This week we noticed a trend in upcoming music releases : many artists are revisiting old material and publishing their B-sides, whether its a lack of inspiration or an indefinite hiatus. Usually these kind of releases are exciting but we’ve been seeing some mixed reviews, even disappointment, from the critics. Check out some of this week’s album highlights include…

The Bad

The Killers, Sawdust

It’s not that The Killers should even fall under a category named “bad”, but their B-side release Sawdust doesn’t really do the band justice. Critics agree as well; with a repertoire like theirs under the belt and outstanding record sales in their history, one wouldn’t think that a B-sides album is necessary. Obviously the band did…

  • BBC: “The varying changes in style and quality underline the compilation aspect heavily, so treat Sawdust as an album, and you’re in for a world of confusion. Take it as a hand-picked retrospective collection, and it works nicely. And while it does highlight both the successes and the misses in equal measure, it is, effectively, just a stop gap. Your full scathing judgement is best reserved for studio album number three…” — Al Fox
  • Music OMH: “So it’s with some cynicism that we approach Sawdust, a collection of unreleased tracks, alternative version of album tracks and quirky cover versions by Brandon Flowers and company. As ever with these sort of albums, it’s a mixed bag, but the quality threshold does seem to be somewhat higher here.” — John Murphy

Sawdust is available on Amazon for $14.28

Violens, Amoral

Months ago when the New York indie rock band, Violens, gave away a free mix-tape of new music in order to pump up fans on their latest album, it seemed as if Amoral was going to be the greatest album around. The songs were well received and successfully built up hope, but in reality those samples were pretty much the highlights of the album in its entirety.

  • Pitchfork: “They aren’t cool, and they never really have been, even though bandleader Jorge Elbrecht did time in the enigmatic, now-dormant 1980s-worshipping collective Lansing-Dreiden. Violins embrace clean production, anthemic choruses, and a lack of reverb-obscured shyness– they’re so sonically far away from the hip-to-death Brooklyn scene that they might as well be in New Jersey.” — Larry Fitzmaurice
  • Drowned In Sound: “But looking back further, the highlights of Amoral were available long ahead of the album: ‘Violent Sensation Descends’ is from their 2008 EP, and is really the only great example of the Sixties-style psychedelic pop they had previously embodied so well to make it onto their debut long player. ‘Trance-Like Turn’, meanwhile, had made it onto a compilation for the Energy Action Coalition in 2008, and while it bears little resemblance to anything else they released then, it is beautifully composed, filled with airy, floating vocals and synths that would have been at home on Yeasayer’s latest release.” — Amanda Farah

Amoral is available on Amazon for $24.49

The Good

Stereolab, Not Music

In order to soothe those of us who are still bummed about the indefinite hiatus that marks Stereolab’s status these days, the band is releasing Not Music (don’t worry, it totally is music), an album that promises some die-hard fans a last taste of their jazzy, key-heavy sound. Problem is that these Chemical Chords samples and castoffs just aren’t hitting the mark for most:

  • One Thirty BPM: “Not Music (don’t be fooled by the misleading title, it is totally music), unfortunately, is much of the same, or at least  it is exactly what I expect a Stereolab album to sound like. It’s electronic driven but not dance music, it’s got well-trained multi-lingual vocals but it’s not pretty, and it is well-produced, well-executed and seems to accomplish its goals. But it is not very enjoyable.” — Phillip Cosores
  • Consequence of Sound: “Everything is cool in Not Music land, and it’s a welcome place to visit. The only thing that nags is that this may be the last we hear of Stereolab for a while. This isn’t exactly the epic album to go out on, but it’s definitely a good example of the band at its best, in the style and manner in which they left us.” — Adam Kivel

Not Music is available on Amazon for $13.99

Born Ruffians, Plinky Plonk EP

Born Ruffians are on a steady rise since their 2008 Red, Yellow, & Blue release that got the band award nominations and touring gigs with some of the biggest names in indie rock. Their Plinky Plonk EP is another release featured this week that includes tracks that just didn’t make it onto their latest album, but are just as much a cut above:

  • MV Remix Rock: “Taking two weeks to record the album, the band finds itself teaming up again with producer Rusty Santos. The Ruffians and co. holed up at Mississauga’s Metalworks studio and loosed the reins on their ambitions, experimenting with Minimoogs and saxophones before eventually scaling much of it back in the mixing process. The result is a very mature album, further amplifying the band’s unique voice and sound, ready to take them as far as they want to go.” — Editorial Staff
  • Indie Reviews: “It ends the release with you tilting your head and hitting replay because it was really strange, yet catchy. All in all, a great companion EP for Say It, it’s quick, fun and builds into itself great. They do know what their doing I think, so I’ll go back and listen to their second album again, I’ll probably enjoy it more now.” — Editorial Staff

The Great

Norah Jones, …Featuring Norah Jones

The absolute best collaboration album we are featuring this week is Norah Jones’ …With Norah Jones, a collection of all of her musical collaborations over the past decade.  The album is a really interesting mix of genres, covers, and throwbacks, an obvious catch for any Norah Jones fan or fans of the artists she collaborates with:

  • Seattle PI Music: “These collaborations reveal Jones’s astonishing musical versatility, from jazz to country, hip-hop to rock. Three of the songs on …Featuring originally appeared on records that won Grammy awards for Album of the Year (Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company, Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters, and OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below), and several others were also nominated for Grammys.” — Dezeme
  • Independent: “A more-than-defensible collection of Jones’s collaborations over the past decade: 18 songs in the company of luminaries as diverse as Ray Charles and Belle & Sebastian, Willie Nelson and OutKast… But as always with Jones, the suspicion is that she is so full of musicality that she just can’t stop herself. It’s fun. For the listener, it’s a quiet, if inconsequential, pleasure.” — Nick Coleman

…Featuring Norah Jones is available on Amazon for $9.99

Other Album Releases This Week:

Which albums will you buy?