roots' Black Thought.

Brendan Benson, "You Were Right" (Nov. 29)

This 15-track effort is a follow-up to Benson's 2012 album, "What Kind of World," and rounds up several songs already released as part of the indie rocker's ongoing single-of-the-month project.

Benson, who moved to Nashville several years ago and plays with fellow Detroit expatriate Jack White in the Raconteurs, will mark the album's release with a Dec. 18 show at Nashville's fabled Ryman Auditorium.

Laith Al-Saadi, "Real" (Friday)

The veteran Ann Arbor musician brings sterling guitar work and red-blooded soul-rock vocals to a set of original songs and a New Orleans-inspired take on the Band's "Ophelia." Blending blues, soul and Americana, this third album comes with an impressive pedigree, recorded live at L.A.'s famed Ocean Way studio with an all-star ensemble that includes drummer Jim Keltner, bassist Leland Sklar and organist Larry Goldings.

Al-Saadi will mark the CD's release with a Friday show at the Magic Bag, fronting a combo that includes drummer Mark Damian and bassist David Stearns. (8 p.m., the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward, Ferndale. 248-544-3030. $10.)

Howling Diablos, "Return of the Funk Hand" (Nov. 29)

Guitarist Wayne Kramer is a featured guest on the latest collection of party jams and streetwise funk from these Detroit stalwarts. It's a follow-up to the group's Detroit Music Awards-sweeping 2011 album, "Ultra Sonic Gas Can," and will be hailed with a Nov. 29 release party at P.J.'s Lager House.

Carolyn Striho, "Word Attack" (Oct. 15)

Striho's intense shows and avant-garde rock have made her a fixture of the local scene for years; her solo career remains in full flight with this latest album, "Word Attack," follow-up to 2009's much-applauded "Honesty." She'll be the featured performer at this month's installment of Ann Delisi's Essential Music series at the Majestic Cafe (Oct. 15), a free show that will be the first of several planned release parties.

Jim McCarty & Mystery Train, "Live" (Oct. 26)

The vaunted Detroit rock and blues guitarist (Cactus, Detroit Wheels) issues the latest disc with his longtime band Mystery Train, a concert album recorded earlier this year at Callahan's in Auburn Hills. McCarty and company will celebrate the release with a show at the same venue: 8 p.m. Oct. 26, Callahan's, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills. 248-858-9508. $15.

Contact Brian McCollum at 313-223-4450 or bmccollum@freepress.com.

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