Summer Music Preview: Sigur Ros, Justin Bieber, Fiona Apple, and More (Photos)

From the ethereal Sigur Rós to pop star Justin Bieber and rapper Rick Ross, The Daily Beast presents the most anticipated summer music.

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Summer Music Preview

by Marlow Stern

Last summer, we were treated to an outstanding season of music, including new albums by indie-dance outfit Foster the People, pop stars Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, crooner Bon Iver’s self-titled Grammy winner, and Watch The Throne, the epic rap album by mega-duo Jay-Z and Kanye West. This year, there’s something for everyone: new pop albums by Usher and his tween protégé, Justin Bieber; the long-awaited LP from one of the hottest rappers in the game, Rick Ross; and new music from moody British rockers The Xx and chanteuse Fiona Apple. Here are the most anticipated music albums hitting iTunes—and record store shelves, for the old school listener—this summer.

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Beach House

Bloom (May 15) 

After forming in Maryland back in 2004, the dream-pop duo Beach House—comprised of French-born chanteuse Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally—have produced three critically acclaimed albums. The last, 2010’s Teen Dream, was their most sophisticated, expansive album to date—with Legrand’s delicate, Nico-like voice cutting through grand, atmospheric numbers. Teen Dream was ranked the fifth best album of 2010 by Pitchfork, and the 17th by Rolling Stone. If the first single, the uplifting “Myth,” off Bloom is any indication, Beach House may find themselves back on many critic’s end-of-year, “best-of” lists.

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Best Coast

The Only Place (May 15)

What better way to ring in the summer than with the mellow tunes from this Los Angeles-based surf-pop duo? Singer-songwriter Bethany Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno’s first album drew critical raves for its fuzzy, lo-fi sound and catchy guitar rhythms. The band also has plenty of Hollywood fans, with Drew Barrymore directing the music video for their single “Our Deal,” featuring actors Chloë Moretz, Donald Glover, and Shailene Woodley. Of their tidier sophomore album, The Only Place, BBC News wrote, “Thanks to the sweetness of its melodies, the sheer ear candy of its Cali-pop jangle, and the yearning in those vocals, it’s less depressing, more wistful—like watching the clouds as the sun fades.”

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Sigur Ros

Sigur Rós, Valtari (May 29)

This Icelandic quartet has built a reputation as one of the world’s best live bands. Led by frontman Jónsi Birgisson, who sings in a delicate falsetto and plays a bowed guitar, the group creates mesmerizing, ethereal ballads in their made-up language ofVonlenska (translation: “Hopelandic”). Sigur Rós crossed over a bit into the mainstream with their beauteous ballad “Hoppípolla” off 2005’s Takk…, which was used as the theme song for the BBC series Planet Earth, as well in ads for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. For their sixth studio album, Valtari, bassist Georg Hólm stated that the album had “more electronic stuff” than previous efforts, but is by no means “a dance album.”

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The Walkmen

The Walkmen,  Heaven (May 29)

Forged in the fire of the burgeoning New York City indie-rock scene in the early 2000s—along with The Strokes—The Walkmen rose to acclaim with their 2004 sophomore album Bows + Arrows, which featured the hit songs “The Rat” and “Little House of Savages.” Since then, their sound has gotten mellower, and lead singer Hamilton Leithauser’s snarling vocals have become more Dylan-esque. The Walkmen’s last album, Lisbon, a meandering love letter to the city in Portugal, was released to near-universal critical acclaim, but if “Heaven,” the title track to their seventh studio album is any indication, the band is going for a more New Wave sound.

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Japandroids,   Celebration Rock (June 5)

The Canadian garage-rock duo of Brian King and David Prowse have become known for their raucous, no-holds-barred live shows. Japandroids 2009 debut, Post-Nothing, was lauded by critics for its rawness and breakneck pacing, and their mile-a-minute anthem “Young Hearts Spark Fire” became something of a paean for hipster millennials. Post-Nothing was nominated for the Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year, and placed at No. 15 on Pitchfork’s year-end best-albums list. The first single off their sophomore album, “The House That Heaven Built,” is another relentless head-banger that Pitchfork named Best New Track back in March. 

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Patti Smith

Patti Smith,  Banga  (June 5)

Hot on the heels of her National Book Award win for her captivating memoir, Just Kids, the “godmother of punk” is back with her first album of original material in more than eight years (her last LP, 2007’s Twelve, was all cover tracks). According to Smith, Banga is an album about “respect for mother nature,” and features tracks dedicated to Johnny Depp’s birthday (“Nine”), a song honoring the late actress Maria Schneider, and “This is the Girl,” celebrating the memory of the late R&B crooner Amy Winehouse. The album also will feature Smith’s two adult children, Jackson and Jesse Paris, as well as Television’s Tom Verlaine.

Roger Kisby

Hot Chip

In Our Heads  (June 11)

Although this U.K. electro-indie outfit’s last album, One Life Stand, was less danceable—and enjoyable, overall—than their previous efforts, here’s hoping their fifth studio album, In Our Heads, sees the lads returning to their boogie-down roots. Hot Chip, which combines frontman Alexis Taylor’s hypnotic vocals with synth-heavy electropop instrumentation, have left their previous label, DFA/Astralwerks, and signed with Domino for their latest LP. The new album is ‘80s-inspired, according to synth man Joe Goddard: “I like those moments in a club when people have been playing techno records for half an hour, and they drop a big Balearic record that brings everyone into that joyful moment. We were thinking a lot about those ecstatic moments.”

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 ‘Synthetica  (June 12)

Any new album by Metric, the Canadian indie-rock band fronted by the inimitable Emily Haines, is cause for celebration. The sometime Broken Social Scene-r’s airy, ethereal vocals, complimented by James Shaw’s razor-sharp guitar lines, will be on full display in their upcoming fifth studio album, Synthetica. According to Haines, the album is inspired by glam rocker Gary Glitter, as well as images from the radical architecture movement of the 1960s, and will even feature a collaboration with music legend Lou Reed. The album’s first single, “Youth Without Youth,” was meant to capture “sort of the feeling of being pissed off because you don't get to experience the youth that maybe you were entitled to,” said Shaw.

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Looking 4 Myself  (June 12)

The R&B star’s last effort, 2010’s Grammy Award-winning album Raymond v. Raymond, featured club anthem “OMG,” which became the fifth highest-selling song of the year. Usher’s seventh studio album, Looking 4 Myself, boasts an eclectic array of producers, including dance maestros David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia, Diplo, Australian music duo Empire of the Sun, and more, as well as guest appearances by rapper Rick Ross and Pharrell. According to Usher, the record will showcase a new type of music he’s calling “revolutionary pop,” which is apparently a tapestry of electronic, soul, R&B, and pop music.

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Justin Bieber

Believe  (June 19)

After being discovered in 2008 by Scooter Braun—from a YouTube video, no less—Justin Bieber has fast emerged as the biggest pop star in America. He’s amassed more than 20 million Twitter followers, his concert movie, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, grossed close to $100 million worldwide, and he holds the distinction of being the most Googled name in music. His Christmas album notwithstanding, Believe is the second album of original material from The Biebs, and boasts collaborations with Kanye West, Drake, Taylor Swift, and Usher, as well as some dubstep tracks. Make no mistake about it: this will be one of the biggest albums of 2012.

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Nelly Furtado

The Spirit Indestructible  (June 19)

Remember Nelly Furtado? The Portuguese-Canadian singer-songwriter has seemingly been in hiding since her 2006 Timbaland-produced album Loose, which sold over 10 million copies and featured the hit singles “Promiscuous,” “Maneater,” and “Say It Right.” She did release a Spanish language album in 2009, Mi Plan, but to relatively little fanfare. The Spirit Indestructible, however, will reportedly contain urban, alternative, and reggae influences, and boasts uber-producers behind it, such as The Neptunes and Tiesto. There’s even a track that is allegedly influenced by the Tiger Woods cheating scandal.  

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Fiona Apple

‘The Idler Wheel is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do’ (June 26)

OK, the title is long as hell and incredibly bizarre. But if you can get past that, there’s a lot to be excited about the first album in seven years from the acclaimed singer-songwriter-piano player. Her last effort, 2005’s Grammy- nominated Extraordinary Machine, was ranked the 49th best album of the 2000s by Rolling Stone, and the music video to the single “Not About Love,” featuring a pre-Hangover Zach Galifianakis, was one of the best of the year. In their review of Apple’s intimate show at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom back in March, The Village Voice wrote, “The newer songs Apple performed—three, in total—were of a piece with her Extraordinary Machine-era material, with the insomniac ‘Every Single Night’ sounding as delicate as an antique music box.”

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Dirty Projectors

Swing Lo Magellan’ (July 10)

The Brooklyn-based experimental indie-rock outfit, headed by virtuoso vocalist/guitarist Dave Longstreth, is back with its highly anticipated follow-up to 2009’s Bitte Orca. Dirty Projectors’ last effort was ranked the No. 2 album of ’09 by both Pitchfork and TIME, and their upcoming album is apparently named after GPS systems, and will be without member Angel Deradoorian, who is reportedly “on hiatus” from the band. The first single from their upcoming LP, Swing Lo Magellan, “Gun Has No Trigger,” is a brilliant, Beatles-esque tune with an absolutely killer bass line.

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Rick Ross

God Forgives, I Don’t (July 31)

Named after drug lord “Freeway” Rick Ross, this controversial prison guard-cum-rapper has emerged as one of the biggest—literally and figuratively—names in hip-hop. Rozay’s last album, 2010’s Teflon Don, garnered critical raves for its catchy, synth-heavy beats and the rapper’s kingpin drugs-and-guns lyrical persona. He’s garnered comparisons to the late Notorious B.I.G. for his effortless flow, silky delivery, and ample size, and earlier this year, MTV crowned him the “Hottest MC in the Game.” His highly anticipated upcoming album, God Forgives, I Don’t, features collaborations with Drake, Jay-Z, and Nicki Minaj, and of the album, rapper Drake gushed, “The only way I can describe it, it's like Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die, or Clipse’s Lord Willin’, or any of the albums that I collected and held on to as a kid—whether it was cassette or CD.”

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The XX

TBA’ (Summer 2012)

The moody, self-titled debut by this terribly young group of British indie rockers was one of the best albums of 2009, and won the Mercury Music Prize, awarding the best album from the U.K. or Ireland. Everyone from acclaimed DJ Deadmau5 and avant-garde act Gorillaz to pop superstar Rihanna has remixed or sampled tunes from their stellar first effort. Of their sophomore album, the band told The Creator’s Project, “We've all come back off tour and been partying a bit more. We left when we were 17 and we missed out on that chunk of our lives when everyone else was partying. Club music has definitely had an influence on the next record.”