The only thing nicer than warm summer days is the music you listen to on warm summer days. Halfway into the decade, the ol’ music industry is finally showing some potential — so at least we won’t have bad soundtracks from May until August. And may god bless the Flaming Lips!
1. Weezer — “Make Believe” Sure, the band is closing in on their 40s. And only two of their four major records have been really great (1994’s “Blue Album” and 1996’s beloved “Pinkerton,” of course.) And sure, frontman Rivers Cuomo had a breakdown about a year ago, sold everything he owned and disappeared for a few weeks. But come on, this is Weezer (with a capital W). The release of their fifth album, “Make Believe,” renews hope that the band will again be great too. People really love these four endearing gentlemen, and it’s been three long years since their last album — and a long, long time since 1996. Although the first single (“Beverly Hills”) from the record is slightly stupid (Rivers moans about yearning to be a celebrity, unoriginally), one can only hope the best.
2. Ben Folds — “Songs for Silverman” Rarely does a semi-mainstream musician find success both in a band and on his own. Songwriter and pianist Ben Folds is a great exception. 2001’s “Rockin the Suburbs” was a sentimental pop dream, and another solo album has been a long time coming. Word is that “Silverman” picks up right where “Suburbs” left off, which thankfully means that the record is sure to be heartfelt and sweet.
3. Common — “Be” Though underrated by the mainstream, this Chicago MC has built a reputation for excellence and creativity. His sixth album, which features Kanye West and John Legend, is supposed to be as impeccable as anything he’s done (which is saying a lot, considering 1994’s “Resurrection”). Hip-hop fans can surely look forward to the rapper’s poignant documentation of the triumphs and tragedies of the American ghetto.
4. Coldplay — “X&Y” Even if you don’t like Coldplay’s previous albums, 2000’s “Parachutes” and 2002’s “A Rush of Blood to the Head” (though almost everyone does), there are reasons to be curious about their third. Chris Martin (Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow) told the British press that he’s been listening to a lot of Jay-Z and Kraftwerk for inspiration. Martin has consistently produced some great piano driven rock-and-roll, and both of their albums have been enormous successes, so it’ll be interesting to hear how the band chooses to evolve their characteristic sound on “X&Y.”
5. Ryan Adams — “Cold Roses” The prolific singer-songwriter plans on releasing a whopping three albums in 2005, and “Cold Roses” is the first of the bunch. The CD features his new band The Cardinals, who will be touring all year. Released only in the fancy-pants dual-disc album (CD on one side, DVD on the other), “Roses” should be another shot of Mr. Adams’ sincere and emotive lyricism.
6. The Flaming Lips — “At War with the Mystics” Even though they practically release 10 albums per decade, each Flaming Lips record is exciting. Following the incredible 2002 release, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” and the band’s seminal “Soft Bulleten,” “Mystics” is one of the most anticipated albums of the year. (Likewise, their long-awaited “Christmas on Mars” film project has to be one of the most anticipated rock-related movies). The psyche-pop band (they’re practically psyche-pop grandfathers) has the ability to evolve their sound and impressive innovation, and they continue to be one of the most talented bands in the semi-mainstream. The exact release date for the album is uncertain, but the sooner the better.
7. Nine Inch Nails — “With Teeth” More than two years in the making, NIN’s new album is long overdue. A beloved hard-rock pioneer, Trent Reznor has used multi-layered instrumentals and subtly pop-infused electronica beats to build a cult following around industrial rock in a post-Nirvana era. Like Weezer’s debut, Reznor’s epic “Downward Spiral” enjoyed a Deluxe Reissue this year, though both bands are far from over the heavily rocking hill.
8. Spoon — “Gimme Fiction” A longtime purveyor of quality indie rock, Spoon has made a name for themselves among hipsters and Beach Boys devotees alike. “Gimme Fiction” is certain to be one of the most rollicking, crazily catchy releases of the year,
9. Dr. Dre — “Detox” Dre is back, finally. Nuf’ said, bitch.
10. The White Stripes — “Get Behind Me Satan” Eyes will be on the third album from the trendsetting duo, which lately has been getting five-star reviews from “Rolling Stone” every time around. And “Satan” will certainly be a radio staple, which isn’t exactly a bad thing (last year’s hit “Seven Nation Army” was amazing, after all).
11. Foo Fighters — “In Your Honor” Dave Grohl does it all, and he usually does it pretty damn well. “In Your Honor” is a double album, one side rock and one side acoustic. Details are vague (Grohl has promised it will be “surprising” and “ambitious”), but the ears of Foo fans are open anyway.
12. Gorillaz — “Demon Days” The second album from this rap-oriented concept group again blends superior musical talents — founder Damon Albarn of Blur and DJ Danger Mouse, to name a few. Mega-producer Dan the Automator didn’t contribute to “Demon Days,” but that doesn’t mean the hip-hop mish-mash won’t be the sunny season’s sleeper hit.