New efforts from a long-forgotten ’90s band, a teen queen with ambitions far beyond her current niche, and the hottest country act since those ridiculously goofy Dixie Chicks highlight this week’s scant release schedule. But don’t let appearances fool you: no fewer than one of these records is gonna stand among this year’s best, mark it.


One of the ultimate (and most fondly remembered) one-hit wonders of the ’90s, lead singer Kevin Martin has reassembled the original lineup of his band Candlebox for the first time in twelve years to create Into the Sun, their first album since 1995’s legendary flop Lucy. (1998’s tragic travesty Happy Pills, a rush job recorded by B-string drummers and guitarists, totally doesn’t count.) You no doubt still own the ‘Box’s 1994 debut record — the very first album released on Madonna’s then-fledgling Maverick label — and you must still get a thrill — however secret, subtle, or guilty — whenever its massive radio smash “Far Behind” pops up in a shuffle. You now have a golden opportunity to see for yourself how gracefully these boys have aged.


Shrewdly setting herself up for a post-teen-queen singing career — and, hey, given what she has already accomplished to here, I certainly wouldn’t bet against her — cute li’l Miley Cyrus releases her first official solo album, Breakout, this week. (True, her last effort — 2007’s triple-platinum megahit Hannah Montana 2 / Meet Miley Cyrus — was a double album, one disc of which was all Miley, but it was entirely the Hannah brand which sold that project to the masses, whereas Breakout finds her out on a limb all by herself.) Radio is already playing along: Cyrus landed a hit earlier this year with Meet Miley‘s “See You Again,” and her new record’s lead single, the rock-tinged “7 Things,” is getting some strong early attention. We’ll see.


Without question the most hotly-anticipated album of the summer (at least in my house) is Love On the Inside, the third record from the biggest thing going in contemporary country music, Sugarland. Hot on the heels of their surprise Academy of Country Music Award wins for single and song of the year (for the spare, moving “Stay” from their amazing 2006 record Enjoy the Ride), the blisteringly brilliant Jennifer Nettles and her professional partner Kristian Bush look to keep their runaway momentum rolling at full speed with Inside, which is being released in a bizarre way: this week brings us the release of the album’s “deluxe fan edition,” which carries five bonus tracks (including a crystal-clear version of their heart-stoppingly fine cover of “Life in a Northern Town” — which now seems like a lock to land amongst this year’s top five singles — and a live version of singer/songwriter Matt Nathanson’s little-known gem “Come On Get Higher”); or, if you’d rather wait (and I’m telling you right now: if you would, you’re an idiot), next week brings the no-frills regular edition. And despite my lack of vigorous ardor for Inside‘s so-so leadoff single “All I Want to Do” — as much as I really wanna like that song, I just can’t bring myself to — I still see no reason to believe this album won’t be the season’s most fascinating collection of music. And in a season that’s running rather low on quality, that’s good news indeed.


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