It's been a slow year for new releases so far, but worry not, all ye muzos — with the first quarter coming to a close, the dams are starting to break wide open. In fact, so many new albums are seeping out this week that we have one for every letter of the alphabet. Well, just about.
· A Northern Chorus' The Millions Too Many: The Canadian shoegazers grow into a six-piece on their fourth effort, welcoming violinist Erin Aurich back to the fold and enlisting drummer Craig Halliday and horn player Ben Bowen while they're at it. Expect plenty of lush, expansive soundscapes to fall asleep to.
· The Bled's Pass the Flask: The Arizona hard rockers' obscure first album is back again, with 11 extra cuts that previously appeared on early EPs or haven't been out yet at all. That includes "My Cyanide Catharsis," featuring Arizona peer Emily Long; "OK, but Here's How It Really Happened"; and the original recording of "Hotel Coral Essex."
· C-Murder's Screamin' 4 Vengeance: A judge recently lifted a gag order against the former inmate, allowing him to publicize his new LP. The peeps at Priority Records must have been just as happy to hear that news — the label that is relaunching with this release. Snoop Dogg helps C-Murder cut the proverbial ribbon by appearing on the lead single, "Posted on Tha Block." Chamillionaire, Slim Thug, LeToya and others also help the rapper howl.
· Devin the Dude's Waiting to Inhale: Houston's underground Dude has a few pals lending him support on his fourth outing, getting some choice verses from Lil Wayne and Bun B on the album's first single, "Little Girl Gone." In the meantime, Devin's Odd Squad collective gets together for another track, "She Want That Money."
· El-P's I'll Sleep When You're Dead: Dig deeper underground and you'll find New York's El-P, who has been hammering away at this opus for four years. The Definitive Jux co-founder's hard work is reflected in the album's breathtaking, indie-rocker-heavy guest list: He roused Trent Reznor, the Mars Volta, Aesop Rock, Cat Power, Yo La Tengo's James McNew and many more for the affair.
· The Funeral Pyre's The Nature of Betrayal reissue: Equal parts death and black metal, the Los Angelinos' second album is being brought back as a straight reissue to coincide with a seven-gig run that begins March 30. Look for "Plague That Leads to Extinction," "Stealing the Air of Life" and "Here the Sun Never Shines."
· Robert Gomez's Brand New Towns: The brokenhearted singer/songwriter from Denton, Texas, studied Cuban guitar under Marc Anthony collaborator Nelson Gonzales and counts Norah Jones among his fans. His 12-track Bella Union debut encompasses "The Same Sad Song," "The Coming," "The Leaving" and more.
· Haste the Day's Pressure the Hinges: The Christian metalcore band from Indianapolis ganged up with producer GGGarth (Rage Against the Machine, Atreyu) for their third album. The standard edition has 13 tracks but the deluxe one comes with three bonuses — the album version of "In Memory" and demos of "Sea of Apathy" and "Chorus of Angels" — plus a DVD.
· I'm From Barcelona's Let Me Introduce My Friends: The Swedish collective don't really need to be more social when they count 29 members among their ranks (and you thought the Book of Knots had a massive combined résumé). The unwaveringly optimistic band — be prepared to participate if you catch 'em live — factor kazoos, banjos and much more into their second LP.
· J Dilla's Ruff Draft: The legendary unsung hip-hop producer passed away last year but left this document behind, with the following message: "Let me explain it. It's Ruff Draft. For my real n---az only. DJs that play that real live shit. You wanna bounce in your whip, sound like it's straight from the mother------' cassette! Ruff Draft. ... Let's do it." The deluxe set features 14 cuts on disc one and 10 instrumentals on the second CD.
· R. Kelly's "Live: The Light It Up Tour" DVD: The singer's first concert video finds him courting a crowd at Oakland, California's Paramount Theatre. If you're looking for hits, you've come to the right place: "Wonderful," "Ignition," "Fiesta" and "I Believe I Can Fly" are featured on the 110-minute DVD, as are the first three "Trapped in the Closet" chapters.
· The Locust's New Erections: The inaccessible art/noise band holed up with producer Alex Newport (Melvins, the Mars Volta) for their third undertaking. But breaking with their own tradition of breaking tradition, the San Diego spazz-outs made longer songs this time — that's right, don't expect "One Manometer Away From Mutually Assured Relocation" or "God Wants Us All to Work in Factories" to last less than a minute.
· Modest Mouse's We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank: The indie rockers are dishing up their fifth effort this week, but it's more like a sophomore LP in a sense, since they just landed their first verified hit, "Float On," the last time around. With Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr supporting them throughout and Shins singer James Mercer piping up on "Florida," the returns could be even sweeter this time around.
· Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' The Abbatoir Blues Tour: This is more like a box set, really: The two CDs cull live tracks from various venues on the group's Abattoir Blues tour in 2004, while the two DVDs mine the three sold-out Brixton Academy London shows from said trek. The videos also compile material from a 2003 gig, music videos, behind-the-scenes footage and more.
· Otep's The Ascension: The Los Angeles band has been around for five years, but even veteran acts need help sometimes: Otep tapped Mudvayne's Greg Tribbett to cowrite three songs on their new LP. Recorded last year in New Orleans, it includes a cover of Nirvana's "Breed" (take that, "MLB2K7" TV ad!)
· Daniel Powter's Daniel Powter: The Canadian troubadour milked his debut for three singles, including the ubiquitous "Bad Day," so what better reason to spruce up the LP and milk it again for a re-release? This special edition, which comes with a DVD, encompasses the album's B-sides and videos; a live performance; and a new cut, "Love You Lately."
· Marques Houston's Veteran: Yeah, we had to cheat a little here, but since Omarion's step-brother is one of the few with a Q in his name, he'll have to suffice. The self-described vet — this is only his third release — turned to Yung Joc for some extra verses on "Like This," and Mya and Shawnna to chime in on "Hold N' Back."
· Robert Plant reissues: Rhino is breaking open the mammoth Nine Lives box set it put out last year and releasing some of the discs individually. This week, look for expanded versions of Fate of Nations, Manic Nirvana, Pictures at Eleven, Shaken 'N' Stirred and Mighty Rearranger, the latter with the Strange Sensation.
· Joss Stone's Introducing Joss Stone: No, you're not wrong — the British singer does indeed have two previous full-lengths under her belt. For her new one, she's hoping to reinvent herself with help from producer Raphael Saadiq (Macy Gray, the Roots), as well as Common ("Tell Me What We're Going to Do") and Lauryn Hill ("Music").
· Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' Living With the Living: The animated political rocker called on Fugazi's Brendan Canty to craft his fifth release and first for Touch and Go, which features "Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.," "A Bottle of Buckle" and "Fourth World War." Early-bird alert: Initial copies come with a CD containing five additional new songs.
· Unknown Instructors' The Master's Voice: Mike Watt is plenty busy with the Stooges these days, but another one of the punk bassist's many projects steps up with its second disc this week. The garage band features another Minuteman, George Hurley, and for this release the Instructors also roped in David Thomas of Pere Ubu and Raymond Pettibon, the dude who came up with Black Flag's four bars logo.
· Various artists' "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" soundtrack: Where's Shifty Shellshock when you need him? Oh well — while the Crazy Town singer is in absentia, Gym Class Heroes, Jet and Cobra Starship fill in to roll out the red carpet for everyone's favorite shelled crime-fighters. P.O.D., Meg & Dia and Cute It What We Aim For also help do the honors.
· Clay Walker's Greatest Hits: Rhino cobbles together 14 essential tracks by the longtime country-music singer from Beaumont, Texas. Look for "You're Beginning to Get Over Me," "Only on Days That End in 'Y' " and "Dreaming With My Eyes Open."
· RTX's Western Xterminator: (Two X's, close enough!) Royal Trux's Jennifer Herrema, reborn as RTX (get it?), alternates between butt-rock anthems and lo-fi bedroom recordings on the band's second album, which features "Money Will Roll Right In," "Knightmare & Mane" and "Balls to Pass." The resplendent artwork is worth a look alone.
· Elliott Yamin's Elliott Yamin: The former "American Idol" finalist hopes to follow in the steps of Taylor, Ruben and the gang with his first album, which was partially produced by Limp Bizkit co-conspirator DJ Lethal. The bluesy ballad "Take My Breath Away" was written by John Mayer guitarist David Ryan Harris, while "A Song for You" was previously recorded by Yamin's idol, Donny Hathaway.
· Willowz's Chautauqua: OK, we cheated one more time, but flipping around the Anaheim, California, punks' name works. With a tighter approach than on their previous two albums, the Michel Gondry collaborators — their songs were featured in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "The Science of Sleep" — crank out "Big Knob," "Lonesome Gods" and "Siren Song."
Song Title of the Week:
"Good to Be Bad" from Lordi's Arockalypse
· A Northern Chorus - The Millions Too Many (Sonic Unyon)
· Adult - Why Bother (Thrill Jockey) [Buy Now]
· Alesana - On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax (enhanced; Fearless)[Buy Now]
· Assemblage 23 - Binary (EP; Metropolis)
· Baby Boy Da Prince - Across the Water (Republic)
· BeatleJazz - All You Need (Lightyear) [Buy Now]
· Benea Reach - Monument Bineothan (Candlelight)
· Big D and the Kids Table - Strictly Rude (Side One Dummy)
· Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha (Fat Possum)
· Bobby Broom - Song and Dance (Origin)
· Jonathan Byrd - This Is the New That (Waterbug)
· The Chinese Stars - Listen to Your Left Brain (Three.One.G)
· Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers - No More Beautiful World (with DVD; Emmajava)
· C-Murder - Screamin' 4 Vengeance (Capitol) [Buy Now]
· Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - The Abbatoir Blues Tour (two CDs and two DVDs; Mute)
· Crime Mob - Hated on Mostly (Reprise)
· Devin the Dude - Waiting to Inhale (Rap-a-Lot)
· Arthur Dodge - The Perfect Face (Remedy) [Buy Now]
· Drawing Voices - Drawing Voices (Hydra Head)
· Earth - Hibernaculum (with DVD; Southern Lord) [Buy Now]
· El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead (Definitive Jux)
· Evidence - The Weatherman LP (Abb) [Buy Now]
· Foreign Islands - Restart Now (digipak; Deaf, Dumb & Blind)
· Robert Glasper - In My Element (Blue Note)
· Robert Gomez - Brand New Towns (Bella Union)
· Groove Junkies - Late Night With Groove Junkies (Swank)
· David Guetta - Guetta Blaster (Ultra)
· Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang - Get Up and Dance (Whispersquish)
· Hail Social - Modern Love & Death (Polyvinyl)
· Haste the Day - Pressure the Hinges (special edition comes with DVD; Tooth & Nail)
· Marques Houston - Veteran (Universal)
· I'm From Barcelona - Let Me Introduce My Friends (Mute)
· In This Moment - Beautiful Tragedy (enhanced; Century Media) [Buy Now]
· Joseph Israel - Gone Are the Days (New Door)
· J-Direct - Live & J-Direct (RhymeCity)
· Mary Karlzen - The Wanderlust Diaries (Dualtone)
· Land of Talk - Applause Cheer Boo Hiss (digipak; Rebel Group)
· LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (Capitol) [Buy Now]
· Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Living With the Living (initial copies come with bonus CD; Touch and Go)
· Ligion - External Affairs (Maple Jam) [Buy Now]
· The Little Heroes - Cinematic Americana (Wednesday)
· The Locust - New Erections (Anti)
· Lordi - Arockalypse (special edition with DVD; the End) [Buy Now]
· Lost Eden - Cycle Repeats (Candlelight)
· Lost in the Trees - Time Taunts Me (digipak; Trekky)
· Low - Drums and Guns (Sub Pop) [Buy Now]
· Jesse Malin - Glitter in the Gutter (Adeline)
· Stephen Marley - Mind Control (enhanced; Republic)
· Willy Mason - If the Ocean Gets Rough (Astralwerks)
· Masterplan - MKII (Candlelight) [Buy Now]
· Maylene and the Sons of Disaster - II (Ferret)
· Jimmy McIntosh - Orleans to London (Arizona Cub)
· Miguel Migs - Those Things (Om)
· Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Epic) [Buy Now]
· Willie Nelson/ Merle Haggard/ Ray Price - Last of the Breed (two CDs; Lost Highway)
· Otep - The Ascension (Capitol)
· Other Men - Wake Up Swimming (Robcore)
· Palomar - All Things, Forests (Misra)
· Panda Bear - Person Pitch (Paw Tracks)
· The Pierces - Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge (digipak; Lizard King)
· The Poison Arrows - Straight Into the Drift (File 13)
· The Ponys - Turn the Lights Out (digipak; Matador) [Buy Now]
· (((Powerhouse Sound))) - Oslo/Chicago: Breaks (Atavistic)
· Tad Robinson - New Point of View (Severn)
· Radical Face - Ghost (digipak; Morr)
· RTX - Western Xterminator (Drag City)
· Nate Sallie - Ruined for Ordinary (Curb)
· Secretary Bird - Secretary Bird (In De Goot)
· The Snake the Cross the Crown - Cotton Teeth (Equal Vision)
· Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby - Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby (Legacy)
· Sterling - Cursed (File 13)
· Joss Stone - Introducing Joss Stone (Virgin) [Buy Now]
· Tommie Sunshine - Ultra Rock Remixed (Ultra)
· Swallow the Sun - Hope (Candlelight)
· Tracey Thorn - Out of the Woods (Astralwerks)
· The Tossers - Agony (Victory)
· The Turbo A.C.'s - Live to Win (Acetate)
· Unknown Instructors - The Master's Voice (Smog Veil)
· Willowz - Chautauqua (Dim Mak)
· Elliott Yamin - Elliott Yamin (Hickory)
· Various artists - Dlife Presents: Extreme Soca Volume 1 (with DVD; Penalty)
· Various artists - "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" soundtrack (Atlantic)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
· John Anderson - Greatest Hits (Rhino)
· The Bled - Pass the Flask (Vagrant) [Buy Now]
· Colin Blunstone - One Year (Water)
· Cibo Matto - Pom Pom: The Essential Cibo Matto (Rhino)
· Depeche Mode - Black Celebration and Construction Time Again (digipaks; with DVD; Rhino) [Buy Now]
· J Dilla - Ruff Draft (two-CD deluxe set; Stones Throw)
· Electric Light Orchestra -- Balance of Power (Epic/Legacy) [Buy Now]
· Béla Fleck and the Flecktones - Greatest Hits of the 20th Century (Rhino)
· The Funeral Pyre - The Nature of Betrayal (Prosthetic)
· Genesis - Turn It on Again: The Hits (Rhino) [Buy Now]
· Alan Lomax - The Alan Lomax Collection: The Spanish Recordings - Mallorca, The Balearic Islands (Rounder)
· The Alan Parsons Project - Eye in the Sky and I Robot (Arista/Legacy)
· Lee "Scratch" Perry - The Upsetter Selection: A Lee Perry Jukebox (two CDs; Trojan)
· Robert Plant - Fate of Nations, Manic Nirvana, Pictures at Eleven and Shaken 'N' Stirred (Rhino) [Buy Now]
· Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation - Mighty Rearranger (Rhino)
· Daniel Powter - Daniel Powter (special edition with DVD; Warner Bros.)
· Kenny Rogers - 20 Great Years (Reprise) [Buy Now]
· Little Texas - Greatest Hits (Rhino)
· Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Twenty Years of Dirt: Greatest Hits (Rhino)
· They Might Be Giants - A User's Guide to They Might Be Giants (Rhino) [Buy Now]
· Carla Thomas - The Queen Alone (Stax)
· Randy Travis - Greatest #1 Hits (Rhino)
· Violent Femmes - Permanent Record: The Very Best of Violent Femmes (Rhino)
· Clay Walker - Greatest Hits (Rhino)
· Mary Lou Williams - The Circle Recordings (Progressive)
· Various artists - Deep and Sexy 4: Compiled and Mixed by King Britt (Wave Music)
· Dierks Bentley - "Live & Loud at the Fillmore" (Capitol)
· The Decemberists - "A Practical Handbook" DVD (Kill Rock Stars) [Buy Now]
· R. Kelly - "Live: The Light It Up Tour" (Image) [Buy Now]
· Yes - "Live at Montreux 2003" (Eagle Vision)
· Good Charlotte - Good Morning Revival (Epic) [Preorder]
· Jennifer Lopez - Como Ama Una Mujer (Epic) [Preorder]
· Tha Dogg Pound - Dogg Ch-- (Koch)
· Young Buck - Buck the World (Interscope) [Preorder]
· The Academy Is ... - Santi (Atlantic) [Preorder]
· Beyoncé - B-Day - Deluxe Edition (with bonus CD; Columbia)[Preorder]
· Hilary Duff - Dignity (Hollywood) [Preorder]
· Paul Wall - Get Money - Stay True (Atlantic) [Preorder]
· Shadows Fall - Threads of Life (Atlantic) [Preorder]
· Bright Eyes - Cassadaga (Saddle Creek) [Preorder]
· Hellyeah - Hellyeah (Epic) [Preorder]
· Various artists - Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters Colon the Soundtrack (William Street)