This is a fun time of year!
Why? Because big record companies typically hold off on their major album releases for a month or so--waiting for kids to arrive at school with fresh new dollars in hand--and the summer's "big" albums have already been out since early June or so!
So what comes out now?
1) Stuff that has a snowball's chance in hell of selling, 2) Stuff from labels so hip they couldn't care less about outdated sales traditions, or 3) Stuff that somebody at the company forgot they were supposed to release, and now look!
Any way you look at it, we win!
Hawthorne Heights: Fragile Future (Victory) After a celebrated struggle with their label that resulted in heated name-calling and other, worse legal stuff, after the actual death of a band member, and after a reconciliation with that same label, here's a new album with a revealing title--Fragile Future--and an even more revealing first single: "Rescue Me." And here's a writer desperately trying to stay awake describing...describing...describing...(Scarlet Letter joke)...(implication writer Nathaniel Hawthorne was overly short)...(obnoxious claim the band has devoted itself to becoming a Yes cover band)...(pompous declaration that "Emo," "Screamo," and "Captain Nemo" are now officially over as we enter Q3)...(new hands-free automatic writing program working better than ever...can't turn off...oh God, help me)....All told, their best ever!
Lloyd: Lessons In Love (The Inc./Motown) Admirable not only for his clever first name--I wish I'd thought of it!--but for his artful vocal stylings, R&B singer Lloyd lays it all out in plain sight for us with his third album, Lessons In Love. With tracks such as the anatomically sophisticated "How We Do It," "Sex Education," "Love Making 101," "Party All Over Your Body," the masterfully subtle "Have My Baby" and inevitable album closer "Heart Attack," it's obvious he's one guy who's got more than lunch on his mind! Dude, when Marvin Gaye sang "Here, My Dear," he didn't mean it that way!
Mandi Perkins: Alice In No Man's Land (Victor/Sony) A smart, talented young singer who recently came up to the Yahoo offices, performed live for us, and is the only human I've ever met who's said the word "cuckolded" out loud, Mandi impressed many of us greatly! She's also impressed viewers of Laguna Beach, The Hills, The Real World and Girlfriends, who heard her music being played in the background during the shows--thus putting the final nail in the coffin of radio promotion--and will now go out and buy this CD in response! Soon there'll only be one industry and you'll be able to hold it in your hand!
Darker My Love: 2 (Dangerbird) Called an "L.A-based psych-rock quartet" by a hyphenate-crazy database of some repute, these dudes have unceremoniously recorded what's shaping up to be one of my favorite records of the year. Hippy, dippy, trippy, dolphinesque, filled with great songs, feedback washes, lingering melodies--it isn't supposed to be this way anymore! Imagine Trapt, Staind, and Disturbed all shoved into one great big Volkswagen bus and banished to the 14th dimension! They don't sound like 'em, but it's always fun to think about! Hey, I walked into this Darker My Love scenario with minimal expectations and at this point may even play it again!
Sarah McLachlan: Fumbling Towards Ecstasy: Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy) I've always liked Sarah McLachlan--well, at least I did once I got to hear her records--and I've got to say that this "Legacy Edition" of her 1993 album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy will really satisfy her fans! A 3-disc set, you get the original album, her The Freedom Sessions set--which features "early versions" of the Fumbling tracks--and the Fumbling Towards Ecstasy Live DVD, which features later versions of the Fumbling tracks! Two missed marketing opportunities: 1) A fourth disc of "fumbling" versions of the Fumbling tracks and 2) An "American" version of the package retitled Fumbling Toward Ecstasy! Hey, you don't think she meant Ecstasy the drug, do you?
Carla Bruni: Comme Si De Rien N'Etait (Downtown) Speaking of women who come from countries where they often speak French, here's a nice set from the current Italian-born French first lady! A fine record that we as Americans will describe as "Serge Gainsbourg-esqe" because, well, what do we know, she's on the same label here as Gnarls Barkley and Santogold, and as a special bonus is rather comely! All of the tracks but one on this thing are in French, so God knows what she's singing about, but since "Salut Marin" means "Hey Sailor," maybe it's best to just use our imaginations! I would've married her if I didn't have a country to run!
Love: Love Story DVD (Start Productions) Absolutely fascinating viewing for any fan of pop music legend Arthur Lee--whose '60s band Love continues to grow in stature with each decade. The late singer and his early crew are interviewed, great music is heard, and the band's unique history grows even more tangled via the various accounts offered by Lee and his onetime bandmates. A band as seriously under-documented as Love deserves any loving account they can get, and this is the best you'll find at the moment. Tip: Buy it for your girlfriend and tell her you "didn't know" it was about a band!
Randy Newman: Harps And Angels (Nonesuch) Singer/songwriter/composer Newman's relatively few non-soundtrack albums have been hard to come by lately--this is his first in nearly a decade. As dandy as it is, though, he's paid a price for being so inconspicuous: Los Angeles residents enraged by the mean-spirited sarcasm of his dual hits "I Love L.A." and "Short People" have captured him and now hold him prisoner in the back parking lot of a flea-bitten apartment complex in Van Nuys--where his concerts (see picture) are often spitefully drowned out by an evil motorcycle gang! Life's getting worse for everyone!
Conor Oberst: Conor Oberst (Merge) The charismatic major dude--you try coming up with a noun--from Bright Eyes emerges with his first solo album in years via Merge Records, and it's substantial. Of course, chemically speaking, a lot of things on this planet are! This set was recorded in Mexico with a group of musicians called the Mystic Valley Band--yep, same old same old--and will likely thrill Bright Eyes fans the world over! Hopefully you're as happy for him as I am!
Trapt: Only Through The Pain (Eleven Seven Music) In some ways Trapt is the perfect band! Sadly, I can't tell you what for!