For music fans, fall is exciting for two reasons: The concert scene moves back indoors to clubs, theaters and arenas, where the sound and surroundings are always preferable to those at outdoor sheds and big summer festivals, and the record companies flood the stores with their most anticipated releases of the year.
Here is a look at the dozen shows and albums I'm most eagerly anticipating as summer fades and the leaves begin to turn, listed in chronological order.
1. Sept. 8: Spiritualized at Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 8 p.m.
Jason Pierce and his fellow psychedelic cosmonauts gave us their strongest album in the new millennium with the recent "Songs in A&E," and theirs was one of the most gripping performances at this year's Pitchfork Music Festival. At Metro, where they can control the set and setting with mind-warping lights and bone-rattling sound, they should be nothing short of transcendent. (Tickets are $20 at the Metro box office, 773-549-0203, or via www.metrochicago.com with an additional service fee.)
2. Sept. 12: Metallica's "Death Magnetic" arrives in stores.
Yes, it has been entirely too long since the former gods of speed metal gave us new music that wasn't embarrassingly soggy in terms of eyeliner ballads of introspective self-therapy, but faithful metalheads still hope. And the group's first set of new material since 2003 was produced by Rick Rubin, king of the comebacks and a man who knows a thing or three about truly heavy sturm und drang.
3. Sept. 23: Common's "Invincible Summer" arrives in stores.
"I created this music for the summer time [and] it's about feeling good," the veteran Chicago rapper told Billboard, and if it measures up to his recent work, Common could give us the aural equivalent of Indian Summer. The disc was produced by the Neptunes and Outkast associate Mr. DJ, with no help this time around from Kanye West, architect of Common's second-round career highs.
4. Sept. 24: Sigur Ros at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State, 8 p.m.
The ethereal and otherworldly Icelandic art-rockers never fail to create a magical and mystical place in concert, and their recently released fifth studio album, "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" ("With a buzz in our ears we play endlessly") contains some of Jónsi Birgisson and company's most gorgeous sounds since 1999's "Ágætis byrjun." (Tickets are sold out.)
5. Sept. 27: My Bloody Valentine, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, 8 p.m.
After stretching the boundaries of rock 'n' roll in more far-ranging and radical ways than any other group in the'90s, including Nirvana, Kevin Shields and his bandmates essentially dropped out of sight and entered the realm of myth, seemingly unable to top their masterpiece, "Loveless" (1991). Now they've reformed to play that music in concert again, and even if they never accomplish anything else on that level, it is an experience no fan of inventive rock music should miss. (Tickets are sold out.)
6. Sept. 28-29: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 8 p.m.
Always a breathtakingly powerful act onstage, Nick Cave's 2007 show at Metro with Grinderman was the best I saw all year, and his recent release with the Bad Seeds, "Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!," still has no competition as the strongest album of 2008. Theatrical, threatening, seductive and scary, Cave promises to bring Halloween to town a little more than a month early. (Tickets are $34 plus $8.50 in service fees via Ticketmaster, 312-559-1212 or www.ticketmaster.com.)
7. Oct. 2: Weezer at the All State Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim Rd., 7 p.m.
Many fans are torn on the merits of the new self-titled album from Rivers Cuomo and the boys, but I maintain that it boasts some of the best songs of Weezer's career, and I'm eager to hear how they translate live. Yes, I wish this show was in a more intimate venue. But let's hope the band pulls it off without resorting to the arena clichés of the last few outings. (Angels and Airwaves and Tokyo Police Club open, and tickets are $40 to $50 with a $9.75 "convenience fee" via Ticketmaster.)
8. Oct. 2-3: Beck at the Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, 7:30 p.m.
With the puppets and the improvised mini-concert performed on a dining room table, rock's most famous Scientologist became an alternative Peter Gabriel in terms of showmanship on his last few tours, and riding the high of the strong new album "Modern Guilt," he's likely to top himself once again. (The overly hyped Brooklyn shoegazers MGMT open, and tickets are $37.50 plus $10 in service fees via Ticketmaster.)
9. Oct. 18: Wire at Metro, 9 p.m.
The legendary English art-punks are one of the few combos from the explosive summer of hate to have a reunion (actually the third act in the band's career) that's produced new music nearly as intense as that of its original incarnation, the band behind three of rock's most enduring classics: "Pink Flag" (1977), "Chairs Missing" (1978) and "154" (1980). Songs from the new "Object 47" are likely to shear the top of your head off live, even if one of the band's co-founders, Bruce Gilbert, is no longer touring with the group. (Tickets are $20.)
10. Oct. 22: TV on the Radio at Riviera Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
The buzz that's building for the new album by these genre-bending New Yorkers--"Dear Science," scheduled for a Sept. 23 release--is already deafening, and while I wasn't the biggest fan of "Return to Cookie Mountain" (2006), the group is nothing short of mesmerizing live. (The Dirtbombs open, and tickets are $24 plus $8.25 in fees from Ticketmaster.)
11. Oct. 26: David Byrne at the Civic Opera House, 20 N Wacker Dr.
Billed as "David Byrne Performs the Music of Byrne and Eno," with promised songs selected from "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" (1981) and the brilliant new "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today," the only ingredients missing to make this a fan's dream evening are Eno himself, and perhaps the Talking Heads. Ticket on-sale information expected soon from Jam Productions, though the gig is already listed on Byrne's Web site, www.davidbyrne.com.
12. Nov. 15: Deerhunter at Metro, 7 p.m.
Led by Bradford Cox, one of the most personable and proudly individualistic front men in rock, the Atlanta-based "ambient punk" band is releasing not one but two new albums this fall, the more pop-oriented "Microcastle" and the down-and-dirty "Weird Era Cont." (Much stronger live than on record, the buzz band Times New Viking opens along with Disappears, and tickets are $17.)
Other shows of note in the coming weeks include: Sons and Daughters (Double Door, 9/6); the Hideout Block Party (9/20-21); the Eagles (United Center, 9/24-25); Janet Jackson (Allstate Arena, 9/25); Lindsey Buckingham (House of Blues, 10/2; new album due 9/16); Alanis Morissette (Chicago Theatre, 10/2); New Kids on the Block (Allstate Arena, 10/4 and 10/24); Broken Social Scene (Vic Theatre, 10/9); My Morning Jacket (Chicago Theatre, 10/9-10); Stereolab (Vic Theatre, 10/10); Riot Fest (Congress Theatre, 10/10-12); Fleet Foxes (Metro, 10/12); Mary J. Blige and Robin Thicke (Arie Crown Theater, 10/14; the latter has a new album due on 9/30); Nick Lowe (the Green Mill, 10/14); the Residents (Lakeshore Theater, 10/15-17); Lucinda William (Riviera Theatre, 10/24; new album due 10/14); Madonna (United Center, 10/26-27) and King Khan (Bottom Lounge, 10/31).
Also: Celine Dion (United Center, 11/4); the Hold Steady and the Drive By Truckers (Riviera Theatre, 11/14); Girl Talk (Congress Theater, 11/18) and, with dates and venues yet to be announced, the Smashing Pumpkins, Brian Wilson and Oasis.
Also on the album release schedule are new offerings from Calexico, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Gym Class Heroes and Jessica Simpson (9/9); George Clinton, James, Jenny Lewis, Nelly and Ne-Yo (9/16); Jackson Browne, Kings of Leon and Chicago's Plain White T's (9/23); Ani DiFranco, Marianne Faithfull, Ben Folds, Mercury Rev, Chicago's Tom Morello/the Nightwatchman: The Nightwatchman and T.I. (9/30); Lambchop, Oasis , Of Montreal and Chicago's Rachael Yamagata (10/7); Kaiser Chiefs and Queen + Paul Rodgers (10/14); AC/DC and the soundtrack for "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" (10/21) and Cradle of Filth and John Legend (10/28).
Also due before the end of the year are new releases from Brandy, Kelly Clarkson, Dido, Enya and Missy Elliott.