TITLE: YOU ARE FREE
ADVANCE BUZZ: Confident and powerful
RELEASE DATE: February 18
Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, mistress of the most morosely beautiful music this side of Morrissey, drops the stunning You Are Free February 18. Displaying less of the "I wanna crawl in a hole and die" depressive ethos of Moon Pix, Marshall's last album of original material, You Are Free is as cryptic and intense as ever. With delicate string arrangements, rickety acoustic guitars and desolate piano fills, the album's textural variation makes a striking impression.
More surprising is the list of guest appearances. In what's being called Cat Power's grunge reunion, Marshall's recruited Eddie Vedder and Dave Grohl to pitch in, although there's no indication whether any members of Mudhoney or Soundgarden were involved uncredited.
Let's hope the slightly brighter tone of the record makes for a more entertaining live show than Cat Power's semi-catatonic performance at the 'Shoe last time through.
TITLE: NOW IS ANOTHER TIME
ADVANCE BUZZ: Big band scorcher
RELEASE DATE: January 28
When David Murray says he's making a big band record, he means big band. He's got a monstrous 30-piece Cuban orchestra behind him, and they swing hard on the forthcoming David Murray Latin Big Band's Now Is Another Time (Justin Time) disc due January 28. In the meantime, Murray will be doing shows with his Creole project, David Murray & the Gwo-ka Masters, featuring singer Guy Konket. The group will play during the International Association of Jazz Educators conference's concert series at the Metro Convention Centre January 9.
THE HIDDEN CAMERAS
TITLE: THE SMELL OF OUR OWN
ADVANCE BUZZ: Sweet 'n' polished pop
RELEASE DATE: March
Local gay church folk crusaders the Hidden Cameras tease and taunt by releasing a steady trickle of new material before their new album, The Smell Of Our Own (Evil Evil) finally drops in the spring. Alas, they ain't planning many live dates; even their January 9 gig at Lee's Palace has been canned ("It was never confirmed," insists founding Camera Joel Gibb), but there's plenty to sate fans.
Gibb's initial beautiful bedroom four-track recordings, Ecce Homo, will be reissued January 15 on his own Evil Evil label within Canada. Next up is a brand spankin' new single, Ban Marriage, which drops on Evil Evil in these parts and the respected Rough Trade label everywhere else. Prepare to Ban Marriage just before February 10. He anticipates that the new full-length (also out on Rough Trade in the UK and U.S.) will see the light of day sometime in March.
The Hidden Cameras worked with producer Andy Magoffin (who doesn't work with Magoffin?) on The Smell Of Our Own, which Gibb claims got them closer to his ideal.
"I wanted something pretty, very beautiful and polished. Better sound quality and not as much raw rock 'n' roll."
The disc reins in the insanity of the Cameras' transcendental live shows for something "majestic and orchestral, with lots of strings and harp, and a heavy amount of pipe organ."
Expect postmodern epiphanies.
Nick cave & THE BAD SEEDS
ADVANCE BUZZ: Bloody great
RELEASE DATE: February 11
Among the most anticipated first-quarter releases of 2003 is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' 12th album, Nocturama, which Anti/Epitaph has slated for a February 11 drop date.
Recorded in a seven-day spurt at Sing-Sing Studios in Melbourne with producer Nick Launay (P.I.L., Slits, Gang of Four) -- whose Cave connection goes all the way back to the Birthday Party's blood-curdling Release The Bats single from 81 -- the album explores a wide range of dementia, culminating in the devilishly divine 15-minute epic Baby I'm On Fire.
The album's first single, Bring It On, has Cave dueting with the Saints' Chris Bailey, although it's hard to top anything called Dead Man In My Bed. Back in top form.
ADVANCE BUZZ: Think BIG
RELEASE DATE: May 20
After Sam Roberts hit with this year's song of the summer, Brother Down, a bidding war led to a worldwide deal with Universal. The Montreal singer/songwriter then decamped to Vancouver to record his full-length debut with producer Brendann McGuire. No word on the sound yet, but the hours' worth of unreleased material Roberts has been playing around town ranges from pure pop to grandiose, Spiritualizedesque space ballads. Expect a full preview when Roberts hosts Lee's Palace February 21 and 22.
ADVANCE BUZZ: Shocking!
RELEASE DATE: Spring
Aside from the apocalyptic Protest EP, 2002 was quiet for the Dears, with most of the year spent in the studio preparing a follow-up to 2000's celebrated End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story debut.
The Montreal group's new Brendann McGuire-produced album is due in early April, but those expecting a reprise of the cheery art pop of Orchestral Pop Noir Romantique could be in for a shocker.
"The record is like our Empire Strikes Back," Dears frontman Murray Lightburn laughs, "or Godfather II. Or any other sequel to something that was actually so heavy you hope they don't try to make another one, or if they do it's even heavier, but you can't imagine it getting any heavier and if it does you'll want to die. Most people may find it almost... unmanageable."
Rejected album title: Everyone Involved In The Music Industry Should Be Shot.
ADVANCE BUZZ: Next Donny Hathaway
RELEASE DATE: Summer
In 2003, the smart money is on Dwele, a Rhodes-playing Detroit singer/songwriter with an uncanny feel for dusty old soul. His cameo on Slum Village's Tainted was just a taste of what's in store on his long-overdue Virgin debut, set for release this summer.
Dwele's already recorded tracks with Agile of Toronto's BrassMunk for his next project.
"Dwele's so talented it's sick," Agile offers. "Aside from his singing, he just knows and feels music. It's scary, but in a beautiful way." With D'Angelo up on assault charges, this could be Dwele's year.
TITLE: COUNTRY FOR TRUE LOVERS
ADVANCE BUZZ: Honky-tonk heaven
RELEASE DATE: February 11
Sultry-voiced nightclub ingenue Eleni Mandell has a thrilling-chilling way with a busted romance ballad, but country & western? That seems like a stretch, right? Evidently not.
A preview spin of her forthcoming Country For True Lovers album reveals that Mandell's turn as a honky-tonk hussy is a smouldering success, thanks in part to the tastefully understated accompaniment of country ringers Tony Gilkyson, Kip Boardman, Don Heffington and pedal steel master Greg Leisz, who create a brilliant Bakersfield after-hours vibe.
The disc may be a bit too dark for Mandell to manage a mainstream country breakthrough, but fans of Jean Shepard and bourbon for breakfast will be well pleased.
ADVANCE BUZZ: Move over, Brandy
RELEASE DATE: Summer
Being hailed as the next Aretha Franklin by ?uestlove of the Roots, the 16- year-old Jazmine is turning heads with her blowtorch voice.
Just 16, she's the latest in a steady stream of neo-soul threats to come out of Jazzy Jeff's Philly-based A Touch Of Jazz camp -- which has notably produced Musiq and Jill Scott. Expect Jazmine to similarly blow up large in 2003.
ADVANCE BUZZ: More headbanging punk
RELEASE DATE: Spring
Cult North Carolina macho-grrrls the Butchies have been plugging away in the studio in preparation for the spring release of their fourth album. Early predictions for the disc include more of the same euphoric electric-guitar-heavy headbangerrific punk of 2001's 3 (Mr. Lady) disc. With Mr. Lady label head Kaia Wilson and drummer Melissa York (both ex-Team Dresch) comprising two-thirds of the outfit, you can count on killer girl-loves-girl and genderfuck anthems and seething queercore riffs.
According to their label, the tough- chick trio has also been concocting a strange collaboration with a New York City-based troupe of circus freaks known as LAVA, which should make for a heck of a show next time they hit town.
ADVANCE BUZZ: Mystical metal boogie
RELEASE DATE: Shhh... it's a secret
Those saddened by Tchort's unexpected demise in 2002 will be elated to learn that the theatrical prog-metal bashers' core members are continuing on as Illuminati and threatening to unleash their full-length debut in 2003.
If the scorching six-song demo they recorded with Ian Blurton is any indication of the boisterous boogie blast in store, we may all be Illuminati converts before the year's over.
TITLE: THE RAVEN
ADVANCE BUZZ: Scary
RELEASE DATE: February 11
If any musician can do justice to the work of Edgar Allan Poe, it's probably Lou Reed. Few artists could have more insight into the obsessions and paranoia at the heart of Poe's tales. In the introduction accompanying Reed's homage, The Raven (Warner), the man himself writes:
"To my mind, Poe is father to William Burroughs and Hubert Selby. I am forever fitting their blood to my melodies. Why do we do what we should not? Why do we love what we cannot have? Why do we have a passion for exactly the wrong thing? What do we mean by "wrong?'
"I became enamoured of Poe -- once again -- and when given the opportunity to bring him to life through words and music -- text and dance -- I leapt at it. I surged towards it like a Rottweiler chasing a bloody bone."
Despite project participant Clarence Fountain's claim that the recording was "the awfulest shit I ever heard," the Hal Willner-produced disc sounds very promising, especially with a guest list that includes Willem Dafoe, David Bowie, Steve Buscemi and Ornette Coleman!
ADVANCE BUZZ: Call it a comeback
RELEASE DATE: Whenever
Indie rock pin-up Liz Phair has spent the last four years paying bills with such laughably "high-profile" gigs as singing backup on Sheryl Crow's C'mon C'mon disc and a small role in the flick Cherish with Robin Tunney. Now she actually intends to issue a new record in the first half of 2003.
The follow-up to 98's Whitechocolatespaceegg (Matador) misfire was initially planned for release last summer, but never surfaced, much like the dyke film Julie Johnson (starring Courtney Love!), to which she contributed some solid soundtrack tunes. Is she cursed?
The cheeky Chicagoan-turned-Angeleno recorded material for the as yet unnamed project in the legendary Capitol Records building (Phair made the switch from Matador for her last album) with a respectable roster of collaborators. Former Winona beau Pete Yorn and Michael Penn both lent a hand in the production booth, although rumour has it Penn's goods didn't make the cut.
Expect sweet, sassy pop with bite, and more experimental gritty guitar rock with great hooks and a slight sheen, along with Phair's characteristically caustic, whip-smart lyrics if the record ever appears.
other notable releases
IGGY POP After the Avenue B disaster, Iggy Pop has been seen in the studio trying to find the punk spirit of old with Green Day. He may be looking for some time.
BILLY CORGAN If the sprawling jams uncoiled at the recent Toronto debut of Billy Corgan's Zwan project -- featuring Pumpkins pal Jimmy Chamberlin, Matt Sweeney (Chavez), David Pajo (Papa M) and Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle) -- are any indication of what they've been recording, their 14-track Mary Star Of The Sea (Warner) album could turn out to be a four-disc set. We'll see January 28.
R.E.M. For the past couple of months, the band members have been sequestered in a Vancouver recording studio piecing together songs for the follow-up to Reveal due in the spring. Michael Stipe has described the new music as "primitive and howling." Sounds promising.
GANG STARR With DJ Premier and Guru back to bumpin' the underground with the bangin' new Skills 12-inch, hopes are high for a Gang Starr return to form when The Ownerz (Virgin) drops in February.
SAUKRATES The long-overdue Def Jam debut. Will he ever stop recording long enough to drop something?
RADIOHEAD After releasing two albums in as many years, the moody Brits return in March with their sixth disc, again produced by Nigel Godrich. The handful of songs previewed on a summer tour -- and then bootlegged on the Net -- suggest an end to the group's techno dabbling and a return to more melodic territory, but don't bet on it.
BENZINO Celebrity guests like P. Diddy and Teddy Riley didn't do much for sales of Raymond "Benzino" Scott's solo debut, The Benzino Project, so the veteran Boston rapper, formerly of Almighty RSO and Made Men, is coming back with a promising new strategy -- a beef with Eminem. Already on record for calling Marshall Mathers the "Vanilla Ice of 2003" (to which Eminem responded with rep-enhancing disses on the tracks I Don't Wanna and Nail In The Coffin), Benzino reportedly will fire back on his new Redemption (Elektra) disc, due January 14. Can't wait.
JON LANGFORD Always up for a collaboration, Mekons mainman Jon Langford, who'll have his studio soirée with the Sadies, Mayors Of The Moon, released by Chicago's Bloodshot label on February 4, will follow it up with an EP for Overcoat involving Richard Buckner. Expect some blood when two lumbering bruisers like Langford and Buckner square off.
KRUDER & DORFMEISTER Vienna's finest have been working on their full-length debut for over two years. Will it ever come out?