Sixty-seven years ago Tuesday (May 15), McDonald's was founded. In the spirit of fast food, let's see — real quick-like — what helps turn this week's new releases into Happy Meals.
Time's a Wastin': For starters, Linkin Park serve their ominously themed third studio album, Minutes to Midnight — for which they spent 14 months in the studio and racked up a stupefying 100 demo songs. Rick Rubin put his Grammy-winning spit-shine on the LP and even let the bros use his 808 drum machine, which rap-rock crossover pseudo-brethren Beastie Boys used on License to Ill more than 20 years ago.
Happy Meal: The special edition comes with a Music Video Interactive DVD containing downloadable MP3s for all the tracks, plus videos, a "What I've Done" ringtone and much more.
Look, Up in the ...: Wilco's Sky Blue Sky is already drawing critical raves — duh, it's Wilco — and, were it born 30 years ago, would have fit comfortably on AOR radio. Their melancholic sixth release follows 2004's A Ghost Is Born, their first to crack the Billboard albums chart top 10 — and unless Rick James or Megadeth have something to say about it, this could very well be the second-biggest release dropping this week.
Happy Meal: Move over, LP — Wilco have a special edition of their own, and it also comes with a bonus DVD littered with surprises: a 45-minute documentary co-directed by Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty, interview clips with the six bandmembers and more.
Still Getting His Freak On: Rick James had put the finishing touches on a new studio album before he passed in August 2004, and almost three years later, Deeper Still finally makes its way into stores. The set features 11 tracks, 10 of which James wrote or co-wrote and all of which he produced, even though the funk master had originally wanted it to be a double album consisting of 20 cuts.
Happy Meal: "Do You Wanna Play" is, according to a press release, "an unadulterated invitation to carnal pleasures," while "Secrets" and "Funk Wit Me" are equally intimate, to put it politely.
Give (It) Up: For their fourth effort, metalcore stewards Hopesfall huddled with Mike Watts — no, not the legendary punk bassist; Mike Watts, producer of like-minded bands like As Tall as Lions and As Cities Burn. The North Carolina group's latest includes "Swamp Kittens," "Cubic Zirconias Are Forever" and "Devil's Concubine."
Happy Meal: The brilliant Magnetic North cover art.
Playing Tag: Rawkus Records is back as you probably know, and the label is hoping it has a new Mos Def or Talib Kweli on its hands in newcomer Marco Polo. The NYC-by-way-of-Toronto rapper, who is a former member of the Beat Society and was named one of Urb's Next 100 artists, produced his first album all on his own.
Happy Meal: Guest spots by Masta Ace, Large Professor and Kool G Rap round out the release.
Wain's World: Speaking of self-produced albums, Rufus Wainwright's Release the Stars is the first he did completely by himself — although it was executive produced by Pet Shop Boys conspirator Neil Tennant. The emotional singer/songwriter also got assists on his fifth album from guest stars Richard Thompson, Joan Wasser and veteran Welsh stage actress Siân Phillips.
Happy Meal: Look no further than Wainwright's quintessential operatic heart-on-his-sleeve outpouring, which inevitably crops up again throughout his latest LP.
Strung Out: The High Strung have been touring libraries — yes, you, uh, read that right — to hype their third album, which is appropriate in light of the many fictional character sketches and narratives brought forth in Get the Guests. That includes "Rimbaud/Rambo," about a narrator weighing the romantic potential of both; "The Curator," about a museum employee who covers the walls with his own art; and "Arrow," which imagines what would happen if Cupid were to stick himself with one of his love spears.
Happy Meal: Song titles include "There Was No One Before You, There Was No One Before Me," "The Meddler" and — wait for it — "What a Meddler!"
Friendly Fire: Welsh rockers Funeral for a Friend — who recently toured with My Chemical Romance — churn out Tales Don't Tell Themselves this week, with a big assist from Foo Fighters producer Gil Norton. The band's third album features the first single, "Into Oblivion (Reunion)" — the video for which landed 14,000 views in its first 24 hours — "Out of Reach" and "On a Wire."
Happy Meal: Norton employs strings, French horns and a 26-piece orchestra on many of the tracks.
The genesis of Genesis: The band is back this summer — without Peter Gabriel, beware — and Rhino is hailing the reunion with a six-CD/six-DVD set, Genesis 1976-1982. The first of three box sets the label is planning features the band's five studio discs from that era, expanded with bonus tracks, remastered sound, unreleased videos, photo galleries, interviews and much more.
Happy Meal: Fans will go gaga over rare B-sides, EP tracks and more that are littered throughout the hefty set.
Metal Mayhem: On the topic of "genesis," Job for a Cowboy — who have made the rounds with Cannibal Corpse and are set for this summer's Sounds of the Underground Tour — are using that term as the title of their first album. The LP features weightily named songs like "Altered From Catechization," "Reduced to Mere Filth" and "Martyrdom Unsealed" and was mixed by Grammy-winning Megadeth collaborator Andy Sneap.
Sneap also reconvened with 'Deth for their 11th studio release, United Abominations, which Dave Mustaine and the gang churn out this week. Recorded in Los Angeles and England, the old-school throwback album recaps the band's classic track "À Tout Le Monde (Set Me Free)" with new vocals by Lacuna Coil's Cristina Scabbia.
Happy Meal: Metalheads are always happy.
Odds 'N' Sods: Also this week, Zach Barocas is helping out his onetime Jawbox bandmate, post-punk icon J. Robbins, with a two-CD tribute comp, For Callum. The set has been crafted to raise funds for Robbins' son, who has spinal muscular atrophy, and it features contributions from Mission of Burma, David Grubbs, Jawbreaker and many more. It's only available at Catlick Records' Web site.
Also hard to find but available on Dischord's Web site is a remastered version of Fugazi's Red Medicine and a slew of entries in the Fugazi Live Series. The label is selling the remaining stock of CDs from the series, after which it plans to release the concert recordings digitally.
And speaking of digital releases, hip-hop producer and X-ecutioners collaborator Marshall Law has posted his 60-minute experimental mix, Testing the Waters, right here for free download.
Last but not least, Starbucks is exclusively releasing the collection Bluesville, featuring tracks by Albert King, Willie Dixon and other blues greats.
Song Title of the Week:
"And I Told Them I Invented Times New Roman" from Dance Gavin Dance's Downtown Battle Mountain
Dungen's Tio Bitar: The Swedish psych-rockers take guitar noise to another level with their second disc, which also encompasses violin, flute, piano and organ, along with the usual bass and drums. Gustav Ejstes and company dish up "Ska Inte Tro Alt Det Ordnar Sig," "Mon Amour," "Familj," and other tracks you don't understand. Just don't let the artwork make you too dizzy.
Betty Davis' Betty Davis and They Say I'm Different: The funk and soul goddess — who counts Ice Cube and Herbie Hancock among her fans — gets some retro lovin' with her first reissues ever. Mrs. Miles Davis' first two albums — which she wrote and produced all on her own, like her other releases — feature three and four unreleased bonus cuts, respectively.
Tim Buckley's "My Fleeting House": There's another first in the archival world this week: the release of the only authorized Buckley DVD to date. The footage spans the entirety of his career (1967-'74) and includes 11 full songs and three partial performances, plus unreleased footage from "The Steve Allen Show," interviews with his collaborators and more.
· The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism (Ramseur)
· Balkan Beat Box - Nu Med (JDub)
· Before Their Eyes - Before Their Eyes (Rise)
· Blacktop Mourning - No Regret (Megaforce)
· Chaka Khan - Classikhan (Music World)
· Dance Gavin Dance - Downtown Battle Mountain (Rise)
· Dirty Sweet - ... Of Monarchs & Beggars (Seedling)
· Dungen - Tio Bitar (Kemado)
· Flatfoot 56 - Jungle of the Midwest Sea (Flicker)
· Funeral for a Friend - Tales Don't Tell Themselves (Atlantic)
· Great Northern - Trading Twilight for Daylight (Eenie Meenie)
· Howard Hewett - If Only (Machine Productions)
· The High Strung - Get the Guests (Park the Van)
· Hollywood Rose - Dopesnake (Cleopatra)
· Hopesfall - Magnetic North (Trustkill)
· The Horrors - Strange House (enhanced; Stolen Transmission)
· Ian Hunter - Shrunken Heads (Yep Roc)
· Rick James - Deeper Still (Stone City)
· Job for a Cowboy - Genesis (Metal Blade)
· JT and the Clouds - The City's Hot Yeah the City's Hot (Dishrag)
· Kari Kimmel - A Day in the Life (self-release)
· Lewis & Clarke - Blasts of Holy Birth (La Société Expéditionnaire)
· Linkin Park - Minutes to Midnight (special edition comes with MVI DVD; Warner Bros./ Machine Shop) [Buy]
· Harry Manx and Kevin Breit - In Good We Trust (Stony Plain)
· Marco Polo - Port Authority (Red Urban)
· Megadeth - United Abominations (Roadrunner) [Buy]
· Maria Muldaur - Naughty, Bawdy & Blue (Stony Plain)
· The Narrator - All That to the Wall (Flameshovel)
· The O'Jays - Imagination (Music World)
· Dolores O'Riordan - Are You Listening? (Sanctuary)
· Ozma - Pasadena (Reincarnate)
· The Phoenix Foundation - Horsepower (Young American)
· Pink Martini - Hey Eugene! (Heinz)
· The Race - Ice Station (Flameshovel)
· Fennesz Sakamoto - Cendre (Touch)
· The Shake - Kick It (Unicycle)
· Southerly - Storyteller and the Gossip Columnist (Greyday)
· Rufus Wainwright - Release the Stars (Geffen) [Buy]
· Wilco - Sky Blue Sky (enhanced; Nonesuch) [Buy]
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
· The Alan Parsons Project - The Essential Alan Parsons Project (two CDs; Arista/Legacy)
· Betty Davis - Betty Davis and They Say I'm Different (Light in the Attic)
· Genesis - Genesis 1976-1982 (six CDs and six DVDs; Rhino)
· Jefferson Airplane - Sweeping Up the Spotlight: Live at the Fillmore East 1969 (RCA/Legacy)
· Moby Grape - Listen My Friends! The Best of Moby Grape (Epic/Legacy)
· The Remains - The Remains (Epic/Legacy)
· UB40 - Live at Montreux 2002 (Eagle)
· Chucho Valdéz & His Combo - The Complete 1964 Sessions (MVD Audio)
· Chucho Valdéz Trio - Jazz Bata (MVD Audio)
· Various artists - Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (Legacy)
· Tim Buckley - "My Fleeting House" (MVD Visual)
· Madonna - "The Wild Angel - The Unauthorized Story" (Eagle Vision)
· Garnett Silk - "Earth Day Celebration: A Reggae Tribute to Garnett Silk - Live 2003" (MVD Visual)
· TLC - "Now & Forever: The Video Hits" (La Face)
· Miroslav Vitous - "Live in Vienna" (MVD Visual)
· Tim Armstrong - A Poet's Life (with bonus DVD; Hellcat)
· The Bravery - The Sun and the Moon (Island) [Preorder]
· KRS-One and Marley Marl - Hip Hop Lives (Koch) [Preorder]
· Maroon 5 - It Won't Be Soon Before Long (Octone) [Preorder]
· Ozzy Osbourne - Black Rain (Epic) [Preorder]
· Les Claypool - "Fancy" DVD (Prawn Song)
· Danzig - The Lost Tracks of Danzig (two CDs; Megaforce) [Preorder]
· R. Kelly - Double Up (Jive)
· Chris Cornell - Carry On (A&M)
· Marilyn Manson - Eat Me, Drink Me (Nothing)
· O.A.R. - Live From Madison Square Garden (two-CD set and two-DVD set; Everfine/Lava/Atlantic)