From Coldplay to Björk to Feist, there is much to tune in to this autumn.
A feast of autumn album releases to look forward to
This summer has been arid in more ways than one. Apart from a much-hyped album release by Jay-Z and Kanye West in August, the only people who have had something to get excited about recently have been fans of reality TV stars such as Will Young or Jedward (the duo went to number one in Ireland in August) and those who mourned the passing of boy band Busted (the group's former singer Charlie Simpson put out his debut solo record the same week).
Luckily for the rest of us, back at work and a little gloomy after the Eid break, there's plenty to look forward to in coming months.
Autumn is traditionally a great time for big albums, as the marketing executives behind them want the titles to be ingrained in the world's consciousness in the run-up to Christmas.
And it seems to be a good time for record sales. In July, an American study found that a trend of declining sales in the country since 2004 was reversed in the first half of 2011. Pundits have called it the Adele effect: the British singer released her second album, 21, at the start of the year and it's sold more than eight million copies around the world, becoming the bestselling digital album ever in the UK and US.
Add that to Lady Gaga's Born This Way, which came out in May and sold about five million copies in its first month, and you've got an industry that is looking healthier than it has in years. And there are still more major releases on the way.
If anyone can knock Adele off her throne as queen of the charts, it will be Coldplay, one of the biggest-selling bands in the world. The group's fifth album, the opaquely titled Mylo Xyloto, is set for release on October 24, and according to singer Chris Martin, it is influenced by 1970s graffiti art and Germany's anti-Nazi White Rose movement.
While the first single Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall and album track Princess of China put an electro spin on the band's trademark anthemic rock, it's shaping up to be a varied and strong album, with songs as different as Us Against the World - a thoughtful acoustic ballad in which the listener is implored to "slow it down" - and the fast, energetic rock song, Hurts Like Heaven.
If Coldplay's release is set to be the commercial success of the autumn, Björk's seventh album, Biophilia, out on September 26, is the one most likely to excite critics. A fusion of technology and nature-worship, Biophilia will come in the form of iPad apps as well as an album, and contains songs about thunderstorms, lunar cycles, tectonic plates, viruses and gravity.
It all sounds very high-concept, but reports from the Manchester International Festival, where Björk premiered tracks from the album wearing a giant ginger Afro wig, sequinned dress and blue face paint, are that the music is good enough to back it up, with moments of the sublime techno-balladry that made her earlier albums such huge hits.
For a sneak preview, take a look at the video for the single Crystalline, directed by Michel Gondry, on YouTube.
"Underneath our feet/Crystals grow like plants," Björk sings, over the sound of a custom-made celesta modified to sound like a gamelan, before an uproarious drum and bass section kicks in.
Another critical darling we'll be hearing much more of this year is Laura Marling, the precocious 21-year-old songwriter from the English county of Hampshire whose third album, A Creature I Don't Know, comes out on Monday. The album is richer and darker than any of her previous work and looks set to cement her reputation as a standout talent of her generation - she is already being called the new Joni Mitchell.
A Creature I Don't Know is also more tinged with Americana than Marling's previous output, which has fallen more squarely in the English folk tradition, and it is full of cryptic lyrics about "love driven by rage" and a beast that "lies with me". She said in a recent interview that it was inspired by the little-known writers Robertson Davies and Jehanne Wake, as well as a fascination with John Steinbeck's third wife, Elaine. After being nominated for the prestigious British Mercury Prize for each of her previous two albums, this might be the record to actually win it.
Less intense than Marling, and with music a little more hummable, is Feist, the Canadian singer whose last record, The Reminder, was a slow-burning hit that got a boost after its catchy 1234 was featured in an iPod commercial. Her forthcoming fourth album, Metals, which is out on October 4, has been four years in the making, and judging from the clips on her website, it is full of warm, organic-sounding torch songs layered with strings and guitar. You can see her singing in the online videos, alongside a group of other women standing barefoot in a big country house being used as a studio.
For those who consider singing barefoot and toting violins a little hippie-ish, there are a couple of albums coming out soon that are more straightforwardly rock'n'roll. Noel Gallagher will see if he can one-up his brother's band Beady Eye with his own solo album, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, out on October 17. Kasabian will be hoping to go stratospheric with Velociraptor!, their fourth album expected out on September 16, and which promises all-out, hard and fast rock, with a tongue-in-cheek title track about running away from rampaging dinosaurs.
Classic rock completists will have something to look forward to as well - double disc re-releases of both the Beach Boys' last, lost album, Smile, and Nirvana's grunge classic Nevermind, are coming out on November 1 and September 26 respectively. And those on the lookout for a new favourite artist should check out the debut from 20-year-old folk-rock troubadour Ed Sheeran (out on Monday). He is being called this year's unlikeliest success story: his acoustic ballad The A Team hit third place in the UK singles chart, and the fervour of his fans has invited comparisons to Justin Bieber. Don't hold it against him.