This is it, everyone, the last Overlooked Alternatives new releases piece I'll be writing. No, I'm not going anywhere – it's the last because I'm shelving it for a new piece called "The Breakdown," premiering next week. The change is more in name only, as I'll continue to talk about the same stuff I always have, but I've decided that the "Overlooked Alternatives" moniker wasn't fitting anymore, and I felt a little limited by it and a bit self-conscious talking about decidedly unoverlooked and unalterative releases. Now I won't have that problem. But that's not what you're here for, is it? On to the new releases …
Trey Anastasio – The Horseshoe Curve: After a couple of vocal albums that found the former Phish leader a bit lost in the pop-rock world, Anastasio releases another self-released album (the previous album, Bar 17, and its accompanying EP, Step 18, were also self-released.) This time around, however, he's going all-instrumental, backed with horns, and exploring the Afro-Cuban material he'd been playing with prior to Shine.
For those who were lucky enough to know about it in time, pre-ordering from his site netted buyers a free copy of The Lucius Beebe EP, a five-song live EP with three songs from the new album and two from his "classical" release, Seis de Mayo. There's still hope if you weren't one of the pre-orderers: hop over to his Musictoday site and you can still pre-order the vinyl of the album with a CD copy and still get the EP as a free bonus.
Dave Douglas – Live at the Jazz Standard: You've got to hand it to Dave Douglas (Downbeat's pick for best trumpet player 7 years in a row.) After his experience with a major label, he set out to find a way to release his music the way he wanted to, and so far it seems to be working – he's released a number of studio albums this way over the past couple of years along with several live releases. But the big deal for him was recording and releasing an entire week's worth of shows for download from his site – 79 performances in 12 one-hour sets of mp3 files. Unfortunately for many listeners, mp3 files just aren't all that appealing – the file format has not translated well to jazz listeners who are often much more demanding of the quality of their recordings and mp3 just does not pass muster, not to mention the lack of the much-beloved liner notes and artwork.
Douglas decided to pick the best performances of new material from the week and assemble a two-disc set, one disc for material he wrote before the recording of last year's Meaning and Mystery, the other disc material written after that (and two bonus tracks.) It also comes with the requisite beautiful artwork and insightful liner notes, where Douglas ruminates on the state of music today and his impetus to go all-mp3 with the concert set. You can only buy it from Douglas' site right now, so click on over and order it! The $16.98 price gets you not only the discs but also very quick shipping – I ordered mine and had it in my hands five days later. (Note: they seem to be linking to the wrong page right now, but clicking the price in the links below the text will add it to your cart.)
Manic Street Preachers – Send Away The Tigers: Deja vu, right? Yeah, I already talked about this a couple months back … when there was no hope in site of this coming out in the US. And, of course, as luck would have it, here it is, coming out in the US.
Dramatic and a bit vicious, this is the Manics the way fans have wanted to hear them – vital and raw, unlike the all-too-lush sound that has overtaken them over the past few albums. It's hard rock for grown ups who want intelligent hard rock. It's also one of the better albums of the year, and one of the Manics better albums.
Slayer – Christ Illusion Deluxe Edition: Man, even Slayer is getting in on this "deluxe edition" crap? This might be the most annoying trend in album releases since the invention of that stupid adhesive "theft prevention" strip that goes on the top of CD cases (which never come off in one piece and always leave residue behind. Seriously, what is the deal with that? Could they not come up with an adhesive that doesn't detach itself from its original surface? I spend a good amount of time on each new CD pulling that crap off with the parts of the strip that still have adhesive on it. I have a theory that people download music not to steal but to avoid dealing with the hassle of these damned stickers. But I digress.)
Blogcritics' Chris Beaumont has a good review that I would suggest you read if you're interested in this set, but I'll break it down here: This version of the album includes the track "Final Six," which reportedly was supposed to be included on the original but wasn't finished in time, plus a different mix of "Black Serenade," and a DVD with a whopping 15 minutes of footage. WOW! Let me rant again for a moment: if you're going to make a "deluxe edition," make it deluxe. Don't even bother with the DVD if you're going to waste it on 15 measly minutes of footage. I realize that part of the DVD is a feature to pimp an upcoming concert DVD, but why not release some other live footage on the DVD that would be exclusive to this set? Make it something I have to have. As it stands, it's merely something annoying for someone who purchased Christ Illusion the day it came out. A bit of a slap in the face from the label for early-adopters – as usual.