Photo: Deborah Feingold | Courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment
Bob Dylan's Latest Box Set Proves He Remained Stellar In The '80s. These '60s Classic Rock Artists Did, Too.
A revelatory new box set, 'Springtime In New York,' proves that Bob Dylan was still a force of nature in the '80s. It's worth reexamining other classic rock artists' output during the rocky decade.
What do you think of when you consider 1960s artists in the '80s? Washed up, adrift, lost in a sea of emerging technology? You're not alone — Bob Dylan considered himself as such in his 2004 memoir, Chronicles.
"I hadn't actually disappeared from the scene, but the road had narrowed," he wrote. "There was a missing person inside of myself and I needed to find him." (He also calls himself "whitewashed and wasted out professionally" and "in the bottomless pit of cultural oblivion.")
This is coming from the guy who gave us "Every Grain of Sand," "Jokerman" and "Blind Willie McTell" during that decade, went full wild-eyed Christian-preacher mode in concert, and destroyed the universe on "Late Night With David Letterman" backed by fiery punk band the Plugz. Whatever his internal state at the time, he was selling his creative output short.
This suspicion — or conviction — that true Dylan heads have always had is now Gospel truth. Springtime in New York, a five-disc smorgasbord that arrived in September, strips away the sometimes-overbearing production of albums like Empire Burlesque, revealing their core components: Dylan in the midst of a spiritual awakening, backed by killer accompanists like the Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler.
So, Dylan has been handed a liferaft from the '80s, a decade thought too often as a sinking ship for him and his contemporaries. Sure, some '60s artists hit creative snags in big ways, and admit as much. Paul McCartney's film and soundtrack Give My Regards to Broad Street didn't quite make it out of the era; the now-prolific David Crosby only released one album, Oh Yes I Can; so on and so forth.
But does this hold true for George Harrison, who rejoined the music industry with a blazing smile on Cloud Nine? What about the Kinks, who handled the curves of the arena-rock and punk eras then hit a grand slam with State of Confusion? Or Jethro Tull, whose Crest of a Knave earned them their first GRAMMY (to the chagrin of Metallica fans)?
Clearly, there's a larger disconnect at play. So let's examine 10 excellent albums by artists most associated with the '60s who put out great work in the '80s.
John Lennon & Yoko Ono — Double Fantasy (1980)
Believe it or not, Lennon's final album — the one that gave us jewels like "(Just Like) Starting Over," "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)" and "Watching the Wheels" — earned scathing reviews upon its release.
NME, in particular, wished Lennon had "kept his big happy trap shut until he had something to say that was even vaguely relevant to those of us not married to Yoko Ono." The critics changed their tune after Lennon's slaying mere weeks after its release. But even if he were still with us (and how sweet would that be?), Double Fantasy would remain a milestone.
Picture this: After four chaotic decades in which Lennon lost his mother young and made (and unmade) the most significant rock band of all time, he had a transformative experience on a yacht from Rhode Island to Bermuda, in which a severe tempest forced him to take the wheel alone for several hours. He whooped sea shanties and took it as a baptism.
"I was so centred after the experience at sea that I was tuned in to the cosmos – and all these songs came!" he later said. They were unlike any others he'd written.
The Rolling Stones — Tattoo You (1981)
It's fascinating to watch the "Beatles or Stones?" debate percolating in the media again, because we get to be reminded of how it's a false dichotomy.
"The Rolling Stones [are] a big concert band in other decades and other areas when the Beatles never even did an arena tour or Madison Square Garden with a decent sound system," Mick Jagger said recently. "They broke up before that business started — the touring business for real."
As the Stones' ultimate stadium-rock monument, Tattoo You has always been well-regarded in their discography. But now that a new 40th Anniversary Edition — released in October via Polydor/Interscope/UMe — offers us a fresh remaster, we can remember that the true integrity of the album is in the songs.
"Start Me Up" has taken on new life in a variety of advertisements, from Windows 95 to the Summer Olympics, and that's because its hook and riff are unforgettable. And "Waiting on a Friend" remains one of their most heart-tugging and elusive tunes — one that only 20-something skirt-chasers could write after deepening and wizening with age.
Joni Mitchell — Wild Things Run Fast (1982)
Coming off her imperial run of albums in the '70s, Mitchell was a bit muted in the '80s.
Synth-pop production and era-specific politicking had a freezing effect on 1985's Dog Eat Dog; 1988's Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm leaned heavily on duets with Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson, Don Henley, and other superstars. (Still, don't write off that last one — Courtney Barnett's a vocal fan!)
That said, her first album of the decade, Wild Things Run Fast, is an imperfect yet deeply satisfying album with distinguished collaborators, like saxophonist Wayne Shorter, guitarist Steve Lukather and bassist (and then-husband) Larry Klein.
"Chinese Café" is one of her most underrated, luminous album openers ever, segueing gracefully into the romantic standard "Unchained Melody." And the gems keep coming, from the exquisite "Moon at the Window" to the percolating "Be Cool."
Overall, if you skip the squealing guitars on "(You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care" and "You Dream Flat Tires" on Side 2, Wild Things Run Fast fits snugly with her '70s fusion-era masterworks.
The Kinks — State of Confusion (1983)
As only brothers in an all-time-classic rock band could experience, Ray and Dave Davies have had a fractious relationship for decades, both creatively and personally.
Not only was their band, the Kinks, banned from American stages at the height of their fame, but their fraternal tensions led to bizarre incidents like when Ray stamped on Dave's 50th birthday cake.
Today, they're getting along famously and working on new music. But through all the noise in the press, it's worth remembering that the Kinks weathered fundamental shifts in the music industry better than many of their peers. Dave's 1984 tune for the band, "Living on a Thin Line," is a perfect example — it was even featured three times in a classic Sopranos episode.
Also worth celebrating from their '80s period: State of Confusion, a gleaming pop album with hints of punk and new wave. "Long Distance" and "Come Dancing" are the obvious classics of the bunch — Rolling Stone called the former "astonishingly Dylanesque," and the latter, a memory-lane ode to their late sister, Rene, was their biggest hit in more than a decade.
But throw on the whole program and then spelunk deeper into the Kinks' '80s output. You won't be disappointed.
Yes — 90125 (1983)
Breathe a sigh of relief: Many of the greatest prog bands are still with us in the 21st century. Jethro Tull have their first album in decades out soon; Genesis are currently circling the globe on a thrilling reunion tour; the indefatigable Yes just released The Quest.
The latter band has experienced uncommon longevity, having weathered the deaths of key members Chris Squire and Peter Banks and only taking relatively brief hiatuses during their 53-year run. And like King Crimson, Yes only seemed to grow teeth as the '80s dawned.
The new-wavey album marked the return of the honeyed singer Jon Anderson, who had left in 1980. And "Owner of a Lonely Heart," especially, was a thrilling costume change that helped prove Yes could easily retrofit their elaborate jams into danceable pop.
The Beach Boys — The Beach Boys (1985)
Becoming a Beach Boys diehard is a three-pronged process: you get into the experimental '60s material, you realize the early pop hits and '70s albums rule as well, and then their entire history unveils itself as one gorgeous, flawed continuum.
This love story between you and America's Band also means getting to know their central angel: Carl Wilson. When their resident innovator, Brian Wilson, began to fade into the background in the late '60s, his brother stepped in as the band's lionhearted musical director until his 1998 death.
Granted, the Beach Boys' '80s period isn't the first era you should check out, per se. But it doesn't deserve outright dismissal by any means. Their self-titled record, the first since drummer (and middle Wilson brother) Dennis' drowning, carries hard-won poignancy that makes it an essential listen.
Three tunes especially deserve your attention: "Getcha Back," a driving co-write between Mike Love and Terry Melcher; "She Believes in Love Again," a heartfelt Bruce Johnston ballad with a charming yacht-rock veneer; and the elliptical "Where I Belong," which Carl never believed he truly finished.
Jethro Tull — Crest of a Knave (1987)
By now, Crest of a Knave is saddled with the reputation of besting Metallica's …And Justice For All in a GRAMMY category some believed they shouldn't have been in: Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental. (Tull leader Ian Anderson cheekily responded by taking out a Billboard ad reading "The flute is a heavy, metal instrument.")
This is a shame for multiple reasons. Not only is Crest one of Tull's heaviest albums — especially the skyscraping opener "Steel Monkey" — but it contains stone-cold Tull classics throughout. Here, the '80s textures are a feature, not a bug; the sequencers and programming underpin Anderson's songs, which are often set against urban sprawl.
In "Steel Monkey," a knuckleheaded high-rise worker touts his sexual prowess; in "Farm on the Freeway," a profitable farmer loses his generational land to steel and asphalt; in the exquisite "Said She Was a Dancer," an aging Western rock star (Anderson himself?) unsuccessfully hits on an emotionally distant Muscovite.
George Harrison — Cloud Nine (1987)
Harrison was more solid in the '80s than you might think: the Traveling Wilburys and Somewhere in England's "Life Itself" are alone worth the price of admission.
But any discussion of his output during the decade must begin with Cloud Nine, conceived and marketed as his comeback. Make fun of the album cover all you want — it radiates positive vibes and perfectly advertises the colorful, Jeff-Lynne-produced music therein.
"That's What It Takes" is an elevating ode to resilience; "Fish on the Sand" makes one wish he did a chunky Byrds thing more often; the jubilant "Got My Mind Set on You" (including its video) is a psychological tonic for anyone going through it.
Cloud Nine would be the final album Harrison would release during his lifetime; his posthumous 2002 album Brainwashed is equally, if not more radiant. What a treat for Harrison fans, that after a few half-engaged '70s albums borne of frustration with the music industry, he reminded the world he had what it took.
Neil Young — Bluenote Café (2015, r. 1987-88)
1981's Re·ac·tor and 1982's Trans have aged fabulously, touching on electronic music and krautrock while tenderly addressing Young's communication breakdown with his nonverbal son, Ben. Then, there's 1988's This Note's For You, his swinging, bluesy takedown of corporate sponsorship.
He made that album with the Bluenotes, an assortment of old affiliates outfitted with a brass and reeds section. While it's a worthy curiosity today, Bluenote Café, an archival live album containing selections from Young's tours with the Bluenotes, is thrilling in a whole new way.
Throughout, the horns aren't just a pastiche — they legitimately rock. After 23 mighty, blaring songs, including his Freedom classic "Crime in the City" and underrated epic "Ordinary People," you might feel pleasantly exhausted.
That said, if you're not right there with the audience member shrieking "Woooo!" during "Welcome to the Big Room," you might be made of stone. If you're seeking out selections from Young's ever-growing Archives series, miss this one at your peril.
Lou Reed — New York (1989)
The adjective most often pinned on Lou Reed is "streetwise," but New York takes that tag and defines it literally. The rudimentary chord progressions, learnable after three guitar lessons, seem etched in chalk; the dense torrents of lyrics illustrate Reagan-era America.
"Those downtown hoods are no damn good/ Those Italians need a lesson to be taught/ This cop who died in Harlem/ You think they'd get the warnin'," the Velvet Underground leader intones in "Romeo Had Juliette," and the details spill out from there like that unfortunate law officer's blood.
Really, New York feels less like a rock record than a work of dense, engrossing journalism; no matter where or when you commune with it, there you are — right amid the social unrest and urban decay he's describing.
"Outside the city shrieking, screaming, whispering/ The mysteries of life," goes "Xmas in February" — as good a summation of Reed's boots-on-the-ground, head-in-the-ether art as any.
Photo: Michael Putland/Getty Images
7 Reasons Why The Rolling Stones' 'Goats Head Soup' Is Worth Savoring
Some critics consider 'Goats Head Soup' to mark the beginning of the Stones' decline. But exhaustion turned out to be one of the Stones' most satisfying moods.
Energetically speaking, the Rolling Stones' 1970s run is something of a reverse parabola — it goes up, and then down.
After 1968's acoustic-focused Beggars Banquet — basically their Led Zeppelin III — and 1969's blues-drenched Let it Bleed, the Stones really started to burn rubber. 1971's gloriously decadent Sticky Fingers was the final ramp-up to their arguable masterpiece: the following year's Exile on Main St.
Across four greasy sides, the Stones went from riotous, disheveled fun to Sunday morning-style ache and longing: it seemingly contains the totality of the Glimmer Twins' art in microcosm.
As Exile on Main St. was such a skyscraping achievement, it's natural to wonder if what followed was a downturn. Enter Goats Head Soup, its 1973 follow-up, which turns 50 today.
Lumpy and undulating, Goats Head Soup is mostly known as the album that gave us their No. 1 ballad "Angie"; "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" also broke the Top 20 on the Hot 100. On the main, it's an elliptical, hazy listen — like the strewn detritus from the Exile on Main St. sessions coagulated into a hobbling automaton.
There is no "Street Fighting Man" or "Gimme Shelter" or "Brown Sugar." Instead, we get the crawling "Dancing With Mr. D," the dog-tired "Coming Down Again," and the shaking-apart "Star Star." More than almost any other Stones album, Goats Head Soup is its own universe.
For better or worse, Goats Head Soup is stuck in first gear. But for Stones fans wired a certain way, that's a feature, not a bug.
When the Stones sound exhausted, that's a Stones worth savoring. And despite any number of middling contemporaneous reviews, Goats Head Soup is where this beautiful comedown began. Here are 10 reasons why you should give this sui generis Stones platter a shot.
"Dancing With Mr. D" Is Something Else
From Keith Richards’ deliciously ominous opening riff forward, "Dancing With Mr. D" proves itself to have almost no analog in the Stones’ catalog.
"Yeah, down in the graveyard where we have our tryst/ The air smells sweet, the air smells sick/ He never smiles, his mouth merely twists," Mick Jagger sputters. "The breath in my lungs feels clinging and thick/ The palms of my hands is clammy and wet."
Does Mr. D’s initial stand for death? For devil? Whatever the case, Jagger’s indulging in some macabre fun.
"Coming Down Again" Is A Buzzkill For The Ages
There’s a certain, unforgettable weariness to Keith Richards’ Stones songs, and "Coming Down Again" is something of a downcast masterpiece.
Before you ask, yes, it’s about drugs — these are the Stones in the ‘70s, after all. But take junkie mythology out of the equation, and it’s simply a thing of windswept, head-hung-low beauty.
Dig Billy Preston With The Stones!
In the years following the events of the Beatles’ Get Back documentary, keyboardist Billy Preston was in demand as a session cat: he appeared on solo albums by three of four Beatles, as well as those by Sly and the Family Stone, Joe Cocker, and — yes — the Stones.
Preston had previously appeared on Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St.; on "100 Years Ago," he plays inspired clavinet, and on "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)," he doubles the clavinet with piano. Speaking of…
Minor Hit "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" Remains Satisfying
Despite its kicked-up tempo, "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" doesn’t exactly rock; it simmers and hovers.
Lyrically, it presents mirror examples of urban tragedy: a young man shot by police in a case of mistaken identity, and a 10-year girl who ODs in an alley. But a ripped-from-the-headlines "Hurricane"-style story song it isn’t.
Decades later, Jagger denied any specific, real-world inspiration, chalking it up to "New York as a violent place. America as a heavy-handed police state.
"We can go back 100 years and it's probably even heavier," Jagger continued. "Obviously, all that time ago it was heavy in a lot of places, heavy now and heavy before."
"Angie" Is Immortal For Very Good Reasons
This talk can safely be consigned to the rock lore archives, as it’s beside the point: "Angie" is simply a gorgeous song. (Although your mileage may vary with Jagger’s whispering.)
For an expert appraisal of what makes this majestic — and wildly popular — single tick, check out Rick Beato’s analytical YouTube video, for his What Makes This Song Great? series.
Much Of The Bluster Had Worn Off
Yes, we come to the Stones for cocksurity and bravado, but it’s arguably even more interesting when those qualities lose their luster.
Take two of the most horny cuts: "Silver Train" is about a prostitute; "Star Star" is about a groupie. But rather than sound hyped-up, they sound fragile, like machismo is an old costume that didn’t fit them at that moment.
Giles Martin Has Freshened Up Goats Head Soup
His 2020 remix of Goats Head Soup wipes away the grime and reveals its vulnerable, autumnal heart. Truly, despite its mixed-bag reputation, this stew has never been so savory.
Photo: Michael Putland/Getty Images
Inside The Alternate Universe Of Neil Young's 'Chrome Dreams'
Neil Young's 'Chrome Dreams' was shelved in 1977; nine of its 12 tunes made it to ensuing albums. How would its release have altered Young's creative arc?
In the mid-2000s, Neil Young dropped an artifact at fans' doorsteps that was strange even by his standards. It was a new album, Chrome Dreams II — a sequel to that titular album from 1977. The wrinkle? That album didn't exist.
Well, not officially. While perplexed consumers wondered if they'd been unwitting recipients of the Mandela Effect, Chrome Dreams was a known quantity to the heads.
As Jimmy McDonough explained in his 2002 biography of Young, Shakey, Chrome Dreams was an acetate — a proposal of what his next album could be. It even had a cover: a sketch by producer David Briggs of the front end of a '55 Chrysler, blending into a woman's face.
But Chrome Dreams wasn't to be; what the public got was 1977's rowdy, eclectic American Stars 'n Bars. Despite containing the classic "Like a Hurricane" among other luminous deep cuts like "Star of Bethlehem," American Stars 'n Bars feels more like a mixtape than a proper album. McDonough himself called it a "haphazard snapshot."
As part of a deluge of archival releases, Chrome Dreams is finally available in its original form as of Aug. 11. Despite being shelved, most of Chrome Dreams' 12 tunes made it to the public, in one form or another; many of them became bona fide Young classics.
Five tracks destined for Chrome Dreams made it on American Stars 'n Bars, including "Star of Bethlehem" and "Homegrown." "Pocahontas," "Sedan Delivery" and "Powderfinger" appeared on Rust Never Sleeps two years later. A handful of others would surface on various albums, culminating with "Stringman" on 1993's Unplugged.
Now that Chrome Dreams II has a I, a tantalizing question arises: if this album came out as planned, how would Young's discography be fundamentally altered? In some instances, it wouldn't be too far gone. In others, everything would change.
From Homegrown to Hitchhiker to Toast — from 1975, 1976 and 2000-2001, respectively — Young's long-shelved, recently revealed albums have proven to be inextricably linked to the ones we all know.
As such, they provide fascinating windows into his creative process — as well as what-ifs to puzzle over. Here's a guide to every song on Chrome Dreams, and how Young's discography would change if they were initially released in this form.
We've heard this non-overdubbed "Pocahontas" before.
In 2017, Young released the stunning Hitchhiker, a document of a single session in 1976, when Young terminated a tour with Stephen Stills, celebrating the 10th anniversary of their band Buffalo Springfield.
Under a full moon, he holed up in Briggs' Malibu studio with various intoxicants, and ran through some recent songs, alone and unadorned. Despite the bracing intimacy of this setting, Reprise executives shrugged it off as a collection of demos.
If "Pocahontas" had been released on Chrome Dreams, could it still have appeared on Rust Never Sleeps, perhaps in a different format? Unlikely, as that was an album of new material; a tune from just two years prior would have been a sore thumb.
A Rust Never Sleeps without "Pocahontas" would be one with a crucial chunk missing; it's one of the most evocative songs he ever penned, bar none. And it's difficult to think of a potential replacement on its level.
"Will to Love"
The inclusion of "Will to Love" on American Stars 'n Bars accentuates that album's aggressively piecemeal vibe.
There's no analog for "Will to Love" anywhere in his catalog. A seven-minute ballad recorded in front of Young's crackling fireplace, the lo-fi oddity recounts the journey of a trout upstream as a cosmic metaphor. (Critics remain divided; some believe it's one of his most majestic songs, others dismiss it as an indulgent mess.)
On Chrome Dreams, "Will to Love" fits a bit more snugly amid the acoustic material; on American Stars 'n Bars, it's an ugly duckling.
Without five Chrome Dreams tunes on it — three of them the most substantial on the album — American Stars 'n Barscould have succeeded, and perhaps been more consistent, as an album of barroom-ready ragers.
"Star of Bethlehem"
"Star of Bethlehem" was slated for a previously shelved album: Homegrown — recorded in 1974 and 1975, unreleased until 2020.
Because that album didn't see the light of day, the inclusion of "Star of Bethlehem" on Chrome Dreams — and on his 1977 compilation album Decade — would arguably leave its history unaltered.
"Like a Hurricane"
Whether this Young classic was released on Chrome Dreams or another '70s album would be beside the point.
The legacy of this majestic rocker isn't its inclusion on American Stars 'n Bars, but its windswept majesty — especially live. (Its versatility, too; the solo rendition on Unplugged, performed on pump organ, is unforgettable.)
"Too Far Gone"
On Freedom, Young's late-'80s comeback album addressing Reagan-era urban decay, "Too Far Gone" is a throwback; he'd originally recorded it in 1975, with Crazy Horse guitarist Frank "Poncho" Sampedro on mandolin.
The song, about the fallout from a chemical-fueled tryst, fit Freedom like a glove; it works perfectly along seedy yarns like "Crime in the City (Sixty to Zero Part I)." Freedom could have been basically intact without it, but its messaging would lose a personal edge.
"Hold Back the Tears"
Fitting with the rest of side A, the version of "Hold Back the Tears" on American Stars 'n Bars has a lovesick, rootsy quality, deepened by Linda Ronstadt and Nicolette Larson on backing vocals.
On Chrome Dreams, it's starker and more eye-to-eye — just Young alone, harmonizing with himself, a little keyboard and percussion filling out the soundfield.
Both versions are terrific, but if this demo-like take was the released version — without Ronstadt and Larson behind him to really sell it — something would be missing.
In any form, "Homegrown" is a mirthful, stoned trifle; paradoxically, it would have served as the title track to one of Young's most revealing and personal albums.
The Chrome Dreams version — the one with Crazy Horse — is the one available for decades on American Stars 'n Bars; whichever album it appeared on would be irrelevant to its legacy.
That said, the version initially slated to appear on Homegrown is a wonder — on that later take, Young's backed by Tim Drummond of the Stray Gators, go-to lap slide guitarist Ben Keith, and Karl Himmel, who frequently backed Young throughout the decade.
Where the Horse version of "Homegrown" is a goofy romp, the later version is slippery and strange, befitting an ode to marijuana; if that one had come out, it may have stuck in the craw more.
The version of "Captain Kennedy" on Hawks and Doves is the same one on Hitchhiker and Chrome Dreams — they all come from that single, stony session with Briggs.
Excised from the lumpy and politically contradictory Hawks and Doves, it would be a pleasing enigma — Young's crack at a faux-traditional folk ballad, inspired by the real-life mariner Lou Kenedy.
On that 1980 album, though, it takes on shades of patriotism and nationalism, especially near tunes like the proletariat anthem "Comin' Apart at Every Nail."
In that jingoistic context, the uninitiated listener might even think it's not a seaman's ballad at all, but an extended metaphor for a certain doomed president.
One of the primary revelations of Chrome Dreams is a studio version of "Stringman," one of Young's most emotionally incisive songs.
He wrote it for producer and Stray Gators pianist Jack Nitzsche, who was undergoing an agonizing divorce. Young takes a birds-eye view of the trauma, examining the trauma through metaphorical lenses: a sergeant laying down his weapons, sun-kissed lovers rendered as smut.
On Unplugged, with years under his belt, Young delivers with maximum pathos and gravitas.
But if this earlier version had been in fans' ears, it could only have enriched "Stringman"; it'd be a clinic in how a song can develop an emotional patina with age.
Fitting for an album that begins with an evocation of Johnny Rotten, Rust Never Sleeps is charged with a flippant, punky energy for its latter half.
Accordingly, the version of "Sedan Delivery" out since 1979 is far more uptempo than the one on Chrome Dreams. As such, it tends to blur into the sonic violence of its lovably lunkheaded neighbor, "Welfare Mothers."
This more natural tempo and execution suits "Sedan Delivery," and allows space to absorb its harebrained lyrical images; if the world knew it like this, perhaps it'd be more than a race to the end of Rust Never Sleeps.
Is "Powderfinger" more powerful as an acoustic or electric song?
Most fans regard the latter with something like religious awe; it's the ultimate marriage of Young's penetrating songwriting with the string-popping frenzy he demonstrates with the Horse.
But there's a case that the solo version on Chrome Dreams and Hitchhiker has just as much impact, just from a different angle.
The Young classic's about a young man attempting to protect his family from an approaching gunboat; when the arrangement can breathe, the story takes on weight and dynamism.
Indeed, when the shot rings out, and the protagonist's "face splashe[s] in the sky," Young's hushed delivery renders the image that much more darkly unforgettable.
Maybe the answer to the above question is a toss-up. But the acoustic version "Powderfinger" provides a crucial side-window into this magnificent song.
"Look Out for My Love"
The hypnotic fan favorite "Look Out for My Love" has a way of getting under your skin; it's an unquestionable highlight of 1978's Comes a Time, and does a mesmerizing job as the closer to Chrome Dreams.
"Look Out for My Love" is exquisite by its own merits; the only difference would have been that Comes a Time would lose a pendulum-like classic.
If the world knew and loved Chrome Dreams, the point of Chrome Dreams II would have clicked immediately — its acoustic-electric yin-yang is spiritually in dialogue with these songs.
But that's Young — if he didn't work in mysterious ways, we'd all want our money back.
In a way, his younger self is his primary collaborator these days; he's on a mission to preserve fleeting visions and headspaces of yore. And in return, his fans have a will to love.
Photos: Foxxatron; Prince Williams/WireImage; SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images; Bob Wolfensen; Francis Specker/CBS via Getty Images; JYP Entertainment; Gus Stewart/Redferns; Matthew James-Wilson; Jim Dyson/Getty Images; Tor Stensola
15 Must-Hear Albums This August: Jon Batiste, Jihyo, The Hives & More
For lovers of rock 'n' roll, K-pop, R&B and blues, August has no shortage of gems. Read on for a list of long-awaited comebacks,exciting debuts and groundbreaking endeavors coming out in August 2023.
While peak summer heat may slow down daily activities, August music releases are keeping 2023’s pace running, with an overflow of music releases for the most varied tastes. There’s long-awaited comebacks and exciting debuts, classic rehashes and groundbreaking endeavors, and — most of all — plenty of exciting sounds to discover.
For the lovers of good ol' rock 'n' roll, this is a busy month: bands like the Hives, Public Image Ltd. and virtual outfit Dethklok make their return after many years in the shadows. In more indie domains, Hozier brings forth his third studio album, Unreal Unearth, and The Band CAMINO is back with their sophomore record, The Dark. In other genres, both R&B singer Victoria Monét and K-pop girl group TWICE’s leader Jihyo will release their debut albums, Jaguar II and Zone, respectively. Meanwhile, Dan Auerbach’s label Easy Eye Sound will issue Tell Everybody!, a compilation of the best stars across all strands of blues.
As there is much more to explore and little time to lose, check below for GRAMMY.com’s guide for the 15 must-hear albums dropping in August 2023.
Neil Young - Chrome Dreams
Release date: Aug. 11
Back in 1977, legendary singer and songwriter Neil Young planned to release Chrome Dreams, though the project was ultimately shelved. However, several bootlegs of the original 12-song acetate circulated around in the past decades, deeming its content as one of Young’s strongests.
Almost 50 years later, Chrome Dreams will finally receive justice with a debut release via Reprise Records. The tracklist is filled with classics recorded between 1974 and 1976, such as "Pocahontas" and "Sedan Delivery," and includes four originals never released on vinyl before. On his official website, the album is described as coming to life "exactly how Young perceives it" and of having a "sense of monumentality about it that conveys a place in history."
Chrome Dreams is the latest in Young’s recent string of archival records, following 2022’s 50th anniversary reissue of 1972’s Harvest, the release of 2001’s shelved album Toast with Crazy Horse, and the fourth installment of his Official Release Series.
The Band CAMINO - The Dark
Release date: Aug. 11
The Band CAMINO will give us another dose of their infectious pop-rock on their sophomore album,The Dark.
Comprising 11 tracks — including singles "Told You So," "Last Man In The World," "See You Later," and "What Am I Missing?" — the album expands on the Nashville-based trio’s thrilling energy and lyrics about the highs and lows of love. "It's no secret we suck together / I tell myself that it's for the better / So why does it keep getting worse?" they wonder in "What Am I Missing?"
In support of the release, The Band CAMINO has also announced a North American tour starting Sept. 14 in Philadelphia, and wrapping it up on Oct. 21 in Nashville.
Public Image Ltd. - End of World
Release date: Aug. 11
Marking their return after eight years, post-punk British band Public Image Ltd. will release their 11th studio album, End of World, next month. The record is dedicated to vocalist and former Sex Pistols member John Lydon’s late wife, Nora Forster, who passed away in April after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
"Nora loved the album, she wouldn’t have wanted us to postpone it or change any of our plans," Lydon said in a statement. Smooth lead single "Hawaii," which works as a love letter to Forster, is "the most personal piece of songwriting and accompanying artwork that John Lydon has ever shared," according to the same statement. But that doesn’t mean PiL’s raucous essence is amiss;l singles "Penge" and "Car Chase" are welcome punches of enthusiasm as only they can deliver.
PiL started working on the album in 2018 during their 40th anniversary tour, but had to pause activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ever since they got back to the studio, the band was hit with a "massive explosion of ideas," according to Lydon. They will embark on an extensive UK and Europe tour this September.
The Hives - The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons
Release date: Aug. 11
It’s been 11 years since the Swedish rockers of the Hives released new material. With their upcoming sixth studio album, The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons, on the horizon, they prove that time only did them favors.
Led by pre-release singles "Bogus Operandi" and "Countdown to Shutdown," The Hives’ electrifying, demanding energy is back for another round. "There’s no maturity or anything like that bulls—, because who the f— wants mature rock’n’roll?" asked frontman Pelle Almqvist in a press release. "Rock’n’roll can’t grow up, it is a perpetual teenager and this album feels exactly like that, which it’s all down to our excitement."
With a title that refers to the supposed death of the band’s mysterious (and never publicly seen) sixth member, manager, and sole songwriter, it also represents a new chapter. What will the Hives do if Randy Fitzsimmons is indeed gone for good? No one knows. But for now, they are focused on making some noise around the world: the band is booked for concerts and festivals all over Europe and the U.S. throughout the rest of the year.
Chief Keef - Almighty So 2
Release date: Aug. 11
After several delays following its announcement in October 2022, Chief Keef’s well-awaited mixtape Almighty So 2 will finally come out on Aug. 11.
A sequel to 2013’s Almighty So, the mixtape features 17 tracks. Two singles have been released so far: "Tony Montana Flow" and "Racks stuffed inna couch." Also a follow-up to Keef’s latest studio album, 2021’s 4NEM, it sees the Chicago rapper continue his prolific run of releases, which includes four studio albums, four EPs, and over 30 mixtapes since his beginnings in 2011.
Last year, Keef announced his new label 43B in partnership with BMG, and his first signing with Atlanta rapper Lil Gnar. He also released an updated version of his debut album Finally Rich, celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Easy Eye Sound - Tell Everybody! (21st Century Juke Joint Blues From Easy Eye Sound)
Release date: Aug. 11
A 12-song compilation uniting legends and rising stars alike across the blues spectrum, Tell Everybody! is Nashville label Easy Eye Sound’s latest tour de force. The compilation was produced by the label’s founder and the Black Keys’ member Dan Auerbach.
Besides featuring Auerbach’s own band and solo work, the anthology also holds names like GRAMMY-nominated R.L. Boyce and Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, as well as newcomers like Nat Myers, Moonrisers, and Dan Carter.
Said to draw influences "from acoustic anthems to roiling rock n’ roll" in a press release, Tell Everybody! "continues a commitment to upholding and preserving the blues that sits at the core of Easy Eye Sound’s mission." For a taste of what’s to come, they have shared Robert Finley’s eponymous title track.
Les Imprimés - Rêverie
Release date: Aug. 11
Les Imprimés is a one-man band created by Norwegian singer and songwriter Morten Martens. Blending R&B and soul with a definite modern twist, the project stands as a dreamy refuge to life’s harsh realities.
"It’s soul music, but I don’t exactly have the soul voice," Morten explains on Big Crown Records’ website. "But I do it my own way, in a way that’s mine." Martens’ unique efforts are brought together in his debut album, Rêverie. In the tracklist, a slew of ethereal, captivating singles like "If I" and "Love & Flowers" promise a stirring listening experience, sure to put him on the radar of 2023’s greatests.
Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Keeping Secrets Will Destroy You
Release date: Aug. 11
On Will Oldham’s (a.k.a Bonnie "Prince" Billy) Bandcamp page, his forthcoming record Keeping Secrets Will Destroy You is described vaguely as "a tale as old as time," or simply "an album" whose songs are "by and for people together."
Following 2022’s Blind Date Party with Bill Calahan and 2019’s I Made a Place, Keeping Secrets consists of 12 tracks that put Billy "at the nexus of all the kinds of music he can summon, with friends, with family, and community. All roads roll though him. There can be no holding back. A million billion moments are on the line."
The Louisville singer shared two pre-releases as idiosyncratic as the rest of his oeuvre: "Bananas" and "Crazy Blue Bells." Starting September, he will embark on a U.S. tour through November.
Jon Batiste - World Music Radio
Release date: Aug. 18
"World Music Radio is a concept album that takes place in the interstellar regions of the universe," said multihyphenate Jon Batiste on Instagram about his upcoming 7th studio record. "The listener is led through the album by an interstellar traveling griot named Billy Bob Bo Bob, who takes you sonically all around the world at the speed of light."
A follow-up to We Are, his 2021 GRAMMY-winning Album Of The Year, World Music Radio will feature collaborations with stars from all corners of music, including Lana Del Rey, Lil Wayne, and Kenny G. "I created this album with a feeling of liberation in my life and a renewed sense of exploration of my personhood, my craft, and of the world around me unlike anything I ever felt before," Batiste shared further about the 21-track effort.
The album is preceded by lively singles "Calling Your Name," "Drink Water" featuring Jon Bellion and Fireboy DML, and Coca-Cola collaboration "Be Who You Are (Real Magic)," featuring Cat Burns, J.I.D, Camilo, and NewJeans.
Jihyo (TWICE) - Zone
Release date: Aug. 18
Seven years down the road, TWICE — one of the most acclaimed K-pop girl groups in history — have started branching out their skills into solo careers and sub-units. Starting last year, eldest member Nayeon released her EP Im Nayeon, followed by July’s MISAMO (a Japanese sub-unit formed by Mina, Sana, and Momo) and their Masterpiece EP. Now, it’s time for leader and main vocalist Jihyo to show the world her unique colors.
Known for her passionate, energetic performances and a powerful voice, Jihyo’s debut EP, Zone, features lead single "Killin’ Me Good" and six other tracks, including a duet with K-R&B singer Heize. Until the date of release, Jihyo will release a series of spoilers and special contents that will keep fans anticipating the visual and musical direction chosen.
In June, TWICE made history by becoming the first girl group from any country to sell out Los Angeles’ SoFi stadium for their Ready To Be world tour. Still ongoing, the tour includes 38 shows across North America, Asia, Oceania, and Europe.
Hozier - Unreal Unearth
Release date: Aug. 18
Like so many of us during the pandemic lockdown, Irish singer Hozier took the extra time to pick up on his readings, including Dante Alighieri’s epic Inferno. The literary classic ended up inspiring him so much that his upcoming third studio album, Unreal Unearth, is also arranged into "circles" — a concept that Dante used to depict the nine realms of hell in his work.
In an interview with Rolling Stone UK, Hozier explained that "the album can be taken as a collection of songs, but also as a little bit of a journey. It starts with a descent and I’ve arranged the songs according to their themes into nine circles, just playfully reflecting Dante’s nine circles and then an ascent at the end." As for what it sounds like, the singer said it is "quite eclectic" and reflects "something of a retrospective in what the sounds lean into."
Hozier released the EP Eat Your Young in March as a teaser for Unreal Unearth, featuring an eponymous single and tracks "All Things End" and "Through Me (The Flood)" — all of which appear on his forthcoming release. A second single, "Francesca," came out in June. Hozier will embark on a North American, UK, and Europe tour starting September.
Shamir - Homo Anxietatem
Release date: Aug. 18
In a press release, singer/songwriter Shamir revealed that he felt a lot of anxiety during the first quarter of 2020. "I was fresh out the psych ward and had quit smoking weed and cigarettes cold turkey. I spent the first couple months of 2020 knitting this huge baby blue sweater. It’s basically a wearable security blanket that I used to channel all my anxiety into."
The sweater turned into inspiration for indie pop single "Oversized Sweater," off Shamir’s upcoming ninth studio album, Homo Anxietatem. Although the title translates from Latin into "anxious man," the album is meant to depict "what happens when one of the most prolific songwriters of a generation calms down a bit: the search for meaning becomes mundane."
Homo Anxietatem follows 2022’s Heterosexuality, and is also described as a "perfect pop-punk-rock record." On Oct. 2, the Las Vegas singer will play a sole concert in Paris and then hit up the UK for a short tour across 10 cities.
Victoria Monét - Jaguar II
Release date: Aug. 25
Singer Victoria Monét — who became known through her songwriting for artists such as Ariana Grande, BLACKPINK and Fifth Harmony — is releasing her debut studio album, Jaguar II, on Aug. 25. "I feel like I’ve been behind the bushes and in the background, and I think jaguars themselves live in that way," she explained in a Billboard interview. "They find the right moment to attack — and get what they want."
The record is a sequel to her breakthrough 2020 EP Jaguar, diving further into her R&B roots and exploring a variety of sounds that go from dancehall to Southern rap. Some of these influences can be seen in the pre-releases "Smoke" with Lucky Daye, "Party Girls" with Buju Banton, and "On My Mama."
To celebrate the album, Monét has announced a slew of dates across North America starting Sept. 6 in Detroit and ending with two November shows in London.
Dethklok - Dethalbum IV and Metalocalypse - Army of the Doomstar (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Release date: Aug. 22 and Aug. 25
After nearly a decade, the most vicious virtual metal band is back. Dethklok, from Adult Swim’s TV series "Metalocalypse," will release not one, but two full-length albums next month.
The first is Dethalbum IV, the band’s long-awaited fifth studio record, out Aug. 22. Written by "Metalocalypse" creator Brendon Small, it features 11 tracks, including the merciless single "Aortic Desecration."
Three days later comes the official soundtrack to new film Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar’s turn. Also written and directed by Small, the movie boasts a star-studded cast with the likes of King Diamond, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, and Evanescence’s Amy Lee. It will also offer a closing chapter for the show, which was canceled in 2015.
Dethklok will kick off their U.S. tour with Japanese band Babymetal on Aug. 30 in Houston, TX, and cross a slew of cities until the final concert on Oct. 11, in Los Angeles.
Bebel Gilberto - João
Release date: Aug. 25
"More than a tribute to her father, the unforgettable João Gilberto, the album is a visit to Bebel's most fundamental musical memories," says Bebel Gilberto’s website about her upcoming studio album, João.
Also described as a "musical love letter" to the renowned father of bossa nova, who passed away in 2019, the album was produced by pianist Thomas Bartlett, and comprises 11 songs carefully selected by Bebel. Among her choices are classics such as "Ela É Carioca" and "Desafinado," but also "Valsa," a track also known as "(Como São Lindos os Youguis) (Bebel)" and one of João Gilberto’s few compositions dedicated to his daughter.
Bebel shared an emotive first single off the project, "É Preciso Perdoar," and announced tour dates across North America, Asia, the UK, and Europe starting next month.
Photo: Erika Goldring/WireImage, Daniele Venturelli/Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images for Luisaviaroma, Scott Legato/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management, Astrida Valigorsky/Getty Images, Don Arnold/WireImage, Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Atlantis Paradise Island, Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
15 Must-Hear Albums This July: Taylor Swift, Dominic Fike, Post Malone, NCT Dream & More
From the highly anticipated 'Barbie' soundtrack to a celebration of Joni Mitchell's iconic Newport Folk Festival return, check out 15 albums dropping this July.
The first half of 2023 is already behind us, but July gives us much to look forward to. The warm sun, tours and festivals abound, and a heap of exciting releases — from Colter Wall's country music to NCT DREAM's K-pop — will surely make this season even more special.
We start it off with Taylor Swift and her third re-recorded album, Speak Now (Taylor's Version) on July 7, the same day Pitbull returns with his twelfth studio album, Trackhouse. Post Malone will deliver his fourth LP, AUSTIN, and Blur returns with their first album in eight years. And for the classic music lovers, folk legend Joni Mitchell will release At Newport — a recording of her first live performance since 2015 — and rock maven Stevie Nicks will drop her Complete Studio Albums & Rarities box set.
To welcome the latter half of a year filled with great music so far, GRAMMY.com offers a guide to the 15 must-hear albums dropping July 2023.
Taylor Swift, Speak Now (Taylor's Version)
Release date: July 7
Taylor Swift fans are used to gathering clues and solving puzzles about the singer's intricate, ever-expanding discography. Therefore, in her hometown of Nashville concert last May, when she announced that Speak Now (Taylor's Version) would come out on July 7, it was not much of a surprise to the audience, but rather a gratifying confirmation that they had followed the right steps.
"It's my love language with you. I plot. I scheme. I plan. And then I get to tell you about it," Swift told them after breaking the news. "I think, rather than me speaking about it ... I'd rather just show you," she added, before performing an acoustic version of Speak Now's single, "Sparks Fly."
Shortly after, she took it to Instagram to share that "the songs that came from this time in my life were marked by their brutal honesty, unfiltered diaristic confessions and wild wistfulness. I love this album because it tells a tale of growing up, flailing, flying and crashing … and living to speak about it."
Speak Now (Taylor's Version) is Swift's third re-recorded album, following 2021's Red (Taylor's Version). It will feature 22 tracks, including six unreleased "From the Vault" songs and features with Paramore's Hayley Williams and Fall Out Boy. "Since Speak Now was all about my songwriting, I decided to go to the artists who I feel influenced me most powerfully as a lyricist at that time and ask them to sing on the album," she shared on Twitter. Swift is currently touring the U.S. with her acclaimed The Eras Tour, which will hit Latin America, Asia, Australia, UK, and Europe through August 2024.
ANOHNI and the Johnsons, My Back Was a Bridge For You To Cross
Release date: July 7
"I want the record to be useful," said ANOHNI about her upcoming sixth studio album, My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross. The English singer says she learned with her previous LP, 2016's HOPELESSNESS, that she "can provide a soundtrack that might fortify people in their work, in their activism, in their dreaming and decision-making," therefore aiming to make use of her talents to further help and inspire people.
Through 10 tracks that blend American soul, British folk, and experimental music, ANOHNI weaves her storytelling on inequality, alienation, privilege, and several other themes. According to a statement, the creative process was "painstaking, yet also inspired, joyful, and intimate, a renewal and a renaming of her response to the world as she sees it."
My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross "demonstrates music's unique capacity to bring harmony to competing, sometimes contradictory, elements" — qualities that can be observed in the album's contemplative pre-releases "It Must Change" and "Sliver Of Ice."
Release date: July 7
GRAMMY-winning singer/rapper Pitbull has recently broadened his reach into an unexpected field: stock cars. Together with Trackhouse Entertainment Group founder Justin Marks, he formed Trackhouse Racing in 2021, an organization and team that participates in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Now, to unite both passions, the Miami-born singer is releasing Trackhouse, his twelfth studio album and first release since 2019's Libertad 548. "In no way, shape, or form is this some kind of publicity stunt," said Mr. Worldwide of the upcoming album during a teleconference in April. "This is real. This is all about our stories coming together, and that's why the fans love it. […] This right here is about making history, it's generational, it's about creating a legacy."
Preceded by singles "Me Pone Mal" with Omar Courtz and "Jumpin" with Lil Jon, it seems that Trackhouse, despite its innovative inception, will continue to further Pitbull's famed Latin pop brand. This fall, he will also join Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin on The Trilogy Tour across the U.S. and Canada.
Dominic Fike, Sunburn
Release date: July 7
Multitalented singer, songwriter and actor Dominic Fike also joins the roll of summer comebacks. His second studio album, Sunburn, comes out July 7, and follows 2020's acclaimed What Could Possibly Go Wrong.
In recent years, the Florida star found great exposure after landing a role in the HBO hit series "Euphoria" as well as the upcoming A24 drama Earth Mama, which is slated to release on the same day as Sunburn. The past three years were also marked by collaborations with a handful of artists, from Justin Bieber ("Die For You") to Paul McCartney ("The Kiss of Venus") to his Euphoria co-star Zendaya on "Elliot's Song" from the show's soundtrack.
Sunburn marks Fike's joyful return to music, aiming to portray "the aching and vulnerable revelations of a young artist still growing and putting their best foot forward," according to a press release. Through 15 tracks, including singles "Dancing in the Courthouse," "Ant Pile," and "Mama's Boy," Fike will explore themes of "heartbreak and regret, addiction, sex, and jealousy."
One week after Sunburn's arrival, Fike will embark on a tour across North America and Canada, starting July 13 in Indianapolis.
Lauren Spencer Smith, Mirror
Release date: July 14
Lauren Spencer Smith said on TikTok that she's been working on her debut album, Mirror, for years. "It has been with me through so much in my life, the highs and the lows, and it means more to me than I can put into words. It tells a story of reflection, healing and growth," she added.
The 19-year-old, British-born Canadian singer is unafraid to dive deep into heartbreak and sorrow — as she displayed on her breakthrough hit "Fingers Crossed" — but offers a way out by focusing on her growth. "I went through a hard breakup, and the album tells the story of that all, the journey of that and now being in a more happy relationship. The title comes from the one thing in my life that's seen me in every emotion through that journey — my bedroom and bathroom mirror."
Like a true Gen Zer, Smith has been teasing the 15-track collection and its upcoming world tour all over social media. On July 14, the day of the album release, she kicks off the North American leg of the tour in Chicago, before heading to the UK, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Colter Wall, Little Songs
Release date: July 14
"You might not see a soul for days on them high and lonesome plains/ You got to fill the big empty with little songs," sings Colter Wall on the titular track off his fourth studio album, Little Songs. The Canadian country star says in a press release that he wrote these songs over the last three years, and that "I penned most of them from home and I think the songs reflect that."
Born and raised in the prairies of Battle Creek, Saskatchewan, Wall found inspiration in the stillness of his surroundings. With this album, he bridges "the contemporary world to the values, hardships, and celebrations of rural life" while also opening "emotional turns as mature and heartening as the resonant baritone voice writing them," according to a press release.
Little Songs is composed of 10 tracks — eight originals and two covers (Hoyt Axton's "Evangelina," and Ian Tyson's "The Coyote & The Cowboy.") He'll celebrate the album's release with a performance at Montana's Under The Big Sky festival on the weekend of the LP's arrival.
Release date: July 14
British singer Mahalia celebrated her 25th birthday on May 1 by announcing IRL, her sophomore album. Out July 14, the R&B star claims the album to be "a real reflection of the journeys I've had, what actually happened, and a celebration of everyone who got me there."
The 13-track collection will feature names like Stormzy and JoJo, the latter of whom appears on the single "Cheat." Before the release, Mahalia also shared "Terms and Conditions," a self-possessed track that pairs her silky voice with delightful early-aughts R&B.
"I'm so proud of this album, and so proud of how much I challenged myself to just let those stories out," she said in a statement. "We're all fixated on how we can make ourselves better but I want people to also reminisce on lovely or painful situations they've lived through and how they've helped shape the people they are now."
IRL is Mahalia's follows 2019's highly-acclaimed Love and Compromise. In support of the release, she has announced UK and Europe tour dates from October through November.
NCT DREAM, ISTJ
Release date: July 17
The Myers-Briggs Personality Test (also known as MBTI) is a current craze in South Korea, therefore, it was only a matter of time until a K-pop group applied its insights on their music. Although none of NCT DREAM's seven members has the ISTJ personality type, that's what they decided to call their upcoming third studio album, out on July 17.
The 10-track collection comes in two physical versions: Introvert and Extrovert, the first letters and main differentiators in any MBTI personality. Spearheaded by the soaring "Broken Melodies," where they display an impressive set of vocals, their comeback announcement on Twitter promises "The impact NCT DREAM will bring to the music industry."
Since September, the NCT sub-group embarked on The Dream Show 2: In A Dream World Tour, which crossed Asia, Europe, North America. The group will wrap up July with four concerts in Latin America.
Blur, The Ballad of Darren
Release date: July 21
"The older and madder we get, it becomes more essential that what we play is loaded with the right emotion and intention," said Blur's guitarist Graham Coxon in a statement about The Ballad of Darren, the band's ninth studio album set to arrive on July 21.
Maybe that explains why The Ballad is their first release in eight years, and represents "an aftershock record, reflection and comment on where we find ourselves now," according to frontman Damon Albarn. During a press conference in May, bassist Alex James reinforced the positive moment that they find themselves in, stating that "there were moments of utter joy" while recording together.
Produced by James Ford, the album contains 10 tracks, including the wistful indie rock of lead single "The Narcissist." On July 8 and 9, Blur is set to play two reunion gigs at London's Wembley Stadium, followed by a slew of festivals across Europe, Japan and South America.
Barbie: The Album
Release date: July 21
The most-awaited summer flick of 2023 also comes with a staggering soundtrack. Scored by producers Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt, Barbie: The Album features songs by hot stars like Dua Lipa, Lizzo, and Ice Spice, as well as some surprising additions, such as psychedelic star Tame Impala and K-pop rookie sensation Fifty Fifty.
As undecipherable and alluring as the actual movie plot, the album tracklist only increases expectations for Greta Gerwig's upcoming oeuvre. Is it all a satire? Is it a serious take on "life in plastic" and consumerism? Is it about nothing at all? You can try to find some clues through pre-release singles "Dance the Night" by Dua Lipa, "Watati" by Karol G, and "Angel" by PinkPantheress.
Greta Van Fleet, Starcatcher
Release date: July 21
Fans who attended the three final shows of Greta Van Fleet's Dreams in Gold Tour this March already got a sneak peek of the band's upcoming third studio album, Starcatcher. Among their most popular hits, the quartet played five new songs — or half of Starcatcher — including singles "Meeting the Master," "Sacred the Thread," and "Farewell for Now."
In a statement about the album, drummer Danny Wagner said that they "wanted to tell these stories to build a universe," and that they wanted to "introduce characters and motifs and these ideas that would come about here and there throughout our careers." Bassist Sam Kiszka adds: "When I imagine the world of Starcatcher, I think of the cosmos. It makes me ask a lot of questions, like 'Where did we come from?' or 'What are we doing here?' But it's also questions like, 'What is this consciousness that we have, and where did it come from?'"
Just a few days after release, Greta Van Fleet will embark on a world tour. Starting in Nashville, Tennessee on July 24, they will cross the U.S. and then head over to Europe and the UK in November.
Post Malone, AUSTIN
Release date: July 28
In a shirtless, casual Instagram Reel last May, hitmaker Post Malone announced his upcoming fourth studio album, AUSTIN, to be released on July 28. Titled after his birth name, the singer shared that "It's been some of the funnest music, some of the most challenging and rewarding music for me, at least" — a very different vibe from the more mellow, lofi sounds of 2022's Twelve Carat Toothache — and that the experience of playing the guitar on every song was "really fun."
Featuring 17 tracks (19 on the deluxe version), AUSTIN is preceded by the dreamy "Chemical" and the angsty "Mourning," and sees Malone pushing his boundaries in order to innovate on his well-established sound. The album will also be supported by a North American 24-date trek, the If Y'all Weren't Here, I'd Be Crying Tour, starting July 8 in Noblesville, Indiana and wrapping up on August 19 in San Bernardino, California.
Stevie Nicks: Complete Studio Albums & Rarities box set
Release date: July 28
To measure Stevie Nicks' contribution to music is an insurmountable task. The Fleetwood Mac singer and songwriter has composed dozens of the most influential, well-known rock classics of the past century ("Dreams," anyone?), also blooming on her own as a soloist since 1981, when she debuted with Bella Donna.
In the four decades since, seven more solo albums followed, along with a trove of rarities that rightfully deserve a moment in the spotlight. Enter: her upcoming vinyl box set, Stevie Nicks: Complete Studio Albums & Rarities. The 16xLP collection compiles all of her work so far, plus a new record with the aforementioned rarities, and is limited to 3,000 copies. It's also the first time that Trouble in Shangri-La, In Your Dreams, and Street Angel are released on vinyl. For those who can't secure the limited set, a version of Complete Studio Albums & Rarities with 10xCDs will be available digitally.
Joni Mitchell, At Newport
Release date: July 28
Last year's Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island was one to remember. During one evening of the fest, a surprise guest graced the "Brandi Carlile and Friends" stage: it was none less than legendary folk star, Joni Mitchell. And what's more? It was her first live appearance since 2015, when she suffered a debilitating aneurysm.
During that time, the 79-year-old singer quietly held "Joni Jams" at her home in Los Angeles — inviting musicians that ranged from Elton John to Harry Styles to participate — with organizational support offered by Carlile. With Mitchell's special appearance at Newport, the coveted experience of a Joni Jam was available for thousands of fans.
This month, the release of At Newport eternalizes the headlining-making moment, bringing her talents to an even bigger audience. Among the classics in the tracklist are "Carey," "A Case of You," and "The Circle Game," proving that Mitchell is still as magical as when she stepped on the Newport Folk Festival stage for the first time, in 1969.
Jennifer Lopez, This Is Me… Now
Release date: TBD
In 2002, J.Lo was everywhere. Her relationship with actor Ben Affleck ensued heavy attention from the media, and her This Is Me… Then album — which featured hits like "Jenny from the Block" — was a commercial success, with over 300,000 first-week sales in the U.S.
How funny is it that, 20 years later, the singer and actress finds herself in a similar situation. After rekindling with Affleck in 2021, she announced the sequel to her 2002 release, This Is Me… Now, and stated in an interview with Vogue that the album represents a "culmination" of who she is.
A press release also describes This Is Me… Now as an "emotional, spiritual and psychological journey" across all that Lopez has been through in the past decades. Fans can also expect more details on the new-and-improved Bennifer, as many of the titles among its 13 tracks suggest, especially "Dear Ben Pt. II."
Although an official release date has not yet been revealed, on June 29, Lopez posted a cryptic image on social media with the caption "album delivery day" — suggesting that the highly anticipated This Is Me update may not be far away.