Fall Album Preview 2017: Taylor Swift, U2, Beck, Sam Smith - Rolling Stone
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Fall Album Preview 2017: New Taylor Swift, U2, Beck, Sam Smith, Morrissey LPs

What to expect from ‘Reputation,’ ‘Songs of Experience,’ return of Mavis Staples, plus vintage re-releases from Metallica, Bob Dylan and more

fall music preview niall horan u2 sam smith

Fall 2017 marks the much-discussed return of music legends and chart-toppers – including U2, Taylor Swift, Beck and Sam Smith – after some time away. The season will also witness the solo debuts of boy and girl group refugees Niall Horan and Camila Cabello, and acts like Metallica and Bob Dylan rummaging through their vaults. Here’s what to expect – from country to pop to the resurgence of Nineties stalwarts – over the next few months.

fall music preview niall horan u2 sam smith

Waring Abbott/Getty Images

Bob Dylan, ‘Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 13, 1979-1981’

Dylan’s Christian period (1979-81) remains one of his most controversial and debated chapters. What’s often lost in those arguments is that it produced some of his greatest concerts. Trouble No More, an eight-CD set, proves that point, with live highlights from that time, when Dylan’s band included legendary session players like organist Spooner Oldham and drummer Jim Keltner. The set is full of revelations: There are six vastly different versions of “Slow Train,” plus 14 unreleased songs, such as “Making a Liar Out of Me,” which has escaped bootleggers for more than 30 years. A one-hour film features footage from 1980 and a deeply moving version of “Pressing On.” Says Dylan scholar Clinton Heylin, “Like the mid-1960s, he was at the absolute peak of his powers.” 

fall music preview niall horan u2 sam smith

Herring & Herring

Metallica, ‘Master of Puppets [Remastered Deluxe Box Set]’

With thrashers like “Battery” and “Disposable Heroes,” Metallica’s 1986 classic broke them out of the underground and paved the way for stadium superstardom. They revisited Master of Puppets for a set that includes 10 CDs, a coffee-table book and even a live cassette. There are rare covers – like a furious version of Fang’s hardcore classic “The Money Will Roll Right In” – and demos that reveal how the songs were written; “Master of Puppets” goes from a James Hetfield guitar riff to a 12-minute epic. The band also decided to include a tape of bassist Cliff Burton’s final concert before a fatal tour-bus accident, and a disc featuring replacement Jason Newsted’s first gig two months later. “There’s been some additional emotion with this reissue,” says drummer Lars Ulrich. “You pause and think of all the craziness, but also how fortunate we are to still be out here doing it.” 

fall music preview niall horan u2 sam smith

David Needleman

Niall Horan, ‘Flicker’

The blond heartthrob was the folkie of One Direction, with a subtle delivery and a penchant for playing acoustic guitar live. His solo debut will build on that identity, inspired by Seventies California rock (he’s called mentor Don Henley “Dad”). So far it’s working: The guitar-heavy single “Slow Hands” is a pop hit. Horan spent six months writing with a crew that had previously crafted 1D hits. “I wanted this album to be completely personal,” Horan says, “therefore, the best way for me to get what I wanted out of the songs was to write them with friends.” 

fall music preview niall horan u2 sam smith

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Camila Cabello, ‘The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving’

Cabello was the breakout star of Fifth Harmony
before she quit the group last year, in part because she didn’t like their
creative process: “A&R would play you the songs you’re going to cut
that day, and then a vocal producer will tell you what you’re going to sing,”
she says. “It’s just not for me.” Cabello insisted on co-writing the
songs on her debut, which she says combines mainstream pop with her Latin
roots. She drew heavily on relationship drama, from a crushing breakup more
than a year ago to an encounter with “a famous boy I met at an
after-Grammys party.” She adds, “I was using writing as therapy. The
music went through a hell of a ride, because I did, too.” 

fall music preview niall horan u2 sam smith

Barry Brecheisen/WireImage

Kelsea Ballerini, ‘Unapologetically’

Ballerini’s debut scored a Number One country hit (“Peter Pan”) and got Nashville wondering if she was the country-pop heir to Taylor Swift. She’s trying not to get swept up in the hype; though Ballerini, 24, says she was pitched “undeniable hits” for her follow-up, she was intent on co-writing everything. She singles out “High School,” a ballad she wrote after returning home to Knoxville, Tennessee, after leaving at 15. “It made me realize how much I
had changed,” she says. “That song is my baby of the record.”

fall music preview niall horan u2 sam smith

Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

Weezer, ‘Pacific Daydream’

Rivers Cuomo has always had an
obsessive streak. But he took it to another level on Weezer’s 11th album,
creating a software script that sifted through his backlog of musical ideas and
paired them based on key and tempo. “Then I can see which ideas most
likely fit with each other,” says Cuomo. “It’s like collaborating
with myself.” Cuomo and producer Butch Walker crafted a series of songs
far more modern-sounding than 2016’s White Album. “There’s a lot
more atmospheric guitar and effects on my vocals,” says Cuomo. “I’d
never done that before. It’s very trippy.”

fall music preview niall horan u2 sam smith

Ross Gilmore/Getty Images

Noel Gallagher, ‘Who Built the Moon?’

“It’s unashamedly a fuckin’ pop album,” says Gallagher of his third LP with the High Flying Birds. Producer David Holmes, a Northern Irish electronic musician,
pushed Gallagher to put down his acoustic and build tracks pulling generously from his favorite songs; “If Love Is the Law” samples Brian Eno, and “Holy Mountain” borrows
a hook from Sixties bubblegum group Ice Cream. “People are going to be surprised,” Homes said in a statement. “I think people love Noel and they’re desperate for him to make a really big, bold, up-tempo beast of a record – a lot of Noel’s music is quite mid-tempo. This one is fun.”

fall music preview niall horan u2 sam smith

Sacha Lecca

Morrissey, ‘Low in High School’

“The people and politicians everywhere are in a state of mutual contempt,” says Morrissey, describing the heavy emotions behind his 11th solo LP. “Translate all of this into great music and life becomes hopeful.” He aims for optimism on “All the Young People Must Fall in Love,” about seizing life’s small thrills during the Trump era, and “Spent the Day in Bed” recommends
turning off the news entirely.

fall music preview niall horan u2 sam smith

Dimitri Hakke/Getty Images

Mavis Staples, ‘If All I Was Was Black’

Staples says Trump’s “race-baiting rhetoric” got her thinking about how little has changed since she traveled the country singing at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches. “It seems that there’s suddenly been a rebirth of bigotry and hate – it’s like I’m reliving the Sixties,” she says, before bringing up Charlottesville: “The only difference
that I saw between back in the day and those men marching with torches was that
they showed their faces….No sheets.” Her third LP with Jeff Tweedy
producing includes “We Go High,” which quotes Michelle Obama’s 2016
DNC speech, while the funky throwback “Build a Bridge” proposes a
hopeful alternative to Trump’s border wall. 

Ruven Afanador

Sam Smith

Smith had a tough time after 2014’s Grammy-winning In the Lonely Hour, which sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. “I became very distant to my family and friends,” he said recently. After a year off to regroup, he’s back with a gospel-steeped LP that reunites him with producer Jimmy Napes (who co-wrote his megahit “Stay With Me”), and recruits new collaborators Timbaland and R&B hitmakers Stargate. The single “Too Good at Goodbyes” is about a recent failed relationship. “This album is a selection of short stories from the last two years of my life,” he says. “I’ve poured every ounce of my heart into every song. Fucking hope people like it.” 

Walk the Moon, ‘What if Nothing’

Walk the Moon‘s follow-up to 2014’s Talking Is Hard (featuring earworm smash “Shut Up and Dance”) came out of a period of tumult for the Cincinnati-born band, which canceled a 2016 tour before regrouping later in the year to bash out some new tracks. “There was a lot to navigate before we could really come back together and make music,” frontman and keyboardist Nicholas Petricca told Rolling Stone. “Once we were able to just finally get in a room together and make music, the approach was just making noise – getting back to our roots of being a rock and roll band and playing our instruments and letting the sound bounce off the walls.” The band worked on the album with Mike Crossey (The 1975, Wolf Alice) and Mike Elizondo (Eminem, Muse); it splits the difference between “taller and wider and more vast sounds,” says Petricca, and introspective lyrics. The storming “One Foot,” says Petricca, is emblematic of the album’s outlook: “It’s staring out into the unknown and being faced with uncertainty and what could be certain failure – but deciding to move forward and take that first step anyway.”

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