Did you happen to catch Michael Jackson's appearance at Sunday night's Grammy Awards? Yeah, we didn't either. While the rumors were coming on hot and heavy, the reclusive pop legend didn't surface at the show — and that certainly didn't help the ceremony, which could have used some more pizzazz, or the promotional efforts behind the 25th anniversary edition of Jacko's landmark album, Thriller.
The LP might be older than you are, but it's pretty rare to see a reissue loaded with as much contemporary appeal as this one. Kanye West, Will.I.Am, Akon and Fergie all contributed in various capacities for the birthday gift, with Chris Brown, Nick Cannon and Imogen Heap all participating in a related 40-episode podcast series called Thrillercast (snag the widget for it right here).
For a release as big as this — oh, and did we mention Thriller is the top-selling album of all time? — it only makes sense that there would be a single to hype it. Well, there is one indeed: a new version of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' " that features 'Kon, Will and, of course, Mr. Jackson.
"He's a genius," Akon told MTV News last month about working with the icon. "Just to be in the same room [with him], I felt everything I wanted to accomplish in life has been achieved. That aura ... that's how incredible that aura is. We about to shake the world up, man."
Thriller 25 has a few more silver bars too, including a Kanye-produced remix of "Billie Jean"; Will.I.Am's reworkings of "The Girl Is Mine" and "P.Y.T."; Fergie's version of "Beat It"; an outtake from the original Thriller sessions called "For All Time"; "Someone in the Dark"; "Carousel"; and the original "Billie Jean" demo. To boot, there's a DVD encompassing the related Thriller short films, Jackson's Emmy-nominated performance of "Billie Jean" during the "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever" TV special and more.
Now that's what you call a reissue. As for what else is in store for this week, seeing as how it's almost Valentine's Day and all, we're bringing the 411 to you as a series of couples. After all, we heart having fun in New Releases.
Hoser-ed Down: Montreal's Simple Plan have spent nearly four years honing their third studio album, and it's finally done. The long dry spell is probably going to be a challenge for the pop-punks — after all, their last release, 2004's Still Not Getting Any ..., debuted at #3 on the Billboard albums chart, and that's when bands were actually still selling CDs! Still, Simple Plan did manage to rope in some star power on the production side, tapping go-to-guy-of-the-moment Danjahandz as well as producers who have previously teamed with Justin Timberlake, Avril Lavigne and others. The eponymous album is also available as a limited-edition deluxe digipak with a bonus DVD featuring a documentary, behind-the-scenes clips and more.
There's another batch of Canucks in the mix this week too: City and Colour, who nabbed a Juno Award in 2007 for their last studio album, Sometimes. The band — which is actually an acoustic side project centered around Alexisonfire guitarist Dallas Green — is teeing up its second disc, with songs like "What Makes a Man?," "Constant Knot" and "Sleeping Sickness" (featuring the Tragically Hip's Gordon Downie) in the mix. The disc is called Bring Me Your Love — which might get it confused with PJ Harvey's 1995 outing, To Bring You My Love.
Credit Where Credit's Due: While we're on the subject of Canada, one of the country's biggest contributions to the rock annals is no doubt Neil Young, and he's getting a round of applause this week courtesy Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity. The two-CD set bristles with '90s alterna-rock mainstays Kristin Hersh, Veruca Salt and Tanya Donnelly, as well as the Watson Twins, Britta Phillips and Jill Sobule. Proceeds will go to Casting for Recovery, a nonprofit that supports women who have or have had breast cancer.
Paying tributes of a different variety altogether this week are the YMD, two Philly MCs who name-check some unlikely suspects on their new one, Excuse Me, This Is the Yah Mos Def. Defunct San Diego post-punks Drive Like Jehu get some props with the song "Jive Like Jehu," while the founder of Gern Blandsten Records is cited in "Charles Maggio's Real Last Name Is Ash" and "The Riches" actress Nicole Hiltz is presumably the person being referenced in "Hiltz Is Hot." Upping the WTF? level a notch, Distro and B. Awesome interweave unlikely samples by underground acts like Minor Threat, Bikini Kill and the Shipping News.
Elsewhere on the tribute front this week: Dread Zeppelin return with Bar Coda; Puntilla y el Conjunto Todo Rumbero salute a rumba legend with A Tribute to Gonzalo Asencio: Tio Tom 1919-1991; and Terence Blanchard, Nancy Wilson and other jazz luminaries join forces for Cannon Re-Loaded: An All-Star Celebration of Cannonball Adderley.
Good Samaritans: The women who converged for Cinnamon Girl aren't the only ones feeling charitable this week. Southern jam fiends Widespread Panic recently sponsored a house in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward through the Make It Right foundation's Pink Project, and they offered their song "Walk on the Flood" for download in exchange for a $10 donation to the organization. The 22-year-old band's new disc, Free Somehow, features that track as well as "Boom Boom Boom," "Up All Night" and more.
Meanwhile, long-running Indiana singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer has a new disc, too (The Geography of Light), and she's donating 10 percent of the profits from the accompanying tour to the American Friends Service Committee, a peacemaking group that was founded by the Quakers.
Pleased To Meet You: Speaking of "newcomers," there are a pair of notable ones this week, starting with Dallas' Deaf Pedestrians. You might be familiar with the alterna-rockers already — their nerd number "Hail to the Geek" was featured on MTV's own "My Super Sweet 16." The quirky song references "Dungeons & Dragons" and "Spider-Man," and as frontman Charlton Parker said in a recent press release, "Now, a lot of people come up to me at shows and ask if I really play 'D&D.' ... I can give them the satisfaction of knowing, yes, indeed, I have no life."
On the opposite end of the newcomer spectrum are the Informati, a Radiohead-inspired project featuring a progressive composer and an experimental guitarist. The duo's self-titled debut finds them blending classical arrangements with electronic rhythms, psychedelic guitars, dub bass — and best of all, the entire effort is sung in Latin!
Indie Delights: While Europe is on the brain, let's turn to British Sea Power, who are roaring back with their third opus, the coyly titled Do You Like Rock Music? The album was recorded with Arcade Fire producer Howard Bilerman and features songs about migration and pollution, but more exceptionally, the Brighton crew recorded it inside a converted water tower and in a forest in the Czech Republic, among other locations.
He may not be British, but sometimes ex-Guided by Voices majordomo Robert Pollard is mistaken for being just that, given his vocal inflections and obsession with British Invasion acts. The indomitable imbiber from Dayton, Ohio, has had an ongoing singles series on his own Happy Jack Rock Records, but this week's Superman Was a Rocker marks the label's first full-length.
Freebies!: Have rumors of recession been giving you the jitters? Check it out — there are two new releases that you don't even have to throw down for this week. Four Year Strong, who recently signed to Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz's Decaydance Records, have posted their new album, Rise or Die Trying, for free download at FriendsorEnemies.com. You better jump on the offer, though — it expires Wednesday.
Likewise, Face to Face captain Trever Keith is streaming his first-ever solo release, Melancholics Anonymous, for free on his Web site, TreverKeith.com. If you're not crazy about streaming, the 11-track item can also be downloaded for just $5.
Song Title of the Week:
"More Hot Dogs Please" from Robert Pollard's Superman Was a Rocker
Album Cover of the Week:
Fools Gold by Ssion
Metric's "Live at Metropolis" DVD
The indie-pop act is part of the north-of-the-border indie-pop explosion that has also included Feist and Broken Social Scene — in fact, Metric and BSS have a singer in common: Emily Haines. The time is ripe, therefore, for the release of Metric's first-ever DVD, "Live at Metropolis," which immortalizes the group's sold-out 2007 show at the Montreal venue. The 13 concert performances are bolstered by a trio of music videos, for "Monster Hospital," "Poster of a Girl" and "Empty."
Sourvein's Ghetto Angel
The down-tuned metal band is in the middle of a three-part EP series for heavier-than-thou label This Dark Reign Recordings, and this one is as swampy, doomy and sludgy as can be. The group, which previously called labels Southern Lord and Game Two home, will set out on a Metal Maniacs tour later this year, following stints with Zoroaster and Ganon.
The Bird and the Bee's One Too Many Hearts
And finally, there's a special valentine for all the lovers out there. The indie-pop duo consisting of Inara George and Greg Kurstin put out their debut LP around this time last year, and now they're back with a three-song EP that features "Birthday," "Last Day of Our Love" and "Come as You Were." Pucker up.
· Antietam - Opus Mixtum (Carrot Top)
· Averse Sefira - Advent Parallax (Candlelight) [Buy Now]
· Marco Benevento - Invisible Baby (Hyena)
· Blue Highway - Through the Window of a Train (Rounder)
· British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music? (Rough Trade)
· Rufus Cappadocia - Songs for Cello (Velour)
· City and Colour - Bring Me Your Love (Vagrant)
· Deaf Pedestrians - ... And Other Distractions (Virgin)
· Dread Zeppelin - Bar Coda (DMV)
· Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill - Welcome Here Again (Green Linnet) [Buy Now]
· The Heavy Circles - The Heavy Circles (Dynamite Child)
· Idiot Pilot - Wolves (Reprise)
· The Informati - The Informati (Inman)
· Jaded Heart - Sinister Mind (Locomotive)
· Chris Joss - Teraphonic Overdubs (Eighteenth Street)
· Little Annie & Paul Wallfisch - When Good Things Happen to Bad Pianos (Jnana)
· The Mumlers - Thickets & Stitches (Galaxia)
· Carrie Newcomer - The Geography of Light (Philo)
· Maceo Parker - Roots & Grooves (live; Heads Up)
· Robert Pollard - Superman Was a Rocker (Happy Jack Rock)
· Puntilla y el Conjunto Todo Rumbero - A Tribute to Gonzalo Asencio: Tio Tom 1919-1991 (Smithsonian Folkways)
· The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards - Spirit of the Glen (Fontana/Universal)
· Paul Sabu - Strange Messiah (Locomotive)
· Simple Plan - Simple Plan (enhanced; limited deluxe digipak comes with DVD; Lava/Atlantic) Read: "Simple Plan Still Not Getting Any, Expect To Look Like 95-Year-Olds" [Buy Now]
· Sourvein - Ghetto Angel (EP; This Dark Reign)
· Ssion - Fools Gold (Sleazetone)
· Andrew Sterman - The Path To Peace: Music Inspired by the Inner Journey of Mahatma Gandhi (Orange Mountain Music)
· Supreme Beings of Leisure - 11i (Rykodisc) [Buy Now]
· Sworn Enemy - Maniacal (Century Media)
· Heidi Talbot - In Love + Light (Compass)
· Widespread Panic - Free Somehow (Widespread) [Buy Now]
· Willits + Sakamoto - Ocean Fire (12K)
· The YMD - Excuse Me, This Is the Yah Mos Def (Southern/ My Pal God)
· Various artists - Cannon Re-Loaded: An All-Star Celebration of Cannonball Adderley (Concord)
· Various artists - Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity (two CDs; American Laundromat)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
· Allen/Lande - The Revenge (Locomotive)
· Marty Balin - Balin (American Beat)
· The Clark Sisters - Encore: The Best of the Clark Sisters (Rhino)
· Guru - The Best of Guru's Jazzmatazz (Virgin/EMI)
· Buddy Holly - Not Fade Away - Buddy Holly 1957: The Complete Recordings (El Toro)
· Ian Hunter - All American Alien Boy/ Overnight Angels (American Beat)
· Michael Jackson - Thriller 25 (with DVD; deluxe edition in hard-book packaging also available; Epic/Legacy) Read: "Michael Jackson, Akon Are 'Startin' Somethin' ' On Thriller 25 Track -- Listen To It Here!" [Buy Now]
· Dave Koz - Double Feature (with DVD; Capitol)
· Kylie Minogue - X (Capitol) [Buy Now]
· Johnny Rodriguez - 20 Greatest Hits (Select-O)
· The Romantics - The Romantics/ National Breakout (American Beat)
· Various artists - B.I.P.P.P.: French Synthwave 1979-1985 (Everloving)
· Various artists - The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 9: 1969 (six-CD box set; Hip-O Select)
· Various artists - Droppin' Science: Greatest Samples From the Blue Note Lab (Blue Note)
· Chet Baker - "Live in Tokyo" (Hudson Street)
· Whitney Houston - "Whitney Houston Live" (Hudson Street) [Buy Now]
· Tom Jones - "This Is Tom Jones: Legendary Performances" (three DVDs; Time Life) [Buy Now]
· Metric - "Live at Metropolis" (Last Gang)
· The Nomads - "Live in Madrid" (Cobraside)
· Orleans - "We're Still Havin' Fun!: A Live Concert Film" (Friday Music)
· Scorpions - "Live at Wacken Open Air 2006: A Night to Remember, a Journey Through Time" (Sony BMG) [Buy Now]
· Supersuckers - "Live at Helldorado" (Cobraside)
· Various artists - "Wow Gospel 2008" (Verity)
· The Bird and the Bee - One Too Many Hearts (EP; Blue Note)
· Epochs - The Epochs Remix EP (Rebel Group) [Buy Now]
· Four Year Strong - Rise or Die Trying (available for free download at FriendsorEnemies.com; I Surrender)
· Trever Keith - Melancholics Anonymous (available for free download at TreverKeith.com; self-release)
· Erykah Badu - New Amerykah (Motown)
· Missy Higgins - On a Clear Night (Reprise)
· Janet Jackson - Discipline (deluxe edition comes with DVD; Island) [Preorder]
· The Black Crowes - Warpaint (Silver Arrow/ Megaforce/ Sony) [Preorder]
· Flogging Molly - Float (Side One Dummy)
· Stephen Malkmus & Jicks - Real Emotional Trash (Matador)