Credit: AP Photo

Drake, Robyn, Sarah McLachlan and Tom Petty deliver new treats this week

Veterans Devo and Steve Miller Band return after two decades

After a long absence, some classic artists, such as Devo, Steve Miller, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Sarah McLachlan, return June 15. We also see if Drake can live up to all the hype with his first full-length album for Lil Wayne’s Cash Money label.  Robyn and Kevin Rudolf also make sure we keep the party going.

Devo, “Something for Everybody” (Warner Bros.): The red flowerpot hats may be gone, but Devo whips it good with its first album of new material in 20 years. Producers include Santigold, the Dust Brothers’ John King and The Bird & the Bee’s Greg Kurstin. Drummer John Freese sits in with the classic line-up of Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh and Gerald and Bob Casale.

Drake, “Thank Me Later” (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Motown): After mix tapes, a Grammy nomination and several hits,  Drake finally releases his first official full-length album. Joining the Canadian rapper are his mentor, Lil Wayne, as well as Jay-Z, T.I., Alicia Keys and The Dream.

The Gaslight Anthem, “American Slang (SideOne Dummy): New Jersey band and Springsteen acolytes pair with producer Ted Hutt for its third, adventurous, rocking album.

Sarah McLachlan, “Laws of Illusion” (Arista): Ethereal singer/songwriter puts out first studio album in several years. McLachlan recorded much of the album live (including six songs in five days) giving “Laws” a looser, more spirited feel than some of her previous works. While first single “Loving You is Easy” may be one of her breeziest songs ever, some of the other tunes deal with the heartbreaking dissolution of her marriage. Read review here.

The Steve Miller Band, “Bingo” (Space Cowboy/Roadrunner/Loud & Proud): The original space cowboy delivers first album in 17 years, just like that. Abracadabra.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Mojo” (Reprise): In the band’s first new album since 2002’s “The Last DJ,” Petty and the boys deliver a stripped-down, blues-influenced set.

Punch Bros., “Antifogmatic” (Nonesuch): Steller acoustic outfit that often rocks harder than most plugged-in bands pairs with producer Jon Brion for a set of 10 originals. The Chris Thile-fronted band is on tour with Steve Martin for several dates this summer and are also featured prominently on Dierks Bentley’s new, bluegrass-influenced set, “Up on the Ridge.”

Robyn, “Body Talk PT. 1,” (Cherrytree/Interscope): Swedish singer continues a career resurgence with her latest set of  electronic-based pop, fronted with first single,  “Dancing on my Own.” In addition to playing at the Pitchfork Music Festival,  Robyn starts a co-headlining tour with Kelis July 23.

Kevin Rudolf, “To the Sky” (Cash Money/Universal):  Producer/songwriter Rudolf, known for his work with  Lil Wayne, Lifehouse and Cobra Starship, follows up his debut album (which spawned the hit, “Let It Rock”), with his sophomore set, which combines pop, rock and hip-hop.

Various Artists, “NOW  34 That’s What I Call Music!” (Capitol/EMI): The latest in the never-ending, popular series includes hits from Black Eyed Peas, Justin Bieber, B.o.B., Ke$ha, Rihanna, Usher, Lifehouse and lots more.


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<p>Sarah McLachlan</p>

Sarah McLachlan

Credit: AP Photo

Review: Is Sarah McLachlan's 'Laws of Illusion' worth the seven-year wait?

Lilith co-founder returns with new music just in time for this year's fest

Even the most casual of Sarah McLachlan fans knows the Canadian singer/songwriter does bittersweet, regret and wistfulness as well as any artist.

What may come as a surprise to listeners of “Laws of Illusion,” her first album of new material in seven years, is how well she does joy. On opening single, “Loving You is Easy,” an almost impossibly carefree McLachlan sings about the first giddy blushes of a new romance. There may still be a heartbreak hotel at the end of lonely street, but McLachlan has found a way out. Or as she sings on "Heartbreak": "Heartbreak, no, you can't catch me/I have on heels, but I move too fast." Stream the album here.

“Laws of Illusion” finds McLachlan again working with her longtime collaborator/producer Pierre Marchand. After almost 20 years together, the pair wisely shake things up a little on “Laws.” Instead of laboriously spending days meticulously fixating over every note, they recorded six of the 10 new songs in five days live.  That process gives much of the album a fresh, raw feel.

Since 2003’s “Afterglow,” life has kicked McLachlan around a bit: now 42, she and her husband split two years ago shortly after the birth of their second daughter and the detritus of that marriage is strewn throughout “Laws.” Whether it’s the electronic, propulsive  “Awakenings,  in which she wonders, “how the hell did I end up like this?” or the heartbreaking “Forgiveness,” in which she is neither ready to forgive nor forget, her broken love lies bleeding throughout much of the album.

But the story doesn’t end there. “Laws” follows an arc of despair and then on hope. On the layered, sweet, guitar-driven  “Illusions of Bliss,”  McLachlan, tentative and a little gun shy, nevertheless dives back in to love’s waters. By the time we reach “Loving You is Easy, she’s delightfully in over her head again.
If she’s not willing to let go on “Forgiveness,” on “Rivers of Love,” she’s come to the conclusion that it all comes down to “leaving it all behind,” and how long is it before you “drown” in the river of love.

McLachlan’s marvelous voice, which shifts effortless from ethereal to weather beaten here, sounds as strong and pliant as always. Marchand’s true gift is surrounding it with the perfect instrumentation, whether it’s the guitars on “Illusions of Bliss” or the synths on the hypnotic “Love Come” or gentle drums on the shut-out-the-rest of-the world track, “Out of Tune.”

There’s a legitimate complaint to be made that two of the 12 tracks here, “Don’t Give Up on Us” and “U Want Me 2” (about the dissolution of her marriage) were already available via her greatest hits set, 2008’s “Closer.” Plus, she covers Susan Enan’s “Bring on the Wonder,” which, by now, is very familiar to McLachlan fans (although her largely a capella version is breathtaking). But those are small quibbles about an album that otherwise feels like a very welcome return from an old friend.

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<p>Scissor Sisters</p>

Scissor Sisters

Watch: Scissor Sisters light up the night with new video for 'Fire with Fire'

Can they finally break through in the U.S.?

Scissor Sisters are winning fans one at a time in their new video for “Fire with Fire,” the debut single from “Night Work,” the group’s first albums since 2006’s “Ta-Dah.”

The mid-tempo, piano-based tune is one of those tracks that doesn’t seem that infectious at first, especially compared to the band’s earlier work, but then it embeds itself in your brain. If their new label, Downtown, plays it right, it could become a summer sleeper anthem.

Though the band recorded most of the album in London, the co-ed outfit takes to the New York City streets on the back of a flatbed truck to spread the word as fans and spectators look on.  This has been done much better by the likes of U2 but it’s a fun, colorful video, nonetheless.

“Night Work,” produced by Stuart Price, comes out June 29 in the U.S. and the day before in the U.K., where Scissor Sisters are bonafide stars.





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Keith Urban CMT 2010

Keith Urban performing at the CMT music festival Friday in Nashville, Tenn.

Credit: AP Photo/Wade Payne

Keith Urban rocks the CMA Music Festival and other highlights from Nashville

Miranda Lambert likes her Budweiser; Julianne Hough and Cher talk men

The CMA Music Fest in Nashville is an annual event, but this year’s event, June 10-13, felt like anything but business as usual.

This time six weeks ago, LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans and host to the big multi-artist concerts held every night, was underwater. Whether the CMA Fest would take place this year was in question as the Cumberland River overflowed its banks,  flooding the very streets where stages for outdoor festivities were to stand.

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<p>Christina Aguilera</p>

Christina Aguilera

Credit: Richard Drew/AP

Xtina who? It's the vampires vs. the singing nerds on next week's album chart

Where does that leave Christina Aguilera?

Two cultural phenomena duke it out for the top spot on next week’s Billboard 200: Will the vampires conquer the nerds?  Right now, it’s neck and neck (every pun intended) between the Glee Cast’s “Journey to the Regionals” and the soundtrack for “Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” according to Hits Daily Double. Both look to sell up to 170,000 copies.  (In the meantime,  the last “Glee” album, “Vol. 3, Showstoppers,” will likely land at No. 9).

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Robert Plant and Allison Krause
Credit: AP Photo

Robert Plant sets Sept. 14 release date for 'Band of Joy'

Album is first since his Grammy-winning 2007 collaboration with Alison Krauss

Robert Plant will release “Band of Joy” on Sept. 14. The set is Plant’s interpretation of a number of tunes ranging from Los Lobos’ Angel Dance to English/Appalachian folk ballad “Cindy I’ll Marry You Some Day.”

He’s backed by guitarist Buddy Miller, with whom Plant produced the set, multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott, singer/songwriter Patty Griffin and bassist Byron House.

As we previously reported, Plant will take this outfit on the road starting July 13. This marks his first album since the Grammy-winning “Raising Sand,” his collaboration with Alison Krauss. A follow-up to that album was shelved.

1.      Angel Dance
2.      House of Cards
3.      Central Two-O-Nine
4.      Silver Rider
5.      You Can't Buy My Love
6.      I'm Falling In Love Again
7.      The Only Sound That Matters
8.      Monkey
9.      Cindy I'll Marry You Someday
10.   Harm's Swift Way
11.   Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down
12.   Even This Shall Pass Away

What do you think? Are you excited about another Plant release?

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<p>Julianne Hough</p>

Julianne Hough

Credit: Peter Kramer/AP

Julianne Hough explains what is going on with 'Footloose,' 'Burlesque' and her new album

Is she going back to 'Dancing with the Stars?'

Julianne Hough has a lot on her plate. In addition to possibly returning to “Dancing with the Stars” next season (she’s playing coy on that one), she is putting the finishing touches on her second solo album and working on two films.

Hitfix went to a listening party for her new album yesterday at the Mercury Nashville offices.  We’ll get to the music in a second, but she also filled in folks on the latest with the ever-moving status of the “Footloose” remake.

She remains attached to the project as the female lead and said a new draft has brought back some of the “edge” of the original as opposed to making it into a full blown musical. “Hustle & Flow” director Craig Brewer is now helming the project after Kenny Ortega left the movie.  She said shooting begins this summer, despite the absence of a confirmed male lead for the part originally played by Kevin Bacon. After Zac Efron and Chace Crawford both dropped out, Paramount has now been conducting an on-line video search.

Hough also appears in “Burlesque,” which stars Cher and Christina Aguilera. She plays against type in the movie, playing someone “red head and pregnant.”

But the focus on the event was music, with Hough introducing four new tracks including first single “Is That So Wrong,” which is about not wanting to be alone “when a friend is not enough.” Hough co-wrote the mid-tempo ballad with Sarah Buxton and Blair Daly.

Hough also played another mid-tempo tune about heartbreak, “That’s What the Night is For.”  “This one is moody and I see all kinds of visual things, like at awards shows, hanging from the ceiling,” she said, leading her record company executives blanched as they had a visual of their own: The amount of money it would take to make such a performance happen.

She also previewed the up-tempo, spunky “Too Good to Be True,”  a song that, as Hough puts it, makes you want to “dance your butt off,” as well as “Wildfire,” about a girl who gets scared and always burns the man she’s with (not literally, of course.”  This song is about me to a T,” she said. “I wish I’d written this song.”  Is Chuck Wicks, her former beau, listening?

The album, produced by Dann Huff, best known for his work with artists like Faith Hill and Keith Urban, finds Hough displaying a confidence missing from her 2008 self-titled debut. That set debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, but failed to produce any significant singles beyond “That Song in My Head,” which stalled at No. 18.  No release date for the new set has been announced.

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Katy Perry, backstage at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards

Katy Perry had a big week, but it wasn't big enough to land at No. 1.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Music Power Rankings: Two kings, a queen and a pop princess top this week's chart

Plus, why does Jay-Z make the list twice?

We’re  in Nashville, so we’re feeling a little bit country and not so rock and roll this week. In fact, our first two slots go to country superstars: one veteran and one relative newcomer.  Billboard named George Strait the top country artist of the past 25 years this week based on chart performance.  The beauty of Strait is that he has just gone about his business for the past 30 years. There’s nothing flashy about him, he stands like a statue in concert, he gives virtually no interviews and there’s never even a hint of a scandal about him. He just consistently records great songs.

He’s never come near crossing over into any other formats, so unless you listen to country radio, it’s possible you’ve never heard a George Strait song.  But just so you know, Strait has close to 60 No. 1s, that’s more than any other artist in history, including the Beatles.

We’re also saluting the power of Carrie Underwood.  While she and Kelly Clarkson have been the most successful “American Idol” veterans, she continues to soar while Clarkson has somewhat plateaued. Wednesday night (June 9), she snagged two awards at the CMT Music Awards, including video of the year. This comes on top of her back-to-back entertainer of the year awards at the ACM Awards in May, making her the only female to win that honor twice. We barely knew who she was five years ago and now she’s at the top of the country music pantheon.

This week's complete music power rankings:

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Carrie Underwood CMT

Carrie Underwood performs at the 2010 CMT's.

Credit: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

Carrie Underwood wins big at the CMT Music Awards

'American Idol' champ takes home video of the year as Taylor Swift goes home empty handed

Carrie Underwood needs a bigger awards shelf.  Following her big wins in April at the Academy of Country Music Awards, she continued her streak as the big winner at Wednesday’s CMT Music Awards in Nashville, snaring honors for video of the year for “Cowboy Casanova” and CMT performance of the year for “Temporary Home”  from her CMT “Invitation Only” special. She was the night's only multiple winner.

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<p>Sarah McLachlan</p>

Sarah McLachlan

Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

Watch: Sarah McLachlan loves life and bubbles in 'Loving You is Easy' video

First single from 'Laws of Illusion' out June 15

Sarah McLachlan is feeling good and it shows.  In her new video for “Loving You is Easy,”  her breeziest song, maybe, ever, she struts her stuff. Her new man has her feeling sexy and sultry.

To her and director Liz Friedlander’s credit,  there’s no literal interpretation of the lyrics: we don’t see McLachlan burst into flames when she sings she’s “on fire” or leap into the air when she rhapsodizes about his love taking her “higher.” It’s just McLachlan in an array of slinky, but not inappropriate, clothes,  bubbles (nothing says “sexy time” like bubbles in the air) and confetti. At one point, she’s cheesily joined by two dancers whose pas de deux replicates sex, I guess.   She’s definitely feeling R rated, but the video is a G. We’ve seen more cleavage  on the Disney Channel, but that’s not a complaint.  The point of the video, which debuted on Huffington Post, is about how her guy’s love makes her feel and it’s clearly delicious.

“Loving You is Easy” is the first single from “Laws of Illusion,” McLachlan’s first studio album in eight years. “Laws” is out June 15.


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