A ridiculously easy week to kick off the year’s final month, as the phalanx of November releases continue jockeying for position on the march toward Christmas morning and only one major release dares to leap into that pack. Careful, though: that one major release is a biggie, boys and girls.


Hot on the heels of March’s Pretty. Odd., the sturdy follow-up to the platinum smash debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, emo sensations Panic at the Disco offer up their first live album, the CD/DVD set Live in Chicago. The hits — namely “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” and “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage” — are here, as well as music videos and a documentary chronicling their latest tour, from which this recording originates.

Anchored by Beyonce’s cover of the old chestnut “At Last” (which is more or less fine, although — as if we didn’t already know! — girlfriend is no Etta James, whom she nonetheless portrays in the film), the original motion picture soundtrack for Cadillac Records arrives this week. The movie tells the story of brothers Leonard and Phil Chess, who formed the legendary imprint Chess Records (and initially sold albums out of the trunk of Leonard’s Cadillac, wink wink), which made stars out of James, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters (played here by Angels in America‘s blistering Emmy winner Jeffrey Wright), Chuck Berry, and pretty much anybody else who mattered in American rhythm and blues at the 20th century’s halfway point. Oscar winner Adrien Brody stars as Leonard, and the soundtrack (and, presumably, the film itself) includes contributions from Beyonce’s sister Solange, Tony! Toni! Tone!’s Raphael Saadiq, and rapper Mos Def.

Dare we believe that Britney Spears has finally pulled herself back together once more? The early returns are spectacularly encouraging: just mere months ago, it seemed as though the heifer had gone irrevocably apeshit, but a summer of relative lucidity brought her to record her strongest single (and biggest hit, natch) in eons, the dazzling (if overly simple) “Womanizer,” and hopes are running sky-high for her sixth studio album, the cheekily-titled Circus. Here’s what we know: the record is bound to be better than last year’s abysmal Blackout, and if the brilliant lead single is any indication, it certainly sounds like Miss Britney is actually having fun again, for probably the first time since the “Oops I Did It Again” days. Should be a smash.


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