On the charts: The National, Sleigh Bells make an impact in a sloooooooow sales week


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Young pop sensation Justin Bieber has only so much power. He leads the U.S. pop chart this week, but he does so at a time when U.S. album sales are at a low point. A total of 5.3 million albums were sold for the sales week ending Sunday, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which the company reported was the lowest sales week since it began tracking data in 1991.

Bieber, however, manages to plow through it, and logs his fourth non-consecutive week at No. 1 atop the Billboard pop chart. His “My World 2.0” sold a little more than 60,000 copies this week, and has topped 1 million copies in its eight weeks on the tally. Bieber’s sales figure is the second-lowest total for a No. 1 album. Only the soundtrack to “Dreamgirls,” which in 2007 sold what Billboard describes as a “shade more than 60,000,” sold fewer copies (SoundScan figures are rounded, hence the similar figures).


Not all the sales figures are bleak, however. Brooklyn’s tense adult rockers the National debut at No. 3, selling a little more than 50,000 copies this week. That’s a career-high for the band, whose 2007 effort “Boxer” peaked at No. 68 on the pop chart. It was, however, a career breakthrough of sorts, and has since surpassed 180,000 in sales, according to Billboard. The band will be in Los Angeles with two consecutive nights of shows at the Wiltern, beginning Friday.

The news is slightly better on the digital side of things. Katy Perry’s summer-song contender “California Gurls” sold 294,000 digital tracks, and Usher’s “OMG,” B.o.B.'s “Airplanes” and Eminem’s “Not Afraid” all sold more than 200,000 downloads. That’s good for a 2% sales bump in digital tracks over last week.

There are, however, some strong chart showings from smaller acts.

Electronic noise duo Sleigh Bells, which has the M.I.A. seal of approval, enters at No. 39 with “Treats.” Their debut, released in conjunction with M.I.A.'s Interscope-affiliated N.E.E.T. Recordings, enters at No. 39. The album is available digital-only right now, and sold more than 12,000 copies in its first week. The group’s physical disc will be released June 1.

Worth noting: The Sleigh Bells, an act that’s only been on the radar of music fans since late last year, sold only slightly fewer copies than We Are the Fallen, a group boasting former members of Evanescence and an “American Idol” contender in Carly Smithson. The act’s debut enters the chart at No. 33 with 13,000 copies sold.

While iTunes may be the dominant digital player, there are signs that Amazon’s $3.99 album fire sales can provide a relatively mighty boost. This week, Mumford & Sons’ “Sigh No More,” the debut from the English folk rockers, has seen an 80% sales boost, up from 3,000 to more than 5,000. The album was available last week on Amazon at $3.99, and was recommended to fans of the Fleet Foxes.

Elsewhere, the latest from the Dead Weather, ‘Sea of Cowards,” lands at No. 5, opening with 45,000 in sales. The act’s “Horehound” last year sold 51,000 copies in its debut week, according to the Billboard archives. The self-titled debut from Charice lands at No. 8, selling 43,000 in its first week of release. The young singer recently received an endorsement from Oprah Winfrey, which should help her second week of sales.

In only its third week of release, Hole’s comeback album, “Nobody’s Daughter,” is in danger of falling off Billboard’s top 200. This week, the album is down at No. 146, having sold just 33,000 copies.

-- Todd Martens

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