01072011_BigHurtYanniagain

A new year, a fresh crop of musical delights! The early part of 2011 has a jam-packed release calendar, so let's check out what's coming in the next couple of months . . .

AMANDA PALMER | Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under | January | Early this year, Palmer will embark on a tour of the axis of insufferable accents that'll include stops in Australia and New Zealand. In conjunction with this antipodean jaunt, she'll release an album entirely on a regional theme. The cover features a topless Palmer with a passport shoved into a pair of Australian-flag panties — which gives you a little nudge to recognize the subtle crotch joke of the title. (Isn't everything she does, on some level, a crotch joke?) Songs include "Vegemite (The Black Death)," "Doctor Oz," and "Map of Tasmania." That last one can be heard now on her website, but beware: it offers occasional dubstep wobblies and unfettered Amanda Palmerism. As always, slightly irritating but not altogether terrible.

CAKE | Showroom of Compassion | January 11 | Just when we all thought we knew exactly, precisely what to always, always expect from a Cake album, John McCrea has gone and changed up the formula. "There are things that I just sort of intentionally avoided for years and years that I allowed to happen," he told soundpike.com. "Like the use of acoustic piano. I felt it sounded too classy, and I didn't want us to sound classy. I'd always studiously avoided using reverb on the vocals, and I allowed that to happen for some reason." Could this new mood of sonic experimentation finally lift Cake to the three-star-review bracket? Will we be able to tell the new single from the previous one without the aid of sophisticated audio-analysis software? Do we still care?

ME FIRST AND THE GIMME GIMMES | Go Down Under | February 1 | Ironic punk covers, I have often said, are among the lowest forms of art; they're slightly worse than post-grunge and just a tiny bit better than idiotic collective nouns ("an infuriation of James Liptons"). Punk supergroup Me First and the Gimme Gimmes go one step farther by combining ironic punk covers with hilarious theme albums and wacky matching outfits — they've made a whole career out of this dreadful shit, and we're probably not even allowed to get mad at it because it's all in so much good fucking fun. This time, they're releasing an Aussie-themed record to coincide with their early-2011 Australia tour. Which is a thing now, I gather.

YANNI | Truth of Touch | February 8 | Anyone else feeling slightly molested by that title? It's as if Yanni were greasing up my back and whispering, "The most effective way to make a connection is through the powerful truth of touch. Just relax, and I will gently penetrate your truth chakras. A little lower . . . a little lower . . . "

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