Do It, Dido
Her rags-to-riches pop-diva fairy tale continues.
In 1998, British pop star Dido was a struggling backup singer for the dance-music act Faithless, with a day job in publishing and no record deal in sight. By the end of the next year, she’d abandoned her trip-hoppy cohorts and launched a risky solo career that landed her a platinum album (No Angel), a hit song with Eminem, and a slew of awards—not to mention the dubious honor of having one of her singles used on the WB network. Now the classically trained pop princess is back with a follow-up album, Life for Rent, that’s full of the same spacey melodies and soulful vocals that caught the world’s attention two years ago. Lyrics like “Try to remind myself that I was happy here before I knew that I could get on a plane and fly away” show a more mature sensibility. She’s got issues with success—who doesn’t? Still, she’s very much in the groove—and her fans will approve. —Sara Cardace
Details: Dido, Life for Rent, September 30 (Arista).
A four-CD set reprises the career of the coolest R&B crooner. But what’s in the box is anything but square.
Its title might be portentous and its track listing mostly unimaginative, but The Immortal Soul of Al Green still manages to reveal a lot about one of the world’s most oddly affecting soul singers. Because what The Immortal Soul lacks in imagination it makes up in depth: four CDs that clock in at more than 60 minutes each. The first disc is particularly satisfying: Here, Green songs like “Back Up Train” move to the easy, rock-steady groove that inspired reggae groups like the Wailers. If the remaining CDs present more familiar material (“Belle,” “Take Me to the River”), it’s no less inspiring: Of all the legendary soul singers, only Green could move listeners without overemoting. He made minimalism moving. — Ethan Brown
Details: Al Green, The Immortal Soul of Al Green, September 16 (Hi/The Right Stuff).
In the Stew
A major-league under- ground wit plans to hit the big time. His idea of crossover? “They cross over to me.”
Mark “Stew” Stewart, leader of the intermittently performing, semi-notoriously monikered the Negro Problem and probably the most entertainingly ironic songwriter since Elvis Costello, has a problem of his own. Born amid the vast nowhere of southern La Brea Avenue, the former Santa Monica security guard who’s been described as the Noel Coward of Silverlake is working on a musical detailing L.A.’s bohemian scene. The problem is, “there isn’t any,” says Stew, who has been compared to everyone from Billy Strayhorn, Arthur Lee, and Kurt Weill, to a way funkier Jimmy Webb. “Hollywood’s a giant funnel. Cool people disappear. Four years later, they’ve got a nice car and they’re writing jingles. Nothing wrong with jingles—but Hollywood sucks in everything and kills it, just for fun.” Recently, Stew, now 41, large but nimble, has been dreaming another bohemian dream—i.e., moving to New York, a potentially more copacetic landscape for his “Afro Baroque” sensibility. “Last time I was in the city, we saw Taylor Meade, the old beatnik, read in a café on the Bowery. Now, Taylor Meade is about 83, but the fact that the city maintained an infrastructure to let him keep doing his thing was inspiring … It gave us the idea of moving to Jackson Heights.” As he contemplates the move, his new CD, Something Deeper Than These Changes, is out this month. Featuring lines like “I left L.A. way back when it was still breathing, to pitch a tent in Brooklyn and simulate a heathen,” the new disc is his most emotionally straightforward work to date, but Stew doesn’t expect to be transformed “into a Top 40 guy from a Top 400 guy.” His idea of “crossover” is, “they cross over to me.” Except, perhaps, to cross to this coast. Stew, as he’s now going by, is scheduled to reprise his exceedingly swinging sessions at Joe’s Pub on September 10, but a longer-term gig is in the works. “A residency—sort of a downtown Bobby Short—that would be cool,” says Stew, bohemian-in-transit. —Mark Jacobson
Details: Stew, Something Deeper Than These Changes, September 23 (Image Entertainment)
He Won the Wet
Andrew W.K.’s new disc, The Wolf, is at the door.
Where are you right now, and what are you doing? I’m on tour, as always.
Why do you say “as always”? Because I’ve done more than 300 concerts since I Get Wet. It’s addictive. I’m still going, and I’m not going to stop.
It feels like your music hasn’t left permanent rotation, either—can that really be you singing in all of those commercials? It is. People thought the Kit-Kat commercial was a ripoff, but it was me. I wrote that song—it’s my mom’s favorite candy bar. Some people would like me to feel that’s a bad thing, but I don’t think my music needs protection. I don’t want to build a private world for my music. I want people to touch it.
The connection you have with fans seems very personal. You even have a Kiss Army of sorts called W.K.’s Wolves. The great thing about that is, the fans came up with that name. That’s why the new album is called The Wolf—it’s to thank my fans for enjoying the music.
Could a W.K. religion be next? No, but I can relate to what people create from religious belief. They build a cathedral, not a shack. That’s what my music’s about. It’s not about some small definition of music but creating the most exciting thing possible—and then repeating it again tomorrow. —E.B.
Details: Andrew W.K., The Wolf, September 9 (Island Records).
June Carter Cash’s posthumous farewell: the saddest song.
Her kin wrote “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” so it’s only fitting that June Carter Cash’s last recordings bring her back to her beginnings. Nine of the songs on Wildwood Flower are Carter Family classics, and one track starts with a snippet of her performing with her mother and sisters on the radio back in 1944. Four months after her death, the album comes across as an elegiac look back at a life filled with feeling but punctuated by tragedy. Here, she brings a forgiving tone to originals like “Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea” and “Storms Are on the Ocean.” She sang some of these songs her entire life, and at least part of their weight comes from the fact that it’s the last time she will. —Robert Levine
Details: June Carter Cash, Wildwood Flower, September 9 (Dualtone).
The Best of the Rest Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Take Them On, On Your Own The post-punk revivalists evolve into a more accessible Nine Inch Nails. (September 2; Virgin.)
Spiritualized, Amazing Grace Jason “Spaceman” Pierce ditches the orchestra and delivers straight-up garage rock. (September 9; Spaceman Records.)
Elvis Costello, North The experimenteur abandons guitar basics for noirish piano ballads. (September 23; Deutsche Gramophone.)
David Byrne, Lead Us Not Into Temptation Mogwai and Belle & Sebastian join the strange one on his mostly instrumental score to Ewan McGregor’s Scottish thriller Young Adam. (September 9; Thrill Jockey.)
Seal, Seal IV The sultry-voiced Nigerian Londoner named his first release in five years after himself. Again. (September 9; Warner Bros.)
John Mayer, Heavier Things Expect a more eclectic, more electric Mayer on his more sophisticated follow-up to Room for Squares. (September 9; Aware/Columbia.)
David Bowie, Reality The Thin White Duke returns just fifteen months after last year’s Heathen. (September 16; ISO/Columbia.)
Aretha Franklin, So Damn Happy The Queen of Soul claims this is her best album in 22 years. Fellow diva Mary J. Blige chimes in on two songs. (September 16; Arista.)
Shelby Lynne, Identity Crisis Still sifting through a lifetime of hurt, the country outsider drew inspiration from Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson. (September 16; Capitol.)
Erykah Badu, World Wide Underground The soulful R&B songstress collaborates with Lenny Kravitz, Queen Latifah, and Angie Stone. (September 16; Motown.)
DMX, Grand Champ Rumor has it that the gravel-voiced rapper may ditch music for acting. Look for appearances by Eve, 50 Cent, and Patti LaBelle. (September 16; Ruff Ryders/Def Jam.)
Sting, Sacred Love It’s been four years, but he’s back with an emotionally charged album said to be inspired by the events of September 11. (September 30; A&M.)
Peaches, Fatherfucker The Berlin punk-rapper with the filthy mind practices reciprocation: She and Iggy Pop trade vocal tracks on each other’s releases. (September 23; Beggars/XL.)
Rufus Wainwright, Want One The dreamy crooner composes dense, symphonic songs, one melding 300 tracks of his voice. (September 23; DreamWorks.)
Dave Matthews, Some Devil Phish front man Trey Anastasio stops by on the debut solo album of the man who brought frat rock to the mainstream. (September 23; RCA/Bama Rags.)
Outkast, Speakerboxxx: Love Below Andre 3000 and Big Boi follow the brilliant bombast of 2000’s Stankonia with two groove-heavy solo discs. (September 23; Arista.)
Bette Midler, Bette Sings Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Songbook A tribute record produced by Barry Manilow. (September 30; Columbia.)
The Rap on the Rapture
With its adventurous new disc, Echoes, a homegrown NYC band makes good on its promise.
Will they ever top the first single? That’s the question fans of New York–based foursome the Rapture have been asking since the 2002 release of its smash “House of Jealous Lovers,” a hopped-up bit of punk-funk with a bass line as instantly memorable as that of Rick James’s “Super Freak.” If the pressure is getting to Rapture front man Luke Jenner, he certainly doesn’t show it. “If people think ‘House of Jealous Lovers’ is the best song we’ve ever made,” Jenner says coolly, “fine.” This laid-back attitude may explain why the band’s major-label debut, Echoes, is just seeing the light of day this fall. “The record was finished in June 2002,” Jenner admits, “but we spent the rest of the year touring—and being courted by major labels.” The long wait is worth it: Echoes (to be released by DFA/Strummer/Universal on October 21) is one of the most adventurous albums of the year, a mix of blippy electronica, guttural funk, and hard-edged punk. Better still, the drawn-out release has allowed the Rapture’s music to become a hit on dance floors from Brooklyn to Belgium. “The level of knowledge about what we do, and the New York scene in general, is really high overseas,” Jenner says. “We just got back from Japan, and it’s crazy—I think they know the new record better than we do.” —E.B.
Details: The Rapture, Echoes, October 21 (DFA/Strummer/Universal).
Wyclef Jean, former Fugee, has a new solo record with a message—and a lot of fun.
Your single “Industry” is the first song I’ve heard that addresses the rivalries consuming hip-hop right now.
The message is, “Keep everything on wax.” Good old-fashioned battles were about skills. Now it’s, “Fuck you, I’m gonna kill you and your kids.” But I’m not blaming hip-hop. You’re not going to see a change in hip-hop until we see a change in the environment. What’s the environment? The ghetto is the environment. When people are rhyming, they’re rhyming about the environment.
But rappers are now marketed based upon how many times they’ve been shot.
There are going to be people who say [affects a hucksterish voice], “He got shot, hey, you know, uh, maybe I got shot, too.” But you can’t fool the crowd. The streets know who’s fake.
The rest of Preacher’s Son is a lot lighter.
Yeah, I’ve got Monica, Missy Elliott, Carlos Santana, Elephant Man, Wayne Wonder. It’s a party. The Missy track is really crazy. It’s called “Party to Damascus.” It’s told from the point of view of a U.S. soldier who goes to Iraq but doesn’t find any chemical weapons. Then his superiors say, “The weapons might be in Damascus.” They go to Damascus, but they still don’t find any chemical weapons. So they throw a big party—on the government’s expense!
One last question: On “Industry,” you rap, “I kinda hope the Fugees didn’t break up.” Is there a reunion in the cards?
I would love to do another Fugees record. I don’t really hear from no one in the band, but I’m gonna keep knocking on them doors. —E.B. Details: Wyclef Jean, Preacher’s Son, October 28 (J Records).
The rap songstress puts some nice in her naughty.
The three years since we last heard from 24-year-old Harlem native Kelis Rogers have been punctuated by happy upheaval. For one thing, she ditched the angst over her breakup with the Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams—and the accompanying hormonal outbursts pioneered on her first hit single (“I hate you so much right now!” she screamed in its infamous chorus). “I was branded as wild, crazy, and man-eating,” says the soulful hip-hop songstress and former choirgirl. “Which I’m totally not, and was not ever!” “Milkshake,” the first single from her upcoming album, Tasty, finds her giving a tutorial on how she makes all the boys on the playground pine for her. It’s a catchy reconciliation of the naughty and the nice, and a “perfect representation of where I’m at now.” Engaged to the rapper Nas but with no marriage plans worked out yet (“I don’t really make plans”), Rogers is tentatively exploring a new world of girl power. “I’m a wedding-story fanatic,” she says, giggling. “I’ll watch that shit on TLC and be so pleased with myself. I designed my own ring.” —Monica Khemsurov
The Best of The Rest
Barbra Streisand, The Movie Album Babs sings live covers of songs like “Moon River.” (October 14; Columbia.)
The Strokes, Room on Fire The Fab Five ward off the sophomore curse with soul ballads, reggae beats, and guitar licks to melt your stereo. (October 21; RCA.)
Basement Jaxx, Kish Kash Act Three from the Brixton duo lies somewhere between the Commodores and D.J. Shadow. (October 21; Astralwerks.)
Back on Stooge
The original punk is back, as pale and apocalyptic as ever.
Iggy Pop admirers haven’t had much to pogo about lately. The so-called Godfather of Punk’s spotty solo career has left something to be desired—1977’s Lust for Life is widely regarded as his last great album. But now the sinewy hard-rock icon is back with Skull Ring, which has his pale-faced followers crawling out from under their (punk) rocks. As a recent raucous show at Jones Beach proved, Iggy’s gone back to his stage-smashing, shock-rocking roots, and this time, he’s being smart about it. In a nod to fans still sitting shiva over the breakup of his seminal band the Stooges, he enlisted original members Ron and Scott Asheton to work with him on the new material, an effort that’s yielded old-school anthems like the album’s opener, “Little Electric Chair.” To round out the bill, he invited relative neophytes like brat-punk bands Sum 41 and Green Day to brainstorm new material; both ventures produced some of the poppiest songs on the album. Purists may sneer at such MTV-friendly collaborations, but it’s clear that Iggy’s having fun—in his own creepy, apocalyptic way. —Sara Cardace
Details: Iggy Pop, Skull Ring, November 4 (Virgin).
She’s back with a new record—and old antics.
Courtney Love blew into town early last month to master her upcoming solo album, America’s Sweetheart, in her by-now-familiar nutty style: Gawker.com reported that she was shopping at the Victoria’s Secret store in Soho, bumping into people with a deranged look in her eyes. But there’s nothing familiar about Love’s return to music after a five-year absence. Not only is she setting out under her own name for the first time in her career, but the music industry and listening public nowadays seem more keen on miniature, pseudo-punk divas like Avril Lavigne than on a 39-year-old original like Love. Must be why she’s working with the white-hot songwriter-producer Linda Perry (Pink, Christina Aguilera). America’s Sweetheart? Who’s she kidding? Actually, she knows who she’s kidding. —Sean Kennedy
Details: Courtney Love, America’s Sweetheart, November 4 (Virgin).
The Best of The Rest
Sarah McLachlan, Fallen The Canadian pianist with the angelic voice is back after a four-year hiatus. (November 4; Arista.)
Ryan Adams, Rock N’ Roll Forsaking all things acoustic, the short-fused alt-country poster child rocks like Dylan at Newport. (November 4; Universal.)
Pink, Try This Pink teams up with her M!ssundaztood producer, Linda Perry, for a less angsty, more grown-up album. (November 11; Arista.)
Usher, Untitled Hip-hop’s (self-proclaimed) Michael Jackson conjures a hit with producers Jermaine Dupri and—shocker—the Neptunes. (November 18; Arista.)
Nelly Furtado, Folklore The Portuguese pixie follows her smash debut, Whoa, Nelly!, with Latin beats and stripped-down folk. (November 25; DreamWorks.)
Jay-Z, Black Album The M.C. behind this summer’s best singles (Panjabi M.C.’s “Beware of the Boys” and Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love”) says this album is his last. Right. And Puffy invented the remix. (November 25; Def Jam.)