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Spring Music Preview

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

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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

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

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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