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Spring Music Preview

From Crazy Horse to Taylor Swift, 29 records that will rock you in 2012

spring music preview

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From Neil Young's first studio LP with the full Crazy Horse lineup since 1996 to Taylor Swift's follow-up to her 2010 megasmash, Speak Now, we go inside 29 records that will rock you in 2012.

Reporting by Steve Baltin, David Browne, Matt Diehl, Patrick Doyle, Josh Eells, Jenny Eliscu, Andy Greene, Monica Herrera, David Peisner, Jonathan Ringen, Jody Rosen, Austin Scaggs and Simon Vozick-Levinson

bonnie raitt

Eugene Gologursky/WireImage for New York Post

Bonnie Raitt, <em>Slipstream</em>

Available: 4/10

"It's honoring the fact that i'm in a slipstream of styles I love," Raitt says of her first studio album since 2005. "There's folk, reggae, pop and rock & roll. I got all the variety I need." Returning to the studio after a break following the death of her brother in 2009, Raitt cut a slew of new tracks, four with producer Joe Henry, including bluesy takes on Bob Dylan's "Million Miles" and "Standing in the Doorway." "His last series of records have slayed me," she says. "But there are so many verses! We took a verse out of each because they were getting long." 

Hear Bonnie Raitt's 'Right Down the Line' 

alabama shakes

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Alabama Shakes, <i>Boys and Girls</i>

Available April 10th

On their first full-length album, the North Alabama quartet live up to the reputation they've built on the strength of a Southern soul-drenched EP and their raucous live shows. Singer Brittany Howard unleashes her rafter-shaking pipes on highlights like "Be Mine" and "I Ain't the Same" – classic R&B stomps that could've rolled out of nearby Muscle Shoals circa 1971. And the Shakes stretch out their sound on "On My Way," a haunting, Kings of Leon-ish rocker. "We've got country influences, rockabilly, gospel, indie-rock," says Howard. "We're not just into doing retro-soul. We obviously love that music, but we want people to know we have more to give."

Watch Alabama Shakes perform 'I Ain't the Same'.

Muscle Shoals Revival: Alabama Shakes Take Off
Live Review: Alabama Shakes Roll Into Texas with Soulful Set

jason mraz

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Jason Mraz, <em>Love is a Four Letter Word</em>

Available April 17th

Mraz should have been celebrating after scoring his biggest hit ever with 2008's "I'm Yours." But after a serious relationship fell apart, the singer-songwriter was left picking up the pieces. Heartbreak is all over his fourth disc (check the country-tinged "The Woman I Love"). But the album also goes to trippier places: The jazzed-out "5/6" was inspired in part by his use of the psychedelic Amazonian brew ayahuasca. "I heard a voice inside saying 'love,' " Mraz says. "I came out of that journey knowing I was meant to create a love album."

Watch Jason Mraz's video for 'I Won't Give Up' below.


adam lambert

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Adam Lambert, <em>Tresspassing</em>

Available: April/May

Forget second-album jitters: for Lambert, cutting a follow-up was a delight compared to his 2009 debut. "The last one, we were guessing," says the klaxon-voiced, mascara-eyed American Idol runner-up. "There was no time to let it settle and live with the music. It was 'Get it out there before people forget about you.' " For Trespassing, Lambert took his sweet time exploring a fun, hybrid sound of his own: "I'm not borrowing so much from classic rock this time – more from disco, funk, house. Dance-oriented stuff." Producers include Pharrell Williams and Chic's Nile Rodgers, who has called his collaboration with Lambert "one of the most organically perfect jams I've had since Bowie." The album's lyrics celebrate hedonistic abandon but also explore the trials of being an openly gay pop star. "I still feel like I'm not welcome," Lambert says. "Pop music feels like high school. There's the really cool kids, and I'm not one of those!" 

Watch Adam Lambert's video for 'Better Than I Know Myself':

Song Review: Adam Lambert, 'Better Than I Know Myself'
Adam Lambert Storms the Dance Floor on New LP


Samir Hussein/Getty Images

Santigold, <em>Master of My Make Believe</em>

Available May 1st

Santigold's label ­wanted to pair her with proven pop hitmakers for her second LP, but the chemistry wasn't there. "It just sucked," she says. Instead, she teamed with indie wizards including TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner, who helped her craft the stormy, politically charged set.

Watch Santigold's video for 'Disparate Youth' below.



Song Review: Santigold, 'Disparate Youth'

norah jones

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Norah Jones, <em>Little Broken Hearts</em>

Available May 1st

Jones and producer Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton first clicked in 2008, when she sang on his all-star Rome project. So when he suggested making an album? "He had me at hello!" says Jones. Two years of on-and-off work resulted in her noir-y, reverb-soaked fifth LP. Says Burton, "Norah is very strong about what she feels."

Watch Norah Jones' video for 'Happy Pills' below.



Norah Jones to Release Collaboration with Danger Mouse

rufus wainwright

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Rufus Wainwright, <em>Out of the Game</em>

Available May 1st

"I always make lush albums, which I adore," says Wainwright. "But I've made enough of 'em for now." So he called in studio ace (and old New York buddy) Mark Ronson to help him leave behind the lavish, operatic productions of his last few albums in favor of sturdy pop and R&B grooves courtesy of a killer band, including members of Brooklyn's retro-soul crew the Dap-Kings. 

Hear Rufus Wainwright's 'Montauk' below.




RS Playlist: Rufus Wainwright, 'Montauk'

carrie underwood

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Carrie Underwood, <em>Blown Away</em>

Available May 1st

Since winning American Idol in 2005, Underwood has been a country diva with a huge voice, a megawatt smile and a heart of gold. But for her fourth album – kicked off by the rocked-up hit single "Good Girl" – Underwood took a left turn. "We went in a different direction – it's darker," she says. "I told my producer, 'You guys need to watch a Mexican soap opera before you come in to start doing this. It just needs to have drama.' "

Watch Carrie Underwood's video for 'Good Girl' below.



glenn frey

Jay West/WireImage

Glen Frey, <em>After Hours</em>

Available May 8th

The Eagles singer returns to the music of his childhood on his first solo LP since 1995, with smoky renditions of Tony Bennett and Nat "King" Cole love songs – plus a few rock-era covers, including the Beach Boys' "Caroline No." "I have such a deep regard for this material," says Frey. "It was a joy to come to work every day."

Glenn Frey on His Solo LP, The Eagles' 40th Anniversary Plans

beach house

Marc Grimwade/WireImage

Beach House, <em>Bloom</em>

Available May 15th

Last fall, singer Victoria Legrand and multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally drove a U-Haul full of synths and guitars from Baltimore down to a studio hidden in a pecan orchard outside El Paso, Texas. The duo spent two months crafting the even hazier, prettier follow-up to their 2010 breakthrough, Teen Dream. "It was intense," says Legrand. "But I don't think it should be easy. Easy is not, in the end, very gratifying."

Hear Beach House's 'Myth' below.


Song Review: Beach House, 'Myth'

best coast

Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns

Best Coast, <em>The Only Place</em>

Available May 15th

Where Best Coast's 2010 debut, Crazy for You, stacked fuzzed-out garage guitars and girl-group vocals into a low-fi blaze, the indie-pop duo's follow-up sounds way richer – with shades of Patsy Cline, Dusty Springfield and Dolly Parton in frontwoman Bethany Cosentino's vocals. Fiona Apple and Kanye West producer Jon Brion helped the band take advantage of L.A.'s Capitol studios, where everyone from the Beach Boys to Frank Sinatra cut classic sides. The new sound suits emotional tunes including "How They Want Me to Be" and "Better Girl," about the pressures of indie celebrity. "When I first got successful, wow – people got mean!" says Cosentino. "These songs are the sound of me picking myself up. I wanted to get this off my chest and sing my heart out."

Hear Best Coast's 'The Only Place':

Dusty Springfield, Dolly Parton Inspire Best Coast Follow-Up

john mayer

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

John Mayer, <em>Born and Raised</em>

Available May 22nd

Mayer's fifth solo LP is his loosest yet, from the Allmans-ish "Queen of California" to the title track, with harmonies from Crosby and Nash. "There's air in it," says producer Don Was. Mayer cut the bulk of the set before he underwent vocal-cord surgery last October. In the end, Was used several pre-surgery vocal takes: "He sounded great a little raspier."

Hear John Mayer's 'Shadow Days' below.

• Song Review: John Mayer, 'Shadow Days'
• John Mayer Cancels Tour After Throat Condition Returns


Vallery Jean/FilmMagic

Usher, Title TBD

Available May 22nd

Last spring at Coachella, Usher found himself raging onstage with Paul McCartney during Dutch house DJ Afrojack's set. The festival experience helped inspire the diverse, beat-driven sound of the R&B star's seventh album – ranging from the pounding Swedish House Mafia collaboration "Numb" to the megachill, Diplo-produced single, "Climax." Says Usher, "I'm in a zone like I've never been in my life, man."

Watch Usher's Video for 'Climax' below.



• Song Review: Usher, 'Climax'

edward sharpe

Tabatha Fireman/Redferns

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, <em>Here</em>

Available May 29th

"We're having fun and moving fast," frontman Alex Ebert says of the Los Angeles folk-pop troupe's second LP. In fact, they've already banked enough material for a whole other album, due later this year. Highlights on Here include the strummy, sun-soaked "Mayla," cut in a single live take with vocals from all 11 band members, and the galloping "Man on Fire," where Ebert sings, "I want the whole damn world to come dance with me." Adds the frontman, "That song is what we're about!"

Hear Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' 'Man on Fire' below.

sigur ros

Jim Dyson/WireImage

Sigur Rós, <em>Valtari</em>

Available May 29th

The title of the Icelandic­ art-rock crew's sixth studio LP means "steamroller" – a perfect description of the disc's epic, celestial sound. Vocalist Jónsi Birgisson takes his spectral vocal style to uncharted realms, soaring over sublime hymns that stagger in their cumulative force. "It sounds corny, but when I listen to it, it puts images in my head," says bassist Georg Hólm. "I feel like I'm walking up a mountain alone, staring out into a massive landscape, hearing only my heartbeat. It gives me goose bumps – always a good sign!"

Hear Sigur Rós' 'Ekki Múkk' below.


neil young crazy horse

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Neil Young and Crazy Horse, <em>Americana</em>

Available June 5th

On Young's first studio LP with the full Crazy Horse lineup since 1996, the garage-rock heroes rip through furious, feedback-drenched takes on folk standards from "Oh Susanna" to "This Land Is Your Land." Most of the covers boast haunting new melodies, and Young's raging, Ragged Glory-ish solos tangle with ghostly harmonies from a children's choir. "They're songs we all know from kindergarten," Young recently said. "But Crazy Horse has rearranged them, and they now belong to us."

Video: Neil Young Talks Crazy Horse Reunion
Neil Young And Crazy Horse to Release New Album 'Americana' on June 5th

joe walsh

Andrew Macpherson

Joe Walsh, <em>Analog Man</em>

Available June 5th

Hard-won happiness is all over Walsh's 10th solo album – his first since getting sober in the Nineties and getting married in 2008. "In my years of addiction, I really withdrew," he says. "I've come out of that." Co-produced by Jeff Lynne, the disc ranges from the Indian-ragga-influenced "The Band Played On" to the twangy "Lucky That Way" – both of which feature Walsh's new brother-in-law, Ringo Starr, on drums. "I'm on the perimeter of the Beatles family, and they really take care of their own," says Walsh. "It's taken my whole life up a notch to be around them."

Hear Joe Walsh's 'Analog Man'

hot chip

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Hot Chip, <em>In Our Heads</em>

Available June 12th

Instead of sitting in bed with keyboards in their laps, the Brit electro quintet Hot Chip scored a professional studio to lay down their fifth album on a sound desk built by legendary Kraftwerk producer Conny Plank. The disc, which kicks off strong with the killer electro-R&B jam "Motion Sickness," is packed with strings, marimba, vibraphone and steel-drum parts. "The rec­ord doesn't sound any more orthodox," says singer Alexis Taylor. "The opposite, in a way." 

Song Review: Hot Chip, 'Flutes'

bobby womack

Peter Van Breukelen/Redferns

Bobby Womack, <em>The Bravest Man in the Universe</em>

Available June 12th

"You know more at 65 than you did at 25," says Womack. "I understand the songs much better now." The 68-year-old soul great's career was derailed by years of drug abuse; now he's back with his first album in more than a decade, produced by XL Records head Richard Russell and Gorillaz's Damon Albarn. His lovely rasp shines on "If There Wasn't Something There," about estranged wife Regina, and "Dayglo Reflection," featuring pop siren Lana Del Rey. "It's not about 14 Rolls Royces and two Bentleys," adds Womack. "Even if this album never sells a nickel, I know I put my best foot forward."


Hear Bobby Womack's 'Please Forgive My Heart':

Song Review: Bobby Womack, 'Please Forgive My Heart'

fiona apple

Julie Holder

Fiona Apple, <em>The idler Wheel…</em>

Available June 19th

It's been seven long years since the alt-pop singer's last LP, but the wait is finally over. While details on the disc remain scarce, Apple has debuted a handful of new tunes with titles such as "Valentine" and "Every Single Night" at recent shows. Best of all? The sultry "Anything We Want," where she sings, "I kept touching my neck/To guide your eye to where I wanted you to kiss me/When we find some time alone."

Fiona Apple Kicks Off Tour with Manic Chicago Show
Fiona Apple Previews New Material at SXSW Show

maroon 5

John Shearer/Getty Images for T-Mobile

Maroon 5, <em>Overexposed</em>

Available June 26th

Stakes for the L.A. soul-pop crew have skyrocketed since its last album, in 2010 – mostly thanks to singer Adam Levine's star turn as a judge on NBC's smash The Voice. "The reach of prime-time network television is astronomical," says bassist Mickey Madden. The show's momentum helped make the band's crazy-catchy single "Moves Like Jagger" their biggest hit ever last year. "That song opened up so many doors," says Levine. "Now we can really experiment." The disc aims for radio domination with Swedish hitmaker Max Martin as executive producer and writing assists from "Jagger" co-authors Benny Blanco and Shellback. Several cuts show a surprising reggae influence, and likely single "Payphone" is a disco-flavored dance-floor filler with a slick verse from Wiz Khalifa. "On our last record, we had a feature with Lady Antebellum, and on this one we did one with Wiz," says Levine. "There aren't many bands that can do that!"

Maroon 5 to Release 'Overexposed' Album in June

jimmy cliff

C Brandon/Redferns

Jimmy Cliff, <em>Rebirth</em>

Available: June

Reggae great Cliff – who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010 – gets back to his ska, rock-steady and soul roots with a vintage-gear-powered blast of an LP, recorded with a crew of Jamaican-music obsessives led by Rancid's Tim Armstrong. "Tim's a connoisseur of reggae music," Cliff says. "He knows who played what type of instrument, the year, all that. It was really amazing."

Video: Jimmy Cliff Performs Classics at the RS Live Studio

linkin park

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Linkin Park, Title TBD

Available: June

"This is more of a song-based record," rapper-multi-instrumentalist Mike Shinoda says of the follow-up to 2010's polarizing A Thousand Suns. "We wanted to make something more personal." Co-produced by Shinoda and longtime collaborator Rick Rubin, the material is the band's most powerful since its megahit 2000 debut. On "Lost in the Echo," Shinoda reclaims his MC roots, and the anthem "Burn It Down" showcases Shinoda and Chester Bennington's call-and-response – all over electro grooves.

Linkin Park to Return to 'Big Choruses' on New Album

alanis morissette

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Alanis Morissette, Title TBD

Available: June

Morissette wrote her new collection at home while caring for her newborn son. Nearly every tune has a monster chorus – from the ballad "Havoc" to "Celebrity," a scathing takedown of America's obsession with fame: "I am a tattooed sexy dancing monkey," Morissette sings. "Yes, it was inspired by specific people," she says. "But I'll never talk about that, 'cause it's just rude."

beach boys


The Beach Boys, Title TBD

Available: June

"It's a sentimental thing for me," Brian Wilson says of the Beach Boys' first all-new studio LP in decades. "We've been together 50 years – that's a long time." Since reuniting last year, the surviving members have recorded more than a dozen new tunes at L.A.'s Ocean Way studios – where they cut "Good Vibrations" and much of Pet Sounds in the Sixties. Expect lots of big harmonies and familiar subjects on songs like the mellow rocker "Beaches in Mind" and the nostalgic ballad "That's Why God Made the Radio."

"Conceptually, the album is not going to be anything outlandish or silly like Smiley Smile – it will be like the Beach Boys circa '65," adds Mike Love. "I'm trying to write lyrics that fit the music without making it sound like you're writing from a hospice."

Q&A: Original Beach Boy David Marks on the Band's Anniversary Tour
Videos: Fifty Years of the Beach Boys

justin bieber

Larry Busacca/WireImage

Justin Bieber, <em>Believe</em>

Available: Summer

Fresh off his 18th birthday, the teen-pop idol is gunning for Justin Timberlake on his third full-length LP, which he's cutting in Los Angeles. Kanye West and Drake are reportedly among the disc's all-star guests; producers include Diplo, who recently spent four days with Bieber crafting uptempo, Jackson 5-ish tracks. Says the producer, "Everybody wants to be on this."

Hear Justin Bieber's 'Boyfriend' below.



Song Review: Justin Bieber, 'Boyfriend'
Justin Bieber Drops New Single, 'Boyfriend'
Photos: Choice Quotes from Justin Bieber's Rolling Stone Cover Story

rick ross

Gary Miller/FilmMagic

Rick Ross, <em>God Forgives, I Don’t</em>

Available: Summer

The Miami rap don's fifth LP was postponed by several months after he suffered multiple seizures last fall. But Ross says the delays have nothing to do with his health. "In my case, in the Boss' case, it's more of a timing thing," he says. "It could potentially mean millions of dollars – so it's all about taking advantage of the time you get, and keeping recording even though you got some incredible shit." So far he's banked tracks with Jay-Z ("He laced me – you know how the homey do"), Pharrell Williams and Alicia Keys. Adds Ross, "I just want to keep raising the bar."


Sandra Mu/Getty Images

Yeasayer, Title TBD

Available: Summer

"It's sexier," says multi-instrumentalist Anand Wilder of the psych-rock crew's follow-up to its 2010 breakthrough album, Odd Blood. Expect bigger synths and lots of studio experimentation. "We don't want to do Odd Blood Part Two," adds Wilder. "Our goal is to always disappoint a ton of people."

taylor swift

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Taylor Swift, Title TBD

Available: TBD

After wrapping her latest blockbuster world tour, Swift is already thinking about cutting her follow-up to 2010's megasmash, Speak Now. "I have the entire summer just to finish up the rec­ord," says Swift, "so that will be awesome." Expect some new tricks: "There are a few songs that are completely from another person's perspective," adds the singer. "I really like the feeling of making little departures musically."

Taylor Swift: My Fourth Album Is About Crash and Burn Heartbreak

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