The Origin of Love

Producers: various

Republic Records

Release Date: Oct. 16

The surviving members of Queen have done well with Freddie Mercury stand-ins Paul Rodgers and Adam Lambert. But British singer Mika is lurking out there as another likely candidate. While not necessarily as audacious as Mercury, Mika has abundant personality with an offhandedly assured style and a melodic sensibility that's tailor-made for guilty-pleasure status. Third album "The Origin of Love" begins with a title track that declares, "Love is an addiction/You are my Nicorette." It sounds like Mercury meeting Lindsey Buckingham over an easygoing tune. "Lola" is breezy soul-pop complete with an undeniable hand-clap beat, while the cheeky "Love You When I'm Drunk" shows Mika has listened to a bit of the Buggles. "Emily," an English version of his good-humored French single "Elle Me Dit," hits the dancefloor a bit harder than its companions. Priscilla Renea lends some hip-hop attitude to "Popular Song," a vamp on "Popular" from the musical "Wicked," and Pharrell Williams' presence gives "Celebrate" a buoyant, old-school exuberance that lives up to its title. Mika is also convincing in gentler sonic terrain like "Underwater," which gives the album a winning breadth and emotional heft. -GG

Flying Lotus

Until the Quiet Comes

Producer: Steven Ellison

Warp Records

Release Date: Oct. 2

It's hard to tell where one song ends and another begins on Flying Lotus' "Until the Quiet Comes" -- and not only because the promotional CD was issued as a single track to avoid piracy. The third full-length from Los Angeles' Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison) is a free-form dream. The set uses repeating piano and violin themes, bass both wobbly and neat, and vocals from some of the most ghostly singers out there to plot a woozy voyage that feels different upon each listen. Here, the sounds inform moods rather than genre nods: On "See Thru to U," Erykah Badu's soulful turn, matched with skittering hand claps, feels unsettled, like a rocky come-up to the even and lush trip of "DMT Song." Thom Yorke duels with a phantom's voice on "Electric Candyman," cooing creepily while drum sounds fall like rain. The album's companion mini-film by director Kahlil Joseph takes the dreamscape to the harsh reality of the L.A. projects, a stunning juxtaposition that yields some unforgettable images. J Dilla, Four Tet, even Warp label buddy Aphex Twin could all be found in FlyLo's work, but the fantastical quality of "Until the Quiet Comes" makes it a stand-alone knockout. -KM

Cody Simpson


Producers: various

Atlantic Records

Release Date: Oct. 2

Cody Simpson's debut album, "Paradise", presents a bit of a conundrum. Left to his own devices on the four songs he co-wrote, the 15-year-old Australian social-media sensation clearly sees himself as a teenage Jason Mraz, Michael Franti or even Colbie Caillat. The tracks are perhaps not as lyrically sophisticated, but show a deft touch beyond his years for breezy, toes-in-the-sand pop tunes. At the very least, "Summer Shade," "Gentleman" and the title track are fresh-faced and charmingly sincere in an age-appropriate way. But sandwiched between those are tracks designed to cash in on Simpson's Bieber-ability, effectively making him sound like just another boy singer. "Wish U Were Here" (co-written by Taio Cruz with a guest rap by Becky G) is certainly slick and tuneful enough to be a hit, but lacks any kind of defining character. "Be the One" retains the acoustic guitar core of Simpson's own material amid its machine beats, and "Tears on Your Pillow" incorporates reggae. Elsewhere, "Back to You" is just a mess of competing tempos and sonic effects, and "I Love Girls" borders on plain silliness. -GG


No Doubt

Push and Shove

Producers: Mark "Spike" Stent, Major Lazer


Release Date: Sept. 25

It's been 11 years since No Doubt's last studio album. So Gwen Stefani is within her rights to predict, "I know it's never gonna be the way it was." Surprisingly, it's the same on "Push and Shove". Reuniting with producer Mark "Spike" Stent, the band has assembled an 11-track amalgam of the stylistic terrain it previously covered on its past four albums. The quartet's ska roots are intact on the pleasantly frenetic opener "Settle Down," the messy title track with guests Major Lazer and Busy Signal, and the smooth "Sparkle" (co-written with Dave Stewart). This time around, No Doubt is even more of a pop band, from torchy opuses like "Easy" and the angsty lament "Undone" to energetic anthems "One More Summer" and "Gravity." And the clubby thump of "Looking Hot" establishes a spot for Stefani alongside dance divas like Madonna, Lady Gaga and Robyn. "Dreaming the Same Dream" closes the album with a nod toward the lush side of new wave, building from plucky synths and airy guitars into a swelling melodic wash. -GG




Producers: Ryan Bingham, Justin Stanley

Axster Bingham Records

Release Date: Sept. 18

Prior to his Grammy and Academy Award wins for "Crazy Heart," Ryan Bingham ping-ponged between Stones-inspired rockers and Steve Earle-style troubadour tales. The enthusiasm and rambunctiousness that made his early albums viscerally compelling return on "Tomorrowland", his first indie release. More than any of his previous efforts, the set benefits from layers of instruments that give the album a palpable depth of field. Lyrically, Bingham is caught in a mood of defiance and reclamation: "I ain't gonna bite my tongue no more," he sings on "Beg for Broken Legs." And on the crunchy rocker "Guess Who's Knocking," Bingham asserts, "I'm the forsaken child/Swept underneath your rug." The Springsteen-like acoustic number "Flower Bomb," the drone-driven "Rising of the Ghetto" and the six-minute tale of remorse "Never Far ­Behind" provide breaks from the sonic intensity that powers so much of "Tomorrowland". The final four songs are the most commercial moments, with "Neverending Show" finding Bingham in Traveling Wilburys territory and the acoustic "Too Deep to Fill" providing the sort of charging country-rock that came to life in "Crazy Heart." -PG

Ben Folds Five

The Sound of the Life of the Mind

Producer: Joe Pisapia

ImaVeePee Records/Sony Music Entertainment

Release Date: Sept. 18

Ben Folds has been so prolific in the years since his former trio (famously not a quintet, as its name ironically suggests) released its last album, "The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner" in 1999, it's hard to determine the demand for a reunion album when the frontman has been so visible. But one listen to opening track "Erase Me," with its instantly familiar harmonies from Darren Jessee and the much-missed crunch of Robert Sledge's guitar, and suddenly you wish it hadn't taken 13 years for them to make music again. With moments that strikingly both summon and update the sound that made 1997's "Whatever and Ever Amen" a college radio breakthrough, "The Sound of the Life of the Mind" is more sentimental than its predecessors (particularly standout lead single "Michael Prayter, Five Years Later"), though it's not without youthful bravado ("Draw a Crowd" features the proclamation, "I only wanted to be Stevie Wonder/I guess I'll settle for this vanilla thunder"). Though Folds and Jessee largely take turns on lyrical duties, the title track is notably outsourced to novelist Nick Hornby, who teamed with Folds for 2010's "Lonely Avenue". -AH

Grizzly Bear


Producer: Chris Taylor

Warp Records

Release Date: Sept. 18

The psychedelic tinges and airy approach of Grizzly Bear's music has given the Brooklyn group some cachet in the world of space rock. But space is the principle instrument on its fourth album. "Shields" is at once tuneful and challenging, its sonic gaps and even occasional moments of dead silence speaking as loudly as the nuanced instrumentation that never makes a great deal of noise, but enjoys detailed relief from the lack of clutter around it. "Sleeping Ute" kicks things off in dreamy lo-fi, gliding through subtle sound effects before lolling into a rolling acoustic guitar tattoo. But elsewhere, the near-anthemic richness of "Yet Again" sounds like a kind of underground Coldplay. And "A Simple Answer" nods to Electric Light Orchestra's baroque pop, while "gun-shy" is a bona fide hit (similar to what "Soul Meets Body" did for Death Cab for Cutie) that sucks you right into the swirling vocal overlaps of its chorus. There's a certain fragility, both lyrically and musically, that gives "Shields" its character. But it's matched by an assuredness that lets us know the band is in control and continuing its steadily upward creative trajectory. -GG

Edited by Mitchell Peters (albums)

CONTRIBUTORS: Phil Gallo, Gary Graff, Andrew Hampp, Dan Hyman, Jason Lipshutz, Kerri Mason, Jill Menze, Ryan Reed, Lindsey WeberAll 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.