New Releases: ‘Arthur’ Soundtrack, Green Day, Autumn Defense & More

Also due Tuesday: 7000 Dying Rats, Chumbawamba, Ron Sexsmith, Sloan, PoPo, Hyphy Hitz.

With the recent news that album sales tumbled yet again in 2006 — this time a 4.9 percent decline from the previous year — it’s no wonder ’07 is off to such a slow start. Sure, major labels drag their feet every January, hoping to squeeze in a few more weeks of hibernation before climbing out of the cave. But with new Mos Def and Mario albums bumping to the spring (or beyond) at the last minute, 2007 doesn’t exactly seem like a party the majors are waiting to get started.

With that in mind, it might be slightly less shocking that this week’s “heavyweights” are Sloan, Ron Sexsmith and the Autumn Defense. All of whom could be outdone by a soundtrack, be it the Snoop-featuring one to “Arthur and the Invisibles” or Philip Glass‘ score to “Notes on a Scandal.” Or, better yet, they could be one-upped by the book sales 50 Cent will likely amass with his new street-literature series, which also debuts in stores Tuesday (January 9).

But at least that leaves room for the colorfully named 7000 Dying Rats, PoPo and Chumbawamba — yes, they live! — to steal a little more of the limelight. That is, until another equally foreboding set of contenders — America and the Smithereens among them — storm their way onto store shelves next week.

The Sound of Soundtracks: Were it not for new songs by Snoop Dogg and Jewel, the “Arthur and the Invisibles” soundtrack would be little more than a score. Well, OK, there is a contribution from Elijah too, but the remainder of the disc was crafted by composer Eric Serra. So if you’re just after Snoop’s “Go Girl,” you might want to try the single-download route instead.

Elsewhere in the wide, wonderful world of musical accompaniments, Disney hopes the “Jump In!” soundtrack does even half — or a third, or fourth — as well as the one to “High School Musical,” which sold more than any other CD last year. The “Jump In!” soundtrack features Keke Palmer, N.L.T., T-Squad and other be-tween artists. In the meantime, the more recognizable Will.I.Am, 2Pac and Cypress Hill surface, along with Talib Kweli and Miri Ben-Ari, on the soundtrack to “Freedom Writers.” And if you’re still hearing composer Philip Glass‘ music from the buzzed-about “Notes on a Scandal,” that’s also available for your listening pleasure.

Green Days Are Here Again: Well, yes and no. Reprise recently secured rights to two of the group’s early releases that had been originally issued by Lookout! Records, based in the band’s Bay Area homeland. But while the latter label reissued 1,039/ Smoothed Out Slappy Hours and Kerplunk! in 2004, those re-releases went out of print shortly thereafter and are now being reserviced once again — in frill-free form — by Reprise. So, in other words, if you’re a Green Day fan who’s somehow managed to miss these two formative items, here’s your third chance.

Flavas of the Week: In case you haven’t caught up yet with two of rap’s hottest burgeoning subgenres, TVT Records — home to the Ying Yang Twins and Pitbull — is serving up a couple of generous packages. Crunk Hits Vol. 3 cobbles together tracks by those artists, plus Lil Jon, Paul Wall, Akon, Lil Wayne and Three 6 Mafia. Hyphy Hitz, on the other hand, sticks it to the Bay Area, where the hyphy sound was born, with a set featuring Keak Da Sneak, Mistah F.A.B. and E-40. Get ‘em while they’re hot.

In Their Defense: From hyphy to alt-country — ah, such is the beauty of New Releases. If you’re getting a bit impatient for Wilco‘s next opus, you can kill some time with the third effort by side project the Autumn Defense. Featuring bassist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, the band’s self-titled CD is its first since 2003′s Circles and finds the duo re-immersing itself into country-pop, lo-fi and other Byrds-like sounds.

Chumb Change: Just when you thought you’d never hear the name “Chumbawamba” again, the politically charged British troupe is back with its umpteenth effort, A Singsong and a Scrap. This time around, the crew has kept it mostly acoustic, eschewing the loops, samples and synths in favor of traditional secular English tunes. But don’t worry: The “Tubthumping” group’s four-part harmonies are still very much intact.

Canadian Comebackers: Ron Sexsmith gets a hand from none other than Kiefer Sutherland this week, as the singer/songwriter’s Time Being drops on Ironworks Music, a label co-owned by Jack Bauer. But for the LP, which was previously available overseas, Sexsmith also ganged up with a band of Elvis Costello collaborators: producer Mitchell Froom, bassist Davey Faragher and drummer Pete Thomas. (Musos may recall that it was the Mojo magazine cover image of Costello holding Sexsmith’s first LP that drew attention to the latter singer/songwriter.)

Sexsmith’s Canadian comrades Sloan have returned too, with Never Hear the End of It. The guys seem to be a little backed up: Their first release in three years features no less than 30 tracks, only one of which is shorter than a minute. The Beatles-esque band’s eighth release features “Living With the Masses,” “Before the End of the Race” and “Fading Into Obscurity.”

Song Title of the Week:

“We Had ‘Dying’ in Our Name Before All Those Metalcore Co——ers Came Along” from 7000 Dying RatsSeason in Hell

Other Notables:

7000 Dying RatsSeason in Hell: What, the band name isn’t convincing enough? Well then maybe soon-to-be grindcore classics like “Altar of Goat Skulls,” “Death Hammer of the Bearded Ones” and “Balls of Bigotry” are enough to convince you? How about a rapid-fire cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Paranoid”? Still not feelin’ it? Sheesh. Read on.

The PoPo‘s The PoPo: Originally due out late last year, this maiden release by Philadelphia’s so-called “post-hip-hop” band also incorporates traces of punk and world music. Written and recorded in the group’s basement, the iconoclastic effort features eight tracks, including “I Feel Mysterious Today,” “London Falling” and “Funtimes on the Frontline.”

Various artistsAt the Crossroads: A Benefit for Homeless Youth: San Francisco street-youth support program At the Crossroads is getting a helping hand from the likes of Calexico, the Faint, Rogue Wave and others on this comp, the sales of which go toward the organization. The Scattered Pages chip in with a cover of the Smiths‘ “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want,” while Creeper Lagoon, Thee More Shallows, Boyskout, Bettie Serveert and the Pink Mountaintops round out the release.

New Releases:

· 7000 Dying Rats – Season in Hell (HeWhoCorrupts)
· The Autumn Defense – The Autumn Defense (Broadmoor)
· Chumbawamba – A Singsong and a Scrap (Trade Root)
· Philip Glass – “Notes on a Scandal” soundtrack (Rounder)
· Ty Herndon – Right About Now (Pyramid)
· Lang Lang – Dragon Songs (with DVD; Deutsche Grammophon)
· Yo-Yo Ma – Appassionato (Sony Classics)
· Erin McKeown – Sing You Sinners (Nettwerk)
· Anna Netrebko – Russian Album (Deutsche Grammophon)
· The PoPo – The PoPo (Buddyhead)
· Ron Sexsmith – Time Being (Ironworks)
· Sloan – Never Hear the End of It (Yep Roc)
· Spanic Boys – Sunshine (Cinaps)
· Sqad Up – We Here Now (Emergent)
· Trashlight Vision – Alibis and Ammunition (Evo)
· John Waite – Downtown … Journey of a Heart (Rounder)
· Various artists – At the Crossroads: A Benefit for Homeless Youth (Three Ring)
· Various artists – My Chemical Romance: A Piano Tribute (Copycats)
· Various artists – Rockabye Baby!: Lullaby Renditions of The Eagles (Baby Rock)
· Various artists – Rockabye Baby!: Lullaby Renditions of Queens of the Stone Age (Baby Rock)
· Various artists – “Arthur and the Invisibles” soundtrack (Atlantic)
· Various artists – “Freedom Writers” soundtrack (Hollywood)
· Various artists – “Jump In!” soundtrack (Disney)

Notable Reissues and Archival Material:

· Meryn Cadell – Angel Food for Thought (Bongo Beat)
· Green Day – 1,039/ Smoothed Out Slappy Hours (enhanced digipak; Reprise) and Kerplunk (Reprise) [Buy Now]
· Ian Hunter – All the Good Ones Are Taken (American Beat)
· Jefferson Airline – High Flying Bird: Live at the Monterey Festival (Music Avenue)
· Graham Parker – Another Grey Area (American Beat)
· Brian Setzer – The Knife Feels Like Justice/ Live Nude Guitars (American Beat) [Buy Now]
· Various artists – Crunk Hits Vol. 3 (TVT)
· Various artists – Hyphy Hitz (TVT)

Music DVDs:

· Black Oak Arkansas – “Live at Royal Albert Hall” (S’more)
· Chet Baker – “Live at Ronnie Scott’s London” (Image)
· Nazareth – “From the Beginning” (S’more)

Coming Attractions:

January 16:
· America – Here & Now (Burgundy) [Preorder]
· The Smithereens – Meet the Smithereens! (Koch)
· Various artists – “Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls” soundtrack (Atlantic)

January 23:
· Clinic – Visitations (Domino) [Preorder]
· Dustin Kensrue – Please Come Home (digipak due same day; Equal Vision)
· Madonna – “Confessions Tour” DVD (Warner Bros.) [Preorder]

January 30:
· Alkaline Trio – Remains (Vagrant) [Preorder]
· Norah Jones – Not Too Late (Blue Note) [Preorder]
· Katharine McPhee – Katharine McPhee (RCA) [Preorder]
Read: “Katharine McPhee’s LP: A Little Bit Pussycat Dolls, A Little Bit Mariah”