If last week was a teaser, we’re full-bore into release mania this week!! Lots and lots of stuff coming out. Here’s the rundown:

Gym Class Heroes: “The Quilt”:

Gym Class Heroes' new album, "The Quilt", is in stores today.

I got laughed at for liking Gym Class Heroes at a function last night, so out of spite I’m listing them first. GCH snared me in a very simple way-by sampling two cheese classics-Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” and Jermaine Stewart’s “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off”-for their first two hit singles (“Cupid’s Chokehold” & “Clothes Off!!”. Actually, it’s partially because of GCH that I got into Fall Out Boy, who signed GCH to their label, and whose lead singer, Patrick Stump, sings the chorus on each of the two singles. While I’m not really feeling the first single “Cookie Jar”, and lead singer Travis McCoy lost major cool points by dating Katy Perry, I’m anticipating hearing the rest of this album, which features guest appearances by Brit soul singer Estelle, Busta Rhymes, and my man Daryl Hall.

LL Cool J: “Exit 13”

Our very own GG is attempting to guilt me into buying LL’s thirteenth (THIRTEENTH!!) album, and you know what? I’ll probably bite. Damn it. My hopes aren’t high, because as I’ve mentioned previously, The Future of the Funk has sucked pretty bad for about a decade now. After a fumbled lead single called “Cry” with Lil’ Mo (five years past her sell-by date), LL’s new single, “Baby” (featuring The-Dream who incidentally is also the featured artist on GCH’s “Cookie Jar”) has become a modest hit. It still sucks, though. LL’s been buggin’ out on his label Def Jam lately, and this is the last album on his contract. So who’s he gonna blame when this album stiffs? Guests include 50 Cent, Li’l Kim, Method Man and KRS-ONE.

Metallica: “Death Magnetic”

OK, Metallica’s new album actually doesn’t come out until Friday, September 12th. But I’ll be damned if I write a whole new column for one new release. So you’ll just have to read about it three days early. It’s been a long five years since the last Metallica album, “St. Anger”, an album I’m sure many fans are still trying to forget. Lars, James, Robert and Kirk are reteaming with Rick Rubin and this album is said to evoke the sound of classic “Ride the Lightning”-era Metallica. It’ll be interesting to see how many fans go along for the ride this time. Fortunately, The-Dream appears nowhere on this album. Out of curiosity, am I the only person in the world who liked “Load” and “Reload”? (Oh, and I liked “S&M”, too). Sorry, man. Give me concise 4 1/2 minute singles over 9-minute guitar solos any day.

Jessica Simpson: “Do You Know?”

After the relative failure of her last album, “A Public Affair”, pop siren Jessica Simpson does a 180 and turns into Carrie Underwood for this release. Granted, artists like Underwood and Taylor Swift are doing much better business than Britney and Christina these days, so let’s just assume that this move was made as much for commercial considerations as it was for a desire to spread her wings musically. Judging from early reviews, this album isn’t country so much as it is rock with a twang. John Shanks, famous for his work with Sheryl Crow and Michelle Branch, produces here, so you can pretty much figure out where this one is headed. Thankfully, Tony (“Huh? What happened??”) Romo does not appear anywhere near this one.

“>Eric Benet: “Love & Life”

I didn’t even know this dude still had a record contract. Most casual music fans only know Eric Benet as the idiot dude who was married to Halle Berry and then cheated on her. I repeat. He cheated on Halle Berry. That fact alone should make most sane people not want to buy his records. However, he’s actually a pretty talented guy. His first two albums were on the neo-soul tip, but he went way left on his last album, “Hurricane”, which was basically an hour-long, David Foster-produced, adult contemporary apology letter to Halle. Sounds like he’s back to his bread and butter on this release, which might be worth checking out and could also conceivably wind up being the best of this week’s releases from a qualitative standpoint.

But wait, there’s more!!

Natalie Cole goes to the standards well one more time with “Still Unforgettable”. The title, obviously is a nod to her Grammy-winning 1991 album, and this one features yet another duet with her father, Nat…who is still dead. Rabble-rousing renaissance man Michael Franti returns with Spearhead for “All Rebel Rockers”, which is sure to be yet another electic and passionate gem. Bluesy soul mama Joan Osborne (who has made some quality music beyond the one hit everyone and their momma knows) is releasing “Little Wild One” (which is produced by…get this…The Hooters. Do you think The Hooters have ever been mentioned on a blog not their own for two consecutive days?), and electronica pioneer Tricky is back on the scene with “Knowle West Boy”. There are also new albums from folk legend Joan Baez, alt-country-folk favorite Dar Williams, country singer Hal Ketchum, indie faves Calexico and Sam Champion (the band, not the weatherman), new age pianist Jim Brickman, and 2008’s surprise success Kimya Dawson, who follows up her successful contributions on the “Juno” soundtrack with a children’s album.

You can get a full list of today’s new releases here.