TEARS FOR FEARS: Like so many other long-ago hitmaking Britpop bands, have regrouped this year for the first time in 15 years. Would you believe Everybody Loves a Happy Ending is a splendid return to form? Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith have tweaked their band's sound ever so slightly, and they channel The Beatles (and Bowie) more than ever to create stunningly complex music. Though they do get mellow on occasion, they generally tend toward genuine rock anthems, from the title track to the Lennon-worthy masterpiece, "Who Killed Tangerine?" (Available now)
RACHAEL SAGE charms her way through her latest, Ballads & Burlesque, opening with a bang (the multi-layered "Sacrifice") and growing more yearning, and occasionally yawning, as she goes. Like the bisexual artist's five previous self-released sets, she never strays far from her tickling ivory sensibilities or her jazzy folk leanings, or her sophisticated poetic lyricism. (Available now)
GREEN DAY has created a mini rock-opera, "Jesus of Suburbia," that runs more than nine minutes for its latest pop-punk album, American Idiot, which frontman Billy Joe Armstrong calls the group's "most ambitious album to date." Like countless other releases this fall, it's also said to be the band's most political, and judging from the unrelenting title track, it sounds like its best, too. The band will perform on Halloween, Oct. 31, at the Patriot Center. (9/21)
LIVE AT MIMI'S: PAST AND PRESENT features 22 studio-recorded songs performed by the D.C. bistro's current and former singing waiters -- including former American Idol finalist John Twiford -- and mastered by Kevin Roland, the restaurant's musical director. A closed-door anniversary and CD release party will take place Sept. 24 at the restaurant, where the CD will also be for sale to the public. (9/24)
INTERPOL, probably the best of today's many bands influenced by ‘80s Britpop bands Depeche Mode, The Cure and Joy Division, will follow its brilliant brooding 2002 debut Turn on the Bright Lights with the reportedly brighter Antics. Guitarist Daniel Kessler of the New York quintet told Billboard, "You really have to listen to the record a few times to really get a hold of the whole entity" -- which was just as true for their first set. First single "Slow Hands" is a dancefloor jam. They'll perform at the 9:30 Club on Nov. 9. (9/28)
NANCY SINATRA has enlisted a stellar slate of collaborators for what she hopes will be her long-delayed return to chart success. U2's Bono and the Edge and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore are among those assisting her on the self-titled set from Morrissey's own label imprint. First single is Sinatra's cover of Morrissey's "Let Me Kiss You." (9/28)
JOSS STONE, at her best, updates sunny, old-school soul with modern-day overcast hip-hop notes in the same vein as Alicia Keys. While the precocious white British teenager bears no familial relation to Angie Stone -- she was born Joscelyn Eve Stoker -- musically she's Angie's younger sister, right down to her similar warm, husky alto. Angie sang backup on her first outing, last year's Soul Sessions, and now, Joss' even better follow-up, Mind, Body & Soul, is one of this year's more accomplished releases, featuring at least one of the year's best R&B songs, "You Had Me." (9/28)
QUEEN LATIFAH began her career as a rapper, but she's shown, in Chicago and elsewhere, that she can sing as well as her contemporaries. So The Dana Owens Album is most notable for offering her covers of pop and jazz classics, from the Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'" to the standard "I Put a Spell on You." To add further appeal, Latifah has enlisted several of the artists, including Al Green, to sing their originals along with her. (9/28)
JUANES, probably the most celebrated contemporary Latin artist, will release his hotly anticipated third album, Mi Sangre. The young Colombian's sound is classified as Rock en Español, but you don't have to be familiar with that genre -- or, for that matter, his Spanish language -- to thoroughly enjoy its complex, rhythmic pop-rock. (9/28)
Also this month: MORRISSEY performs at DAR Constitution Hall on September 29th, or one night after KEANE performs at the 9:30 Club. The socially conscious Canadian singing rapper K-Os will follow up his brilliant 2003 debut Exit with Joyfull Rebellion, while the socially conscious Brooklyn rapping actor MOS DEF releases his second set The New Danger, five years after his successful debut. SCREAM CLUB, a lesbian couple from Olympia, Wash., comes across, on Don't Bite Your Sister, as an edgier Le Tigre. What's not to like about a band describing themselves as an "electro-sex-hip-pop-punk-rock-rap duo of gaysymmetrical superheroes?" Don't worry, they won't bite you, unless your name is Bush.
R.E.M., mere days after its Vote for Change swing-state tour stop, will release its latest, Around the Sun, and then, a month later, perform from it on November 1, the 2004 Election Eve, at DAR Constitution Hall. Despite the group's political maneuverings, early indications are that the album tracks, including "Leaving New York," are surprisingly not so political. (10/5)
THE SCUMFROG (a.k.a. Dutch, born Jesse Houk) will release his long overdue first artist album, Simmer, which will feature his never-gets-old hit "Music Revolution," as well as new single, "Come On," among other sure-to-be heavily melodic, moody house numbers on which he sings. (10/5)
WAY OUT WEST has consciously become a band -- in the Underworld-style of melody-rich, atmospheric electronica -- for its latest, Don't Look Now, with the two British dance-music producers Nick Warren and Jody Wisternoff adding singer Omi to the mix. Sweet, breathily voiced Omi is a dead-ringer for Sarah McLachlan, and first single "Anything But You" a clear Delerium featuring McLachlan-inspired club track. But that's not even one of the appealing album's better tracks. Its best: The snare-drum beats, haunting bass and darting sonics of "Fear" whip up a frightened, fabulous frenzy. (10/5)
FATBOY SLIM's Palookaville includes an electronica cover of the Steve Miller Band's ‘70s hit "The Joker." It's just the first of many signs that the British DJ Slim, nee Norman Cook, is up to his usual trick of getting rockers to dance. (10/5)
DURAN DURAN returns with all five original members for the first time in 21 years. Since they've been away for so long, they're not trying to recreate their seminal Britpop sound on Astronaut, and have enlisted hitmaking producers who've worked with Usher, Alicia Keys, Linkin Park and Avril Lavigne. It's a motley assortment that doesn't sound good on paper, though the group promises the Duran sound of old hasn't been subsumed. And early single "Sunrise" argues that case. (10/12)
RICHARD MOREL, like his 9:30 Club partner-in-spin Bob Mould, shows that he's as interested in rock as in electronica, and even more interested in splitting the difference on his eponymous group's newest album, Lucky Strike. Morel sings trenchant lyrics in a raspy, resonating voice alternately sensuous and spooky. The fantastic album opener, "Cheerful," is a complicated three-part tour-de-force of enchanting strings, blinding percussion and charming vocals singing about "how the world ends." Armageddon never sounded so woo-hoo good. The band will be at Velvet Lounge on the 23rd. (10/19)
LE TIGRE kicks up a fury of political barbs on its latest, This Island, but then that's nothing unusual from the feminist dance-rapping trio. It's possibly more political than usual though, and also already dated. First single "New Kicks" finds them shouting as part of a chorus "peace now," among a host of news soundbites about the Iraq War and the protests leading up to it. (10/19)
J. BOOGIE's Dubtronic Science – Live in the Mix is a soul-happy fusion collection of mid-tempo funk, house, hip-hop, dub, jazz and soul. It opens with a fluttering flute and sweet acoustic guitar, but it doesn't really kick in until a third of the way through the 27 tracks, when J. Boogie, of San Francisco, lays down the first of several of his own alerting tracks, criticizing the sitting President and his misguided homeland security. (10/26)
THE DRESDEN DOLLS make sweeping, overly dramatic pop in grand, and campy, musical theater fashion -- but it's from an edgy punk perspective. Amanda Palmer pounds on her piano to produce devastating melodies, allowing drummer Brian Viglione to show the gentle side of percussion. The Boston duo's rare D.C.-area performance -- the Black Cat on the 27th – should be twice as entertaining as last year's eponymous full-length debut, which was good but demonstrated the limitations of an audio-only recording of a clearly charismatic act.
Also this month: BOB MOULD will perform with JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL, HENRY ROLLINS and others for Freedom to Marry's WEDRock benefit at 9:30 Club on the 5th. ONO (as in Yoko) releases her latest maxi-single, this time altering the lyrics of her 1980 song "Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him" to show support for same-sex marriage. Centaur Records finally releases what should be a reliably sound Global Groove: The Tour compilation, on which DJ DEMARKO marks his debut. The day after National Coming Out Day -- Oct. 11th -- MELISSA ETHERIDGE's Lucky Tour comes back to DAR Constitution Hall. October 14th sees BARRY MANILOW "One Last Time" at the MCI Center. VANESSA CARLTON will release Harmonium, which is said to be a return to enchanting piano-pop form that won over so many on her debut and its hit "A Thousand Miles."
TIESTO, the ever prolific and celebrated DJ, will release his next artist album only months after his last, Just Be. His latest, Parade of the Athletes, is full of songs specially written for this year's Summer Olympics, where he spun during the Opening Ceremony (hence the title). It will also include four "classics from Tiesto's catalog," Billboard reported without explanation. (11/2)
DOLLY PARTON has just released her Live and Well concert album. As enjoyable as it is, consider it an early souvenir, since the best news of all is that she's on a full-fledged tour for the first time in decades. She'll be at Patriot Center on November 14th, where you can expect to hear a lot of bluegrass from her last three albums (plus her next one, due early next year), where her artistry shines as never before. Still, just like Live, expect to hear her great country-pop classics, which sound just as good, or better, when she's bluegrassed them.
DESTINY'S CHILD is not officially just about Beyoncé Knowles, but Beyoncé, along with her daddy, is the driving force of the group. It stands to reason, then, that the trio's next album, Destiny Fulfilled, will draw more inspiration from Beyoncé's club-centered solo sound than the less-successful soft-soul of Kelly Rowland or the gospel heart of Michelle Willams. True to form, the group's first single in three years, "Lose My Breath," sounds less like an earlier Destiny's hit and more like one of Beyoncé's career-defining songs. Breathtaking indeed. (11/16)
BLACK EYED PEAS have had lasting -- and unprecedented -- success with last year's Elephunk, its third album. Wasting no time, the band will release its fourth album, Monkey Business, so as not to be forgotten. But they're not just rehashing Elephunk. Business is said to brandish edgier, darker sounds and subject matter -- which makes it sound more in line with the group's first two records. (11/16)
U2 has brought back the producer of its earliest albums for its latest, as yet untitled, a sign that it might differ from 2000's straightforward-sounding All That You Can't Leave Behind. As such, don't be surprised if it proves to be even better than that great effort. (11/23)
GWEN STEFANI has been in the public eye for years, as No Doubt's lead singer, so it's almost surprising to hear that her debut doesn't drop until now. Here's another surprise: this still-untitled set is our pick for the season's most anticipated. Why? Because Stefani has worked with the best from all corners of the music biz, from Outkast's Andre 3000 to Linda Perry to New Order. And because Newsweek reports it's a "dance-floor celebration" mixing "New Wave-ish dance tunes, sexed-up hip-hop beats" and drawing clear inspiration from Prince. On paper, nothing can top that. (11/23)
DIRTY VEGAS will follow-up its self-titled electronica debut smash with the more organic-rock sounding ONE. The group used live instrumentation and an eight-piece orchestra on several tracks, according to Billboard, though hopefully the band hasn't made a near and total departure from its "Days Go By" days. (11/30)
Also this month: ELTON JOHN, as far as we know, isn't teaming up with EMINEM, but both will release long-awaited albums, the former releasing Peachtree Road and the latter, Encore. The most recent, and best yet, American Idol champ FANTASIA BARRINO will release her Missy Elliott- and Jermaine Dupri-produced debut. Canadian quartet HOT HOT HEAT will release its sophomore set that the band says is a little less ‘80s/New Wave sounding than its impressive debut, Make up the Breakdown. RUFUS WAINWRIGHT finally offers Want Two. And both SHANIA TWAIN and BRITNEY SPEARS get the Greatest Hits treatment.