The 24 biggest albums to hear this season
A pop singer returns to her free-spirited self, an alt-rock vet heads to (inner) space, a country icon finds happiness, an R&B artist takes control of her narrative, a rapper rediscovers himself, a newly minted country superstar stays humble. Before the season ends, we run down the best albums that your friends will be talking about before 2020 hits.
Josh Homme — The Desert Sessions Vols. 11 & 12
"We like the way we move together," croaks ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on the opening track off the newest Josh Homme-conjured Desert Sessions project. The series dates back to 1997, when the Queens of the Stone Age frontman and a group of musician friends decamped to Joshua Tree to write and record songs. The latest volume (and first in 16 years) sees Homme bringing together another impressive hodgepodge of artists, including Gibbons, Les Claypool, Jake Shears, and Matt Sweeney. (Oct. 25) —Alex Suskind
Grace Potter — Daylight
The Vermont singer-songwriter has experienced quite a bit of change in the last few years — including divorce, marriage, childbirth, and the dissolution of her longtime band, the Nocturnals — and she channels all of that into her second solo album, Daylight. (Oct. 25) —Sarah Rodman
King Princess — Cheap Queen
In her short but buzzy time as a professional musician, King Princess has developed her own community of fervent queer female fans. But for the artist born Mikaela Straus, it's not something she fully expected to happen. "My shows are definitely a point of gathering for gay women and it makes me interested in what's happening with them because I was not at all a part of a community when I was a kid that looked like this — outwardly female and gay," she tells EW. Part of that attraction can be found in her glamorous, soon-to-be-released debut album Cheap Queen. "I used a lot of local, weird, choppy vocal samples and like vintage-y sounding stuff mixed with new drum sounds," she says, adding that her mentor, Mark Ronson, "made a comment that you can make s—t sound old but what makes it modern is drums and bass. I thought that was really interesting and concise and beautiful because it's really how I work." (Oct. 25) —Kerensa Cadenas
Jackson Wang — Mirrors
When the 25-year-old Chinese singer-rapper-producer-dancer isn't performing with his K-pop superstar group GOT7, he's working on his solo material (his 2017 single "Papillon" topped Billboard's China V charts). Now he's set to drop his first American album, Mirrors, which includes the upbeat R&B-indebted track "Bullet to the Heart." (Oct. 25) —AS
Neil Young with Crazy Horse — Colorado
The singer-songwriter's first Crazy Horse project in seven years is vintage Neil Young: loud riffs, harmonica solos, inner turmoil, plus a touch of humor (see: "She Showed Me Love," which opens with the line "You might say I'm an old white guy/ I'm an old white guy"). This is Young's second full-length album of 2019 following the release of the live archive series record Tuscaloosa. (Oct. 25) —AS
Hootie & the Blowfish — Imperfect Circle
Fresh off their summer reunion tour, the resurgent '90s quartet fronted by country star Darius Rucker releases their first album of new material in 15 years. As Dean Felber recently told EW about the sound: "No matter where a song starts, once the four of us play it together, it almost always sounds like Hootie." (Nov. 1) —SR
Jeff Lynne — From Out of Nowhere
Jeff Lynne has done more with Electric Light Orchestra over the past five years than he did in the previous 30. Since reviving his best-selling band for an exhilarating one-off 2014 concert in London, the singer-guitarist-producer has released the rockers' first original material in four years (Alone in the Universe), gone on two tours, and performed "Evil Woman" at the Grammys with Ed Sheeran (hey, why not?). Next up: another album, From Out of Nowhere, where Lynne and company reflect on old flames, future adventures, and the amazing journey they've gone on since their surprise Hyde Park comeback show. (Nov. 1) —Alex Suskind
Miranda Lambert — Wild Card
Following a rare break from the road, Miranda Lambert has roared back for her current Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars tour — featuring an array of female opening acts, including Maren Morris and Ashley McBryde — and can't wait for fans to hear the expansive, and decidedly rocking, Wildcard. "I wasn't touring for eight months," she says, still sounding slightly bewildered by the notion. "Since I was 17 — I'm 35 — I've never had more than three months off tour. I think my management tricked me into it. But I needed a break."
That ability to Netflix-and-chill gave her time to stretch out creatively, which informed Wildcard's 14 tracks, recorded with producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Little Big Town). Like all Lambert albums, it is a dynamic affair that can travel from icy heartbreak to scorching rage in the time it takes to fix your lipstick and strike a match. Odes to true love, both sensual ("Fire Escape") and roof-rattling ("Locomotive"), share space with a gorgeous ballad about the warring desires to roam and to nest ("Settling Down"), a brassy bop that manages to embrace all that is good in her life while laughing off the trolls ("Pretty Bitchin' "), and a rocker that's as close to new wave as Lambert has ever come ("Mess With My Head"). A winkingly murderous duet with Morris called "Way Too Pretty for Prison" — a spiritual cousin to songs like the Dixie Chicks' "Goodbye Earl" and Brandy Clark's "Stripes" — is a highlight. ("We already killed him in [2007's] 'Gunpowder & Lead'; this is the second husband," Lambert quips.) Listening to Wildcard — brawnier and more radio-friendly than Weight of These Wings — you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wake up from a blackout-drunk evening next to your two best girlfriends and a freshly dug grave that none of you will speak of again. In short: It rocks. (Nov. 1) —SR
Sudan Archives — Athena
The Los Angeles-based multi-hyphenate follows up two eclectic EPs (Sudan Archives and Sink) with her first full-length effort. Athena is filled with cross-genre, midtempo jams that combine elements of R&B, classical, and trip-hop. (Nov. 1) —AS
Dave East — Survival
The Harlem MC takes a brief break from playing Method Man on Hulu's Wu-Tang Clan miniseries to return with a foreboding follow-up to his Paranoia: A True Story EP. Survival revolves around Dave East's upbringing and sudden rise in the music industry. As he raps on "Mama I Made It," "She used to have to worry if I'm breathing/ She ain't never got to worry 'bout us eating." (Nov. 8) —AS
FKA twigs — Magdalene
Healing is a major theme on Magdalene (out Nov. 8), the long-awaited second album from British singer-songwriter FKA twigs. It's a painfully fitting subject for the 31-year-old artist, having withstood heartache and health struggles over the last two years, including a split from partner Robert Pattinson and the removal of six fibroid tumors from her uterus. "Going through so much just allows me to be really open and vulnerable when writing," twigs tells EW. "I really wasn't living the high life during this time. I was just by myself a lot. And I was able to tap into a lot of emotions."
Magdalene finds twigs working through those emotions by intertwining subjects like truth-telling and companionship and flipping traditional male/female archetypes. A parallel process of discovery unfolded in the making of Magdalene, which twigs refers to as a "killing of ego," noting that the project wouldn't have happened if she had not finally let go of the expectations to come up with a compelling follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut. "My goal for Magdalene was to really not have a goal and sing it right from my heart," she says. "I think as soon as I removed the pressure, it actually began to flow out." (Nov. 8) —Clarkisha Kent
Luke Combs — What You See Is What You Get
The 29-year-old North Carolina native never pictured that, two years into his major-label recording career, he would have accrued more milestones than some artists do in 20. To wit, since the release of his 2017 debut, This One's for You — and its cheekily titled deluxe iteration, This One's for You Too — the red-bearded singer-songwriter has: made six trips to the top of the country singles chart with songs like "Hurricane" and "When It Rains It Pours"; been nominated for a Grammy and won both a CMA and an ACM award; graduated from clubs to arenas in a matter of months; and, most dazzling of all, been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. His first album still lingers in the top 25 of the Billboard country albums chart even as Combs prepares to release his sophomore effort, What You See Is What You Get, which has already spawned the No. 1 hit "Beer Never Broke My Heart."
For every good-time shoutout to having "1, 2 Many" or phone-number-sharing Hooters waitresses, Combs offers a refreshingly sensitive story song like the heart-string-tugging new ode to fathers "Even Though I'm Leaving" and the gorgeous ballad "Dear Today," a reminder letter from his future self to not take things for granted. He knows his softer side is a part of his broad appeal. And he's happy to show off all his colors. "There's a lot that comes with being a guy in today's society, where you have to be really tough or really badass," says Combs, noting that during the past two years on the road he's learned a lot about himself. "I learned that it's okay to be five different people, like that makes you the person that you are." (Nov. 8) —SR
Celine Dion — Courage
Who is Celine Dion in the 2010s? On her first English-language album in six years (and soon her first official tour in more than 10), she's a woman dragged through tragedy but reemerged like a French-Canadian phoenix, with style that made her a fashion icon, a personality that made her a social media darling, and new music that now caps the magnificent reascension of the power-ballad beltress. Courage overflows with anthems, dancethems, and the kind of freewheeling symphonies that let her wail at will and deliver the stunning vocals no other pop queen can. (Nov. 15) —Marc Snetiker
DJ Shadow — Our Pathetic Age
The iconic DJ and producer returns with his first project since 2016's The Mountain Will Fall. The double album will feature appearances from Nas, Ghostface Killah, De La Soul, and Run the Jewels. (Nov. 15) —AS
Beck — Hyperspace
Beck was in the studio, thinking of escaping. "I remembered this button on this video game when I was a little kid, where you can escape and you wouldn't be killed," recalls the 49-year-old singer-songwriter. "And I think there's something about music that, to me, always feels like a way of escaping or finding some way out of the everyday." Absconding into your own world serves as the focal point of Hyperspace (the album shares the name of the video game the seven-time Grammy winner played as a child), Beck's synthy, somber follow-up to 2017's pop-indebted Colors. Most of the record was co-written with fellow genre-bender Pharrell, after the producer reached out about enlisting Beck for a track by his band N.E.R.D.
"It's what I dream about, really, because a lot of what I've done is writing on my own, and I love the Lennon/McCartney ideal," he says of the collaboration. "I felt really fortunate to work with someone who's written so many great songs." The music the duo produced attempts to negotiate the maze of pain, trauma, and fear we all confront from time to time — topics Beck has a knack for writing about with brutal, heartrending honesty (see: 2002's Sea Change). On Hyperspace, those issues are as relatable as ever. "We all have our own kind of hyperspace, the thing that helps us navigate and maybe transcend our own problems and history," he says. "It feels very human to me." (Nov. 22) —AS
Jason Aldean — 9
As the title helpfully explains, Jason Aldean's album will be the country star's 9th studio release and boasts 16 "interwoven" tracks. The record is already enjoying some pre-release buzz thanks to single "We Back," co-written by Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line. (Nov. 22) —SR
Harry Nilsson — Losst and Founnd
Two years before his death, late singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson secretly recorded a series of demos that never saw the light of day — until now. Losst and Founnd represents the final works of the "Without You" and "Everybody's Talkin" artist, and the first record since 1980's Flash Harry. To help round out the demos, Nilsson collaborator Mark Hudson recruited musicians Van Dyke Parks, Jimmy Webb, Jim Keltner, and Harry's son Kiefo, to perform. (Nov. 22) —AS
The Who — WHO
The British legends take a break from touring to drop their first original material since 2006's Endless Wire. The first single, "Ball and Chain," is a strumm-y, scratchy recreation of guitarist Pete Townshend's 2015 solo track "Guantanamo," which explores the controversial U.S. military prison located in Cuba. (Nov. 22)—AS
Teyana Taylor — The Album
"How do you not like your own album?" is a question Teyana Taylor has been fielding for the past year, following public frustration surrounding the release of 2018's K.T.S.E., an eight-song project executive-produced by Kanye West. "It's not about not liking it," she tells EW, adding that she appreciates the music that did get released. "It's about the fact that it was not long enough, verses were taken out, a lot of stuff happened [that] I didn't know until I heard the album like everybody else." Rather than hold grudges, the 28-year-old New York City native has decided with her upcoming project, simply titled The Album, to "take full accountability that I need to be 110 percent on everything that I do."
Oddly enough, while listeners have stuck by her through the K.T.S.E. dilemma, their concerns now seem to be that she is, by their estimation, too successful and happily married to give them the art they want from her. Says Taylor, "It's like, 'We love that you're happy, but baby, we going through it! I'ma need you to get me through what you got me through with this [past] album.'" Taylor has taken her fans' concern as a creative challenge to explore new topics on Album's songs. The performer is now writing music for both lovebirds and "the girl that has that wall built." (Dec. 6) —Marcus Jones
Kesha — TBD
"I got my balls back," Kesha proclaims of the driving force behind her currently untitled fourth album, out this December. The follow-up to her Grammy-nominated 2017 LP is primed to take fans on a rollercoaster ride through an eclectic mix of styles she lovingly defines as "weirdo pop." While Rainbow was about coming out of the darkness — the project came after Kesha accused former collaborator Dr. Luke of sexual assault and physical abuse; he denied the claims and countersued for defamation, and the case is still ongoing — her new album embraces what it's like to bask in the sun after the storm. "If you keep pushing through the darkness, you'll find a rainbow, and I feel like I finally arrived there," she muses. "I want that to be inspiration to other people — by embracing the vulnerable side of myself but also the strong, and the person that wants to lead a joyful, happy, and free life." Part of that is returning to the dance-pop of her first two records and falling back in love with her free-spirit image. "I've been told to be fun before, but now I'm genuinely having fun," she says. "[It's] a self-deprecating look at what I believe the music industry wants someone to be versus the fact I'm f—ing everything, I'm not just one thing. I'm not just the party girl and I'm not just a tragedy."
Kesha began writing the album following the end of her last tour and found herself drifting back to the singer-songwriter vibes of Rainbow. When her brother suggested she try writing a pop song again, she begrudgingly gave it a shot. "I came back around to realizing that I f—ing love pop music," she says. "I had been depriving myself of something I loved because I wasn't supposed to have fun." (December) —Maureen Lee Lenker
Camilla Cabello — Romance
Big Sean — TBD
When he was 19, Big Sean was diagnosed with a heart condition. "I couldn't even walk from one side of the room to the other without getting super-tired," he tells EW. "I passed out once in the shower and got rushed to the emergency room." At the time, the future star was just beginning to release music after signing to Kanye West's GOOD imprint following a chance encounter with the rapper. But Sean's health issues left him on a precipice, facing a potentially costly and risky surgical procedure. On "Lucky Me," a track off his upcoming fifth studio album (out this fall), the 33-year-old MC addresses the moment for the first time ever, crediting his mother's holistic view of medicine as a cure.
"I've never talked about certain things in my life," adds Sean, on why he decided to include that story on the record. "It just kind of made me realize I need to really express some of these things." Personal reflection plays a major role on his next project, with Sean looking back on his upbringing, his health, and, as he explains here, the recent rediscovery process he went through. It's all led up to his first solo project since 2017's I Decided, one that Big Sean hopes brings fans some measure of self-fulfillment. As he explains over the phone from Los Angeles, "I want people to feel like the best version of themselves." (TBD) —AS
Lil Wayne — Funeral
Weezy F. has been relatively quiet since dropping his years-in-the-making The Carter V at the end of 2018. That project was a fierce and fiery return for the prolific rapper — a hopeful sign that Funeral (dropping some time between now and New Year's Eve) will showcase more of the same. —AS
Rihanna — TBD
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story listed the incorrect title of Grace Potter's new album. It has since been updated.