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Best of the Rest: Music

Kanye West back on top, the next Mary J. Blige, Sweden’s Elliott Smith, and can Simon Le Bon be saved?
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Figurines, ‘When the Deer Wore Blue’
Imagine you’re in Copenhagen and stumble across a fabulous little shop—only to realize that you love it because it’s identical to one around the corner from your apartment. That’s what listening to the Figurines is like. They play such pitch-perfect U.S. indie rock (Built to Spill is the clearest influence) that you’d never guess they’re Danish. This is their second very-good album. September 11.

Joe Henry, ‘Civilians’
Henry, who in past albums has attempted to push the singer-songwriter paradigm out of the dustbin and into the future, here falls back on a warm, retro sound that showcases his big, gruff voice. Virtuoso sidemen offer excellent support. Prime stuff for those who consider themselves alternative but have aged out of nonstop noisy guitars. September 11.

Kanye West, ‘Graduation’
He’s not slowing down, and West’s bigger-than-ever tent now has room for Daft Punk, Swedish indie-popsters Peter Bjorn and John, and Takashi Murakami. After strong singles, a typically over-the-top video, and an excellent summer mix-tape, expect Graduation to crown the trilogy in style. September 11.

Les Savy Fav, ‘Let’s Stay Friends’
The local art-punk act is beloved for their high-energy jams and wild live shows, but they haven’t put out a record since 2001. The prerelease buzz on this one, though, has landed the band the coveted opening slot on the bill of the season: Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem at Randalls Island, on October 6. September 18.

Keyshia Cole, ‘Just Like You’
Cole furthers her case to be the next Mary J. Blige on her single “Let It Go,” with a vintage Mtume sample (that Biggie also used) and Lil’ Kim verse. Here’s hoping the new album will favor such blingy funk over the brittle balladry of Cole’s debut. September 25.


Foo Fighters.   

Foo Fighters, ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’
How did Dave Grohl emerge from the mess of Nirvana so unscathed? Here, he rocks out once again like a gleeful madman, as seemingly happy and over it as Courtney Love is bitter and fucked up. Channel your inner 15-year-old, and Grohl’s hollering and massive guitars will prove irresistible. September 25.

José González, ‘In Our Nature’
This is the second album from Sweden’s Elliott Smith—hushed but intense acoustic-guitar songs that sound as if they’re coming from inside your own head. And fill you with existential gloom. September 25.

PJ Harvey, ‘White Chalk’
It seems that ol’ Polly Jean still feels the need to distance herself from the clean rock melodies and relative optimism of 2000’s Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea. The new one is full of dark, dissonant tunes, with titles like “The Devil,” “Dear Darkness,” and “Broken Harp”— vintage on-the-ledge stuff. The hard-luck club will devour it; the rest of us might not mind if she allowed herself to feel a little sunnier again. Move back to NYC, PJ! September 25.

Stars, ‘In Our Bedroom After the War’
The main attraction of this gloom-pop band is singer Amy Millan, who conveys incredible sweetness and longing. The dude who sings with her, one Torquil Campbell, is less interesting, but occasionally he and Millan stoke it up, like on “Personal,” where they play strangers setting up a doomed blind date. September 25.

Weakerthans, ‘Reunion Tour’
On their first album in four years, the pride of Winnipeg add a sequel to their memorable “Plea From a Cat Named Virtue,” a song about a house pet who wants to throw a party for its bummed-out owner. It is, we are sad to report, no Hollywood ending. Also, we get an ode to Gump Worsley, the penultimate hockey goalie not to wear a mask. September 25.


Robert Wyatt  

Robert Wyatt, ‘Comicopera’
A beautiful, indulgent, seriously weird album by the 62-year-old “art-rock” legend. It’s a three-part narrative that starts out warm and alive, then switches moods abruptly with a bombing, and concludes with Wyatt abandoning English as a protest against the war, and singing in Italian and Spanish. If that sounds like too peculiar a trip, wait until you hear Wyatt’s voice, one of the loveliest, most prepossessing of all time. October 8.


Lil Mama  

Lil Mama, ‘The Voice of the Young People’
Lil Mama knows how to make an entrance: She invented bubblegum coke rap on “Lip Gloss,” then appeared on every big summer hit (“Umbrella,” “Girlfriend,” “Beautiful Girls”). Odds are good that The Voice of the Young People is the beginning of a long career. October 23.

Duran Duran, with Timbaland
One great hit-maker plus one way-past-its-prime band usually equals one clunker of a comeback record. But how can you not be intrigued by this one? Simon Le Bon’s tuneless yelping and his band’s twenty-year songwriting drought will surely force Timbaland to the top of his game. November-ish.


Related:

Fall Preview 2007

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