Saturday , April 13 2024
I guess there's always June...

New Album Releases 05/13/08: Death Cab For Cutie, Jason Mraz, Old 97s, Foxy Brown, Robert Cray, Bill Frisell

Prepare yourselves to be a bit uninspired by what is arriving in your neighborhood record store this week. Honestly, I don't mean to sound like such a downer, but I don't believe I have seen a weaker crop of new releases so far this entire year.

This is not meant as disrespect, as I am sure the new albums by Death Cab For Cutie and Jason Mraz are perfectly fine outings. But I mean, summer is just around the corner. You mean to tell me that this is the best that the record labels can do?

Let's start with Death Cab For Cutie.

Two years ago, the Seattle-based band was the buzz band of the year when its album Plans did far better than anybody — including, I am quite sure, the band itself — expected it to do.

Last time I checked, Vampire Weekend had pretty much claimed the "buzz band" mantle for 2008. And much like with Death Cab now, I'm quite sure we'll be making a similar progress-check on those blood-suckers about midway through what I sincerely hope to be Barack Obama's first term in office. That said, Death Cab's Narrow Stairs is said to be a bit darker, although it also has plenty of radio-friendly pop fare in songs like "No Sunshine."

Adult-alternative, funky-folky sort of dude Jason Mraz also returns this week with We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, which, if nothing else, is certainly a catchy album title. On this one, Mraz goes more the blue-eyed soul route — there's even a duet with British soul man James Morrison. But there is also plenty enough of that adult-alternative sort of folk thang here to keep the Starbucks crowd happy.

Other highlights this week include the return of hip-hop diva Foxy Brown sounding as street-tough as ever on Brooklyn's Don Diva. Rhett Miller and his Old 97s continue to bridge the gaps between rock and roll, country, rockabilly, and all points in-between on the ever twangy Blame It on Gravity. Bluesman Robert Cray resurrects a classic concert from the Strong Persuader era on the double disc Live at the BBC.

Anyway, I apologize for my lack of enthusiasm about this week's releases, as I'm sure there are at least one or two nuggets worth a chew here (I'll be checking out the Death Cab For Cutie for sure). The good news is that at least we have June, and the new Coldplay and My Morning Jacket CDs to look forward to.

Tom Johnson's Pick Of The Week: Bill Frisell: History, Mystery

I have to be forgiven if I refer to this album as sounding like Frisell "getting back to his roots." His roots, to me, are not necessarily his original sound but where I picked up with this great guitarist – the era in the early to mid-'90s where he bridged a strange gap between angular jazz and countrified twang. That twang has always been there, but over the years on more recent albums, it has been the focus of his sound, and some fans have longed for him to bring back some of the angular elements. I can't say for certain if the two-disc, 30-song History, Mystery is going to provide that, but from bits I have heard, it edges closer to that than we have heard in a long time, sounding like a sophisticated big cousin to 2001's Blues Dream, which is a very good thing in my book.

Mark Saleski did not contribute a pick this week.

Here are all of this week's new album releases courtesy of All Music Guide:

Death Cab for Cutie
Narrow Stairs
Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Alternative Pop/Rock

Neo-Soul, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock

Jason Mraz
We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things
Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Blue-Eyed Soul, Pop/Rock

Old 97's
Blame It on Gravity [Deluxe]
New West
Alternative Country-Rock, Americana, Pop Underground

Abysmal Dawn
Programmed to Consume
Death Metal/Black Metal, Heavy Metal

Old Home Movies
Antenna Farm
Indie Pop, Chamber Pop

Cleo Brown
Complete Recorded Works
Swing, Boogie-Woogie, Stride, Jive

Foxy Brown
Brooklyn's Don Diva
Hardcore Rap, East Coast Rap

Ryan Cabrera
The Moon Under Water
Papa Joe

Renaud Capuçon
Virgin Classics
Violin Selections

Arthur Conley
More Sweet Soul
Collectors' Choice Music
Deep Soul, Southern Soul, Soul

Arthur Conley
Soul Directions
Collectors' Choice Music
Deep Soul, Southern Soul, Soul

Robert Cray
Live at the BBC
Contemporary Blues, Modern Electric Blues, Soul-Blues

Lightning Strikes Again
Heavy Metal, Hard Rock

Dave Douglas & Keystone
Green Leaf

The Feeling
Join with Us
Pop Underground, Alternative Pop/Rock

Birds on Fire: Jewish Music for Viols
Harmoni Mundi
Renaissance Chamber Music

Bill Frisell
History, Mystery
Chamber Jazz, Post-Bop, Avant-Garde, Modern Creative, Standards, Avant-Garde Jazz

Marc-André Hamelin
In a State of Jazz
Jazz-Influenced Piano Music

Hesperion XX
Estampies & Danses Royales [Hybrid SACD]
Alia Vox Spain
Medieval Vocal and Choral Music

Jools Holland
Best of Friends [CD/DVD]
Alternative Country-Rock, Country-Rock, Boogie-Woogie, Rock & Roll, Retro Swing, Alternative Pop/Rock, Pop/Rock

Lars Hollmer
Avant-Prog, Classical Crossover, Experimental Rock, Modern Composition, Prog-Rock/Art Rock, Neo-Classical

Iron Maiden
Somewhere Back in Time: The Best of 1980-1989
British Metal, Heavy Metal

Local H
12 Angry Months
Shout! Factory
Post-Grunge, Alternative Pop/Rock

Mason Proffit
Come & Gone
One Way
Folk-Rock, Country-Rock

John Miles
Album Rock, Soft Rock, Pop/Rock

Mink DeVille
Where Angels Fear to Tread
Collectors' Choice Music
New York Punk, Rock & Roll, Roots Rock

Musica Pacifica
Fire Beneath My Fingers
Baroque Chamber Music

Xuefei Yang
40 Degrees North
EMI Classics
Modern and Contemporary Guitar Music

Spectral Sound
Club/Dance, House, Left-Field House, Techno

Time Traveller
Neo-Soul, Urban, Contemporary R&B

Quiet Village
Silent Movie
Electronica, Downbeat

Duke Robillard
A Swingin Session with Duke Robillard
Stony Plain
Contemporary Blues, Swing

Sahib Shihab
Complete Sextets Sessions: 1956-1957
Fresh Sound
Hard Bop, Bop, Soul-Jazz

Frank Sinatra
Nothing But the Best [Capitol]
Vocal Jazz, Traditional Pop, Standards

The Submarines
Honeysuckle Weeks
Indie Pop, Indie Rock

Album Rock, Pop/Rock, Soft Rock, Prog-Rock/Art Rock

Food For Thought
Album Rock, Pop/Rock, Soft Rock, Prog-Rock/Art Rock

Live and Let Live
Album Rock, Pop/Rock, Soft Rock, Prog-Rock/Art Rock

Look Hear?
Warner Bros.
Pop/Rock, Soft Rock, Prog-Rock/Art Rock

Rufus Thomas
Tiger Man: Earliest Recordings 1950-1957
R&B, Electric Memphis Blues

The Hungry Saw
Beggars Banquet
Chamber Pop, Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock

Gene Vincent
A Million Shades of Blue
Rockabilly, Rock & Roll, Country-Rock

We Are Scientists
Brain Thrust Mastery
Indie Rock, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival

Young and Sexy
The Arc
Indie Pop, Chamber Pop

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.

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