As we pass the midway point of the year, that busy hum you can hear is the embattled music business gearing up for its traditional splurge of big album releases in late summer and early autumn. Last year was all about young female solo artists, from the phenomenal Lady Gaga to the electro siren La Roux and the neo-hippie rockers Florence and the Machine. So far, 2010 has seen a more equal sex balance, with older male stars and guitar bands making a comeback. Over the next few months, middle-aged rockers including Iron Maiden, Nick Cave and Manic Street Preachers will be making sure testosterone levels are topped up with their rowdy releases.
All the same, women performers remain well represented this year. Gaga is still selling huge numbers of albums, closely followed by a gallery of hardy female perennials including Kylie Minogue, Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera and the smooth-soul comeback diva Sade. In September, the US pop queen Katy Perry releases her third album, a shiny arsenal of heat-seeking melodies and polished pop hooks. This has also been a vintage year for artists working on side projects and sabbaticals from their main bands. The former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash, Kele Okereke from Bloc Party and the Radiohead drummer Phil Selway have all launched generally well-received solo albums. Both Noel and Liam Gallagher are rumoured to be releasing their first post-Oasis material in the months ahead. Meanwhile, music industry insiders are counting on the forthcoming debut solo album by the Killers singer Brandon Flowers to do great business.
These are 10 of the most highly anticipated albums due for release over the weeks ahead. From fresh-faced pop teens to grizzled rock veterans, heavy metal to hip-hop, and the sublime to the ridiculous, there should be something to suit every taste.
The Final Frontier Britain's longest-serving masters of metal go where no heavy rock band has gone before with their 15th studio album, which kicks off with a space-themed title track and a sci-fi promo video inspired by Alien. It builds on the momentum of Maiden's record-breaking Somewhere Back in Time hits compilation and world tour, which included a memorable stopover in Dubai. The Final Frontier is longer and structurally more complex than most of their previous releases, but their core values remain intact: huge rock anthems, loud guitars and screeching vocals. With a loyal global fanbase and album sales totalling more than 100 million, these hard-rocking veterans are almost guaranteed another critic-defying, crowd-pleasing smash. Released on August 16. Klaxons
Surfing the Void Three years ago, Klaxons were the brightest rising stars of the British music scene. Fusing indie-rock guitars and whooshing electronics into a hybrid sound that critics called "New Rave", they won the UK's prestigious Mercury Prize with their brash, flashy debut Myths of the Near Future. After a long and troubled gestation, their second album is a much more muscular and majestic affair. It was largely produced by Ross Robinson, the American studio boffin behind mega-metal acts including Korn, Limp Bizkit and Sepultura. Rich in psychedelic sounds and mystical symbols, it finds these four ambitious youngsters spreading their wings and soaring towards the operatic, shamelessly bombastic heights currently occupied by Muse. A huge-sounding record and a mighty comeback. Released on August 23.
Teenage Dream Two years after making a global splash with her hit-packed breakthrough album One of the Boys, the future Mrs Russell Brand returns with a kaleidoscopic collection of sunny, summery, high-sugar pop anthems. Citing Abba, Madonna, Prince, Ace of Bass and the Cardigans as influences, Perry covers a broad musical spectrum from the dreamily romantic title track to the throbbing DayGlo rave-pop of the former single California Gurls, which features Snoop Dogg. She told Rolling Stone that the album's overall sound is "still bright, but the colours are more saturated, and it's more metallic fuchsia or purple than bubblegum pink". Like, totally. Bubblegum pink is so 2008. Released on August 30. Brandon Flowers
Flamingo Wholesome and handsome, the Killers frontman Brandon Flowers is the Tom Cruise of stadium pop. While his day-job band take a hiatus between chart-topping albums and world tours, he has produced a solo debut that does not deviate much from their shiny, uplifting, arena-friendly formula. As the first single Crossfire and the heartbroken boy-girl duet Hard Enough demonstrate, the underlying mood is more acoustic than electronic, with a faint twang of country and western. Co-produced by the U2 veteran Daniel Lanois, Flamingo is a personal homage from Flowers to his native Las Vegas, his family and his religious faith. Expect to hear these Springsteen-lite anthems booming across a giant amphitheatre near you later this year. Released next month. Underworld
Barking A stampede of reunited rave-pop veterans are currently enjoying career revivals in Britain, but Karl Hyde and Rick Smith never went away, remaining active and creative for almost three decades. The grey-haired boffins of dance music may now be over 50, but age has not withered their passion for shiny electronic beats and dazzling live shows. After three years of side projects and collaborations with everyone from Brian Eno to Radiohead, the Essex duo's eighth album is a typically eclectic affair, from the cascading Eurotrance shimmers of Scribble to more contemplative, cinematic pieces like Moon in Water. Dabbling in dubstep and drum'n'bass between roof-raising techno anthems, Hyde and Smith sound as vibrant and vital as ever. Released next month. Interpol
Interpol Fresh from supporting U2, New York's most stylish black-clad indie-rockers return with their brooding bruiser of a fourth album. Perhaps the recent departure of the striking bass player Carlos Dengler has reshaped the band's approach, because the sound here is more expansive and moody, less poppy and propulsive than on their three previous albums. Featuring stripped-down arrangements, shimmering clouds of guitar noise and even a smattering of Spanish lyrics, Interpol sounds like a bold bid for gravitas and maturity rather than singles-chart success. This epic slab of cinematic doom-rock could well be their finest hour, even if it may feel like commercial suicide to some die-hard fans. Released next month. Grinderman
Grinderman 2 When not fronting his long-running main band the Bad Seeds, or writing novels and screenplays and film scores, the prolific Australian man of letters Nick Cave has found time to crank out a second album with his unruly punk-blues side project. Grinderman features several Bad Seeds members, but works in a more chaotic and democratic way, with shared songwriting credits and a more wilfully primitive, ragged, experimental approach. Cave has promised "a totally different sound" on this album, with the violinist Warren Ellis citing psychedelic funk and vintage underground German space-rock as key influences. Judging by the lead-off single Heathen Child, a shuddering horror movie of snarling voodoo blues and animalistic grunts, the beast has been unleashed from the cellar once more. Released next month. Manic Street Preachers
Postcards From a Young Man The South Wales trio return to confident commercial form with their 10th album, a widescreen guitar-rock epic layered with gospel choirs and orchestral strings. Featuring guest appearances by the Welsh alt-rock legend John Cale, the Echo and the Bunnymen singer Ian McCulloch and the former Guns N' Roses guitarist Duff McKagan, the sumptuous-sounding Postcards from a Young Man stands in striking contrast to their previous album, last year's Journal for Plague Lovers, a dense and dark affair featuring the posthumous final lyrics of their former guitarist Richey Edwards. Missing since February 1995, Edwards was officially declared dead in 2008. The bass guitarist Nicky Wire describes the sound of the new album as "Van Halen playing The Supremes" while the singer James Dean Bradfield promises "big radio hits". Released next month. Kanye West
TBA The past few years have been tough for America's most hot-tempered hip-hop superstar. Following the death of his mother in 2007, West earned mixed reviews for his electro-pop 808s and Heartbreak album, staged an embarrassing one-man stage invasion at last year's MTV awards, and was publicly branded a "jackass" by the US president, Barack Obama. All of which makes his fifth album a crucial release, and thankfully advance word is positive. Originally planned as the fourth chapter in a series that began with his triple-platinum-selling debut The College Dropout six years ago, the as yet untitled album marks a return to West's sonically adventurous but emphatically hip-hop heartland. Confirmed guests and studio collaborators include Jay-Z, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Q-Tip, RZA and DJ Premier. With that line-up, how can he fail? Released next month. I Blame Coco
The Constant It's a touchy subject for Eliot "Coco" Sumner, but unavoidable: she is the offspring of famous parents, Sting and his wife Trudie Styler. Such regal lineage will undoubtedly prove to be both a blessing and a burden when the 19-year-old singer-songwriter launches her debut album later this year. But look beyond all suspicions of bratty nepotism, because The Constant is an impressively strong work for such a young performer. Recording with the producer and co-writer Klas Ahlund, best known for his collaborations with the Swedish diva Robyn, Sumner croons sumptuous robo-pop with an alluringly husky voice and an agreeably bittersweet aftertaste. Her reworking of St Etienne's dreamy take on Neil Young's Only Love Can Break Your Heart is an inspired piece of recycling. Listen without prejudice. Released in October.