Indie-rock fans are scratching their heads as they watch bands like Modest Mouse and the Shins outsell artists like Joss Stone and Marques Houston. But while that seems to be a recent trend, a quick peek back to early 2005 calls to mind Bright Eyes selling 100,000-plus combined copies of their simultaneously released I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn the first week the albums hit stores.
Modest Mouse earned their #1 by selling just 129,000 copies of We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank a couple of weeks ago ... could Bright Eyes be next with Cassadaga? Yes, if 27-year-old ringleader Conor Oberst; mainstays Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott; and visitors M. Ward, Gillian Welch, Tortoise's John McEntire and ex-Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss have anything to say about it.
Oberst touches on Hurricane Katrina, climate change and other topics over the course of the 13 tracks, which include "No One Would Riot for Less," "Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed)" and "Coat Check Dream Song." But fans will be even more excited to know that the limited-edition import digipak, while pricey, comes with a set of decoder glasses that illuminate the album cover.
Bright Eyes' identity has historically been a source of confusion, especially in the band's infancy. Oberst has been the only consistent member of the project, which has also embraced various members of BE's label, Saddle Creek. So why not just call it "Conor Oberst & the Blazing Saddles" or something along those lines?
In the spirit of confused identity, here are three brand-new bands whose members are better known than the acts themselves:
Hellyeah: That's what Pantera fans will be yelling this week as Vinnie Paul Abbott gets behind the drums again, joining Chad Gray and Gregg Tribbett of Mudvayne, and Nothingface's Jerry Montano and Tom Maxwell. Perhaps invoking Black Sabbath, whose self-titled debut led off with the song of the same name, Hellyeah's eponymous release also opens with a track called "Hellyeah." The band, which will be part of this year's Family Values Tour, also chips in "Rotten to the Core," "Alcohaulin' Ass" and "Nausea."
Grinderman: Devout fans of disbanded Australian post-punks Birthday Party will be happy to know that frontman Nick Cave is taking a break from tickling the ivories — which he's done for the past few years as a solo performer — and reverting to his raucous ways with this new ensemble. Featuring Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey and Jim Sclavunos (who perform with Cave as the Bad Seeds) the band melds no-wave, avant-garde and metal — while somehow retaining Ellis' viola and violin. Look for "Electric Alice," "Love Bomb" and "Depth Charge Ethel."
Terrible Twos: Break out the sippy-cups — Matthew Pryor, formerly of indie faves the Get Up Kids and a current member of the New Amsterdams, has come up with probably the most unlikely project of the bunch. His side band's If You Ever See an Owl ... consists of 15 children's songs — and if you don't believe us, look no further than "We Can All Get Along With Dinosaurs," "When I Get to Eleven" and "Pizza & Chocolate Milk." The album is the first release from Vagrant's Poquito imprint.
There a few more rocks you'll want to overturn this week — here's what's beneath them:
· Yellowcard guitarist Ryan Mendez, Bayside singer/guitarist Anthony Raneri and ex-Stryder singer John Johansen lend support to Pennsylvania pop-punks Punchline on their new one, 37 Everywhere.
· Tom Waits, Mike Watt, David Thomas and other icons give New York's Book of Knots a boost on Traineater, a gloomy reflection on U.S. cities.
· Sufjan Stevens crops up on "Danielson: A Family Movie," a documentary that revolves around far-out indie gospel act Danielson Famile.
· Mastodon, Motörhead, Killer Mike, the Hold Steady and a slew of other acts you wouldn't expect to see on the same CD — not to mention affiliated with an animated program — are featured on Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters Colon the Soundtrack.
· Devendra Banhart, Oxbow, Her Space Holiday and Kid 606 cover songs by some of indie-rock's most treasured — and most damaged — art-rockers on Xiu Xiu - Remixed & Covered. The two-disc set closes with a monumental remix — the final track features To Live and Shave in L.A. reworking Xiu Xiu's The Air Force in its entirety.
· Nick Drake gets the covers treatment courtesy pianist
Christopher O'Riley on his Second Grace, the Music of Nick Drake.
· Charlotte Martin and BT are featured on Elements of Life, the third studio album by renowned DJ Tiësto.
· Onetime Dismemberment Plan members Jason Caddell and Eric Axelson help Washington, D.C., indie-chamber-pop act Gena Rowlands Band with their Flesh and Spirits.
· Joan of Arc's Tim Kinsella, Town and Country's Ben Vida and others aid Ministry collaborator Chris Connelly on his latest solo disc, The Episodes.
Song Title of the Week:
"Horny in a Hearse" from Nekromantix's Life Is a Grave & I Dig It!
From Autumn to Ashes' Holding a Wolf by the Ears: Punk bands with dueling singers continue to be all the rage, but what happens when one of them splits? In the case of this band from Long Island, New York, it meant drummer Francis Mark having to say goodbye to the drum set. FATA's fourth album is their first after Mark took command as the group's new frontman following the departure of Ben Perri. Songs include "Deth Kult Social Club," "Sensory Deprivation Adventure" and "A Goat in Sheep's Rosary."
Blonde Redhead's 23: The Italian/Japanese trio enlisted a few big names — including Alan Moulder (U2, Nine Inch Nails) and Mitchell Froom (Elvis Costello, Daniel Powter) — to help record and mix their seventh studio LP. The band is also encouraging fans to remix one of the album's tracks, "Signs Along the Path" — the alternate versions are being posted at BlondeRedhead23.com/remix.php.
Lou Rhodes' Beloved One: The first solo outing by the former Lamb trip-hopper earned her a nomination for the U.K.'s Mercury Prize last year. Now the singer/songwriter's set — much more delicate than her previous works — is hitting the States. Beloved One captures Rhodes' sentiments after she broke up with the father of her two children, moved out of her London house and moved into a van with her kids.
· Army of Me - Citizen (Doghouse) [Buy]
· Bang! Bang! - The Dirt That Makes You Drown (Morphius)
· The Bastard Fairies - Memento Mori (Adrenaline)
· Alvin Batiste - Marsalis Music Honors Alvin Batiste (Marsalis/Rounder)
· Bleed the Dream - Killer Inside (enhanced; Warcon)
· Bless the Fall - His Last Walk (enhanced; Record Collection)
· Blonde Redhead - 23 (4AD)
· The Book of Knots - Traineater (Anti-)
· Bright Eyes - Cassadaga (Saddle Creek) [Buy]
· Brother Ali - The Undisputed Truth (Rhymesayers)
· Chayanne - Mi Tiempo (Sony International)
· Chingon - Mexican Spaghetti Western (Adrenaline)
· Cloud Cult - The Meaning of 8 (Rebel Group)
· CocoRosie - The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn (Touch and Go)
· Chris Connelly - The Episodes (Jnana)
· Dubfire - GU31: Taipei (Global Underground)
· Bob French - Marsalis Music Honors Bob French (Marsalis/Rounder)
· From Autumn to Ashes - Holding a Wolf by the Ears (Vagrant) [Buy]
· Gena Rowlands Band - Flesh and Spirits (enhanced; Lujo)
· The Graduate - Anhedonia (Icon)
· Grinderman - Grinderman (Anti-)
· Guster - Satellite (EP; Reprise) [Buy]
· Hellyeah - Hellyeah (Epic)
· Jana Hunter - There's No Home (Gnomonsong)
· Hutchy - My Time (Ruff Cut)
· Ijahlar - Life (Fire House)
· Bob James - Angels of Shanghai (Koch)
· Limbeck - Limbeck (Doghouse)
· Love of Diagrams - Mosaic (Matador)
· MiG - MiG (Decca)
· The Moog - Sold for Tomorrow (MuSick) [Buy]
· Nathan - Key Principles (Nettwerk)
· Nekromantix - Life Is a Grave & I Dig It! (Hellcat)
· New Atlantic - The Streets, the Sounds, and the Love (Eyeball)
· Night Kills the Day - The Study of Man ... (Score)
· Nostalgia 77 - Everything Under the Sun (Ubiquity)
· Christopher O'Riley - Second Grace, the Music of Nick Drake (World Village)
· Panthers - The Trick (Vice)
· Roxanne Potvin - The Way It Feels (Ruf)
· Rappin' 4-Tay - That's What You Thought (SMC)
· Seven Storey Mountain - At the Poles (Thick)
· Soular - Love Crash Heal (Astonish)
· Teleseen - War (Percepts)
· The Terrible Twos - If You Ever See an Owl ... (Vagrant)
· Tiësto - Elements of Life (Ultra)
· Laura Viers - Saltbreakers (Nonesuch)
· VNV Nation - Judgement (Metropolis)
· Witch's Hat - Mastery of the Steel (Emergency Umbrella)
· XBXRX - Wars (Polyvinyl)
· Jenny Owen Youngs - Batten the Hatches (Nettwerk)
· Various artists - Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters Colon the Soundtrack (William Street)
· Various artists - Ed Rec Vol. 2 (Vice)
· Various artists - Xiu Xiu - Remixed & Covered (two CDs; 5 Rue Christine) [Buy]
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
· Monty Python's Flying Circus - Matching Tie and Handkerchief; Monty Python and the Holy Grail; and Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album (Arista/Legacy)
· Mr. Shadow - A Name You Kan't Touch (Silent Giant)
· Lou Rhodes - Beloved One (Cooking Vinyl)
· Sly & the Family Stone - A Whole New Thing; Dance to the Music; Life; Stand!; There's a Riot Going On; Fresh; Small Talk (digipaks; Epic/Legacy)
· Shearwater - Palo Santo (with bonus CD; Matador)
· Fred Eaglesmith - "The Small Beers Tour" (MVD Visual)
· Various artists - "Danielson: A Family Movie" (Image)
· Bucky Covington - Bucky Covington (Lyric Street)
· Avril Lavigne - The Best Damn Thing (deluxe limited edition with DVD due same day; RCA) [Buy]
· Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero (Nothing) [Preorder]
· Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare (Domino) [Preorder]
· The Nightwatchman - One Man Revolution (Epic)
· Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet (limited-edition version due same day; Atlantic)
· Tori Amos - American Doll Posse (special edition comes with DVD; Epic) [Preorder]
· Ne-Yo - Because of You (Def Jam) [Preorder]
· Various artists - "Spider-Man 3" soundtrack (Record Collection)