Night Visions

Producers: Alex Da Kid, Imagine Dragons


Release Date: Sept. 4

Though he hasn't yet reached the level of Dr. Luke and RedOne, English songwriter/producer Alex Da Kid has helmed enough hit singles in the past few years -- think of B.o.B's "Airplanes," Dr. Dre's "I Need a Doctor" and "Love the Way You Lie" by Eminem and Rihanna -- to earn himself an Interscope imprint and the artist-development privileges it entails. His long-gestating project with singer Skylar Grey has yet to appear, but in the meantime he's hooked up with Imagine Dragons, a Las Vegas-based synth-rock group that sounds determined to follow the Killers and Neon Trees into pop-crossover success. (The band's "It's Time" recently reached No. 4 on Billboard's Alternative chart after it turned up in the trailer for "The Perks of Being a Wallflower.") Their collaboration on "Night Visions", Imagine Dragons' full-length debut, doesn't break any new ground but delivers its share of high-gloss pleasures, including the beat-heavy "Bleeding Out," the rousing "On Top of the World" and "Tiptoe," an appealingly mystical number in which frontman Dan Reynolds sings of morning dew and vicious doves.-MW

Owl City

The Midsummer Station

Producers: various

Universal Republic

Release Date: Aug. 21

Adam Young may not feel an explicit mission to make the '80s safe for the 21st century, but that's certainly what he achieves on Owl City's fourth album, "The Midsummer Station". The set is bathed in sunshine melodies, uptempo hooks and buoyant choruses that recall MTV's early days. Young oozes frothy positivity through the urgent thump of "Dreams and Disasters," the energetic bounce of the Stargate-produced single "Shooting Star," the stuttering chorus of "Gold" and the effervescent sweep of "Metropolis." Elsewhere, "Good Time" wraps Carly Rae Jepsen, Relient K's Matt Thiessen and the Minneapolis Youth Chorus into giddy, summery exuberance. "I'm Coming After You" and "Speed of Love" are driven by a more contemporary brand of club thump, while Mark Hoppus' feature on "Dementia" gives an idea of what Blink-182 might sound like with a full-time synth player. "The Midsummer Station" isn't all ecstatic: The angst of romantic breakup marks "Silhouette" and the Kool Kojak-produced album closer "Take It All Away." But Young keeps his cool in the latter as he promises, "I won't let it show until you've finally flown away."-GG

JT Hodges

Producers: Don Cook, Mark Collie, Mark Wright

Show Dog-Universal

Release Date: Aug. 21

JT Hodges' self-titled debut heralds the blazing arrival of a distinctive new talent with a vibrant voice and mesmerizing songwriting skills. His lyrics are rich in imagery whether he's going a little crazy pining for a freshly showered ex-lover coated in mango lotion ("Right About Now") or intrigued by a new prospect ("Green Eyes Red Sunglasses"). Hodges' lyrics make desire palpable, and when he throws caution to the wind in tunes like "Leaving Me Later," the listener will be rooting for the relationship to go the distance. Among the set's highlights is "When I Stop Crying," a poignant ballad about loss that Hodges delivers with emotional integrity. Contrary to its Norman Rockwell-sounding title, the single "Sleepy Little Town" shares three vignettes that illustrate the darker side of small-town life, like the coach who gets arrested by the FBI for having a greenhouse in his crawl space. Hodges doesn't sound like anyone else on country airwaves, which can be a blessing and a curse. It might take a little longer to break down the door at radio, but modest digital sales show the fans are already there.-DEP


Tenth Avenue North

The Struggle

Producer: Jason Ingram

Reunion Records

Release Date: Aug. 21

Since debuting with 2008's "Over and Underneath", Tenth Avenue North has quickly become one of the Christian community's most successful young bands, claiming the new artist of the year honor at the 2009 Dove Awards and song of the year in 2010 with "By Your Side." The group's combination of ear-grabbing melodies and compelling lyrics (mostly penned by frontman Mike Donehey) are a winning formula the band continues on third album "The Struggle". Already a hit at Christian radio, lead single "Losing" is a potent song about extending forgiveness. The title track boasts an ingratiating melody and intriguing lyrics about living a life of faith as Donehey sings, "Hallelujah/We are free to struggle/We're not struggling to be free." The track "Worn" is a simple, poignant ballad about life's challenges taking an exhausting toll and a perfect showcase for Donehey's earnest, emotional vocals. The album closes with the beautiful worship song "Lamb of God."-DEP


Lynyrd Skynyrd

Last of a Dyin' Breed

Producer: Bob Marlette

Roadrunner/Loud & Proud Records

Release Date: Aug. 21

For a band as beset by bad luck to begin with as Lynyrd Skynyrd, 13 might turn out to be a lucky number, especially since the Southern rock group's last album, 2009's "God & Guns", was its highest-charting studio release since the late Ronnie Van Zant fronted the band. Ronnie's younger brother, Johnny, has been at the helm for a quarter-century now. And the band you hear on album No. 13, "Last of a Dyin' Breed", may honor the legacy of the original lineup, but it's not even remotely retro in approach. Only the power ballad "Something to Live For" and the closing, dobro-laden "Start Livin' Again" really echo Skynyrd's '70s sound. The current incarnation-also including founding guitarist Gary Rossington-turns out crunchy hard-rock riffs (sometimes bordering on metal) with a touch of Southern-fried twang, bearing more in common with country-meets-AC/DC Nashville rebels Big & Rich than "Free Bird." This band is more interested in exploring what Southern rock means circa 2012 than reliving past glories, so Skynyrd fans' reactions will likely depend on how tightly they hold onto the past.-JA


Corb Lund

Cabin Fever

Producers: Steve Christensen, John Evans

New West Records

Release Date: Aug. 14

A quintessential example of the cultural divide between Canada and the United States, Albertan alt-country singer/songwriter Corb Lund has earned gold records and enviable chart placements in his homeland, but has remained a cult hero stateside thus far. But Lund's second album for a U.S. label should expand his audience, as his songwriting is stronger than ever. His specialty is story songs, filled with carefully observed details, a skilled satirist's cleaver-sharp sense of humor and an iconoclast's off-kilter perspective on the everyday world. Tongue-in-cheek titles like "Priceless Antique Pistol Shoots Startled Owner" and "The Gothest Girl I Know" instantly command attention, but more impressive is the fact that the tales Lund spins behind these tunes more than live up to the expectations the titles engender. Whether he's singing about road-warrior musicians getting over on the highway patrol by keeping a "Bible on the Dash" or the unexpected downfall of an outlaw who barges into a bar declaring, "Pour 'Em Kinda Strong," Lund displays a knack for left-of-center Americana storytelling that evokes the glory days of John Prine and Kris Kristofferson.-JA


Insane Clown Posse

The Mighty Death Pop!

Producer: Mike E. Clark

Psychopathic Records

Release Date: Aug. 14

The theme of this Detroit rap duo's 12th studio album (and the second release in its current Joker's Card series) is the Grim Reaper. There's a constant theme that death can come at any time and no one's invincible ("Celebrate life 'cause that shit could pop tonight," ICP declares on the title track). Despite a body count that would make Slim Shady jealous-including the psycho killers of "Night of the Chainsaw," the bullied subject of "The Blasta" and the Chris Brown assassin in "Shooting Stars" -- Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope celebrate plenty on the set. The title track, with its slinky rock guitar line, nods to Parliament-Funkadelic, while there's plenty of vibey ambience both sinister ("Hate Her to Death," "Ghetto Rainbows") and celebratory ("Forever"). "Where's God?" asks some blunt questions amid rich keyboards and a thick bassline, while the Faygo soda ad "Juggalo Juice" and "SKREEEM!!" (featuring Tech N9ne and Hopsin) lighten the mood a tad. It's gritty, provocative and ultimately redemptive, with just enough explicit, offhanded carnage to maintain ICP's snotty cool.-GG

Edited by Mitchell Peters

CONTRIBUTORS: Jim Allen, Gregory R. Gondek, Gary Graff, Jason Lipshutz, Jillian Mapes, Deborah Evans Price, Ryan Reed, Lindsey Weber, Mikael Wood

All albums commercially ­available in the United States are eligible. Send album review copies to Mitchell Peters at Billboard, 5700 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90036 and singles review copies to Jason Lipshutz at Billboard, 770 Broadway, Seventh Floor, New York, NY 10003, or to the writers in the appropriate bureaus.