Arctic Breeze: The British music press is no stranger to hyperbole, but after topping the charts and picking up a key Brit Award (for Best British Breakthrough Act) in their homeland, the Arctic Monkeys could be on to something. The Stateside release of their debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, is frill-free, but songs like "Mardy Bum," "Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong But ..." and "Red Light Indicates the Doors Are Secure" are fun for the whole family.
Diddy on Their Minds: In what could be one of the weakest disses ever recorded — if you could even call it that — Dilated Peoples take one of Diddy's famous lines ("Don't worry if I write rhymes/ I write checks") and turn it into — don't look! — "Don't worry if I write checks/ I write rhymes." Whichever way they're facing on "Back Again," the good-natured Peeps — who featured Kanye West on their 2004 single "This Way" — get a few lay-ups by Talib Kweli and a bunch of underground talent: Dr. Greenthumb, Defari, Capleton and Krondon.
Wicked World: Stumble across the Wicked Wisdom Web site and you probably wouldn't guess the band is Jada Pinkett Smith's metal project, for which she is apparently going by the name Jada Koren. But judging from the track list of the Wicked's self-named debut, there's little doubt as to who this record's about: "Something Inside of Me," "Bleed All Over Me," "Set Me Free" and "Don't Hate Me." (Also feeling wicked this week is Bird York, whose 12-track Wicked Little High features her "In the Deep" contribution to "Crash.")
Hello William: So what's William Orbit been up to since producing Blur's Think Tank in 2003? Well, cultivating some Depeche Mode archival releases, but also fine-tuning his first solo record since 2000's Pieces in a Modern Style. His new one, Hello Waveforms, features Tricky's brother Finley Quaye — Orbit produced his Much More Than Much Love — plus the Sugababes and his old Strange Cargo pal, Laurie Meyer. Let's hold off on the astronomical puns this time around, people.
Unrepentantly Indie: Death Cab for Cutie's hop from career-long label Barsuk to major label Atlantic for last year's Plans helped generate that many more radio spins of "Soul Meets Body." But Chris Walla & Co. are going covert again for The John Byrd EP, which cobbles together live cuts from the band's Transatlanticism tour. Gaining them a few extra indie-cred points, Death Cab tack on an unreleased cover of Sebadoh's "Brand New Love."
Not to be confused with Sebadoh's Jason Loewenstein is Tim Loewen, who plays bass on the new Destroyer album, Destroyer's Rubies. New Pornographer contributor Dan Bejar expands his side project into a full ensemble this time around, turning to Mayo Thompson of Red Krayola and saxophone player Scott Morgan on tracks like "A Dangerous Woman Up to a Point," "Priest's Knees" and "Sick Priest Learns to Last Forever."
Identity Crisis: An album of songs sung by '80s action-star/cyborg Robocop might come across as rather, uh, one-note, but luckily there's Nuremberg, Germany's Robocop Kraus to take up the mantle. The man-machine would probably have trouble understanding one track in particular on They Think They Are the Robocop Kraus: "You Don't Have To Shout" revolves around Mathias Rust, who flew took off in a plane in Hamburg and landed in Communist Moscow — smack-dab in the middle of the Red Square — at age 19.
Back to cases of mistaken identity, that's not Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" who's putting out The Day the River Sang. It's the John Stewart of your parents' (or grandparents') generation, the Kingston Trio guy. One standout track is "New Orleans," on which Stewart reminisces about the Katrina catastrophe amid a spare piano.
And speaking of veteran musicians paying tribute to the Crescent City, Kinks leader Ray Davies provides a similar reflection on "The Tourist," which is centered around his home in New Orleans.
Heavy on the Visuals: As the tension builds over the major-label debut by metal's latest and greatest hope, Atlanta's Mastodon, their former label, Relapse, has been emptying out the archives. Call of the Mastodon, issued earlier this month, huddled together the band's earliest recordings, while this week's "The Workhorse Chronicles" DVD has a startling 30 tracks (the band's only put out two albums so far) and loads of interview material.
Eels also dump a bundle of tracks onto Live at Town Hall, for which E is backed with a string quartet and two multi-instrumentalists. The concert release comes as a digipak or as a standalone DVD with additional songs, four short docs and more.
Elbow are also feeling the video bug: A limited edition of their Leaders of the Free World comes with a bonus DVD, and they're distinguishing the special package with an olive-green cover.
But while many are transforming audio content to video this week, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (Bad Seeds, Dirty Three) head in the opposite direction with their soundtrack to "The Proposition." Cave wrote the screenplay to the Australian indie flick, which stars Guy Pearce and Emily Watson; the funereal musical accompaniment features a lot of tribal drumming and extended drones.
Cracker Vs. Cracker: One, two, three, four, Virgin and Cooking Vinyl declare a Cracker war. The major label — which released Cracker's first four albums — wants fans to get Get on With It: The Best of Cracker. Virgin advertises the "first single-disc compilation of their best songs," which has the original versions of classics like "Euro-Trash Girl" and "Low," as being "produced in collaboration with the band!" Cooking Vinyl, however — they who put out a 2002 Cracker live record — say Greatest Hits Redux is "the officially sanctioned greatest-hits package," even though the songs themselves are re-recordings. To make matters worse, the track lists are nearly identical ... who said a little competition wasn't good for the marketplace?
Song Titles of the Week:
"Engrish Bread," "Push the Eagle's Stomach" and "Fishstick Gumbo" from Man Man's Six Demon Bag
- Adair - The Destruction of Everything Is the Beginning of Something New (Warcon)
- Agnes Chan - Forget Yourself (with DVD; Bungalo)
- Arab Strap - Last Romance (Transdreamer)
- Architects - Revenge (Anodyne)
- Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (Domino)
Read: "You Hear It First: Arctic Monkeys"
- Bad Wizard - Sky High (Howler)
- Bleeding Kansas - Dead Under Decor (Abacus)
- Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - "The Proposition" soundtrack (Mute)
- Chicago Underground Duo - In Praise of Shadows (Thrill Jockey)
- Coldcut - Sound Mirrors (Ninja Tune)
- BJ Cole - Trouble in Paradise (DualDisc; Silverline)
- Cowboy Mouth - Voodoo Shoppe (Eleven Thirty)
- Ray Davies - Other People's Lives (V2)
- Death Cab for Cutie - The John Byrd EP (Barsuk)
Read: "Death Cab For Cutie Live EP Due March 1; Next LP In The Works"
- Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies (Merge)
- Dilated Peoples - 20/20 (Capitol)
- Jimmy Edgar - Color Strip (Warp)
- Eels (With Strings) - Live at Town Hall (digipak; Vagrant)
- Elbow - Leaders of the Free World (limited-edition version with DVD also available; V2)
- Evans Blue - The Melody and the Energetic Nature of Volume (Hollywood)
- Ex-Boyfriends - Dear John (Absolutely Kosher)
- Folly - Resist Convenience (Triple Crown)
- Stephen Fretwell - Magpie (Interscope)
- Gamble Brothers Band - Continuator (Emergent)
- Tony Gilkyson - Goodbye Guitar (Rolling Sea)
- Jesse Harris - Mineral (digipak; Secret Sun)
- Head Like a Kite - Random Portraits of the Home Movie (Pattern25)
- Hell Is for Heroes - Transmit Disrupt (Burning Heart)
- Janis Ian - Folk Is the New Black (Cooking Vinyl)
- Bob James - Urban Flamingo (Koch)
- Arden Kaywin - Quarter Life Crisis (Arden Kaywin/PEGA)
- Kidz Bop Kids - Kidz Bop 9 (with comic book; Razor & Tie)
- Nils Landgren and Joe Sample - Creole Love Call (Highnote)
- The Lashes - Get It (Red Ink/ Epic)
- Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra - Strings and Things (Ubiquity)
- Lilys - Everything Wrong Is Imaginary (Manifesto)
- The Loved Ones - Keep Your Heart (Fat Wreck Chords)
- Andrew Hill - Time Lines (Blue Note)
- Man Man - Six Demon Bag (Ace Fu)
- Marley's Ghost - Spooked (Sage Arts)
- Metal Hearts - Socialize (Suicide Squeeze)
- Midstates - Blocking Twilight (Reincarnate Music)
- Willie Nile - Streets of New York (Reincarnate)
- William Orbit - Hello Waveforms (Sanctuary)
- Anna Oxygen - This Is an Exercise (Kill Rock Stars)
- Lori Perry - I Found It in You (Alliant Music Group)
- Gianluca Petrella - Indigo4 (Blue Note)
- The Product - Scarface Presents the Product: One Hunid (Koch)
- Remembering Never - God Save Us (Ferret)
Buy Now: God Save Us (Ferret)
- Robinella - Solace for the Lonely (Dualtone)
- Robocop Kraus - They Think They Are the Robocop Kraus (Epitaph)
- Shanice - Every Woman Dreams (Playtyme)
- The Slackers - Peculiar (Hellcat)
- Slave to the System - Slave to the System (Spitfire)
- Souls She Said - As Templar Nites (Dim Mak/ Vice/ Atlantic)
- John Stewart - The Day the River Sang (Appleseed)
- Street Drum Corps - Street Drum Corps (Warcon)
- Teddy Thompson - Separate Ways (Verve Forecast)
- Torture Killer - Swarm! (Metal Blade)
- The Derek Trucks Band - Songlines (Columbia)
- Two Gallants - What the Toll Tells (Saddle Creek)
- Wicked Wisdom - Wicked Wisdom (Suburban Noize)
Read: "Jada Pinkett Smith Lives Out Her Axl Rose Dreams"
- Bird York - Wicked Little High (Narada)
- Various artists - Kidz Bop 9 (Razor & Tie)
- Various artists - Take Action! Volume 5 (enhanced; Sub City)
- Various artists - Texas Unplugged - Vol. 2 (digipak; Palo Duro)
- Various artists - "Madea's Family Reunion" soundtrack (Motown)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
- APB - Something to Believe In - 20th Anniversary Edition (two CDs; Young American)
- Billy Bragg - Billy Bragg: Volume 1 (box set), Brewing Up With Billy Bragg, Life's a Riot With Spy Vs. Spy, Live & Dubious/ The Internationale and Talking With the Taxman About Poetry (Yep Roc)
- The Byrds - Preflyte (Sundazed)
- Califone - Roomsound (Thrill Jockey)
- Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash - 16 Biggest Hits (Columbia/Legacy)
- The Chieftans - The Essential Chieftains (two CDs; RCA/Legacy)
- John Coltrane - Coltrane Live in Paris (Passport Audio)
- Cracker - Get on With It: The Best of Cracker (Virgin)
- Cracker - Greatest Hits Redux (Cooking Vinyl)
- Flamin' Groovies - Bust Out at Full Speed: The Sire Years (box set; DBK Works)
- Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Twelve Inches (ZTT)
- Merle Haggard - Hag/ Someday We'll Look Back, Mama Tried/ Pride in What I Am, Sing Me Back Home/ The Legend of Bonnie & Clyde and Strangers/ Swinging Doors and the Bottle Let Me Down (Capitol)
- Merle Haggard - Live From Austin TX (New West)
- The Knickerbockers - Rockin'! With the Knickerbockers (Sundazed)
- Mott the Hoople - All the Young Dudes and Mott (Columbia/Legacy)
- Santana - Santana III: Legacy Edition (two CDs; Columbia/Legacy)
- Seven Dub - Dub Club Edition: Rock With Me Sessions (Collision Cause Chap)
- Various artists - Essential Irish Drinking Songs and Singalongs (two CDs; RCA/Legacy)
- Various artists - Original Irish Tenors: The Legendary Voices of Celtic Song (RCA/Legacy)
- GG Allin and the Murder Junkies - "Terror in America - Live 1993" (Music Video Distributors)
- Syd Barrett - "Under Review" (Music Video Distributors)
- Blow Monkeys - "Animal Magic - Blow Monkeys Live" (Cherry Red)
- Eels (With Strings) - "Live at Town Hall" (Image Entertainment)
- Europe - "Live From the Dark" (special edition with bonus CD; Music Video Distributors)
- Iron Maiden - "Death on the Road" (three DVDs; Columbia)
- Kid Dynamite - "Four Years in One Gulp" (Jade Tree)
- Mastodon - "The Workhorse Chronicles" (Relapse)
- Elvis Presley - "The Memphis Flash: Elvis Presley, Sun Records and How It All Began" (Music Video Distributors)
- Third World - "Music Hall in Concert" (Music Video Distributors)
- Turbo - "The History: 1980-2005" (Music Video Distributors)
- Johnny "Guitar" Watson - "Music Hall in Concert" (Music Video Distributors)
- Various artists - "Metal's Darkside: The Hard and the Furious, Volume 1" (Music Video Distributors)
- Hawthorne Heights - If Only You Were Lonely (Victory)
- Kid Rock - Live Trucker (Atlantic)
- Ne-Yo - In My Own Words (Def Jam)
Read: You Hear It First: Jay-Z's Picks
- Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Ballad of the Broken Seas (V2)
- Juvenile - Reality Check (Atlantic)
- Matisyahu - Youth (Epic)
- E-40 - My Ghetto Report Card (Warner Bros.)
- Fall Out Boy - From Under the Cork Tree: Limited Black Clouds and Underdogs Tour Edition (Island)
Read: "Fall Out Boy Promise An 'Event' Video For 'Sixteen Candles' "
- Hard-Fi - Stars of CCTV (Atlantic)
Read: "You Hear It First: Hard-Fi"