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)
UPWARD MOVEMENT: The phrase "Far*East Movement" could describe the trajectory of wicked weather of late, as a series of winter storms has blanketed the U.S. under snow and ice.
The travels of the group Far*East Movement, however, have been more well-received.
The Los Angeles quartet scores its second Hot 100 top 10, as "Rocketeer" blasts 16-9. The act spent three weeks at No. 1 beginning in October with "Like a G6," featuring Cataracs and Dev.
Far*East Movement is the first group to send its first two Hot 100 entries to the top 10 since Daughtry, whose "It's Not Over" and "Home" rose to Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, in 2007.
"Rocketeer" guest vocalist Ryan Tedder lands his first top 10 as a solo act. His first reached the top bracket, also as a featured artist, when Timbaland's "Apologize," featuring his band OneRepublic, reached No. 2 in 2007.
While Tedder didn't write "Rocketeer" (Bruno Mars, notably, is among the track's nine authors), he has tallied four top 10s as a songwriter. In addition to "Apologize," he co-wrote Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love" (No. 1, four weeks, 2008), Beyonce's "Halo" (No. 5, 2009) and Jordin Sparks' "Battlefield" (No. 10, 2009).
NASHVILLE STARS: As new "American Idol" judge Steven Tyler translates his night job into increases on Billboard's Digital Songs chart, the show's original champion pads her impressive multi-format discography.
Kelly Clarkson, owner of 10 top 10s on Billboard's Pop Songs chart, collects her second top 10 on Country Songs, as Jason Aldean's "Don't You Wanna Stay," on which she guests, rises 11-10. (The track marks Aldean's 11th top 10 among 13 chart entries).
Clarkson first reached the Country Songs top tier with the No. 2-peaking Reba McEntire duet, and cover of her own 2005 No. 1 Pop Songs and No. 7 Hot 100 smash, "Because of You" in 2007.
Among "American Idol" contestants, Clarkson and Bucky Covington (also two) trail only Carrie Underwood (13) and Josh Gracin (four) for most top 10s.
Kellie Pickler is the only other graduate of the series to dent the Country Songs top 10. "Best Days of Your Life," which Pickler penned with Taylor Swift, reached No. 9 in 2009.
RICKY ROLLING: Ricky Martin ascends to his 11th leader on Latin Songs, and first since 2006, as "Lo Mejor De Mi Vida Eres Tu," featuring Natalia Jiminez, jumps 4-1.
The lead single from "Musica + Alma + Sexo" - due on next week's album charts - also leaps 23-7, marking his 16th top 10, on Tropical Airplay.
In the 24-year history of Latin Songs, Martin's No. 1 sum trails only those of Enrique Iglesias (21), Luis Miguel (16) and Gloria Estefan (14).
TOP SPINS: Martin Solveig and Dragonette earn their first No. 1 on Dance Airplay, as "Hello" climbs 2-1.
The song's creative video sports Solveig playing tennis against fellow French DJ Bob Sinclar, who's banked five No. 1s on Dance/Club Play Songs. The clip is approaching 11 million views on YouTube since its October posting.
(At the video's end, Solveig sullenly departs the court upon seeing his love interest kissing French tennis star Gael Monfils. Hopefully, his new No. 1 ranking provides a measure of consolation).