Fall Music Preview 2014: 25 Must-Hear Albums – Rolling Stone
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Fall Music Preview 2014: 25 Must-Hear Albums

Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters and more give us insider info about their upcoming blockbusters

Fall Preview

Kevin Mazur/MTV1415/WireImage; Jim Dyson/Redferns via Getty Images

After four glorious months, summer 2014 – the season of Iggy Azalea, Magic! and "Weird Al" – has officially come to a close. The fall is also jam-packed with big-name releases: Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar and Jackson Browne are all finishing up fresh material. Find out how Dave Grohl hit the road, Stevie Nicks got back and more.

By Cady Drell, Josh Eells, David Fricke, Andy Greene, Kory Grow, Nick Murray, Elisabeth Garber-Paul, Rob Sheffield, Rachel Sonis, Simon Vozick-Levinson and Christopher R. Weingarten

Foo Fighters

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters performs on stage at the Invictus Games Closing Concert at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on September 14, 2014 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Jim Dyson/Redferns via Getty Images)

Jim Dyson/Redferns via Getty Images

Foo Fighters, ‘Sonic Highways’ (11/10)

"It just came out of my mouth," Foo Fighters singer-guitarist Dave Grohl says of the title of his band's new studio album and HBO rock & roll travelogue, Sonic Highways. The Foos were filming in Chicago – one of eight American cities where they recorded a song apiece for the TV show and the record, calling in special local guests such at the Eagles' Joe Walsh, Trombone Shorty and Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen. "I said all of these people and places are connected by something, like a musical map of sonic highways," says Grohl, who conceived the project and directed the HBO show. "We thought, 'Whoa, that actually makes sense. And it sounds cool.'" Produced by the Foos with Butch Vig, the songs on Sonic Highways are based on ideas "we've jammed on for a couple of years," Grohl says. He and the Foos developed the tracks at their Los Angeles studio, then shaped and cut each one in its respective city as cameras rolled. Grohl completed his lyrics at the last minute, drawing on inspirations gathered at each stop. One song, "I Am a River," recorded in New York, includes a loving nod to the late Lou Reed.

"The other thing," Grohl says, "is you can hear the rooms" where the band recorded. "Some of them are fucking small. The tracking room at Rancho de la Luna [in Joshua Tree, California] is like a minivan. We were crammed in there. But it fucking sounds great."

Kanye West

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Kanye West performs live for fans at Qantas Credit Union Arena on September 12, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Kanye West, Title TBD (Date TBD)

Last fall, a few months after releasing his raw, confrontational YeezusWest drew an analogy between his catalog and Bruce Springsteen's: If Yeezus was his Nebraska, he said, "I have a feeling this next one has to be Born in the U.S.A." A supercatchy snippet of a new song called "All Day," which West has said will be the first single from the album, leaked online this summer. West has reportedly hit the studio with Paul McCartney, working up a song called "Piss in Your Grave." It's also a safe bet West will rap about his marriage to Kim Kardashian and the birth of their daughter, North. "I think he's still searching for the sound," says producer Benjamin Bronfman, who helped West make 2010's "Monster" and 2013's "New Slaves." "But I've sent him some really happy, beautiful, celebratory shit. It feels like he has a lot to celebrate."

Bob Dylan

Gus Stewart/Redferns via Getty Images

Bob Dylan, ‘The Basement Tapes Complete: Bootleg Series Vol. 11’ (11/4)

Dylan obsessives have clamored for the complete Basement Tapes ever since word of the sessions leaked 46 years ago. They're finally getting their wish with this box set, easily the fall's most exciting archival release. It contains 138 songs Dylan and the Band cut in upstate New York in 1968 – 30 of which have never surfaced, including the Dylan-penned "Wild Wolf." "They were experimenting, fooling around, trying to find a new voice," says Greil Marcus, a former Rolling Stone editor whose 1997 book Invisible Republic centers around the Basement Tapes. "It wasn't just a session. This was a whole body of work."

Kendrick Lamar

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 13: Kendrick Lamar performs at ONE MusicFest at Aaron's Amphitheatre on September 13, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Prince Williams/FilmMagic)

Prince Williams/FilmMagic

Kendrick Lamar, Title TBD (Date TBD)

Lamar established himself as rap's most exciting young artist with 2012's good kid, m.A.A.d. city, which was inspired by his experiences growing up in gang-infested Compton. Now, the 27-year-old has to decide how much to extend that story on the follow-up. "There was a lot I left out of good kid – it could have been a 30-track album," Lamar tells Rolling Stone. "There are a few new [songs] that can tie in with what I was talking about." Lamar has cut "a bunch of tracks" with mentor Dr. Dre ("He's gone in the lab and tried to really elevate himself"), along with Digi+Phonics, in-house producers for Lamar's label. We can expect "aggression and emotion" but not many cameos – so far, Lamar hasn't called on any guest MCs. "I have so much to say!" he jokes. "It's almost selfish of me."

Nicki Minaj

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 04: Rapper Nicki Minaj performs during the 2014 Philly 4th Of July Jam on July 4, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)

Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

Nicki Minaj, ‘The Pink Print’ (11/24)

The title to The Pink Print is a reference to Jay Z's 2001 classic The Blueprint. "It's the best album I've ever done," Minaj tells Rolling Stone. "If I didn't write it, I would still listen to it all the time as a fan." Minaj called in several big-time producers – including Dr. Luke, Boi-1da and Polow Da Don, who left his mark on the deliriously raunchy new single "Anaconda" – and she says she goes deeper lyrically than ever before. "I don't think any of these songs could have been on my last album," she says. "I've grown as a writer. I'm braver in terms of speaking about things I didn't feel comfortable sharing two years ago."

Stevie Nicks

LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 06: Singer Stevie Nicks performs onstage during the 49th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 6, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Miller/Getty Images

Stevie Nicks, ’24 Karat Gold – Songs From the Vault’ (10/7)

Stevie Nicks' new album is a labor of love: a journey through her past in tunes dating back to 1969. These are stray songs she wrote over the years, but never recorded until now. "I used to give my songs away," Nicks says. "I'd write a new song, put it on a cassette, then someone would say, 'Hey, can I have a copy?' You had no idea it would be all over the Internet 30 years down the road. We didn't worry about it back then. It was all part of just sharing your music."

Some are so personal, not even the rest of Fleetwood Mac ever heard them. "'Lady' was the first piano song I ever wrote. It was a song I never played for anybody. Nobody but Lindsay [Buckingham] had ever heard it." She put the album together quickly with Nashville session men. "We had three five-day weeks to get the tracks," Nicks says. "These are union people – they don't mess around. So I had to get up at 9:00 in the morning, which for me is just ridiculous."

Jackson Browne

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 09: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Jackson Browne rehearses for All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman at The Fox Theatre on January 9, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Rick Diamond/GABB14/Getty Images for Blackbird Productions)

Rick Diamond/GABB14/Getty Images for Blackbird Productions

Jackson Browne, ‘Standing in the Breach’ (10/7)

The title track on Browne's first studio album in six years started as a song about the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti – but came to encompass much more than that. "It has to do with where our world is broken," Browne says. "It became a song about poverty everywhere. The entire album is about relationships in the light of what's happening in the world right now." Recorded in L.A. with his longtime touring band, the disc takes on everything from the moribund political system to the pollution of our oceans. But it kicks off with a new recording of "The Birds of St. Marks," a tune Jackson wrote in 1967. "I always thought it would work as a Byrds song," he says. "But I got sick of waiting for them to re-form, so I did it myself."

Taylor Swift

INGLEWOOD, CA - AUGUST 24: Taylor Swift performs onstage during the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards at The Forum on August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/MTV1415/WireImage)

Kevin Mazur/MTV1415/WireImage

Taylor Swift, ‘1989’ (10/27)

Swift has pitched her fifth album as a shift from country to pure pop. But how big a departure is that for her, really? "It's not a sucker punch," Swift says of the change. "But I want to be honest with people about the fact that it's my first pop album. I'm celebrating that, and I'm not scared of it." Though she worked with modern Top 40 maestros like Max Martin, Ryan Tedder and Jack Antonoff, Swift says she drew from pop of the past, listing Phil CollinsPeter Gabriel and Annie Lennox as inspirations. "It's pop sounds from the Eighties and pop sounds now," she says. "I just thought, 'There are no rules to this album. Why not explore all the different possibilities?'" ​


CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: (L-R) Guitarist Brian Bell, singer Rivers Cuomo and bassist Scott Shriner of Weezer performs during 106.5 The END for the Weenie Roast at PNC Music Pavilion on September 6, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jeff Hahne/Getty Images)

Jeff Hahne/Getty Images

Weezer, ‘Everything Will Be Alright in the End’ (10/7)

On their first album in four years, the alt-rock vets return to the bright power pop of their touchstone 1994 debut (known to fans as the Blue Album). Working with Blue Album producer Ric Ocasek, the ever-mercurial Rivers Cuomo came up with what he calls "a complex, classic album" that mixes "classic girl songs" with weightier topics: Cuomo sings about his historically contentious relationship with fans, as well as the delinquent dad he sang about on the Blue Album's "Say It Ain't So." "I put the deepest part of my soul into this," says Cuomo.

thurston moore

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 07: Thurston Moore performs on stage at Field Day Festival 2014 at Victoria Park on June 7, 2014 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Andy Sheppard/Redferns via Getty Images)

Andy Sheppard/Redferns via Getty Images

Thurston Moore, ‘The Best Day’ (10/21)

"The band is killer," Thurston Moore says of his latest project. "It's so much fun playing with them." For The Best Daythe singer-guitarist's fourth solo record, and second major release since Sonic Youth went on hiatus in 2011 – Moore collaborated with Nought guitarist James Sedwards, My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley. The record's eight tracks play out like a survey of Moore's songwriting sensibilities – angsty post-punk, feedback-saturated experiments, acoustic acid trips – but he credits his band with the LP's sound. "When Deb and Steve locked in together, I knew right away it was really rock & roll magic," Moore says. "It was immediately astounding." The quartet has a fall U.S. trek booked, and Moore says it's been going so well that he hopes this lineup sticks. "I've learned to take one day at a time, but it seems like we all like each other," he says. "So I have my fingers crossed."

johnny marr

WAREHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01: Johnny Marr performs on stage at Camp Bestival at Lulworth Castle on August 1, 2014 in Wareham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Rob Ball/Redferns via Getty Images)

Rob Ball/Redferns via Getty Images

Johnny Marr, ‘Playland’ (10/7)

"I always liked bands' second albums," Johnny Marr tells Rolling Stone. "I like the Talking Heads' second album a lot. I liked Wire's second album. I couldn't wait to get the follow-up record from my favorite new band." The former Smiths guitarist liked second albums so much that he began work on Playland – which follows his 2013 solo debut The Messenger – as soon as the last record came out. Accordingly, Playland continues the jangly modern rock of its predecessor with catchy tunes like the single "Easy Money," which continues the Smiths' tradition of lyrics that condemn greed and materialism in a way that's not too heavy-handed. "I like the idea of sneaking a serious concern into the mainstream, disguised as a big pop tune," he says of the song. "The riff was so catchy and infectious that I wanted it to be about something that appeared to be trite but was actually quite universal."

Charli XCX

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 07: Charlotte Aitchison aka Charli XCX performs during the Chipotle Cultivate Festival at Hellman Hollow in Golden Gate Park on June 7, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Charli XCX, ‘Sucker’ (12/16)

After singing on two of the summer's biggest smashes (Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" and her own "Boom Clap"), XCX has created a radio-wrecking LP of her own. Sucker is a drastic departure from her 2013 debut, True Romance. "The press was like 'Charli XCX is gonna make [another] synth-pop album!'" she says. "Fuck that." The 22-year-old Londoner called in longtime collaborator Patrik Berger, as well as Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij and Weezer's Rivers Cuomo. She decided to "play around with a lot of punk," but even so, she adds, "I think this record is a bit of a pop monster."

zola jesus

BERLIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 05: Singer Zola Jesus performs live during a concert at the HAU on October 5, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images)

Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images

Zola Jesus, ‘Taiga’ (10/7)

On her new album, Nika Rosa Danilova (a.k.a. Zola Jesus) hasn't given up her signature moves – the cinematic synths, violin flourishes, and an impressive operatic register are all still present – but she has let some of her earlier influences seep in. "My songs have always been poppy, but I've always covered it in noise and distortion," says the 25-year-old singer, who grew up on late-Nineties staples like the Spice Girls, TLC and Mariah Carey. "For this record, I was like, 'I'm not going to be ashamed of my natural style.'" The resulting 11 tracks (like the Katy-Perry-goes-goth single "Dangerous Days") she says, have lost the "fear" present her early work, and gained a new confidence – along with more literal lyrics. "I find that when I have a message I'm communicating, the song is more powerful," she says. "If I'm just saying abstract things that don't mean anything to anybody, I don't feel like I'm doing my job."

run the jewels

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 03: (L-R) El-P and Killer Mike of Run The Jewels perform during 2014 Lollapalooza at Grant Park on August 3, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Erika Goldring/FilmMagic)

Erika Goldring/FilmMagic

Run the Jewels, ‘RTJ2’ (10/28)

The second album from noise-hungry hip-hop boastaholics Run the Jewels has been recorded, mixed, mastered and set to come out on Mass Appeal Records: "We're not gonna push the date back or anything," says Killer Mike, one-half of the duo. The only thing they have to do now is keep their mouths shut. "We got jams on this record that directly mean something in relation to everything that's sort of popping off right now," adds El-P about the record, which lyrically touches on police brutality and the militarization of cops. "To some degree we would love to just drop it on everybody right now, but we're trying to be a little bit disciplined."

Unlike their 2013 debut, the follow-up – which features appearances from Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha, Travis Barker, Boots and Foxygen drummer Diane Coffee – features a little more of the personal rage and righteous indignation that the two MCs are known for in their solo careers. "It's still a Run the Jewels record, so it's mostly just about punching animals," deadpans El-P before Mike busts into a hearty laugh, "but there's a rebellion and an anger in this record that's more present. We wanted to make sure that Run the Jewels wasn't only just a vacation from the things that we cared about. And it's surrounded, of course, by the highest level of ignorance and shit-talk we could possibly achieve – which is also very important to us."

Jessie J

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 18: Jessie Ware performs as part of the iTunes Festival at The Roundhouse on September 18, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Baker/WireImage)

Kevin Winter/MTV1415/Getty Images for MTV

Jessie Ware, ‘Tough Love’ (10/6)

Two years after the release of her dance-floor-ready, soul-inflected debut, Devotion, Ware is ready to release a risk-taking follow-up. "I feel like we were allowed to be really creative," she tells Rolling Stone. "I don't think it's safe, which is nice. I definitely opened up a bit more." Produced by Top 40 specialists Benny Blanco and Two Inch Punch (known as the collective BenZel), the record includes the sultry Ed Sheeran-assisted single "Say You Love Me" as well as her most recent steamy slow jam, "Kind of, Sometimes, Maybe" with R&B crooner Miguel. Dev Hynes, the xx's Romy Madley-Croft and singer Sam Dew also appear. "It's been really good working with people like Miguel and Ed and Sam Dew, who are singers," Ware said. "I think they've pushed me vocally, actually. It's been totally collaborative, and it felt really fun to make."

Frank Ocean

MANCHESTER, TN - JUNE 14: Artist Frank Ocean performs during the 2014 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival on June 14, 2014 in Manchester, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Frank Ocean, Title TBD (Date TBD)

Little is known about the L.A. singer's follow-up to 2012's Channel Orange, but collaborator Nabil Elderkin let slip that the new LP "blows the sophomore-album myth out of the water." Last October, Ocean said that we could expect the album by summer 2014, but at this point, fall or winter seems more likely. The latest rumors suggest that he has been in the studio with Hit-Boy ("Niggas in Paris," "XO," "Flawless") and Rodney Jerkins ("As Long as You Love Me," "Say My Name").

Lil Wayne

CAMDEN, NJ - AUGUST 21: Lil Wayne performs during Drake Vs Lil Wayne Tour at the Susquehanna Bank Center on August 21, 2014 in Camden, New Jersey. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)

Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

Lil Wayne, ‘Tha Carter V’ (10/28)

Once, this album was scheduled for a 2013 release. Now, as Wayne tours the country with his protégé Drake, the two are insisting that it will be coming out before the end of the year. This May, the pair teamed up for "Believe Me," supposedly the album's lead single, and they returned in September with "Grindin'," a menacing showcase for five minutes of the duo's best bars. "I was feeling the success of Tha Carter I," the rapper recently told XXL, attempting to contextualize the new record. "I felt like people wanted to hear me. I was amped to do that, but then Tha Carter III? I don't know what happened. It was amazing. And then Tha Carter IV was just unexplainable, and now this one here, there's no words. I just hope everyone likes it."

Garth Brooks

ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Garth Brooks performs on stage at Allstate Arena on September 5, 2014 in Rosemont, United States. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images)

Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images

Garth Brooks, Title TBD (11/11)

After opening at Number 25 on the Billboard country singles chart, Brooks' new "People Loving People" dropped back to Number 36 in its second week. Nevertheless, 13 years after releasing Scarecrow, his last LP of original songs, the singer remains a commercial juggernaut: Last Christmas, his four-disc box set of 77 covers (available exclusively at Walmart and Sam's Club) easily hit Number One, selling nearly a million copies in the process. The new album will be released via GhostTunes, a new online sharing service he co-created.

Jerry Lee Lewis

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 03: Jerry Lee Lewis performs at the Congress Theater on December 3, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Paul Warner/WireImage)

Paul Warner/WireImage

Jerry Lee Lewis, ‘Rock & Roll Time’ (10/28)

For the third record in a row, Jerry Lee Lewis has recorded with an all-star cast of special guests, including Neil Young, Robbie Robertson, Nils Lofgren and the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards and Ron Wood. But of course, the Killer was always the star. "They were all superb musicians," Lewis tells Rolling Stone. "They know me, I know them, and we just fall right into it." Highlights include Lewis trading bluesy piano cadences with Derek Trucks on a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Mississippi Kid" and some rare moments where Lewis played guitar, such as a take on his Million Dollar Quartet pal Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." "It's been years since I played guitar," he says. "It kind of hurt my fingers a little bit, but it came out pretty good." The record also features the 78-year-old playing songs by Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Jimmie Rodgers and more. "I just think it's a blessing from God that I'm still living," he says, "and I'm still rocking."

Pink Floyd roger waters

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME. MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTO BY DAVE M. BENETT/GETTY IMAGES REQUIRED) David Gilmour performs at Douglas Adams: The Party, celebrating what would have been the author's 60th birthday, at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo on March 11, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)

Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)

Pink Floyd, ‘The Endless River’ (11/10)

For the first official Floyd album in two decades, David Gilmour has pulled together a disc of "mainly ambient and instrumental music" that draws from the recording sessions of 1994's Division Bell. The project began with Gilmour and Floyd drummer Nick Mason sorting through music they recorded with keyboardist Rick Wright (who died in 2008) during the Division Bell sessions. "We listened to over 20 hours of the three of us playing together and selected the music we wanted to work on for the new album," Gilmour said in a statement. "Over the last year we've added new parts, re-recorded others and generally harnessed studio technology to make a 21st century Pink Floyd album."

Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 3: Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons performs at Lollapalooza 2013 at Grant Park on August 3, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Various Artists, ‘Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes’ (11/11)

For those not satisfied with the six discs of original recordings found on The Basement Tapes Complete, Lost on the River gives material from Dylan's legendary Sixties sessions a modern twist. With the singer-songwriter's permission, producer T Bone Burnett enlisted Elvis Costello, Mumford and Sons' Marcus Mumford and My Morning Jacket's Jim James to write and record their own songs using lyrics Dylan penned. "What transpired during those two weeks was amazing for all of us," Burnett said in a statement. "There was a deep well of generosity and sup