- The Washington Times - Friday, September 11, 2009

The fall months typically are the busiest time of year for the music industry, with record labels attempting to attract attention from holiday shoppers and students alike with a flood of new releases. Album sales have dropped by 45 percent since their historic high in 2000, but 2009 may turn the tide during its final four months.

Poised to make its American breakthrough is Muse, a British band whose symphonic rock ‘n’ roll has been popular overseas since 1999. Like Kings of Leon, the group hasn’t always been able to translate its European success into American sales. Kings of Leon managed to find universal acclaim with their fourth album, however, and Muse will attempt a similar trick on Sept. 14, when “The Resistance” is released on both sides of the Atlantic. Two weeks later, Muse will join U2 for a sold-out performance at FedEx Field.

Several veteran rock bands also will issue albums this fall, including two of Seattle’s most prized exports. Alice in Chains has seen its share of tragedy since the band’s heyday in the 1990s, and the death of lead singer Layne Staley sidetracked the group for several years. With newcomer William DuVall now handling vocals, the group revisits its familiar blend of metal and moody grunge with “Black Gives Way to Blue,” due for release on Sept. 29.

Meanwhile, fellow Seattle group Pearl Jam will take a break from its busy touring schedule to issue “Backspacer.” The famously independent-minded band’s new album will be released without the help of a label, effectively cutting out the middleman and strengthening Pearl Jam’s relationship to its fans.

As Pearl Jam explores life without a label, Madonna wraps up her long-standing partnership with Warner Bros. by issuing a greatest-hits album, “Celebration,” on Sept. 29 before moving on to a lucrative contract with Live Nation. The Material Girl has additional reason to celebrate, as her recent tour grossed more than $400 million — the second-largest sum of any tour in music history.

If Madonna is the queen of pop, Carrie Underwood is the princess of country. After taking the “American Idol” crown in 2005, she proceeded to take Nashville, Tenn., by storm, dominating the country genre with her affable vocals and all-American appearance. Her third album, “Play On,” will appear in November, while the fiery lead-off single, “Cowboy Casanova” — a song that owes as much to rock ‘n’ roll as country — hits radio stations on Sept. 14.

Several weeks before Miss Underwood’s return, Miranda Lambert will issue her own batch of twangy anthems with “Revolution.” Miss Lambert, a self-appointed “bad girl” whose lyrics often eviscerate her former boyfriends, wrote several slower numbers for the album, including the gorgeous “Dead Flowers.” Those who missed her recent performance at Nissan Pavilion can still buy the album, which hits stores later this month.

Also hitting stores in September is “Brand New Eyes,” the newest album by Paramore. Over the course of two sizzling records, the Tennessee-based group has established itself as one of the best female-fronted rock bands of the 2000s. Vocalist Hayley Williams sounds ferocious on the album’s first single, “Ignorance,” whose melodic stomp bodes well for the rest of the album. Having served as the opening act for No Doubt’s summer tour, Paramore returns to the D.C. area on Oct. 23 for a headlining performance at the Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Latin pop received a boost at the turn of the 21st century, when American audiences began tuning in to the sounds of Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez. Few singers exemplified that genre better than Shakira, who stands as the best-selling Colombian artist of all time. Shakira offers up her third English-language album, “She Wolf,” on Oct. 13. Although still reminiscent of her native country, “She Wolf” includes heavy traces of electro-pop and dance-hall, two genres rarely employed in the Latin arena.

While Shakira explores new territory, fellow diva Mariah Carey sticks to a familiar formula with “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel.” The upcoming album recalls her past work, with an emphasis on sweeping ballads, R&B; songwriting and vocal acrobatics. A cover of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” is also included.

Speaking of covers, “American Idol” alumni Kris Allen, Adam Lambert and Jason Castro will all release albums this fall, with Mr. Lambert’s record being the most anticipated of the bunch. All three singers will tackle original material, having performed other bands’ songs during their time on “Idol.” After eight seasons, the TV show desperately needs another artist on par with Kelly Clarkson and Miss Underwood, so expectations are high for the “Idol” graduates.

Got children? Tap into the toddler scene by picking up the latest release by They Might Be Giants, which continues the band’s recent string of educational albums. First came “Here Come the ABCs,” followed in 2008 by “Here Come the 123s.” Photosynthesis and the periodic table take center stage on the band’s newest release, “Here Comes Science.” Unfortunately, the Giants’ closest concert is in Philadelphia, which could be a long car ride for the youngest passengers.

Other artists releasing albums in late 2009 are Kris Kristofferson, Weezer, AFI, the Swell Season, D’Angelo, the Backstreet Boys, Sting, Switchfoot, Bob Dylan and Lyle Lovett.

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