CIMS Recommends - March

U2 -
No Line On The Horizon

M. Ward -
Hold Time

Bell Orchestre -
As Seen Through Windows
Arts & Crafts

Raul Malo -
Lucky One

I really wish I could tell you something about the new U2 album. I really do. At press time No Line On The Horizon is still shrouded in secrecy, save its larger than life single "Get On Your Boots." What I can tell you, though, is that on paper this album looks very promising. The initial sessions with Rick Rubin got scrapped and, as a result, the band went to work with the two guys who understand them most: Daniel Lanois and the one and only Brian Eno. Eno and Lanois are so involved in the process that they actually became songwriters on the album and all signs point to thick waves of synth, big guitars, and a spiritual quest - all while trying to make you forget about your troubles and shake your ass.

M. Ward's latest solo outing, Hold Time, is an eloquent and startlingly beautiful album which includes guest performances by Jason Lytle, Lucinda Williams, Tom Hagerman of DeVotchka and Zooey Deschanel. While past critics have compared him to everyone from John Fahey to Tom Waits to his old friend Howe Gelb, with Hold Time it's clear that M. Ward, with his brilliant guitar playing and innate sense of melody, is one of those rare and special talents who defy comparisons and compartmentalization. Like a true American treasure, M. Ward cuts his own groove while music fans continue to fall under his whispered spell.

As Seen Through Windows, Bell Orchestre's second release, was recorded with John McEntire at his Soma Electronic Music Studios. The result is at once fierce and beautiful, delicate and dirty. McEntire's extensive studio knowledge and attention to craft provided Bell Orchestre with a kind of bridge, spanning the diversity of their sound to create a richly layered and sonically expansive recording. Opening with the distressed sound of muted and distorted horns, strings and drums-an almost monstrous sound, As Seen Through Windows effortlessly shifts into an elaborate and soaring movement, sometimes edging close to fragility, sometimes on the verge of exploding, but never once faltering nor threatening to lose its way.

Clearly, followers of Raoul Malo's eclectic career - both with the Mavericks and after - know he's always chafed at placing any confines on music. Although completely contemporary, the music on Lucky One recalls the great tunes of the '50s, '60s and '70s, made famous by Malo's musical heroes like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. The songs on Lucky One range from the silly to the sublime, by Malo's own design, and draw on his deep love of country, rock, jazz and Latin music.

Living Things -
Habeas Corpus
Zomba Label Group/Jive

Steven Wilson -

Thin Lizzy -
Still Dangerous
VH1 Classics

Angus and Julia Stone -
A Book Like This

Living Things have been working diligently for nearly two years on their sophomore album, which may be seen as an extension and evolution of their 2005 debut Ahead Of The Lions (featuring the explosive first single "Bom Bom Bom"). Considering that first album's critical acclaim, their striking visual image, and the band's consistently electrifying live shows, Habeas Corpus may see Living Things ready for a breakthrough moment. Spearheaded by the delirious lead off single "Let It Rain", Habeas Corpus is busting into the world's consciousness fully realized in every way.

Acclaimed for his work with Porcupine Tree, Opeth and Anja Garbarek amongst others, Steven Wilson branching out on his own with Insurgentes. Comprising 10 new tracks that range from ballads and anthems to all-out industrial noise assaults, the dark, Insurgentes is a cinematic and richly textured album represents two years' worth of creative output and numerous recording sessions worldwide in studios from Mexico City to Japan and Israel.

Thin Lizzy made their fame mixing Springsteen-esque poetry with street fighting imagery -- a lethal combination that made "The Boys Are Back In Town" the enduring rock classic it is today. Culled from the same tour that produced their classic live document,  Live and Dangerous, Still Dangerous strikes a balance between classics and gems that have never appeared on any Lizzy live album. Still Dangerous will rightfully take its place as an all time great rock and roll sequel ... The boys are, indeed, back.

Angus and Julia Stone make their North American debut with A Book Like This -- a collection of thirteen heartfelt and beautiful songs. Together, Angus and Julia Stone form a musical act whose similarities include a pure and genuine love of music and a talent for telling beautiful and beguiling stories. Together the songs on A Book Like This are strikingly poignant and textured recordings.

The Bird and The Bee -
Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future
Blue Note Records

Revolting Cocks -
Sex-o Olympic-o

And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead -
The Century of Self
Justice Records

Kinky -

The Bird and The Bee's latest album, Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future, is definitely new sonic terrain for the Los Angeles-based duo. While every bit as beguiling as their debut, Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future retains its predecessor's lithe melodies and Brazilian influences, but takes its stylish, '60s pop deeper into the psychedelic period of the Tropicalia era. First single, "Love Letter To Japan" is your passport to this wonderful collection of tinkling, minimal electronics, big hooks, and Inara George's (daughter of the late Lowell George) imminently playful and seductive voice.

Most franchises have a face that goes along with their trademark name. Case in point - Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees, Ronald McDonald and McDonald's, Sean Connery and James Bond, and of course, Al Jourgensen and the Revolting Cocks. Since their formation in 1983, Jouregensen has been the only constant member of the popular underground industrial-dance band, which has counted Gibby Haynes, Jello Biafra and Timothy Leary among its members. But like all great franchises, there comes a time when the chairman must infuse it with new blood, and that's what Jourgensen is doing with RevCo's latest and (believe it or not) most focused album, Sex-o Olympic-o. Must be heard to be believed.

. . . And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead's 2002 album, Source Tags and Codes, sparked a near universal rock-critic orgasm, after that how could their two follow-up efforts match up? By tearing the band back to it's core duo, separating itself from its major label ties, and spunking a prog-punk masterpiece that'll send all the skinny jeaned mathematicians back to their Rush albums hoping to mine some soul. That album is The Century Of Self... And it's epic.

Barracuda demonstrates the band's evolution, yet maintains the essence of what has become Kinky's distinguishing seal-their experimentation with sounds and their infectious dance rhythms. To help facilitate these experiments the band called upon the genius of Money Mark and fellow Mexican ex-pat Chico Sonido - an imaginative up-and-coming DJ with an obsession for hunting down rare and precious beats from around the world. His influence is deeply felt on the epic party single, "Hasta Quermanos." Imaginative, loopy, and defiantly fun, Barracuda is another essential listen from this amazing band.

Butch Walker -
Sycamore Meadows
Stay Platinum

Rocco Deluca and The Burden -

The Alternate Routes -
A Sucker's Dream

Shamekia Copeland -
Never Going Back

In 2007 Butch Walker lost everything - including the masters of every song he ever recorded. Determined to carry on, Walker wrote Sycamore Meadows (named for his street) as his therapy. You might notice that physical packaging of the album is, according to Walker, very 'bare-bones', because he wanted it to be 'all about what's on the disc'. It's on vinyl, too, but what really matters here are the songs, which happen to be among Walker's best.

Rocco DeLuca uses a delicate falsetto, resonator guitar, and incisive, questioning lyrics to deliver his second album, Mercy. This go-round Rocco has the help of five-time Grammy-winning producer Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel) to draw upon. Mercy covers vast emotional terrain, from the Melancholy "Junky Valentine," to the explosive "Save Yourself". The title track "Mercy", is an ambient, piano driven masterpiece featuring a guest performance by UK trio Keane. These twists and turns build, layer upon layer, with haunted intricacy. "For the first time," says DeLuca,  "I've come to realize the music in my head."

Loosely based around a handful of themes - seeing light at the end of tunnel, powering through hardship, holding onto hope in the face of long odds - A Sucker's Dream, the sophomore release from The Alternate Routes, builds on the diverse, melodic compositional work of the band's debut by adding decibels, power, vision and a collaborative studio effort. This recording turns The Alternate Routes from a band with great potential to a band that has clearly delivered on its potential.

Never Going Back captures Shamekia Copeland at a crossroads on that artistic path - a place where numerous new avenues are open to her. While Copeland will always remain loyal to her blues roots, Never Going Back takes a more forward view of the blues, and in so doing points her music and her career in a new direction. That pursuit of a new and different sound led to producer Oliver Wood, a member of the acoustic and highly organic collective known as the Wood Brothers - a combo whose ranks also include bassist Chris Wood, co-founder and ongoing member of Medeski, Martin & Wood. The results will surprise you.

Sabotage System -
The Boto Machine Gun
Volcum Entertainment

Audrye Sessions -
Audrye Sessions
Black Sea

Various -
Music From The Motion Picture Watchmen

Late of the Pier -
Fantasy Black Channel

Sabotage Soundsystem is a two-man machine made up of Big Island surfers and musicians Remy "Dub" DeRochemont and Kaleo Wassman. As the title implies, The Boto Machine Gun is all at once dirty, sexy, and lethal. A guerrilla style recording, this weapon was built in people's houses and garages on both sides of the sea, from Hawaii to SoCal. With just two members hammering out the entire production start to finish, The Boto Machine Gun retains its original integrity and is delivered to us as a cohesive and visionary effort- boasting a fresh, rough, raw, and lawless sound you probably didn't realize you were missing.

Though The Audrey Sessions self-titled debut has all the accoutrements of bands like Ours, Jeff Buckley, or whoever else was living under the shadow of the Radiohead juggernaut (which was, er... everyone), it also has what a lot of those albums sometimes lacked -really lovely songs. Whether they'll play stadiums (in this country, at least) is debatable, but fans of earnest, heartfelt rock and sturdy songcraft will find a lot to love here.

Watchmen is widely hailed as the greatest Graphic Novel of all time... And that may be right. To read this masterwork of fiction (yes, it's a comic book. But still...) is a thrill. It's an imagining of superheroes not as happy go lucky saviors, but as extremely flawed - in some cases damaged - human begins who want to fight crime in their underwear... Which makes it, ya know, realistic. The soundtrack is both cheeky and diverse. It may be a long time before you ever see Leonard Cohen and KC and the Sunshine Band share space on one disc again.

Late Of The Pier's music is almost impossible to describe, pushing stylistic boundaries to the edge of no control. Produced by superstar DJ-producer Erol Alkan, Fantasy Black Channel is huge both in scope and ambition, an exuberant rush of glam, psychedelia, nu-wave, dance punk, metal and madcap sci-fi experimentation. Not every band can throw shards of Zappa, Queen, Eno-era Roxy Music, Prince, Gary Numan, DFA, Bloc Party and The Klaxons into a blender and come out with something as defiantly unique and grandly anthemic. If you are madly in love with Cut Copy, Justice and the like then you'll find a lot to love with Fantasy Black Channel. Do check it out!

Marissa Nadler -
Little Hells

Cazals -
What Of Our Future?
The Hours

Beast -

Miranda Lee Richards -
Light Of X

On her fourth solo album, Little Hells, renowned Boston singer/songwriter Marissa Nadler finds multiple ways to envelop the listener in splendid gauzy moods without becoming monochromatic. A master of creating rich dreamscape atmospheres, Nadler's voice shines and glides even more with a full band accompanying her. Little Hells displays a brighter leap in musical maturity and attention to detail, as the phantasmagoric sounds delve into melancholy nuggets, sometimes erotic, sometimes gutting, but filled with a gorgeous sense of serene hope more so than previous album, Songs III: Bird on the Water. Do check this out.

Cazals are signed to French record label Kitsune. It is an electronic music label, home to Simian Mobile Disco, Crystal Castles and other such forward thinkers. They are not normally interested in British guitar bands (especially those with retrogressive tendencies), but they made an exception for What Of Our Future?. 'A Big Mistake' is driven by lo-fi electronic drum loops; 'We're Just The Same' a gorgeous, half-paced pop song that exhibits the French influence that has seeped into Cazals' music; 'Comfortable Silence', meanwhile, is - frankly - bonkers experimentalism, the likes of which few British guitar bands would dare even attempt. Oasis this is not.

Beast is an experimental union between the powerful and sensual voice of Beatrice Bonifassi (The Triplettes de Belleville) and the dirty, in your face beats of composer and drummer Jean-Phi Goncalves (Lauren Hill, Daniel BĂ©langer). , Beast's eponymous debut is a weird-ass funky creature worthy of its name, like some ass-shaking hybrid of Amy Winehouse and Tom Waits with a little Portishead for taste. You need this.

Miranda Lee Richards has an uncanny knack of finding the diamonds in the dust of every day life and the relationships within. She's able to look at an average moment and describe it in a way that transforms it into something much more powerful, a talent evident on every tack of Light of X. The album balances Richards' beautiful, close to the heart vocals, with music that has the wide open, spacious feel of a desert sky or an empty church. Call it Ambient Americana, or Richards' self coined term 'Psychedelic Chamber Folk Rock' if you like, Light of X is an album full of love and loss, desolation and salvation, both moody and comforting.

JJ Cale -
Roll On

Ian McLagan & The Bump Band -
Never Say Never

Chris Issak -
Mr. Lucky

Various Artists -
Dark Was The Night

Roll On is Cale's sixteenth album. Comprised of 12 new songs, Roll On is Cale's first batch of new solo material since 2004's To Tulsa and Back and comes on the heels of his gold selling (platinum overseas) 2006 collaboration with Eric Clapton, The Road to Escondido, which also earned Cale his first Grammy. Parts of this album sound like classic Cale and could have come out 30 years ago while other songs find him traveling in completely new directions. After all these years Cale is still in love with making music, passionately creating future-classics that he'll one day tuck into his very own chapter of the Great American Songbook.

Ian McLagan is a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool rock'n'roller. In fact, his smiling visage - he was, after all, a member of the Small Faces and the Faces - would serve as an ideal illustration in the proverbial Dictionary of "What Is Truly Cool." Never Say Never. The self-produced album features McLagan's award winning Bump Band and includes all original songs written by one of the best-loved musicians of our time. Also on board is Patty Griffin, who graces Never Say Never with her soulful vocals and she and the Tosca Strings can be heard on the final track, the heart wrenching "When The Crying Is Over." Listen close: This is how it's done.

Mr. Lucky -- Chris Isaak's stunning new masterpiece -- perfectly balances the ecstasy of great romance with the agony of pure heartbreak. Mr. Lucky offers passionate music that feels decidedly lived-in. Like some rocking Sinatra album for the 21st Century, Mr. Lucky is a song cycle about the good luck we earn and the bad luck we just can't seem to shake. Right from its killer opener -- the wonderfully tortured "Cheaters Town" -- to the concluding and uplifting "Big, Wide Wonderful World," Isaak takes us all on a dark but beautiful ride.

Since 1989, The Red Hot Organization has produced fourteen groundbreaking albums, related television programs and media events incorporating the talents of leading performers, visual artists, producers and directors to raise funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS. To date, these efforts have donated nearly 7 million dollars for AIDS relief around the world. Produced / curated by The National's Bryce Dessner, Dark Was The Night isn't a "theme" album per se, but a showcase of indie rock's best featuring an emphasis on traditional themes played and arranged in a contemporary way. This is a double disc / triple vinyl collection filled with joy. To buy this is to love it - and make a difference in the process.

Joe Bonamassa -
The Ballad of John Henry
J&R Adventures

Molly Jensen -
Maybe Tomorrow

Derek Trucks Band -
Already Free
RCA Victor

The Prodigy -
Invaders Must Die
Take Me to The Hospital

After hearing a ten-year-old Joe Bonamassa play, B.B. King - who personally asked Joe to open for his landmark 2005 80th birthday celebration tour - said, "This kid's potential is unbelievable. He hasn't even begun to scratch the surface. He's one of a kind." Fast forward to the present day: The Ballad of John Henry is Joe's 7th studio album, and finds him getting to the heart of the blues music that has possessed his life so thoroughly. The man continues to impress.

Behind Molly Jensen heartfelt songs is an unfeigned artist, who is not afraid to reach out to an audience and let them know that she is tangible. Her ingenuous lyrics entail stories of love and loss, hardships and better days. Beyond that, Molly's incredible vocal ability sets her apart from other female artists, and she does it with such ease. Maybe Tomorrow is one hell of a debut, and it all began when San Diego singer/songwriter/producer Greg Laswell offered to co-write and produce Jenson's first record. Greg and Molly worked remarkably well together and, before they knew it, Maybe Tomorrow was born. In fact, they're already working on the follow-up - and you'll wanna get that too.

On Already Free, the latest album from the former Allman Brother, Derek Trucks and company rip their game wide open with this strong collection of electric shredders. Do not pass go and head straight for DTB's searing take on Bob Dylan's "Down In The Flood" and be amazed by its swampy funk, slinky slide work, and straight-up Led Zep fuzz gallop. Going all "air guitar" in the store is perfectly acceptable. You need this.

If The Prodigy had learned anything from their recent tour it was that those old skool rave anthems still rock hard - and are every bit as iconic to their generation as punk was to the nation's forty-somethings. So Invaders Must Die then is awash with references to the free party generation. It thunders like the mother of all E-rushes, all hairs tingling, spine jumping and lips buzzing. But it ain't no retroactive arms-in-the-air, water-sharing nostalgia trip. This set is fuelled by the dog-thunder of punk's saliva-dripping rabid snarl. In fact its canines are so thoroughly bared that it's more likely to snap at your jugular and steal your water. Laughing all the while. In fact, the often overlooked dumb-assed humor that has always been at the heart of the band is has a full force presence here.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus -
Lonely Road

Mishka -
Above The Bones
J.K. Livin'

Cursive -
Mama, I'm Swollen
Saddle Creek

Lonely Road finds The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus at their very best. Here the band has created a diverse, stunning rock record that is a huge artistic step forward for the band. As evidenced by the blistering first single, 'You Better Pray,' Lonely Road takes no prisoners -- forcing listeners to stand up and take notice. With songs ranging from the sprawling title track (which, as times, is evocative of Temple of the Dog) to the gorgeous, almost doo-wop influenced 'Believe' to the more signature, RJA-sounding 'Pen and Paper,' Lonely Road is an album that is certain to establish the band as one of the hardest working rock bands in the world.

With a bare-bone approach to the performance of his music, coupled with his seductive positive energy, Mishka utterly captivating to see / hear live. During one such performance, actor Matthew McConaughey heard the music from where he was staying. He went down the next day to find out who had been performing the night before, saw the flyer, and then started to search Mishka - and soon after he became the first artist signed to McConaughey's label j.k. livin' Records. Mishka's first album for j.k. livin', Above The Bones was produced by Matthew McConaughey (seriously) and Atlanta producer/musician Daryl Thompson (Sly & Robbie, Peter Tosh), and tracks 'Coastline Journey' and '3rd Eye Vision' are featured in McConaughey's latest movie Surfer Dude. Check it out.

Cursive'sTim Kasher is a storyteller - a weaver of songs that can read more like short stories or fables than the standard verse-chorus-verse. Mama, I'm Swollen finds him at his literate, lyrical best, where references to both Poe ("Going To Hell") and Pinocchio ("Donkeys") are intertwined seamlessly within his own tales of characters grappling with the moral quandary of being human, adult, and playing a role in 'civilized' society. Mama, I'm Swollen is a natural progression that remains distinctively Cursive: a fluid amalgamation of the band's sound past, present, and future - a band that both your punk kid sister and English lit grad student best friend can call their own.

Having trouble viewing this email? Click here.

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.