Looking ahead: Sept. 2007-Nov. 2007

A number of fall music preview articles in the press cite James Blunt, Foo Fighters and Alicia Keys as releases to which to look forward. If that’s the best we can expect, then I may as well consider this year done.

It’s been often said the music industry is doing gangbusters, but the recording industry is spiraling down the crapper. Well, I’m paraphrasing, but the industry-wide changes ushered in by the Demon Internet has gotten everyone shell-shocked and puzzled. It seems no artist is in their A-game, and a lot of fear of what’s going on business-wise has trickled down to the creative process.

Either that, consumers just have better tools to make wiser purchases. However much I love Tracey Thorn, I couldn’t in good conscience shell out money for Out of the Woods, and as much as Billy Corgan annoys me, I couldn’t miss out on the Smashing Pumpkins’ Zeitgeist.

Let’s review, then, a few select titles to expect from now till November.

Kronos Quartet, "Flugufrelsarinn", Sept. 4 (digital only)

I actually tried to get into Sigur Rós, but the Two Hot Dogs Facing Each Other album (yes, I know it’s titled ()) annoyed me. Then I heard Kronos perform "Flugufrelsarinn" as an encore, and Sigur Rós popped up on my radar again. It wasn’t until Takk that I took the plunge. I have a better tolerance for () now, but I’m thankful Kronos made me reconsider. I just hope one day this track has room on one of their future albums because it deserves more than a 128-kbit encoded file.

Tokyo Jihen, Variety (Goraku), Sept. 26

Shiina Ringo has let go of the songwriting reigns for this album, and she’s making the guys step up. "OSCA" showed some real potential for the direction of the album, while "Killer Tune" might indicate how this approach may backfire. The playing, though, just seems to get tighter.

Café Tacuba, Sino, Oct. 9

Café Tacuba’s previous studio album was 2003’s Cuatros Caminos, and that was a real high point for the band. Four-year gaps don’t seem to help Maná very much, but they seem to do Café Tacuba wonders.

Onitsuka Chihiro, Las Vegas, Oct. 31

the brilliant green titled their third album, Los Angeles, and I don’t get the impression it really had anything to do with the City of Angels. I’m wondering if (and hoping that) the same can be said of Onitsuka Chihiro’s album named after Sin City. I rather appreciate the fact she called a time-out on the pace of her career. For a while there, she did seem to be getting pigeonholed to create, create, create. Granted, "everyhome" sounds pretty much like every other Onitsuka piano ballad so far recorded, but I’m hoping the greater freedom to edit means a bit more craft in her work.

Duran Duran, Red Carpet Massacre, Nov. 13

I’ve been very hard on Duran Duran since the turn of the century, if my writing on the band is any indication. There was a very profane and unstable podcaster who spent a good 20 minutes ragging on my review of Astronaut a long while back. And for all that hot air, he still didn’t get the point, which is this: Duran Duran set an expectation for innovation, and every album since Pop Trash has not reached that goal. Medazzaland was the last time they were innovative. The two songs I’ve so far heard from Red Carpet Massacre do not make me hopeful. And also, Justin Timberlake — FTW? You know, Antony Hegerty seems to have a golden touch. Maybe Simon should sing a duet with him.

Sacha Sacket, Lovers & Leaders, Oct. 9

This album has been available on iTunes for a while, but I’m one of those senior citizens who still plays those compact disc things. (I also still have a vinyl collection, but I think that makes me a hipster.) Actually, I just want to rip my own copy, so I’ll wait. Sacket has a beautiful voice, and his music goes for wistful piano balladry. Your mileage will vary. I have no problem listening to him since I listen to copious amounts of Onitsuka Chihiro and Kate Bush.

Ari Gold, Transport Systems, Oct. 2

My rearing in the post-punk college rock world does not give me the proper skills to handle the straight-forward lyrics of R&B. I prefer to hear singers express themselves enigmatically. R&B will have none of that. Somehow, I didn’t mind Ari Gold’s self-titled album, but Space Under Sun didn’t grab me in the same way. "He’s on My Team", for one, just seemed too stagey. And yet, I’m still willing to give Transport Systems a shot, if only to see how few clothes Gold wears in the cover art.

Shiratori Maika, Hikousen, Sept. 12

The news of Cocco’s retirement had me looking for a someone to fill the void, and back in 2002, that person was Shiratori Maika. Of course, having Cocco producer Takamune Negishi on board helped. Cocco is now back — although pursuing a creative direction different from her pre-hiatus days — and I have to wonder if there’s room in my life still for Shiratori. Maybe if I didn’t encounter Sasagawa Miwa, there might be. Still, part of me is curious to hear how this album sounds, and alas, JPOPSUKI has not yet come through on the recent single "Aitai".

Hatakeyama Miyuki with ASA-CHANG & the Blue Hats, Watashi no Uta, Oct. 3

ASA-CHANG and Jun-Ray’s Jun Ray Song Chong was one of the most inscrutable albums I came across, which of course meant it got great reviews in the indie rock press. As a result, the name "ASA-CHANG" and the word "inscrutable" are indelibly linked in my mind. So putting Hatakeyama Miyuki’s name next to ASA-CHANG’s requires mental gymnastics. Hatakeayma, versatile and beautiful a singer though she may be, isn’t synonymous with innovation (there’s that word again.) So it’ll be interesting how one pushes the other, or how the other tempers the one. Too, it’s a big band album.

YUKI, Five Star, Oct. 3

I never listened to Judy and Mary, so I only know YUKI from her solo work. She’s had some major indie talent help her out over the years, but in the end, she’s a pop singer. "Tourist" can be used in a very negative way, but part of me wonders whether that description applies to all that indie aid YUKI got.

Spitz, Sazanami, Oct. 10

I don’t listen to Spitz, but I imagine a number of readers of this site do.

Annie Lennox, Songs of Mass Destruction, Oct. 2

Siouxsie, Mantaray, Oct. 2

Most of the press out there concentrates on Lennox’s first new album in four years. But Siouxsie strikes out on her own for the very first time, and both are rather important figures in ’80s music.

Kayne West, Graduation, Sept. 11

Let me guess — the next album is going to be called Masters, the one after it Doctorate, the remix album Post-Doctorate and the best-of collection Tenure. Maybe there’s an EP thrown in titled Thesis. Nah, the next album will be called The Miseducation of Kanye West.

Spice Girls, Greatest Hits, Nov. 6

I’m not going to do a joke about how "Spice Girls" and "Greatest Hits" is an oxymoron or a paradox. I will recount a story from 2005. I volunteered for the Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and worked crowd control one afternoon. It was between films, and the lobby was pretty much deserted. I was standing at a post next to a very fashionable young guy, and he started to burst into song. I didn’t recognize what he was singing, and I asked him. He was aghast that a gay man such as myself would not be intimately familiar with the works of the Spice Girls. I admitted I did own some Spice Girls albums many years back. I don’t now. I grew up.