It strikes me sometimes, as I write this internationally acclaimed blog, that I often am short-changing you, the hapless reader and listener!
Because though I often purport to write about each week's hottest new releases, I sometimes completely ignore albums that I know will sell in the upper dozens and thus top the charts!
For example? This week I am ignoring The Twilight Saga: Eclipse soundtrack as well as Glee: The Music--Journey to Regionals!
Why, you ask? Merely because they are cynically created "product" generated by record companies desperately clamoring to release anything at all that might garner a positive retail response?
No way! It's just because they suck!
Christina Aguilera: Bionic (RCA) What kind of lesson might be learned when one of this decade's most prominent singers--a former teen star--sells millions of records, marries, gives birth, and then returns with an album featuring hot collaborations with arty producers and co-writers and a music video that simply watching is a mortal sin? Easy! It's never too late to throw it all away, be cool, and appeal to guys of all ages! That's why this is my favorite Christina Aguilera album ever! I could provide more detail, but this really says it all: Track three features Nicki Minaj and is titled "Woohoo"! I couldn't photoshop an album this great!
Jewel: Sweet And Wild (Valory) As record sales continue to tumble, album titles become more and more important--less and less works of art, and more capsule descriptions that you might read on a dating site! A little worse for the wear and not in the mood a night full of mind games? Forget Bionic and pick up Sweet And Wild! It starts off mellow and picks up unforgettably by night's end! Jewel's latest album again veers toward the country side of things, but what the hey? It's sweet, wild, listenable, and paints a picture that again even our finest fiction writers couldn't manage! I quote: "Jewel currently lives on a working ranch in Stephenville, Texas with her husband, World Champion bull-riding superstar, Ty Murray." Isn't that the way Animal House ended?
Villagers: Becoming A Jackal (Domino) One of the year's best albums will surely be this debut by young Irishman Conor J. O'Brien, who calls himself Villagers because, um, Townspeople must've sounded quaint! Filled with arty and literate songs--many of which are peculiarly fixated on the notion of hunger, chewing and food, one must note!--the album is a surprisingly mature statement that mildly evokes Prefab Sprout's Paddy MacAloon and Aztec Camera's Roddy Frame yet never sounds less than entirely original! I would buy this, play it a few times, watch a little TV, play it again, then maybe mess around on the Internet a little before hitting the hay!
Teenage Fanclub: Shadows (Merge) There was a period in the mid-'90s when I did nothing but drive around in my car all day listening to the latest albums by Teenage Fanclub and the Pooh Sticks! It was great! Though my enthusiasm for both bands has never faded--and would return a decade later via the completely fabulous band El Goodo--and I've yet to hear an album by Teenage Fanclub that rivaled their earliest work, this is the closest they've come since! How charming that they've moved on from eerily evoking Big Star to now sounding like--and I am not kidding--some peculiar combo of America and the Sutherland Brothers! At this rate, they'll start sounding like Teenage Fanclub in five years! Buy this today!
Dierks Bentley: Up On The Ridge (Capitol Nashville) Like those other well known Dierks, singer Bentley is an artist who appears to value his art more than his record sales, and for that we should be grateful! This latest effort is an acoustic, bluegrassy thing filled with guest stars like Kris Kristofferson, Alison Krauss, Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert and songs by such unexpected artists as Bob Dylan and U2! It's a pretty bold affair, all things considered, and an encouraging sign that Bentley is a musician first and foremost, and would prefer to be perceived that way! Besides, he'd need two more tires to be a car!
The Cure: Disintegration: Deluxe Edition (Rhino) As a longtime fan of the Cure, I must say that the last album they recorded that I felt was absolutely perfect and filler-free was The Head On The Door, which preceded Disintegration by four years and remains the perfect intersection between the band's first four classic albums and the melodic pop group they'd become following Pornography! But Disintegration was huge for a certain audience segment--say the kids who grew up on KROQ-inspired radio--and became their most successful album, thanks to tracks like "Lovesong," "Fascination Street" and "Lullaby" and Robert Smith's inspired selection of lipstick shades! This 3-CD set features the original album, an additional disc of unreleased tracks, and a stuffed-up version of the live set Entreat, which perhaps you might've missed, which sounds quite good in 2010! I recommend buying this, opening it up, and placing it on your kitchen table in the same manner as the accompanying photo! You can go back!
Renée Fleming: Dark Hope (Decca) In a world where hotshot pop stars turn around and make the "classical" albums they've always longed to make--Billy Joel, Sting, even Paul McCartney--how refreshing that one of the world's biggest opera stars turns around and makes her very first pop album! And hey--she's quite a looker! Produced by David Kahne and comprised of various songs by Muse, Tears For Fears, Peter Gabriel, Arcade Fire, Jefferson Airplane and Leonard Cohen, among others, Dark Hope is atmospheric and well-done, and perhaps most importantly, thematically consistent and not a depressing pop "sampler"! Next thing you know, Green Day will hit Broadway!
Crystal Castles: Crystal Castles (II) (Fiction) Apologies for being late here, but I couldn't figure out how to turn on my computer! This well-known, trendy pair continues to impress with its mixture of abrasive electro-punk-dance-shriek, though I don't think I'd call "Celestica" anything but a great, fascinating pop song even your mom would like! Good thing I'm not the sort of guy who'd buy a gorilla mask, put it on, blast this CD on my car stereo and wait to catch peoples' eye at stoplights! Like you!
Saving Abel: Miss America (Virgin) It's hard not to admire a band that openly embraces playing "Southern Rock," especially if you can't remember if you interviewed them or not! Following up their gold Virgin Records debut, these Mississippi boys are back and ready to rock! With its memorable trilogy of songs "Stupid Girl (Only In Hollywood)," "Contagious" and "The Sex Is Good," Miss America seems raw, ripe, ready-for-airplay, rotund, radio-friendly and rarified! And hey--I miss America too, dudes!
Against Me!: White Crosses (Sire) "White Crosses is as powerful and as bold a rock record as one can imagine," says this album's product description--erroneously, as it turns out, because filed directly behind it was a larger, heavier and even more powerful rock record, which in a stunning turn of events momentarily became animated, leapt off the shelf taking White Crosses with it, and, tragically, jumped out the window and perished! Still, it does rock!