The music industry is suffering a pretty big hangover this week, thanks to the year that was 2007. CD sales dropped 20 percent, and many fingers were pointed at one band in particular — Radiohead — for turning the industry inside out with the name-your-own-price digital release of In Rainbows, their latest album.
Well, sorry, haters: It's going to be hard to shake off those memories, seeing as how Radiohead are ringing in the new year with the CD version of the effort, which made many critics' best-of-'07 lists.
So does this mean the physical release will do for CD sales what the digital release did for the online world? Um, we'll say no on that one. In fact, when a band as big as the Smashing Pumpkins are also bypassing terrestrial stores by putting out a new effort online only — in the U.S., at least — it's safe to say that this year will see even more digital action than '07 did.
Surprisingly, the Pumpkins' set will only be available on iTunes in the States, with CD versions of the release hitting other stores across the world. Also curious is that the item is an EP containing four all-acoustic songs: "The Rose March," "Again, Again, Again (The Crux)," "POX" and "Sunkissed."
"We have always regretted not recording more in between tours because albums have never caught the full story of the group ... it's sort of Zeitgeist+," frontman Billy Corgan said in a press release about American Gothic, the title of which he called a "continued comment on the state of our country." Corgan added, "I had written a bunch of material during the residencies in Asheville [North Carolina] and San Francisco [in 2007], and fans kept asking us if we were gonna put any of that stuff out. iTunes came to us wanting to do something together, so it just felt right."
The Pumpkins recorded the EP at the Pass studios in Los Angeles while on a break between their 2007 U.S. and upcoming European tours, with Corgan, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and legendary Queen collaborator Roy Thomas Baker producing. Fans looking to get their mitts on the artwork can download it for free at SmashingPumpkins.com.
Another smaller-scale release by a big-name artist is happening this week: Björk's Declare Independence, which is landing in brick-and-mortar stores in the form of a CD-plus-DVD set and as a 12-inch vinyl. Look for it online as well.
The packages contain the title track — which is the 42-year-old Icelandic songstress' third single from her 2007 release, Volta — as well as bonus remixes by collaborator Ghostigital, a singer/trumpet player who also hails from Iceland; London producer/engineer Mark Stent, who has worked with Björk in the past as well; and British electronic musician Matthew Herbert, who programmed three songs on Björk's 2001 album, Vespertine. The DVD contains the song's video, which was directed by — you guessed it — perennial Björk co-conspirator Michel Gondry.
Also on the menu for this week is the soundtrack to "Elvis: Viva Las Vegas," an ABC special that aired in September as part of the 30th anniversary of Presley's death. The disc pits recently remastered songs sung by the King — "Mystery Train," "Jailhouse Rock," "(There'll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me)," etc. — alongside tribute cover versions performed during the TV special. Included are Daughtry's take on "Suspicious Minds"; Bruce Springsteen's cover of the title track; Chris Isaak and newcomer Brandi Carlile's "Love Me Tender" duet; Toby Keith and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry's rendition of "Mystery Train"; as well as additional cuts by Patti Scialfa, Faith Hill and Miranda Lambert.
Rounding out the latest batch of new releases is a 25th Anniversary Edition reissue of Here, There & Back by Lynyrd Skynyrd spinoff group the Allen Collins Band, and Life by Stereo by Christian hip-hop artist J.R.. The latter disc is being issued by Cross Movement Records, which amusingly states on its Web site: "J.R. presents the antithesis of an infamous heavy-metal album of [a] similar moniker, Death by Stereo, with Life by Stereo — signifying God's use of music as a medium to communicate life rather than death." We're pretty sure the label actually means the band Death by Stereo, which, as it is, are really more of a hardcore thing than a metal group. But we get the drift.
Song Title of the Week:
"Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi" from Radiohead's In Rainbows
Album Cover of the Week:
· Björk - Declare Independence (EP; with DVD; One Little Indian) [Buy Now]
· J.R. - Life by Stereo (Cross Movement)
· Radiohead - In Rainbows (TBD/ATO) [Buy Now]
· Various artists - "Elvis: Viva Las Vegas" soundtrack (Sony)
· Allen Collins Band - Here, There and Back - 25th Anniversary Edition (available at RollforRock.com)
· Smashing Pumpkins - American Gothic (EP; available exclusively on iTunes in the U.S.)
· 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]
· Natasha Bedingfield - Pocketful of Sunshine (Epic)
· Matt Costa - Unfamiliar Faces (Brushfire)
· Mindless Self Indulgence - You'll Rebel to Anything (Metropolis)