SOUND INVESTMENT The New Pornographers should give a good rate of return on Together.
Whether the album is losing its position as our basic pop unit or not, it's at the very least on iffy ground with the consumer. I've seen the best music snobs of my generation destroyed by downloading — instead of savoring full albums the way one might enjoy a vintage claret, they're slamming down random shots of bands with stupid names, passing out, and blanking on what they heard the night before. Much like the drunk, the modern album buyer must temper his desire with value (i.e., the MP3 as a nip versus the album as a big jug of Cossack). Thus, our selection of upcoming spring albums has been optimized for maximum buzz and buck bang.
Speaking of which — BLACK FRANCIS has written a sex album. Like, there's a track called "When I Go Down on You." I'd be a lot more comfortable if I didn't have to mention that it's leaked, but it has, and initial reviews of his Soft-Cell-and-vagina-propping NonStopErotik (Cooking Vinyl, March 30) liken its front-to-back quality to his first couple of solo efforts. For a potentially more economic (and svelter) solution to your interpersonal-arousal needs, consider this March 30 two-pack: USHER releases Raymond vs. Raymond (LaFace) and Canadian rap throb DRAKE drops Thank Me Later (Young Money). The rest is up to you.
For some artists, the album is simply a carton for relatively identical eggs. In SHARON JONES's case, I Learned the Hard Way (Daptone, April 6) would be a very soulful dozen eggs. Would I purchase three dozen Sharon Jones eggs at a time if they were sold like that? Yes, I would. (Sorry, songs, not eggs.) You can up your savings and buy it merch-table cheap when she plays the House of Blues on May 27. At the more damaged end of the funky-value-pack continuum, JAVELIN will release their 15-track full-length debut, No Mas (Luaka Bop), on April 20. To judge from last year's Jamz n Jemz, a seemingly bottomless bag of clip-hop miniatures, No Mas will be the kind of flawless party album you can loop until one of your smart-ass friends catches on three spins later. That's value you can use.
Others adhere to the purist approach: the album as a unified artistic statement. It's an admirable ethos, provided the music isn't useless, indulgent dreck. (Oh yes, U2's Songs of Ascent drops in June.) DR. DOG — who play the Paradise on May 11 — have their first proper studio recording in Shame, Shame (Anti-, April 6), and they used the studio as an opportunity to pare things down: rich strings and horns are subbed out for clambering old pianos and hardscrabble guitars. Meanwhile, MGMT have been pre-touting their pending sophomore batch of psych-pop baubles, Congratulations (Sony, April 13), as "a collection of nine individual musical tours de force sequenced to flow with sonic and thematic coherence," and they've pooh-poohed the idea of clipping it into singles. There's little chance that either album will suck — you may spend safely.