the Buzz for September 11th, 2008


Four tumultuous years after her last release — 2004’s erratic Afrodisiac, which, despite its wild inconsistency, closed with her best-ever track:  the dazzling “Should I Go,” which was built around a riveting sample from Coldplay’s overblown “Clocks” and which sent a clear signal that she was seriously rethinking her lifeplan — Brandy is back, armed with both a cleared mind and with her strongest single since “The Boy is Mine,” the hilarious 1998 bitch-fest that won both herself and Miss Monica well-deserved Grammy awards.   Produced with uncharacteristic simplicity by the prolific Rodney Jerkins, “Right Here (Departed)” Brandy - Right Here (Departed) - Single - Right Here (Departed) forgoes the beat-heavy nature of much of Jerkins’ past discography and makes Brandy’s terrific voice — nearing thirty now, and richer than ever — the song’s unopposed centerpiece.  (Contrast “Departed” with a few of Brandy’s other singles, especially from this decade — 2002’s horrifying trainwreck “What About Us” springs to mind — and you’ll instantly recognize and appreciate what an unexpected gem this truly is.)  The new album is due early next year, and if it sounds anything like its leadoff single, I’d say we’re in for a smashing return to form from an artist whose learning curve has been pretty damned breathtaking to behold.

The physical CD won’t be available until September 30, but Simple Things, the hotly-anticipated sophomore effort from brilliant boy wonder Joshua Radin (whose soothing debut release, 2006’s We Were Here, was a textbook model of shattering grace) went up at iTunes on Tuesday, and I’m here to tell you:  although I detest the idea of buying digital albums — hey, I’m ol’ school, I like having something tangible and concrete, something to hold in my hands, at the end of a transaction — this is probably the closest I’ve ever come to breaking my own rule.  In the end I decided to wait until month’s end (although the ever-expanding torture will be intense), but I broke down and purchased the one album track Joshua Radin - Simple Times - You Got Growing Up to Do (feat. Patty Griffin) — “You Got Growin’ Up to Do,” a sweetly haunting duet with one Patty Griffin, a magnificent artist who most certainly knows from such things — that I couldn’t stand not to immediately own.  Combine Radin’s return with imminent new projects from Ray LaMontagne and Rachael Yamagata (herself out to follow up a masterful debut), and you understand that the singer-songwriter movement — seemingly an endangered species in these times when a full four of the crunchy’s top twenty singles have that doofus Akon’s name on them — is still alive and kicking.