We get a bit of a breather this week, after last Tuesday’s jam-packed release slate. But with one band on the cusp of a major breakout, and a musical legend taking a moment to reflect on a brilliant career, things are plenty busy out there in your local record store as September crawls toward the finish line. To wit:


They’ve been touted as the next big thing ever since their noteworthy 2003 debut Youth and Young Manhood, yet the immense heat surrounding them has never quite translated into record sales.  But could the tide be about to turn for Tennessee band Kings of Leon?  Their fourth record Only By the Night arrives on store shelves this week, and its leadoff single — the captivating, explosively erotic “Sex On Fire” — is a classic radio smash just waiting to happen.  Forgive me, but I smell a real big hit here.

Their massive mainstream breakthrough — last year’s earnest, heartbreakingly melancholy smash “Hey There Delilah” — instantly propelled them to the A-list (even earning them a surprise Grammy nod for Song of the Year), so now the pressure is on Tom Higgenson and the guys from Plain White T’s to deliver a worthy follow-up.  We’ll find out soon enough if they’ve accomplished that goal, with this week’s anticipated release of Big Bad World. 

Timed to the DVD release of summer’s box office hit, here comes a second volume of the Sex and the City soundtrack, and while the tracklist this time around isn’t as immediately striking as
its predecessor (on which India.Arie hit a home run covering Don Henley’s classic “The Heart of the Matter”), it does include material from the likes of Craig David, Amy Winehouse, Allison Moorer, new it-girl Estelle, Mutya (a recent George Michael duet partner), and Elijah Kelley (who was so devastatingly good as a vital part of last year’s extraordinary Hairspray ensemble).  In other words, it’s not all bad.

Originally slated to arrive in April (to coincide with her triumphant Vegas extravaganza The Showgirl Must Go On), a long-shelved best-of collection from the divine Bette Midler finally sees the light of day this week, and it’s not a moment too soon.  Jackpot: The Best Bette is by no means a comprehensive summary of this woman’s legendary career — in a particularly bizarre move, two of her strongest albums (1995’s
Bette of Roses and 1998’s Bathhouse Betty) are completely disregarded (no “To Deserve You”?  No “Lullaby in Blue”?  No “As Dreams Go By”?  What?!) — but considering Midler has damn near four decades of material from which to pick and choose, this 19-track collection (20, if you get the Amazon exclusive version, which contains a bonus song) could be a lot worse.  The usual suspects — “Wind Beneath My Wings,” “From a Distance,” and “The Rose” — are of course all present (and, counting “Wings,” selections from the Beaches soundtrack account for a full fifth of this collection, which seems a tad excessive), as are a number of pleasant surprises, like 1983’s “Beast of Burden” (Midler’s brilliantly reworked live-wire cover of a Stones classic) and 1991’s “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” (one of Midler’s stronger — and infinitely more subtle, natch — dips into the great American songbook).  And while there is a veritable plethora of her tunes that deserved to be included on this collection — read:  I smell a future playlist brewing here, and soonJackpot ultimately stands as a solidly entertaining representation of Midler’s incomparable talent and skill.

Also noteworthy this week:


  • Just in case it touches something deep inside you — and, incidentally, if it does, I’d just as soon not know about it — The Pussycat Dolls return this week with their second record, Doll Domination

  • His bracing 1999 multi-format megasmash “What It’s Like” convinced us all we were witnessing the birth of a dominant new artist who was bound to conquer the whole wide music world. Didn’t quite work out that way for Erik Schrody — better known simply as Everlast — who returns this week after a four-year hiatus with his fifth full-length solo album, Love, War, and the Ghost of Whitey Ford
  • Following up his terrific series of live acoustic records, venerable troubadour Jackson Browne is up with Time the Conqueror, his first original studio set in six years.

  • Rilo Kiley’s lead singer Jenny Lewis is back with her second solo project, Acid Tongue. (Despite my best attempts to convert myself, I’ve consistently failed to understand the appeal of her band, whose music largely succeeds only in giving me a headache. But hey, diff’rent strokes.)


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