So, The Shins have a new album out today, right? But James Mercer is the only original member of the group left. So, what’s the situation here? Is “The Shins” just James Mercer, and the rest of the band is, like, those other guys in Nine Inch Nails that no one knows because all anyone cares about is Trent Reznor? Let’s face it, no one’s given a shit about any of the people in the band other than Mercer for…the band’s entire existence, so let’s just say that, for all intents and purposes, James Mercer *is* The Shins. And I’m a fan. And I will be purchasing Port of Morrow, even though Shins albums (and even Mercer’s Danger Mouse-assisted side project Broken Bells) tend to grow on me over a period of time. I’ll do my best to give this one a careful listen.

Remember a little over a year ago when Esperanza Spalding won the Best New Artist Grammy and Justin Bieber fans threatened to rip shit up even though it’s exceedingly obvious that Spalding is infinitely more talented than The Biebs (and I say this as someone who harbors no ill will towards Justin)? Well, the afro-ed bass player is back with her first post-breakthrough album called Radio Music Society. The album will venture out of Spalding’s comfort zone just a little bit with collaborations featuring the likes of Q-Tip, but I’m sure jazz purists won’t be disappointed, either.

I will admit to knowing nothing about “The Hunger Games.” It’s…a book series? And now it’s…a movie? And the soundtrack has…Taylor Swift and The Arcade Fire and Kid Cudi? And it’s supposed to be…really dark? Maybe I should do a little more research before I write these columns?

These albums lead a somewhat busy trail of new releases this week. They’ll be competing for the attention of music buyers with The OF Tape Vol. 2 (did I miss the boat on Vol. 1?) which is a collaborative entry from all of the members of California-based hip-hop collective Odd Future. I’m sure you’re familiar with at least some of the splinter members of the group, like Tyler the Creator (’cause he won an MTV Award last year) and Frank Ocean (because he sings the hook on Jay-Z/Kanye West’s “No Church In The Wild.”

On the much more family friendly hip-hop tip, you’ve got the official debut from Diggy Simmons, who many of you know as the son of Reverend Joseph (Run) Simmons. The teenage rapper is borderline credible MC/borderline teen idol, and Unexpected Arrival is sure to appeal to the “106th & Park” set.

Switching gears for a second, let’s turn our attention to the DVD side of things. Remember a few months ago when we went apeshit over The Muppets?¬†Well, my favorite movie of 2011 (granted, I didn’t see many movies…) is finally released on DVD today. Missed the adventures of Kermit, Piggy, Walter and Jason Segal? Well, take it home and watch it!

And make sure you’re tuned in to Pause and Play to get your complete new release fix.

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