While many people unpacked their stuffed stockings this week, Santa skipped over the record stores, presenting them with hardly any gifts. In a week befitting the lump of coal that was 2007 — CD sales dropped nearly 20 percent — the year is ending with a whimper.
Symbolically, though, one of the only physical releases hitting stores is "High School Musical 2": Non-Stop Dance Party, a new set for the frothing "HSM" masses. With the exception of Josh Groban's Noël, the "High School Musical 2" soundtrack was the best-seller of the year, so it's apt that another title from the ensemble is providing the '07 aftertaste.
The disc — which counts "Gotta Go My Own Way," "You Are the Music in Me" and the tongue-twisting "Humuhumunukunukuapua'a" among its 12 tracks — transforms the original "HSM2" soundtrack into a continuous dance mix. It's also dripping with extra material, including a "bonus megamix," a video mix, a slide-show of images from the movie and — get this — printable party invitations!
Beyond that release, the only other discs hitting terrestrial stores are the original cast recording of "Young Frankenstein: The New Mel Brooks Musical," which houses a book by Brooks, and a bunch of John Lennon reissues coming in the form of mini vinyl CDs.
Well-suited for a year that saw another burst in digital sales while CDs dipped, more artists are putting out albums online this week as opposed to in brick-and-mortar stores. Breakout act Cold War Kids have hopped on the RCRD LBL bandwagon by reissuing their hard-to-find Mulberry Street EP for free on the label's Web site. The Southern California indie-rockers slipped out three six-song EPs before issuing their Robbers & Cowards album on Downtown Records last year, and Mulberry Street was the first of them.
"In between takes, [collaborator M.] Wignall would play an album over the speakers, like Iggy Pop's Lust for Life or Neil Young's After the Gold Rush, and go on long rants, pointing out sounds and talking about how good these musicians were and how we would be lucky if in 10 years we could play a song anywhere near this good," bandmember Nathan Willett said in a statement. "We thought, 'Who cares! We just want to record our songs for us!' Then he showed us how to record vocals while he went to mow the lawn."
Also doing the EP thing are A Fine Frenzy, whose iTunes Live Session comes out Thursday. The singer/songwriter/pianist formerly known as Alison Sudol chalked up live versions of four songs from her One Cell in the Sea debut, which dropped over the summer. The tracks include the album's lead single, "Almost Lover," as well as "The Minnow and the Trout," "Borrowed Time" and "Last of Days."
That Frenzy aside, there's not much more happening on the new-releases front this week — the record store is not the place to get your New Year's Eve party on this year. Check back next week when Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins kick off 2008 in style with a physical version of In Rainbows and a four-song acoustic EP, respectively.
· Various artists - "High School Musical 2": Non-Stop Dance Party (enhanced; Disney)
· Various artists - "Young Frankenstein: The New Mel Brooks Musical" (Decca Broadway)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
· John Lennon - Double Fantasy; Imagine; John Lennon/ Plastic Ono Band; Milk and Honey; Mind Games; The Plastic Ono Band - Live Peace in Toronto 1969; Rock 'N' Roll; Shaved Fish; Some Time in New York City; and Walls and Bridges (mini vinyl CDs; Capitol/EMI)
· A Fine Frenzy - iTunes Live Session (available exclusively on iTunes)
· Cold War Kids - Mulberry Street EP (available for free at RCRDLBL.com)
· Jackie DeShannon - The Best of Jackie DeShannon (Capitol/EMI)
· Spandau Ballet - The Twelve Inch Mixes (Chrysalis/EMI)
· Radiohead - In Rainbows (TBD/ATO) [Preorder]
· Smashing Pumpkins - American Gothic (EP; available on iTunes)
· Various artists - "Elvis: Viva Las Vegas" soundtrack (Sony)
· Sia - Some People Have Real Problems (Monkey Puzzle) [Preorder]
· Testament - Demonic and Hammer of the Gods reissues (Prosthetic)
· Various artists - ... And All the Pieces Matter: Five Years of Music From "The Wire" (Nonesuch)
· Eels - Meet the Eels: Essential Eels Vol. 1, 1996-2006 (CD and DVD; Dreamworks/Geffen/UMe); and Eels Useless Trinkets: B-Sides, Soundtracks, Rarities and Unreleased - 1996-2006 (two CDs and one DVD; Dreamworks/Geffen/UMe) [Preorder]
· Jon Foreman - Fall/Winter (two EPs; lowercase people/ Credential Recordings)
· Spice Girls - Greatest Hits (enhanced; two discs; Virgin) [Preorder]