The grain of new releases this week is the best it’s been so far in 2011, but that’s not saying a hell of a lot. We’re still a month or so away from an A-list superstar release, and while you don’t have to be an A-list artist to make a good release (actually, most people would argue the opposite), you still have to bring money in to succeed at business, right? No album so far this year has sold more than 70,000 copies, a streak that’s very likely to continue this week.

The two albums that stand the best chance of coming close to that total this week are the 2011 Grammy Nominees compilation and Talib Kweli’s Gutter Rainbows. The former album collects some of the biggest hits of the year by a motley crew of artists including Cee-Lo Green, Michael Jackson and Ray LaMontagne (to name a few favorites), while the latter album is the first solo release by the Brooklyn rapper in 2 1/2 years. Kweli’s last album, Ear Drum, debuted at #2 on the charts. However, this new album is only available at independent music retail (meaning: you won’t find this at FYE, Target or Best Buy) or via digital download, which puts a crimp in it’s potential sales. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Kweli’s new album is also bereft of major guest artists and producers, a move that reminds me of his mixtape from a few years ago, Right About Now, which-quite frankly-sucked. So between that and the mediocrity of last year’s Reflection Eternal album with Hi-Tek, I don’t really have high hopes. Something tells me I should save my money, but what can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment.

Kweli is joined on the release docket by a series of artists who carry a great deal of critical cred, although that cred doesn’t really translate over to the cash registers.  Seminal dance-rockers Gang of Four are returning after a sixteen-year absence with their latest album, Content. As a casual fan of the band, I’m weighing whether this album will be worth picking up. I really need to get my head out of my ass and start taking advantage of the ability to listen to albums online before purchasing them. This week’s releases seem like a good opportunity to do so.

With Valentine’s Day (a holiday that I prefer to ignore, generally speaking) just a few weeks ago, it’s no surprise that themed albums are starting to make their way into stores. Corinne Bailey Rae is offering up the Love EP this week. The stopgap release is an all-covers affair on which the British soul songstress tackles songs made famous by the likes of Prince and Paul McCartney.

Other albums out this week include the latest from indie favorites Iron & Wine, an EP from uber-rootsy bluegrass band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a Jack White-produced album by early rock & roll legend (and 2009 Hall of Fame inductee) Wanda Jackson, and greatest hits albums by the likes of Bowling for Soup (yay!) and Five for Fighting (yippee!!)

A full listing of this week’s new releases can be located by clicking right here and heading over to Pauseandplay.com.

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