the Buzz for December 2008


Just so you know, this is how you celebrate the spirit of the season: the marvelous Kristine Weitz — better known to her legion of fans (the vast majority of whom happen to be gay, natch) as Kristine W, the Streisand of the thumpa-thumpa set — has just released Hey Mr. Christmas, her very first set of holiday-inspired music, and it’s so fabulously tacky — the record’s front cover depicts the wondrously becleavaged Mizz W thrusting her glorious chest westward as though she’s perched atop the mast of a luxury liner and pointing the ship toward safe harbor, and the back cover finds her held in the sway of a gorgeously sculpted bicep — and irresistible, you really gotta hear it to believe it.

Featuring — I swear I’m not making this up! — hilariously bold techno-centric covers of “Mary Did You Know, “O Holy Night,” and the underrated Dolly Parton chestnut “Hard Candy Christmas” (originally from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas), which, though it ultimately has scant little to do with the season itself — much like its spiritual cousin, Joni Mitchell’s “River” — has become the token heartbreaker on a number of Christmas-themed musical projects, Mr. Christmas also includes a pair of new holiday tracks, as well as a moving acoustic reading of one of W’s biggest club hits, “The Wonder of It All,” the new version of which contains virtuosic piano accompaniment from the incredible Jim Brickman. Trust me here if nowhere else: as brilliantly trashy guilty pleasures go, this one’s an instant classic — W’s off-the-freakin’-wall take on “Hard Candy” alone, which is so bizarrely enjoyable you’ll be tapping your feet by the time the first verse has passed, is worth the price of admission — the kind from which you can derive serene pleasure not just in the twilight of December, but all year long.


fa la la la la

posted at 6:05 pm by brandon in and many more, from channel four

Merry Christmas, y’all.


“I’m Jewish, but I celebrate Christmas, and I’m going to do that ’til the Jewish people can decide on a way to spell Hanukkah.”

— comedienne Rita Rudner, discussing her holiday proclivities on HBO’s “One Night Stand”



The last of 2008’s high profile releases arrive this week, and while it almost certainly won’t be enough to rescue the year from its commercial (if not quality) doldrums, it’s comforting to note that at least artists are still trying.


Released at the height of that nauseating emo movement that swept through the first half of this decade, their self-titled 2003 debut produced the radio hit “Swing, Swing” and seemed like the biggest flash in the pan this side of Marcy Playground. Thankfully, their brilliant 2005 sophomore effort changed all that: led by a trio of stickily melodic megasmashes (most notably the magnificent pop-driven title track) and uniformly terrific vocal work from lead singer Tyson Ritter, Move Along made them instant players in a crowded field. This week, The All-American Rejects return with their third album, When the World Comes Down. The lead single “Gives You Hell” fairly admirably splits the difference between the two distinct halves of their musical personality, and while these guys — much like Kings of Leon, who made an essentially identical choice and came up holding nothin’ but aces with their breakneck masterpiece Only By the Night — are taking no end of flak from their critics for pushing their sound in a more commercial direction, I say when the music sounds this good, get the hell over it already.



The next time you see A, pull him into a warm, proud embrace and congratulate him, for, by experiencing a crucial rite of passage, he finally became a Texan last Friday night.

He hit a deer with his car.

(Fear not, neither car nor driver are any the worse for wear; judging, however, from what A scrubbed off the bumper of his poor Toyota Corolla Saturday morning, the dumbass doe — which was quite literally sitting in the median (!) in Cedar Park — can make no such claims.)


Sincere kudos (and thanks, natch) to the good folks at TV Land, who have seen fit to return that terrific television classic “Designing Women” (my hands-down vote for funniest situation comedy evah) to its daily lineup (albeit at the ungodly hour of 2am Texas time, to which I can only offer: thank you, Jesus, for the DVR) following an inexplicable and unjustified hiatus. Even though I’ve seen every episode no less than once (and, indeed, have a great many of them committed to memory, such is the level of my supreme madness!) and have almost all of them on tape, I still get all warm and tingly inside when I can flip on live TV and see what fresh hijinks the Sugarbaker gang are involved in.

Having said that, whomever at the network has been placed in charge of recutting these episodes (so as to be able to squeeze in two (!) extra commercial breaks, you see) ought to have his (or her) eyelashes ripped off his (or her) skull one follicle at a time. The original syndication run from years ago produced some outrageous episode edits, but nothing as atrocious as what I’m witnessing on this latest TV Land stint. (Again, it probably helps nothing that I have entire episodes of the series permanently lodged in the Venus flytrap that is my batshit mind.) Thankfully, the climactic (and best, and funniest) scene from my all-time favorite “Women” outing — “Miss Trial,” the one where Julia (as played by the marvelously dry Dixie Carter) got arrested for ditching jury duty — remained largely intact during last week’s airing, but many of the scenes leading up to same were thoroughly and unconscionably butchered. As he was sitting right next to me throughout the viewing, I’m pretty sure A heard my heart break as I pondered all the quips and punchlines that were sacrificed so that TV Land could sell me a can of Manwich and a roll of Tums four times in the span of one half hour. I’ll certainly take what I can get and be grateful for it — something is better than nothing, at least in this instance — but forgive me for believing that a network which has dedicated itself to collecting and preserving the very best material television has to offer should do a better job than this when the time comes to put its money where its mouth is.


The date to circle in giant red ink on your calendar: February 3, 2009, which is when the massively gifted Isaac Slade and his terrific band The Fray follow up their multiplatinum breakthrough How to Save a Life (which, two years ago, produced an astonishing trifecta of monster radio smashes, most notably its strikingly somber title track, a tune that surveys a man’s failure to prevent a friend’s suicide) with a hotly-anticipated self-titled sophomore album.


The new record is teased by a gripping, richly cinematic lead single
“You Found Me”  The Fray - You Found Me - Single - You Found Me (which you’ve no doubt heard promoting the forthcoming fifth season of “Lost,” due to premiere next month), on which Slade slips completely inside the story of a young man who stumbles upon God on an everyday street corner — smoking His last cigarette, natch — and violently abrades Him for taking away the love of his life. (If the tune’s thrust seems hopelessly dopey in synopsis, you just gotta trust me when I tell you: it’s a wrenching yet soaring masterpiece in practice.) Slade is a marvel to behold as he stretches his miraculous voice across “Found’s” devastatingly taut lyric and — insofar as he never quite travels where you expect him to inside the song’s core — allows the piano-centric melody to constantly surprise you by veering off in surprising detours and falling into unpredictable rhythms. A tough listen, to be sure, but an unspeakably rewarding one, “You Found Me” is a harrowing highwire act, and a thoroughly riveting aural triumph.




A major computer malfunction has kept the Buzz inactive for the past few days, but we’re back and better than ever, just in time for this week’s record store report. It’s another slow one out there, kids, but there are some gems hidden in the rough.


Continuing in their ongoing quest to sucker us into purchasing the exact same material — these guys have as many live albums as they do studio ones! — as often as they possibly can, those crafty fools of Maroon 5 unleash their latest project Call and Response this week. A collection of remixes, Response features radically reworked versions of the band’s massive radio hits and well-loved album tracks, and while Sherry Ann will testify that I’m all for a tasteful remix, I’m just not quite sure the world needs to be able to dance to “She Will Be Loved” (as masterfully heart-wrenching a ballad as has been recorded this decade) or “Better That We Break” or “Goodnight Goodnight.” (Does that make me crazy?) We’ll see.




The latest contenders for the highest honor the music industry bestows — the Grammy award — are being announced tonight in a special concert (which, as I type this, finds Celine Dion mercilessly butchering Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen”), and I, your humble servant, am here with instant analysis of the big news.


  • BEST NEW ARTIST: What an unmitigated disaster this lineup is! I can get with Duffy (whose debut record, the enchanting Rockferry, I loved), and I can even get with Adele (whose breakthrough hit “Chasing Pavements” is causing quite the radio ruckus this fall), but where the hell are the names of Leona Lewis and OneRepublic on this list? I’d even have taken those annoying starlets Katy Perry and Sara Bareilles over the likes of Lady Antebellum, Jazmine Sullivan (who?!), and The Jonas Brothers (!!). Gag me, folks!
  • ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Not that I necessarily agree with these selections (although it’s a fair bet that at least two of them will appear in my forthcoming year-end top ten, and that’s two more than the Grammys and I usually share in common), but this is an atypically progressive gathering of nominees for this usually staid category, agreed? You can almost bet on Robert Plant and Alison Krauss‘ brilliant collaboration Raising Sand winning the trophy come February — Krauss is the Academy darling, after all; the woman could hack up a hairball on record and get the gold — but don’t count out Coldplay‘s surprisingly spry Viva La Vida. Also nominated: Lil Wayne, Ne-Yo, and Radiohead.
  • RECORD OF THE YEAR: Leona Lewis finally gets some love, as her fabulous smash “Bleeding Love” grabs a much-deserved nod here. She’ll have tough competition from Coldplay (“Viva La Vida,” the band’s very first number one single), who have previously won in this category (in 2004, for “Clocks”), Plant & Krauss (the moving “Please Read the Letter”), M.I.A. (the left-field summer smash “Paper Planes”), and Adele (whose nomination for “Chasing Pavements” pretty much anoints her the front-runner in the Best New Artist category over presumed favorite Duffy). My money’s still on the divine Lewis, though.

More thoughts once I have parsed and fully processed the complete list of nominations….




A ridiculously easy week to kick off the year’s final month, as the phalanx of November releases continue jockeying for position on the march toward Christmas morning and only one major release dares to leap into that pack. Careful, though: that one major release is a biggie, boys and girls.


Hot on the heels of March’s Pretty. Odd., the sturdy follow-up to the platinum smash debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, emo sensations Panic at the Disco offer up their first live album, the CD/DVD set Live in Chicago. The hits — namely “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” and “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage” — are here, as well as music videos and a documentary chronicling their latest tour, from which this recording originates.