It's been a slow year so far for rock fans, with a best-of Unwritten Law CD and new Shins effort among the most prominent releases so far in 2007. Now it's finally time to strap on the guitars: With nary a rapper in sight — save Jay-Z, who drops a verse on the new Fall Out Boy album — this week is all about the rock.
Doing It Up Right: Say what you will about Fall Out Boy, but they sure do know how to sweeten a deal. In the wake of their Infinity on High being leaked online, the band promised to reward fans who actually buy the set with online access to a live EP, Leaked in London, that was just recorded January 29. But the pop-punk princes aren't stopping there: A limited-edition deluxe digipak comes with five tarot cards and an exclusive booklet cover, while fans who preordered have been treated with an exclusive pack of five buttons.
Party On: Believe it or not, there's actually a second-degree connection between FOB and this week's other heavyweights, Bloc Party. Infinity on High features guest guitar licks by Ryan Ross of Panic! at the Disco — last year, Bloc bailed from a tour with that same band. The sophomore hipsters are feeling less generous than FOB, though: Fans who preordered A Weekend in the City have received only a bonus remix of the song "The Prayer," and the CD itself is frill-free. The album — which lead singer Kele Okereke has called "the living noise of a metropolis" — includes "Song for Clay (Disappear Here)," "Hunting for Witches" and "Waiting for the 7.18."
Get Used To It: One of the most annoying ways record labels try to make an extra buck is by releasing a band's live CD and DVD separately — sometimes at different intervals and sometimes without warning. On that count, fans of the Used have nothing to worry about: The pop-punk group's Berth contains both the CD and DVD versions of its 2005 headlining show in Vancouver, British Columbia. Better yet, the Used have stuffed the package with videos, making-of features and clips of them answering fan questions — and if you order Berth through TheUsed.net, you'll get a T-shirt too.
Snoop Dogg piped up a month ago with a new cut on the "Arthur and the Invisibles" soundtrack, and now he's contributing a fresh slice to another musical companion disc — albeit to a slightly different type of movie. The alternately funny and gory "Hood of Horror" — its tagline is "It ain't all good in da 'hood" — stars the rapper alongside choice B-actors Ernie Hudson and Danny Trejo. Snoop chipped in "Welcome to the Hood" for the soundtrack, which also includes his "Shake That Sh--" (featuring Young Walt, Terrace Martin and Tiffany Foxx), plus selections from Cool & Dre, Al Kapone and, bizarrely, blues-rock fiends the North Mississippi Allstars.
They Do Not Rock: But if your ears are ringing from all the rock and roll this week, don't worry: There are some lower-volume alternatives, as always. "High School Musical" darling Ashley Tisdale — who made history as the first female artist to debut two songs simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 — proves how Headstrong she is with her new LP. Fans who got a head start and ordered through AshleyMusic.com have been gifted with an autographed copy of the disc and a sticker pack.
Someone else who is decidedly not rocking is Jessica Simpson hero Patty Griffin, whose Children Running Through trots out R&B- and gospel-inflected tracks including "Up to the Mountains (MLK Song)," "Burgundy Shoes" and "Someone Else's Tomorrow." Griffin gets a boost from Emmylou Harris on "Trapeze."
Also toning things down is ex-Gus Gus lead singer Daníel Ágúst, whose Swallowed a Star was crafted with Madonna remixer Bix and features mild, bleep-y tunes. U.K. trio Fujiya & Miyagi take it one step further with Transparent Things, which is heavy on kraut and other electronic sounds, and was named after a Vladimir Nabokov novel.
Comp'd: This week also sees the release of a litany of compilation CDs, some slightly more freakish than others. While you're likely to find Yes, I'm a Witch filed in the CD bins under "O," the Yoko Ono collection was largely crafted by other artists. Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, Cat Power and Antony scooped up chunks of previous Ono recordings — mostly her vocals — and spliced them with new musical tracks. Also participating are the Apples in Stereo, who drop their own New Magnetic Wonder LP this week — the album is the first one distributed through Elijah Wood's Simian Records.
The long-winded but self-explanatory 8-Bit Operators: The Music of Kraftwerk Performed on Vintage 8-Bit Video Game Systems is another odd tribute of sorts, blipping and bleeping its way through 15 chestnuts by the electro-kraut pioneers. The roster involves an array of international artists who have delved deep into the genre also known as "chiptune" or "bitpop."
Unlike those tributes, Brian Wilson actually participated directly in a salute to himself that was staged by MusiCares, a group that helps people in the music industry with financial and medical assistance. Everyone and their mother turned up for the 2005 event, and their renditions of classic Wilson/ Beach Boys cuts are captured here: the Red Hot Chili Peppers tackle "I Get Around," John Legend re-creates "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times," the Backstreet Boys reinterpret "When I Grow Up to Be a Man," and more. Wilson helps cap the show by running through "Pet Sounds," "Heroes and Villains" and three more numbers.
Polishing off this week's batch of bizarre comps is A Date With John Waters, a set of 14 love songs handpicked by Mr. "Pink Flamingos" himself. Claiming to go "back to the first record Waters ever shoplifted, 'Tonight You Belong to Me' by Patience and Prudence," the album also encompasses selections by Ike & Tina Turner and Ray Charles, as well as the more obscure Elton Motello and Eileen Barton, the latter of whom appeared in a long list of Waters flicks. And no, the disc doesn't come with a chicken.
Song Title of the Week:
"They're Not Horses, They're Unicorns" from Bayside's The Walking Wounded
Aereogramme's My Heart Has a Wish That You Would Not Go: The fourth album by the Scottish ensemble doesn't sound all that much like the band's previous releases — instead of alternating big blasts of distorted guitar with introverted, mellow passages, this effort is much more even-tempered. That's largely because a nasty throat infection left singer Craig B mute for a portion of the recording session, which took place in Glasgow. The band can't take credit for the powerful album title, though: It's a line from William Peter Blatty's book "The Exorcist" that didn't make it to William Friedkin's big-screen version.
Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter's Like, Love, Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul: Jesse Sykes's career has an enormous span, what with her having once been a member of alt-country commandos Whiskeytown but more recently collaborating with the likes of doom-noise metallers Boris and Sunn0))). Her latest with backing band the Sweet Hereafter is their third outing, and it continues the minimalist approach forged with 2002's Reckless Burning and 2004's Oh, My Girl. Scandinavian singer/songwriter Nicolai Dunger lends a hand, but the entire effort was produced by Decemberists collaborator Tucker Martine.
The Makes Nice's Candy Wrapper & Twelve Other Songs: In yet another example of a musician doing the unexpected this week, Josh Smith of Bay Area stoner-metal faves the F---ing Champs and Drunk Horse has come up with ... an R&B album? Recalling the Zombies and Small Faces, Smith gangs up with Aaron Burnham — who graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a music degree — and software engineer Jack Matthew for the 13-track opus. Trans Am's Phil Manley, who is also a member of the F---ing Champs, helped the band record Candy Wrapper.
· Aereogramme - My Heart Has a Wish That You Would Not Go (Sonic Unyon) [Buy Now]
· Daníel Ágúst - Swallowed a Star (One Little Indian)
· Angels & Agony - Unison (Metropolis)
· Animal Collective - People (EP; Fat Cat) [Buy Now]
· The Apples in Stereo - New Magnetic Wonder (digipak; Simian/ Yep Roc/ Elephant 6) [Buy Now]
· Backyard Tire Fire - Vagabonds and Hooligans (digipak; O.L.E.) [Buy Now]
· Bayside - The Walking Wounded (Victory) [Buy Now]
· Peter Bjorn and John - Writer's Block (with bonus CD; Almost Gold)
· Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City (Vice/Atlantic) [Buy Now]
· Stefano Bollani - Piano Solo (ECM)
· Belinda Carlisle - Voila (with bonus CD; Rykodisc)
· Car Bomb - Centralia (Relapse) [Buy Now]
· Jason Michael Carroll - Waitin' in the Country (Arista Nashville)
· The Cat Empire - Two Shoes (Velour) [Buy Now]
· Clouds - Legendary Demo (Hydra Head)
· Danny Cohen - Shades of Dorian Gray (Anti-)
· The Colour - Between Earth & Sky (Rethink)
· Dead Child - Dead Child (EP; Cold Sweat)
· Dear and the Headlights - Small Steps, Heavy Hooves (Equal Vision)
· The Dexateens - Hardware Healing (Skybucket)
· Elliott Brood - Ambassador (Six Shooter)
· The End - Elementary (Relapse)
· Fall Out Boy - Infinity on High (limited-edition digipak with tarot cards due same day; Island) [Buy Now]
· Fat Freddy's Drop - Based on a True Story (Quango)
· Ruthie Foster - The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster (Blue Corn)
· Fujiya & Miyagi - Transparent Things (Deaf Dumb & Blind)
· Goldfrapp - Ride a White Horse EP (enhanced; Mute) [Buy Now]
· Patty Griffin - Children Running Through (ATO)
· Ernie Halter - Congress Hotel (Rock Ridge)
· Rickie Lee Jones - The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard (digipak; limited deluxe edition with bonus CD due same day; New West)
· Sondre Lerche - Phantom Punch (Astralwerks)
· Little Brazil - Tighten the Noose (Mt. Fuji)
· Lonely, Dear - Lonely Noir (Sub Pop)
· Love Arcade - Love Arcade (enhanced; Atlantic) [Buy Now]
· The Makes Nice - Candy Wrapper & Twelve Other Songs (Frenetic)
· Eleni Mandell - Miracle of Five (digipak; Zedtone)
· David Martin - Something in Your Eyes (Astonish)
· Mnemic - Passenger (digipak; Nuclear Blast)
· Phonograph - Phonograph (Arclight)
· Pornopop - And the Slow Songs About the Dead Calm in Your Arms (Dynamophone)
· The Postmarks - The Postmarks (Unfiltered)
· Jordan Pruitt - No Ordinary Girl (with DVD; Hollywood)
· John Reuben - Word of Mouth (Gotee)
· Secret Mommy - Plays (Ache) [Buy Now]
· The Tierney Sutton Band - On the Other Side (Telarc)
· Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter - Like, Love, Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul (Barsuk)
· Ashley Tisdale - Headstrong (Warner Bros.)
· Titan - A Raining Sun of Light and Love for You & You & You (Tee Pee)
· The Used - Berth (live CD with DVD; Reprise) [Buy Now]
· Tyrone Wells - Hold On (Republic)
· Keller Williams - Dream (digipak; Sci Fidelity)
· Winning - This Is an Ad for Cigarettes (Ache)
· Various artists - 8-Bit Operators: The Music of Kraftwerk Performed on Vintage 8-Bit Video Game Systems (Astralwerks)
· Various artists - "Hood of Horror" soundtrack (Chime Entertainment)
· Various artists - Ono: Yes, I'm a Witch (Astralwerks)
· Various artists - Take Action! Volume 6 (digipak with DVD; Hopeless/ Sub City)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
· Arab Strap - Ten Years of Tears! (Chemikal Underground)
· Barenaked Ladies - Barenaked Ladies Are Men (enhanced; Desperation) [Buy Now]
· Freddie Jackson - Greatest Hits (Capitol/EMI)
· Monty Python - Another Monty Python Album, Monty Python's Life Of Brian, Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life and
Monty Python's Previous Record (Virgin/EMI)
· Public Enemy - Fight the Power! Greatest Hits Live! (with DVD; Pyramid) [Buy Now]
· Rhino Bucket - No Song Left Behind and Pain & Suffering (Acetate)
· The Sleeping - Believe What We Tell You (with bonus DVD; Victory)
· Sun Kil Moon - Ghosts of the Great Highway (with bonus CD; Caldo Verde)
· Teddybears - Soft Machine (Big Beat)
· Various artists - A Date With John Waters (New Line)
· Various artists - Celebrate! Songs of Praise (Sony Urban/Legacy)
· Various artists - "Romeo+Juliet" soundtrack (Capitol/EMI)
· Apocalyptica - "The Life Burns Tour" (Red Ink)
· Crowbar - "Live: With Full Force" (Candlelight)
· Deep Purple - "Deep Purple's In Rock: The Essential Albums of All Time" (Classic Rock Legends)
· Bob Marley - "Music in Review" (Classic Rock Legends)
· Pink Floyd - "Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother: The Essential Albums of All Time" (Classic Rock Legends)
· Paul Weller - "Hit Parade" (Yep Roc)
· Various artists - "Liberation: The Songs of the New Cuban Underground" (Petrol)
· Various artists - "MusiCares: A Tribute to Brian Wilson" (Eagle Vision)
· Various artists - "Romeo+Juliet: Music Edition" (Capitol/EMI)
· Gerald LeVert - In My Songs (Atlantic)
· Bobby Valentino - Special Occasion (Def Jam)
· Lucinda Williams - West (digipak; Lost Highway)
· Calla - Strength in Numbers (Beggars Banquet)
· Kittie - Funeral for Yesterday (X of Infamy)
· Various artists - Kidz Bop 11 (Razor & Tie)
· Beck - The Information (deluxe-edition reissue; Geffen)
· Fabolous - From Nothing to Something (Def Jam) [Preorder]
· Slim Thug & Tha Boss Hogg Outlawz - Serve & Collect (Koch)