Cool as Ice: He's been there, back, there again and back again a few more times, but LL Cool J apparently still wants all the help he can get. The guest list for his Todd Smith LP speaks to the hip-hop icon's impressive stature: Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez, Jamie Foxx, Teairra Marí, 112, Ginuwine, Freeway, Lyfe, Ryan Roby, Mary Mary and Juelz Santana. That's not to mention producers Jermaine Dupri, the Neptunes, Scott Storch and Bink. Or the extra boost Ne-Yo gives LL with a bonus-track remix of the up-and-comer's "So Sick." Or Jesus, L.A. Reid and his barbers Jay and John, all of whom get props (and with respect to Christ, they are mad props indeed) in the credits.
Judas Mae C a Cutie?: Looking for some indie pop and a few tips on how to shoot a short film? Look no further than Death Cab for Cutie's "Directions" DVD, which is rife with videos — one for each track on the band's recent Plans, plus clips for two unissued cuts — as well as director's instructions, commentary, behind-the-scenes action, original sketches, alternate endings and production stills (each video has at least one bonus feature). The band enlisted a crew of rookie directors to handle the clips, although noted auteur Lance Bangs is the one behind "Talking Like Turnstiles."
L.A. punks the Mae Shi are going a similar route with their first DVD, "Lock the Skull, Load the Gun," for which they enlisted a fleet of art students and friends to direct 32 videos. Their video disc also has a documentary surrounding their Celebration tour, including footage of house parties, bar mitzvahs and other joyous shindigs.
The tone is just slightly more somber on Pimp C's "Pimptaliation" DVD, which, despite the funny title, documents the rapper trying to get back on his feet after being released from jail. Lightening the mood a little are Young Jeezy, Scarface, Lil' Flip and Pimp C's erstwhile UGK bud Bun B, all of whom head to the studio to record with C.
But who's more preoccupied with "breaking the law" than Judas Priest? The metal gods' "Live Vengeance '82" was tucked into limited runs of their 2004 Metalogy box set, but now the video's seeing a proper release as a standalone disc bursting with concert takes of "Screaming for Vengeance," "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)" and "Living After Midnight."
Eagles Have Landed ... Again: Some of the new Eagles of Death Metal songs on Death by Sexy sound harmless (and hilarious) enough — "Cherry Cola," "The Ballad of Queen Bee and Baby Duck" — but rest assured, the so-called Dream Boys do have an ulterior motive (see for reference some other Sexy songs, like "I Gotta Feeling [Just Nineteen]" and "Bag O' Miracles"). The LP was recorded in 12 days by Eagles drummer Josh Homme (a.k.a. Carlo Von Sexron, J. Ho or, most recently, Baby Duck) and his Queens of the Stone Age amigo Alain Johannes.
Trackin' All Over the World: Everyone seems to be taking matters into their own hands this week. Ex-Nine Inch Nails drummer Jerome Dillon wrote, produced, performed and arranged almost every note of his new project Nearly's debut, Reminder. Based on a dream that haunted Dillon and broken into three four-song "movements," the record was laid to tape across the globe, from a hotel room in Amsterdam to a beach in Australia.
Another recent globe-trotter is Mr. Anonymous — better known as onetime Samples drummer Jeep MacNichol — who headed to Kingston, Jamaica, three times to craft his eponymous debut. There he hooked up with Sly and Robbie, Bounty Killer and members of Black Uhuru and the English Beat, who helped MacNichol "hang out under the palm trees ... and write lyrics all afternoon."
And there's good reason why the title to the latest effort by Paris' Gotan Project — Lunático — doesn't sound especially French. Not content recording around their villa natale, the quartet hauled its production equipment to Buenos Aires' Studio ION, a throne usually reserved for tango nobility. Ushering in some top Argentinean talent, GP also tapped Calexico for the first jingle, "Amor Porteno."
Speaking of 'Lexico, their fifth opus, Garden Ruin, slides into stores in digipak form and boasts songs like "Letter to Bowie Knife," "Panic Open String" and "Bisbee Blue." CD-buying fans, keep your eyes peeled: The initial pressing of the disc has a code that lets you download exclusive unreleased material online. Vinyl fans, rejoice: The black circle contains the exclusive-tracks code, plus a second code that enables you to download all of Garden Ruin gratis.
Song Titles of the Week:
"." from Pretty Girls Make Graves' Elan Vital
Built to Spill's You in Reverse and Christopher O'Riley's Home to Oblivion: An Elliott Smith Tribute: Fans will surely relate to "The Wait," having been patient for new BTS material for the past five years. But that song is actually featured at the end of the indie-rock heroes' new record; the first cut, "Goin' Against Your Mind," is only a couple of minutes long. Frontman Doug Martsch welcomes new guitarist Jim Roth and an organ-playing Sam Coomes over the course of the 10 tracks, which also includes "Conventional Wisdom," "Just a Habit" and "Mess With Time." Speaking of Coomes, right around the time he started up his still-thriving Quasi in 1996, he partnered with Elliott Smith for a separate project, Heatmiser. As it turns out, Smith is being hailed this week by noted pianist O'Riley, who previously gifted Radiohead with two sets of solo tributes. Hear O'Riley accent the classical-music influences in Smith songs like "Cupid's Trick" and "Stupidity Tries," and read his touching liner-note essay saluting the late, great songwriter.
Imaad Wasif's Imaad Wasif and Mountain Con's Sancho Panza: Occasional Yeah Yeah Yeahs collaborator and tour opener Wasif pulls a self-titled record out of his sleeve this week. Venturing into solo territory for the first time, the Alaska! and New Folk Implosion agent found inspiration in classical Eastern music, Swedish artist Hilma af Klint and a book by Truman Capote to craft songs like "Into the Static," "Tomorrow Is Ours" and "(Dandelion)." Rock band Mountain Con — actually five musicians and one DJ — also go the literary route with Sancho Panza, named after a character from Cervantes' "Don Quixote" who was promised an island for traveling with the klutzy adventurer.
Lucero's The Attic Tapes and Lambchop's The Decline of Country and Western Civilization Part II: The Woodwind Years: The Memphis, Tennessee, country-folk fellas have cranked out five proper releases, but early in their career they eked out a handmade set Alternative Press called "one of the top five home recordings ever." The new, spruced-up version has three additional early demos and two rare 7-inch tracks, including the band's cover of Jawbreaker's "Kiss the Bottle." Over in Nashville, like-minded country-folksters Lambchop have an archival collection all their own (we'll save space by not repeating the title). This set culls singles, B-sides, unreleased tracks and more from the band's 1994-1999 era, and a second comp spanning the latter years is due in the near future.
- The 303s - Lines of Parallel Minds (Cult Hero)
- Aloha - Some Echoes (Polyvinyl)
- Ark - State of the Ark (Rebel Group)
- Attacker - The Unknown (Sentinel Steel)
- Jeff Bates - Leave the Light On (RCA)
- Be Your Own Pet - Be Your Own Pet (Dim Mak)
- The Black Angels - Passover (Light in the Attic)
- Robert Bradley - What About That: New Year's Eve in Bloomington (two-CD live set; Kufala)
- Bratz - Genie Magic (Hip-O)
- Buckcherry - 15 (Eleven Seven)
- Built to Spill - You in Reverse (Warner Bros.)
Buy Now: You in Reverse (Warner Bros.)
- Bullets and Octane - In the Mouth of the Young (RCA)
- Calexico - Garden Ruin (digipak; Quarterstick)
Buy Now: Garden Ruin (Quarterstick)
- Crystal Skulls - Outgoing Behavior (Suicide Squeeze)
- The Danger O's - Little Machines (Blackout!)
- Brigitte DeMeyer - Something After All (BDM)
- Dixie Witch - Smoke & Mirrors (Small Stone)
- Drive By - I Hate Everyday Without You Kid (Riot Squad)
- Eagles of Death Metal - Death by Sexy (Downtown)
Read: "Eagles Of Death Metal Frontman's 'Soft Boomerang Of Love' Takes Center Stage In Clip")
Buy Now: Death by Sexy (Downtown)
- Eulorhythmics - Extended Play (All Natural)
- Euphoria - Precious Time (digipak; Zoë)
- Feathers - Feathers (Gnomonsong)
- Fightstar - They Liked You Better When You Were Dead (Deep Elm)
- Juan Diego Flórez - Sentimiento Latino (Decca)
- Sue Foley - New Used Car (Ruf)
- Gotan Project - Lunático (XL/ Beggars Banquet)
- Tre Hardson - Slimkid3's Cafe (Reggae Lounge)
- Hit the Lights - This Is a Stick Up ... Don't Make It a Murder (Triple Crown)
- Jesu - Silver (EP; Hydra Head)
- Toby Keith - White Trash With Money (Show Dog Nashville)
- Knights of the New Crusade - Knight Beat(Alternative Tentacles)
- Albert Lee - Road Runner (Sugar Hill)
- LKN - Postulate 1 (Greyday)
- LL Cool J - Todd Smith (enhanced; Def Jam)
Read: "With Blige, J. Lo, Foxx On Board, LL Cool J's New LP Is A Guest Fest"
Buy Now: Todd Smith (Def Jam)
- Benny Mardones - Let's Hear It for Love (Warrior)
- Edwin McCain - Lost in America (Vanguard)
- Mecca Normal - Observer (Kill Rock Stars)
- Mint - Magnetism (Funzalo)
- Moneen - The Red Tree (digipak; Vagrant)
- Mono - You Are There (Temporary Residence)
- Mountain Con - Sancho Panza (Hidden Peak)
- Mr. Anonymous - Mr. Anonymous (Kab America)
- Tim Murphy - Ain't No Shame (Big 7)
- Nearly - Straight to Nowhere (Kufala)
Read: "Ex-NIN Drummer Welcomes You To His Nightmare — Reznor Responds"
- Negative Trend - Negative Trend (2.13.61)
- New Bruises - Transmit! Transmit! (Kiss of Death)
- Lee Newman - Happy Together: The '60s Songbook (SLK)
- On Thorns I Lay - Angeldust (Black Lotus)
- Christopher O'Riley - Home to Oblivion: An Elliott Smith Tribute (World Village)
- Parts & Labor - Stay Afraid (Jagjaguwar)
- Pinetop Seven - Beneath Confederate Lake (Empyrean)
- Grace Potter & the Nocturnals - Nothing but the Water (Hollywood)
- Daniel Powter - Daniel Powter (Warner Bros.)
- Pretty Girls Make Graves - Elan Vital (Matador)
Buy Now: Elan Vital (Matador)
- Punchline - 37 Everywhere (Fueled by Ramen)
- Raffi - Quiet Time: Songs for a Pause, a Cuddle or a Nap (Rounder)
- Josh Ritter - The Animal Years (digipak; V2)
- Rosesdead - Stages (One Day Savior)
- Saves the Day - Sound the Alarm (Vagrant)
- Mark Schatz - Steppin' in the Boiler House (Rounder Select)
- Scissorfight - Jaggernaut (Tortura)
- Shonen Knife - Genki Shock! (digipak; Glue Factory)
- Throttlerod - Nail (Small Stone)
- Vandermark 5 - Free Jazz Classics Vol. 3 and Vol. 4 (Atavistic)
- Peter Walker - Young Gravity (Dangerbird)
- Imaad Wasif - Imaad Wasif (Kill Rock Stars)
- Whysall Lane - Whysall Lane (Blackball)
- Wilderness - Vessel States (Jagjaguwar)
- Tom Zé - Estudando O Pagode (Luaka Bop)
- Various artists - 5rc Sur la Mer Samp-le-Mer (5 Rue Christine)
- Various artists - Headbangers Ball: The Revenge (two CDs; Roadrunner)
- Various artists - "La Mujer de Mi Hermano" soundtrack (Nacional)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
- Avail - 4AM Friday, Dixie and Over the James (Jade Tree)
- The Beatles - The Capitol Albums Vol. 2 (available as four-disc, limited-edition brick or longbox set)
- Brian Eno + David Byrne - My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (enhanced; Nonesuch)
- Grateful Dead - Built to Last, Dead Set (two CDs), In the Dark and Reckoning (digipaks; Rhino)
- Tish Hinojosa - Retrospective (Varèse)
- Judas Priest - The Essential Judas Priest (two CDs; Columbia/ Legacy)
- Lambchop - The Decline of Country and Western Civilization Part II: The Woodwind Years (Merge)
Buy Now: The Decline of Country and Western Civilization Part II: The Woodwind Years (Merge)
- Lucero - Attic Tapes (Liberty & Lament)
- Queen - Stone Cold Classics (limited edition; Hollywood)
- Saving Jane - Girl Next Door (Universal)
- Various artists - Journey Into Paradise: The Larry Levan Story (two CDs; Rhino)
- Various artists - The Tommy Boy Story, Vol. 1 (two CDs; Rhino)
- Various artists - Ultimate Disco 2 (Madacy)
- Death Cab for Cutie - "Directions" (Atlantic)
Read: "Death Cab For Cutie Taking A Page From 50 Cent's Playbook "
- Judas Priest - "Live Vengeance '82" (Columbia/ Legacy)
- The Mae Shi - "Lock the Skull, Load the Gun" (5 Rue Christine)
- Pimp C - "Pimptaliation" (Asylum/ Rap-A-Lot)
- Sun Ra Arkestra - "Live in Oakland" and "Live at the Roadhouse" (Transparency)
- The Dresden Dolls - Yes, Virginia ... (digipak; Roadrunner)
- NOFX - Wolves in Wolves Clothing (Fat Wreck Chords)
Buy Now: Wolves in Wolves Clothing (Fat Wreck Chords)
- Various artists - "Coachella" (Epitaph)
- Godsmack - IV (Republic)
Read: "Godsmack Finishing Up 'Killer' Fourth LP, Working On Football Theme"
Buy Now: IV (Republic)
- Rihanna - A Girl Like Me (Def Jam)
Read: "Rihanna Getting In Touch With Her Rock Side For Next LP"
- Taking Back Sunday - Louder Now (Warner Bros.)
Read: "Taking Back Sunday Say Debuting At #800 Wouldn't Bother Them")
- Lil' Flip - I Need Mine (Sony Urban)
- Mobb Deep - Blood Money (Interscope)
Read: "Mobb Deep, 50 Cent Get Tattoos To Prove Their Loyalty"
- Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam (J)
Read: "Pearl Jam, Post-'Therapy': 'The Sex Is Better Than Ever!' "
- Thursday - A City by the Light Divided (Island)
Read: "Thursday Frontman Says He Doesn't Want To Exploit My Chemical Romance, But ..."
- Tool - 10,000 Days (Volcano)