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I did one of these last year around the same time and there is so much good music coming out in September you guys that I thought I’d do another one. If I forgot anything or there’s anything else you’d like to rave or rage about, have at it in the comments.
Aug. 30 (technically not September but it’s never too late):
Summary: The Tuareg blues ensemble has one of the most compelling origin stories in the popular music world — after meeting in a refugee camp in Libya, the band built their own traveling studio and, in an effort to get their musical message about the struggles of the Tuareg people out to as many listeners as possible, offered to record for anyone who would provide a blank tape. Now, more than 30 years later, Tinariwen is a mainstay on the festival circuit in the U.S. and Europe and has amassed a global following.
Last Release: 2009’s Imidiwan: Companions, met with rave reviews from critics.
Why We’re Excited: The band has incredible virtuosity and an instantly likable sound on their own, but on Tassili, they bring in some awesome collaborators, including the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline and Kyp Malone & Tunde Adebimpe from TV On the Radio.
Potential Dealbreaker: None.
Level of Expectation: Very high. Kind of biased because I’ve already listened to it at least four or five times on the NPR stream and it is SO GOOD YOU GUYS. The TVOTR collab track will make you want to dance. In a word, Tinariwonderful.
Summary: The frat-boy funksters return without John Frusciante but with a lot of songs with really stupid titles. Kreayshawn was supposed to direct the music video for their first single, ‘The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie,’ but then she didn’t.
Last Release: 2006’s Stadium Arcadium, which you probably mostly listened to because the bros in your dorm had it on on full blast 24/7. Or maybe that was just me.
Why We’re Excited: Rick Rubin is producing and he’s done a lot of good stuff, right? Right? And maybe they’ll put the Kreayshawn video out as a DVD bonus extra or whatever. Admit it, you kind of want to see it.
Potential Dealbreaker: There are a few, but the most glaring is the lack of John Frusciante. Like the Peppers or not, his skill is undeniable and the band will have a hard time making up for his absence. The lead single is bland and the video, a homage to the Beatles’ Let It Be rooftop concert, is equally so.
Level of Expectation: Moderately low. The Peppers are kind of a niche market at this point anyway and I can see this heading into ‘for fans only’ territory pretty quickly. Stadium Arcadium had some very strong tracks, but without the burst of energy from Frusciante’s playing, the band may soon become a festival novelty. And the whole Kreayshawn thing, like her or not, feels reminiscent the Weezer-esque tendency to use a cultural meme for exposure.
Summary: Baroque pop’s boy wonder returns with a fuller sound, all the horns.
Last Release: The 2009 double EP Holland/March of the Zapotec — the latter was inspired by frontman Zach Condon’s trip to Oaxaca, Mexico and features a 19-piece band from the area.
Why We’re Excited: Listening to a Beirut album all the way through takes a certain mood and mindset — recalling fond memories with a foreign lover, perhaps — but if you’ve got it, it’s the perfect soundtrack. Condon’s composition skillz (with a ‘z’) and voice are stunning, and his songwriting has consistently gotten better.
Potential Dealbreaker: Have listeners grown weary of Condon’s French Riviera / Eastern European cabaret / all the horns aesthetic yet? (Probably not.)
Level of Expectation: High. If it ain’t baroque (pop), don’t fix it. See what I did there?
Summary: Members of the DFA dance-punk army return for their first album in five years.
Last Release: 2006’s Pieces of the People We Love, which featured the infectious dance-party anthem, ‘Get Myself Into It.’
Why We’re Excited: Summer may be over, but the album’s piano-disco single, ‘How Deep Is Your Love,’ will get us grooving well into the fall. A promising start, for sure.
Potential Dealbreaker: The band is still somewhat living in the shadow of its 2003 breakthrough album, Echoes, and its now-legendary single ‘House of Jealous Lovers.’
Level of Expectation: High. Even if Grace is nowhere near the caliber of Echoes, The Rapture’s jams will still keep us dancing ‘til the world ends. Or until I stop making these terrible puns.
Summary: To be honest, I didn’t actually know anything about this band before writing this guide. I honestly just included them because their name is also a euphemism for ‘vagina.’
Last Release: This is the debut effort from the Jersey acoustic-arena-punk duo.
Why We’re Excited: There is a track on the album called ‘The Beers,’ and amid fist-pumping piano licks, vocalist Brian Sella wails, ‘I will remember that summer / as the summer I was taking steroids / because you like a man with muscles / and I like you.’
Potential Dealbreaker: Sella’s vocals get a little whiny at times, but it’s okay because you still put on Dashboard Confessional sometimes when no one is around, don’t you?
Level of Expectation: High. Fans of The Hold Steady and folks missing Straylight Run will probably like this a lot.
Summary: Portland fuzz-folkies return for another round, harmonicas a-blazin’.
Last Release: Last year’s Destroyer of the Void.
Why We’re Excited: If nothing else, the album art is amazing. This just makes me think of, like, ‘70s porn mustaches and big cars and Burt Effing Reynolds.
Potential Dealbreaker: Listening to this album may compel you to pull a Chris McCandless, quit your life and drive into the wilderness. Don’t. Unless you want to, I guess.
Level of Expectation: Very high. This boozy, stomping, luminous folk-fest may be one of the year’s strongest releases. The retro feel and youthful energy together run like a fixed-up vintage Chevy.
Summary: Wisecracking, multitasking indie hip-hop duo who got attention with novelty tracks about combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bells and nyuk-nyuk pop culture nods (‘call me Dwight Schrute / the way that I eat beats’), critically-acclaimed mixtapes and schooling New Yorker cartoonists at their own game, drop their first album.
Last Release: Last year’s critically-acclaimed Sit Down, Man mixtape, whose single, ‘hahahaha jk?’ was one of the best of the year.
Why We’re Excited: Das Racist are funny, constantly pushing themselves to try new things and really understand hip-hop, as demonstrated in their half-academia, half-haiku amazing response to the NYT’s Sasha Frere-Jones.
Potential Dealbreaker: Probably none, but over the past few years, we’ve seen quite a few hip-hop artists who fare far better on mixtapes than on actual albums (Lil Wayne, B.o.B., Kid CuDi). But comparing any of these artists to each other is like, I dunno, trying to compare Hogwarts houses. They all work under the same general umbrella, but are all pretty different.
Level of Expectation:Very high. If Heems and Kool A.D. can follow up with all their successes and varied pursuits from last year, we can expect some great things. Maybe they’ll design their own video game next?
Summary: Sunny indie buzz-band duo became beloved by Pitchfork and are now trying to follow up with a sophomore effort.
Last Release: 2009’s Album, a stellar record full of California sunshine and just a little bit of angst.
Why We’re Excited: Based on the album title, it looks as if Children of God cult alum Chris Owens (who grew up in the movement in California) will be exploring the influence his time in COG had on him in his music even more than he did on Album, which gave a lot of color and complexity to Owens’ songs. Second single ‘Honey Bunny’ sounds like they’re back in good form.
Potential Dealbreaker: The potential irritation we will all feel when this band / album gets totally overblogged.
Level of Expectation: High. Girls’ sound is easy to like from the get-go, and from the tracks that are already out, it sounds like they’ve expanded on it, as on the slow-burning freakout ‘Vomit.’
Summary: Melodic Nashville country trio makes you weep (or cringe, depending on your taste), packs arenas, probably is beloved by a lot of your friends if you live in the Midwestern or Southern U.S.
Last Release: 2010’s Need You Now, which produced a painfully ubiquitous radio single and won ALL THE AWARDS.
Why We’re Excited: Their tear-in-your-beer vocals, the essential ingredient for any good country ensemble. If the folks in Lady Antebellum have nothing else, they sure as heck can sing.
Potential Dealbreaker: To begin with, that name, still. Maybe it’s just me, but why would you possibly want to name your band after an era when people still owned slaves?
Level of Expectation: Moderately low. They’re not worth discounting on the basis that they’re country alone, oh no (the most insufferable phrase in the English language is probably ‘everything… but country’). But they are really kind of dull in the same way most of this pop-with-a-slide-guitar rebranding of ‘country’ is. I blame Rascal Flatts. Those harmonies, though. Fantastic.
Summary: Dark, devious and danceable Liverpudlian electro-pop quartet returns with a studio-centric effort.
Last Release: 2008’s heavy Velocifero, although the band has released a greatest hits compilation and remixes since then.
Why We’re Excited: Ladytron is one of those bands that’s like a lunar eclipse or a meteor shower or a sunny day in England. You forget about these natural phenomena for even years at a time, but then they happen and you remember and it is magical.
Potential Dealbreaker: A lot of their music was featured on The Sims 3, and The Sims 3 was kind of weak. Ladytron wasprobably the only good thing about that game, to be honest.
Level of Expectation:High. Get yer dancing shoes ready.
Summary: British folk songstress Marling is the proverbial mouse that roared — her tunes are equally exquisite and ferocious, subtle at first, but thoroughly memorable.
Last Release: Her stellar 2010 sophomore album, I Speak Because I Can, led to a Mercury Prize nomination, a Brit Award and a whole lot of slobbering raves from this Autostraddler.
Why We’re Excited: Marling has been compared to the late, great Fairport Convention frontwoman Sandy Denny, and she certainly has Denny’s prowess for telling captivating stories. British folk is alive and well and lives in a wee blond bard from Hampshire.
Potential Dealbreaker: None. If the tracks we have already heard from this album, like the stunning “Sophia,” are any indication, we have a lot to look forward to.
Level of Expectation:Very high. This year has been a great one for mellow, contemplative coffee-house folk so far (Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues, The Decemberists’ The King Is Dead, etc.) and we’re pretty sure Marling can do no wrong.
Summary: IT’S A NEW BANGLES ALBUM, YOU GUYS. I don’t really know what else I have to say here.
Last Release: 2003’s lukewarm Everything, the band’s first collection of new material in about 15 years.
Why We’re Excited: Now that the reformed Bangles have toured together and reestablished a group dynamic, this new set of tunes could be promising.
Potential Dealbreaker: Could the Bangles be reduced, like so many of their ‘80s contemporaries, to novelty-act status?
Level of Expectation: Moderately low. But we’ll always have ‘Eternal Flame.’