Unless new material from Kristinia DeBarge and/or that High School Musical moppet Ashley Tisdale float your boat, this week’s new release slate is practically non-existent. No matter: this has been a fairly robust season for great new music, which always increases the odds that worthy material will slip through the cracks of your consciousness. So in lieu of a typical record store report this week, allow the Buzz to help you thresh the wheat from the chaff of summer ’09:


  • How thrilling to see the musical heroes of the moment, those royal revelations Kings of Leon, continue to get everything surrounding their brazen, blatant masterpiece Only By the Night — a mind-blowing album that, the longer I bask in its refined, exquisite excellence, the more firmly I become convinced that, when the dust has settled, an entire generation of fans will hold it in the same high esteem as previous ones have regarded Nevermind and Thriller — so regally right. On the heels of the rock radio triumph “Sex on Fire” and the shattering crossover smash “Use Somebody” — the success of which has quite deservedly driven Night back into the Billboard 200’s top ten — arrives a bold and brilliant choice for third single, a rough, raw, utterly fascinating track called “Notion.” A riveting tangle of jangly guitars and intense wall-of-sound percussion, it doesn’t possess the same irresistible anthemic sheen as “Use” — which probably means pop radio won’t touch it with rubber gloves and a pole — but thanks largely to Caleb Followill’s frazzled and fearless vocal acrobatics, it’s every inch as enjoyable. (Memo to Caleb and co.: if you guys could find it in your brave souls to make the dizzy, distressed “Manhattan” single number four, I swear to Jesus I’ll love you for life, whether or not you’re ever able to top this glorious magnificence.)

  • All I can say is: great call, Sherry Ann.

    The aforementioned “Use Somebody” excepted, my hands-down favorite single of the summer has been “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved,” this country’s enchanting and oddly haunting introduction to rising Irish band The Script, a band whose album I paid attention to solely because of my best friend’s strong suggestion. A good, um, move, that: in “Moved,” lead singer Danny O’Donoghue spins a compelling and wholly gorgeous yarn of a guy so heartsick over his lover’s leavetaking that he vows to camp out at the streetcorner where they first met — “gonna sleep in my sleeping bag / I’m not gonna move” — until she caves in and comes back to him. Sadly, the song ends before we learn whether or not true love is able to carry the day, and that’s likely for the best, as the idea of watching this man send all of his passion toward one simple goal and having it not pan out is just way too painfully wrenching to bear. I know one thing: if but one listen to this tune’s deceptively humble three-word chorus doesn’t immediately grab you by the heart, throw some cold water on your face and, for God’s sakes, listen again.


  • The folks at Mercury Records who handle Sugarland are no doubt gonna think I’ve got a fuck of a lot of nerve for saying this, or for questioning their wisdom, considering that the plan has been a commercial triumph heretofore, having resulted in three consecutive number one smash hits at country radio, but I nonetheless have to ask: why for the love are you guys sending to radio as singles the flattest, most unengaging tracks from the band’s middling third album, Love on the Inside? Of course it’s no secret I wasn’t the biggest fan of that wickedly inconsistent record, but there’s no question that it is loaded with terrific tunes — “Take Me As I Am” and that smashing cover of Matt Nathanson’s “Come On Get Higher,” to name but two — yet Mercury, at every turn, has chosen instead to cast its lot with Love‘s most insipid material, and, for a band who over the past five years has built a reputation of putting its crown jewels on full display, I find it quite disconcerting to turn on the radio these days and hear what sound suspiciously like second-rate leftovers: even from a group whose debut single — 2004’s feather-light piffle “Baby Girl” — wasn’t exactly Dylan-esque, “It Happens” is indefensibly ludicrous; the leaden latest single, “Joey,” is a trite teenage tragedy and not a cover of the early-’90s Concrete Blonde classic which shares its name (if you axe me, the latter would be tons more interesting and dynamic than the former); and then there’s the infinitely irritating leadoff track, “All I Want to Do,” which the label nonsensically pushed ahead of the surging “Life in a Northern Town” cover last summer, basically forcing country radio to abandon the brilliant track that they had turned into a word-of-mouth sensation based solely on unsolicited airplay. I tell you what: goofy crap like this is gonna be the death of me, I swear it.

  • So, it has yet to kick up much of a whirlwind at pop radio as yet, but what has been this summer’s most exhilarating dance track regardless? The Buzz happily casts its vote for “When Love Takes Over,” the effervescent smash collaboration between French DJ David Guetta and former Destiny’s Child knockout Kelly Rowland. A staggering fusion of throbbing house beats and shimmery, lush piano pop, “Love” has exploded into a global smash over the past couple of months, topping the charts in over twenty countries (including Russia, A!) and becoming an instant staple on dancefloors all across this one. La Rowland has been trying for years to break free of her one-time bandmate Beyonce’s prominent shadow, and courtesy of this blast of pure unfettered bliss, she seems to have finally stumbled upon the secret. (Incidentally, Guetta’s full length album, One Love, featuring collaborations with Akon, will.i.am, Ne-Yo, and Estelle, among others, arrives on these shores on August 25.)

  • And then there’s Rob.

    In spite of the fact that I quite like most of its tracks — particularly the tensely dramatic “Fire on the Mountain”, the appropriately exotic lead single “Her Diamonds,” and the driving “Real World ’09” (which, in spite of its title, is not a reworking of the 1998 Matchbox 20 classic) — I must confess that, even five or six listens in, Cradlesong, the long-awaited sophomore solo disc from one of this decade’s most dependable hitmakers, the terrific Rob Thomas, leaves me a bit cold overall, for reasons I still can’t quite put my finger on. His instantly identifiable voice is as strong as the music is emotionally angsty, and that’s a combo that long ago carried this man to well-earned superstardom, but for some reason, Thomas’ trusty formula seems to falter a bit this time around, almost as though he overthought every piece of this sonic puzzle. The end result: whereas his first record, 2005’s incredible …something to be, miraculously leapt from the stereo speakers as a cohesive unit — indeed, a true album, one which often felt massively larger and more vital than the mere sum of its parts — Cradlesong just kinda lays there, waiting for someone to come along and flip the ignition switch.

    Nonetheless, if you’re in search of a sterling Thomas track to help get you through the dog days, and “Diamonds” is a little too out there for you, don’t be afraid to give album track number five a spin. Entitled “Mockingbird,” it very effectively mines some of Thomas’ favorite artistic territory: a relationship in trouble. (How funny to note that he has been happily married for a decade now, considering that pretty much all of his best songs are about lovers on the verge.) Easily Cradlesong‘s MVP, with an easygoing, wieldy beat and a typically assured, full-throated vocal from a never-better Thomas, “Mockingbird” instantly takes its rightful place in Rob’s personal pantheon, and proves that, even when he slips from his pedestal, he’s still capable of true greatness. I defy you not to be singing along by the end of the first chorus.


2 responses to “don’t knock it, don’t knock it,
you’ve been here before
(or: july 28 — a thumbnail sketch)”

  1. the buzz from Bob J:

    See, I think Cradlesong is more cohesive than Rob Thomas’s Something To Be. Although I loved that CD, too, Cradlesong seems to seemlessly flow one song into the other, providing a journey of a kind. Just when I feel a little like I’ve caught my breath along comes a tune that has me tapping my foot and itching to dance (Meltdown), playing air guitar like Pete Townshend (Fire on the Mountain), doing my best rock star Jagger impersonation (Still Ain’t Over You), or pumping my fist in the air to the ballsy horns (Wonderful). Some of the songs are heartbreaking (Mockingbird & Cradlesong) and make me wonder at the pain of lack of children might be having in his life, some are hopeful (Someday), some desperate existential angst (Natural) and the last track (It’s Getting Late) is simply a little gem of a piece that makes me want to hold my wife close.

    Yeah, I’m a fan.

  2. the buzz from brandon:

    I’m a fan too, Bob. A huge one. Thanks so much for your impassioned response!