Leah Greenblatt rounds up albums hitting stores this week and next

By Leah Greenblatt
Updated June 06, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, The River In Reverse (Verve Forecast)
Elvis ”Which Genre Hat Will I Wear This Time?” Costello takes a timely stab at the New Orleans sound, in collaboration with his longtime friend Toussaint, a renowned Big Easy songwriter-producer-pianist.

AFI, Decemberunderground (Interscope)
Their eyes are lined, their hearts are dark, and their hair looks really complicated — the beloved Bay Area cobweb-rockers already have a hit with the single ”Miss Murder”; see what else they’ve got up their bat-sleeves this week.

Be Your Own Pet, Be Your Own Pet (Ecstatic Peace/Universal)
Adorably energetic if artistically underwhelming pop punk from Nashville; female-fronted and with a combined group age of about 35.

The New Cars, The New Cars: It’s Alive (Eleven Seven Music)
Is it alive, or merely a lumbering Frankenstein stiched together from the old parts of a once-great band? They’ve got Todd Rundgren but no Ric Ocasek…you be the judge.

Cheap Trick, Rockford (Cheap Trick Unlimited)
Some quarter of a century removed from At Budokan but still at it, this time with Linda Perry producing.

Ice Cube, The Hard Stuff (Eagle Rock)
Can you still be considered hard if you’ve made a cross-country kids’ movie called Are We There Yet? If your name is Ice Cube, the answer is yes. Hence, The Hard Stuff.

Smoosh, Free to Stay (Barsuk)
Seattle ‘tween sisters attempt to overcome novelty status with their second full-length; sure-handed pop hooks and continued opening gigs for the likes of Death Cab and Pearl Jam sure don’t hurt.

Various Artists, Cars soundtrack (Disney Pixar)
Get vehicular with original songs from Sheryl Crow and Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts’ cover of Tom Cochrane’s ”Life Is a Highway,” John Mayer’s take on ”Route 66,” and a score by Randy Newman.

Yung Joc, New Joc City (Bad Boy)
Another phenomenon from the Drrrty South, already ruling urban radio with the ubiquitous summer jam ”It’s Goin’ Down.” But is he a singles or an album artist? Find out this week.

Zero 7, The Garden (Atlantic)
The easy-listening Brits’ contintental sexiness continues to serve them well: On their latest, the core producing duo recruit Swedish folkie-of-the-moment José González to fortify their dreamy beats.


Busta Rhymes, The Big Bang (Aftermath/Interscope)
It’s bang or bust time for the recently troubled Rhymes (an associate was killed on the set of his latest video shoot). There’s no shortage of boldfaced names on board, however: producers Dr. Dre, Timbaland, and the Neptunes, plus Stevie Wonder, Eminem, Mariah Carey, Missy Elliott, and the late Rick James (!).

The Futureheads, News & Tributes (Vagrant/StarTime International)
They burst onto the scene with their debut, last year’s excellent display of XTC-esque pogoing power-pop, but can anything beat the British quartet’s awesome-ized cover of Kate Bush’s ”Hounds of Love”?

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Sinner (Blackheart)
Rock’s original girl badass is tough enough to take on the Vans Warped Tour crowds this summer; on her first studio album in nearly a dozen years, she gets help from another fierce lady — Bikini Kill/Le Tigre banshee Kathleen Hannah.

Sonic Youth, Rather Ripped (Geffen)
Perhaps the greatest argument for rock relevance after the age of 50, the fearless vets return with one of their best-buzzed-about records in years.

Regina Spektor, Begin to Hope (Sire)
The quirky onetime Strokes tourmate continues to produce her unique Perestroika piano pop; those who consider Tori Amos idiosyncratic have likely never seen Spektor in action.