Fall Arts Preview: Pop Music

Posted: September 18, 2012

There are still a few open-air concerts on the pop music schedule - Florence & the Machine plays the Susquehanna Bank Center on Tuesday, and Philadelphia electronic jam band the Disco Biscuits will brave the chill to stage their City Bisco festival, featuring Diplo and RJD2, on Oct. 5-6.

But for the most part, when the leaves on the trees are falling to the sound of the breezes that blow - to evoke Van Morrison, who'll release Born to Sing: No Plan B, on Oct. 2 - the scene moves to modest-size venues. Acts like folk-soul singer Michael Kiwanuka (Thursday, the Trocadero), indie minimalists the xx (Oct. 29, the Electric Factory), and indie-poppers Passion Pit (Nov. 29, at the Liacouras Center) are taking their acts indoors.

Just because people don't buy music anymore doesn't keep artists from releasing it. On Tuesday, Doylestown's own Pink, honky-tonk singer Dwight Yoakam, indie harmonizers Band of Horses, and adult-alternative heroine Aimee Mann release albums, and the deluge continues from there.

Besides the albums and shows highlighted below, releases of note include two from the 93-year-old folk legend Pete Seeger, both on West Chester's Appleseed Recordings (Sept. 25); British ambient folkie Beth Orton's Sugaring Season (Oct. 2; on Sept. 25 she plays the Trocadero); and Beck's Song Reader, a 20-song album that will include no actual recorded sound, just sheet music with lyrics. That stocking stuffer comes out Dec. 7.

Albums

G.O.O.D. Music, Cruel Summer. (On sale Tuesday.) Last year, Kanye West announced that the album by his posse on his G.O.O.D. Music label, Cruel Summer, would be out by spring. By now, the effort - with Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2Chainz, among others, as well as West - is so long overdue it'll barely make the season it's named for.

Green Day, ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tres! (On sale Sept. 25, Nov. 13, Jan. 13, respectively.) After two rock operas in a row - 2004's American Idiot and 2009's less memorable 21st Century Breakdown - the California punk-pop trio's new songs like "Oh Love" and "Kill the DJ" signal a return to the bratty bash-and-pop approach of their '90s recordings. Then again, Green Day (playing the Liacouras Center Jan. 22) is set to release so much music there's no telling where Billie Joe Armstrong's ambitions will take them.

Bettye LaVette, Thankful N' Thoughtful (On sale Sept. 25; plays World Cafe Live Sept. 29.) Soul woman Bettye LaVette toiled in obscurity after recording her single "My Man - He's a Loving Man," in 1962, when she was 16. Since she released the 2003 album A Woman Like Me, however, she's been on a roll. LaVette has a new album, Thankful N' Thoughtful, and an autobiography ( A Woman Like Me) coming out two days later.

Mumford & Sons, Babel. (On sale Sept. 25.) The 2009 Sigh No More by London folkie foursome Mumford & Sons was one of the biggest out-of-the-blue blockbusters in recent memory, thanks to hit "Little Lion Man." Can the band again take its hootenanny to the top of the charts?

No Doubt, Push and Shove (On sale Sept. 25.) California ska-pop band No Doubt hasn't released an album in 11 years. Push and Shove is said to pull from the Gwen Stefani-fronted band's influences of Jamaican rhythms and British synth-pop. The six-minute title track was produced by former Philadelphian Diplo.

Jamey Johnson, Livin' For a Song (On sale Oct. 16.) Nashville's leading country rebel's new one is a tribute to the great honky-tonk songwriter Hank Cochran. Cochran's songs - including "I Fall to Pieces" and "Make the World Go Away" - are sung by Johnson and a wish list of partners, including Merle Haggard, Alison Krauss, George Strait, Willie Nelson, and Elvis Costello.

Taylor Swift, Red (On sale Oct. 22.) The video for the lead single on Red, Taylor Swift's fourth album, finds the pride of Wyomissing, Pa., telling a Jake Gyllenhaal look-alike that "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." The song sold 623,000 digital units in its first week, breaking Ke$ha's record for the most downloads in a week from a female artist. The album has a duet on "Everything Has Changed" with British songwriter Ed Sheeran (at Penn's Landing next Sunday), and seems poised to move Swift farther than ever from calico-dress country.

The Coup, Sorry to Bother You (On sale Oct. 30.) It's been six years since Oakland hip-hop outfit the Coup released its last album, Pick a Bigger Weapon. On the funk- and punk-flavored Sorry to Bother You, agit-rapper Boots Riley serves up a reminder that he's the rare MC who can drive a political agenda while making you dance - and laugh.

Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (On sale Nov. 13.) The name of the album by the Atlanta rapper who's one-half of OutKast was inspired by his grandmother, who told him it would make an apt title for a movie about her life. Big Boi (real name: Antwan Patton) is following 2010's funky Sir Lucious Leftfoot with an album that features guest appearances by indie-pop band Phantogram, Swedish electronica outfit Little Dragon, and rappers A$AP Rocky and Kid Cudi.

Alicia Keys, Girl on Fire (On sale Nov. 27.) The Grammy-grabbing pianist and songwriter's fifth studio album is her first since she gave birth to her son, Egypt, and features collaborations with Bruno Mars and, intriguingly, producer Jamie xx of the xx.

Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d. city (On sale Oct. 2.) It will be a major upset if 25-year-old Compton, Calif., native Kendrick Lamar doesn't become the next hip-hop household name. The well-connected member of the rap collective Black Hippy comes with a major-label debut produced by Dr. Dre, and features "Party Nauseous," a collaboration with Lady Gaga.

Bat for Lashes, The Haunted Man (On sale Oct. 23.) Pakistani-British art-pop maker Natasha Khan - who performs as Bat for Lashes - carries a man in her arms on the cover of her third album while wearing nothing but her birthday suit. It's not just the intensity of Khan's gaze that grabs your attention, though. It's also her quietly commanding, moody, piano-driven tunes like Haunted's first single, "Laura."

Meek Mill, Dreams and Nightmares (On sale Oct. 30.) At long last, Meek Mill, the Philadelphia street rapper and member of Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group, will release his first official album. We think. The rapper born Robert Williams, whose "Amen," featuring Drake and Jerimah was a breakout hit of summer, is scheduled to let loose Dreams and Nightmares just in time for Halloween.

Shows

David Byrne / St. Vincent (Tower Theater, Sept. 27). David Byrne's been collaborating quite a bit in recent years with everyone from Brazilian tropicalia legend Caetano Veloso to Fatboy Slim. The album Love This Giant is a pairing with Annie Clark, the similarly cool and precise art-pop creator who does her guitar shredding under the name St. Vincent.

Low Cut Connie (North Star Bar, Sept. 27). It's hard to imagine a band having more loose and licentious fun on stage than do the members of Low Cut Connie, a four-piece combo fronted by piano-banging Philly showman Adam Weiner and multi-instrumentalist Dan Finnemore. Their Call Me Sylvia is out on Sept. 24.

Melody Gardot (Merriam Theater, Sept. 29). Philadelphia torch singer Melody Gardot collaborated with Brazilian producer Heitor Pereira on The Absence, a sultry platter on which she sings in French, English, and Portuguese. Gardot is a star in Europe, and on the way to becoming one here.

Los Lobos (Keswick Theatre, Sept. 30). In late fall, the Chicano rockers from East L.A. will tour the U.S. and Canada with Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Before that, though, the David Hidalgo- and Cesar Rosas-fronted outfit will be on the road as headliners, performing Kiko, their sonically expansive 1992 album.

Barbra Streisand (Wells Fargo Center, Oct. 8). For Streisand fans, this one will be like (very expensive) buttah. The 10-time Grammy-winning icon, who's 70 years old and will put out an album of rarities, Release Me, on Oct. 9, has scheduled only eight dates this fall on a tour that begins in Philadelphia.

Dr. John / Blind Boys of Alabama (Frank Guaracini Art Center in Vineland, N.J., Nov. 4). Mac Rebennack, a.k.a. Dr. John, is at his angriest and funkiest on Locked Down, the New Orleans pianist's 2012 album. This season, the good doctor will be on the road with storied African American gospel group the Blind Boys of Alabama.

Bob Dylan / Mark Knopfler (Wells Fargo Center, Nov. 19). Bob Dylan's new album, Tempest, may be the darkest of his career, from the 45-verse title track about the Titanic to the nine-minute triple-murder love-triangle of "Tin Angel." The 71-year-old ur-singer-songwriter is fully engaged, that's for sure - and touring with former Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfler, who produced Dylan's 1983 classic, Infidels.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse / Patti Smith (Wells Fargo Center, Nov. 29). Earlier this year, Neil Young reunited with Crazy Horse for an album of covers called Americana, leaving fans frustrated that all that fuzz-rock firepower was wasted on no-new-Neil songs. That situation will be remedied by Psychedelic Pill, a double CD due in October. Rock poet Patti Smith opens.

The Who (Wells Fargo Center, Dec. 8). "We've been anxious to work together before we drop dead," Pete Townshend told a news conference, announcing that The Who - he and Roger Daltrey, plus bassist Pino Palladino, drummer Zak Starkey and others - would reunite yet again to perform what's arguably their greatest album, the 1973 double-LP rock opera Quadrophenia.

Animal Collective (Mann Center, Oct. 3). Indie psychedelic avatars Animal Collective up the garage-rock ante on their new Centipede Hz, the foursome's follow-up to their trippier 2009 breakthrough, Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Jens Lekman (Union Transfer, Oct. 11). Sly, lovelorn Swede Jens Lekman is one of the wittiest men in indie pop, and his self-deprecating winning streak continues with I Know What Love Isn't, on Secretly Canadian records.

Rodriguez (World Cafe Live, Oct. 28). Searching for Sugar Man? You don't have to look far. Sixto Rodriguez, the Latino psychedelic folk-rocker who was signed to Motown in the early '70s - and whose music became massively popular in South Africa while he worked as a manual laborer back home in Detroit - is the subject of Searching for Sugar Man, the music doc still going strong in art-house theaters. At 70, Rodriguez has seen his music rereleased, and he's back on the road.

Morrissey (House of Blues, Atlantic City, Dec. 8). The much-loved British miserabilist and former leader of the Smiths is now 53. Along with complaining about the "blustering jingoism" of the London Olympics, he has hinted lately that he may take early retirement at age 55. His 33-date tour ends in Atlantic City.

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