It's a huge release week, one of the most packed of the year. Fall is indeed here in force. Pearl Jam self-releases, but partners with retail behemoth Target, while indie rock unloads a treasure trove of new music, and British pop stages an invasion of sorts with the return of Mika, Richard Hawley and David Gray.
Pearl Jam - Backspacer: This is a giant release and marks the former grunge band's embrace of pop, so perhaps it's fitting that the normally anti-corporate Eddie Vedder and co. steered the exclusive big box store release to Target. The band is going it alone here with a self-release, something only the world's biggest artists like them and Radiohead can really do and still move major units. The result has been near universal critical acclaim for the band's new musical direction.
Basement Jaxx - Scars: The South London house duo release their first record since 2006's Crazy Itch Radio. While nothing here trumps the sublime beats of 2003's Kish Kash, Scars does offer an engaging selection of collaborations, including turns with Santigold, Amp Fiddler, and Yoko Ono.
Guy Clark - Somedays the Song Writes You: Clark is an American national treasure, a true giant in the world of songwriting who gets nods of respect from other legends in the biz like Bob Dylan. His latest album is one of his finest in many years and shows he's not missed a beat, penning carefully constructed songs that will stand the test of time.
Mika - The Boy Who Knew Too Much: British pop star Mika channels the ghost of Freddie Mercury in both vocal qualities and love of flamboyance. It makes him a bit of an awkward fit in these hipster-obsessed times, but also means that he's a very refreshing counterpoint to the prevailing popular trends.
Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk: This is shaping up to be the year of the supergroup with Monsters of Folk as the latest volley. This time around, indie heartthrob turned alt-country crooner Conor Oberst teams with fellow indie heroes M. Ward, Mike Mogis, and Yim Yames for a warm CD of folk-pop tunes that vaguely recall Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at times and are probably meant to.
David Gray - Draw the Line: Hit British singer-songwriter David Gray has been quiet for a few years, four to be exact. While between record labels, Gray worked on this set of tunes in his home studio and he told Billboard that the period was a "phenomenally creative period" for him. Gray's eighth studio release features 11 new original tunes as well as guest appearances by Annie Lennox and Jolie Holland.
Volcano Choir - Unmap: Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) was working with his Wisconsin buddies, the instrumental group Collections of Colonies of Bees for years before his career as a soloist took off. Vernon goes back to his roots (and his friends) on Unmap, an album recorded before his recent success in the cozy confines of Vernon's home studio in Wisconsin.