Sept. 06--If the primary theme of the busy spring album season was the comeback story -- with long-absent heavyweights David Bowie, Justin Timberlake and Daft Punk generating headlines with their first new studio albums in several years -- fall is dominated by safe-bet blockbusters from active, chart-topping artists like Katy Perry, Eminem and, again, Justin Timberlake. And it's going to be a particularly busy season for pop as we head into the holiday season.
Here are 20 top fall releases to keep an ear open for.
Katy Perry, "Prism" (Oct. 22)
Despite its similarity to Sara Bareilles' spring single "Brave," Katy Perry's "Roar," the first single off her forthcoming "Prism," has turned into a beast, selling north of 525,000 downloads in its first week. Could it be that the astonishing success of her last album, "Teenage Dream" -- only the second album to have five singles go No. 1 -- will be the mere beginning of a truly superstar career? With top pop producers Dr. Luke and Max Martin working on "Prism," Perry will try her best to make sure it is.
Lady Gaga, "ARTPOP" (Nov. 12)
Has the world gotten over Lady Gaga? Just three years ago, when she played a sold out Bradley Center, she was essentially the freshest, hottest pop act in the world, seemingly a real game changer. But her first "ARTPOP" single "Applause" isn't such a huge crowd-pleaser -- Katy Perry's "Roar" made it whimper on the Billboard charts -- and the generally gonzo Gaga was upstaged at the MTV Video Music Awards by Miley Cyrus, no less (and, yeah, Perry too). No doubt the cult fans will stay loyal, but "ARTPOP" will be the pivotal album that will either cement her status as the reigning pop queen or set her further back from the throne.
Sting, "The Last Ship" (Sept. 24)
After conquering the music world and starring in films, Sting is headed to Broadway with his play "The Last Ship," which inspired a new album of the same name, Sting's first album of original material in 10 years. Media releases suggest both projects reportedly explore such themes as "homecoming" and "self-discovery," and were inspired by Sting's upbringing near a shipyard in Wallsend, England.
Cher, "Closer to the Truth" (Sept. 24)
Well, maybe fall is full of comeback albums after all. Like her fellow one-named pop star Sting, Cher has her first new studio album, in her case in nearly 12 years. But instead of looking at her roots as Sting has done, she seemingly has her eye set on present pop trends, collaborating with Justin Timberlake, go-to producer Timbaland and pop star P!nk, among others.
Three more in store
Thanks to Miley Cyrus, even your grandmother knows what twerking is, but can her scandalous MTV Video Music Awards performance translate into solid sales for new album "Bangerz"? (Oct. 4). ... Elton John plans to take a leap off "The Diving Board" (Sept. 24), his 30th studio album, with lyrics by Bernie Taupin and production by T Bone Burnett. ...and Justin Timberlake is guaranteed to be the top-selling artist of 2013, following up the year's No. 1 album "The 20/20 Experience" with "The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2" (Oct. 1).
Arcade Fire, title to be announced (Oct. 29)
Arcade Fire's stirring third album, "The Suburbs," was a surprising and well-deserved nominee for album of the year at the 2011 Grammys. Then it was an unexpected and well-deserved winner of the big prize. The cinematic indie-rock band has never had such huge expectations to live up to with the follow-up, which is rumored to be called "Reflektor," based on clues offered up by a viral marketing campaign driven by street art and social media. (The world should know soon, with an announcement, and possibly new music, expected Tuesday.) What's known is that James Murphy, of the great, late LCD Soundsystem, is working in the studio with the band. If the album is popular enough, is there a chance that Arcade Fire will finally return to Milwaukee after playing a lone Mad Planet show at the start of its career?
Three more in store
If the phenomenal Paul McCartney concert at Miller Park proved one thing, its that the 71-year-old Beatle is, physically speaking, still at the top of his game. Now he's going to try and prove his writing chops are still tip-top, too, with "New," (Oct. 14) his first album since 2007 to feature entirely new songs. ... After celebrating its 20th anniversary at Alpine Valley in 2011, Pearl Jam begins the work for what could be the band's next 20 years with new album "Lightning Bolt," (Oct. 15) led by the atypically lean, punk-spirited single "Mind Your Manners ..." and after Kings of Leon fell apart during a show in Dallas in 2011, the Southern-flavored alt-rock band returns from a hiatus with "Mechanical Bull" (Sept. 24).
Country and folk
The Avett Brothers, "Magpie and the Dandelion" (Oct. 15)
When the Avett Brothers were working with producer Rick Rubin on last year's "The Carpenter" (which ended up at the top of the Journal Sentinel's best albums of 2012 list), the work continued simultaneously for this follow-up album. "It's a continuation of our lack of interest in maintaining any genre," Scott Avett told the Journal Sentinel in a video interview in June, backstage at the Marcus Amphitheater before its Summerfest show. That said, folk likely will continue to be a crucial part of the band's sound, although initial single "Another is Waiting" leans a little toward country pop.
Three more in store
Keith Urban, last season's "American Idol" judge, and the only one who survived the chopping block despite his incredibly boring input, is lighting a "Fuse," (Sept. 10), a country album he's said was inspired in part by U2's "Achtung Baby." ... 80-year-old Willie Nelson releases his second studio album this year, "To All the Girls" with each track featuring a duet with a female singer. Guests include Dolly Parton, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Norah Jones, Alison Krauss and 13 more....And in a recent Journal Sentinel interview to promote his Harley-Davidson 110th anniversary show last month, Toby Keith said his new album, "Drinks After Work," (Oct. 29) should have "more singles on it than usual."
Hip-hop, R&B and soul
Eminem, "The Marshall Mathers LP 2" (Nov. 5)
Kanye, Jay-Z and Eminem? It's quite a year when the premiere three hip-hop titans each have new albums out. Whereas Kanye went the artistic route, and Jay-Z went the "phone-it-in" route, Eminem's album just might be a fun throwback, based on lead single "Berzerk" with its Beastie Boys-era production (from Rick Rubin). The track list and collaborator info is yet to come, but there's a strong chance Wisconsin native Skylar Grey will be part of this one, seeing as she played a crucial role co-writing Eminem's smash single "Love the Way You Lie" off his last album, and considering he executive-produced her summer album, "Don't Look Down."
The Blind Boys of Alabama, "I'll Find a Way" (Oct. 1)
The gospel institution, with origins dating back to 1939, have turned to Eau Claire-resident Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame for its new album, recorded in part at Vernon's April Base studio, with help from Phil Cook from the band the Shouting Matches. Vernon is also a guest vocalist, and among the gospel songs, and the Bob Dylan staple "Every Grain of Sand," that are covered, the Boys, along with Sam Amidon, take on the track "I Am Not Waiting Anymore" from Milwaukee band Field Report, written by Vernon's friend and former bandmate Christopher Porterfield. "There's sort of a looking at the North from the South, and looking at the South from the North thing on that record," Vernon told the Journal Sentinel during an interview in July.
Three more in store
Janelle Monae released one of the year's freshest singles, "Q.U.E.E.N.," an '80s-inspired funk track of Prince-worthy proportions, and ended up bringing Prince in as a guest on her anticipated new album, "The Electric Lady" (Sept. 10). ...Drake has his own well-known guest stars, including Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, on "Nothing Was the Same" (Sept. 24). ...Following the mind-reeling partnership between David Byrne and St. Vincent last fall, Elvis Costello andthe Roots stage their own "OhmygoshIcan'tbelievethisishappening" collaboration with "Wise Up Ghost" (Sept. 17).
Several acts releasing new albums this fall also are playing in Milwaukee:
-- Artist: The 1975
Album: "The 1975," Sept. 10
Local show:Oct. 20, the Rave
-- Artist: J. Roddy Walston & the Business
Album: "Essential Tremors," Sept. 10
Local show:Sept. 10, Club Garibaldi
-- Artist: The Devil Wears Prada
Album: "8:18," Sept. 17
Local show: Nov. 10, the Rave
-- Artist: Mike Doughty
Album: "Circles," Sept. 17
Local show:Oct. 27, Turner Hall Ballroom
-- Artist:Jonny Lang
Album: "Fight for my Soul," Sept. 17
Local show: Nov. 5 & 6, Northern Lights Theater, Potawatomi Bingo Casino
-- Artist: San Fermin
Album: "San Fermin," Sept. 17
Local show: Sept. 29, Pabst Pub
-- Artist: Ha Ha Tonka
Album: "Lessons," Sept. 24
Local show: Oct. 25, Club Garibaldi
-- Artist:Tyler Farr
Album: "Redneck Crazy," Oct.1
Local show: Nov. 3, Eagles Ballroom, the Rave (opening for Florida Georgia Line)
-- Artist: Amos Lee
Album: "Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song," Oct. 8
Local show: Nov. 5, Riverside Theater
-- Artist: Joe Nichols
Album: "Crickets," Oct. 8
Local show: Oct. 24, the Rave
-- Artist: Polica
Album: "Shulamith," Oct. 22
Local show: Oct. 31, Turner Hall Ballroom
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