It doesn't matter what kind of music you listen to — summer 2010 has something for you. Here are ten records we're looking forward to the most...
To the Sea
It just isn't summer without the cool acoustic breeze of Hawaiian singer-songwriter Jack Johnson, who leads us straight To the Sea on his fifth album. The 13 songs focus on the beach bard's usual passions (surfing, luaus, family, and friends), while pursuing a few new themes (going beneath the surface to understand oneself). The record's first single, "You and Your Heart," sounds like a warm splash of saltwater. Recorded at Johnson's two solar-powered studios (the Mango Tree in Hawaii and Los Angeles' Plastic Plant), To the Sea is literally fueled on sunshine.
Destroyer of the Void
These Oregon trailblazers transformed from low-fi psychedelic rockers to the feral wolf-children of Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead on 2008's Furr. Their follow-up looks to be another trek into the wilderness of Americana roots music. The first single, "Heaven and Earth," is a wandering ballad that solidifies Blitzen Trapper's big vision of classic-rock landscapes. The album is full of finger-picking guitars, howling harmonicas, and piano peaks and valleys — places where Eric Earley serenades "Evening Star" and "Sadie" as good as Neil Young. This might be the brightest set of summer sounds due out this season.
The pop-R&B vixen has been robotically retooled for the future of dance music (we're guessing the Pleasure Model). Following the course of last summer's chart-toppers the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga, Aguilera throws an electronic moon party on her new album, calling in girlfriends Goldfrapp, M.I.A., and Santigold to help with the futuristic makeover. Since 2006's Back to Basics, Aguilera has gone from sexy soul sister to wife and mother, so perhaps a Bionic facelift is just what this matronic diva needed.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Petty is one of classic rock's vault-keepers, legendary for his ability to pull off heartland rock so effortlessly. He finds his mojo (and so will we apparently) on his new album, his first with the Heartbreakers in eight years. Much like his side project with Mudcrutch (Petty's original teenage band, which finally recorded its self-titled debut in 2008), Mojo is a retrospective all about Petty's roots. He and the Heartbreakers played together in a room (not a studio), facing each other, singing and performing live with no overdubs or studio trickery. We expect something, well, classic.
The Laws of Illusion
It's been seven years since Canada's alt-pop princess made an album of amorous, aerial piano ballads. We got a glimpse of her at the Winter Olympics, where she melted the backdrop of icy atmospherics and acrobatics with the inspirational anthem "One Dream." It looks like McLachlan's new album will follow that same bright sparkle. The first single, "Loving You Is Easy," could be the catchy feel-good hit of the summer, a Beatlesque stomp full of "sha-la-las" and "starbursts." The album coincides with McLachlan's revival of Lilith Fair, which comes to Blossom Music Center on July 27.
The Chemical Brothers
Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons take their hallucinogenic big beat to new levels of sound and vision on their seventh album, releasing eight films to accompany the record's eight tracks. Using longtime visual collaborators Adam Smith and Marcus Lyall, the Chemical Brothers create an audio/visual experience not unlike their mind-altering live shows. Consider the narcotic electronic dance-floor jams your go-to summer-party soundtrack.
Last year, the Motor City motormouth fell into Relapse, a caustic comeback that detailed the rapper's five-year hiatus (a dark time fueled by drug addition, another failed marriage, and the death of his best friend). Talk of a sequel turned into Recovery, Eminem's seventh album, which includes production by old pal Dr. Dre and lots of new friends (like DJ Khalil, Just Blaze, and Boi-1da). Word is, the album is all rhymes — no BS and no skits — led by the symphonic fists-in-the-air single "Not Afraid."
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M.I.A.'s music is a global goulash of influences (English electro, Sri Lankan dance, and American hip-hop, for starters). She's stirring the melting pot once again on her third album. "Born Free" is certainly rebellious art-school electro, built on gunshot drums, robotic bass, a Suicide sample, and the most violent music video in ages. The first single, "XXXO," is more traditionally M.I.A. In other words, globetrotting hip-hop laced with indie-rock spirit.
Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
OutKast aren't kaput, but Big Boi and André 3000 have been concentrating on their own science projects since 2006's lackluster movie and soundtrack Idlewild. Big Boi is the first out of the gate with Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, a bigger, better, blacker, and deffer mix of the ATLien's signature southern-funk style, with help from Raekwon, Mary J. Blige, George Clinton, and (of course) André 3000. Early singles "Royal Flush" and "Shutterbugg" sound like they've at least visited OutKast's mothership, so we figure anyone who likes Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is going to love this one.
100 Miles From Memphis
Sheryl Crow is a rock-and-roll sweetheart, but her roots are steeped in soul music. She grew up about 100 miles from Memphis, listening to the irresistible R&B of Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and Aretha Franklin. On 100 Miles From Memphis, Crow reminisces about the soul chargers that influenced her childhood, writing some new blues-flavored songs and covering Terence Trent d'Arby and Marvin Gaye.