'MISSION' ACCOMPLISHMENT: A week after the Decemberists became just the 16th act to rule the Billboard 200 album chart without a Billboard Hot 100 song on their chart resume, singer/songwriter Amos Lee repeats the feat, as "Mission Bell" begins atop the former listing.
(The set's lead single, "Windows Are Rolled Down," does reach the top 10 (11-9) on Billboard's Triple A adult alternative airplay chart).
"Mission Bell" is the fourth album to rule the Billboard 200 by an act that has yet to grace the Hot 100 in the last year and two weeks, the most such sets in so short a span.
The top two albums, in fact, each of the last two weeks belong to acts with no Hot 100 experience. Kidz Bop Kids' "Kidz Bop 19" entered as the runner-up last week and Iron and Wine's "Kiss Each Other Clean" arrives at No. 2 this week.
Billboard associate director of charts/retail Keith Caulfield attributes the disparity between leading albums and their lack of widespread singles support to well-documented album sales declines, as well as timing.
"The early part of any year is often a popular time for 'indie'-minded acts and other non-pop-radio-oriented stars to release new albums," says Caulfield. "Because most superstars tend to drop albums in time for Christmas, that usually leaves a wide-open gap on the release schedule in January.
"Thus, we see many so-called smaller acts make headway on the Billboard 200 after the holidays. It's more obvious in 2011, because we don't have a blockbuster holdover album from 2010 remaining at No. 1, nor have we had any potent A-listers releasing sets so far this year."
Speaking more specifically to the spate of rock acts that have recently topped the Billboard 200 without accompanying Hot 100 ink - Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire did so last year - Caulfield adds, "Indie acts can still count on a core base of fans to buy an album, instead of just tracks."
Such devotion, "combined with how album sales in general have sunk, has everything to do with how more indie artists are capable of charting higher than previously on the Billboard 200."
Here is an updated look at the 17 albums to crown the Billboard 200 by artists who have never appeared on the Hot 100 since the latter list's 1958 launch. (The Billboard 200 originated as a weekly survey in 1956). For the first time, courtesy of the Decemberists and Lee, two such artists manage the achievement in consecutive weeks:
Artist, Album (Year)
Van Cliburn, "Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 (1958)
Bob Newhart, "The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back!" (1961)
Judy Garland, "Judy at Carnegie Hall" (1961)
Vaughn Meader, "The First Family" (1962)
Frank Fontaine, "Songs I Sing on the Jackie Gleason Show" (1963)
Blind Faith, "Blind Faith" (1969)
N.W.A., "EFIL4ZAGGIN" (1991)
Soundgarden, "Superunknown" (1994)
Pantera, "Far beyond Driven" (1994)
Makaveli, "The Don Killuminati - The 7 Day Theory" (1996) (While "Makaveli" never appeared on the Hot 100, the project served as an alter-ego release for 2Pac, who placed 21 titles on the chart between 1993 and 2009).
Bob Carlisle, "Butterfly Kisses (Shades of Grace)" (1997) (Both Soundgarden and Carlisle reached the top 25 of Radio Songs with tracks that were not widely commercially-available and, thus, per rules at the time, ineligible to appear on the Hot 100).
Il Divo, "Ancora" (2006)
Slipknot, "All Hope Is Gone" (2008)
Vampire Weekend, "Contra" (2010)
Arcade Fire, "The Suburbs" (2010)
The Decemberists, "The King Is Dead" (2011)
Amos Lee, "Mission Bell" (2011)