Fall music preview
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2007 Fall music preview

Fall music preview
By Todd Martens, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Key fall releases

Sept. 11
50 Cent
Kenny Chesney
Animal Collective
Kanye West

Sept. 18
James Blunt
KT Tunstall

Sept. 25
Foo Fighters
PJ Harvey(pictured)
Iron & Wine


Continued..... (Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times)
Fall music preview
Key fall releases continued

Sept. 25
Rascal Flatts
Bettye LaVette
Will.I.Am

Oct. 2
Bruce Springsteen (pictured)
Matchbox 20

Oct. 9
Beirut
Band of Horses

Oct. 16
Underworld

Oct. 23
Serj Tankian

Back to start. (Mark Seliger / AP)
Kanye West
Kanye West Graduation

One of those most popular yet blunt artists in America, “Graduation” tracks Kanye West’s journey into adulthood. Early listens reveal an album rich in keyboard tones, and steeped in old-school soul. The honesty and complexity that has made West such an arresting figure doesn’t appear to have diminished, as West is eager to boast yet not afraid to admit his mistakes (see the solemn “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”).

Back to schedule. (Brian Kersey / AP)
50 Cent
50 Cent Curtis

The music industry will be counting on the likes of 50 Cent and Kanye West to boost 2007’s sales numbers. Hopes are high for “Curtis,” which was originally slated to be released back in June. But even with the expanded lead time, initial singles “Straight to the Bank” and “Amusement Park” failed to generate much buzz, but “Ayo Technology” is slowly picking up steam.

Back to schedule. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Animal Collective
Animal Collective Strawberry Jam

The budding East Coast psychedelic rockers have seen their fanbase grow with each album, and “Strawberry Jam” finds the band creating some of its most irresistible melodies to date -- and doing so without sacrificing any of its wonderful weirdness. Verses are fashioned out of a mix of nearly indiscernible electronic noises and fuzzed-up instruments, the result of a band becoming even more aggressive in its atmospheric rock approach.

Back to schedule. (MySpace.com)
Kenny Chesney
Kenny Chesney Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates

Kenny Chesney’s new album can’t come quick enough for country fans, as initial singles “Don’t Blink” and “Never Wanted Nothing More” are already summer hits. Despite his superstar status, the first listens of his new tunes show an artist still capable of writing middle class anthems. Check the ultra-crisp guitars of “Never Wanted Nothing More,” which lend support to a narrator who finds bliss on a date by the river with $6 bottle of wine.

Back to schedule. (John Haeger / AP)
KT Tunstall
KT Tunstall Drastic Fantastic

Her charmingly effervescent pop ditty “Suddenly I See” was inescapable over the last year and a half, and it helped establish KT Tunstall as a refreshingly direct adult singer/songwriter, and one who owns a slightly soulful bent. New single “Hold On” sees Tunstall kicking out the blues, with a song that becomes increasingly impassioned as it develops, and hopefully foreshadows a fiery sophomore effort.

Back to schedule. (AP)
James Blunt
James Blunt All the Lost Souls

The acoustic balladeer scored once-in-a-lifetime success with his 2005 album “Back to Bedlam,” featuring the massive hit “You’re Beautiful.” James Blunt won’t be expected to match the latter’s success, and first single from “All the Lost Souls” shows him getting his groove on rather than pouring out his heart. The song, “1973,” captures a loose, early ‘70s vibe, and sets up what’s sure to be an album of midtempo tunes.

Back to schedule. (EPA)
Rascal Flatts
Rascal Flatts Still Feels Good

Rascal Flatts struck country gold with last year’s “Me and My Gang,” and album that has sold beyond the 4 million mark. The band’s fifth release won’t deviate too much from its easy-going, down-home Nashville pop, at least if first single and arena-ready ballad “Take Me There” is any indication. As an added bonus, the song was penned by proven hitmaker Kenny Chesney.

Back to schedule. (Rusty Russell / Getty Images)
Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

When last we heard from the Fighters of Foo, it was 2005’s bloated double-album “In Your Honor.” But first single off the forthcoming set, “The Pretender,” is more like it, a slick arrangement with one guitar riff on top of another, building to an arm-rising chorus packed with cymbal crashes. The sometimes misguided experimentation of “In Your Honor” is streamlined here, with the band using its acoustic side to increase the tension of its rock’n’roll moments.

Back to schedule. (AP)
Bettye LaVette
Bettye LaVette Scene of the Crime

This is contender for album of the year. The vocals from recently rediscovered soul veteran Bettye LaVette are sweltering on this 10 song collection, which sees LaVette bringing an aged, no-nonsense wisdom to the songs of Elton John, Willie Nelson and Ray Charles, among others. At the backbone of the album are the arrangements from Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers, who frame the tantalizing vocalist with some dive-bar soul.

Back to schedule. (Christine Cotter / LAT)
Iron & Wine
Iron & Wine The Shepherd’s Dog

The stage moniker for bearded folkie Sam Beam, Iron & Wine’s third full-length effort sees him further expanding his sound. Those used to his dreamy acoustics won’t be disappointed, but more than ever before, Beam brings a sparse smattering of new instrumentation to his songs -- check the Western piano melody of “The Devil Never Sleeps.”

Back to schedule. (Kim Black / Sub Pop)
PJ Harvey
PJ Harvey White Chalk

PJ Harvey has become one of the more striking singer/songwriters of our time, thanks to her brutally honest confessionals and stark, punk-meets-blues approach. Her latest, “White Chalk,” is tipped as an album that puts the emphasis on her startling, hair-raising vocals, and bare piano arrangements, a darkly personal album that harkens back to 1998’s “Is This Desire?”

Back to schedule. (EPA)
Will.I.Am
Will.I.Am Songs About Girls

The Black Eyed Peas principle has been riding a hot streak of late. Not only was he behind the boards on a hit album from bandmate Fergie, but Will.I.Am. has recently worked with the likes of Macy Gray, Talib Kweli, Whitney Houston and is tipped to be recording Michael Jackon’s comeback album. “Songs About Girls” should keep Will.I.Am on the charts through the holidays, serving up more or his party-inspired hip-hop.

Back to schedule. (Richard Hartog / LAT)
Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen Magic

For his first new album with the E Street Band since 2002’s “The Rising,” Bruce Springsteen has supposedly dropped the generic politics that watered down that record, and has returned to some high-energy heartland rock. First single “Radio Nowhere” lives up to the promise, and should work swell in the gigantic arenas this album was seemingly built for.

Back to schedule. (Jeff Christensen / AP)
Matchbox 20
Matchbox 20 Exile on Mainstream

The title is a nod to the Rolling Stones’ “Exile On Main St.,” and while we won’t compare the artistry of the two bands, it’s safe to say that Matchbox 20 hasn’t matched the output of Jagger and Co. “Exile On Mainstream” is only the fourth full-length the grunge-inspired pop band, and much of its largely a hits compilation. There are, however, six new tracks, and if they’re anything like lead single “Let’s See How Far We’ve Come,” Matchbox 20 hasn’t lost its ability for an easy hook. Indeed, the cut was produced by Steve Lillywhite (U2, Pogues), and coasts by with rapid guitars and a call-and-response chorus.

Back to schedule. (Atlantic)
Beirut
Beirut The Flying Club Cup

“The Flying Club Cup” is the second full-length from Beirut, which is essentially the brainchild of Zach Condon, and expect it to be the indie hit of the fall. Each song unfolds with its own mini-orchestra, where brass instruments intertwine with a gorgeously subtle accordion, and Condon’s vocals parade somewhere between wavering and elegant. It may not win over classical music purists, but like the best of the Decemberists, Beirut is rock’n’roll that’s fit for the chamber hall.

Back to schedule. (MySpace.com)
Band of Horses
Band of Horses Cease To Begin

The Band of Horses came out of seemingly nowhere with 2006’s “Everything All the Time,” a collection of spacey Americana that set the act up as a younger Mercury Rev. It was a quick turnaround for sophomore effort “Cease To Begin,” and first single “Is There A Ghost” is a crushingly epic ode to loneliness built on an assertively simple guitar riff. Elsewhere, the band gets nearly symphonic sounds out of its guitars on “No One’s Gonna Love You,” and dresses “The General Specific” with a swaggering, Southern keyboard.

Back to schedule. (Sub Pop)
Serj Tankian
Serj Tankian Elect the Dead

If Serj Tankian came up with a solo record only half as adventurous as the music he made as the leader of System of a Down, it would still be one of the most offbeat, frenetic and experimental albums of the year. First single “The Unthinking Majority” is the kind of zany political guitar stomper that defined the best of System, perhaps the most thoughtfully absurd act of this generation.

Back to schedule. (Greg Watermann)
Underworld
Underworld Living With Oblivion

While “Living With Oblivion” is Underworld’s first proper physical retail release in five years, the electronic duo hasn’t lacked in the prolific department. The act recently scored Danny Boyle’s taut sci-fi thriller “Sunshine,” and has been releasing music digitally in the period between albums. Expect a lushly atmosphereic, Brian Eno-inspired album, who’s just one of the artists Underworld has said it turned to for advice in making the set.

Back to schedule. (Perou)
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