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CIMS Recommends - January

Good Old War -
Only Way To Be Alone
Sargent House

Death Cab For Cutie -
Something About Airplanes (Deluxe Edition)

Ladytron -

Duffy -
Mercury Records

Unlike the recent trend among indie rock artists who have visited the country/folk genre, Good Old War's debut album, Only Way To Be Alone, makes no attempt to assimilate its music for the sake of novelty. There's neither fake twang nor does the band try to overindulge itself by adding sounds by the harmonica or mandolin just for the sake of having them. Instead, this trio from Pennsylvania retains the intimate storytelling nature of folk-song structure, playing music for those who desire an emotive, lyrical experience without having to wade through pretentious or unnecessary musical gimmicks to get it.

Still considered by many fans to be DC4C's best album, but criminally unheard by many newer converts other than the handful of songs that remain staples of the band's live set ("Amputations", "Pictures in an Exhibition", "Fake Frowns"), Something About Airplanes is not just a document of a particular time in the band's history or of a bygone era of indie-rock - it's an enduring work featuring some of the band's finest songs.  As a special treat, this special edition of Something About Airplanes includes a bonus disc featuring the band's first Seattle live show (and a Smiths cover).

Produced by Ladytron, Velocifero fully transcends the confines of electro-pop with a fresh wave of distorted soul. Mira and Helen--whose disparate vocal styles already provide considerable depth--have evolved both as musicians and songwriters, lending provocative harmonies to songs like "Runaway" and "I'm Not Scared." While, rhythmically, there are moments reminiscent of their old favorites "Os Mutantes" and  "Birthday Party". Velocifero pushes this amazing band further ahead of the pack. You need this.

The easiest way to describe Rockferry, the major label debut of Welsh pop star Duffy, is that it's Amy Winehouse for the music lover who also equates quality with proper dental hygiene and an aversion to abusers of hard drugs. Kidding. Well, sort of.  As with Winehouse and fellow mono-titled soulstresses Adele and Estelle, Duffy has made her name on sultry pipes, a retro sound, and (most importantly) amazing songs - which, in her case, were written with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler. But where everyone is a little scared of (for?) ol' Wino, everyone loves to love Duffy, including Jools Holland and soul legend Eddie Floyd. And if her Stateside conquest doesn't seem evident, she's featured on the soundtrack to the Sex and the City movie, which will guarantee that (for better or for worse) the horny and soused Cosmo contingent will be looking to wrap their, er, ears around this hot little import. But seriously: Rockferry isn't getting this attention by pandering to a sodden demographic. Rather Duffy wins her case by delivering something crucial - terrific songs performed amiably by a stunning young talent. You know, like back in the good ol' days. Highly recommended!

The Gabe Dixon Band -
Gabe Dixon Band

Blitzen Trapper -
Sub Pop

Anthony Hamilton -
Point Of It All
Zomba Label Group

Homemade Jamz Blues Band -
Pay Me No Mind
Northern Blues

The Gabe Dixon Band belatedly but undeniably introduces a world-class unit fronted by a prodigiously talented artist. The first half of the album (which certainly feels like it has two sides, like its sources of inspiration) is rounded off by "Find My Way," an ivory-tickling romp in the grand tradition of Elton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Preston and the Ben Folds 5. If you don't find yourself caught up in the album's musical momentum and psychological depth after these five songs, you're probably better off sticking to NASCAR or knitting. The LP's second half is as far ranging as the first is focused - proof that this isn't a bunch of pop hacks, but the real deal.

Furr is the fourth record by Portland sextet Blitzen Trapper and the follow-up to last year's highly acclaimed Wild Mountain Nation. Written in the gaps of the group's frenetic touring schedule and recorded mostly in a hoary old telegraph building close by the Willamette River, the new record refines and expands on the far-ranging yet distinctive songcraft that lies at the heart of Blitzen Trapper's unique appeal.

Some things, thankfully, never go out of style. Case in point: the bona fide soul of Anthony Hamilton. That distinctive, six-time Grammy-nominated voice is back on The Point of It All, Hamilton's third official studio album. Like Ain't Nobody Worryin' before it, this new album once again plays up the singer/songwriter's natural talent: rich, soul-steeped vocals breathing sonorous life into emotion-packed lyrics. But this time around, you'll find the former barber cutting up a little more than usual.

On the surface, it seems crazy that a group of kids ages 9 thru 16 could competently play The Blues - much less understand those core, dark emotions that lie in the gut of those songs. But one listen to the fat ass Albert / B.B. King licks that carry the brunt of Pay Me No Mind, the striking debut album from the prodigious siblings who comprise The Homemade Jamz Blues Band, and all the aforementioned doubt regarding youth and inexperience will be rendered null.

Gary Moore -
Bad For You, Baby
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Los Campesinos! -
We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
Arts & Crafts

The Ting Tings -
We Started Nothing
Columbia Records

Mitch Hedberg -
Do You Believe in Gosh?
Comedy Central Records

Gary Moore is acknowledged as one of the finest musicians that the British Isles has ever produced. With his latest studio album Bad For You Baby, Gary continues with the sequence of blues rock albums that he began on Eagle Records with Old, New, Ballads, Blues and continued on Close As You Get. Mixing original tunes with Blues classics, Bad For You Baby reaffirms Moore's exceptional talent as a guitarist and his deep insight into and feel for the Blues as a living musical form.

We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed comes less than a year after Los Campensinos! released their critically acclaimed debut long-player, Hold On Now, Youngster. Essentially, it's a big thank you to all the fans that helped make their debut a success.  We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed is a CD / DVD / Cool Poster combo that will be given only one worldwide release and then deleted. So get yours now while supplies last.

Touted as a must-hear by industry symposiums and kids on the corner, The Ting Tings intuitive pop noise is about propulsive energy, positive thinking and smashing up a couple of rules along the way. Be forewarned: Sexy thrills contained within.

Recorded two months prior to his death, Do You Believe In Gosh? contains nearly 40 minutes of previously unreleased stand-up material. The CD captures most of the material Mitch Hedberg was working on, for what would have been his next full-length album, in a free-form show with a large amount of audience interaction. Also included in the CD package is a booklet including never-before-seen photos and excerpts from Mitch's private journals. Do You Believe In Gosh? pulses with Hedberg's unique wit and spirit. It's a bittersweet document of a comedy master just hitting his stride.

M83 -
Saturdays = Youth

Jeff Beck -
Performing This Week... Live At Ronnie Scott's
Eagle Rock Entertainment

The Submarines -
Honey Suckleweeks

Raphael Saadiq -
The Way I See It
Columbia Records

Whereas the doomy synthetic romance of M83's earlier work hinted at a fetish for Eighties goth staples such as Sisters of Mercy and The Cure, their album Saturdays = Youth finds the band taking a stroll on the sunnier side of the decade with it's chiming astro-pop. Tears For Fears, Cocteau Twins, as well as classic John Hughes teen movies such as "The Breakfast Club" and "Sixteen Candles" (The red-haired Molly Ringwald look-alike on the cover is no mistake) play a huge part in this romantic 80's homage. But isn't a throwback - it's a love letter. You need this.

In 2007, legendary guitarist Jeff Beck performed a series of concerts at the renowned Ronnie Scott's club in London. They became the must-have ticket of the year with a packed audience every night of the famous and the fans. Performing This Week... Live At Ronnie Scott's features the best performances of that week and serves as reminder of Beck's extraordinary prowess. Warning: This album goes to 11.

Break-ups, make-ups, and the musical joys of gardening... No, this isn't a Van Morrison record.

Raphael Saadiq is a standard bearer for what folks call "old school" music. From his early days as a member of Tony! Toni! Tone! through his work as an award-winning producer of such artists as Joss Stone, The Roots, Snoop Dogg, and John Legend among many others, the multi-talented Saadiq has kept the faith. Musically cohesive in the same way that soul music albums were recorded back in the day, The Way I See It is not merely a throwback. It is as close to the kind of record made in Detroit, Chicago, Memphis, Miami or New York by any number of super R&B hit makers back in the heyday as it is to anything recorded since. You need this.

Herman Dune -
Next Year In Zion
Columbia Records

Matt Nathanson -
Some Mad Hope

The Weepies -

Saliva -
Cinco Diablo
Island Records

On the new album Next Year In Zion, songwriter and vocalist David-Ivar Herman Dune and drummer Neman Herman Dune - AKA Herman Dune - deliver a dozen charming and intricately constructed pop songs. Don't worry:  They're French!

Some Mad Hope, Matt Nathanson's sixth studio album, is in many ways his most fully realized work to date. At the core of Nathanson's music is his lyrics -- deft turns of phrase that can alternately cut deep into the heart or heal it. Some Mad Hope is a song cycle that chronicles the search for a genuine connection, touching on the sensually electric moments as well as the darker frustrations of sifting through the wreckage in hopes of finding redemption at the end of the day.

Another homemade gem, Hideaway is a darker companion to The Weepies successful major-label debut, Say I Am You. Featuring 14 new tunes ranging from the upbeat title track to the jangly rock of "Not Dead Yet" to the gorgeously arranged meditations like "How You Survived the War" and "Little Bird," The Weepies' sound on Hideaway remains rooted in their unique writing and unusual harmonies.

Cinco Diablo, is brash, brazen and euphoric. Instead of dwelling on misfortune, Saliva has dug in their steel-toed boots, ramped up their energy level and blasted away their problems. From the explosive guitar bursts and euphoric harmonies of "Family Reunion;" to the atmospheric electronic flourishes, sunlit piano lines, and yearning vocals of the closing number "So Long;" to the shout out to our troops in "Judgment Day;" every track of Cinco Diablo is delivered with power and passion. While each track stands alone musically, they all fit together like pieces of a puzzle.

Nikka Costa -
Pebble To A Pearl

Old Crow Medicine Show -
Tennessee Pusher

Ra Ra Riot -
Rhumb Line

Erin McCarley -
Love, Save the Empty
Universal Republic

There's a lot of competition for your Soul Dollar, buy you can rest assured that Nikka Costa's stunning new album, Pebble To A Pearl, is a wonderful investment. Recorded for the venerable Stax label, Pebble To A Pearl is modern soul produced the old-fashioned way:  Put an incredible singer in a room with a kick ass band and do the whole thing live to 2-inch tape. Like Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Costa's songs evoke classic soul without ever pandering or resorting to pastiche. It's glorious and highly recommended!

From busking in the streets of Nashville to headlining the historic Ryman Auditorium, Old Crow Medicine Show (OCMS) have come full circle playing their own brand of American roots music with a rock and roll attitude. They've even inspired The Village Voice to predict, "Fame will soon lift her skirt for the band." And with its new album, Tennessee Pusher, it looks like she's about to give those boys said golden view.

To observe Ra Ra Riot on stage is to observe a joyful experience in progress, somehow both intensely fun and just plain intense. It's this bittersweet dynamic that makes The Rhumb Line a compelling debut album by a band with seemingly limitless potential. From the haunting slowburn crescendos of opener "Ghost Under Rocks" through the playful "Each Year", "Can You Tell" and "Too Too Too Fast," the more pensive "Oh, La" and "Dying Is Fine" and a curveball cover of Kate Bush's "Suspended In Gaffa", The Rhumb Line skillfully melds elements of new wave and classic indie with sweeping orchestral chamber pop to startling effect.

Erin McCarley calls the music on her debut album, Love, Save the Empty, a document of her search for authenticity in herself and in others. The 11 songs collected here (songs that ignited an industry-wide frenzy when McCarley performed them at SXSW in 2008) pull off the trick that all great pop performs:  They do heavy philosophical lifting with a lightness that boosts the spirit. This is elegantly crafted, deeply melodic music that resounds with echoes of the Beatles and Aimee Mann, Alanis Morissette and Amy Winehouse.

Greg Laswell -
Three Flights from Alto Nido

Kinky -

Nick Swardson -
Comedy Central Records

Wild Sweet Orange -
We Have Cause To Be Uneasy

Lyricist/singer/multi-instrumentalist/producer Greg Laswell finds himself released from heartache with Three Flights From Alto Nido - the enigmatically, yet aptly titled, third volume of his trilogy of heartbreak and redemption.  His previous album, 2006's wonderful Through Toledo, was an intimate account of a devastating experience in his life.  How The Day Sounds, a six song EP released earlier this year, served as a bridge toward self-realization while vividly capturing the sense of healing and moving on. Three Flights From Alto Nido resonates with a grand, therapeutic soundscape gained from renewal and letting go of loss. Pointing out that "alto nido" translates from the Spanish as "high nest," Laswell explains that "'Three flights up' implies that you're on your way to a 'high nest,' even if you're not quite there yet."  Whereas Through Toledo was intimate and autobiographical for the most part, the EP reflected the transitional time of coming out of it," Laswell explains. "With this album, I wanted to do something really big sounding-a little bit bigger than I am, really. You need this.

Kinky's self-titled debut contains the foundations of a sound that would eventually reap this genre-bending band great reward -- including Latin Grammy nods, tours with The Flaming Lips, and sweet spots at Coachella and Voodoo Fest. It is a sound steeped in house music, traditional Mexican rhythms, and the cultural mish-mash of hip hop. It is loopy, sexy fun and highly worth your while. Check it out... And come back next month for the band's brand new album, Barracuda.

You might not recognize him without hot pants or roller skates, but Nick Swardson is one of today's fastest rising comedians. Party is Swardson's first stand-up comedy record with celebrity-studded sketches as well as an accompanying DVD of his Comedy Central Presents specials and other bonus goodness. Swardson is known as the roller-skating male prostitute Terry on Reno 911 and the stalker in the film Blades Of Glory. If you like jokes about gays, drugs, pot, drinking, blacking out, death, and old people then you'll be hard pressed to find an album that tackles the subject matter with such disdain for good taste and the people who claim to have it.

Wild Sweet Orange is a band from Birmingham, Alabama - a place that for most Americans is still an unknown territory. We Have Cause To Be Uneasy, the band's debut LP, features songs that are wistful and optimistic yet filled with a rage that prevents the proceedings from collapsing under the weight of preciousness. These are songs that are full of great memory and detail and they're being spread in the hopes that people will recognize themselves in them and feel the need to reach out. These songs are stirring spirituals for the outcasts among us, played ably by an incredible live band. You'd do well to check this out.

Leigh Jones -
Music In My Soul

Blackie & The Rodeo Kings -
Swinging From The Chains of Love
True North Records

Glasvegas -
Columbia Records

Daniel Martin Moore -
Stray Age
Sub Pop

Having made passionate believers and hands-on supporters out of both Motown Records founder Berry Gordy AND Stax Records maverick Al Bell, Leigh Jones is fortified to take on the international pop music marketplace with her powerful debut album, Music in My Soul. Perhaps the most naturally soulful white female R&B singer since Teena Marie, Leigh has recorded an assured and semi-autobiographical gem of a debut.

What started out as a tribute project to the late Willie P. Bennett has evolved into one of the most entertaining Canadian roots super groups of all time -- Blackie & The Rodeo Kings. Swinging From The Chains Of Love features a collection of tracks from the Blackie catalog including favorites "49 Tons", "Stoned" "Heaven For A Lonely Man;" the title track "Swinging From The Chains Of Love;" and previously unreleased track "Caves of Jericho" featuring the late Richard Bell; as well as a cover of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues."

Glasvegas is a quartet from the tough East End of Glasgow who just seemed to appear one day in a flash of smoke and celluloid. Donned in black leather and plenty of hair product, Glasvegas fuses a wall of sound noise that is equal parts Jesus and Mary Chain, Elvis, and Phil Spector combined with a pop sensibility inspired by 60s girl pop and Doo Wop. Naturally, the U.K. music press (and its Anglophilic disciples across the pond) went crazy. So crazy that now this - the band's highly anticipated self-titled debut album - is getting the stateside release it so richly deserves.

The insights in Stray Age are not secrets and would never hope to be. That's a good thing, as Daniel Martin Moore is much more of an optimist, hopefully anticipating the things that are just around the corner. "That'll Be The Plan" strums along to a soft drumbeat, a traveling narrative centered around delicate mandolin solos. There's a soft swing in the vocals reminiscent of Chet Baker. But the one thing with Moore -- that we like to think of as separating him from the pack -- is that he's looking forward. He wants to go places, he wants you to come with him, and we're finding him right in that moment.

Tori Amos -
Live At Montreux 91/92
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet -
Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet

Moby -
Last Night Remixed

These two concerts from Montreux in 1991 and 1992 catch Tori Amos right at the start of her solo career. The first, from July 1991, was filmed a few months before the release of her Little Earthquakes album and the second from July 1992 followed a few months after. There is a fascinating progression from one year to the next as she grows in confidence and skill as a live performer, buoyed by the critical and commercial success of the album. Naturally most of the songs are taken from Little Earthquakes but there are also rare songs from her various EPs released across the two years which didn't make it onto the album, including her distinctive takes on Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" and "Thank You" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit".

Abigail Washburn never set out to be a songwriter or a recording artist. Five years ago when she found herself on stage in a smoke-filled Beijing club playing her banjo and singing old-time Appalachian mountain music in Chinese to a packed house, she was as surprised as anyone. Abigail has created a new sound - a sound that challenges traditional notions of country and culture, embodied in the raw, transcendental music of the Sparrow Quartet, which features cellist extraordinaire Ben Sollee and banjo legend Bela Fleck, who also produced the album.

2008 is the year Moby kept the dance floor hopping, and the legendary DJ continues on by bringing together some of the best remixes from this year's Last Night. Delivering 13 separate mixes, Last Night Remixed brings them all together in one continuous, booty shaking track. With help from names like Freemasons, Holy Ghost!, Shapeshifters, AC Slater and more, putting this album in is as good as having Moby along DJ'ing your own private party.

The Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CIMS) is a group of some of the best independent music stores in America. CIMS was founded in 1995; its current membership is made up of 29 accounts that handle 47 stores in 21 states. Many of the accounts have been recognized by the music industry and their local communities for their outstanding dedication to customer service and developing artist support.

Each member is bound by its shared love of music, a reputation for great selection and customer service in its community, yet each CIMS account is as unique as the market it represents. Most importantly, CIMS member stores continually seek to challenge the jaded, color-by-numbers advertising and marketing of other retailers.