There's something to be said for being a creature of habit! Every week when I write this award-winning blog, I'm usually perched atop my favorite chair, sitting in my garage and surrounded by billions of CDs, LPs, and unlabeled videocassettes of questionable origin, drinking gallons of Diet Coke and worse!
This week, however, in a stunning turn of events, I am seated at a gawdawful Starbucks on Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami, Florida, desperately trying to focus on the week's latest releases--and find myself being distracted by a nonstop, in-house playlist featuring old jazz ladies from the '40s, Nat "King" Cole, and hundreds of other artists who have probably never even heard of Mastodon!
Well, to quote the old lady now chirping over the Starbucks sound system, guess it's "just one of those things"!
Heck! I want to be an actual coffeehouse!
The Decemberists: The Hazards Of Love (Capitol) Having just seen these lovable Portlanders performing this brand new album in its entirety at South By Southwest last week, I feel eminently qualified in proclaiming it a superb release, a veritable masterwork, a reaffirmation of all that is good about the Decemberists, a laudable step forward, and an indicator that in a world where getting an actual radio hit means less and less, today's artists will be encouraged more that ever before to simply follow their artistic instinct, no matter where it may lead them! Furthermore, I simply like the way they look!
Miley Cyrus: Hannah Montana: The Movie (Walt Disney) Often linked in the press with Radiohead, young Ms. Cyrus is actually a highly likeable teen star who has inadvertently been thrust into a position where thousands are anticipating--perhaps even hoping for--a potential trainwreck, where clearly there is no need for one! I actually kind of like her and wish her well! Won't you join me in candidly confiding that there must be a least one song she's recorded that's better than one of Radiohead's B-sides or something? Maybe we can tell her personally after a show! Oh, no, wait! Oops!
Blue October: Approaching Normal (Universal Motown) There's a story to be had here, and it isn't just the biography of an Illinois train conductor! The follow-up to Blue October's breakthrough album Foiled, this new set is produced by Steve Lillywhite and it's actually quite impressive--and not the sort of thing that you might've expected from a band whose big hit "Hate Me" brought to mind Phil Collins on two different levels! It's a substantial disc, and I'd like to hear more of it. For that matter, I'd like to meet the little girl on the cover who can actually hear with her hands! In the words of lead singer Justin Furstenfeld: "Blue October is a mood. Whether you listen to the words or not, the music sets a tone--and as for the lyrics, well, you either love it or hate it." Hey, I like the way he thinks!
Keri Hilson: In A Perfect World... (MMG/Zone 4) Word is that this release "looks to empower women to be strong, independent and determined," and heck--why not? Hilson is a fine singer, something of a looker, and the sort of artist who'd think nothing of featuring Timbaland, Ne-Yo, Lil Wayne, Akon, T-Pain and even Keyshia Cole on her new album! I think everybody is rooting for her! So I'm inclined to dispute reports that this album was originally called In A Perfect World I Would Sell A Million Copies Of This Album Without Filling It With Distracting Guest Stars And Being Something Of A Looker Like That Guy Just Said! You too?
Papa Roach: Metamorphosis (Geffen) Maybe you thought that Papa Roach had simply vanished into that weird netherworld where once-popular bands now sit around empty bars and talk about the good old days and the way things used to be--but if you did, you'd be wrong! No, just like their namesake, this band has been around since before mankind existed and will be around long afterward! And just to spice things up, they tossed around the notion of devoting their entire new album to the works of Franz Kafka--and then, strangely, discarded it entirely! Except they really liked its name! So yeah, this is their best album ever, and I really like their new look!
Pearl Jam: Ten: Legacy Edition (CD/DVD) If you're going to make a deluxe edition of one Pearl Jam album, it better be Ten! Just ask the committee! Reissued in at least four different configurations, this fab new edition includes the original classic album, released when they were just a bunch of guys named Luigi and Mario, a new "remixed" version of the album futzed with by Brendan O'Brien plus bonus tracks, and a DVD featuring PJ's "previously unreleased" MTV Unplugged 1992 session! This should be great if you like the album! I'm inclined to like it! Incidentally, I was thinking of asking O'Brien to remix a compilation of all my earliest blog posts and put a Shakespearean spin to 'em because--I dunno--that stuff just sounds good to me these days!
Mastodon: Crack The Skye (Reprise) Boy, here I was all set to make jokes about this album being about wormholes and the works of Stephen Hawking and uh, it sounds like it is! Everbody's favorite metal sensations aren't entirely unique; in many ways they recall the Wooly Mammoths, but while the latter were grazers, Mastodon are--ironically, in this day and age--browsers! Check it! That being said, the band's ode to the late '60s jazz label formed by Cal Tjader, Gary McFarland and Gabor Szabo probably isn't what everyone expected! Even Stephen Hawking! But I'm into it!
Martina McBride: Shine (RCA Nashville) I like Martina McBride, and so do millions of country music fans! She's got talent and doesn't seem the sort of woman that, you know, some producer saw singing in a cocktail bar once and paired her up with a slick producer to make a superstar out of her! That happens, you know! Nope, this record features her country hit "Ride" and co-production by Dan Huff, and is an altogether worthy prospect no matter how you look at it! That she dropped her first name "Dee" is something I try not to take personally!
1990s: Kicks (Rough Trade) Like many of my contemporaries, I only got into the 1990s in the last few years! But these charismatic Scots are back with the follow-up to Cookies and it's quite good in that excellent sort of way! Supposedly showing the influence of David Bowie, Hot Chocolate and Richard Thompson--heck, I'll believe anything I read if you will!--the record rocks royally and features a cover that you could, like, get a poster of and put on your bedroom wall and tell everyone you only did because you like the band! Yeah, there's a lot of things like that! Great record, dudes!
Bobby Darin: For Teenagers Only (Collector's Choice) I've been trying to buy this thing from Amazon for weeks now and they keep refusing to sell it to me! They know too much about all of us!