The Decemberists top the charts. (Photo: Autumn DeWilde)
The Decemberists claim their first No. 1 album as "The King Is Dead" debuts atop the Billboard 200 with a career-high 94,000 sold in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That easily beats its initial first week estimate  of around 70,000.
While it's a best-ever week for the group, it's still a so-so figure for the top-selling album. However, after the past two weeks, any number at No. 1 that's north of 60,000 is welcome.
Last week, Cake's "Showroom of Compassion" broke the SoundScan-era (1991-present) record low for a No. 1 album with only 44,000 sold . That record was set just one week earlier, when Taylor Swift's "Fearless" shifted 52,000 atop the list.
This week, Cake's sales flatten, dropping off a cliff from No. 1 to No. 25 in its second week (15,000; down 67%). That's the largest fall from No. 1 since Incubus' "Light Grenades" bombed from No. 1 to No. 37 in its second week (Dec. 23, 2006) .
The Decemberists' last release, 2009's "The Hazards of Love," debuted and peaked at No. 14 with 19,000 in its premiere frame, per SoundScan. Their new album's first week was aided -- in part -- by Amazon MP3's offering of it on street date (Jan. 18) as its $3.99 daily deal. Digital downloads account for a whopping 65% of its first week (a percentage share that includes sales from other digital retailers, like iTunes).
Also starting high on the Billboard 200 is the "Kidz Bop 19" album at No. 2 with 70,000 -- tying the series' highest chart position and posting its best sales week since 2007. "Kidz Bop 9" also hit No. 2 back in 2006, while a "Bop" title that last sold more than 70,000 in a week was "Bop 12" in 2007, when it bowed with 71,000 at No. 7.
Coming in behind the "Kidz" is the Script's second album, "Science & Faith," beginning at No. 3 with 49,000. The band's last release, its self-titled 2009 set, peaked at No. 64 with a high-water sales mark of 9,000.
Veteran rock band Social Distortion nets its first top 10 album as "Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes" rocks in at No. 4 with its best-week-ever frame of 46,000. It's the iconic band's debut release for Epitaph Records and its first new studio set since 2004's "Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll." The group's previous peak on the list was with 1996's "White Light White Heat White Trash," which debuted and peaked at No. 27.
Also picking up his first top 10 is Gregg Allman, whose first solo set in 14 years, "Low Country Blues," arrives at No. 5 (36,000). Produced by T Bone Burnett, the collection features covers of tunes from the likes of Muddy Waters and B.B. King. Before this week, Allman had gone as high as No. 13 with the 1973 album "Laid Back."
With the entire top five on the Billboard 200 being debut titles, it marks only the fifth time the feat has happened. It last occurred on the Oct. 17, 2009, list, when Barbra Streisand's "Love Is the Answer" led the parade at No. 1 .
Just outside the top 10, coming in at No. 11, is James Blunt's third studio set, "Some Kind of Trouble," with 26,000. His sophomore release, 2007's "All the Lost Souls," arrived and peaked at No. 7 with 92,000.
As for the non-debuts in the top 10 this week, Bruno Mars' "Doo-Wops & Hooligans" moves 4-6 (34,000; up 6%), Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" climbs 13-7 (33,000; up 42%), and Swift's "Speak Now" descends 3-8 (31,000; down 13%). Perry's huge gain can be attributed to a special weekend deal in the iTunes Store, where customers with gift cards were encouraged to redeem them for select discounted albums, including "Teenage Dream" for a low price of $6.99. The title was up a staggering 173% in downloads.
Closing out the top 10 albums this week are Nicki Minaj's "Pink Friday," slipping 5-9 (28,000; down 11%), and Mumford & Sons' "Sigh No More," dropping 9-10 (27,000; up 2%).
Over on the Digital Songs chart, last week's No. 1, Britney Spears' "Hold It Against Me," slips to No. 3 with 183,000 (down 55%). She's replaced atop the list by a familiar face, as Mars' "Grenade" returns to the top (204,000; down 7%). Wiz Khalifa's "Black and Yellow" rises 3-2 (201,000; up 6%), Enrique Iglesias' "Tonight (I'm Lovin' You)" climbs 5-4 (167,000; down 8%), and Perry's "Firework" falls 4-5 (163,000; down 11%).
P!nk flies up the list with "Fuckin' Perfect," zipping 25-6 with 144,000 (up 104%) following the debut of its provocative music video last week. Right behind her is Pitbull's "Hey Baby (Drop It to the Floor)," featuring T-Pain, rising 19-7 (141,000; up 55%). Diddy - Dirty Money's "Coming Home" also soars, as it shoots 14-8 with 140,000 (up 30%).
The Black Eyed Peas' "The Time (Dirty Bit)" slips 7-9 (137,000; down 13%), and Ke$ha's "We R Who We R" is down 9-10 (123,000; down 13%), completing the top 10 Digital Songs.
Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending Jan. 23) totaled 5.2 million units, up 8% compared with the sum last week (4.8 million) and down 10% compared with the comparable sales week of 2010 (5.8 million). Year-to-date album sales stand at 15.5 million, down 11% compared with the same total at this point last year (17.5 million).
Digital track sales this past week totaled 26.4 million downloads, down 4% compared with last week (27.4 million) and up 1% stacked next to the comparable week of 2010 (26.1 million). Year-to-date track sales are at 83.6 million, up 6% compared with the same total at this point last year (79.1 million).
Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2010 when: Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" started at No. 1 with 481,000 while the previous week's topper, the "Hope for Haiti Now" compilation, fell to No. 2 with 143,000 (down 16%).