Need more convincing that fall is definitely on the way? Look no further than this week’s music lineup, which features a staggering seven new releases (and not an ounce of filler in any of it!). So settle into your most comfortable chair and take a gander at the following brilliance:

Hot on the heels of last week’s triumphant Gossip Girl set arrives on DVD the fifth season of that resilient CW stalwart One Tree Hill, an irresistible cocktail of trashy plotlines and gorgeous young people that keeps chugging along just like the little engine that could.  The series’ creative team took a huge risk this past season — one which, judging by the fact that “Desperate Housewives” copied it wholesale a few months later, ended up paying off dividends, in that it completely revived the energy level of the acting company — by leaping ahead four years into the future in episode one, thereby eliminating the contrived need to funnel all the kids into one college (“90210,” anyone?) for the sake of keeping all the characters together in one place following high school graduation.   Another dicey move — this one far less successful, in my humble opinion — was the show’s disappointing decision to scale back its adult cast; Barry Corbin (whose character Whitey, Tree Hill High’s basketball coach, retired) and Moira Kelly (easily the show’s grounding force and its most relatable character — Karen, the protagonist’s mother) were kindly shown the door (though Kelly returned for one midseason episode revolving around her son’s doomed wedding), and Barbara Alyn Woods (the hilarious horndog Deb, the coolest cougar on network television) was dropped to recurring status.  Still, the season-ending cliffhanger was a heartstopper (no pun intended there, but if you caught it, you know what I’m talking about), and as we gear up for season six (which begins next Monday night), what better way to prepare than by taking a leisurely stroll through the angst-drenched antics of the strike-truncated season five.  (Incidentally, Target is advertising their version of this DVD set as containing “exclusive journal”, and I have the strangest feeling that this could be the protagonist’s much-ballyhooed novel, An Unkindness of Ravens (you have to watch the show to get it, I suppose). If that’s indeed the case, all I can say is, “Holy freakin’ crap!”)

Featuring recent chart-toppers from the likes of Carrie Underwood (the terrific “All-American Girl”), Kenny Chesney (“Don’t Blink,” one of the rare songs of his that is fairly tolerable), Sugarland (the wrenching “Stay,” featuring a raw vocal performance from Jennifer Nettles that could stop time), and Luke Bryan (his raucous, ridiculously hilarious breakthrough smash “All My Friends Say”), Now That’s What I Call Country finds the venerable compilation series taking another interesting twist.  I’ll bet you won’t find this release as interesting as last spring’s sensationally rendered ’80s collection, but with tracks from Sara Evans, Keith Urban, Trisha Yearwood, Dierks Bentley, and other talents, you certainly won’t be bored.

She’s been toiling in the long, looming shadow of her big sister Beyonce for the whole of her recording career, but Solange Knowles seems to be poised for a major breakout this fall with her sophomore album Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. Despite a reasonably decent marketing blitz and a handful of strong critical yeas, Solange’s debut disc, 2003’s Solo Star, was a painful flop, barely selling 100,000 copies.  But Dreams’ funky romp of a lead single “I Decided” has been all over VH-1 of late, and Geffen continues to stand solidly behind her; Knowles will never get a better shot at success than this one, and judging by the near-pompous confidence she conveys these days, she certainly knows it.

Save for her gloriously fascinating 2004 cover of Alan Parsons’ “Eye in the Sky,” Jonatha Brooke has yet to top (or even approach) the serene power of her blazing major-label debut, 1997’s melancholy Ten Cent Wings.  (If that album’s standout “Glass Half Empty” managed to slip past you, head over to Jonatha Brooke - 10 Cent Wings - Glass Half Empty and rectify that at once; it was one of the Lilith era’s brilliant highlights.)  Brooke is back this week with The Works, a concept album of songs which wed Brooke’s own melodies with lyrics and poems written by the legendary Woody Guthrie.  No tellin’ on this one, but it could be interesting.

It’s been a hundred years since “Girlfriend” became an iconic college radio smash, and in many ways, Matthew Sweet has spent the entirety of that time living down the memory of his one hit.  (He found critical redemption — if not renewed commercial success — two years ago, via his beyond brilliant ’60s covers collaboration with former lead Bangle Susanna Hoffs, and I’m pleased to report that Vol. 2 of their pairing — an exploration of their favorite ’70s era tracks — is due next spring.)  In between, Sweet offers us Sunshine Lies, his first solo album in four years. Again, who the hell knows; however, Sweet has a proven track record of delivering the goods when it counts, so fail to underestimate him.

My pal Chip — as devout a fan of Broadway musical theater as exists on this planet — would kill me if I didn’t include the brand new cast album for Gypsy in this week’s report. Besides to say that I adored her on “Life Goes On” back in the day, and that her PBS concert special some years back was a tour de force, I don’t know much about Patti LuPone (who recently won a Tony for her performance in this revival) and her stage work. But having thought Bette Midler’s 1993 television version of this show was pretty freakin’ spectacular, this might be worth checking out. (You can damn well bet Chip will weigh in with his comprehensive thoughts in the comments section.)

The legal battles over their lone smash, 1998’s landmark “Bitter Sweet Symphony” (which sampled an old Rolling Stones track without Mick and Keith’s permission), very nearly destroyed them, but British band The Verve returns this week with their fourth full-length effort, the aptly-titled Forth.  The band’s electrifying lead singer Richard Ashcroft released three amazing, anthem-filled solo records in the ten years since their formal breakup — “C’mon People, We’re Making It Now” from his 1999 debut Alone With Everybody is an unquestionable masterpiece — but they’ve put aside their differences, have rediscovered their chemistry, and are firmly back on track.  Forth could very well be this season’s surprise sleeper.

Her shattering cover of Sting’s monumental classic “Fields of Gold” posthumously made her an instant legend, and, however strange it seems, her record company (tiny indie Blix Street Records) keeps conjuring up new material to release, even a decade-plus after her tragic death.  (Conspiracy theories, anyone?)  This week brings us Somewhere, Eva Cassidy‘s tenth album, and unlike the prior projects bearing her name, this one exclusively features previously unreleased songs (many of them culled from live performances, and two of them written by Eva herself).  As I indicated on the Buzz’s fall preview last weekend, I’m quite literally burning with anticipation to get my hands on this record; with her pristine, angelic voice, this woman could harmonize the telephone directory and you’d be riveted beyond all comprehension.  I’ll bet Somewhere contains considerably meatier material for Cassidy to attack, and I’ll bet you’ll enjoy the living hell out of it.

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