When looking at Tuesday’s list of music releases, Britney Spears’ seventh album, “Femme Fatale,” would seem to overshadow all contenders in sales and media spotlight. Yet there’s plenty to recommend past the Spears’ spectacle.
New albums worth hearing range from The Dead Milkmen’s first release in more than a decade to compilations with profits contributing to the Japanese Red Cross.
The Oracle reviews five recent music releases.
Radiohead – “The King of Limbs”
After releasing their eighth full-length album, “The King of Limbs,” on Feb. 18 as an early digital download, British rock band Radiohead released the CD and album version Monday.
The group also released a free, mock newspaper full of short stories and artwork called the Universal Sigh, which was distributed by hand in 60 locations worldwide and online in a PDF format.
The digital download format seems somewhat fitting for “The King of Limbs,” a short, eight-track release with slinky electronic soundscapes that resemble frontman Thom Yorke’s own solo albums.
One or two tracks still stand out, such as the more natural and striking “Codex” with its piano, trumpet and string elements.
The Dead Milkmen – “The King in Yellow”
Offering a different kind of “king” than Radiohead, ’80s Philadelphia comedy-punks The Dead Milkmen self-released “The King in Yellow” last week and are slowly gaining attention from music outlets.
The album is their first full-length in 16 years and features capable new bassist Dan Stevens following the suicide of original bassist Dave Schulthise.
“The King in Yellow” wastes no time in making jokes and launching into a favorite target of attack – superficial, corporate “rebels” – with songs such as “Commodify Your Dissent” and “Fauxhemia.”
None of the songs may be as memorably joyful as “Punk Rock Girl,” but the band does sound energized, and guitarist Joe Jack Talcum’s voice is cheerfully catchy on tracks like “Hangman.”
The Mountain Goats – “All Eternals Deck”
“All Eternals Deck” is the 18th album and Merge Records debut by indie collective The Mountain Goats, which began with frontman John Darnielle recording albums on a Panasonic boombox and now includes bassist Peter Hughes and Superchunk drummer and Dead Milkmen acquaintance Jon Wurster.
Opening track “Damn These Vampires” features clean-sounding piano and drums typical of The Mountain Goats’ more recent albums with funny turns of phrase like “sleep like dead men, wake up like dead men.”
Though the often-quiet tempos of the record might not suggest it, Darnielle is also an avid heavy metal fan and had former Morbid Angel guitarist Erik Rutan produce four tracks on the album.
The song styles range from the mildly raucous “Estate Sale Sign” to the lushly instrumental “Outer Scorpion Squadron” – barbershop quartet-style vocals even briefly appear on “High Hawk Season.”
Obits – “Moody, Standard and Poor”
If you’re looking for something with a more straightforward rock sound, Brooklyn quartet Obits’ new album “Moody, Standard and Poor” may do the trick.
Vocalist and guitarist Rick Froberg is better known for his previous bands Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu, a band with unconventional song structures that could be compared with Fugazi.
Yet, Obits freely mix garage, twang and punk with conventional melodies in a sound that is still deeply buried underneath waves of feedback.
For instance, “Sound Operator” starts off with steady drums and chugging guitars that expand to twanging riffs as Froberg slowly spits out lines.
Various artists – Japan
The top-listed album on the iTunes Store’s Music This Week is currently “Songs for Japan,” a $10 compilation of 36 songs from virtually every superstar imaginable in various genres.
Original offerings include a remix of Lady GaGa’s “Born This Way” and an acoustic piano rendition of Bruno Mars’ “Talking to the Moon.”
Bob Dylan, Cee Lo Green and Lady Antebellum also contribute.
If you’re looking for something more alternative, try the $5 digital download “Vs. the Earthquake.”
The album collects 22 tracks ranging from Ohio pop-punk outfit Mixtapes’ cover of the Hold Steady’s “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” to a live version of singer-songwriter Allison Weiss’ “Let Me Go.”