It used to be that January was a dead-man's zone for album releases. All labels shot their wad in the fourth quarter of the year before in order to capitalize on holiday sales. That still happens, of course, but January is no longer the wasteland it once was. Every month we'll look at CDs and other noteworthy musical projects coming out you should know about.


JANUARY 6
Glasvegas, "Glasvegas" (Columbia): Debut from alternative rock Glaswegian quartet includes the winsome "Daddy's Gone" and "Geraldine." There's no hiding lead singer James Allan's thick Scottish accent, which lends to the album's charms. Already out and a hit in the U.K., the album came in the British charts at No. 2 and NME has salivated over them as the next big thing. Fans of Muse will dig them.

 

JANUARY 13

Varsity Fanclub, "Varsity Fanclub" (Stonehall/Capitol). If the New Kids on the Block 2008 didn't do it for you and you're still waiting for the rumored 'N Sync reunion, then check out Varsity Fanclub. First single, "Future Love" was penned by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, who always co-wrote Leona Lewis's smash, "Bleeding Love." This one sounds like Backstreet Boys' without the great harmonies. However, for those feeling the boy band void and Chris Brown isn't enough, VF is for you.


JANUARY 20

Animal Collective, "Merriweather Post Pavilion" (Domino): Despite the deceptive title that would lead you to think this is a live album (MPP is an amphitheatre outside of Washington, D.C.), this is the latest studio album from the Baltimore-based avant-garde critical darlings. Any musical sound can find a home within AC's big tent, making them a great choice for music adventurers through mainstream pop travelers may find them a little too outside the lines. But they're always worth the effort since much of what they create is blissfully inventive and fun, such as "Water Curses" from previous EP.


Antony & the Johnsons, "The Crying Light" (Secretly Canadian) The follow-up to the Mercury-Prize winning "I Am a Bird Now," "The Crying Light" features more beautiful ballads and torch songs penned and sung by Lou Reed-acolyte Antony Hegarty. Antony & the Johnsons are ore heralded in the U.K. than at home; hopefully that will change with "The Crying Light."


Cash Cash, "Take It to the Floor" (Universal Republic): Electronic pop quartet who most recently opened for Metro Station releases debut CD, frontloaded with first single "Party in Your Bedroom."

JANUARY 27


Franz Ferdinand, "Tonight: Franz Ferdinand" (Domino/Epic). Scottish group, whose U.S. luster has faltered a little after an extremely strong start a few years ago, returns with a "dirty pop record," FF lead singer Alex Kapranos told Billboard.


Pat Green, "What I'm For" (BNA) Three-time Grammy-nominated country singer who is HUGE in Texas continue to try to spread his popularity nationwide with his latest CD. First single "Let Me" is already in the Top 20 on Billboard's Country Songs chart.


Hoobastank, "For(n)Ever" (Island): Remember those guys who sang "The Reason," that mid-tempo love ballad about how "the reason is you" a few years ago. Yeah, them. They're back.


Bruce Springsteen, "Working on a Dream" (Columbia) Timed to the Boss's appearance at the Super Bowl, and, some believe, with the presidential inauguration, "Working on a Dream" reunited Springsteen with producer Brendan O'Brien. Title track is an uplifting throwaway: several of the other tunes that have leaked out are much stronger, such as the jangly, winning "My Lucky Day" and the interesting, slightly psychedelic "Life Itself."