Anyone who thinks the album format is losing out to smash-and-grab downloads need only look at what’s coming out over the next few weeks. While it’s been a summer of megagigs, from the Olympic ceremonies on down, welcome to the autumn of albums.
There’s at least one unmissable release being thrown in our direction every week for the next two months, a teetering pile of household names. Bob Dylan, Pink and The Killers have already made September comebacks, while Mumford & Sons are reviewed this week.
Emeli Sandé is also looking to capitalise on her February debut, Our Version of Events, being the biggest seller of 2012 so far, by reissuing it as a “Special Edition” with five more songs on October 22.
She’s got tough competition awaiting her, however. Week by week there’s another giant arriving, as well as a heavyweight alternative if you’re not into the main attraction. I’ve listened to much of the new material to map a path through a stellar line-up that keeps on giving.
The 2nd Law (warner)
Muse have had a big year already, with their new song, Survival, being the official anthem of the Olympics. It’s here on their sixth album in all its silly glory. The band mimic Queen more than ever on that track, though elsewhere they’ve found new tactics to sound even more apocalyptic. The track Unsustainable was inspired by the new breed of fearsome dance acts such as Skrillex. “We wanted to ask, ‘Can rock bands compete with what these guys are doing?’” said frontman Matt Bellamy, who came up with the dubstep bass, robot voices and panicked strings. Elsewhere, though, they sound unexpectedly groovy on Madness, a Prince-like electronic funk number. It’ll be a calm moment on the inevitable overblown arena tour to come.
On another note: Beth Orton — Sugaring Season (Epitaph).
The original new folk girl is back to challenge Laura Marling and co on a new label with her first album for more than six years.
Both out Oct 1
The Hereford electropop singer launches her second album from a position as a global star. While she’s been absent for a while in her homeland, in the US her song Lights, from her 2010 debut, has made an epic climb up their charts, taking over a year to reach the top-five position where it currently sits. Now she has plenty of sparkling pop tunes to follow it up with, from the piano stomp of Anything Could Happen to the hefty synth workout of Figure 8. Though she’s bolder with her singing here, her wispy voice still suits the ballads best. A cover of Active Child’s Hanging On is bliss.
On another note: Jeff Lynne — Long Wave (Frontiers)
Accompanying a new best-of ELO set with his first solo album in two decades, featuring affectionate covers of Charles Aznavour, Chuck Berry and Roy Orbison.
Both out Oct 8
Lewis’s status as the biggest star to emerge from Britain’s X Factor competition may have been dented recently by the rapid rise of One Direction. Lengthy delays to this third album’s release date hinted at trouble but its collection of classy torch songs with giant choruses don’t suggest a break from the past. There’s a bit of dubstep to wake everyone up on the title track, and the new single Trouble sounds uncannily like Emeli Sandé (not surprising, since Sandé co-wrote it). Elsewhere the formula remains pretty fixed.
On another note: Bat for Lashes — The Haunted Man (Parlophone)
More otherwordly singer-songwriter fare on Natasha Khan’s third album, a complex grower.
Both out Oct 15
Red (Big Machine/Mercury)
Country pop star Swift, just 22, was named by Forbes this summer as the richest celebrity under 30, out-earning Justin Bieber, Adele and Kristen Stewart, so the pressure is on for her fourth album to be another multi-platinum smash. Reviewers have already been told that they’ll only be able to hear the songs in advance in the record company boardroom, so it’s still under lock and key for now. What we do know is that it features a duet co-written with Ed Sheeran, which will earn him truly global attention, and that the lead single, We are Never Ever Getting Back Together, suggests she’s still getting all of her material from boyfriend break-ups.
On another note: The D.O.T. — And That (The Beats)
What Mike Skinner did after disbanding The Streets, producing dance tracks, and with Rob Harvey of The Music doing most of the vocals.
Both out Oct 22
18 Months (Columbia/Flye Eye)
Scottish dance bigwig Calvin Harris is guaranteed success with his third album — it already features five hit singles. He’s had an extraordinary run of four No 2 tracks in a row, including Bounce with Kelis and Let’s Go featuring Ne-Yo. A year ago he came up with Rihanna’s We Found Love, a four-times platinum number one which also features here. And there’s more to come on the guest star front, with the next single, Sweet Nothing, starring Florence Welch, while the rest of the album includes appearances by Ellie Goulding, Tinie Tempah and Dizzee Rascal.
On another note: Neil Young — Psychedelic Pill (Reprise/WEA)
Just four months after his Americana album, ever-prolific Young releases his second collaboration with his band Crazy Horse this year.
Both out Oct 29
Take the Crown (Island)
The pressure is on for Robbie after two albums, Rudebox in 2006 and Reality Killed the Video Star in 2009, that, while not exactly flops (double and triple platinum respectively), didn’t produce the enduring hit singles we’ve come to expect. Now he’s had a gentle reintroduction to the pop world in the warm embrace of a Take That reunion but you still sense his hunger for lone chart dominance in the comeback single Candy. It’s close to a nursery rhyme in its catchiness level. “I was properly scared of writing anything that sounded like a hit, or a bit poppy,” he said recently of his later solo career. That’s definitely no longer the case.
On another note: JLS — Evolution (Epic)
Robbie’s boy band days may be over but here are his successors, racing back with their fourth album in just three years.
Both out Nov 5
The pop-punk veterans, now turning 40, are having their busiest year. While the successful Broadway musical version of their American Idiot album is about to start a UK tour (arriving at Hammersmith Apollo in December) they’re releasing three full albums in just a few months. ¡Uno! is out on Monday (see review on page 44), then there’s this one, while ¡Tré! (see what they did there?) follows on January 14. The first of the trio suggests that the quality control button hasn’t been mislaid, and with three complementary album covers, fans will have to get the set.
On another note: One Direction — Take Me Home (Sony)
For the schoolgirl population, the second album by the X Factor boy band is the biggest of the year by far. Scream!
Both out Nov 12
The Evolution of Man (Ministry of Sound)
West Londoner Elliot Gleave hit big with his last album, which produced two number-one singles in Stay Awake and Changed the Way You Kissed Me and fine-tuned his half-rapped, half-sung dance pop sound. On his fourth album he’s edging closer to the rock world, working with Blur’s Graham Coxon on four songs including Crying Out for Help, which has a “prog-rock feel” according to his people. On the new single Say Nothing, out this week and on Radio 1’s A-list, he shows he can still muster a big chorus.
On another note: Little Mix — DNA (Syco)
A year after they became the first girl group to win the X Factor, the glossy quartet finally release their debut album.
Both out Nov 19
Girl on Fire (RCA)
The fifth album from the American R&B star and pianist features some notable UK collaborators, including the ubiquitous Emeli Sandé and, more intriguingly, Jamie Smith from The xx. The title track features booming drums and a rap from the even more ubiquitous Nicki Minaj, while New Day is also heavy on the rhythm section and features her singing with urgency over clattering marching beats. Elsewhere there’s also Kanye West’s producer Jeff Bhasker and blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr.
On another note: Olly Murs — Right Place, Right Time (Epic/Syco)
Continuing the theme of former X Factor stars releasing albums during the current series, cheeky chappy Murs is back with his third.