While this month may be a dead zone for big pop albums (way to delay The Pinkprint, Nicki), classic rock and indie rock dominates November with a number of marquee releases. Dylan’s Basement Tapes finally go fully legit with a comprehensive box set; Pink Floyd offers up its final album ever, six years after keyboardist Richard Wright passed; and Bryan Ferry ditches the Jazz Age in favor of his usual crooner rock. Meanwhile, TV on the Radio returns triumphantly, Deerhoof make their best album in years, and Ariel Pink, uh, still exists. Also this month: Mary J. Blige and Jeremih play with the mainstream R&B format, Foo Fighters pay tribute to American musical traditions in tasteful ways, Arca changes the landscape of electronic production with his debut, and Chumped prove to be one of pop-punk’s most promising young voices.
Bob Dylan and The Band —The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete (November 4, Columbia)
Finally the book will be closed on one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most complicated and lore-filled projects, The Basement Tapes. As the story goes, Bob Dylan decamped near his home in Woodstock following a 1966 motorcycle accident. He spent the following year recording songs with a new backing band, The Hawks, who would later become The Band, eventually amassing more than 100 songs and covers that mined spirituality and roots rock. Many of these songs circulated among bootleg enthusiasts, until 1975 saw the official release of a mere handful of tracks. More extensive versions of The Basement Tapes have been subsequently released, but this is the first time the whole collection has seen the light of day by any official means. There’s also an unconventional Basement Tapes tribute album of sorts, Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes, which features T Bone Burnett, Elvis Costello, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Marcus Mumford, and more using recently discovered Dylan lyrics from 1967 in brand-new compositions. That’s out November 10, and it’s a solid listen if you’re interested in tracing Dylan’s influence through folk-rock circa 2014.
Deerhoof — La Isla Bonita (November 4, Polyvinyl)
Twenty years and 13 albums later, noise-pop veterans Deerhoof have made their most brutal record since their 1997 debut, The Man, the King, the Girl. Funnily enough, Janet Jackson and Madonna — specifically their forward-thinking production in the late ’80s — were the source of inspiration, which I suppose shows slightly in how deeply funky La Isla Bonita is. But in typical Deerhoof fashion, the influences work in erratic ways, which is a big part of the fun in grooving along (the dance moves one could do to this record, dear god). “It became a rough, ragged, no-budget punk rock thing that I thought was a neat post-apocalyptic tribute to this pre-apocalyptic sound,” drummer Greg Saunier recently told Billboard.
Arca — Xen (November 4, Mute)
Venezuelan-born producer Alejandro Ghersi is known to most who know him at all as someone who helped shaped four songs on Kanye West’s Yeezus (“Blood on the Leaves,” “I’m In It,” “Hold My Liquor,” and “Send It Up”) and three tracks on FKA twigs’ LP1 (“Hours,” “Give Up,” and “Lights On”). This week, Ghersi releases his debut LP as Arca, and though it’s nowhere near as listenable as the songs he helped others craft, it’s a strong statement that may give an indication of where electronic music and pop production trends are heading. It’s the sort of album that’s difficult to find the words to properly capture, because so much of its appeal is in its textures and movement. It’s worth a listen, even if just for research purposes.
Foo Fighters — Sonic Highways (November 10, Roswell/RCA)
For their eighth album, Dave Grohl and the guys took a novel approach with decidedly sturdy results. Each of the album’s eight tracks was recorded in a different American city full of music tradition, incorporating the stories and influences of those scenes within the framework of a traditional modern rock album. These recording sessions were filmed for a Grohl-directed HBO docuseries, which has been airing for the last three weeks and previewing Sonic Highways along the way. The band’s ability to get outside of its members’ own heads pays off: Sonic Highways is not just a brilliant angle to sell a record, it’s one of the Foo Fighters’ strongest albums of the last decade, full of musical nuance.
Pink Floyd — The Endless River (November 10, Parlophone/Columbia)
Whether you followed Pink Floyd’s career past The Wall and into the ’80s or only know their greatest hits, there’s a certain level of curiosity around The Endless River, their final album ever. The band’s surviving members — sans post-Syd Barrett leader Roger Waters, who exited the band in 1985 — mined the sessions for 1994’s The Division Bell to make an album that’s as much an homage to deceased keyboardist Richard Wright as it is a low-key final statement. All but the album’s closing song are instrumentals that recall Pink Floyd’s late-’60s work.
Jeremih — Late Nights: The Album (November 11, Def Jam)
Jeremih, previously of “Birthday Sex” fame, has managed to pull off a second act that’s been so long in the making, it’s a wonder we’re still listening. But his inescapable “Don’t Tell ‘Em,” featuring YG, which peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100, has shown that he does well crooning unmentionables atop a DJ Mustard beat. It’s enough to leave me curious about what he has in store, though I realize part of my investment is the hope of a chart-topping, hip hop-influenced R&B singer who isn’t Chris Brown. So while I haven’t heard his third album, Late Night, and its release has moved around so much that no one’s quite sure when it’ll actually drop, I’m anxious to see if Jeremih can deliver on his promise. He’ll also get a little help from his friends, J. Cole, Juicy J, French Montana, and more.
Chumped — Teenage Retirement (November 18, Anchorless Records)
Pop-punk and juvenile points of view often go hand in hand, but Brooklyn band Chumped bring the sort of emotional depth that transcends mere declarations of, “I guess this is growing up.” Here, on their debut LP, Chumped give voice to those who feel tired and frustrated by their mid-20s without bemoaning the point. They’re clearly having a lot of fun with these songs, despite being full of lingering questions about life choices. As with the words themselves, there’s a lot of dimension in Chumped’s gnarly guitar riffs and hard-hitting percussion: I hear influences that range from second-wave emo stars Get Up Kids to blink-182 to Letters to Cleo to early Weezer to their contemporaries in Swearin’.
TV on the Radio — Seeds (November 18, Harvest)
About a week after TV on the Radio released their last album, Nine Types of Light, in April 2011, their bassist Gerard Smith passed away from lung cancer. Still, the Brooklyn indie rockers soldiered on with tour dates before taking what one must imagine was a necessary hiatus. Now they’ve returned, and in addition to wanting to root for this band, the songs are really good in an icy New Wave/Nine Inch Nails kind of way. I haven’t been this excited about a TV on the Radio album since 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain.
Ariel Pink — pom pom (November 18, 4AD)
The new Ariel Pink double album — his first release in two years — features sexual come-ons as lewd as any modern R&B album, only without the slightest chance of actual consummation on its creator’s part. “I like your areolas, baby” is not so much trashy humor from an avant–garde figurehead as it is retro misogyny, so if you can look past this aspect of Pink’s lyrics and frequent foot-in-mouth public statements, then pom pom may be for you. Musically, the lost sounds Pink pilfers are markedly different from what he has explored before: the usual lo-fi ’70s sleaze-rock mixes with spacey prog-rock, 8-bit noises, ’60s pop, and much more.
Mary J. Blige — The London Sessions (November 24, Capitol)
The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul has reinvented herself before to incorporate current trends with a timeless touch (“Family Affair” holds up still, 13 years later). When she started collaborating with Disclosure last year, it felt like she had found another trend — London’s house music revival — to experiment with. The London Sessions finds her picking up where she left off with Disclosure, and embracing a whole new generation of London’s soul and house-inflected pop creators. This ranges from expected vocal foils like Sam Smith and Emeli Sande to more adventurous production folks like Naughty Boy. It’s certainly an awfully contemporary record, but the touches of doo-wop on “Therapy” show Blige letting the past shine through as well.
Also out this month:
Röyksopp — The Inevitable End (November 10, Cherrytree/Interscope)
Norwegian electronic duo Röyksopp continue a hot streak kicked off mere months ago by their mini-album Robyn collaboration, Do It Again, with a full-length that feels more personal than anything they’ve ever done.
Parkay Quarts — Content Nauseau (November 11, What’s Your Rupture?)
Perhaps you need a second Parquet Courts album in the span of six months. This pummeling LP from the Brooklyn band’s alter ego is here to help.
Antony and the Johnsons — Turning (November 11, Secretly Canadian)
Antony Hegarty finally releases the live album and stunning concert film he recorded on tour in 2006.
Bryan Ferry — Avonmore (November 17, BMG)
Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry returns with a solid solo LP that sounds surprisingly current, considering it features a Sondheim cover. Todd Terje, Johnny Marr, Nile Rodgers, Flea, Ronnie Spector, Mark Knopfler, and Maceo Parker all lent a hand.