Folk-rock band Decemberists lead U.S. album chart

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Folk rock band the Decemberists claimed their first No. 1 album on the U.S. pop album chart Wednesday, while Social Distortion and Gregg Allman also claimed career bests with their new releases.

Lead singer Colin Meloy performs with The Decemberists at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California April 28, 2007. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

The Decemberists’ sixth release, “The King Is Dead,” sold 94,000 copies during the week ended January 23, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That easily beats its initial first week estimate of around 70,000.

While it’s a best-ever week for the Oregon group, it’s still a so-so figure for a top-selling album. However, after the past two weeks, any number at No. 1 that’s north of 60,000 is welcome.

Last week, Cake’s “Showroom of Compassion” broke the SoundScan-era (1991-present) record low for a No. 1 album with only 44,000 units. That record was set just one week earlier, when Taylor Swift’s “Fearless” shifted 52,000 atop the list.

This week, Cake slid to No. 25 with 15,000 copies. That’s the largest fall from No. 1 since Incubus’ “Light Grenades” tumbled to No. 37 in its second week in December 2006.

The Decemberists’ last release, 2009’s “The Hazards of Love,” debuted and peaked at No. 14 with 19,000. Their new album’s first week was aided -- in part -- by Amazon MP3’s offering of it on street date (January 18) as its $3.99 daily deal. Digital downloads accounted for a hefty 65% of its first week (a percentage share that includes sales from other digital retailers, like iTunes).

Also starting high on the Billboard 200 was the “Kidz Bop 19” album at No. 2 with 70,000 -- tying the series’ highest chart position and posting its best sales week since 2007.

Irish rock band the Script’s second album, “Science & Faith,” started at No. 3 with 49,000. Its self-titled set peaked at No. 64 in 2009 with 9,000 copies.

Veteran rockers Social Distortion scored the first top-10 album of their 32-year career as “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” came in at No. 4 with its best-week-ever frame of 46,000. It’s the iconic band’s debut release for Epitaph Records and its first new studio set since 2004’s “Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll.” The group’s previous peak on the list was with 1996’s “White Light White Heat White Trash,” which debuted and peaked at No. 27.

Allman also picked up his first top 10 as his first solo set in 14 years, “Low Country Blues,” arrived at No. 5 (36,000). Produced by T Bone Burnett, the collection features covers of tunes from the likes of Muddy Waters and B.B. King. Before this week, Allman had gone as high as No. 13 with the 1973 album “Laid Back.”

Just outside the top 10, coming in at No. 11, was James Blunt’s third studio set, “Some Kind of Trouble,” with 26,000. The English pop singer’s second release, 2007’s “All the Lost Souls,” arrived and peaked at No. 7 with 92,000.

As for the non-debuts in the top 10, Bruno Mars’ “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” rolse two to No. 6 (34,000), Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” jumped six to No. 7, aided by an iTunes promotion (33,000), Swift’s “Speak Now” fell five to No. No. 8 (31,000), Nicki Minaj’s “Pink Friday” fell four to No. 9 (28,000), and Mumford & Sons’ “Sigh No More” slipped one to No. 10 (27,000).

Overall album sales totaled 5.2 million units, up 8% compared with the previous week and down 10% compared with the comparable sales week of 2010. Year-to-date album sales stand at 15.5 million, down 11% compared with the same total at this point last year.