Haha…April Fools!!

(yeah, OK, that was lame)

So, no, you won’t be getting the new Guns ‘n Roses or Dr. Dre albums today (or anytime soon, I don’t think). However, this particular April Fool’s Day brings forth a plethora of new music releases. Here are a couple of things you might be interested in checking out.

R.E.M. “Accelerate”: Simply put, R.E.M. are the greatest American rock band of the past quarter-century. Albums like “Murmur”, “Document” and “Automatic for the People” are almost universally regarded as classics. However, the band lost the plot when drummer Bill Berry exited in 1997, after being stricken with a brain aneurysm while on stage. While the remaining three members of the band (vocalist Michael Stipe, bassist Mike Mills and guitarist Peter Buck) have soldiered on, the music has suffered and the band, to me, anyway, is a shell of what it once was. “Accelerate” is rumored to be the band’s return to a harder-rocking style. Will it be as good as their last “rocking” effort, 1994’s “Monster”? I’ll let you guys find out. I’m probably gonna pass.


Moby “Last Night”: In 1999, Moby’s “Play” was the little album that could. Despite a lack of radio play and traditional promotion, the album went on to sell 2 million copies via the then unique practice of licensing almost every one of the album’s tracks to a TV show, movie or commercial. Moby’s not equalled that level of success since, but he’s continued to put out interesting music since, and he’s also one of pop music’s most unique personalities. “Last Night” allegedly harkens back to a more club-friendly sound, an acknowledgment of Moby’s early days as a cutting-edge techno/electronic artist.


Van Morrison “Keep It Simple”: It’s been 40 years since Van Morrison exploded onto the scene with the band Them and the hit “Gloria”, and at this point, you know what to expect from the man widely considered one of the greatest blue-eyed soul singers and one of the greatest songwriters in history. A mix of folk and traditional Irish flavorings, a touch of blues, a pinch of jazz and a whole lot of that still inimitable voice. While none of his recent work has exactly been “Moondance”, any artist would be hard-pressed to top that classic, and Van remains one of the few artists of his era who is still worth listening to.


Kylie Minogue “X”: British pop tart Kylie Minogue returns with her first album of new material since fighting and beating a breast cancer diagnosis in 2005. While she is practically royalty in her home country, she’s only been intermittently successful here in the States, and with American customers currently preferring their British singers of the soulful variety (Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis), it’s hard to tell whether this album will mark a commercial comeback for Kylie. An eclectic lineup of guest performers on this album includes Boy George, The Scissor Sisters, and former BLACKstreet member/ace producer Teddy Riley.


George Michael “Twenty Five”: Despite being released in the U.K. nearly two years ago, this double-CD hits compilation by George Michael is only being released in the States now. Of course, with a double-CD compilation by George already on the market, many folks would say this is a bit unnecessary, but hold up a second. “Twenty-Five” is the first album to compile all of George’s hits with Wham! (like this classic: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Hksil-KkebQ) in addition to his solo smashes. In addition, it contains his hit duet with Mary J. Blige, “As”, which scored big on R&B radio a decade ago but Mary’s label refused it’s official release in the States. Add in a couple of new tracks, George’s upcoming summer tour (his first in the U.S. since 1991) and his ubiquity via the TV show “Eli Stone”, and this might be one to watch.


My pick of the week is “Matthew Ryan vs. The Silver State”. Matthew is a singer/songwriter, originally from Pennsylvania but currently based in Nashville. To my ears, he sounds like Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” meets Ray LaMontagne. His music is almost painfully intimate (I mean that in a good way) and beautifully sung and performed. I had the pleasure of witnessing an intimate acoustic performance by him and I was completely blown away. Give this album a shot. You will not be disappointed.


And for this week’s “Huh”? Factor:
Remember Donna Lewis? No? How about that song “I Love You Always Forever”? NOW do you remember? Well, she’s BACK (and I don’t remember anyone inviting her). For those interested, she’s got an album out today.

Also hitting stores today: A new set from The Black Keys (intriguingly produced by Gnarls Barkley’s Danger Mouse), former “American Idol” finalist Josh Gracin (the country-singing dude from season 2 who was in the military), a new set from country music mainstay George Strait (who seems to release albums every 9 months, and all of them sell like hotcakes), a Dream Theater 2-CD best of, and “Shine a Light”, the soundtrack to the new Rolling Stones documentary, which was notably directed by Martin Scorcese. Look at the way Mick’s wrinkles were filmed! Such Clarity!

Happy shopping!!