Are Your Ears Burning Yet?

Despite recent gloomy predictions of the album's demise, a veritable deluge of important releases gushes forth this summer. Here's a sampling of the 2007 harvest, most of which we haven't heard. So let's wing it. Don't try this at home unless you're a seasoned professional critic.

ARTIST: Aesop Rock
ALBUM TITLE: None Shall Pass (Definitive Jux)
WHAT TO EXPECT: Verbosity and grandiosity from one of indie hip-hop's most-beloved vets. Snide, nasal, witty rapping over rugged, unconventional funk backdrops courtesy of producer Blockhead and scratches from DJ Big Wiz. Parchman Farm (the MC's wife Allyson Baker's band) will be providing live instrumentation, and the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle and Def Jux honcho El-P will also appear. (Aug. 28);

ARTIST: Bad Religion
ALBUM TITLE: New Maps of Hell (Epitaph)
WHAT TO EXPECT: Thesaurus-pounding, middle-aged-guy punk rock that won't embarrass the kids. These Epitaph Records lifers are as dependable as the political corruption against which they rail. They haven't lost a step—nor a reason to continue to rage against malfeasance. (July 10);

ARTIST: Beastie Boys
ALBUM TITLE: The Mix Up (Capitol)
WHAT TO EXPECT: Check your head for some ill communication. Instrumental jams in the blaxploitation-funk mode of classic BB cuts “Sabrosa” and “Groove Holmes,” plus, early reports indicate spy-flick music, wacky BS2000-style hijinks, dabblings with sitar and Moog synths, and more richly layered production. It's the (old) new style, renewed for the 21st century. ( June 26)

ARTIST: Caribou
ALBUM TITLE: Andorra (Merge)
WHAT TO EXPECT: Sunshiny pop with incredibly intricate drumming from former IDM producer Dan Snaith (a.k.a. Caribou). With Andorra, the Canadian multi-instrumentalist soars into the kaleidoscopic, tangerine-dreamy stratosphere with a grip of sugarspun, cloud-busting symphonies. This album, Caribou's fourth, is his most ethereal and beautiful, and it deserves that previous overheated sentence. (Aug. 21)

ARTIST: Garbage
ALBUM TITLE: Absolute Garbage (Universal)
WHAT TO EXPECT: A loaded package containing a best-of disc, a CD of remixes and a DVD of all the band's videos. This is all the turbo-charged, honey-glazed, electro-grunge pop you'll ever need from Shirley Manson and co. (July 17)

ARTIST: Interpol
ALBUM TITLE: Our Love to Admire (Capitol)
WHAT TO EXPECT: Dubstep mixed with chamber music played on dulcimers, ouds, zithers and tablas—uh, waitaminit, sorry. I mean more lockstep, button-down Joy Division homages sung with glum flatness. I'll bet my left one on it. (July 10)

ARTIST: Talib Kweli
ALBUM TITLE: EarDrum (Blacksmith/Warner Bros.)
WHAT TO EXPECT: Uplift-the-race lyrics slicing like scythes through radio rap's verbal cheese. Kweli spits with clipped, eloquent authority (“I address the crowd like Lincoln at Gettysburg” he modestly states on “More or Less”), bolstered by productions carrying J Dilla-style angularity and soul in their DNA. Not bad for major-label hip-hop, which seems to have reached a new nadir otherwise. (July 24)

ARTIST: Patton Oswalt
ALBUM TITLE: Werewolves and Lollipops (Sub Pop)
WHAT TO EXPECT: Personal observation and political humor executed with a uniquely smart, absurd touch, consistently surprising with swerving trains of thought. Oswalt's absurdist bits gradually escalate, with each new level coming with an uncanny logic and unpredictability. When he goes over the top with a metaphor, simile, or analogy, he does so with a unique flourish that never fails to crack me up. The routine with the phrase “Jon Voigt's pink, glistening ball sack” is classic. Werewolves and Lollipops is one of the rarest things in the entertainment world: the comedy album you want to hear more than once. (July 10);

ARTIST: Smashing Pumpkins
ALBUM TITLE: Zeitgeist (Martha's Music/Reprise)
WHAT TO EXPECT: Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin are the only original members for the Pumpkins' first album since 2000's Machina suite. It's been all downhill for Smashing Pumpkins since Siamese Dream, so I'm not expecting Zeitgeist to be anything other than melodramatic pomp rock with Corgan's patented clothespin-on-nose whining. If I'm wrong, I'll do James Iha's laundry for a month. (July 10)

ALBUM TITLE: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)
WHAT TO EXPECT: Finely wrought indie rock with baroque yet understated flourishes. On their sixth full-length, the Austin quartet continue to create stylistically diverse, well-produced rock songs that gradually insinuate themselves into your brain like clever advertising slogans. Golden-eared LA film composer Jon Brion produces “The Underdog,” one of 10 songs on the album, the title of which I will never say in public. (July 10);

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