Forty two years ago Tuesday (July 31), J.K. Rowling was born — but don't worry, we'll spare you from a full-on Harry Potter motif this week ("The Half-Blood Prince," Harry's UNKLE Vernon, you get the drift). Instead, since this week is packed with so many artists who have something to say, we're going to lay it all out in front of you and let you decide if their two cents is really worth a dime.
Summing It Up: Blink-182, (+44) and Sum 41 walk into a bar ... oh, you do the math. Fitting right in with their brethren bands, Deryck Whibley and his gang are as brash as can be on their fourth studio album, Underclass Hero, which was named in honor of a United Nations worker who saved the band from a battle during the filming of the documentary "Rocked: Sum 41 in Congo."
Their Two Cents: Whibley said in a press release that the LP is "a deeply personal statement that reflects the confusion and frustration in modern society." If that's too abstract, look no further than the song "March of the Dogs," on which the band declares, "the president of the United States of America is dead." Oh, wait, but that's just supposed to be a metaphor.
Purple Prose: Don't have the new Prince album yet? He gave it away for free in editions of British newspaper The Mail on Sunday — and if that's not enough, he'll also be giving away more copies gratis at his upcoming London concerts. Planet Earth features contributions from former New Power Generation and Revolution members, including the mighty Sheila E.
His Two Cents: Prince decries war on the final track, "Resolution," asking, "How many people want resolution?"
Con Artistes: Tegan and Sara's The Con is a veritable party-in-a-jewel-case, what with Death Cab for Cutie's Christopher Walla and Jason McGerr, as well as the Rentals' Matt Sharp and AFI's Hunter Burgan, contributing to the duo's fifth studio LP.
Their Two Cents: An enigmatic post on the twin sisters' Web site seems to indicate that the album has three themes: "I. Fraud; II. Death; III. Confidence."
What-ever: Get out the flannel and stay out of the shower — the '90s are back this week with the return of Silverchair and Hanson. The former band's Young Modern — an album title that could not be more diametrically opposite to Silverchair's status — was partially crafted by heralded composer Van Dyke Parks and even features a medley track combining three songs. After years of wrangling with labels, Hanson — who, like the 'Chair, also formed in 1992 — are putting out their fourth album, The Walk, through their own 3CG Records.
Their Two Cents: We're not sure what Silverchair's modus operandi is these days, but Hanson have been very proactive about helping combat HIV/AIDS in Africa — they donated all profits from their "The Great Divide" single on iTunes to a nonprofit championing for the cause.
Tre Bien: Trey Anastasio doesn't have a whole lot to say on his new album, in a sense — The Horseshoe Curve is a wholly instrumental affair. For it, he called on Jon Fishman, John Medeski, a five-piece brass section, bassist, drummer, percussionist, keyboardist and the Nashville Chamber Orchestra — so the album can hardly be considered a solo outing.
His Two Cents: A portion of the proceeds from The Horseshoe Curve will benefit the Seven Below Arts Initiative, a nonprofit arts-education group Anastasio founded last year.
Hot Licks: Dave Grohl did actress Juliette Lewis a solid by stepping behind the drum kit, as he's still wont to do from time to time, for her band's new album Four on the Floor. Juliette and the Licks deliver a barrage of garage-rock on "Mind Full of Daggers," "Death of a Whore" and "Sticky Honey."
Her Two Cents: Lewis says on her band's Web site that "the through line on this record is desire, in its many forms. Desire of dreams, love, redemption and the consequences of that; the unfulfillment, the betrayal, the pursuit, the need." Chew on that.
What Future?: Oliver Future, from Los Angeles! Well, they actually hail originally from Austin, Texas — The Austin Chronicle named them "Best Band in Austin," in fact — but they've since relocated to Tinseltown, and their new LP Pax Futura is "a love story of L.A. outcasts united," according to a press release.
Their Two Cents: In addition to revolving around the City of Angels, the album features the politically charged "Drowning Parade," a song about Hurricane Katrina.
Song Title of the Week:
"Lee J. Cobb Is Screaming a Lot" from Alamo Race Track's Black Cat John Brown
Album Cover of the Week:
Various artists' "Friday Night Lights" TV soundtrack
No new Billy Bob Thornton material here, even though he starred in the flick version of the high school football saga — and is dropping a new album of his own, Beautiful Door, this week. Instead you'll find the Killers (?), Spoon (??) and Outkast (???), who apparently have this boob-tube program in common. Other indie luminaries abound: ... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, José González and Explosions in the Sky, the latter of whom contributed heavily to the film soundtrack.
Chromeo's Fancy Footwork
Relying heavily on synth, funk and slow jams, the Montreal duo hope to make you fall in love ... on the dance floor. Noted Parisian producer Philippe Zdar mixed the disc, which features "Opening Up (Ce Soir on Danse)," "My Girl Is Calling Me (A Liar)" and "Bonafied Lovin' (Tough Guys)." These guys definitely qualify as runners-up for this week's best album cover — ch-ch-check it out right here.
The Red Chord's Prey for Eyes
Some Slayer fans might be flocking back to stores this week to pick up the re-release of Christ Illusion — it comes with two extra tracks, a bonus DVD and new cover art — but metalheads shouldn't look past Massachusetts death-grinders Red Chord. Tracked with Eric Rachel (Every Time I Die, Atreyu), the album was named after an inmate at a prison where the brother of the band's frontman, Guy Kozowyk, works as a guard. "The prisoner won't talk and gets into this dialogue via a notepad," Kozowyk recalled in a press statement. "After documenting that he can no longer talk because the devil removed his tongue, my brother checks the con's mouth with his flashlight. When he tells him that his tongue is definitely intact, the inmate replies with the cryptic message, 'Pray for Eyes.' " Creeped out yet?
· Alamo Race Track - Black Cat John Brown (Minty Fresh)
· Bishop Allen - The Broken String (Dead Oceans)
· Trey Anastasio - The Horseshoe Curve (Red Ink) [Buy Now]
· Marc Antoine - Hi-Lo Split (Peak)
· At the Throne of Judgment - Arcanum Order (Rise)
· Bloodhorse - Bloodhorse (EP; Translation Loss)
· Born Again Floozies - 7 Deadly Sinners (Triple R)
· Camp Lo - Black Hollywood (Traffic)
· Chromeo - Fancy Footwork (Vice)
· Peter Criss - One for All (Megaforce)
· Billy Ray Cyrus - Home at Last (Walt Disney)
· Deepfield - Archetypes and Repetition (In De Goot)
· Driver of the Year - ... Will Destroy You (Future Appletree/ Nail in the Coffin)
· Evans Blue - The Pursuit Begins When This Portrayal of Life Ends (enhanced; Hollywood)
· Emily Haines - What Is Free to a Good Home (EP; Last Gang)
· Peter Hammill - Singularity (Fie)
· Hanson - The Walk (Three Car Garage) [Buy Now]
· Corey Harris - Zion Crossroads (Telarc)
· The High Court - Puppet Strings (I Surrender)
· James Holstrom - The Thieves of Kailua (Millpond)
· Joe Sh--head Keithley - Joe Sh--head Keithley and His Band of Rebels (Sudden Death)
· Lonnie Jordan - War Stories (Fantasy)
· Juliette and the Licks - Four on the Floor (enhanced; Militia Group) [Buy Now]
· The Lonely H - Hair (Control Group)
· The Lovemakers - Misery Loves Company (enhanced; Fuzz Artists)
· Manic - Another New Home (Suretone)
· Manic Street Preachers - Send Away the Tigers (enhanced; Red Ink)
· Marmoset - Florist Fired (Secretly Canadian)
· The Masons - Let You Down Easy (75orless)
· Mr. J. Medeiros - Of Gods and Girls (enhanced; Red Urban)
· Mobile - Tomorrow Starts Today (The Militia Group)
· Nodes of Ranvier - Defined by Struggle (Victory)
· Oliver Future - Pax Futura (Transit of Venus/ Fireproof)
· Portugal. The Man - Church Mouth (Fearless)
· Prince - Planet Earth (Columbia) [Buy Now]
· Puddle of Mudd - Famous (Geffen) [Buy Now]
· Marion Raven - Set Me Free (Eleven Seven)
· Joe Rathbone - Under the Scorpio Moon (enhanced; Zakz)
· The Red Chord - Prey for Eyes (Metal Blade)
· Robbers on High Street - Grand Animals (New Line)
· Aaron Ross - Shapeshifter (Grass Roots)
· Saving Jane - One Girl Revolution (Toucan Cove)
· Scenes From a Movie - The Pulse (One Big Spark)
· Matt Shulman - So It Goes (RNB)
· Silverchair - Young Modern (Eleven Music) [Buy Now]
· Will Stratton - What the Night Said (Stunning Models on Display)
· Sum 41 - Underclass Hero (Island) [Buy Now]
· Tegan and Sara - Con (deluxe edition with DVD due same day; Vapor/Sanctuary) [Buy Now]
· Billy Bob Thornton - Beautiful Door (New Door)
· John Vanderslice - Emerald City (Barsuk)
· Tiny Vipers - Hands Across the Void (Sub Pop)
· UNKLE - War Stories (Surrender All)
· Walt Wilkins & the Mystiqueros - Diamonds in the Sun (Palo Duro)
· Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators - Keep Reachin' Up (Light in the Attic)
· Within Temptation - The Heart of Everything (enhanced; Roadrunner)
· Yeah Yeah Yeahs - The Is Is (EP; Interscope) [Buy Now]
· Hans Zimmer - "The Simpsons Movie" soundtrack (limited-edition version with donut packaging due July 31; Adrenaline)
· Various artists - "Friday Night Lights" TV soundtrack (Adrenaline)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
· Chet Atkins - The Essential Chet Atkins (two CDs; RLG Nashville/ Legacy)
· Chet Atkins and Les Paul - Chester & Lester (RLG Nashville/ Legacy)
· Bobby Bare - Bobby Bare Sings Lullabys, Legends and Lies (two CDs; RLG Nashville/ Legacy)
· Johnny Cash - The Great Lost Performances (Island/UMe) [Buy Now]
· Dälek - Deadverse Massive Vol. 1: Dälek Rarities 1999-2006 (Hydra Head)
· The Doors - Live in Boston '80 (three CDs; Rhino) [Buy Now]
· The Eat - It's Not the Eat, It's the Humidity (with bonus CD; Alternative Tentacles)
· Merle Haggard - Kern River/ Chill Factor (two CDs; American Beat)
· Waylon Jennings - The Essential Waylon Jennings (two CDs; RLG Nashville/ Legacy) and Waylon (American Beat) [Buy Now]
· Bob Marley and the Wailers - Roots, Rock, Remixed (Quango/Rockr)
· Monster Magnet - 20th Century Masters: The Best of Monster Magnet - The Millennium Collection (A&M/UMe)
· Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen - Legacy Edition (two CDs; Legacy)
· Billy Squier - Signs of Life (American Beat)
· Riders in the Sky - Public Cowboy #1: A Centennial Salute to the Music of Gene Autry (Rounder)
· Sebadoh - The Freed Man (Domino)
· Slayer - Christ Illusion (with DVD; Columbia) [Buy Now]
· Tandy - To a Friend/ Did You Think I Was Gone? (00:02:59)
· The Thrillseekers - Nightmusic Volume 2 (two CDs; Water)
· Various artists - Monsters of Rock: Platinum Edition (Razor & Tie)
· Various artists - Quiet Storm: Gold and Summer of Love: Gold (two CDs; Hip-O)
· Various artists - Sound of the City: New York Area Doo-Wop (1956-1966) (three-CD box set; Time Life)
· Sammy Davis Jr. - "The Best of Sammy Davis Jr. Live" (Eagle Vision)
· Deep Purple - "Live at Montreux 2006: They All Came Down to Montreux" (HD DVD; Eagle Vision)
· The Dubliners - "On the Road - Live in Germany" (Eagle Vision)
· Waylon Jennings and the Waymore Blues Band - Never Say Die: The Final Concert Film (with two CDs; Columbia/Legacy)
· James Last - "Live in Berlin" (Eagle Vision)
· Pet Shop Boys - "Cubism in Concert" (Rhino) [Buy Now]
· Santana - "Hymns for Peace: Live at Montreux 2004" (HD DVD; Eagle Vision)
· Yes - "Live at Montreux 2003" (HD DVD; Eagle Vision)
· Common - Finding Forever (Universal) [Preorder]
· DevilDriver - The Last Kind Words (Roadrunner)
· Korn - Untitled (deluxe edition with bonus DVD due same day; Virgin) [Preorder]
· Constantine Maroulis - Constantine (6th Place)
· Okkervil River - The Stage Names (Jagjaguwar)
· UGK - Underground Kingz (two CDs; Jive) [Preorder]
· Blaqk Audio - Cexcells (Interscope)
· Wayne Wonder - Foreva (VP)
· Various artists - "High School Musical 2" soundtrack (Disney)