The short version:
ATB—Distant Earth: 6/10
Caravan Palace—Panic: 6/10
Lana Del Rey—Paradise: 5/10
No Doubt—Push and Shove: 5/10
Howard Shore—The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: 7/10
I picked up the recent album by trance artist ATB, Distant Earth. It's pretty much exactly what I expected. There are two CDs: one of danceable music, and one of lighter, more ambient fare. It sounds an awful lot like the previous work of his that I have, and without much of anything that stands out as awesome, I don't really have any reason to recommend it. The best track is Apollo Road, which is reasonably catchy, but nothing spectacular. After that it's Chapter One, which is pretty, but way too repetitive for a seven-minute piece of music. Those are both from the first CD; Magnetic Girl is possibly the best from the second, lighter CD.
Sophomore album Panic from Caravan Palace is a let-down: it's a considerably weaker effort than their great debut album. Clash is the best track on the album, and it's quite good. Dramophone (wonderful video) and Cotton Heads are next in line, and they're pretty good too, but overall it's much blander and just a lot less exciting than the first time around.
Lana Del Rey pulled a Lady Gaga and released a short album hot on the heels of her first one, Paradise. The musical style is very much the same as her debut, and the songs aren't quite as good. I wouldn't quite call them B-sides, but they're definitely at a lower overall quality level. Nothing stands out as great, but Ride (video; song starts at 3:30) and Cola are pretty good. (Side note: Cola has just about the most surprising and weird opening line that I've heard in a song.) If you loved her debut CD you'll like this one too.
No Doubt's new CD Push and Shove is again sort of what I would have expected. A lot of it is sort of slow and uninteresting—not that I have an issue with slow music, but No Doubt is not really the band I want to listen to when I want to hear something slow and beautiful. Looking Hot is the best on the album and a bit catchy, and Push and Shove is fun too. But neither of those are must-haves, and the rest is less compelling than those two.
Howard Shore's soundtrack for the first Hobbit movie is not as good as The Lord of the Rings scores, which is the same as the way I felt about the movie. I'm not sure if it's because this one's two CDs and the other movies had single-CD soundtracks, but I did feel the same way when watching the movie, and that's that the musical themes appear to be repeated more often in this movie versus the others. With as much repetition as there is of the new material, and the fact that he chose to reprise old material as well, it reinforces my thoughts that this score is just inferior to the Lord of the Rings movies'. That said, the movie certainly didn't have a bad score by any means—it was actually pretty good, simply failing to meet high expectations. My favorite track is the credits song: Song of the Lonely Mountain by Neil Finn. From the score, my favorite pieces of new material are Radagast the Brown and Warg-Scouts. Old Friends is also rather good, but it's more of a reprise of the last three movies.
Those brings me down to zero CDs in my music queue, which is pretty amazing to me. I still have a couple dozen game soundtracks and other smaller things to make my way through, but I don't really expect I'll comment on most of them.