Click to jump to your section of choice in today’s PJ Lifestyle Review of New Releases, Hot Products, and Holiday Gifts:
Tuesday New Releases in Music
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Taylor Swift’s Red proves that with enough hype a contradictory release plan can still produce insane sales results. No, you cannot stream the album via Spotify, yet the album features four teaser singles already racking up YouTube hits. None of that hurt sales in the least. The album should still exceed 1.15 million, without the stimulus of 99-cent downloads on Amazon, Lady Gaga’s weapon of choice while promoting her most recent album.
This week smaller names battle for their moments in the sun, with new albums from the ever-present Cee-Lo “I’ve had one hit and won’t go away” Green, an epic double album from Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and a new effort from country superstar Toby Keith which could quietly dominate them all. Enjoy the less-crowded week, folks … things will get decidedly more complicated as we push toward Black Friday!
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Andrew Bird – Hands of Glory (Mom & Pop Music)
Indie folk’s most interesting songwriter, Bird’s music merges genres generally seen as incompatible. Hands of Glory, the Chicago songwriter’s latest EP, serves as a companion piece to last year’s Break It Yourself, prominently featuring his cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You.”
Black Country Communion – Afterglow (J&R Records)
Calvin Harris – 18 Months (Sony)
Cee-Lo Green – Cee-Lo’s Magic Moment (Elektra / Asylum)
Chad Valley – Young Hunger (Cascine)
Cody ChesnuTT – Landing on a Hundred (Redeye)
Ending People – Fill Your Lungs (Cash Cow Productions)
Flyleaf – New Horizons (Octone)
The last album by these Christian rockers featuring Lacey Sturm on lead vocals. Revolver magazine writes: “New Horizons is emblematic of a band embracing change. Hopefully for Flyleaf, fans do the same.”
Indian Handcrafts – Civil Disobedience for Losers (Sargent House)
Jonathan & Charlotte – Together (Columbia)
Kamelot – Silverthorn (Steamhammer / SPV)
Lulu Gainsbourg – From Gainsbourg to Lulu (MBM Records)
Meek Mill – Dreams & Nightmares (Warner Bros.)
Mixtapes – How to Throw a Successful Party (Animal Style Records)
Neil Young’s latest album featuring Crazy Horse experiments with psychedelia, and with that in mind, he’s opened things up to a lot of sprawl – “Driftin’ Back” comes in at just shy of 30 minutes. If you’ve got the patience, All Music writes, “[Psychedelic Pill] deliver[s] a state-of-the-union garage guitar blast that rivals past landmark albums from the group like Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Rust Never Sleeps and Ragged Glory.”
Parkway Drive – Atlas (Epitaph)
Raindance – New Blood (Animal Style Records)
Sean Price – Mic Tyson (Duck Down Music)
T&N – Slave to the Empire (Rat Pak Records)
The Soft Moon – Zeros (Captured Tracks)
Thrice – Anthology (Workhorse Music Group)
Toby Keith – Hope on the Rocks (Show Dog / Universal)
Hope on the Rocks‘ release date shifted forward two weeks thanks to the rabid reception he’s received from fans while on tour this fall. That’s a smart move on the part of his handlers – Country Weekly calls the album “mature” among his other 15 albums, and for those who can’t stand Swift, Keith’s album serves as the ultimate veteran antidote.
Tracey Thorn – Tinsel and Lights (Merge Records)
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Despite covering much ground in the last few weeks in this column, bands with solid albums still struggle to find wider acclaim. Presenting for your approval: Dr. Dre’s strongest find for Aftermath since Eminem, underground Americana from Iris DeMent and Tift Merritt, and a new album from Heart, which rocks as though the 35 years since “Barracuda” never happened.
Popular Fall Hits
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9/25: As I Lay Dying – Awakened (Metal Blade)
Awakened, the sixth studio album from the San Diego metal band, fell just shy of the Billboard 200’s top ten in September. AbsolutePunk writes: “With a little less of a death metal approach and more leniency towards the theatrics of wall of sound metalcore, the massive melodies and thunderous production make for some swift shifts and interesting moments.”
9/25: Frightened Rabbit – State Hospital EP (Canvasback / ATL)
9/25: The Soft Pack – Strapped (Mexican Summer)
9/25: Ricardo Villalobos – Dependent and Happy (Perlon)
10/2: Iris DeMent – Sing the Delta (Flariella Records)
No one’s going to call Iris DeMent prolific with only five studio albums in the last two decades to her name. She’s peerless, however, in the Americana world, having worked with John Prine, Ralph Stanley, Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris, among many others. The title track features her distinctive vocals, setting the tone for the rest of the album.
10/2: Beth Orton – Sugaring Season (ANTI Records)
10/2: Heart – Fanatic (Legacy)
10/2: Tift Merritt – Traveling Alone (Yep Roc Records)
10/9: Why? – Mumps, Etc. (Anticon)
Berkeley’s Jonathan “Yoni” Wolf (better known by the name Why?) lays claim to the most innovative hip-hop fueled experimentation even while clinging to the fringes of alternative music. “Paper Hearts,” off Mumps, Etc., showcases his sound in all its twisty glory.
10/9: Papa Roach – The Connection (Eleven Seven Music)
10/9: Hidden Orchestra – Archipelago (Tru Thoughts)
10/9: Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph)
10/16: Jason Aldean – Night Train (Broken Bow)
Jason Aldean’s fifth album serves as “a well-crafted, elegantly produced record that takes risks, flirting with musical boundaries and occasionally tackling tough topics, but in a way that preserves the integrity both of the artist and the genre,” says Music is My Oxygen Weekly. The album debuted at #1, knocking Mumford from their throne, only to be obliterated by Taylor Swift.
10/16: Mac DeMarco – 2 (Captured Tracks)
10/16: Martha Wainwright – Come Home to Mama (Cooperative Music)
10/16: Anberlin – Vital (Universal Republic)
10/23: Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (Aftermath)
Kendrick Lamar’s debut earned the Compton rapper raves, with critics praising his vivid lyricism and rhythmic skills. One of the best hip-hop albums of the year, says PopMatters: “Lamar concentrates the ideas of hip-hop narrative and nonfiction into such a form that’s shocking for how simultaneously accessible yet full of depth it is.”
10/23: The Amazing – Gentle Stream (Subliminal Sounds)
10/23: Talk Normal – Sunshine (Joyful Noise Records)
10/23: Black Moth Super Rainbow – Cobra Juicy (Rad Cult)
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With few “new release” movies set for DVD / Blu-Ray treatment this week, plenty of room remains for The Campaign to fill the void, if you’re not already too busy salivating over the treatment being given to Hitchcock’s greatest films (The Masterpiece Collection) or hunting down Rosemary’s Baby in its ultimate Criterion form. The less said about the direct-to-video bastardization of A Christmas Story which also comes out this week, the better.
New Releases: DVD / Blu-Ray
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Three journalists decide to write a story about a man who seeks someone to travel with him back in time. Starring Mark Duplass (The League), this quirky film sneaked under the radar and deserves a second look.
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Blu-Ray) – Limited Edition!
This one speaks for itself: thirteen of the master of suspense’s greatest films, all on Blu-Ray in one collection. Only three of these films already exist on Blu-Ray, and the films cover the entirety of his career at an unbeatable price. Every film fan needs to own this.
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For all the bitching and moaning about technology killing the music industry, it’s amazing what’s available to the masses that used to require thousands of dollars worth of studio time to achieve. This week’s “Tech Finds” page features a guide to ultimate holiday gifts, including the best handheld audio recorder you never knew you needed – but trust us, you do. Also: A 9 disc exploration of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s best rare performances, and much more!
PJ Lifestyle: Ultimate Holiday Gifts
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: LIVE [9 Disc DVD Box Set]
Quibble all you want about which bands have or haven’t made the cut for Hall of Fame induction. This Time/Life collection presents a stunning array of rare, one-of-a-kind performances from the last 24 years of Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, many of them available for the first time on home video. Bringing this home for under $150 is a steal, making this set the perfect gift for anyone who takes popular music seriously.
If you ever needed more proof that great things come in small packages, this product easily stands out. For the concert-goer who loves recording live music and actually having the music sound good when you get it home, this portable recorder offers the ability to record a room mix via an on-board microphone while simultaneously recording a stereo mix via the mixing board. It features a built-in mixer of its own, the only handheld recorder allowing recording on four channels at the same time. Every indie band should have one of these – it’s like having a mixing console in the palm of your hand!
For drummers from beginner to expert, this six-piece electronic drum set is here to blow your mind. An acoustic drum kit has its advantages, but can be difficult and expensive to maintain. From Amazon:
“[Drummers will find some of the most in-demand acoustic drum sounds from legendary drum brands, a huge arsenal of top producers' go-to snare drums, real American, Canadian, Chinese, and Turkish cymbals, and a choice selection of classic drum machine and electronic percussion sounds that have fueled the biggest hit records.”
The big seller: The DM10 module features the world's first drum-sound module enabling you to load new sound sets via USB connection from your own computer in addition to the effects which already come pre-loaded. This means that your sounds will always stay fresh, current and cutting edge. No single acoustic set can provide that much versatility for such a low price.
Perfect for your resident YouTuber, this compact yet full-featured HD camcorder allows for extended zoom without sacrificing image quality, while recording audio in Dolby Digital stereo! You can copy your videos directly to an external hard disk drive or by USB to your computer. And your camcorder can access videos stored on the external hard drive for playback on your TV, allowing you to utilize the camcorder’s handy playback features. Most important, you don’t have to sacrifice video quality to take advantage of this affordable option.
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With upcoming releases including new installments in the Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty series, along with already-in-release games including the much-hyped Borderlands 2 and Medal of Honor: Warfighter, there’s plenty to keep every gaming fan happy.
From Amazon: “The American Colonies, 1775. It's a time of civil unrest and political upheaval in the Americas. As a Native American assassin fights to protect his land and his people, he will ignite the flames of a young nation's revolution. Assassin's Creed III takes you back to the American Revolutionary War, but not the one you've read about in history books.” Though all other editions come out October 30th, the PC edition arrives November 20th.
This one comes out just in time for Black Friday, but why wait to pre-order? From Amazon: “HITMAN: Absolution follows cold-blooded assassin Agent 47as he takes on his most dangerous—and personal—contract to date. Betrayed by those he once trusted and hunted by the police, Agent 47 finds himself caught in the center of a dark conspiracy and propelled through a corrupt and twisted world. Take on the role of Agent 47 and his many extraordinary talents, then ask: what kind of Hitman are you?”
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As the year ends, it’s impossible to fully tally how many amazing albums will slip through the cracks unheard. Here are ten of my favorites from the past ten months which would at least have a shot at year-end “Best Of” lists, if only the critics writing those lists actually heard them.
Best of 2012 Preview: Music
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Skipp Whitman – 5AM (WTMN&Co)
From my review of the album at “Hear! Hear!” – “Skipp Whitman’s building his reputation as a brashly fearless rapper who understands his skills and is willing to work to get to the top. He’s not rapping about making millions and getting a stable of bitches. It’s a matter of his smaller goals being reached, or at least becoming attainable. “I told you that I couldn’t straighten up and sitting on the sidelines ain’t enough,” he raps on “When I Let Go.” “Just being a spectator ain’t on par with how I see my life going.” This is the hip-hop album for those of us who first dream big, then do bigger — no apologies.”
A Silent Film – Sand & Snow (Creative Media)
From Earbuddy.net: “There’s a bit of 80’s earnestness in both the sound and execution that makes this album really hard to hate, and the album’s slower second half works well as an anchor to the album’s fast-paced first half. This is the rare kind of album that actually sounds as though the band had fun while making it. I’d call it a guilty pleasure if I wasn’t sure that other folks would love it too.”
Matchbox Twenty – North (Atlantic)
Matchbox Twenty’s latest album features singles as good as anything they’ve produced in their career, but the band insists on wrapping these potential hits in filler. Bob Lefsetz puts it succinctly: “A surprisingly good album. The only thing wrong with this album is the times. Kinda like that old Brian Wilson song, North wasn’t made for these times, rather the pre-Internet era where brand names were everything and everything else was irrelevant.”
Jason Myles Goss – Radio Dial (Independent / Self-Released)
I spent the middle part of my summer raving about Jason Myles Goss’s stunning “Black Lights,” but I’ll let The Swollen Fox have the last word about the entire album: “It’s easy to get wrapped up in each song’s idiosyncrasies—the band and Goss did such an excellent job arranging these songs. But it’s also important to focus on what’s front and center: an immensely talented songwriter with a great voice. With Radio Dial, Goss has delivered his best album to date. His writing has evolved and his ideas have gotten bigger, but you get the feeling he’s only begun to scratch the surface.”
Anaïs Mitchell – Young Man in America (Thirty Tigers)
No album this year pushes harder to decimate genre boundaries in the world of folk and Americana than Young Man in America. Even Pitchfork had good things to say: “It’s a fitting statement from a record focused on the classic American conflict between having reverence for lineage but craving independence and unpredictability. Like her characters, Mitchell possesses a restless spirit, one that pulls from her musical predecessors and contemporaries but continues with each release to develop a way of looking at the world that’s all her own.”
Gangstagrass – Rappalachia (Rench Audio)
Hip-hop meets Bluegrass in the best genre fusion since Bakersfield country. The album’s producer, Rench, sums up his goals in an inteview with “Hear! Hear” – “I know that, aside from the people who say ‘I like country and I hate hip-hop’ or ‘I like hip-hop but I hate country,’ those appear to be the extreme cases. There are a lot of people out there who have [both] Johnny Cash and Jay-Z on the playlists on their iPod.” He’s successfully crafted the perfect album for those who don’t want to choose.
Counting Crows – Underwater Sunshine (Collective Sounds)
Adam Duritz’s band puts together an album of off-kilter covers, developing the concept into their most fun album in more than a decade, hinting there’s plenty more worth hearing from these 90s stalwarts. From Consequence of Sound: “Underwater Sunshine doesn’t reward listeners with definitive versions or perfect takes. Rather, it’s sprinkled with “keeper” moments and variations (subtle and not so) on originals that feel just right.”
Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s – Rot Gut, Domestic (Mariel Recording Company)
This Indianapolis band finally created the perfect album to showcase its unique abilities. From Sputnikmusic: “The album’s greatest strength lies within its ability to transition between drastic style changes without missing a beat – something that Buzzard failed to do in a noticeable way. Rot Gut, Doemstic simply feels like an album, and its cohesion adds to the sense that all of this fuzzy discordance has a point.”
Mumiy Troll – Vladivostok (Mumiy Troll)
Russia’s preeminent Rock band of the last three decades continues its attempt to penetrate the American music market. Their latest effort features particularly strong material, agrees AbsolutePunk: “In the end, the fact that Vladivostok is even in the states is amazing in and of itself. After all this is a band that had to smuggle records by Blondie and the Sex Pistols pass the Iron Curtain to perform in stadiums worldwide. That kind of perseverance and dedication is exactly what rook music is about and exactly why the disc deserves at least a few listens.”
Hoots and Hellmouth – Salt (sonaBLAST Records)
Hoots and Hellmouth’s latest album sets out to differentiate the band from the legion of other folk revivalists lumped into the “sounds like Mumford” vein. The album’s two initial singles, “Why Would You Not Want to Go There?” and “I Don’t Mind Your Cussing,” got the blogosphere buzzing back in April, but the album of “new music for old souls” still sits tangled among the alt-folk fringe.
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That’s all for this week’s edition of Tuesday New Releases! We’re open to your suggestion as we develop this column to best serve you. If you have suggestions for future coverage, or if you have a product you’d like featured or reviewed here, simply email Jonathan Sanders at email@example.com.