Looking ahead: Jan. 2007-Mar. 2007

Release news started to trickle in around the holidays, and afterward, it started to pour. Said holidays make me hibernate when it comes to compiling this column, but now that February is around corner, I’d better wake up.

The first quarter of 2007 looks like it’s going to be pretty busy until the summer touring season. Highlights yonder …

Shiina Ringo, Heisei Fuuzoku, Feb. 21

For a successful solo artist to form a band at the height of her career is unconventional and risky to start with, and Shiina Ringo seemed determined to cast her solo work as a finished phase in her career. Even now, I don’t think her "return" is as big an event as marketing forces, let alone her fans, make it out to be.

In fact, the track listing of Heisei Fuuzoku consists of seven previously released songs. That’s a little more than half of the album’s content. The fact the album ties in with a film, Sakuran, makes the project sound mostly incidental.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ll take a new album from Shiina Ringo any day. (Perhaps a b-side collection?) But after the relative let-down of Cocco’s comeback, I’m taking a more wait-and-see (risk?) approach. [Internal editor: What a terrible attempt at Utada humor.]

Explosions in the Sky, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, Feb. 20

I like both The Earth is Not a Cold, Dead Place and Those Who Tell the Truth … a lot, but I think I’m looking forward to this album just to hear new music on Friday Night Lights. Did anyone catch Boom Boom Satellites during the game scenes in this past week’s episode?

The Arcade Fire, Neon Bible, March 6

Yeah, I was dutiful little hipster and got into Funeral

Guns N’ Roses, Chinese Democracy, March 6

if (guns_n_roses.releases('Chinese Democracy)) see = 'believe';

Tracey Thorn, Out of the Woods, March 20 (US)

The demise of Everything But the Girl was a non-event on this side of the Atlantic, and while Ben Watt has been spinning at clubs around the world, Tracey Thorn has been mostly mum. Come March, that silence ends. (Two weeks earlier for folks in the UK.)

I don’t know what to expect from Thorn’s debut, but I’m just jonesing to hear her sing something new.

Sasagawa Miwa, TBD, March 7

Can’t say I was impressed by "Oborotzukyo", and I don’t think I’ve had a chance to get to know "Mayoi Naku". So I’m not sure what to expect from Sasagawa Miwa’s fourth album.

Utada Hikaru, "Flavor of Life", Feb. 28

I think time contributed to the appeal of Ultra Blue as much as the writing and performances. It had been four years since Utada’s previous Japanese language album, and I have to admit I missed hearing her sing in Japanese.

Oddly enough, I’m starting to miss hearing her sing in English. I wonder how long it will be before she gets started on a second English-language album. And will she extend the quality of writing on Ultra Blue to that project?

Tommy heavenly6, "Heavy starry chain", Feb. 7

Oh enough with the singles, already — just release the damn album!

Van Tomiko, Voice: Cover You with Love, March 28

Strange … Van Tomiko has spent the last couple of months releasing singles, but her next album will not only lack those singles but feature nothing but covers. CD Japan describes the album as containing songs from artists in Japan and abroad, while Amazon Japan already has a track listing. The only international artist listed is Bread, and I’d be very interested to hear her sing some David Gates. Other artists covered include Kyu Sakamoto (but not "Ue wo Muite Arukou", a.k.a. "Sukiyaki), Matsuda Seiko, Koizumi Kyoko and ASKA of CHAGE & ASKA.

Straightener, Linear, March 7

Paul Collins of Slate gushes over Straightener in an article about iTunes’ prohibition against cross-national sales. "Killer Tune" is a cool song, but honestly, I haven’t really been impressed by Straightener since Lost World’s Anthology. (I don’t think I even listened to Dear Deadman.) I do like the band enough to keep tabs on what they’re doing.

Art-School, Flora, Feb. 28

If Collins went ape-shit over Straightener, I bet he’d wet himself listening to Art-School.

Nirgilis, Girl, Feb. 21

Damn. Can’t make a joke about the album being a complete cover of U2.

Lucinda Williams, West, Feb. 13

Call me if this album is anything like Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. I haven’t warmed up to anything Lucinda Williams has done since.

The Nightwatchmen, One Man Revolution, April 24

I would put any desire to listen to this album squarely in the hormonal category. Tom Morello is sexy, and he’s nerd enough to have a walk-on cameo in a Star Trek: Voyager episode. I never warmed up to Rage Against the Machine nor Audioslave, but a project that’s all Tom? I’m so there …