L = Label, M = Management, B = Booking Agent
Nine Inch Nails
“Hesitation” Marks Sept. 3
M Jim Guerinot, Rebel Waltz
B Marc Geiger, William Morris Endeavor
The return of Nine Inch Nails from retirement was not inevitable. Since the band signed off in 2009, leader Trent Reznor has done just fine as a husband, father and Academy Award-winning film scorer. Where did NIN’s self-obsessed, sadistic indulgences fit into such an upright picture? By the sounds of “Hesitation Marks,” they come just as naturally as ever. The album may be one of NIN’s most measured: There are no shrieks, either human or machine; no bellows at a godless universe. But jaw-clenching cuts like “Copy of A” and “Disappointed” point to a different type of disillusionment, perhaps one born of being, well, vaguely content.
“Bad Blood” Sept. 3
L Virgin Records
M Polly Comber and Josh Smith, Black Fox Management
B Marty Diamond and Larry Webman, Paradigm
The defining characteristic of “Pompeii,” the breakout single from U.K. alt-rock act Bastille, is its refrain of vocal chants that bulk up the song’s intro and chorus. “I had always tried to get crowds at gigs to help us beef it up, to make it sound as big as possible,” frontman Dan Smith says. The grandiosity of “Pompeii” has helped the song reach the top 10 of Billboard’s Alternative tally, and after focusing on the United Kingdom for months, Bastille will invade North America with a sold-out headlining tour beginning Sept. 16. “We’ve only played a handful of shows so far in America,” Smith says, “so we’re pretty excited about doing as much touring as we can.”
“Love in the Future” Sept. 3
L G.O.O.D. Music/Columbia
M Troy Carter and Ty Stiklorius, Atom Factory
B Brent Smith, William Morris Endeavor
“I wanted to make a great modern soul album.” That’s how impending groom John Legend boiled down his new album to Billboard while taping a Chevrolet commercial tying in the set’s Kanye West-produced second single, “Made to Love.” Also joining Legend and West in the executive producer’s seat is Dave Tozer, another longtime creative ally. In addition to “Made to Love” (featuring Kimbra), “Love in the Future” resonates through standouts like “All of Me,” “Hold On Longer” and “Angel,” a tasty, too-short interlude with Stacy Barthe. Providing foreplay is first single “Who Do We Think We Are” (featuring Rick Ross). Legend’s headlining tour begins Oct. 20.
“Kiss Land” Sept. 10
L XO/Republic Records
M Amir “Cash” Esmailian and Tony Sal
B Joel Zimmerman, William Morris Endeavor
The Weeknd’s Abel Tesfaye makes his full-length studio debut with “Kiss Land.” After signing to Republic last year, the nocturnal-sounding alt-R&B artist rereleased three mixtapes as compilation album “The Trilogy.” Though the music was already available for free, the album peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 on the Top R&B Albums chart. “Kiss Land” is Tesfaye’s first original release for Republic.
“B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time” Sept. 10
L Def Jam Recordings
M Coach Tek, Street Executives Management
B William Morris Endeavor
From its artwork, courtesy of Kanye West’s DONDA multimedia company, to its rhymes, 2 Chainz’ “B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time” features the Atlanta rapper becoming self-aware of his success. (His 2012 debut, “Based on a T.R.U. Story,” bowed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.) “Started from a pot, then I took over the spot/Then I took over the block, then I took over hip-hop,” 2 Chainz raps on his forthcoming album’s second single, “Own Drugs.” “Me Time” is laced with 2 Chainz’ quotable, straight-forward raps carried by addictive beats courtesy of Mike Will Made It (“Own Drugs,” “Fork”), Pharrell Williams (“Feds Watching”) and more. “The vibe of the album is some club and street shit. We just wanted to capture that and it was very organic,” Mike Will Made It says of “Me Time.”
“Atmosphere” Sept. 10
L Ultra Music
M Stephanie LaFera, Little Empire Management
B Joel Zimmerman, William Morris Endeavor
Dance veteran Kaskade, born Ryan Raddon, settled in to record his eighth studio album, “Atmosphere,” after a 55-plus-date mega-tour in 2012 that included a Staples Center sellout. “I was just burned out, I guess,” the DJ/producer says. “If I hear another snare roll! That’s all I’d been listening to for four months, five days a week.” “Atmosphere” works through that EDM fatigue with some of the sparkling, chilled-out grooves that launched Kaskade’s career in underground house more than a decade ago, but it doesn’t entirely forget its place: Album opener “Last Chance” is an instant festival anthem.
“MGMT” Sept. 17
M Dave Gottlieb, Death or Glory; Mark Kates, Fenway Recordings
B Heather Kolker, Paradigm
MGMT’s self-titled third album reunited the New York group with producer Dave Fridmann. The overall idea was simple: “When we started writing and working on our new album, we set a few goals and guidelines to follow — mainly that there shouldn’t be any goals or guidelines,” singer Andrew VanWyngarden says. “Whatever came to us, if we felt inspired, we went with, and we did our best not to refuse any sort of style or musical idea.” The 10-track album was heralded by single “Your Life Is a Lie” and its eye-catchingly quirky video, which has garnered more than 2 million Vevo views since its Aug. 5 premiere.
“True” Sept. 17
L PRMD/Island Def Jam
M Ash Pournouri, AtNight Management
B David Brady, Spin Artist Agency
That comely Swedish mug doesn’t imply it, but Avicii’s got the soul of a disruptor. When he trotted out a bluegrass band on Ultra Music Festival’s main stage in March, the crowd cleared and the entire Internet seemed to point and laugh. “I knew it was going to be controversial,” says the DJ/producer, born Tim Bergling. “But obviously the audience has really come around.” One of the songs performed that night was “True”‘s first single, “Wake Me Up!,” which has since hit No. 1 in 40-plus countries, and is just starting its U.S. climb. (It’s No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100.) The album is loaded with similarly bold combinations that seem bound to catch on with audiences both foreign and domestic.
“From Here to Now to You” Sept. 17
M Emmett Malloy
B Rob Prinz, United Talent Agency
A week after he became a last-minute headliner at Bonnaroo, filling in for Mumford & Sons to a crowd of more than 10,000, Johnson played for about 150 people at New York’s Allen Room. The underplay was one of two ultra-intimate shows he booked to preview “From Here to Now to You,” a largely acoustic set that the 38-year-old singer recorded primarily at his studio in Hawaii. “I was more nervous sitting on a stool by myself than I was at Bonnaroo,” Johnson says. The breezy album returns to the stripped-down sound of his early work, with “Ones and Zeros” and the Ben Harper-assisted “Change” among the standouts.
“A.M.” Sept. 17
Marion Kraft, Shopkeeper Management
Rob Beckham, William Morris Endeavor
One of the summer’s best opening acts, Young is developing a reputation as a strong live performer, and the goal for his album was to reflect that energy. “[Producer] James [Stroud] and I really amped things up on this new album,” says the Tennessee native, who has been touring with Brad Paisley on his Beat This Summer tour. “We built on what we’ve done in the past, and we focused on making the guitars, drums, arrangements and even the lyrics more aggressive.”
“Closer to the Truth” Sept. 24
L Warner Bros.
M Lindsay Scott, LSM; Roger Davies, RDWM
B Bill Buntain, Bonus Management
After more than a decade since her last album, Cher keeps her remarkably long-lived career going with her 26th studio set, “Closer to the Truth.” The album features a bevy of emotional ballads and dancefloor stompers, including two songs written by P!nk and an unexpected guest vocalist in Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears, who appears on “Take It Like a Man.” “Closer to the Truth” is led by the No. 1 Dance Club Songs single “Woman’s World.”
“The Diving Board” Sept. 24
M Johnny Barbis, Rocket Management
B Howard Rose, Howard Rose Agency
Elton John returns to his roots on his first solo album since 2006’s “The Captain & the Kid,” working with producer T Bone Burnett and longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin on an expansive collection of songs built around piano, bass, drums and voice. “It is the starkest album I have ever done, but it has palates of color all over the place, which is T Bone’s trademark,” John says of the project. “I’m so thrilled with the way it’s turned out.” “The Diving Board” will get extensive support on the road when John tours Europe in early September before heading to Las Vegas to play the iHeartRadio Festival and resume his shared residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace.
“Negativity” Sept. 24
M Zeke Hutchins
B John Chavez, Ground Control
Alt-folk mainstay Deer Tick is guilty of a bit of a red herring on its fifth full-length, which, despite the title, isn’t really a downer, and often works up a breezy groove. “When we first came up with the title, it was kind of tongue in cheek,” guitarist/co-songwriter Ian O’Neil says. “There are themes of loss, but there’s also a real pop sensibility on all the songs.” Fans of the band’s dirty rock’n’roll phase, as demonstrated on 2011 LP “Divine Providence,” might also be thrown for a loop. “There are a lot of left turns on this album,” O’Neil says. “We wanted something a little more thoughtful and hi-fi.”
“Suffering From Success” Sept. 24
L Cash Money
M Jason Johnson
Producer and hypeman extraordinaire DJ Khaled has released an album nearly every year since 2006 (2009 was an exception), each one a compilation featuring his rapper friends and a searing summer jam. This year’s was no different. Drake, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross link on lead single “No New Friends,” a top 10 hit on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Behind the boards and on the mic, Khaled is like an outspoken coach leading his squads to victory. “My voice is powerful,” he says. “It’s not just about the feature. It’s about how you put it together. I am a hitmaker.”
“Pure Heroine” Sept. 30
M Scott Maclachlan, Tim Youngson
B Tom Windish, Windish Agency
The stateside ascent of Lorde — the 16-year-old whose single “Royals” has become the first Alternative chart-topper from a lead solo female artist since 1996 – -ahead of her debut album has been astonishingly rapid. But the artist born Ella Yelich O’Connor has been honing her unflappable pop persona since signing a label deal in her native New Zealand at the age of 12. As “Royals” continues to cross over to mainstream audiences (it’s No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100), Lorde has unveiled a score of similarly biting new material at select U.S. performances, setting off a bidding war after making her U.S. live debut on Aug. 6.
“The 20/20 Experience: Part 2” Sept. 30
M Johnny Wright, Wright Entertainment Group
B Rob Light, Creative Artists Agency
Timberlake and producer Timbaland took only 20 days to record the second half of double album “The 20/20 Experience,” which arrives six months after its predecessor — and right in time for Grammy consideration. Luckily he has plenty of brands pitching in on the promotional front. Target will return as his retail partner for a deluxe edition (with exclusive songs “Blindness” and “Electric Lady”); MasterCard is prepping a national campaign featuring him in support of a fall solo tour; and Timberlake also holds creative director roles at Bud Light Platinum and Myspace.