The way things have gone so far in 2011, one week stuffed with new releases is generally followed by a week where tumbleweeds fly through your local record store. However, following the Lady Gaga/Brad Paisley/Glee bonanza last week, there’s a solid slate of releases headed your way.

We’ll start with Death Cab for Cutie. While associating Ben Gibbard’s voice with anything “hard” is laughable, Death Cab’s last album, Narrow Stairs, was an attempt to toughen up their sound a little bit, and it worked. Stairs debuted at #1 on the charts and was generally well-received. Their new album, Codes & Keys, is rumored to be a lighter, more synthesized affair. Over the past five or six years, DC4C have jumped from being an indie phenomenon to one of the industry’s more reliable rock bands, so expect this one to do well.

It’s a rock and roll kind of week, it seems. In addition to the Death Cab release, there are new albums from Irish-American punks Flogging Molly (Speed of Darkness) Dave Matthews Band (yet another live album), and My Morning Jacket’s Circuital. Over the years, MMJ have loosened up their sound quite a bit, and they’ve gone from “just another jam band” to one of the better rock bands around, with quite a cult following. I’ve personally seen them twice, and these guys put on a hell of a show.

At this point, it’s expected that when Eddie Vedder breaks away from Pearl Jam for a while, his sound becomes lighter and more easygoing. The Into the Wild soundtrack from a couple of years ago proved that the grunge titan could pull off a more relaxed sound, and his new album, Ukulele Songs, continues in that vein, with guest appearances from Chan Marshall of Cat Power as well as The Swell Season’s Glen Hansard.

Finally, just one week after the NKOTBSB album hit the stores, falsetto-squealing New Kid Jordan Knight is back on the solo tip with his new album, Unfinished. JK’s solo career has been fairly inconsistent over the years. Following a brilliant solo debut in 1999 (which contained much assistance from Jam & Lewis and Robin Thicke), he’s released an atrocious album of New Kids covers, a halfway decent contemporary pop EP, and a so-so collection of Eighties covers. Hopefully, the material is age-appropriate and the Auto-Tune is kept to a minimum this time around.

That’s not the entire list of releases, of course. Make sure you check out Pause and Play for a complete listing of new releases this week and every week.

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