The holiday shopping season leaps toward full swing this week, which means the big guns are starting to roll out onto the battlefield. Take a look:


I somehow missed this when it was released a month ago in conjunction with the full-series DVD set, so imagine my surprise to go CD shopping yesterday afternoon and happen across a copy of The Best of Ally McBeal: The Songs of
Vonda Shepard
, a solidly assembled compendium of musical highlights from the five-season run of Fox’s iconic dramedy (plus a previously unreleased track, “Something About You”). Included here: Shepard’s riveting duets with Indigo Girl Emily Saliers (“Baby Don’t You Break My Heart Slow”) and Robert Downey, Jr. (“Chances Are”), as well as those old chestnuts “Maryland” and “The Wildest Times of the World” and “Hooked on a Feeling,” and, of course, Ally‘s rip-roarin’ theme song “Searchin’ My Soul,” which still makes you wanna get up and shake your ass some twelve years later. The Buzz still loves ya, gal.

They only have one radio hit of note — their 2006 monster smash “Chasing Cars” — but they have long been a cult favorite among those in the know (like that crazy heifer Sherry Ann, just for starters), and now those Scottish heroes
Snow Patrol have earned a two-disc, thirty-track best-of collection, Up to Now. Of course “Cars” is included — twice, in fact (the second appearance is a live recording) — as well as favorites like “Run” and “Crack the Shutters” (most seriously, one of this year’s finest singles), and a cover of Beyonce’s early-aughts classic “Crazy in Love” that is, well, apeshit.

And speaking of apeshit, we come to the
Britney Spears section of this week’s record store report: her mental health problems have been well-documented over the past few years, but in her decade as the world’s reigning singing starlet, she has managed to stick the landing on a number of pop classics, and they all turn up on The Singles Collection, from 1998’s blistering breakthrough “…Baby One More Time” right up through last year’s brilliant “Womanizer.”

If you disregard — and please do — the abominable The Shade of Poison Trees
(an unbearable fans-only one-off acoustic set from 2007), their last album, 2006’s amazing Dusk and Summer, was a career high-water mark for Chris Carrabba and those emo icons Dashboard Confessional, and they are now charged with following it up. Enter this week’s Alter the Ending, the deluxe edition of which contains a bonus disc featuring acoustic versions of the album’s twelve tracks. Haven’t heard it yet, but Ending was co-produced by Fountains of Wayne’s pop virtuoso
Adam Schlesinger, and that can only be good news.

I’m almost certainly in the minority on this, but I thought 2007’s spectacular Lost Highway was the strongest album of Bon Jovi‘s storied career, and that its gorgeous leadoff track “(You Want to) Make a Memory” is their best-ever single. (Please, don’t all you “Livin’ on a Prayer” fans flog me for saying that.) Highway was supposedly a swerve into country territory — though you couldn’t prove that by me — for Jon and Richie and the boys, and they have apparently returned to their rock roots on their latest album The Circle, which comes bundled with When We Were Beautiful, a new documentary chronicling the band’s most recent tour.

And then there’s the queen: she has dabbled in holiday-related music here and there in the past — the shattering cover of “Little Drummer Boy” which closes the Australian edition of Under the Pink, and the haunting version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” which beautifully anchors the German single for “Spark” — but believe it or not, my beloved Tori Amos has never released an full album of seasonal music. That changes now, with this week’s arrival of Midwinter Graces, a collection of Tori’s favorite traditional carols (with a handful of hotly-anticipated Noel-inspired originals sprinkled in for good measure). Just so you know, A: while we’re trimming the tree this year, this will be the occasion’s soundtrack.

Also noteworthy this week:


  • My old buddies Switchfoot move to Atlantic Records for their latest effort, Hello Hurricane.

  • Songs from their first three albums make up Live at Royal Albert Hall, the first concert recording from The Killers.

  • New tracks from Filter and Adam Lambert highlight the
    original motion picture soundtrack for 2012.

  • Live at the O2, a concert film from those regal Kings of Leon.

  • Don’t know how I missed this last week, but don’t fail to pick up
    Suckin’ It for the Holidays, the second comedy album from
    the one and only Kathy Griffin.

  • Sherry Ann’s hero is up with another live effort,
    Jason Mraz‘s Beautiful Mess: Live On Earth.

  • Yep, they changed all the music, which affects your enjoyment of the series tremendously. (Don’t even get me started on how they replaced David Gray’s “This Year’s Love” with some anonymous piece of off-key trash during the fourth season scene where Pacey and Joey read The Little Mermaid to each other on Pacey’s boat!) Still, something is better than nothing I suppose, and if you’ve never seen the show, perhaps you won’t mind the severely altered aural experience that you’ll find on the new 24-disc DVD collection Dawson’s Creek: The Complete Series.


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