We're heading into the homestretch of music-release season. The next couple of months will unleash a flurry of big-name albums as record companies prepare their holiday gold. The year's third-quarter releases were typically marked by word-of-mouth freshmen and career artists settling into their territories. Here are five of the best.
WHAT'S THE BUZZ? The third album from these Buzz Hall of Fame Brits leaves the clubs and heads home for some domestic bliss and turmoil. They're still not all grown up, but they're getting there.
BELIEVE THE HYPE? Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme dragged the pasty English boys to the desert to make Humbug, so the album packs a sonic sting that wasn't there before.
CHANCES IT'LL MAKE IT ON YEAR-END TOP 10 LISTS? 45 percent. These guys still monkey around with old themes: going out, fucking around, getting drunk. They just don't pass out in the street anymore.
WHAT'S THE BUZZ? These Canadian noise-rockers make quite a racket on their debut, coming off like No Age with a sense of melody. Plus, they keep things thankfully brief.
BELIEVE THE HYPE? You'd think the whole guitar-drums duo thing would be played out by now, but these scruffy hipsters manage to wring a lot of sounds from their instruments.
CHANCES IT'LL MAKE IT ON YEAR-END TOP 10 LISTS? 75 percent. Japandroids aren't overly artsy, which makes them a tad more accessible than their peers. And they don't sound Canadian — another bonus.
WHAT'S THE BUZZ? It's the band's best album since 1994's Vitalogy. Producer Brendan O'Brien returns, slapping a heavy dose of classic-rock polish on top of the band's fiercest songs in years.
BELIEVE THE HYPE? Without any of the plodding, moody ruminations and self-serious space fillers that have weighed down Pearl Jam records for a decade, Backspacer plows through its 11 songs in 36 raging minutes.
CHANCES IT'LL MAKE IT ON YEAR-END TOP 10 LISTS? 35 percent. Even though they haven't made an album this consistent since grunge was still in fashion, Pearl Jam are so '90s.
Wilco (The Album)
WHAT'S THE BUZZ? Wilco's seventh album sounds a lot like their past few. But they've lightened up a little, poking fun at themselves in both the album title and opening cut, "Wilco (The Song)."
BELIEVE THE HYPE? There are enough new sounds to keep Wilco (The Album) from being Sky Blue Sky II or A Ghost Is Born III. And, just like fans will tell you, the band really has become a solid music machine.
CHANCES IT'LL MAKE IT ON YEAR-END TOP 10 LISTS? 85 percent. You've heard most of this before, but it doesn't matter — critics love Wilco, even when they're going through the motions.
WHAT'S THE BUZZ? My Morning Jacket's Jim James recorded this six-song collection of George Harrison tunes days after the Beatle died in 2001. The closing "All Things Must Pass" is totally moving.
BELIEVE THE HYPE? Most of the songs come from Harrison's 1970 album All Things Must Pass. But opener "Long, Long, Long" is on the White Album and is one Harrison's all-time best. James nails it.
CHANCES IT'LL MAKE IT ON YEAR-END TOP 10 LISTS? 20 percent. It's an EP, which pretty much cuts its chances from any year-end laurels. Plus, James soaks it in the murky reverb MMJ dug back in the day.