The Smashing Pumpkins
Producers: Billy Corgan, Bjorn Thorsrud
Martha's Music/EMI Label Services/Caroline Distribution
Release Date: June 19
When Billy Corgan sings he's "wasted along the way to reach you," one can't help but wonder if he's addressing Smashing Pumpkins fans who haven't grasped his ambitious 44-song "Teargarden by Kaleidyscope" concept for releasing new music. Oceania, the "album within an album" and the Pumpkins' first standard release in five years, should get their attention back. The set features sweeping, full-bodied tunes that recall the band at its early/mid-'90s best but also employ fresh sonic flavors and deftly executed dynamics. Corgan and company deliver full-on rockers ("Quasar," "Panopticon," "The Chimera"), pompy epics ("Pinwheels," "Oceania"), trippy treatises ("Pale Horse," "Violet Rays"), a bit of synth pop ("One Diamond, One Heart") and yearning heart-wringers ("My Love Is Winter," "Wildflower") with unapologetic, poetic glee. It's a rich ride from start to finish and an indication that the traditional album form still serves the Smashing Pumpkins well.
Falling Off the Sky
Producers: The dB's, Mitch Easter, Scott Litt
Release Date: June 12
It was 1982 when we last heard from the original lineup of cult heroes the dB's. The quartet was happily subverting the edgier-than-thou aesthetic of the era's New York new wave scene with an ardently off-kilter twist on post-Beatles pop values on its second album, the undercover classic Repercussion. Several oceans have passed below the bridge between then and the arrival of the group's newest release, "Falling Off the Sky." Singer/guitarists Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey have done a couple of duo albums together in the interim, but hearing their quirky but complementary styles playing off each other bolstered by the supple push-pull of bassist Gene Holder and drummer Will Rigby is like getting a fresh taste of an exotic, ambrosial ice cream flavor that's been out of production for decades. From the serpentine, Richard Thompson-goes-power-pop riffs of "World to Cry" to the soul-inflected bounce of "The Wonder of Love," the dB's still have plenty of sonic tricks up their collective sleeve. They may have grown up, but haven't lost an iota of the infectious melodic charm that made them kings of the indie scene three decades ago.
Producer: Jimmy Shaw
MMI/Mom + Pop
Release Date: June 12
"I'm just as fucked up as they say," Emily Haines sings at the beginning of the latest album by her Toronto-based electro-rock crew, Metric. That must mean she's not very fucked up: Haines and her bandmates won the plaudits of countless music-industry observers when they decided to put out 2009's "Fantasies" themselves and then scored something of a commercial success. Media coverage of Metric since then has focused as much on the group's business savvy as on its music. Another self-released effort (in collaboration with New York's Mom + Pop label), "Synthetica" seems designed to tilt that balance back toward Metric's songcraft: "Breathing Underwater," "Speed the Collapse" and the robo-glam single "Youth Without Youth" easily rank among the band's most immediate tunes. Traces of indie-scene eccentricity remain, as in "The Wanderlust," which features a typically cantankerous vocal turn by Lou Reed, an avowed fan of the Fantasies semi-hit "Gimme Sympathy." Mostly, though, "Synthetica" reflects the sharp, heat-seeking minds that made it.
Producer: Brian Culbertson
Release Date: June 12
Jazz - be it contemporary or smooth - may not be everyone's cup of tea. But that hasn't stopped one of the genres' more prolific practitioners. Multi-instrumentalist Brian Culbertson returns with his 13th album, "Dreams," heavily steeped in the R&B he's been steadily infusing on his last several releases. To flesh out the landscapes stemming from the dream sequences that inspired this album, Culbertson enlists a quartet of top R&B session men - including bassist Alex Al (Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder) - and producer/arranger Rex Rideout. The result: a melodic fusion of jazz and soul that doubles as an enchanting hiatus from the stresses of everyday life. Aiding and abetting Culbertson's musical escapism are guest vocalists Vivian Green (on the top 20 adult R&B hit "Still Here"), Mint Condition's Stokley Williams (the romantic "No Limits") and Noel Gourdin (the sublime "You're My Music"). Rounding out the 10-song set are instrumental gems like "Your Smile" "Lights Off" and the title cut. For those who continue to malign smooth and contemporary jazz as simply elevator or on-hold music, Culbertson provides a tuneful rebuttal.