It's been a very slow-moving first quarter, and while this week doesn't exactly have a litany of marquee artists, there is something fresh in store for everyone. Here is a virtual stroll through the record shop ... and what better place to start than with country music?
File Under: Country
· Dixie Chicks' "Shut Up & Sing" DVD:
While some news outlets blared headlines about a "defiant" Dixie Chicks sweeping the Grammy Awards last week — as if to say they were handcuffed to the podium, screeching about President Bush's foreign policies — the ladies didn't make too big a deal of their political attitudes at the event. That didn't stop them from doing so with this recent documentary, however: Co-directed by two-time Academy Award-winner Barbara Kopple and also featuring producer Rick Rubin, it captures just how much 15 little words can bruise — and ultimately benefit — a band.
· Charlie Louvin's Charlie Louvin:
As acclaimed as the Chicks were this year, they've got nuthin' on Country Music Hall of Fame demigod Louvin, who is taking a musical stroll for the first time in 10 years with a guest-star-heavy opus. The Louvin Brothers sibling didn't manage to snare Jack White — whose Raconteurs have been toying with the group's "The Christian Life" in concert — but he was able to coax Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Will Oldham and Elvis Costello, not to mention members of Bright Eyes and Lambchop to contribute.
· The Silos' Come on Like the Fast Lane:
The alt-country trailblazers have also been around for a spell — more than 20 years, in fact — but their latest effort steers them in different directions, among them proto-punk and R.E.M.-esque roots-rock. Recorded at composer Philip Glass' Looking Glass Studios, the disc is also reminiscent of Ennio Morricone's spaghetti-Western scores. (Incidentally, a tribute to that Italian legend, We All Love Ennio Morricone, also drops this week. It features tribute tracks by such unlikely fans as Metallica, Bruce Springsteen and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters.)
File Under: Children's
· Various artists' Kidz Bop 11:
Expect more big things from this best-selling series, the last installment of which debuted at #3 on the Billboard albums chart. This one finds tots tooting through John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change," the Fray's "Over My Head (Cable Car)" and — this one's just a little bit of a stretch — Rascal Flatts' "What Hurts the Most."
· Bratz - Fashion Pixiez
Trying to wean yourself off these tweens? Well, you probably won't be on the wagon for much longer. This latest set by the group — which counts Paula Abdul among its closest friends — seeps selections from the DVD of the same name; another video, "Livin' It Up!"; and the act's Saturday morning series.
· Various artists' Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Nine Inch Nails, No Doubt and Smashing Pumpkins
You've seen these compilations popping up on the New Releases schedule in recent months — it's high time to giving 'em some lovin'. Using glockenspiel, vibraphone, mellotron, harp and bells to soften up — or, depending on your level of cynicism, wimpify — sounds by the aforementioned bands, the series applies its sleep-inducing sheen to "Don't Speak," "Head Like a Hole" and "Cherub Rock." If you don't know which track belongs to which artist, it's time to go back to cool school.
File Under: Underground Hip-Hop
· K-os' Atlantis: Hymns for Disco
Born in Trinidad, based in Toronto and currently making waves in the States, the innovative crossover MC has even more curiosities to his name: He was raised by Jehovah's Witnesses and is touring with Gym Class Heroes and Rx Bandits. Upping the "WTF?" quotient yet another time are appearances by singer/songwriter Sam Roberts and Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew on "Valhalla."
· Free Murda's RZA Presents Free Murda: Let Freedom Reign
Like K-os' album, this one is equally likely to fall under the radar of most rap fans, but the LP by Brooklyn, New York's Free Murda has just as much legitimacy thanks to one of hip-hop's best savants, the RZA. The Wu-Tang Clan agent spruced up three tracks with his production skills and appears on one of them ("My Black Nina," also featuring Sha-Cronz.)
· Begetz's Ghetto Pass
Another Brooklyn street fave, Begetz is also looking up to a big brother of own — the Firm's AZ — for his maiden release. If you didn't catch him starring alongside 2Pac in "Above the Rim" or in assorted videos by Jay-Z and Nas, you'll have the chance to hear him loud and clear now.
File Under: Indie-Rock
· Calla's Strength in Numbers
Critics have given this New York-by-way-of-Texas band countless hugs and kisses, and the love fest should continue with its fifth volume. This one is being perceived as a retrospective of sorts — no, there are no rehashed or previously released songs, but singer/guitarist Aurelio Valle and his comrades stop to take stock of the wide variety of moods and textures (experimental, raw, smooth) they've churned out over the years.
· Explosions in the Sky's All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
This effort was produced by lo-fi master John Cogleton but actually showcases a band in all its unbridled fury. Well, the loudest fury an indie-rock band can produce, that is — skip to the Metal section if it's tinnitus you're after. The fourth effort by the Texas instrumentalists has six songs but they're hella long, so don't worry about getting your money's worth.
· Field Music's Tones of Town
The Sunderland, England, band's style has been called everything from "mod-pop" to "pop art," drawn them comparisons to Wilco and earned them a spot touring with Belle & Sebastian. Brothers Peter and David Brewis are responsible for the songcraft, and with keyboardist Andrew Moore in tow, they serve up more shifting layers than your ears will be able to keep track of.
File Under: Metal
· The Hidden Hand's The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote
If Lemmy is speed metal's indispensable dude, then Scott "Wino" Weinrich owns that title in the doom-metal underworld. The third effort by his latest combo — his other projects include Spirit Caravan, Saint Vitus and the Obsessed — finds him talking more about history than outright politics, and he dabbles with a slide to boot. The release is appended with the hard-to-find Devoid of Color EP.
· Vader's The Darkest Age: Live, Kingdom and Live in Japan
The first Eastern European death-metal band to sign a record deal outside its native land after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Poland's Vader are hailed with three reissues. Darkest Age enshrines a 1993 concert, Live in Japan one from five years later, and Kingdom is upped with a pair of bonus tracks.
· The Handshake Murders' Usurper
Seven years young, the Arkansas death-metallers finally step up with their first-ever full-length. Dare yourself to keep the earplugs at bay as they push the brutality envelope on songs like "Painted Contortionist," "Of Cult and Atrophy" and "Apostate."
File Under: Punk
· The Queers' "The Queers Are Here" DVD
The Queers are 25 years old, if you can believe it, and more incredulously, this is their first-ever DVD. But while the New Hampshire band has been around since 1982, this video culls live-performance and behind-the-scenes madness they wreaked from 1993-2005 and captures the band with a handful of various lineups.
· Autonym's Shall We Skip to Excessive Celebration?
Lead singer Will Angelos — who resides in Los Angeles, as luck for his name would have it — makes no secret of his iconoclastic views (check out his diatribes at MySpace.com/Autonymla). Expect that banter to seep into his hardcore-punk band's discordant assaults, lovingly put to tape by Pete Lyman of another searing L.A. squad, Year Future.
· Hot Cross' Risk Revival
Featuring Level Plane Records swami Greg Drudy and a former member of Interpol, the Philly hardcore phanatics have toured with Fear Before the March of Flames but sound more akin to Big Black. Catch them chugging through "Finance Fuels the Sickness at Heart," "Scrape Wisdom" and "Cardiac Silence" on this, their third opus.
File Under: Experimental
· The Boredoms' Super Roots 7, 8 and 9
In commemoration of Japan's undisputed noise kings celebrating 20 years of chaos — and on the verge of their 77-drummer live extravaganza to be held in New York on July 7 — Vice imports three installments of the band's overwhelming series. Only one, 6, has been out in the States before — while that one boasts 17 tracks, the other two clock in at just three apiece.
· Big Sir's Und Die Scheibe Ändert Sich Immer
If it's incomprehensible, it's gotta be by the Mars Volta — or affiliated with them, at least. Bassist Juan Alderete de la Peña sets up camp with Lisa Papineau of M83 and Air to revive their atmospheric assemblage — and invite Beastie Boy colleague Monkey Mark and Hella's Jonathan Hischke to contribute intermittently.
· Zu & Nobukazu Takemura's Identification With the Enemy: A Key to the Underworld
Italian Jazz spazz-outs Zu have paired up in the past with another avant-garde master, saxophonist Ken Vandermark, but this time around they chose experimental Japanese DJ Takemura for their third collaboration disc issued by purveying under-the-radar label Atavistic. If your record store carries the disc, chances are you won't miss it in the racks: It's cased in a glorious digipak.
File Under: Un-File-Able
· Call Me Lightning's Soft Skeleton
Pretty much anything Frenchkiss puts out these days is impossible to classify — look no further than Les Savy Fav and Enon. Call Me Lightening certainly further that notion; their LP features a spot by "SNL" comedian Fred Armisen, for crying out loud. The band's second release — and 30th for the label — also features help from Black Heart Procession's Joe Plummer and Enon culprit Matt Schulz.
Good luck finding a place in the rack for this one too. As the press release states, "This new body of work further experiments with the art of storytelling using sound waves and vocal tones." Well, OK, that's basically just a complicated way of saying an artist "makes music," but believe us when we tell you that the anti-pop and spoken-word passages Brendan Fowler presents here will leave you scratching your head.
· Bunny Rabbit - Lovers and Crypts
Yet another Brooklyn artist, this one crafting her art on street corners using upturned garbage cans, and has since gone on to craft an album of freestyle nursery rhymes that, in her words, are intended to provoke "deep-seated shame and inexorable ass-shaking." Nice job.
Song Title of the Week:
"Put All Your Eggs in One Basket and Then Watch That Basket!!!" from Marnie Stern's In Advance of the Broken Arm
· 2XL - Neighborhood Rapstar (Tommy Boy)
· Brent Amaker and the Rodeo - Brent Amaker and the Rodeo (J-Shirt)
· Anberlin - Cities (Tooth & Nail) [Buy Now]
· The Ataris - Welcome the Night (Sanctuary) [Buy Now]
· Autonym - Shall We Skip to Excessive Celebration? (Alarmor) [Buy Now]
· Kathie Baillie - Love's Funny That Way (Aspirion)
· Philip Bardowell - In the Cut (Locomotive)
· Barr - Summary (5 Rue Christine) [Buy Now]
· Begetz - Ghetto Pass (X-Ray) [Buy Now]
· Beneath the Massacre - Mechanics of Dysfunction (Prosthetic) [Buy Now]
· The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse (Jagjaguwar) [Buy Now]
· Big Sir - Und Die Scheibe Ändert Sich Immer (GSL) [Buy Now]
· Black Lips - Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo (enhanced; Vice) [Buy Now]
· Bratz - Fashion Pixiez (Hip-O/UMe) [Buy Now]
· Bunny Rabbit - Lovers and Crypts (Voodoo-Eros) [Buy Now]
· Call Me Lightning - Soft Skeleton (French Kiss) [Buy Now]
· Calla - Strength in Numbers (Beggars Banquet) [Buy Now]
· The Coach and Four - The Great Escape (Makeshift) [Buy Now]
· Comeback Kid - Broadcasting ... (Victory) [Buy Now]
· Bobby Conn - King for a Day (Thrill Jockey)
· The Cringe - Tipping Point (Megaforce) [Buy Now]
· Jill Cunniff - City Beach (The Militia Group)
· Dir en Grey - The Marrow of a Bone (enhanced; Warcon)
· Dolorean - You Can't Win (Yep Roc) [Buy Now]
· Erasure - On the Road to Nashville (live; with DVD; Mute) [Buy Now]
· Everlife - Everlife (Buena Vista)
· Explosions in the Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone (Temporary Residence)
· Fatal Smile - Neo Natural Freaks (Locomotive) [Buy Now]
· Dennis Ferrer - The World as I See It (MVD Audio)
· Field Music - Tones of Town (Memphis Industries)
· Fifty Caliber Kiss - Armor Class Invincible (MVD Audio) [Buy Now]
· The Frames - The Cost (Anti-) [Buy Now]
· Free Murda - RZA Presents Free Murda: Let Freedom Reign (Cleopatra)
· Fu Manchu - We Must Obey (Century Media)
· The Handshake Murders - Usurper (Goodfellow)
· The Harlem Shakes - Burning Birthdays (EP; Harlem Shakes) [Buy Now]
· The Hidden Hand - The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote (with EP; Southern Lord)
· Peter Himmelman - My Green Kite (Rounder)
· Hot Cross - Risk Revival (Equal Vision) [Buy Now]
· I Am the Thorn - You Are the Lamb (Goodfellow)
· Jesu - Conqueror (Hydra Head)
· Kittie - Funeral for Yesterday (with bonus DVD; X of Infamy)
· K-os - Atlantis: Hymns for Disco (Virgin)
· Victor Krummenacher - The Cock Crows at Sunrise (MVD Audio)
· La Drivers Union - Por Por: Honk Horn Music of Ghana (Smithsonian Folkways)
· Laibach - Volk (with special hard-book packaging; Mute)
· Little Feat - Rocky Mountain Jam (Hot Tomato)
· Charlie Louvin - Charlie Louvin (digipak; Tompkins Square)
· Love Hate Hero - White Lies (Ferret)
· Minsk - The Ritual Fires of Abandonment (Relapse)
· Minus the Bear - Interpretaciones del Oso (Suicide Squeeze)
· Mortal Love - I Have Lost (Locomotive) [Buy Now]
· Nein - Luxury (Sonic Unyon)
· The One AM Radio - This Too Will Pass (Dangerbird)
· Paganize - Evilution Hour (Candlelight)
· Elvis Perkins - Ash Wednesday (digipak; XL)
· P.G. Six - Slightly Sorry (Drag City)
· Pop Levi - Return to Form Black Majick Party (Counter)
· The Rakes - Remixes (EP; Dim Mak)
· Reel Big Fish and Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer - Duet All Night Long (Reignition)
· Morris Robinson - Going Home (Decca)
· Rwake - Voices of Omens (Relapse)
· The Shining - Grindstone (Rune Grammofon)
· The Showdown - Temptation Come My Way (Mono Vs. Stereo)
· The Silos - Come on Like the Fast Lane (Bloodshot)
· Southern Culture on the Skids - Countrypolitan Favorites (digipak; Yep Roc)
· John Starling and Carolina Star - Slidin' Home (Rebel)
· Marnie Stern - In Advance of the Broken Arm (Kill Rock Stars)
· Corey Stevens - Albertville (Ruf)
· Sting & Edin Karamazov - The Journey & the Labyrinth: The Music of John Dowland (live; with DVD; Deutsche Grammophon)
· The Subjects - With the Ease, Grace, Precision and Cleverness of Human Beings (Pretty Activity)
· Richard Swift - Dressed Up for the Letdown (Secretly Canadian)
· Cortney Tidwell - Don't Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up (Ever)
· Toby Mac - (Portable Sounds) (Forefront)
· Trans Am - Sex Change (Thrill Jockey) [Buy Now]
· Louie Vega - Mix the Vibe: For the Love of King Street (two CDs; MVD Audio)
· Nick Warren - GU030 Paris (two CDs; Global Underground)
· Amelia White - Black Doves (Funzalo)
· The White Barons - Up All Night With the White Barons (Gearhead)
· Tommy Womack - There, I Said It! (Cedar Creek)
· The Young Knives - Voices of Animals and Men (with bonus DVD; Ryko/Transgressive)
· Zero on In - Oblivion Fair (Locomotive)
· Zu & Nobukazu Takemura - Identification With the Enemy: A Key to the Underworld (digipak; Atavistic)
· Various artists - Kidz Bop 11 (Razor & Tie)
· Various artists - Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Nine Inch Nails, No Doubt and Smashing Pumpkins (Baby Rock)
· Various artists - Singing for Life: Songs of Hope, Healing and HIV/AIDS in Uganda (Smithsonian Folkways)
· Various artists - We All Love Ennio Morricone (Sony Classical)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
· Artrosis - Fetish and In Nomine Noctis (MVD Audio)
· Audionom - Retrospectiv (Kemado)
· Behemoth - Chaotica: The Essence of the Underworld (MVD Audio) [Buy Now]
· The Boredoms - Super Roots 7, 8 and 9 (Vice)
· Toni Braxton - The Essential Toni Braxton (two CDs; LaFace/Legacy) [Buy Now]
· Christ Agony - Elysium (MVD Audio)
· Electric Light Orchestra - Out of the Blue (Epic/Legacy)
· Luscious Jackson - Greatest Hits (Capitol) [Buy Now]
· Lux Occulta - The Mother and the Enemy (MVD Audio)
· Sirrah - Acme and Did Tomorrow Come ... (MVD Audio)
· The Triffids - Calenture and In the Pines (Domino)
· Turbo - Awatar (MVD Audio)
· Vader - The Darkest Age: Live, Kingdom (EP) and Live in Japan (MVD Audio)
· The Dixie Chicks - "Shut Up & Sing" (Genius Products) [Buy Now]
· Evanescence - "Broken: An Unauthorized Biography" (Locomotive) [Buy Now]
· Gomez - "Five Men in a Hut: Singles 1998-2004" (Virgin)
· Hawkwind - "In Concert: Out of the Shadows" (MVD Visual)
· Helloween - "Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy World Tour 2005/2006" (Steamhammer)
· Pat McGee Band - "Vintage Stages Live" (with CD; Kirtland)
· The Queers - "The Queers Are Here" (MVD Visual) [Buy Now]
· Martha Reeves - "In Concert" (MVD Visual)
· U2 - "Achtung Baby: A Classic Album Under Review" (Sexy Intellectual) [Buy Now]
· Bobby Vee - "In Concert" (MVD Visual)
· Barry White - "Let the Music Play: The Barry White Story" (Eagle Vision) [Buy Now]
· Neil Young - "Under Review 1966-1975" (MVD Visual) [Buy Now]
· Various artists - "Rock Relief: Live in Concert - Musicians Disaster Relief" (MVD Visual)
· Various artists - "Wim Wenders Presents: Musica Cubana - Live in Amsterdam" and "Live in Tokyo" (MVD Visual)
· Beck - The Information (deluxe-edition reissue; Geffen) [Preorder]
· Nine Inch Nails - "Nine Inch Nails Live: Beside You in Time" DVD (Nothing) [Preorder]
· Slim Thug & Tha Boss Hogg Outlawz - Serve & Collect (Koch)
· Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (deluxe edition with book due same day; Merge) [Preorder]
· Jonny Greenwood - Jonny Greenwood Is the Controller (Trojan)
· Notorious B.I.G. - Greatest Hits (Bad Boy)
· Korn - MTV Unplugged (Virgin) [Preorder]
Read: "Korn Quiet Down With The Cure, Amy Lee For 'MTV Unplugged' "
· Relient K - Five Score and Seven Years Ago (Capitol)
Read: "Relient K Pump Serious Rock, Sugary Pop In The Tank For Upcoming LP"