And they all played on…

With the changing of the seasons comes the slew of fall music releases. You’ve got your comebacks (Matchbox 20 and Jennifer Lopez) and your attempts from graying artists (R.E.M. and Mick Jagger), your rap (Nelly and Chamillionaire) and your questionable (Aretha Franklin). The slate is looking a little slim this fall, but there’s always hope. We had our staff pick seven albums we’re excited about over the next two months. Here’s what’s coming soon and what we can tell you about the fall music releases that we’re all about.

A cynic might think the new She Wants Revenge album, This is Forever, is lacking in creativity due to the group’s choice of album cover: It’s pretty much the same one used for the first album, except everything’s black instead of white. She Wants Revenge isn’t trying to make any huge breakthroughs here, but rather focuses on working its ’80s goth magic with new songs such as the fast-paced, electronic-heavy “Written in Blood.” The first single on the album, “True Romance,” has a relatively more traditional drum sound and guitar formula and promises a slightly new direction for the group. Don’t expect a different style though.

Heavily inspired by Joy Division and New Order, lead singer Justin Warfield’s monotone vocals probably won’t drift too far, and barring a few minor changes, the music almost certainly won’t either. But if you liked the duo’s self-titled debut album released last year, chances are you’ll hit the dance floor with This is Forever as well.

– Joe Shearer

“American Idol”s first country singing winner Carrie Underwood is back with Carnival Ride. Underwood’s second album features the single “So Small,” which began airing on the radio over the summer.

Other than Underwood having helped write a good portion of the album, namely “So Small,” “All-American Girl” and “Crazy Dreams,” it wouldn’t appear that her sound has changed at all. And why should it after the multi-platinum sales of her first album?

Although she seems to be continuing her down-home Americana theme, let’s hope she’s departed from the silly angst as heard in “Before He Cheats” and shallow spirituality like “Jesus Take the Wheel.”

– Allan Lamb

Jennifer Lopez’s sixth studio release, Brave, is a step back into the genre that first made her popular. After putting all of her pseudo-artistry into “Como Ama una Mujer,” which debuted in March 2007, Lopez returns to the dance-friendly roots that please both label executives and club hoppers.

But perhaps Brave is too strong of a word here.

Although the album doesn’t come out for another week, just a quick glance at Brave is telling, as the song titles sound more like NECCO Sweethearts Conversation Hearts than Grammy award-winning hits: “Stay Together.” “Forever.” “Be Mine.” “I Need Love.”

Then again, people love those heart-shaped pieces of chalk for a reason. And the same goes for Mrs. Marc Anthony.

– Jinae West

Alicia Keys is back – this time with no apologies, no compromises and holding nothing back.

Her third studio album is appropriately titled As I Am. Stripped down to the essential, the album is a 14-track collection of songs crafted by Keys to directly tell the story of who she is, as a powerful young diva and as a young woman living life and discovering who she is.

The first single off the album, “The One,” is telling of Keys’ drive to be, above all, herself. The track features her unique brand of mellow R&B and the sweet but powerful vocals that made her a star with her debut, Songs in A Minor. As I Am also features a duet with John Mayer on “Lesson Learned.”

Keys told MTV earlier this year As I Am was very “fresh and new,” and coming from an artist both as intricate and bold as Keys, it’s a promise she should more than fulfill.

– Adam Griffiths

Exile on Mainstream is the perfect album title for Matchbox 20.

After a 3-year break from pop culture, the band that wrote radio-friendly songs such as “Smooth” and “3 a.m.” returns with a new album and single that is already number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The first single, “How Far We’ve Come,” is already getting major radio play. Never has a song about the end of the world been so catchy. Matchbox 20 started in 1996 and after its first single, “Push,” critics brushed them off as a one-hit wonder. After three records, including a debut that went platinum 10 times, countless singles that have reached the top of the charts and three Grammys, Matchbox 20 is proof that a post-grunge era band can become mainstream with staying power.

– Brittany Moseley

Chase This Light is Jimmy Eat World’s first full-length studio album since 2004’s Futures.

Their audience can expect the first single, “Big Casino,” to have that familiar, pop-rock Jimmy Eat World sound. The song starts with a strong guitar rift and is full of relatable college-kid lyrics. Its 14 tracks are strong, alternative goodness from beginning to end.

The group teamed with Butch Vig to produce the new set. The Band told Billboard, “there are three or four songs that sound like classic Jimmy Eat World, with angular, razor-sharp guitars. There are a couple that are a lot more dreamy, and some that are very groove-acious. Anybody who is fan will like this record.”

– Megan Rozsa