Fall means pretty leaves, delicious pumpkin-flavored food, and great new music! This is what we'll be blasting from our iPods all season.
On sale now (Matador)
Cult favorite and bona fide indie-rock dream woman Chan Marshall, better known as Cat Power, hasn’t released an album of new material since 2006’s The Greatest. Hardly anything Marshall’s done has sounded optimistic, but if the title Sun is any indication, her ninth LP might just find her singing a happier tune (in her signature smoky voice, of course). First single “Ruin” is almost—no kidding—disco-ready, with pulsating drums and a buoyant piano line. But for those who prefer the gut-wrenching heartbreakers Marshall does so well, fear not. She finished the album at the same time she broke up with her longtime boyfriend, so the collection mixes a little melancholy amidst the newfound brightness.
Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra
Theatre Is Evil
On sale now (8ft)
Punky cabaret singer and sometime Dresden Dolls frontwoman Amanda Palmer made headlines in June when the Kickstarter campaign to raise money for her new album became the first musical project on the site to raise more than a million dollars. The headlines probably won’t abate after the release of her third solo album, Theatre Is Evil, another collection of piano-led pop tunes full of Palmer’s trademark in-your-face lyrics. Singles “Do It With a Rockstar” and “Want It Back” find Palmer treading new ground with a noisy band and dreamy synths but eventually settling into the balls-out, anthemic choruses for which she’s rightfully known, indicating that Theatre Is Evil will be another Palmer sing-along classic.
On sale now (Young Turks)
Following the massive success of the xx’s 2009 debut, it’s probably safe to say that their second record will be just as huge, if not more so. These things tend to happen when you produce songs for Drake and get sampled by Rihanna. After a seemingly endless tour cycle and a short break, the band built their own studio in their hometown of London and got to work. The chilling combination of Romy Madley Croft’s and Jamie Smith’s voices has always been one of the highlights of any xx song, and their newest effort delivers more of the same quiet but intense jams beloved by music critics and pop superstars alike.
On sale now (Vice)
For their 10th-anniversary album, Danish duo Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner decamped to Los Angeles in search of a sunnier, warmer sound. But when Wagner was diagnosed with clinical depression, the band found themselves moving in a gloomier—but still beautiful—direction. Recorded with legendary producer Richard Gottehrer (who also worked on 2003’s Chain Gang of Love) at the equally legendary Sunset Sound, Observator will find the group further perfecting their matchless brand of Jesus and Mary Chain-esque shoegaze while they explore a more nuanced and mature set of emotions.
Dum Dum Girls
End of Daze EP
On sale September 25 (Sub Pop)
On last year’s full-length Only in Dreams, the Dum Dum Girls completely ditched the distorted, fuzzed-out sound of 2010’s I Will Be for a clearer, richer sound. On their End of Daze EP, that blissful, modernized girl-group sensibility is still in place, with frontwoman Dee Dee’s ’60s-inspired vocals ringing out over layers of moody guitars. Closer “Season in Hell,” with its decidedly ’80s drum rhythms and Cure-like melodies, finds the Girls mining for influences a couple decades ahead of their usual signatures, and suggests that the band has far more up their black lace bell sleeves than the same old retro-pop sound that’s been everywhere recently.
On sale September 25 (Self-Released)
For their third album, Toronto-based Dragonette expand on the ecstasy-laced electropop they developed on 2009’s Fixin to Thrill, upping the volume of the ’80s synths and adding even more danceable, throbbing beats. Lead singer Martina Sorbara has refined her vocals in the past few years so they’re smoother, stronger, and ready to compete in a crowded field of female-fronted electro bands. First single “Let It Go” is an impossibly upbeat ode to relaxing in the face of adversity, a necessary tenet of any good dance record. When Sorbara sings, “We don’t need a cure for the weight of the world,” it’s hard not to think that Dragonette’s carefree jams might be a good substitute.
On sale October 2 (Deutsche Grammophon)
It’s been 20 years since flame-haired singer, songwriter, pianist, and ’90s icon Tori Amos released her debut solo album, Little Earthquakes. To celebrate the record’s platinum anniversary, Amos has rerecorded some of her classic songs with the Netherlands’ Metropole Orchestra, giving gems from her expansive back catalog a lush, epic sound previously only hinted at in her spare arrangements. Fans of last year’s Night of Hunters, a classical-inspired song cycle also produced with the venerable label Deutsche Grammophon, will delight in Amos’ continued forays into deeper musical territory. All of this experimentation might put off new listeners, but Amos’ willingness to keep evolving and pushing herself this far into her long, already impressive career is admirable.
Tender New Signs
On sale October 16 (Mexican Summer)
When Tamaryn released her debut album in 2010, it was hard not to accuse her of capitalizing on the renewed fervor for early-’90s dream pop from artists like Mazzy Star and the Cocteau Twins. But her latest album should put any fears of Bush One-era plagiarism to rest. Full of more of the same distorted, acid-trippy guitar slow jams first heard on The Waves, the record firmly establishes Tamaryn in her own genre: a mix of shoegaze, psychedelic folk, and straight-up alt-rock. Her sophomore effort proves that her eyeliner-ringed, goth-inspired sound is more than just homage to a passing craze.
Bat for Lashes
The Haunted Man
On sale October 22 (Astralwerks)
In the three years since Bat for Lashes (aka Natasha Khan) released her sophomore album, Two Suns, she’s been mostly off the grid, popping up only occasionally to record a song for a Gucci ad campaign (her excellent cover of Depeche Mode’s “Strangelove”) or a Twilight: Eclipse soundtrack addition (her duet “Let’s Get Lost” with Beck). But thankfully, she’s back for real this time, with another album full of haunting ballads and dark dance songs. Her brand of brooding goth-pop has exponentially increased in popularity since 2009 (along with similar-sounding acts like Zola Jesus and Austra), so don’t be surprised if Bat for Lashes rises to the top of the heap and reasserts herself as rightful heir to the throne of Siouxsie Sioux.
By Eliza C. Thompson
All images courtesy of their respective record labels.