Summer continues to bubble and seethe outside, but cooler temperatures and shorter days are just within reach. The summer of 2011 didn't boast any extraordinary musical moments -- save perhaps Jay-Z and Kanye West's masterful pairing on Watch the Throne -- but the fall seems as though it will be making up for lost time.
A galaxy of superstars, from George Strait to Kelly Clarkson, are releasing new albums, while a slew of top-notch musical acts -- ranging from Taylor Swift to Roger Daltrey -- will grace North Texas stages throughout the remainder of the year.
I've selected five must-hear albums and five must-see concerts; even more great albums and shows are in the accompanying lists. (Note that all release/performance dates are subject to change.)
Five must-hear albums
Bjork, Biophilia (Sept. 27): The Icelandic pixie's latest studio effort is essential as much for its songs as for its presentation. Bjork, ever the groundbreaker, has embraced "app" technology with her latest album, her first since 2007's Volta. Recorded partly on an iPad, Biophilia is being released in several iterations, including a version that splits the record's 10 tracks into individual apps. The forward-thinking singer-songwriter has stated in numerous pre-release interviews that she considers the nature-influenced Biophilia to be "a multimedia collection encompassing music, apps, the Internet, [art] installations and live shows."
Wilco, The Whole Love (Sept. 27): America's sturdiest rock band of the 21st century strikes out on its own with this, its eighth studio album and first without the support of a major label (the Chicago-based outfit elected to release The Whole Love itself). Apart from the business side of things, these dozen songs, produced by Jeff Tweedy, Tom Schick and Pat Sansone, don't appear as though they will stray too far from the low-key brilliance of 2009's Wilco (The Album), at least if fuzz-bedecked first single I Might is any indication.
Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto (Oct. 25): If nothing else, this likely will be the uncontested winner for the year's worst album title (breathe easy, U2 -- Zooropa will be forgiven now). Brit superstars Coldplay are employing a more danceable sound for this fifth studio effort, produced by many of the minds behind 2008's Grammy-winning Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, including Markus Dravs and Brian Eno. Lead single Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall unfurls along a familiar path, with the band's signature mix of deliriously arpeggiated guitar lines and an outsize, stadium-filling sensibility befitting one of the biggest bands of the '00s.
Kelly Clarkson, Stronger (Oct. 25): The Fort Worth-born, Burleson-bred pop superstar is back with her fifth studio album, originally scheduled for release in the spring but pushed to the fall, thanks to behind-the-scenes major-label restructuring. Stronger's debut single, Mr. Know It All, will premiere during a live webcast Tuesday, with the track being immediately sent to radio and then made available for download Sept. 5. "This album was influenced by Prince, Tina Turner, Sheryl Crow, Radiohead, and there's a little bit of a country vibe/influence on a couple of songs," Clarkson told Entertainment Weekly in March.
Miranda Lambert, Four the Record (Nov. 1): The pride and joy of Lindale is wasting little time following up 2009's Revolution, her award-winning, platinum third album. The 27-year-old singer-songwriter is capping an extraordinary year with Four the Record, having won a Grammy for best female vocal country performance this year, as well as marrying her longtime beau, fellow country star Blake Shelton, and launching the Pistol Annies, a feisty trio that Lambert swears isn't just a side project. Four the Record's initial single, Baggage Claim, finds her in familiar territory, though: kicking the romantic dead weight to the curb.
Five must-see concerts
Bon Iver (Sept. 12 at Winspear Opera House): The self-titled second album of Bon Iver (singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, backed by a rotating cast of musicians) is a richly textured wonder, a luminous collection of songs streaked with an affinity for the '80s. Vernon's ethereal, lonesome tenor threads its way through his intoxicating compositions, although in concert, Bon Iver becomes more visceral than cerebral ("This unit ... made sounds that grabbed your collar and roughed you up," wrote the Indianapolis Star this year). An extra treat: Vernon's girlfriend, Canadian singer Kathleen Edwards, will open. (Sold out; attpac.org)
Taylor Swift (Oct. 8 at Cowboys Stadium): A select handful of modern artists are big enough to command the sprawl of Jerry Jones' glittery sports bauble in Arlington. Love her or hate her, the 21-year-old is one such act, a one-woman machine built to crank out sympathetic singles that leave arenas full of young women shrieking her name. The multiplatinum country-pop superstar will return to North Texas and perform her biggest gig yet, supporting last year's long player, Speak Now. ($43.50-$98.50; ticketmaster.com)
Adele (Oct. 21 at Verizon Theatre): There was a moment, this year, when it seemed like the Metroplex might be denied a chance to bask in Adele's reflected glory. After all, the 23-year-old British vocalist is having a monster 2011, thanks to her wildly successful sophomore effort, 21. Her spring date at the House of Blues was scrapped after she was stricken by laryngitis. But she's back (and in a much bigger room), reportedly seven songs into her next album and ready to share her exquisite heartbreak in a sure-to-sell-out venue. ($39.50-$89.50; ticketmaster.com)
St. Vincent (Oct. 23 at Kessler Theater): Hometown heroine Annie Clark is racking up famous fans (art-rock éminence grise David Byrne is collaborating with her on a forthcoming album) and rave reviews for her third full-length, the John Congleton-produced Strange Mercy, which drops Sept. 13. However controlled and precisely arranged her songs are on record, Clark isn't afraid to make her live performances border on assault. It's full-contact indie rock, laced with big ideas and her arresting voice, pitched between beauty and madness. ($15; thekessler.org)
Jay-Z and Kanye West (Dec. 6 at American Airlines Center): Two of pop music's indisputable kings, this pair of hip-hop icons released a hotly anticipated album ( Watch the Throne) and, in short order, announced a tour supporting it. Either rapper touring alone would be cause for celebration, but the mind reels at the opportunity to see the man born Sean Carter and Kanye West appearing on the same stage, tearing through tracks from Throne (please tell me the tricked-out Maybach from the Otis video is also making the trip) and likely diving into their respective, award-bedecked solo catalogs. ($49.50-$250; ticketmaster.com)
Preston Jones is the Star-Telegram pop music critic, 817-390-7713