• Elliott Smith gets a posthumous salute next week with To: Elliott From: Portland as fellow sons and daughters of his hometown interpret their favorite songs from this tortured singer/songwriter, who left this world under mysterious circumstances in 2003.
• Three terrific new tribute projects are due next week, saluting two superstars and the unique talents shared by a father and son. Failure to Communicate Records is releasing 2. Contamination, a two-CD collection of darkwave artists covering the songs of David Bowie.
• From putting the "show" into the show business of Van Halen's best years to becoming a New York City emergency medical technician and recently one of Howard Stern's terrestrial radio replacements, David Lee Roth is adding another strange note to his résumé.
• Things are getting - and staying - busy for the Flaming Lips. With a new album, At War with the Mystics, set for release April 4, and the digital release of one song from the album, "W.A.N.D," earlier this week, vinyl luxury, DVD expansions, and South Florida dreams are on the psychedelic, pulsating eyeball-orb horizon.
As another year twinkles softly into twilight, I find myself looking back at the year in music. With million-selling digital downloads, Billboard magazine charting the sales of cheesy ring tones, and Case Logic CD folders bulging with burned discs, the public has declared that what they want is the content, and they aren't so concerned with the medium.
• After taking a break to sleep off the hangover of the holiday push, next month the major-label conglomerates and the hippest of indies are poised to unveil long-awaited new solo albums and terrific new tributes.
I'm no foodie, but this year's home-heating costs make for luxurious reasons to fire up the oven and put your "bake on." And what better than a little holiday cheer to put some brushed snare in your whisk, or some hipster Santa soul in those stiff hips and soggy boots? What could be more perfect than mincemeat and Jimmy Smith's Christmas '64, smoking that mighty Hammond B3? Or decorating sugar cookies with Ren & Stimpy's Crock O' Christmas from 1997? Yes! How about vanilla extract with Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown and cloves for Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby"? Here's a handful of new Christmas music that might become your inspiration for some creative kitchen-craft and tree-trimming time.
• Fresh from his acceptance of the Century Award at this past week's Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Tom Petty's personal memoirs are collected in a new book by Paul Zallo, spun like stories best told around a card table or campfire - crazy funny, wickedly insightful, and often tearfully poignant.
• 'Tis the season for publishing companies to offer up a tall stack of terrific music-oriented books - easy to wrap as gifts, and deeper than the E! True Hollywood Story. Backbeat Books has just issued Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock 1970-1982, now featuring a bonus 24-track CD of interviews with Stiv Bators, Gary Numan, XTC, Oingo Boingo, DEVO, The Cult, and many more with the author, George Gimarc.
• This coming Tuesday the V2 imprint looks back at the early days of the Greenhornes with a compilation of 19 rarities and an all-new bonus track, "Lost Woman." Collecting hometown seven-inch singles from Cincinnati, Ohio, and selections from LP releases on the Prince and Telstar labels, Sewed Soles boasts an alternative version of "Can't Stand It" (as heard in HBO's The Sopranos) and "There Is an End," a track with guest Holly Golightly that was featured in the film Broken Flowers.