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Summer Music Preview: The Season’s Must-Hear Albums

Yeezy returns, Ozzy reunites with Sabbath, QOTSA recruits Dave Grohl, and more

It's almost summer. And that means it's nearing the time of back-porch blowouts, blockbusters and – of course – plenty of must-hear new albums. There's a slew of crucial music dropping in the coming months, from Kanye West's hyped Yeezus to Black Sabbath's first album with Ozzy since the Seventies. Not to mention a solid collection of buzzed-about debuts and can't-miss collaborations. Rolling Stone has you covered.

By Jon Blistein and Dan Hyman

Vieux Farka Toure

Courtesy Six Degrees Records

Vieux Farka Toure, ‘Mon Pays’ (5/28)

Malian musician Vieux Farka Touré will release Mon Pays (translation: My Country) on May 28th, an album dedicated to his home country, which has been ravaged by fighting between the Tuareg people and Islamic rebels since January 2012. The nimble-fingered guitar player began planning the album before the fighting broke out, and in the time since, Touré has developed what was going to be a studio effort honoring the acoustic blues tradition of Mali into a record that pays homage to the beauty and culture of his country as a whole.

john fogerty

Courtesy Vanguard Records

John Fogerty, ‘Wrote a Song for Everyone’ (5/28)

John Fogerty's ninth studio album since disbanding with Creedence Clearwater Revival and his first since 2009's The Blue Ridge Rangers Rise Again, the upcoming Wrote a Song for Everyone is a star-packed collaboration album and a celebration of Fogerty's extensive songbook. The album's 12 cuts range from CCR classics ("Bad Moon Rising," peformed with Zac Brown Band) and Fogerty's solo efforts ("Hot Rod Heart," performed with Brad Paisley). Foo Fighters' contributions to "Fortunate Son" include fiery rhythm guitar from Dave Grohl and a hard-thrashing drum beat, bringing a harder, riotous sound to the 1969 CCR anthem. Everyone was produced by Fogerty and features artists as varied as My Morning Jacket, Jennifer Hudson, Kid Rock and Bob Seger.

Portugal. The Man

Courtesy Atlantic Records

Portugal. The Man, ‘Evil Friends’ (6/4)

After learning producer Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton would work with them on the follow-up to their 2011 major-label debut, In the Mountain in the Cloud, Portugal. The Man scrapped a week's worth of recording. "It's not anything we could turn down," says bassist Zach Carothers, of decamping to Los Angeles and crafting Evil Friends. Burton's swampy sheen is weaved throughout the Oregon-based psych rocker's set comprised of Morse-code blips, serpentine guitar licks and even their version of hip-hop. Adds Carothers, "We've tried that kind of stuff before but we didn't know how to do it right. [Danger Mouse] definitely helped with that."

Disclosure

Courtesy Cherrytree/Interscope

Disclosure, ‘Settle’ (6/4)

U.K. electro duo Disclosure – who broke out with killer remixes for fellow Brits Jessie Ware and Emeli Sandé and were raised on a steady diet of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush – head into their debut release Settle with massive momentum: The sibling unit, comprised of brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence, toured last year extensively with SBTRKT and Hot Chip, made major waves this spring at SXSW and unleashed a monumental set at Coachella. And unlike other beat-heavy electronic acts, Disclosure relies heavily on vocals. They've amassed big-name friends while on their rise: Ware, AlunaGeorge and Eliza Doolittle all appear on Settle.

Queens of the Stone Age

Courtesy Matador Records

Queens of the Stone Age, ‘ . . . Like Clockwork’ (6/4)

For their first LP since 2007's Era Vulgaris, Queens of the Stone Age roped in a who's who of guest stars for . . . Like Clockwork. Dave Grohl serves as drummer on multiple cuts (the Foo Fighters frontman previously toured with singer Josh Homme in supergroup Them Crooked Vultures), and Trent Reznor, Elton John, and the band's original bassist Nick Oliveri, also chipped in on select tracks. . . . Like Clockwork, recorded over the past year at Homme's Pink Duck Studio in Los Angeles, is a typically heavy affair: the desert-metal rockers' latest album is chock-full of bluesy metal marchers, piercing drums and seriously sludgy guitars.

Airhead For Years

Courtesy Korva

Airhead, ‘For Years’ (6/10)

On June 10th, the venerable R&S Records will release For Years, the debut LP from producer Rob McAndrews, who goes by Airhead. Longtime collaborator and friend of production whiz James Blake (who appears on album closer "Knives"), Airhead shows a similar knack for delicate, meticulous production, but it's more than just dance music: First single "Autumn" makes use of heavy, nearly marching percussion to support its wandering acoustic guitar riffs and withered vocals, revealing a song that's as forceful as it is fragile.

Run The Jewels

Courtesy Fool's Gold

Run the Jewels, ‘Run the Jewels’ (June TBD)

When El-P began production work on Killer Mike’s jarring 2012 album R.A.P. Music, the two intricate-rhyming MCs formed an instant creative bond.  "It was immediately just explosive," El-P told Rolling Stone last year. "Sometimes you just meet somebody who you've felt like you've known all your life. That's how me and Mike felt." The duo's creative partnership now continues: billed as Run the Jewels, the twosome recently wrapped recording on a split-bill collaborative LP – which they'll release for free – featuring guest spots from Big Boi and Prince Paul. They’re also set to hit the road together this July.

surfer blood

Courtesy Warner Brothers Records

Surfer Blood, ‘Pythons’ (6/11)

Surfer Blood recorded its second album last year in a manic eight-week recording binge in Los Angeles. The process was a far cry from that of Astro Coast, their 2010 debut, which they laid down over a few years in singer-guitarist J.P. Pitts' Florida bedroom. Pythons is of a piece with the group's hook-heavy, radio-rock roots. "There's guitars all over everything because that's kind of what we do," says Pitts. Input from producer Gil Norton (Foo Fighters, Pixies) was a welcome addition. "This guy can criticize and critique our songs and we respect what he's saying," says guitarist Tom Fekete.

Smith Westerns

Courtesy Mom + Pop

Smith Westerns, ‘Soft Will’ (6/25)

Following a 140-plus-date tour in support of their breakout second effort, 2011's Dye It Blonde, Smith Westerns returned to their native Chicago, moved a block away from one another and took a deep breath. Their pause was short-lived: in a matter of weeks the glam-rock trio were writing new tunes, then headed south and holed up in Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, Texas, to record Soft Will. They emerged with a musically advanced set: the album showcases singer Cullen Omori's voice more prominently than in the past, and is highlighted by the sprightly synths of lead single "Varsity" and the choirboy harmonies on "3AM Spiritual."

Black Sabbath

Courtesy Warner Brothers Records

Black Sabbath, ’13’ (6/11)

Black Sabbath's first studio album with Ozzy Osbourne in 35 years, the making of 13 was unsurprisingly not without its challenges: guitarist Tony Iommi was undergoing cancer treatments throughout, Osbourne maintained his long-suffering battle with alcoholism, and original drummer Bill Ward opted out over contractual disputes (Rage Against The Machine's Brad Wilk filled in). Nonetheless, at producer Rick Rubin's Shangri-La Studios in Malibu, Sabbath – which includes bassist Geezer Butler – crafted one of its hardest-hitting LP's since its early-Seventies heyday. "We had to unlearn everything," says Butler. Adds Iommi, "I'm still here and it's okay. We had to do this album now."

Aoife O'Donovan

Courtesy Yep Roc Records

Aoife O’Donovan, ‘Fossils’ (6/11)

Long the face of Boston-based alt-bluegrass outfit Crooked Still, Aoife O'Donovan – also a member of female folk trio Sometymes Why – is finally striking out on her own. The tender-voiced 30-year-old, who in recent years has collaborated with members of the Punch Brothers and world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and has written songs for Alison Krauss, will issue her long-awaited solo debut Fossils June 11th. Recorded over three weeks in Portland with producer Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, Neko Case), Fossils is a must-listen blend of bluegrass, folk and back-porch Americana, highlighted by the wistful "Red & White & Blue & Gold."

zomby

Courtesy 4AD

Zomby, ‘With Love’ (6/18)

For his third full-length, enigmatic U.K. producer Zomby didn't cut any corners: With Love contains a staggering 33 tracks spread across two CDs, or three vinyl LPs, and will see release via 4AD on June 18th. The album has been said to interweave dance floor exaltation and introverted examination, and the first two cuts we've gotten to hear certainly match that criteria. Where the title track is a much more ambient affair with careening, stuttering cut-up clicks and vocals, "Soliloquy" finds Zomby lacing ethereal synths over a dazed trap groove of bass bombs, metallic clacks and hi-hat flourishes.

kanye west

Courtesy Roc-A-Fella Records

Kanye West, ‘Yeezus’ (6/18)

It's beyond fitting that the first taste we got of an album tentatively titled Yeezus was via Vine videos of Kanye West's performance at the Met Gala in New York City that showed hip-hop's favorite egomaniacal maestro bellowing, "I am a God!" Such brazen proclamations from West should hardly be surprising at this point as he gets ready to follow-up his brilliant 2010 effort My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which supposedly features contributions from everyone from Daft Punk and Skrillex to Chief Keef and members of Odd Future. Hype levels were already high, but cracked Defcon Five after West premiered album cut "New Slaves" by projecting it on buildings across the globe last Friday, then following it up the next day on Saturday Night Live with performances of that song and then scorched through Earth diatribe/banger "Black Skinhead." Sure, the LP's title and June 18th release date remain unconfirmed, and speculation continues to run rampant — but when it comes to Yeezy, that's really half the fun.

j. cole

Courtesy Roc Nation

J. Cole, ‘Born Sinner’ (6/25)

There's no easy way to follow-up a Number One record, especially when it's your debut – but that's exactly what North Carolina MC J. Cole was tasked with when he set out to record the successor to 2011's Cole World: The Sideline Story. Despite a few setbacks, including a scratched initial January release date so that he could return to the studio, Cole's more than ready for Born Sinners to see the light of day. With its somber but bumping first single "Power Trip" (which features up-and-coming R&B singer Miguel) hovering around the Top 20 in the Billboard Hot 100, Roc Nation will drop Born Sinners on June 25th.

john legend

Courtesy Columbia Records

John Legend, ‘Love in the Future’ (6/25)

It's been five years since John Legend's last solo release, Evolver. He's kept busy with projects like the G.O.O.D. Music compilation and an album with the Roots, and the wait for anoher solo album will finally end on June 25th with the G.O.O.D./Columbia release of Love in the Future. The steady stomping but overwhelmingly soulful first single "Who Do You Think We Are" features a gruff guest verse from Rick Ross, while Love in the Future also found Legend re-teaming with longtime collaborators Kanye West and Dave Tozer, as well as producers like Hit-Boy, Q-Tip, No I.D. and Da Internz.

Wu-Tang Clan

Coutresy Sony

Wu-Tang Clan, ‘A Better Tomorrow’ (July TBD)

If Wu-Tang Clan was going to reunite, RZA told Rolling Stone last fall, he needed to be in full control. With the the legendary New York City hip-hop collective's new album A Better Tomorrow set for release this July and a handful of tour dates featuring every surviving member scheduled for this summer, it looks like the Wu-Tang head honcho may have gotten his way. A Better Tomorrow is the first full length from the killer bees since 2007's 8 Diagrams, and this year also marks the 20th anniversary of Wu-Tang's groundbreaking debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).

Courtesy Sub Pop

Daughn Gibson, ‘Me Moan’ (7/9)

On his debut solo LP All Hell, Daughn Gibson crafted the kind of tortured, lonesome numbers any cowboy could love – but while Gibson's heavy baritone and the LP's melodies cried out country, he put his own spin on the genre, using samples and looping software to build songs that echoed across landscapes, both digital and pastoral. On Me Moan, his second LP and first for Sub Pop (out July 9th), Gibson shows he's toying with and expanding his formula: Opener "The Sound of Law" sets to swing before barreling forward, propelled by snares that pump like pistons and Gibson's cavernous croon.

speedy ortiz

Courtesy Carpark Records

Speedy Ortiz, ‘Major Arcana’ (7/9)

Western Massachusetts, in all its wide-open, woodsy, college-town glory, has always been a pristine environment for young punk, hardcore and indie rock bands. Following in the grand, sludgy and big-riff tradition of Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh are Northampton's Speedy Ortiz. After a series of EPs and singles, the band will release its debut LP Major Arcana on July 9th via Carpark. Started by frontwoman Sadie Dupuis as a solo project at summer camp, Speedy Ortiz has grown into a full band capable of basement-burning anthems like "Ka-Prow!" (off a recent 7-inch) and clever, meditative, but never meek alt-rock cuts as exhibited by Major Arcana's first single "Tiger Tank."

skylar grey

Courtesy Interscope Records

Skylar Grey, ‘Don’t Look Down’ (7/9)

Skylar Grey's second album Don't Look Down, out July 9th via KidinaKorner and Interscope, has been a long time coming. In the years since her 2006 debut Like Blood Like Honey, Grey has honed her own material while also co-penning a handful of hit tunes for other artists, like Eminem's "Love The Way You Lie." So impressed with Grey, Em took the singer under his belt, acting as executive producer on Don't Look Down and spitting on album cut "C'mon Let Me Ride," a bumping, grin-inducing pop number that that cops Queen's "Bicycle Race." But it's not all bubblegum fun for Grey: She showcases her continued knack for constructing gorgeous but grave tunes on her latest single "Final Warning."

pusha t

Courtesy Def Jam

Pusha T, ‘My Name Is My Name’ (7/16)

Since signing to Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music in 2010, Pusha T has become a prominent presence on the label's output: in addition to his own mixtape and EP, the Clipse MC stole the spotlight on the Cruel Summer compilation. His forthcoming official debut, anchored by the bass-blinding single "Numbers on the Board," promises to be no-nonsense, aggro-hip-hop. "I wasn't signed to G.O.O.D. Music to expand my horizons as a rapper . . . and make pop records and shit like that," Pusha told Rolling Stone last year. "Not at all. I'm not here to do anything else. I'm only here to be myself."

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Courtesy Vagrant Records

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, ‘Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ (7/23)

Less than a year after releasing their group-hug of a second album, Here (which ranked at number seven on Rolling Stone's Best Albums of 2012), Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes return with a brand-new third LP. Few details have yet to emerge on the kumbaya-singing collective's new project, but bearded frontman Alex Ebert recently stated that the eponymous release is the most "liberated, rambunctious material" the band has recorded to date. The 13-piece outfit's upcoming festival sets at Sasquatch, Governor’s Ball and Bonnaroo will give itching fans a chance to hear the new tracks.

ty segall

Courtesy Drag City Records

Ty Segall, ‘Sleeper’ (8/20)

After taking on the Herculean task of releasing three albums in 12 months, a lot of musicians might take some significant time off before their next release – but San Francisco garage-rock wunderkind Ty Segall doesn't work like that. After releasing Twins just last October (a solo LP that followed two collaborative records, one with his touring band, the other with White Fence), Drag City will put out Sleeper on August 20th. The album trailer, which features what could be the title track, finds Segall returning to the more lo-fi acoustic side he exhibited on 2011's Goodbye Bread, but we wouldn't be surprised if there's a healthy dose of face-melting riffage as well.

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