Spring Music Preview 2010

From MGMT to Erykah Badu, a first listen to 2010's hottest albums

March 23, 2010 7:50 AM ET


From Katy Perry and Stone Temple Pilots to MGMT and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, some of 2010's most anticipated albums are hitting stores this season. Big debuts from Court Yard Hounds and Drake are due, along with eagerly awaited releases by Christina Aguilera, Hole, the Hold Steady and Gaslight Anthem. Read up on 38 of the spring's discs.

Justin Bieber

MY WORLD 2.0 3/23
Just four months after releasing his debut, teen phenom Justin Bieber is rolling out the follow-up. "With My World, I was a rookie," says the singer. "I'm still a rookie, but I think of this album as an upgrade, a step above." The disc — produced by hitmakers Tricky Stewart and Bryan-Michael Cox — leans R&B, from its influences (Boyz II Men, Usher, Anthony Hamilton) to its theme. "I'm not allowed to have a girlfriend until I'm over 16," says Bieber, who reached the milestone on March 1st. "But I wrote a lot about girls."

Written and recorded in six months, the fifth album from London electropop duo Goldfrapp is a return to the luxurious beatwork that made them dance-floor darlings and Xtina's studio pals. Heavily influenced by the pillowy atmospherics of Giorgio Moroder and Suicide, Head First is a soft-focus haze smeared with a newfound, ABBA-esque positivity. "I wasn't very happy before," says frontwoman Alison Goldfrapp. "We've done introspective, we wanted to make an 'up' album."

Meth, Ghost and Rae
"Lyrics over some nice beats — that's what the people want from us," says Ghostface Killah, who recruited fellow Wu-Tang Clan members Method Man and Raekwon for the closest thing to a Wu album since 2007. Even though most of the Clan aren't involved, the trio got the retro-soul beat for first single "Our Dreams" — which features a 1975 Michael Jackson sample — from RZA's stash. "When I heard that beat, I was like, 'Holy shit!'" says Ghostface. "It's not a roughneck joint — just nice and mellow."

Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu's latest is the right-brained counterpart to 2008's New Amerykah Part One. "I was in a political place," she says. "This album is emotional, vulnerable." To get the moody vibe on cuts like the piano-driven "Window Seat," about an ambivalent lover, Badu recorded in her shower: "I wanted to sound like I was in a tunnel. I got my laptop and closed the door."

Jakob Dylan
Cut in less than a week, Jakob Dylan's second solo album reunites him with T Bone Burnett, who produced the Wallflowers' 1996 breakthrough, Bringing Down the Horse. "He brings out the best in people," says Dylan. The album features cozy harmonies from Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, and is divided between songs about relationships ("We Don't Live Here Anymore") and the state of the nation ("Everybody's Hurting") — hence the title. Dylan says he's happy with the album's rootsy, nonrock feel: "I don't feel I have to shout so much anymore."

After a 25-year stint in two highly volatile bands, Slash is relieved to finally be calling the shots. "It was very cathartic," the guitarist says. "I'll go back to Velvet Revolver with a whole new point of view." He recruited all-stars for the hard-rock record, including Dave Grohl, Kid Rock, Iggy Pop, Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy. Most surprising is the Black Eyed Peas' Fergie, who sings the intense "Beautiful Dangerous." Says Slash, "People are going to trip when they hear the stuff she is capable of."

Peter Wolf
"I've never been one to categorize things," says Peter Wolf of his first solo album in 14 years. The former J. Geils frontman makes his point with an adventurous journey through Philly soul, New Orleans funk (he covers Allen Toussaint) and scruffy blues. "It doesn't feel strange to have different influences floating around," says Wolf. Backed by ex-Dylan guitarist Larry Campbell, Wolf cut duets with Merle Haggard, Shelby Lynne and Neko Case. Haggard — with whom Wolf sang on the bar-stool anthem "It's Too Late for Me" — was his favorite partner. "Merle got so inside that song, everyone was spellbound," says Wolf. "I'm a musician, but I still get excited when I hear new things."

Fans expecting another album of supercatchy, wry psych-pop gems from MGMT will probably be disappointed. And that's the idea. "Some will hate it, and some will love it," says singer-keyboardist Andrew Vanwyngarden. "We want to freak people out." After touring for two years behind their debut, 2007's Oracular Spectacular, Vanwyngarden and his partner in the band, Ben Goldwasser, recorded most of the LP in Malibu with producer Pete Kember — of U.K. shoegazers Spacemen 3. The album ranges from quirky, British Invasion-like tunes ("It's Working") to sprawling, experimental cuts like the 12-minute Beach Boys-influenced "Siberian Breaks." "One of our goals has been to infiltrate mainstream culture — and still shock people," says Vanwyngarden. "I think this will do that."

Coheed and Cambria
Hard rock's biggest geeks take their prog ambitions to new heights on this fifth album, which will be released with a 350-page novel co-written by frontman Claudio Sanchez. (Both explore the origins of the characters Coheed and Cambria, mainstays in the band's mythology.) With NIN producer Atticus Ross and Tool collaborator Joe Barresi, the band crafted a dense, layered LP led by hooky single "The Broken." "[Ross and Barresi] found ways to make the tunes grow, as opposed to coming right out of the gate at one intensity and staying there," says Sanchez.

Willie Nelson
In recent years, willie Nelson has recorded Tin Pan Alley tunes, jazz, Western swing and even reggae. His latest, however, is straight-up country. "I wanted to put in parentheses at the bottom, 'In case you've forgotten,'" he says. Produced by T Bone Burnett, the LP includes covers of Porter Wagoner's "Satisfied Mind" and Bob Wills' "Gotta Walk Alone." Most were recorded in one or two takes. "T Bone just let us go and said, 'That's good. Do the next one,'" says Nelson. "I love making records. I could make one per day."

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