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New This Week

It's a great week for new releases, if you ask me!

Mostly because I can't see a single CD here that's a natural to unexpectedly top the charts and make me long for those safe days of yesteryear--when superstars like Yung Joc and Soulja Boy Tellem took their rightful positions as America's biggest sellers! As a result, it would appear that many of this week's biggest albums may consist of more than just one hot single and oodles more filler!

On the other hand, it may signify that 2008 has already peaked in music sales!

I suspect it's just a coincidence, and suggest you do the same!

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Natasha Bedingfield: Pocket Full Of Sunshine (Epic) For my money, this week's candidate for highest debut honors--and what an honor it is!--should go to England's lovely Ms. Bedingfield, a charming young lady who's got a great voice and a fine head on her shoulders as well! Oddly, a version of this album has been out in the UK since last April, but Pocket appears to be fully Americanized for the tacky ol' USA, thanks to her label, and now features a delightful duet with long-term talent Sean Kingston called "Love Like This." Don't know if you caught her performance with the rather rotund Sean on TV this New Year's Eve--but if you want the definition of two peas in a pod, check the dictionary and be glad you're interested in becoming an accountant! Sadly, the inevitable screamed protest "You want me to sing what with who?" was mixed out of the finished track!

Carla Bruni: No Promises (Downtown) The second album from French/Italian model Bruni--who's been in the press lately because she may soon getting hitched to the President of France--sounds like a dream come true to at least one person! Whether her interpretation of works by such poets as Emily Dickenson and W.B. Yeats will reach the creative peaks of similar attempts by KISS and country star Alan Jackson remains to be seen--but I'd be willing to bet France's biggest gun was saying "Oui, Oui" when he first heard it!

Cat Power: Jukebox (Matador) When she's not flying through the skies in her invisible plane as Cat Power, magic lasso in hand--oh, no, wait a minute--when she's not out promoting her 2000 release The Covers Album, an album of cover versions by people like Bob Dylan and the Velvet Underground, she's out there making a new album of cover versions! Lucky recipients of  these new "Power treatments" include Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams, James Brown, James Carr, Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin--all of whom would probably happily give their artistic blessing if any of them were alive in 2008! I've got my fingers crossed that alternative rock stars will be covering Cat Power herself in 30 years or so! Know what I mean?

MGMT: Oracular Spectacular (Columbia) If you took me aside and asked me to offer a concise "rock-crit" analysis of MGMT, I'd say I had qualms about the long-term prospects of the group's moniker, but was otherwise enthused about any band that seemed to involuntarily be aping the best aspects of England's Orchestral Manouevres In The Dark. So a few minutes ago I just read this Pitchfork review and must now shamefacedly confide: I sincerely doubt I would have ever said their music "comes across as an inspirational dance anthem for playgrounders." Perhaps I've had my day in the sun!

Liam Finn: I'll Be Lightning (Yep Roc) The debut album by the son of Crowded House's Neil Finn--which is really a terrible description of any new artist when you get down to it, because it's already filled you with expectations completely based on your own feeling for his dad's music rather than his own, and that's not really fair, considering that, say, no matter how good Jeff Buckley was, he could never hold a candle to his vastly more talented father, and why should it be any different in the Finn family, but in fact it may be--is really very good! Buy it!

Buzzcocks: 30 (Cooking Vinyl) How odd that a new, live, 28-track album by one of the UK's pioneering punk bands should seem a breath of fresh air some 30 years after the fact, but tracks like "Boredom," "Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't Have)" and "Harmony In My Head" simply sound great any time you hear 'em! If I could rewrite history, I would make the Buzzcocks one of pop music's biggest bands and insist that Mariah Carey cover "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" on her new album! Then I would make Christopher Columbus's boat sink just for kicks!

Biirdie: Catherine Avenue (Love Minus Zero/Drive-Thru) I like this LA trio, and respect them even more because they added an extra "I" in Birdie so they wouldn't get confused with that ultracool Brit band who made Some Dusty a few years ago! (It's, like, yoo-hoo, Mr. "Citizen Cope," you made up a fake name that sounds so much like a Julian Cope album title it makes me think you never heard of him and so you're a big dope, etc.!) Anyway, lots of listenable music here, something of a buzz band at the moment, and an excellent opportunity to point out that band member Kala Savage is the sister of Fred "Wonder Years" Savage, so by definition it must be good! So say we all!

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Brigitte Bardot: Brigitte Bardot Sings (Lilith) A reissue of a 1963 gem featuring everyone's favorite sex kitten singing--just as its title implies!--I remain amazed how contemporary most French pop sounds these days, no matter when it was recorded. Maybe it's because tracks like Serge Gainsbourg's "L'Appareil a Sous" make absolutely no sense to a non-French speaking audience, or maybe it's because after years of listening to bands like Ivy and Stereolab and incessantly watching great videos of Alizée, I'm even OK with Celine Dion, and she's from Canada! More likely, though, it's because Ms. Bardot is quite a looker! So sue me!

Matt Costa: Unfamiliar Faces (Brushfire/Universal) The follow-up to 2006's Songs We Sing, this eminently agreeable disc was produced by No Doubt's Tom Dumont--and after repeated listenings sounds very unlike the sort of record you'd expect from a former skateboarder, if you were prone to having preconceived notions about music based purely on things nonmusical! But who does that?

The Whigs: Mission Control (ATO/RCA) The second album from Athens' Whigs sounds nothing like Vangelis Papathanassiou or Demis Roussos--or, for that matter, like defunct pop group the Tories! Furthermore, no one in Afghanistan wants to claim 'em, either! I'd be nervous!

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