The Best of the Rest
Jazzy mash-ups, a lone Stroke, the baddest gangstas, and more.
Bob Dylan, ‘Modern Times’
Wily ol’ Bob seems very much at peace with the world on his new album. Sedate but not sedentary, this is the sound of grandpa hanging out with the neighborhood band on the front porch. The titles—“Thunder on the Mountain,” “Spirit on the Water,” “The Levee’s Gonna Break”—are almost self-parodic, but the lyrics are packed with sly wit and wisdom. After a carefully curated reissue program, an acclaimed autobiography, a satellite-radio show, and a Scorsese documentary—with movies and Broadway shows still to come—we might as well crown Dylan the nation’s real poet laureate.
Columbia; August 29.
Jacqui Naylor, ‘The Color Five’
The words are to Gershwin’s “Summertime,” but the music is Gregg Allman’s “Whipping Post.” Then, six tracks later, Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale” arrives atop the music for Bill Withers’s “Use Me.” In lesser hands, this would be a tiresome gimmick, but San Francisco vocalist Naylor has the chops and sensitivity to pull it off.
Ruby Star; August 29.
M. Ward, ‘Post-War’
A reviewer once described Ward’s voice as sounding “like honey drizzled onto a dry creek bed.” Close your eyes; can you hear that? Never mind. The point is that he has a big, beautiful voice that can be rough and sweet, and with each successive record, the Portland, Ore., songwriter leaves behind the alt-country backwater in favor of a bluesy, jazzy, folksy world of his own glorious creation.
Merge; August 29.
Junior Boys, ‘So This is Goodbye’
Canadian Jeremy Greenspan offers an anguished take on the abstract electronics of contemporary R&B. His wistful voice weaves carefully around a bloopy, introverted beatscape—whenever he threatens to float off into the ether, he’s grounded by small but precise melodies. There’s a cover of Sinatra’s “When No One Cares” here; you imagine a 21st-century bachelor sipping a whiskey while staring gloomily into his laptop.
Domino; September 14.
Lupe Fiasco, ‘Food & Liquor’
The 25-year-old bespectacled Chicago rapper, who first hit the charts with his ode to skateboarding, “Kick Push,” infiltrated the popular clique with the help of friends in high places. Very high places: Early fan Jay-Z executive-produced his forthcoming album, and Kanye West handed him a verse on West’s last hit, “Touch the Sky.” Their shine rubbed off: Over tumbling beats imbued with warm, horn-powered soul, Fiasco updates thoughtful, nineties-style hip hop, gabbing about interests that include ladies who go for shy guys, nonviolent video games, and the plight of the American Indian.
Atlantic; September 19.
Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood, ‘Out Louder’
Nine years ago, guitarist John Scofield teamed with the trio Medeski, Martin, and Wood, stripped jazz-funk of its cool sheen, and created an edgy hybrid with a deep groove. Out Louder goes deeper on both sides of the blend, creating a raucous jam session that you can dance to.
Indirecto; September 26.
Albert Hammond Jr., ‘Yours to Keep’
The goofy Strokes guitarist, not considered much of a force musically, distinguishes himself with a dreamy collection of mellow pop songs that hold their own with the Strokes catalogue. His technical chops still don’t dazzle, but he borrows skillfully from the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and his voice is endearingly sweet.
Rough Trade (U.K. only); October 9.
Chavez, ‘Better Days Will Haunt You’
In their nineties heyday, this downtown band made two great albums that suggested how indie rock could mature without losing its essential, ear-splitting appeal. Critics, and maybe a few other people, loved them. Now Matador is reissuing those albums, Gone Glimmering and Ride the Fader, in a package that includes bonus tracks and a documentary of their final tour. This may be the most artful guitar noise ever made, and the fact that it’s ten years old diminishes it not one bit.
Matador; October 10.
Jeremy Enigk, ‘World Waits’
The Seattle indie band Sunny Day Real Estate enraptured legions of sensitive fans in the nineties, most of whom fixated on the band’s enigmatic front man, Enigk. His solo debut, Return of the Frog Queen, released a decade ago, was full of intricate songs and lush, aching instrumentals. The long-awaited follow-up, World Waits, continues in the same vein: emotional, intimate, and—perhaps thanks to Enigk’s recent sound-track work—flawlessly produced.
Lewis Hollow; October 17.
Clipse, ‘Hell Hath No Fury’
The Virginia duo, who inaugurated the now-booming era of coke rap with the 2002 smash “Grindin’,” have driven ever deeper into the drugs-and-guns netherworld. Label problems forced them to self-release last year’s “We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2,” maybe the most critically acclaimed mixtape of all time. Now they’re back on a major label with one of the hardest, and possibly best, discs you’ll hear this year. “This album is dark as hell,” Pusha T said in a listening session, as partner Malice nodded ominously. The Neptunes, who discovered Clipse, produce every track here, forcefully evoking golden-age New York City rap crews like Gang Starr and Mobb Deep.
Jive; October 31.