Last week, we brought you the best albums of 2011. This time, we're ringing in the new year by looking forward. Here's a rundown of several albums scheduled for release in 2012.
Originally called "Songs of Ascent," U2's 13th studio album has been in the works for nearly three years. Bono first mentioned the record's existence in February 2009, days after the release of "No Line on the Horizon." Once thought to be an arty, meditative collection of songs written during the "No Line on the Horizon" sessions, the album since has been reworked into something "with a rock 'n' roll heart, even if it's not rock 'n' roll music," Bono says. Will.i.am and Danger Mouse will co-produce the record, which is tentatively scheduled for release in the fall.
Adam Lambert "Trespassing"
One of the most successful "American Idol" veterans in recent memory, Adam Lambert will follow up his gold-selling debut with this March release. "Trespassing" is loaded with star power, including collaborations with Bruno Mars, Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers and Dr. Luke. Even so, the real star of the album is Mr. Lambert, who doubles as executive producer. Expect high notes, synthesizers and plenty of glammy Euro-pop hooks.
Paul McCartney "Kisses on the Bottom"
"Ocean's Kingdom," Paul McCartney's last album, was a classical record commissioned by the New York City Ballet. "Kisses on the Bottom" is a different animal entirely, jettisoning the 14-minute songs that filled "Ocean's Kingdom" and focusing instead on a relaxed blend of jazz and vintage pop standards. Jazz veterans Tommy LiPuma, Diana Krall and John Clayton all contributed to the album, which Sir Paul describes as "very tender, very intimate ... an album you listen to at home after work, with a glass of wine or a cup of tea." The album will be released in early February, just in time for Valentine's Day.
Not so long ago, Aerosmith's future looked quite dodgy. Steven Tyler was nearly kicked out of the band in 2009, when injuries to his legs, knees and feet - not to mention an addiction to the painkillers that were meant to treat his injuries - left him unable to tour. Aerosmith auditioned several vocalists in his absence, including Lenny Kravitz. More than two years later, though, the bandmates seem to have buried the hatchet, and Mr. Tyler - surfing a wave of renewed popularity, thanks to a spot on the "American Idol" judges' panel - will sing lead vocals on the band's long-awaited follow-up to 2004's "Honkin' on Bobo." Producer Jack Douglas, who worked on Aerosmith's landmark albums in the 1970s, promises a "raw, nasty, tough rock" album due out in May.
Van Halen untitled
No offense to Sammy Hagar, but Van Halen's rowdy, swaggering spirit always seemed to crystallize itself in David Lee Roth, the band's original frontman. With Mr. Roth back in the fold after a 22-year absence, the band has taken a break from touring to record another album of hard rock anthems. Mark Tremonti, guitarist for Alter Bridge and a friend of the band, says the new material sounds like "vintage Van Halen." Of course, with Eddie Van Halen's 20-year-old son playing bass in place of original member Michael Anthony, this is still an imitation of the original lineup. Can Mr. Roth's showmanship save a band that's been dealt blow after blow since the early '90s?
The Shins "Port of Morrow"
It's been nearly eight years since the film "Garden State" helped elevate the Shins to a new level of popularity, thanks to Natalie Portman's on-screen declaration that the band will "change your life." The more popular the Shins become, though, the longer they seem to wait between albums. "Port of Morrow" will be the group's first release since 2007's "Wincing the Night Away," and it'll kick off the Shins' new partnership with Aural Apothecary, a small record label run by frontman James Mercer. Additional details are scarce, but fans can expect more of the pop melodies and literate lyrics that have filled the Shins' previous albums. This one's for you, Miss Portman.