Death Cab For Cutie Earn First Chart-Topping Debut With Narrow Stairs

Jason Mraz, Duffy, 10 Years, Filter open in Billboard's top 50.

So far, 2008 has been a rather pop- and R&B-heavy year — with the likes of Mariah Carey, Madonna and Janet Jackson all releasing new material. We’re nearing the halfway point and, up until now, only two rock records have occupied the Billboard Top 200′s peak position: Radiohead‘s In Rainbows, which started the year off on top with 122,300 copies sold, and Jack Johnson‘s Sleep Through the Static, which spent three weeks at #1, selling 374,600, 180,000, and 105,000, respectively.

Perhaps we need to look to Bellingham, Washington’s Death Cab for Cutie to turn the tide. Thanks to the indie pop-rock outfit’s new one, Narrow Stairs, we now have a third rock record dominating national album sales. The disc also becomes the band’s sole offering to bow at #1, selling close to 143,600 copies during its first week in stores. Comparatively, Death Cab’s previous effort, 2005′s Plans, debuted at #4, generating around 90,000 week-one scans.

Overall, though, next week’s chart will feature several new releases from some of rock’s heaviest hitters, but on average, the SoundScan numbers don’t lie: Rock doesn’t sell as well as the other genres. That’s not to say rock is dead. Jason Mraz‘s We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things makes its debut this week at #3, selling 73,000 units — following Frank Sinatra‘s Nothing But the Best collection at #2 with about 99,100 scans. Coming in at #12 with 28,000 sold, it’s 10 Years‘ latest, Division. The reunited Filter‘s independently released Anthems for the Damned also impacts next week’s chart, opening at #42 with 12,600 sold.

But one of the week’s best-sellers couldn’t be further from the rock aesthete. Duffy, the British singer/songwriter who has been dominating the U.K. charts, sees her Rockferry debut at #4 on the chart, with 70,900 copies snatched up. That means that the top four albums on next week’s sales chart are new releases — something that hasn’t happened for some time.

The rest of the top 10 is rounded out by the usual suspects and one other new release: at #10 with 36,600 sold is Keith Sweat‘s Just Me. Leona LewisSpirit climbs one spot to #5, with 62,300 scans, while Mariah Carey’s E=MC2 drops one spot to #6, selling another 58,600. Neil Diamond‘s Home Before Dark falls six chart places to #7, generating 53,400 in second-week sales, and Madonna’s Hard Candy slips five spots to #8, with 53,300 sold. Toby Keith‘s 35 Biggest Hits follows at #9, with 40,800 scans.

The soundtrack to “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” enters next week’s chart at #26, having sold 15,700 units in its first week. Following at #40, selling 13,200 copies, is Truth, the latest from R&B act Cherish. Iron Maiden‘s Somewhere Back in Time: The Best of 1980-1989 enters the chart at #59, with sales reported at 11,000. Foxy Brown‘s Brooklyn’s Don Diva debuts at #83, with 8,810 sold, and just two spots down, the Old 97′sBlame It on Gravity enters at #85, with 8,780.

Southern hip-hop artist Boondox‘s Krimson Creek bows at #113, selling 6,200 units, and with 4,900 scans, Dokken‘s Lightning Strikes Again comes in at #133. Emmure‘s Respect Issue trails at #141, with 4,800 sold. And lastly, entering at #195 with 3,500, is Cinematic Sunrise‘s Coloring Storybook and Long Playing Record.