Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Good Music (Hopefully) for the Fall

Eddie Vedder’s solo album/soundtrack for “Into the Wild” (due Sept. 18) is just one of several new releases I’m looking forward to this fall. Here are a few others to put on your calendar:

PJ Harvey, “White Chalk” (Sept. 24 in the UK, no US release date yet)
This is the visceral British singer/songwriter’s first album in three years, a follow-up to a slightly subpar “Uh Huh Her.” The latter was an album that turned out to be less than the sum of its parts. While it was a return to her minimalist and harsh early days and featured several good songs, the overall impact was lackluster. “White Chalk” is supposedly yet another dramatic shift, this time a piano-based album. Haunting first single “When Under Ether” can be heard here.

Dashboard Confessional, “The Shade of Poison Trees” (Oct. 2)
Founder/frontman Chris Carrabba is supposed to be returning to his roots on his band’s fifth full-length. Early buzz says this is an acoustic album, which would mean a shift away from the electric pop/rock of the past two albums. It’s unclear if this will be just Carrabba and a guitar like 2000’s “The Swiss Army Romance,” or a full-band version circa 2001’s “The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most”—or maybe a mix of both. “Poison Trees” hits just more than a year after “Dusk and Summer,” an album that certainly didn’t blow me away when it came out but has actually aged rather well. As I said in my review of that album, I’m still curious to see how Carrabba’s songwriting will change now that he’s in his early 30s. The band has been in a bit of a downturn this past year, so this could me a make-or-break album.

Bruce Springsteen, “Magic” (Oct. 2)
Springsteen’s 50s have been good to him, because this has been some decade for the Boss. “Magic” is the first Springsteen album to feature his beloved E Street Band since 2002’s excellent “The Rising,” but it’s not like the guy’s been idle. In 2005 he dropped “Devils and Dust,” a better-than-decent solo record, then followed up last year by reinventing himself with the tremendous folk/rock album of Pete Seeger covers, “We Shall Overcome.” Now he’s back again with the group that helped make him a legend, and that is, of course, cause for celebration. More exciting to me is longtime manager and confidant Jon Landau’s pronouncement that “Magic” is not overtly political. Hooray!

“Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” (Oct. 21)
This is the third full installment in what during the past year has become my favorite videogame franchise of all time. And in true rock-star fashion, No. 3 promises to be bigger, louder, and (hopefully) better than ever. Just one look at the confirmed tracklist has my fingers twitching and my foot tapping in anticipation. This game has built from the ground up just like a real band—the original started building buzz in 2005, leading to the sequel’s big hit last year. Now momentum is building to a crescendo and “Guitar Hero” has become so successful the producers have the clout they need to get original tracks of some truly epic songs. I’m particularly aflutter over the idea of playing AFI’s “Miss Murder,” The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Cherub Rock,” the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black,” Metallica’s “One” (how on Earth will that even be possible?), and, of course, “Even Flow” from Pearl Jam and one Mr. Mike McCready.

Finally, there’s a great deal of chatter about a massive box set from Ryan Adams also out this fall. No official release date yet so it’s a believe-it-when-I-see-it situation, but if it does come to pass it could be special. I’ve heard upwards of seven discs (at least) that would include cuts diehards drool over. I’m not inclined to slobbering over every scrap of Adams material, but I certainly would be interested in plowing through this material.

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