As you can see, it's a pretty weak week for new releases — don't expect to see many new faces cracking next week's top 10 ... or 20, for that matter. In fact, it's so slow that we've decided to double up some of the latest rack contenders tag-team style and see who'd come out on top. It's probably the only time you'll see a margarita-swilling folk legend conspiring with death-metal cretins to body-slam a band of cabaret-loving punks.
Round One: Tricked-Out Magic
Alchemist and Elefant vs. Moby and Coachella: Alchemist is hoping to turn his fading 1st Infantry record — it's been out for almost two years — back into gold with a DVD-enhanced deluxe edition. New York dynamos Elefant are up to some mojo of their own with their second release, The Black Magic Show, taking on producer Don Gilmore (Good Charlotte, Linkin Park) and mixer Andy Wallace (Nirvana, Sonic Youth). In the other corner, Moby pours two bonus films, a cover of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" and a full CD of remixes into his "Live - Hotel Tour 2005" set, then gangs up with the cast of "Coachella: The Film" — including the Flaming Lips, Radiohead and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
When the other Coachella backups — Belle and Sebastian, Muse and Tenacious D — find themselves up against Al's impressive guests (Nas, Game and T.I.), it's time to ring the bell.
Round Two: Burnin' Up
The Fiery Furnaces and Just a Fire vs. Judge Jules and the Red Krayola: Native Chicago twosome the FF burn into this competition with their fourth opus, Bitter Tea, frothing over with songs like "The Vietnamese Telephone Ministry," "Police Sweater Blood Vow" and "Whistle Rhapsody?" Windy City cohorts Just a Fire — featuring members of June of 44 and Sweep the Leg Johnny — keep the temperature raised with their second record, Spanish Time. On the other end of the ring, pre-eminent DJ Judge Jules dishes up his first domestic release in almost 13 years with The Global Warm-Up Mix CD, which cobbles together tracks by lesser-known players like Signalrunner, Randy Katana and E-Craig; and the 40-year-old Red Krayola throw another iron in the fire with their ill-named Introduction, even if it is their first studio set in more than five years.
Winners: Fiery Furnaces and Just a Fire out-sweat the competition.
Round Three: Lunch Break
The Disco Biscuits and Banana Blender Surprise vs. Matthew Sweet and Marshall Chapman: Jam-rock spazz-outs the Disco Biscuits have the most colorful album cover this week with The Wind at Four to Fly, and their tag-team partners Banana Blender Surprise promise even more dietary goodness on their own double-disc affair, Paint the Town Brown, which culls together most of the band's old material. Matthew Sweet and the Bangles' Susanna Hoffs come together to recap some of their favorite '60s tunes by the Beatles, Neil Young and the Velvet Underground for Under the Covers, Vol. 1, while Chapman antes up with Mellowicious!, her first outing in nine years.
Winners: Sweet and Mellowicious! let their sugary tendencies get the better of them, and DB and BBS' continental breakfast makes them the new intercontinental champions.
Round Four: Getting Frisky
Animal Liberation Orchestra and Be Your Own Pet vs. the Lovely Feathers and Lizzie West: ALO put out a different version of Fly Between Falls last summer, but their new one has a fresh recording of "Walls of Jericho" — a song featured on Jack Johnson's recent live DVD — plus reworked takes of "Girl, I Wanna Lay You Down" and "Barbecue." Be Your Own Pet, in the meantime, keep it elementary on their Summer Sensation EP with tracks like "Bicycle, Bicycle" and "Fire Department." On the opposing side, the Lovely Feathers get up on their Hind Hind Legs digipak to name off a couple of their heroes on "Pope Jean Paul" and "Rod Stewart," while Lizzie West ropes in the White Buffalo to craft I Pledge Allegiance to Myself, on which she covers songs by Bob Marley and Steve Goodman.
Winners: Freedom fighters ALO and Be Your Own Pet claw through their opponents (with some help from Elefant, who hunt down the White Buffalo when the ref's not looking).
Round Five: Location, Location
The Dresden Dolls and Stereophonics vs. Jimmy Buffett and Impaled Nazarene: Cabaret hasn't stopped Boston's Dresden Dolls from showing some skin on their Yes, Virginia ... digipak; just look to songs like "Sex Changes" and "First Orgasm" for proof. They get some help from the 'Phonics, who cram 20 nuggets into the two-disc Live From Dakota, which the Brits are putting out on their own Vox Populi imprint. Buffett heads to the Stereophonics' homeland with "Werewolves of London," which appears on the "Hoot" soundtrack; but things are noticeably grittier up north in Finland, where death-metal maniacs Impaled Nazarene send up "One Dead Nation Under Dead God" and "Goat Sodomy" as part of their Pro Patria Finlandia.
Winners: After the other side passes out from too many margaritas and too much animal intercourse, the Dresden Dolls and Stereophonics are the last ones standing.
Round Six: Evil vs. Good
Rye Coalition and Killing Joke vs. the Church and Dio: Indie-rock vets Rye Coalition stuck true to their roots and pulled off a heroic feat by nabbing Curses — their fourth, Dave Grohl-produced record — back from Interscope, breaking their contract with the major label but retaining ownership of the LP all the same (now the record's dropping on underground imprint Gern Blandsten). Backing up Rye are Killing Joke, who holed up in a basement in Prague and used tape-echo machines dating back to 1979 to craft their nine-track Hosannas From the Basement of Hell. On God's side are the Church, who recorded their Uninvited Like the Clouds last summer in Sydney; and Dio, who's Holy Diver Live gives him an excuse to recap hits like "Stand Up and Shout" and "Heaven and Hell," the latter of which he originally tracked with the very unholy Black Sabbath. (Completing the circle, Grohl played drums on Tenacious D's tribute track "Dio.")
Winners: Daniel Johnston — whose documentary "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" precipitated this week's Welcome to My World: The Music of Daniel Johnston archival set — dives into the ring and pile-drives the Church and Dio. Who says Satan can't cheat?
Main Prize: Hogs all around for the winners! There's Demolition Doll Rods' There Is a Difference, plus reissues of the Knights' Hot Rod High and Mr. Gasser and the Weirdos' Hot Rod Hootenanny and Rods N' Rat Finks. Now that's a hootenanny.
Song Title of the Week:
"Cool and Unusual Punishment" from NOFX's Wolves in Wolves' Clothing
- Mindi Abair - Life Less Ordinary (GRP)
- Above & Beyond - Tri-State (Ultra)
- AFX - Chosen Lords (Rephlex)
- Ben Allison - Cowboy Justice (Palmetto)
- Karrin Allyson - Footprints (Concord Jazz)
- American Heartbreak - American Heartbreak (Liquor & Poker)
- Android Lust - Stripped & Stitched (Projekt)
- Be Your Own Pet - Summer Sensation (EP; Ecstatic Peace)
- Adrian Belew - Side Three (Sanctuary)
- Anthony Braxton Quintet - Live at the Royal Festival Hall - London (2004) (Leo)
- Mel Brown and the Homewreckers - Blues - A Beautiful Thing (Electro-Fi)
- Richard Butler - Richard Butler (Koch)
- Marshall Chapman - Mellowicious! (Tallgirl)
- The Church - Uninvited Like the Clouds (Cooking Vinyl)
- Cities - Cities (digipak; Yep Roc)
- Cretin - Freakery (Relapse)
- Crime in Stereo - The Troubled Stateside (Nitro)
- A.J. Croce - Cantos (digipak; Seedling)
- Da Back Wudz - Wood Work Album (Universal)
- Demolition Doll Rods - There Is a Difference (Swami)
- Dio - Holy Diver Live (two CDs; Eagle)
- The Disco Biscuits - The Wind at Four to Fly (digipak; two CDs; Sci Fidelity)
- The Dresden Dolls - Yes, Virginia ... (digipak; Roadrunner)
- Drive-By Truckers - A Blessing and a Curse (New West)
- Elefant - The Black Magic Show (Kemado)
- Erasure - Union Street (Mute)
- The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea (digipak also available; Fat Possum)
- The Frauds - The Frauds (High Wire)
- Ian Gillian - Gillian's Inn (DualDisc; Immergent)
- Jon Dee Graham - Full (Freedom/ City Hall)
- Gram Rabbit - Cultivation (Stinky)
- Eddy Grant - Reparation (Ice)
- Hil St. Soul - Soulidified (Shanachie)
- Monica Huggett and Richard Savino - Essential Giuliani Vol I (two CDs; Koch)
- Ihsahn - The Adversary (Candlelight)
- Impaled Nazarene - Pro Patria Finlandia (The End)
- Sherman Irby - Black Warrior (Black Warrior)
- Judge Jules - The Global Warm-Up Mix CD (Koch)
- Junkie XL - Today (Ultra)
- Just a Fire - Spanish Time (Sick Room)
- Kaiser George & the Hi-Risers - Transatlantic Dynamite! (Spinout)
- Kalas - Kalas (digipak; Tee Pee)
- Mat Kearney - Nothing Left to Lose (Aware/ Columbia)
- Killing Joke - Hosannas From the Basement of Hell (Cooking Vinyl)
- Michael Leviton - My Favorite Place to Drown (Ace Fu)
- Eric Lewis & Andy Ratliff - Only Home I've Had (Madjack)
- The Lovely Feathers - Hind Hind Legs (digipak; Equator)
- Lylas - Lessons for Lovers (Fictitious)
- Maritime - We the Vehicles (Flameshovel)
- Muallem - Frankie Splits (digipak; Compost)
- Mugison - Little Trip (Ipecac)
- Ann Nesby - In the Spirit (Shanachie)
- NOFX - Wolves in Wolves Clothing (Fat Wreck Chords)
- Mark O'Leary/ Uri Caine/ Ben Perowsky - Closure (Leo)
- People Under the Stairs - Stepfather (two CDs; Basement)
- Phoenix Mourning - When Excuses Become Antiques (Metal Blade)
- The Red Krayola - Introduction (Drag City)
- Vernon Reid & Masque - Other True Self (Favored Nations)
- Rhino Bucket - & Then It Got Ugly (Acetate)
- Rye Coalition - Curses (with bonus DVD; Gern Blandsten)
- Harmonica Shah - Listen at Me Good (Electro-Fi)
- Sick of It All - Death to Tyrants (Abacus)
- Silent Civilian - Rebirth of the Temple (Mediaskare)
- Spank Rock - Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo (Big Dada)
- Spice 1 - Life After Jive (Real Talk Entertainment)
- Stereophonics - Live From Dakota (two CDs; Vox Populi/ V2)
- Stoley P.T. - Lesson #1 (In Music We Trust Records)
- Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs - Under the Covers, Vol. 1 (Shout! Factory)
- The Tango Saloon - The Tango Saloon (Ipecac)
- Tony Terry - Changed! (Koch)
- Lizzie West & the White Buffalo - I Pledge Allegiance to Myself (Appleseed)
- Rob Whitlock - Sketchin' 2 (Sketchin')
- Various artists - Pure Joy (Koch)
- Various artists - Putumayo Presents: Paris (Putumayo)
- Various artists - Seventeen: The Best New Music (Hear It First!) (BMG Strategic Marketing)
- Various artists - "Hoot" soundtrack (Mailboat)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
- Aiden - Our Gang's Dark Oath (Victory)
- The Alchemist - 1st Infantry Deluxe (with DVD; Koch)
- Animal Liberation Orchestra - Fly Between Falls (Brushfire)
- Banana Blender Surprise - Paint the Town Brown (two CDs; Freedom)
- Chuck Berry - Definitive Collection (Universal)
- Oscar DeLeon - Millennium Collection (Universal)
- Cornell Dupree - Night Fever: The Versatile Sessions (Empire Musicwerks)
- First Choice - It's Not Over: The Greatest Hits of First Choice (Koch)
- Emerson, Lake & Palmer - The Birth of a Band - Isle of Wight Festival, Sat August 29th, 1970 (DualDisc; Eagle Rock)
- The Ghouls - Dracula's Deuce (Sundazed)
- Buddy Holly - Definitive Collection (Universal)
- Instant Funk - I Got My Mind Made Up: The Best of Instant Funk (Koch)
- Daniel Johnston - Welcome to My World: The Music of Daniel Johnston (High Wire)
- The Kickstands - Black Boots and Bikes (Sundazed)
- The Knights - Hot Rod High (Sundazed)
- Jerry Lee Lewis - Definitive Collection (Universal)
- Mae - The Everglow (special edition with DVD; Tooth & Nail)
- Ed McCurdy - A Ballad Singer's Choice (Empire Musicwerks)
- Marian McPartland - ... With You in Mind (DRG)
- Mr. Gasser and the Weirdos - Hot Rod Hootenanny, Rods N' Rat Finks and Surfink! (Sundazed)
- Herbie Hancock - "Possibilities" (Magnolia)
- Moby - "Live - Hotel Tour 2005" (with CD; Mute)
- Trina - "Live and Uncut ... Sex, Money and Jewels" (SMC)
- Yes - "9012 Live" (Image Entertainment)
- Young Jeezy - "Hoodz: Street Code - Young Jeezy" (Hoods DVD Magazine)
- Zyklon - "Storm Detonation Live" (Candlelight)
- Various artists - "Coachella: The Film" (Epitaph)
- Godsmack - IV (Republic)
Read: "Godsmack Finishing Up 'Killer' Fourth LP, Working On Football Theme"
- 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)
- The Isley Brothers - Baby Makin' Music (Island)
- Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium (two CDs; limited edition with DVD also available; Warner Bros.)
Read: "Chili Peppers Stoked About New Album, Possible Kanye Tour"
- Snow Patrol - Eyes Open (A&M)
Read: "Snow Patrol Turn 'Candy-Assed' Music Into Beastly Arena Rock"