Summer doesn't officially begin for another month or so, but like the movie industry, the music biz trots out a ton of new products when the weather turns warm. If the album is dying as a format, the industry hasn't read the obit because, as usual, the next three months include dozens of releases across all genres.
Here are a few highlights. Note: Release dates can be nomadic, so there's always the possibility of changes.
American Idol Season 9. The TV giant's weakest season to date collects covers from its top 10, led by Lee DeWyze's Treat Her Like a Lady and Siobhan Magnus' Paint It Black. No, it doesn't include Andrew Garcia doing Straight Up.
Sea of Cowards, Dead Weather. There were identity issues on the first album by this Jack White project. The second time out the band created a stomping monster.
High Violet, The National. A slow 10-year build has led to this, the best album by the Ohio-rooted, Brooklyn-based band that creates a beautifully icy type of indie rock.
Tear the World Down, We Are the Fallen. Ben Moody and much of Evanescence team up with American Idol's Carly Smithson on this collection of dramatic goth-pop-metal.
Brothers, Black Keys. The blues duo from Akron, Ohio, has yet to float a stinker. Producer Danger Mouse is on some of this, which bodes well.
Infinite Arms, Band of Horses. Even with some strings and a few big pop melodies, these Horses don't go middle of the road like another (blank) of (blank) band.
This Is Happening, LCD Soundsystem. The single Drunk Girl has given us high hopes for James Murphy's latest.
Distant Relatives, Nas and Damian Marley. Finally, a rap + reggae fusion that doesn't settle for danceable grooves and dunderheaded lyrics.
Skin Collision Past, Wild Moccasins. This first full-length album is darker than the band's EP but with wonderfully layered and hooky pop songs dusted with a bit of lounge and a bit of glam.
Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, Betty LaVette. This is the sort of record Rod Stewart could be making. Thankfully, he's not. LaVette sings as if her life depends on it.
Teargarden by Kaleidyscope 1: Songs for a Sailor, Smashing Pumpkins. A lock for most obnoxious title of the year. Still, it's nice to have Billy Corgan back.
Tried and True, Clay Aiken. Another Idol finalist, another set of covers — these from the '50s and '60s. It's like he never left the show.
To the Sea, Jack Johnson. As though he ever left the sea. He's reliable, so expect the hairdo to be the biggest change.
Bionic, Christina Aguilera. The big-voiced pop star's fourth studio album includes collaborations with DJ Premier, Sia, Ladytron, M.I.A. and Santigold.
Up on the Ridge, Dierks Bentley. The country star goes bluegrass, with help from Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Del McCoury and Kris Kristofferson.
History From Below, Delta Spirit. Making good on the promise of its debut, this San Diego band has a masterwork on its hands.
Thank Me Later, Drake. After a seemingly endless wait, the Canadian rapper drops his full-length, which is said to feature Kings of Leon, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and The-Dream.
The Laws of Illusion, Sarah McLachlan. The Lilith Fair founder's first album in seven years is preceded by first single Loving You Is Easy.
Mojo, Tom Petty. Here's hoping Petty's latest lives up to the title. Since parting ways with Rick Rubin, his songs have lacked a little punch.
Armando, Pitbull. The Cuban-American rapper releases his first Spanish-language album after steady pop success.
Venom, Chamillionaire. According to the Houston rapper, this one might move to July. Its Spider-Man-influenced title also suggests a different, darker side will be shown.
Recovery, Eminem. A year after releasing his least satisfying album, Eminem is back. He'd planned a sequel to Relapse, but then came up with a new record.
The Sellout, Macy Gray. The loopy songstress returns with a joyous collection of R&B jams, led by single Beauty in the World. The disc also features Velvet Revolver and Bobby Brown.
Memphis Blues, Cyndi Lauper. The Celebrity Apprentice contestant returns to music with this collection of blues covers and appearances by B.B. King, Jonny Lang, Allen Toussaint, Ann Peebles and Charlie Musselwhite.
Ten, Jason Moran. The musical wunderkind has become the hottest pianist in jazz during the past decade. His new one touches on parts of his career with daring originals, a tip to a hero (Thelonious Monk's Crepuscule With Nellie) a tip to a mentor (Jaki Byard's To Bob Vatel of Paris) and a stretch with Leonard Bernstein's Big Stuff. Daring and dazzling.
The Heart of a Champion, Paul Wall. Don't expect many surprises, but the deep-voiced Houston rapper is a reliable hip-hop workhorse.
Street Songs of Love, Alejandro Escovedo. It's not the monster that his Real Animal was but still another great set that will please the true believers.
Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, Big Boi. Andre 3000 had the pop hits, but Big Boi was always the better rhymer in OutKast. He steps out on his own here.
Aphrodite, Kylie Minogue. Anything new from the Aussie diva is cause for dance-floor celebration. A wordless, 30-second clip of forthcoming single All the Lovers has fans clamoring for more.
Plays Blues, Ballads and Favorites, Jimmie Vaughan. It's been nine years since guitar wizard Vaughan last released a solo album. This one is a rich old-school rock and blues record, impeccably played.
Dark Night of the Soul, Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse. Widely circulated online, this collaboration between super producer Danger Mouse and the late Mark Linkous is, as billed, somber but beautiful stuff.
100 Miles From Memphis, Sheryl Crow. Life's Detours out of the way, all she wants to do is have some fun again.
Without Regret, Kimberly Caldwell. It's hard to believe this American Idol Season 2 finalist has never released an album. This collection of rock-fueled pop songs is a terrific showcase for her booming, bracing voice.
King Uncaged, T.I. To paraphrase Raising Arizona's parole officer: "Have you learned anything, T.I.? O.K. then."