No offense to the week of February 13, 2007, but we're starting to feel like we've been dressed up for the letdown.
The first quarter began in earnest on January 30 with new LPs by pop's leading ladies: Madonna, Katharine McPhee and Norah Jones (with junior mint Lily Allen also in the mix). The rockers kicked things up a notch the following week, making sure Fall Out Boy, Bloc Party and the Used fans got their fill of fresh material.
That brings us to this week, which is cowering in the wake of the two previous powerhouse Tuesdays. If there's a metaphor to encapsulate this batch of new releases, it might be the 2000 Senate re-election bid ex-Attorney General John Ashcroft made against then-Governor Mel Carnahan. Carnahan defeated Ashcroft in November — even though he died two weeks prior to the election. Similarly, the recently departed Gerald Levert has a strong chance of trumping Lucinda Williams and the rest of the pack this week.
Beyond that, how do influential '90s underground crustaceans Seafood taste these days? Are Iceage Cobra something to be afraid of? Does this guy Soulkid#1 have any relation to Musiq Soulchild? And what are members of a reputed skateboard crew doing in a video for a song called "Porn" — by a band named Tack, no less?
Time to round up the mongrels.
Levert's Leavings: Gerald Levert, who passed away November 10 from a heart attack at the tender age of 39, has left us with one heck of a tear-jerker. Before the lauded R&B singer begins crooning on In My Songs, his father — Eddie Levert of the O'Jays — details in a spoken-word passage how excited his son was about the LP. From that point onward, it's all Gerald, lending support to a female friend on "Hang in There" and picking up the pace with the dance-floor-ready "DJ Don't." The final track could not be a more fitting close to the effort: It's called "Is This the Way to Heaven."
Lucinda's Laments: Lucinda Williams has a knack for picking impeccable backing-band musicians — Doug Pettibone and Bob Dylan collaborator Charlie Sexton among them — and she's found some equally seasoned talent as she heads West. Longtime Lou Reed collaborator Hal Willner sits behind the boards as guitar master Bill Frisell and Gary Louris of the Jayhawks chime in on the LP, which is already drawing raves. Williams seals the set with four song titles beginning with the letter "W": "What If," "Wrap My Head Around That," "Words" and "West."
See? Food: Britain has a bad reputation for aliments, but indie-rockers worldwide have developed a palette for Seafood since the band began in 1996. Tours with Dashboard Confessional and Jimmy Eat World have helped cast a spotlight on the band, and now it's looking for even more success with its latest opus, Paper Crown King. The effort was recorded during frontman David Line's 10-month recovery from a collapsed lung and features "I Will Talk," "Last Outpost" and "How You Gonna Live Without Me?"
For Reel: If "Singles" was the '90s film for the grunge set, "Half-Cocked" was the flick that harnessed an indie-rock scene festering even deeper underground. Members of unsung heroes June of 44, the Make-Up and the Grifters star in the fictional 1997 flick that documents the Louisville, Kentucky, netherworld — and if you think Seattle was gritty, you're in for a surprise. On DVD for the first time, the ultra-low-budg movie is furthered with an accompanying film, "Radiation," which documents the failed tour of Spain the "Half-Cocked" filmmakers made and features Will Oldham and members of Stereolab. And speaking of movies, the soundtrack to romance-drama "Starter for 10" has a somewhat random cast including the Cure, Motörhead and Kate Bush.
Folk, That: If you enjoyed East Vancouver, Canada's Po'Girl the first time around, you're in for a surprise. The group — which originated as a duo in 2002 when Allison Davies and Trish Klein of the Be Good Tanyas collaborated to perform jazz songs — has since reconfigured itself into a crew of five multi-instrumentalists. Their sophomore LP, Home to You, is likely to win over even more folk fans as they get an additional boost from beat-boxer C.R. Avery and Chris Brown. No, not that Chris Brown — the one helping out here is the Canadian pop performer who frequently collaborates with Kate Fenner. Sink your ears into even more rootsy goodness with Fork in the Road by Nashville bluegrass sextet the Infamous Stringdusters and Martha Scanlan's The West Was Burning, which was partially recorded at a house owned by Levon Helm of the Band.
Sk8tr Boyz: What does Chicago punk rock have in common with pornography? Roller-skating, of course. Dead Town Revival — a crew of rookie punks from Chi-Town's South Side who recently opened for the Smoking Popes — granted those who preordered their Hasta la Muerte debut with guest passes to see the band perform at an upcoming South by Southwest party hosted by its label, Sinister Muse, and the Lonestar Rollergirls. Likewise, Tack — a politically charged band started up by Colin Edwards of Bay of Pigs — just shot the video for their album's title track with a gang of professional and amateur skateboarders. The song deals with a heavy topic, though: It's about an American soldier stuck in Iraq.
All in the Family: Some Midnight Kissin', the full-length debut by Florida pop-rockers the Dark Romantics, was produced by Starflyer 59's Jason Martin and features two sets of spouses. Another squad of newcomers, Santa Rosa, California's the New Trust, also features a husband and his wife. This week they dish up Evolve Into Nothing, which features the snarky song titles "You've Got to Be F---ing Sh---ing Me," "Chill the F--- Out" and "Wake Up, It's the Nineties." And Sophe Lux, an indie-pop outfit from Portland, Oregon, are fronted by singer Gwynneth Haynes — sister to "Far From Heaven" and "Velvet Goldmine" director Todd Haynes.
Song Title of the Week:
"Do the Black Lung" from Iceage Cobra's Brilliant Ideas From Amazing People
Soulkid#1's Americanized: After selling more than 100,000 iTunes downloads of their song "(More Bounce in) California" — a number that's also become a "Laguna Beach" staple and was featured in both "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton" and "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde" — it's time for the former DreamWorks signees to finally step up with their debut disc. The album — which was written more than five years ago and deals with a foreigner's experience living in the U.S. after 9/11 — is frothing forth via the band's own Secret Agent Records.
Ben Davis's Battle of the Beards: While this album is being considered a solo release by the onetime Sleepytime Trio and Milemarker operative, the toned-down, lush effort is really a collaborative affair between Davis and Aimee Argote of punk-rockers Des Ark. This isn't the first time they've pooled their talents, though: Argote sang throughout and scribed two songs on Davis' 2004 effort, Aided and Abetted.
The Visitors' The Visitors: The umpteenth debut album hitting stores this week is by Brooklyn, New York's latest garage-rock sensations. But while they have plenty to say on their first, 12-track opus, they make room to update two vintage tunes: "I Walked With a Zombie" by Roky Erickson and "Stop What You're Doing" by the even more obscure Viscaynes. Now that's digging deep.
· Chris Bruni - Watch Me Burn (Realize)
· The Dark Romantics - Some Midnight Kissin' (Lujo) [Buy Now]
· Ben Davis - Battle of the Beards (Lovitt)
· Dead Town Revival - Hasta la Muerte (Sinister Muse) [Buy Now]
· Iceage Cobra - Brilliant Ideas From Amazing People (Iceage Cobra) [Buy Now]
· The Infamous Stringdusters - Fork in the Road (Sugar Hill) [Buy Now]
· Gerald Levert - In My Songs (Atlantic) [Buy Now]
· Anaïs Mitchell - The Brightness (Righteous Babe)
· Mick Overman & the Maniacs - Good Thing Happen (Max)
· The New Trust - Evolve Into Nothing (Slowdance) [Buy Now]
· Papercuts - Can't Go Back (Gnomonsong) [Buy Now]
· Po'Girl - Home to You (Nettwerk) [Buy Now]
· Rio en Medio - Bride of Dynamite (Gnomonsong) [Buy Now]
· Travis Rush - Come and Get It (Broken Halo/ Mason)
· Martha Scanlan - The West Was Burning (Sugar Hill)
· Seafood - Paper Crown King (Cooking Vinyl) [Buy Now]
· Sophe Lux - Waking the Mystics (Zarathustra)
· Softlightes - Say No! To Being Cool - Say Yes! To Being Happy (enhanced; Modular Interscope) [Buy Now]
· Soulkid#1 - Americanized (Secret Agent)
· Storyhill - Storyhill (Red House)
· Tack - Porn (Tarpit) [Buy Now]
· The Visitors - The Visitors (Eschatone)
· Lucinda Williams - West (digipak; Lost Highway) [Buy Now]
· Young Dubliners - With All Due Respect: The Irish Sessions (429)
· Various artists - "Barbie Fairytopia" soundtrack (Koch)
· Various artists - "Music and Lyrics" soundtrack (Atlantic)
· Various artists - "Starter for 10" soundtrack (Rhino)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
· Blue Öyster Cult - Some Enchanted Evening: Legacy Edition (with DVD) and Spectres (Columbia/Legacy) [Buy Now]
· Doobie Brothers - The Very Best of the Doobie Brothers (two CDs; Rhino) [Buy Now]
· Nina Hagen - Fearless (Koch)
· Van Morrison - Van Morrison at the Movies: The Soundtrack Hits (Manhattan/EMI)
· Various artists - Ricky Jay Plays Poker: Deluxe Edition (with DVD; Octone/Legacy)
· Jaco Pastorius - "Live and Outrageous" (Shanachie)
· Various artists - "Half-Cocked" (with "Radiation"; Rumur)
· Various artists - "The U.S. Vs. John Lennon" (Lionsgate)
· Calla - Strength in Numbers (Beggars Banquet) [Preorder]
· Kittie - Funeral for Yesterday (X of Infamy) [Preorder]
· Various artists - Kidz Bop 11 (Razor & Tie)
· Beck - The Information (deluxe-edition reissue; Geffen) [Preorder]
· Fabolous - From Nothing to Something (Def Jam) [Preorder]
· Slim Thug & Tha Boss Hogg Outlawz - Serve & Collect (Koch)
· Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (deluxe edition with book due same day; Merge) [Preorder]
· Jonny Greenwood - Jonny Greenwood Is the Controller (Trojan)
· Albert Hammond Jr. - Yours to Keep (enhanced; New Line)
· Korn - MTV Unplugged (Virgin) [Preorder]
· Relient K - Five Score and Seven Years Ago (Capitol) [Preorder]