29 albums to listen to this fall

·17 min read
Fall Music Preview
Fall Music Preview

Illustration by EW

Pumpkin spice latte hell Fall is finally here, and with it arrives an impressive slate of new albums. From Diana Ross' first original material in 15 years to Lana Del Rey's second project of 2021 to Gunna's latest Drip installment, there's a little something for everyone to listen to this season.

SEPTEMBER

Japanese Breakfast — Sable

After releasing a best-selling memoir, Crying in H Mart, and her lauded third studio album, Jubilee, Michelle Zauner (a.k.a. Japanese Breakfast) caps her banner year with an unexpected new project: a video game soundtrack. While the 32-song collection for Sable contains only a few vocal tracks, including the gorgeous single "Glider," it's as striking and audacious as anything she's put out. The instrumentals the Brooklyn musician crafted to depict indie developer Shedworks' story, about a young girl coming of age as she explores a desert planet, are starry-eyed and transportive, both primitive-sounding and futuristic. Comparisons to the back half of David Bowie's 1977 masterwork Low wouldn't be unfounded. (Sept. 24) —Jason Lamphier

Alessia Cara — In the Meantime

An unsung pioneer of the anxiety-ridden anthems in vogue with Gen Z, the Canadian singer-songwriter maintains her trademark vulnerability on her forthcoming third album while letting the productions wander in unexpected directions. Take Slinky single "Shape Shifter" teases, which explores themes of duality over a Salaam Remi beat evocative of the work he did with Amy Winehouse. But Cara further finds ways to mix in elements of ska, bossa nova, and more throughout what's ultimately a breakup record. (Sept. 24) —Marcus Jones

Mickey Guyton — Remember Her Name

Following years of neglect from the country music industry, which seemed content in keeping the lone Black woman signed to a major Nashville label on the sidelines, Guyton steps into the spotlight with a debut that more than meets the moment. Anchored by breakout single "Black Like Me," the 16-track effort is bursting with energy and purpose, as Guyton blends carefree happy-hour singalongs ("Rosé all day, I'm talking pretty in pink, that's my kind of drink" on "Rosé") with songs that further explore identity ("I love my skin, I love my hair/and if it bothers you I really don't care" on "Love My Hair"). "Remembеr the girl that didn't let anything get in her way," she belts on the album's thundering title track, "Remember Her Name." You'll be hard-pressed to do otherwise. (Sept. 24) —Alex Suskind

Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine — A Beginner's Mind

Sufjan Stevens' inspirations have always been eclectic. Over the years, he's written songs about serial killer clowns, troubled ice skaters, and various Midwestern landmarks. But his new team-up with Angelo De Augustine is a particular joy — a catchy collection of tracks all paying homage to classic movies. Listening feels a bit like wandering through the aisles of a particularly well-curated Blockbuster, with songs inspired by classics including The Silence of the Lambs and Point Break, as well as unexpected source material like Hellraiser III and the straight-to-video Bring It On Again. It's a joyous collaboration that can be both moving and playful — perfect for music and film nerds alike. (Sept. 24) —Devan Coggan

OCTOBER

Brandi Carlile — In These Silent Days

In These Silent Days offers listeners an even richer, deeper experience than Carlile's previous work, the Grammy-winning By the Way, I Forgive You (which was no slouch in that department either). She probes relationships, her past, heartbreak, and finding solace in your partner through a lilting, revelatory collection of 10 songs, each equally affecting in lyric and melody. Carlile aligns with the likes of Kacey Musgraves and the Chicks in her ability to push country music and songwriting to something more progressive and profound, and you'll probably want to spend the rest of your fall under a blanket listening to this gem. (Oct. 1) —Maureen Lee Lenker

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett — Love for Sale

A lachrymose air precedes Love for Sale, a collection of Cole Porter covers billed by Lady Gaga as "the last album" she'll record with jazz legend Tony Bennett amid the 95-year-old's ongoing battle with Alzheimer's. But the set doesn't play like a morose swan song; it's a celebration of warmth, platonic affection, and vitality, mostly felt across vibrant organic arrangements and stirring harmonies — both vocal and emotional — fused from two icons of disparate genres. Love for Sale is both a formal end to Bennett's career and an eternal testament to the life of a legend who, like his work, lived in permanent crescendo. (Oct. 1) —Joey Nolfi

Badbadnotgood — Talk Memory

Fresh off their newfound TikTok fame — a sample of the group's 2016 track "Time Moves Slow" recently became a fave among zoomers, who used it to soundtrack homemade Adult Swim promos on the app — the hip-hop-indebted instrumental crew returns with a cacophonous blend of psychedelic jazz, syncopated rhythms, and orchestral bombast. With appearances from the likes of Arthur Verocai, Karriem Riggins, Terrace Martin, and Laraaji, Badbadnotgood quickly turn Talk Memory into the kind of late-night improv session fans will wax poetic about for years to come. (Oct. 8) —Alex Suskind

James Blake — Friends That Break Your Heart

"Say What You Will," the first single from James Blakes' forthcoming full-length album, has everything you'd expect from the British crooner: soulful R&B inflections and melancholy. "The song is about finding peace with who you are and where you're at regardless of how well other people seem to be doing," Blake says in a statement. "Comparison really is the thief of joy." Meanwhile, the first three songs on Friends That Break Your Heart create an opening trio so beautifully composed that fans will have a hard time trying to get to the rest of the album without running it back. (Oct. 8) —Malcolm-Aimé Musoni

Natalie Hemby — Pins and Needles

On her second project, longtime songwriter Natalie Hemby delivers what she's known for: a country album with an occasional rock edge, filled with the types of songs she's written for the likes of Miranda Lambert and Maren Morris. On Pins and Needles, she ties together strong beats with her signature sharp lyrics like, "The hardest part about business is minding your own." The album touches on a variety of subjects, from breakups to her feelings about dealing with stardom on "Heroes," a track that channels Sheryl Crow. If you're a Hemby fan, this album will not disappoint. (Oct. 8) —Sam Highfill

Coldplay — Music of the Spheres

Coldplay took a surprising and well-earned detour on their intimate and experimental (for them, anyway) 2019 album Everyday Life. On their ninth studio release, the British rockers are back to their stadium-sized antics — and have brought along one of the most successful producers of the last quarter-century, Swedish pop god Max Martin, to helm it. Music of the Spheres promises to build on many of same themes they explored on Life, but with a galactic twist. To wit: Chris Martin's lyrics to single "Coloratura" include references to "Pioneer and Helix, Oumuamua, heliopause, and Neptune." (Oct. 15) —Alex Suskind

Santana — Blessings and Miracles

Guitar god Carlos Santana makes songs that keep people on their toes, something fans may have forgotten in wake of his group's ubiquitous 1999 album Supernatural (a project that would lead to 20-plus years of his music being perceived as the soundtrack to Starbucks). But the new Santana album lets the band stand more firmly in its Summer of '69 roots. Sometimes that means tracks that feel like psychedelic trips; other times it's a collaboration with Living Colour's Corey Glover that sounds more like a rallying cry. Of course, an obligatory jam with "Smooth" collaborator Rob Thomas makes the cut as well. (Oct. 15) —Marcus Jones

Young Thug — Punk

Thug has been teasing his long-awaited sophomore studio release since 2019. In an interview with The Fader that year, the rapper said he wanted the album to be a reintroduction of "real rap" to the world. "[Real rap is] letting people in, letting people know what you go through. Let them know that you the same," he said. One of Punk's offerings, "Die Slow," which Thug recently performed live, keeps that promise, with the rapper candidly reflecting on painful childhood memories. (Oct. 15) —Malcome-Aimé Musoni

Duran Duran — Future Past

New wave's hungriest wolves return with their 15th studio effort, enlisting a wildly eclectic pack of cohorts to ring in their 40th (!) year of making music together. Mark Ronson, DJ-remixer Erol Alkan, and ex–Donna Summer collaborator Giorgio Moroder produce; Blur's Graham Coxon co-wrote and plays guitar on several tracks; and David Bowie's former pianist Mike Garson contributes to a moony album closer, "Falling," that would make Aladdin Sane blush. Meanwhile, Swedish pop rebel Tove Lo, Japanese disco punks CHAI, and English YouTuber-turned-rapper Ivorian Doll lend a modern edge to the proceedings. The result is a slick, funky, splashy anniversary bash in which legends mingle with upstarts and the beats never run dry. (Oct. 22) —Jason Lamphier

Elton John — The Lockdown Sessions

COVID-19 may have forced Sir Elton John to pause his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, but it doesn't mean he took the year off. Marking his 32nd studio album, The Lockdown Sessions is a record consisting entirely of collaborations with the day's biggest musical stars (Brandi Carlile, Dua Lipa, Lil Nas X, etc.) and legends equal to John in stature (Stevie Wonder, Stevie Nicks, Glen Campbell). From new songs to covers to remixes of his own music, John is determined to offer listeners something decidedly different from his existing collection. (Oct. 22) —Maureen Lee Lenker

Lana Del Rey — Blue Banisters

Just a few weeks after releasing her seventh album, the introspective Chemtrails Over the Country Club, Lana del Rey was already making plans for her eighth. Blue Banisters was originally scheduled to hit shelves over the Fourth of July, before being pushed back. Now, the singer's second project of 2021 is finally on the horizon, and the first few singles (including the already released "Wildflower Wildfire" and "Arcadia") suggest a familiar Lana: moody melodies, lyrical ennui, and plenty of references to Southern California geography. (Oct. 22) —Devan Coggan

My Morning Jacket — My Morning Jacket

My Morning Jacket's ninth studio release is stuffed with the kind of eye-popping riffage and jam-band verve we've come to expect from the Louisville rockers, as well as a refreshing level of earnestness. "The more you give, yeah, the more you get now/Go tell it to the world," frontman Jim James sings on the propulsive "Love Love Love," while lead single "Regularly Scheduled Programming" laments the "screen-time addiction, replacing real life and love." James' overall message is clear: Unplugging from our current hellscape does the body wonders. (Oct. 22) —Alex Suskind

Ed Sheeran — =

Sheeran, who is notorious for taking long hiatuses from social media and public life, is finally back with what promises to be his most radio-ready album yet. Singles "Bad Habits" and "Shivers" feature prominent club-like production with over-the-top, CGI-clad music videos to match. Seemingly solving his equation of mathematically named records, = (pronounced Equals) appears to mark the end of Sheeran's metamorphosis from intimate acoustics to an arena-rocking dance-pop sound. (Oct. 29) —Calie Schepp

The War on Drugs — I Don't Live Here Anymore

On their fifth studio album (and first since their 2017 Grammy winner, A Deeper Understanding), the acclaimed Philly band continue to push the boundaries of classic rock, and in the process make their most uplifting, vital music to date. Fans can expect their signature Springsteenisms ("Wasted") and references to Bob Dylan (the towering, gospel-tinged title track), but also forays into shimmering electro-pop ("Victim") and a canny wink to Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" ("I Don't Wanna Wait," with its evocative reverbed drum sounds). If frontman Adam Granduciel returns again and again to images of darkness and rain, I Don't Live Here Anymore is actually about the light that awaits when the clouds part. Its optimism is intoxicating. (Oct. 29) —Jason Lamphier

NOVEMBER

Radiohead — Kid A Mnesia

Kid A and Amnesiac — two albums recorded together but released as separate bodies of work — marked an impressive left turn for a band that had taken a drastic one just three years prior (on the future-forward opus OK Computer). Here Thom Yorke and crew wandered further down the musical rabbit hole, fusing abstract, existential lyricism with electronic dissonance. This fall, these early aughts projects are being released as their own singular entity — a triple-disc album that includes Kid A, Amnesiac, and a collection of 12 B-sides and unearthed material from the sessions that spawned the original versions, 21 years ago. The background strings from "How to Disappear" and the alternate, jaw-dropping take on "Like Spinning Plates" alone are worth the price of admission. (Nov. 5)—Alex Suskind

Snail Mail — Valentine

Three years after releasing her critically hailed debut, Lush, 22-year-old Lindsey Jordan is back and ready to bare it all. She doesn't mince words about what got her there: "Post-rehab I've been feeling so small/I miss your attention, I wish I could call," she sings on her sophomore album, addressing both a breakup and her 45-day stint at a recovery facility in Arizona. But Valentine feels anything but small. Co-produced by Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Waxahatchee), it is bolder, catchier, and more expansive than its predecessor. You can hear it in the chilly synths of its rousing title cut, in the aching strings of the Elliott Smith–esque ballad "Mia," in the light-FM breeziness of "Forever (Sailing)," and in the hip-hop-inflected beats of "Ben Franklin." From her sorrow and solitude, Jordan reemerges as one of indie rock's most astute, confident, and compelling songwriters. (Nov. 5) —Jason Lamphier

Damon Albarn — The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows

Inspired by the landscapes of Iceland (because who wouldn't be?), the Blur and Gorillaz leader follows his 2014 solo debut, Everyday Robots, with a new project initially conceived as an orchestral piece (after the pandemic forced him to cancel a tour to support it, he unveiled the music in a Boiler Room livestream last year). Stuck in lockdown, Albarn revisited his original arrangements to transform them into more traditional pop songs tackling memory, loss, and rebirth. The record veers from placid ("Medicating/Joining the saline to start the inspection of the lines," Albarn muses on the sax-laced bossa nova groove "Polaris") to plaintive ("Thе year has its winter as well as its May/Thе sweetest leave us and the fairest decay," he grieves on the title track). Backed by the sounds of crashing waves and blissed-out ambient textures, the singer has never sounded so deeply in touch with nature — and with himself. (Nov. 12) —Jason Lamphier

Courtney Barnett — Things Take Time, Take Time

The Australian indie-rocker and poet of the ordinary charts a new course on her third LP, embracing a lusher, more polished sound with mere traces of the grungy rock on her first two albums. She also mostly abandons her signature rambling delivery and wry, wordy lyrics, with open-hearted, vulnerable tracks (including a few straight-up love songs) that reflect a very COVID-era, but also universal, raw yearning for human connection. It feels like Barnett has relaxed and dropped some artifice; it also feels like she's made a straightforward pop-rock record. Not that that's a bad thing. (Nov. 12) —Tyler Aquilina

Diana Ross — Thank You

It's truly a flex to return after a 15-year absence and bring 13 original songs specifically engineered to be sung in the stadiums the Supreme icon continues to fill. Lead single "Thank You" gives listeners a tease at the breath of fresh air hitmakers like Jack Antonoff, Tayla Parx, and Jimmy Napes bring to her timeless sound. Still, whether she dives into her Motown roots, or invokes her disco divadom, the most impressive trait Ross maintains as an artist is the ability to make listeners feel she has shined her grand light directly on them, providing a message of love and unity. (Nov. 12) —Marcus Jones

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss — Raise the Roof

It's been 14 years since Robert Plant and Alison Krauss teamed up for their unexpected duet, 2007's powerful Raising Sand (which became a chart hit and eventually won Album of the Year at the Grammys). Now, the Led Zeppelin singer and bluegrass icon are joining forces again for their long-awaited follow up. Like its predecessor, Raise the Roof, produced by T Bone Burnett, is a collection of eclectic covers written by folk and country legends like Merle Haggard, Lucinda Williams, and the Everly Brothers. (There's also an original song, cowritten by Burnett and Plant.) More than a decade later, Plant and Krauss are still proof that sometimes the best things come from unlikely collaborators. (Nov. 19) —Devan Coggan

Taylor Swift — Red (Taylor's Version)

Get out those old scarves and plaid shirts, because it's time to step back into the quintessential fall heartbreak album. Following the release of Fearless (Taylor's Version) earlier this year, Red (Taylor's Version) is the second of Swift's old albums to receive the re-recording treatment in her bid to own the masters to her work. Like the new Fearless, fans can expect fresh versions of Red's original songs (including the ones from deluxe editions of the album), in addition to nine unreleased "from the vault" tracks. A new collab with Swift's dear friend Ed Sheeran is among them, as are songs featuring the likes of Phoebe Bridgers and Chris Stapleton. However, the true pièce de résistance is the extended, 10-minute version of "All Too Well." Jake Gyllenhaal, eat your heart out. (Nov. 19) — Lauren Huff

TBD

Camila Cabello — Familia

The 24-year-old singer-songwriter has had a magical 2021. She starred as the titular princess in the Amazon Prime retelling of the classic Cinderella, performed at the VMAs, attended the Met Gala alongside beau Shawn Mendes, and released "Don't Go Yet," the first single off her upcoming album. Inspired by her Cuban-American roots, Cabello gave the song a Latin-rhythmic flair that's meant to make you gather with loved ones and dance for hours. Expect more of the same on the rest of Familia. —Calie Schepp

Gunna — Drip Season 4

It's drip season! After teasing fans with snippets, Gunna dropped first single "9 Times Outta 10" from the fourth installment in his anticipated mixtape series. Produced by Tauras, the track serves as a celebration of confidence and perseverance. The last project in the series, 2018's Drip Season 3, is the one that skyrocketed Gunna to mainstream recognition. If its predecessor's success is any indication, Drip Season 4 will make him an even bigger star. —Malcolm-Aimé Musoni

Maxo Kream — Weight of the World

The up-and-coming Houston rapper returns from a two-year hiatus ready to address the tragedies that have recently befallen him, including the untimely death of his brother. Kream has a delivery that is both effortless and imposing, taking the listeners to highs — like the bombast of the just-released Tyler the Creator collaboration "Big Persona" — while keeping them engaged with the lows, including several tales of forlorn and desperate times. —Marcus Jones

Wale — Folarin 2

The verbose DC-area MC and stalwart of Rick Ross's Maybach Music Group holds fast to the buoyant, conversational sound that's filled his catalog. Lead single "Angles," which interpolates Diddy's "I Need a Girl (Pt. 1)," and a party record that samples Q-Tip's "Vivrant Thing" (featuring a seemingly out-of-left-field guest), is indicative of the era of rap Wale is paying homage to this go-round. —Marcus Jones

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