New Releases: McPhee, Madonna, Norah Jones, Lily Allen & More

Also due Tuesday: RZA, Hella, Alkaline Trio, Iron Maiden, One AM Radio, Art Garfunkel, Skinny Puppy.

Who says it’s easy being from Venus?

Over the last year, Katharine McPhee‘s “Idol” chances got rubbed out by Taylor “Gray Charles” Hicks. Madonna is still under fire — thanks for reigniting that controversy, Angelina — for her still-in-the-works adoption of a Malawian boy. Earlier this month, Lily Allen‘s dog was allegedly kidnapped — but subsequently returned, thank heavens. And according to the Indo Asian News Service, Norah Jones was so nervous about working alongside Jude Law on the movie “My Blueberry Nights” that she lost her voice on set.

But this week the ladies can get over their respective grievances, as new CDs from each solo star are arriving in stores this week. In fact, expect these ladies to do most of the heavy lifting saleswise: Unless RZA, Alkaline Trio or Art Garfunkel have something to say about it, next week’s Billboard albums chart will be dominated by more ladies than a bridal shower co-hosted by the Pussycat Dolls and Danity Kane.

Make My McDay: Katharine McPhee might not be on “American Idol” anymore, but the show is on everyone’s mind after its record-breaking season opener a couple of weeks ago. So what better time for last year’s runner-up to step up with her first opus? Preorders of Katharine McPhee came with a poster, but everyone will be able to enjoy “Everywhere I Go,” co-written and produced by Babyface; “Home,” penned by Kelly Clarkson and Hilary Duff collaborator Kara DioGuardi; and multiple songs co-written by up-and-comer Nate “Danjahandz” Hills (Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado).

Hail Mary: Madonna was declaring, “I Love New York,” not too long ago, but when it came time for the singer to stop and take stock of her career with a live album, she decided to focus on a London show instead. The Confessions Tour captures the Wembley Arena gig on Madge’s tour — the highest-grossing one ever by a female artist — and immortalizes 13 performances, including “Sorry,” “Like a Virgin” and “Jump.” The accompanying DVD features those tracks but expands on the set with eight more, and bonus footage includes clips of Madonna’s kids, a photo gallery and more.

Jonesin’ for Jones?: Madonna might have the most successful tour by a female artist on her résumé, but Norah Jones has an equally impressive stat of her own: With 15 million copies sold of her first two albums, she’s the best-selling artist of the 21st century. Her third effort features the same cast of characters, for the most part — longtime music partners Lee Alexander, Adam Levy, Andy Borger — but it also features an eyebrow-raising spot by indie coolie M. Ward, as well as one by cellist Jeffrey Zeigler of the Kronos Quartet. Tracks include “The Sun Doesn’t Like You,” “My Dear Country” and “Rosie’s Lullaby.”

Lily Lands Stateside: Lady Sovereign has been making impressive headway for a crossover artist, but she might soon be upstaged by fellow Brit Lily Allen if her buzz is all it’s cracked up to be. Even better for giddy Americans, the LP — partially produced by Mark Ronson (Jay-Z, Macy Gray) and Gwen Stefani collaborator Greg Kurstin — has been bolstered for its Stateside release with two bonus tracks: “Nan You’re A Window Shopper” and “Smile (Version Revisited).” One-upping McPhee, Allen included autographed posters in her preorders.

Alkaline Battery: It’s about time for Alkaline Trio to cough up a new loogie — their last one, Crimson, dropped in May 2005 — but instead of setting their sights on the future, they’re looking backward instead. The self-explanatory Remains digipak — which succeeds the band’s eponymous rarities album from 2000 — huddles together 19 odds and sods and caps the disc with three live recordings from last year. Oh, plus there’s a 45-minute DVD with B-roll, backstage clips and more. Now that’s bang for your buck.

RZA’s Afro-desiac: The Wu-Tang Clan might be best known for their trailblazing blend of hip-hop music with samurai imagery, and the RZA is underscoring the notion by assembling the soundtrack to “Afro Samurai,” a new animated TV series partially voiced by Samuel L. Jackson. RZA crafted the original score to the show, and the disc is fleshed out by additional cuts from Big Daddy Kane, GZA, Talib Kweli and others.

The Bark, Not the Bite: Canada’s Skinny Puppy were born 25 years ago, and the seminal industrial band is celebrating with its 13th album, Mythmaker. According to a press release, the album features “a harrowing song cycle framed in dark, intriguing atmospheres that explore the concept of control and the manipulation of culture that falsely enhanced the lives of the duplicitous.” Right on. Perhaps not coincidentally, Skinny Puppy affiliate Mark Spybey — he was an original member of Download, a band created in 1995, at a time when Puppy were broken up — is dropping the latest release by his Dead Voices on Air this week too. From Labrador to Madagascar contains nine experimental songs, including “Tongue Like Scree,” “Papa Papa Nesh” and “Sissili Mandjao.”

Song Title of the Week:

“Anarchists Just Wanna Have Fun” from Hella‘s There’s No 666 in Outer Space

Other Notables:

Cracker & Camper Van Beethoven‘s “The First Annual Camp Out Live at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace” DVD: The two David Lowery-led bands reassembled their original lineups for a pair of concerts held September 9-10, 2005, and they immortalize the affairs with this 142-minute disc. Also featured is footage of side project Monks of Doom, as well as clips of Johnny Hickman, Jonathan Segel and other players who took part in the revelry.

Deerhunter‘s Cryptograms: The Atlanta five-piece has had a hard time squeezing this one out. After recording the first half of the 12-track effort in 2005, the group decided to scrap it — and for a while, the bandmembers considered throwing in the towel altogether. But exactly one year later, Deerhunter made another go at it, holed up in the same studio in rural Georgia and nailed the first half again, this time in one day. The second part of the album was also tracked in 24 hours, but it features more psychedelic-pop sounds than the first.

The FinchesHuman Like a House: The José González and Mt. Eerie tourmates step up to the plate with their first-ever release. Music aside, the folk-pop duo’s physical CD is notable in and of itself: Packaged in a deluxe chipboard digipak, the album features glorious cover artwork designed by one-half of the group, Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs, and also features 12 additional woodcut drawings by the singer/songwriter/artist. For good measure, the group roped in Vetiver‘s Alissa Anderson to play cello on one track, “Two Ghosts,” plus Riggs’ mother, Susan Riggs, coos along on “The House Under the Hill.”

New Releases:

· 2 Bit Pie – 2 Pie Island (One Little Indian)
· Alcoholika La Christo – Toxicnology Part 1 & 2 (Locomotive)
· Lily Allen – Alright, Still (Capitol) [Buy Now]
· Beirut – Lon Gisland (EP; Ba Da Bing)
· Bracken – We Know About the Need (Anticon)
· Busdriver – Roadkill Overcoat (Epitaph)
· Tommy Castro – Painkiller (Blind Pig)
· Celtic Woman – A New Journey (deluxe edition with bonus tracks and an Irish charm also available; Manhattan)
· Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Some Loud Thunder (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah)
· Clemente – … Whilst Honey Hums (Moonswing)
· Harry Connick Jr. – Chanson du Vieux Carré (Marsalis) and Oh, My Nola (Rounder) [Buy Now]
· Dead Voices of Air – From Labrador to Madagascar (Invisible)
· Deerhunter – Cryptograms (Kranky)
· Mike Dillon’s Go-Go Jungle – Battery Milk (Music Force)
· The Early Years – The Early Years (Beggars Banquet)
· The Finches – Human Like a House (Dulc-I-Tone)
· Art Garfunkel – Some Enchanted Evening (Rhino) [Buy Now]
· Grave Digger – Liberty or Death (Locomotive)
· Hella – There’s No 666 in Outer Space (digipak; Ipecac) [Buy Now]
· Glenn Hughes – Music for the Divine (Demolition)
· Norah Jones – Not Too Late (Blue Note) [Buy Now]
· Ted Russell Kamp – Divisadero (Kufala)
· Bill Kirchen – Hammer of the Honky-Tonk Gods (Proper)
· David Koz – At the Movies (Capitol)
· Gil Landry – The Ballad of Lawless Soirez (Nettwerk)
· Tracy Lawrence – For the Love (Rocky Comfort)
· Kiko Loureiro – No Gravity (Locomotive)
· Love Me Destroyer – Things Around Us Burn (Suburban Home)
· Love of Diagrams – Love of Diagrams EP (Matador)
· Madonna – The Confessions Tour (with DVD; Warner Bros.) [Buy Now]
· Katharine McPhee – Katharine McPhee (RCA) [Buy Now]
Read: “Katharine McPhee’s LP: A Little Bit Pussycat Dolls, A Little Bit Mariah”
· Million/Billion – Ready.Fire.Aim (Mercy)
· John Németh – Magic Touch (Blind Pig)
· Paolo Nutini – These Streets (Atlantic) [Buy Now]
· The One AM Radio – This Too Will Pass (Dangerbird)
· Sean Price – Jesus Price Supastar (Duck Down)
· Nikki Puppet – Puppet on a String (Locomotive)
· The Rounders – Wish I Had You (Blind Pig)
· Xavier Rudd – Food in the Belly (Anti-)
· RZA – “Afro Samurai” soundtrack (Koch) [Buy Now]
· Skinny Puppy – Mythmaker (SPV) [Buy Now]
· Static Thought – In the Trenches (Hellcat)
· Vixen – Live & Learn (Warcon) [Buy Now]
· Elisabeth Withers – It Can Happen to Anyone (Blue Note)
· X-Clan – Return From Mecca (Suburban Noize)
· James Yorkston – The Year of the Leopard (Domino)
· Young Love – Too Young to Fight It (Island Def Jam)
· Youth Group – Casino Twilight Dogs (Anti-)
· Zozobra – Harmonic Tremors (Hydra Head)
· Various artists – Endless Highway: The Music of the Band (429 Records)
· Various artists – Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of the Ramones and U2 (Baby Rock)

Notable Reissues and Archival Material:

· Alkaline Trio – Remains (digipak with DVD; Vagrant) [Buy Now]
· Clint Black – The Love Songs (Equity)
· Gilby Clarke – Gilby Clarke (Spitfire)
· Natalie Cole – Love Songs (Rhino)
· Emerson, Lake & Palmer – The Essential Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Shout! Factory)
· Gandalf – Gandalf 2 (Sundazed)
· Faine Jade – Introspection: A Faine Jade Recital (Sundazed)
· Jill Scott – Collaborations (Hidden Beach) [Buy Now]
· Lavender Diamond – The Cavalry of Light (EP; Matador)
· Travis Tritt – The Very Best of Travis Tritt (Rhino)
· Various artists – Ain’t It Hard! Sunset Strip ’60s Sounds! Garage & Psych From Viva Records (Sundazed)
· Various artists – Putumayo Presents: A New Groove (Putumayo)

Music DVDs:

· Jann Arden – “A Work in Progress” (MVD Visual)
· Michael Bolton – “My Secret Passion: Live From Catania” (Kultur)
· Catamenia – “Bringing the Cold to Poland” (MVD Visual)
· Celtic Woman – “A New Journey: Live at Slane Castle, Ireland” (Manhattan)
· Cracker & Camper Van Beethoven – “The First Annual Camp Out Live at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace” (MVD Visual)
· Experimental Audio Research – “Live and Unearthed” (MVD Visual)
· Peter Frampton – “Frampton Comes Alive II” (Hip-O)
· Gang Starr – “The Video Collection – Collector’s Edition” (Seven Grand)
· Lesley Garrett – “Music From the Movies” (Kultur)
· Grave – “Enraptured” (MVD Visual)
· Green Day – “The Singles” (Classic Rock Legends) and “Under Review: 1996-2000 – The Middle Years” (MVD Visual)
· Guns N’ Roses – “DVD Collector’s Box” (MVD Visual)
· Ronnie Hawkins – “Still Alive and Kickin’ ” (MVD Visual)
· Impaler – “House Band at the Funeral Parlor” (MVD Visual)
· Iron Maiden – “Death on the Road” (Sanctuary) and “History of Fear” (Locomotive)
· Elton John – “Music in Review” (Classic Rock Legends)
· Platters & Coasters – “Rock & Roll Legends”
· John Prine – “Live on Soundstage 1980″ (Sony BMG)
· Racing Cars – “76-06, 30th Anniversary Concert” (MVD Visual)
· Smokey Robinson – “The Greatest Hits Live” (Standing Room Only)
· Sinister – “Prophecies Denied” (MVD Visual)
· Stone the Crows – “In Concert, Beat Workshop, Germany, 1973″ (MVD Visual)
· Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – “The Very Best of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons: Live in Concert” (Kultur)
· Tammy Wynette – “Greatest Hits Live” (Quantum Leap)
· Various artists – “Land of Look Behind” (Subversive Cinema)
· Various artists – “Live at the Rock ‘N’ Roll Palace Volume 2″ (MVD Visual)
· Various artists – “Metal’s Darkside II: The Deeply Disturbed” (MVD Visual)
· Various artists – “Motown: The Early Years” (Shout! Factory)

Coming Attractions:

February 6:
· Bloc Party – Weekend in the City (Vice) [Preorder]
Read: “After Failed Panic! At The Disco Tour, Bloc Party Look Ahead To New LP”
· Fall Out Boy – Infinity on High (Island) [Preorder]
Read: “Jigga What? Fall Out Boy Get A Hand From Jay-Z On Infinity
· The Used – Berth (live CD with DVD; Reprise) [Preorder]
Read: “The Used Hate Los Angeles But Love To Write About It”

February 13:
· Gerald LeVert – In My Songs (Atlantic) [Preorder]
· Bobby Valentino – Special Occasion (Def Jam) [Preorder]
Read: “Bobby Valentino Asks Sean Garrett, Rodney Jerkins To Attend Special Occasion
· Lucinda Williams – West (Lost Highway) [Preorder]

February 20:
· Calla – Strength in Numbers (Beggars Banquet)
· Kittie – Funeral for Yesterday (X of Infamy)
· Various artists – Kidz Bop 11 (Razor & Tie)