For a week that's chock-full of new releases, there aren't too many big names to show for it: Beyond a new compilation thrown together by Snoop, Tom Morello's CD debut as the Nightwatchman, Joe's guest-heavy LP, a covers set by Patti Smith and the Arctic Monkeys' second album — which has been getting a surprisingly low-key response — there aren't too many fresh faces poised to chart.
But is this week really all that weak? Let's evaluate:
Various artists' Snoop Dogg Presents: The Big Squeeze
Strength: The Doggfather is unleashed, at least in some capacity, on almost every track on this collection, which primarily serves as a vehicle for Snoop to usher in his new buds, including JT Da Bigga Figga and Westurn Union. A spot by Katt Williams on "We Go Hard" might draw some extra ears too.
Weakness: While Snoop is asking us to open our minds to new talent, he's also cluttered the release with his crustier friends Kurupt, MC Eiht and the like — why not keep the focus on the promising newbies?
The Nightwatchman's One Man Revolution
Strength: Tom Morello can count on Rage Against the Machine fans to glom on to his solo project — even if it is acoustic, the politically charged content should cater to them. He's also got famed producer Brendan O'Brien (RATM, Pearl Jam) in his corner.
Weakness: While he's played scattered solo shows as the Nightwatchman in recent years, Morello has been staging select concerts secretly loaded with guests like Alanis Morissette, Slash and Perry Farrell, building momentum for the affair. Problem is none of those people appear on the disc, which sorely needs a guest — or three — boosting its profile.
Joe's Ain't Nothin' Like Me
Strength: Nas, Chamillionaire, Young Buck, Papoose and Fabolous drop verses on the latest LP by the Southern R&B singer, and production royalty Bryan-Michael Cox, Sean Garrett, Cool and Dre, and the Underdogs also help out.
Weakness: Joe's new single "If I Was Your Man" single hasn't been doing all that much damage on the charts, so while fellow R&B singers like Lloyd have been making strong debuts, Joe could fall short.
Arctic Monkeys' Favourite Worst Nightmare
Strength: After attracting some major buzz following their performance at South by Southwest last year, the Monkeys' Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not was the fastest-selling rock debut in British history and made an impressive opening at #24 on the Billboard albums chart in the U.S. Their new one is faster and cops from Ennio Morricone's spaghetti-western soundtrack to "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."
Weakness: Have you heard a word about this album? Even its first single, "Brainstorm," has yet to make noise Stateside. Despite the band being all the rage last summer, the dreaded "sophomore slump" may be rearing its head once again.
Patti Smith's Twelve
Strength: Covers of songs by Nirvana, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and a slew of classic-rock bands might rekindle interest in the singer/songwriter's newer works. Smith has also been in the limelight after getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which could give her an extra assist.
Weakness: Her 2004 album, Trampin', opened at a flimsy #123. As important as Patti Smith is in the rock canon, is anyone still excited about her new material?
But as usual, even if there aren't any superstars hitting the racks this week, there are still plenty of below-the-radar releases worth keeping tabs on. Here are the top 10 incognito titles you should care about:
Dntel's Dumb Luck
Jimmy Tamborello is best known these days as one-half of the Postal Service, but he's been hammering away at this other project for some 13 years now. If that's not enough reason to check out this spacey release, guest appearances by Conor Oberst, Jenny Lewis, plus members of Grizzly Bear and the Moving Units should do the trick.
All Smiles' Ten Readings of a Warning
Jim Fairchild isn't wasting any time after the dissolution of Grandaddy last year. The guitarist, who also lends Earlimart some help with production from time to time, has become the first ex-Grandaddy member to step up with solo material. Recorded over sporadic sessions with drummers Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse), Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney), Danny Seim (Menomena) and others, Fairchild also takes a seat at the piano amid all the guitar buzz.
Various artists' In the Mind of Nitin Sawhney
You might know Sawhney's name from the wealth of big-name artists he has produced, including Massive Attack and Aqualung. But even if you don't, this comp will give you the sense that the electronic guru is worth noting — D'Angelo, Koop and Air tracks are also included, as is "Songbird," which Sawhney cut exclusively for the set.
Midnight Movies' Lion the Girl
Previously a trio, the Los Angeles quartet beef up with a new rhythm section and gang up with Nirvana producer Steve Fisk for their second outing. Singer Gena Olivier said in a press release that Lion is "an album about pure love"; songs include "Patient Eye," "Coral Den" and "Parallel Paramour."
Calvin Johnson & the Sons of Soul's Calvin Johnson & the Sons of the Soil
Speaking of Nirvana, Kurt Cobain's former Seattle buddy joins forces with Wolf Colonel's Jason Anderson, Yume Bitsu's Adam Forkner and Little Wings' Kyle Field to recap Johnson's greatest hits. That includes songs by a variety of Johnson projects — Dub Narcotic Sound System, the Halo Benders and the Go Team.
The Japanese electro-pop wunderkind started his career with one of the best-regarded indie albums of the 1990s, Fantasma, then finally followed it five years later with the widely panned Point. Now Cornelius is hoping to rebound with his third album, which is unfortunately being called a continuation of his last release. Oh well — even if it doesn't turn out so hot, at least you can enjoy a cover of the Rat Pack classic "Sleep Warm" and an interactive widget of Tokyo.
Various artists' SC100
Bloomington, Indiana, indie label Secretly Canadian gets some much-deserved love in the form of its 100th release. Helping blow out the candles are Swearing at Motorists, Damien Jurado and Early Day Miners — who largely owe their careers to the label, which is in its 11th year. Nikki Sudden tosses in a cover of June's "See(ing) Double" for good measure.
The Detroit Cobras' - Tied & True
One of the underground's strongest garage-rock bands barrels back with its first set of studio material in three years. Singer Rachel Nagy branches into soul territory while Greg Cartwright of the Reigning Sound helps out. Songs include "Leave My Kitten Alone," "(I Wanna Know) What's Going On" and "Nothing but a Heartache."
Transmission O's Memory of a Dream
Isis and Neurosis fans look no further — this Dutch band could be next in line to take up the sludge-metal torch. The plodding, long-lasting release — it clocks in at well over an hour — finds Today Is the Day major domo Steve Austin chipping in some support as the band slowly pummels its listeners into oblivion.
Portland, Oregon's blaxploitation-obsessed sophomores called on Fishbone, Dead Prez, Living Colour's Vernon Reid and others for their conceptual release, which finds fictional 'hood superheroes struggling in Razorblade City. (Fishbone's first studio album in six years, Still Stuck in Your Throat, also drops this week.)
Song Title of the Week:
"Man Needs a Woman or a Man to Be a Man" from Bill Callahan's Work on a Whaleheart
· Aa - gAme (two CDs; Gigantic)
· Alex Delivery - Star Destroyer (Jagjaguwar)
· All Smiles - Ten Readings of a Warning (Dangerbird)
· Ellen Allien - The Other Side Berlin (Deaf Dumb & Blind)
· Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake - From the River to the Ocean (Thrill Jockey)
· Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare (Domino) [Buy Now]
· Assemblage 23 - Meta (Metropolis)
· Bassnectar - Underground Communication (Om)
· Between the Trees - The Story and the Song (Bonded)
· The Blow - Poor Aim: Love Songs (K)
· Blutch - Materia (At a Loss)
· Chuck Brown - We're About the Business (Raw Venture)
· Norman Brown - Stay With Me (Peak)
· Patrizio Buanne - Forever Begins Tonight (Republic)
· Bill Callahan - Work on a Whaleheart (Drag City)
· Michel Camilo - Spirit of the Moment (Telarc)
· Chinese Stars - Listen to Your Left Brain (Three One G)
· Cliks - Snakehouse (Tommy Boy)
· Confederate Railroad - Cheap Thrills (Shanachie)
· Contradiction - The Voice of Hatred (Locomotive)
· Cornelius - Sensuous (Everloving) [Buy Now]
· Dark Tranquillity - Fiction (Century Media)
· Detroit Cobras - Tied & True (Bloodshot)
· Dntel - Dumb Luck (Sub Pop) [Buy Now]
· Eccodek - Voices Have Eyes (White Swan)
· The Electric Soft Parade - No Need to Be Downhearted (Better Looking)
· Ensiferum - Victory Songs (Candlelight)
· Benjamín Escoriza - Alevanta! (World Music Network)
· Ibrahim Ferrer - Mi Sueño (Nonesuch) [Buy Now]
· Tim Finn - Imaginary Kingdom (Manhattan)
· Fishbone - Still Stuck in Your Throat (Sound in Color) [Buy Now]
· Sue Foley, Deborah Coleman and Roxanne Potvin - Time Bomb (Ruf)
· Front Line Assembly - Fallout (Metropolis)
· The F---ing Champs - VI (Drag City)
· Future Clouds & Radar - Future Clouds & Radar (two CDs; Star Apple Kingdom)
· Charlotte Gainsbourg - 5:55 (enhanced; Vice)
· Bebel Gilberto - Momento (Six Degrees)
· The Go Find - Stars on the Wall (Morr)
· God Module - Let's Go Dark (Metropolis)
· Buddy Greco - The Man and the Music (SRO)
· Gus Gus - Forever (Groove Attack) [Buy Now]
· Colin Hay - Are You Lookin' at Me? (Compass)
· Armand Van Helden - Guetto Blaster (Ultra)
· ILikeTrains - Progressive Reform (Beggars Banquet)
· Joe - Ain't Nothin' Like Me (Jive) [Buy Now]
· Calvin Johnson & the Sons of the Soil - Calvin Johnson & the Sons of Soul (K)
· Sunshine Jones - Seven Tracks in Seven Days (MVD Audio)
· Ralph Lawson - Fabric 33 (Fabric)
· Lifesavas - Gutterfly (Quannum Projects)
· Kalli - While the City Sleeps (One Little Indian)
· Kill the Romance - Take Another Life (Locomotive)
· Mando Diao - Ode to Ochrasy (enhanced; Mute)
· Keiko Matsui - Moyo (Shout! Factory)
· Maria McKee - Late December (Cooking Vinyl)
· Marillion - Somewhere Else (MVD Audio)
· McCarthy Trenching - McCarthy Trenching (Team Love)
· Messer Chups - Hyena Safari (AeroCCCP)
· Midnight Movies - Lion the Girl (New Line)
· Jane Monheit - Surrender (Concord)
· Kiko Navarro - Perceptions of Pacha (Swank)
· Nazanin - Someday (Bodog)
· New Years Day - My Dear (enhanced; TVT)
· The Nightwatchman - One Man Revolution (Epic) [Buy Now]
Read: "Nightwatchman, Rage Reunion Have Morello Fired Up For Political Fights"
· Nostradameus - Pathway (Locomotive)
· The Old Soul - The Old Soul (Friendly Fire)
· OOIOO - OOEYEOO: Eye Remix (EP; Thrill Jockey)
· Joel Ortiz - The Brick: Bodega Chronicles (Koch)
· Donny Osmond - Love Songs of the '70s (Decca)
· Pela - Anytown Graffiti (Great Society)
· Peder - And He Just Pointed to the Sky ... (Ubiquity)
· PlayRadioPlay! - The Frequency EP (Stolen Transmission)
· Polyrhythm Addicts - Break Glass ... (Babygrande)
· Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet (limited-edition version also available; Atlantic) [Buy Now]
Read: "Porcupine Tree's Wilson Talks Complex New LP, Project With Opeth's Akerfeldt"
· John Prine & Mac Wiseman - Standard Songs for Average People (Oh Boy)
· Rabbit in the Moon - Decade (two CDs; South Beat)
· Joshua Redmond - Back East (Nonesuch)
· REO Speedwagon - Find Your Own Way Home (Mailboat)
· Sa-Ra Creative Partners - The Hollywood Recordings (Babygrande)
· Saturday Knights - The Saturday Knights (EP; Light in the Attic)
· Secret Voices - No Time for Silence (1K)
· Brittany Shane - Brittany Shane (EP; self-release)
· Simply Red - Stay (self-release)
· Patti Smith - Twelve (Columbia) [Buy Now]
· Mavis Staples - We'll Never Turn Back (Anti-)
· Stinking Lizaveta - Scream of the Iron Iconoclast (At a Loss)
· Sunburned Hand of the Man - Z (Ecstatic Peace)
· Avey Tare & Kria Brekkan - Pullhair Rubeye (Paw Tracks)
· Jimi Tenor & Kabu Kabu - Joystone (Ubiquity)
· Test Your Reflex - The Burning Hour (RCA)
· Tilomo - Soft Lunch (1K)
· Toasters - One More Bullet (Stomp)
· Transmission O - Memory of a Dream (Candlelight)
· Two Cow Garage - III (Suburban Home)
· Vanna - Curses (Epitaph)
· Veils - Nux Vomita (enhanced; Rough Trade)
· Dale Watson - From the Cradle to the Grave (Hyena)
· Sara Wendt - Weightless With Love (EP; City Canyons)
· Deniece Williams - Love, Niecy Style (Shanachie)
· Young Galaxy - Young Galaxy (Arts & Crafts)
· Young Gods - Super Ready/ Fragmente (Ipecac)
· James Zabiela and Nic Fanciulli - One+One (Ministry of Sound)
· Various artists - A Tribute to Joni Mitchell (Nonesuch)
· Various artists - Ballads of the Book (Chemikal Underground)
· Various artists - In the Mind of Nitin Sawhney (District 6)
· Various artists - SC100 (Secretly Canadian)
· Various artists - Snoop Dogg Presents: The Big Squeeze (Koch) [Buy Now]
Read: "Snoop Says Rappers And Imus Are 'Two Separate Things'; Talks New Comp"
· Various artists - "Lucky You" soundtrack (Columbia)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
· Anjani - Blue Alert (with DVD; Sony/Legacy)
· Arch Enemy - Black Earth (enhanced; Earsplit/Regain)
· Steve Austin - 800 Lb. Gorilla (UMe)
· The Band - The Best of a Musical History (deluxe edition comes with DVD; Capitol)
· Laura Branigan - Greatest Hits: The Best of Laura Branigan (Rhino)
· Leonard Cohen - Songs From a Room; Songs of Leonard Cohen; and Songs of Love And Hate (Sony/Legacy)
· Ella Fitzgerald - Lullabies of Birdland and Sweet and Hot (UMe)
· Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Shout! Factory)
· Genesis - Genesis: 1976-1981 (box set with six CDs and six DVDs; Rhino)
· Marduk - Dark Endless; Heaven Shall Burn; Opus Nocturne; Those of the Unlight (Regain)
· Dito Montiel - Dito Montiel (Rhino)
· Neil Sedaka - The Definitive Collection (Razor & Tie)
· Various artists - "Hope Floats" soundtrack (Capitol/EMI)
· Abba - "Dancing Queen Interviews" (MVD Visual)
· Bell, Maggie & Midnight Flyer - "Live Montreux, July 1981" (MVD Visual)
· Blood Sweat & Tears - "Spinning Wheel" (MVD Visual)
· Tim Buckley - "My Fleeting House" (MVD Visual)
· Champion - "Different Directions: The Last Show" (with CD; Bridge Nine)
· Leonard Cohen - "Under Review 1934-1977" (MVD Visual)
· Destroy All Monsters - "Grow Live Monsters" (MVD Visual)
· Aynsley Lister - "Live!" (MVD Visual)
· Todd Snider - "The Devil You Know" (New Door)
· Stryper - "Greatest Hits: Live in Puerto Rico" (MVD Visual)
· War - "Loose Grooves: Funkin' Live in England 1980" (MVD Visual)
· Wisdom in Chains - "Die for Us Live" (MVD Visual)
· Various artists - "The American Folk Blues Festivals 1963-1966: The British Tours" (UMe)
· Various artists - "The Hollywood Sound" (Kultur)
· Various artists - "The Legendary Crooners" (Standing Room Only)
· Tori Amos - American Doll Posse (special edition comes with DVD; Epic) [Preorder]
Read: "Tori Amos Forms Anti-Bush Posse By Mutating Into Greek Goddesses"
· Ne-Yo - Because of You (Def Jam) [Preorder]
Read: "Ne-Yo Getting To Know Jennifer Hudson While He Waits For Britney"
· Various artists - "Spider-Man 3" soundtrack (Record Collection)
Read: " 'Spider-Man 3' Soundtrack Features Killers, Snow Patrol"
· Björk - Volta (Atlantic) [Preorder]
Read: "Tsunami, Timbaland Help Shape Bjork's Forthcoming Volta"
· Bones Thugs-N-Harmony - Strength and Loyalty (Full Surface/ Interscope) [Preorder]
Read: "Bone Thugs Dropping Two New LPs; Second Disc To Feature Dre, Kanye, Mariah"
· Mike Jones - The American Dream (Ice Age) [Preorder]
· Elliott Smith - New Moon (two CDs; Kill Rock Stars) [Preorder]
· Bobby Valentino - Special Occasion (Def Jam) [Preorder]
Read: "Bobby Valentino Looks Out For The Ladies With New Album, Jean Line"
· Megadeth - United Abominations (Roadrunner)
· Linkin Park - Minutes to Midnight (Warner Bros.)
Read: "Linkin Park Finish Apocalyptic Album, Revive Projekt Revolution Tour"
· Wilco - Sky Blue Sky (enhanced; Nonesuch)