the Buzz for September 2011


Jon McLaughlin — “Indiana” (from Indiana) — Indiana - Indiana

Jon McLaughlin — “Dance Your Life Away” (from OK Now) — Dance Your Life Away - OK Now (Bonus Track Version)

Jon McLaughlin (with Xenia Martinez) — “Maybe It’s Over”
(from Forever If Ever) — Maybe It's Over - Forever If Ever

It was my great pleasure to welcome to Brandon’s Buzz Radio earlier this week the fabulous McLaughlin, a fiercely gifted Midwest kid, possessed of some prodigious piano chops, who broke through with his heartfelt 2007 debut, Indiana, and who has just released his lovely third effort, Forever If Ever. (Forever, as of this writing, is primarily a digital release, with the physical version only on sale at Jon’s own website, so no need to waste time doing what I did and searching for this high and low at your local record store.) The fact that much of his material resists easy categorization most logically explains why he’s not currently a bigger star than he is — particularly in these GaGa-fueled days in which pop success quite literally demands lickety-split labeling — but I say the diverse range McLaughlin brilliantly displays across his best work — from the heart-wrenching gorgeousness of his assured, arresting debut, to the giddy glee of his ’80s-inspired pop jam, to the enchanting electricity pulsing through his latest offering, a quasi-duet with Xenia, one of the breakouts from season one of NBC’s Idol knockoff The Voice — is among the things to admire about him as an artist. (Incidentally, if you missed any or all of my conversation with McLaughlin, you can catch the episode in its entirety here, or you can download it as a free podcast from iTunes.)


Wilson Phillips — “California” (from California) — California - California

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Over the long holiday weekend, A took a quick trip out to his beloved California, where he got himself quite a lovely sunburn (seriously, his cheeks, legs, and ab-licious stomach are as red as strawberries!) and a much-needed mental recharge frolicking around in the sand and surf. He requested that I pick a Cali-inspired tune to blast from the hive this fine day, and I told him to get his little fingers to work typing out a guest post in his own astoundingly articulate words. Herewith, the fruits of that labor:]

I just returned from beautiful, sunny Southern California, my three days in San Diego and Los Angeles filled with swimming, biking, hiking, and even outdoor theater. Whether it’s the sun, the sky, the ocean, the mountains, the fresh fruit, the beautiful people, or, well, whatever it is, California — especially Southern California — always imbues me with new energy and optimism. Unfortunately, there is not a single song that embodies that unique feeling, that state of mind, an ode to the Golden Coast, if you will. (No wonder Brandon made me an entire mix CD on the theme a few years ago!) While California is no longer where I lay my head, it remains a home away from home, and Wilson Phillips’ [brilliant cover of Joni Mitchell’s all-time classic] “California” still resonates with me, tickles my heart, and warms my soul.



Christopher Cross — “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)”
(from The Very Best of Christopher Cross) — Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do) - Arthur - The Album (Remastered)

You likely know that I love me some Band of Horses, and I’m generally pro-Death Cab for Cutie (if not so much Arcade Fire), all of which is to say that, on balance, I’m amenable to what is currently considered to be hip and cool. But regular visitors to this website have likely figgered out by now that there’s something about the comfortably compelling strains of ’80s-era easy rock that just hits my sweet spot every single time. (If you’re wondering what’s got me feeling wistful about this: as I type this, I’m watching Time-Life’s frighteningly brilliant infomercial for its new ten-disc Easy ’80s collection — hosted by said decade’s soap icons Jack Wagner and Krista Tesreau, natch — and even though there’s not a tune in this entire box that I don’t already own, best believe I’m thisclose to whipping out my Visa and picking up the damn phone.) (Incidentally, while I’m venting: it really bugs the crying crap out of me when, literally to a man, the hosts of these Time-Life infomercials say something like, “Who could ever put a collection like this together on their own?!” Uh, me, that’s who. I could do it bang-on, just by opening my iTunes and clicking the mouse a coupla times.
Sherry Ann could too, I’d wager!)


Tracy Chapman — “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution”
(from Tracy Chapman) — Talkin' Bout a Revolution - Tracy Chapman

A and I finally dragged our bee-hinds to the movies last night to catch up with One Day, the languid and slightly laborious new romantic drama which, in spite of a superficial and underdeveloped script, is saved wholly by lovely lead performances from Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway (although, between this and last fall’s ridonk Love and Other Drugs, I am officially calling for a moratorium on Hathaway baring her breasts on the big screen, to last at least through the remainder of the decade). The film’s primary conceit is that it traces sixteen years in the lives of its lead characters (best friends Dexter and Emma), dropping in on them on the same day — July 15, for reasons that are made clear at the film’s outset and reinforced in the compelling coda — from 1988 through 2006 and charting their evolutions and varying levels of maturity as the years pass by. Beyond the ever-changing hairstyles and -lengths, the best method the film’s makers employ to convey the passage of time is their brilliant use of music, and the funny (and, at least for me, thrilling) way they chose a song to signify each year: Tears for Fears’ sonic marvel “Sowing the Seeds of Love” stands tall in the 1989 vignette, for example, and Del Amitri’s peppy pop gem “Roll to Me” immediately brings to mind that rough musical summer of 1995. (Even Robbie Williams’ 2000 smash “Angels” gets pulled into the mix, albeit in the form of a horrendously off-key karaoke performance at a wedding reception.) And this folky little ditty — a clarion call to arms that helped to herald the arrival of a forcefully fabulous new artistic talent that summer — is the first tune we hear as the action kicks into gear. A pitch-perfect marriage of the aural and the visual to help tell (and sell) a story, and a stark reminder that, of all the things those who put this film together got so wickedly wrong, there was also at least one thing they got rivetingly right.