mine’s on the 45
--- the Buzz to here ---


this most assuredly counts

posted at 10:44 pm by brandon in mine's on the 45

Straight up, I have utterly no idea in hell how this one got past me for months, since Amazon claims that it was released last November — can that really be true?! — but at least I’m all up to speed now: while doing my record shopping last week, I ran across a double-disc deluxe edition re-release of one of 2009’s most spectacular albums – The Fray‘s crisply compelling self-titled sophomore effort – and, for God and everybody, standing right there in the middle of Best Buy’s pop/rock section, I let out an audible squeal of joy so loudly unmistakable, I can scarcely believe the store staff didn’t have to come resuscitate me with smelling salts.




It’s the first night of a brand new year (and a new decade!), and I lay on the couch (which A lovingly calls “my throne”) watching my beloved watch his “Glee” DVDs and ruminating on the year just ended. Musically speaking, the aughts produced far stronger slates than what was offered up in 2009, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that any of what follows won’t stand proudly alongside any previous year’s diamonds.



They burst off the blocks exactly ten years ago with their instant classic debut smash “Meet Virginia,” and followed that up a pair of years later with an unforgettable, monumentally magnificent — and, natch, Grammy-sweeping — tune called “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” (which you shan’t be stunned to find sitting front and center when the Buzz makes its picks for the best songs of the decade next month).  As the aughts progressed, they seemed to get mired in a mysterious malaise — if you made it all the way through their dopey, depressed 2006 effort For Me, It’s You with your sanity fully intact, you’re absolutely to be commended — but it pleases me no end to announce that my current favorite band Train is back in bidness with an exhilarating, gloriously gratifying new record, the brand new Save Me, San Francisco.



If Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, Loretta Lynn, and Gene Simmons all tossed a bit of their DNA into a petri dish in an attempt to make a baby, you’ve gotta reckon the result wouldn’t end up markedly different from one Miranda Lambert, who has just made a blistering return to the spotlight with her third (and, by far, strongest) album, the spectacularly confident Revolution. Still brimming with that signature attitude that has set her remarkably apart from the pack ever since her brilliant debut four years ago, and yet refusing outright to fall headfirst into the redneck cliches that the music media seems so desperately to keep her boxed into, Lambert — who co-wrote eleven of the record’s fifteen tracks — makes damn sure she gets the laugh, and ends up with one of 2009’s most enjoyable album’s in the process.




One of modern music history’s premier divas has officially launched her long-awaited comeback, as the one and only Whitney Houston returns to center stage this week with her sixth studio album, I Look to You. Last heard from — musically, at least — on 2002’s horrendous, howlingly awful slap job Just Whitney (am I the only one who remembers, for all the wrong reasons, “Whatchulookinat”?), Houston is back — hardly wizened, mind you, but hardly none the worse for wear, either — cautiously (perhaps overly so) dipping her big toe back into the water to see if time and the ever-dynamic world of pop have passed her by.



Gone altogether are the irritating quasi-raps that kept his otherwise terrific 2006 debut Nothing Left to Lose from taking full flight, and in their place, the confident strains of a supremely gifted young artist who has finally found his true musical voice and is smart enough to let it stand on its own, unadorned by flashy, useless gimmicks. The man’s name is Mat Kearney, and if you have yet to discover his spectacular, wholly enjoyable sophomore effort City of Black and White, you’ve missed what might just be the finest album anybody released in the first half of 2009. (I’ll wager my buddy Isaac and his Fray compatriots could very well have something profound to say about that, however, so let’s not get too convicted too early in our beliefs.)

Teased by the flawless first single “Closer to Love” — which comes off as surprisingly glossy pop, given the wrenching unnamed tragedy the lyrics continually allude to — and anchored by “New York to California” — an effectively spare piano-based ballad so hauntingly gorgeous, it’s difficult to contemplate that it was penned by a mere mortal — there’s nary a bad apple to be found among City’s eleven sterling tracks. Kearney even earns bonus moxie points for daring to name one of his album’s songs “Fire and Rain,” considering that a classic James Taylor tune by that name just happens to be widely revered as the zenith of the singer-songwriter explosion of the early ‘70s, the one that troubadours the whole damn world over have been aiming to beat for most of four decades. Kearney has just made himself that club’s newest member, and the utterly fabulous City definitively proves that he has earned his spot outright.


Damn, it’s good to have you back, girlfriend.


After an excruciating detour into a brand of angst-drenched filth that wouldn’t pass muster in a fourteen-year-old wallflower’s tear-stained journal, it pleases me no end to report that the divine Kelly Clarkson — the first and, Carrie notwithstanding, still the best American Idol — is back on top and better than ever with her spectacular fourth album, All I Ever Wanted. A blue million miles from the stem-to-stern maudlin misfire that was 2007’s My December, Wanted is a heady mix of fast fun and simmering slow burns which zips along at such a breakneck pace that you’ll scarcely have time to do anything but hit the repeat all button and dive in all over again.




Wouldn’t it be my luck that I would start writing a marvelous post, only to have the story contained therein change dramatically before I would have a chance to shepherd the composition to Buzz-worthy perfection? Such is the case with
Ms. Joanna Pacitti, who was already well on her way to becoming “American Idol” season eight’s bona-fide front-runner until the producers decided — amid a new swirl of controversy a la last season’s inclusion of the ridonk Carly Smithson (who, under the moniker of Carly Hennessy, released a high-profile Ishtar-level megaflop album at the beginning of this decade, and who was derided heavily last year for competing in what is ostensibly designed to be an “amateur” competition) — to deep-six her for eligibility reasons, as it had come to light that, even though she at this point no longer has a recording contract, Pacitti did have past working relationships with more than one executive at 19 Entertainment, the company which owns and produces “Idol.” It’s a devastating break for her: unlike Smithson last year, who, with her faux-tough-chick sensibility and demeanor, was never gonna go all the way (and whose needless desecration of Bonnie Tyler’s all-time classic “Total Eclipse of the Heart” still rankles my ass, all these months later), adorably fresh-faced Pacitti actually had a decent shot to win this thing.


If Pacitti’s name rings a bell with you, it ought to: three years ago, she released a dynamite debut record called This Crazy Life, which sounded very much like something Avril Lavigne would come up with if only Avril could hit more than one note. (I swear to Jesus I mean that as a compliment!) Life initially received a burst of attention for its fun (and infinitely more tuneful) cover of Dashboard Confessional’s breakthrough smash “Screaming Infidelities,” but there was so much more interesting material to be found on this record: for the life of me, I don’t know why the brilliant “Ultraviolet” wasn’t chosen as the radio single; “Your Obsession” matches pound for pound the haunting creepiness of Sarah McLachlan’s 1994 touchstone “Possession”; and if “Just When You’re Leaving” isn’t one of the saddest faded-love songs you ever heard, kindly ask someone to slap some sense into you until you’ve reversed your foolishness.


Meantime, we get our first real look at “Idol’s” top 36 tonight, and I’ve already been warned by my new pal Michael Brainard (an actor I recently interviewed on Brandon’s Buzz Radio) to keep an eye out for his good friend Jackie Tohn, whose Joplin-esque voice is already causing quite a stir in the “Idol” blogosphere. I already had money down on Pacitti, so my best guess is that the remaining contestants are breathing a heavy sigh o’ relief that she’s been shown the door. Game on, folks.



the road that stretches out ahead

posted at 11:39 pm by brandon in mine's on the 45

A and I walked into Starbucks yesterday in search of nothing more than a post-lunch slice of blueberry coffee cake.  Better believe I walked out of there brandishing significantly more than that.  While standing at the register waiting for the cute barista to serve up our sweets, I picked up and began to peruse the back cover of Hear Music’s latest masterfully assembled compilation, This is Us:  Songs from Where You Live, and damn near fainted from the sheer gorgeous majesty emanating from the disc.


Promising in the description that this record portrays “the wistfulness that lingers when home is far over the horizon” — a tall task, that — you’ll be demolished when you realize just how brilliantly (and with what kind of devastating surgical precision) it goes about accomplishing that exact goal:  Us starts out on a breathtaking high note, with Michael Penn and Aimee Mann’s — very much our generation’s John and Yoko, only criminally less famous — amazing 2002 cover of the Beatles’ “Two of Us” (is it heresy to say that I quite prefer their version to the Fab Four’s nondescript original?  As Sherry Ann will haply attest, I luvs me some Michael Penn, honey), and the tracklist really hits its stride in the disc’s second quarter, with a bam-bam-bam-bam shot of Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova (with the title track from their heart-wrenching, spectacular 2007 motion picture Once, which is already well on its way to becoming the music-centric film of its — and, perhaps, any other — time), Feist & The Constantines (teaming up on a radically downtempo take on the ’80s classic “Islands in the Stream” which, even though it’s not by half as much gloriously trashy fun as Barry Manilow and Reba McEntire’s recent remake, is just plain revelatory for all the emotion it manages to unearth in simply mellowing the groove), my beloved Josh Ritter (helping out Mark Geary on a sensational song called “Ghosts”), and the terrific troubadouress Gillian Welch (the melancholy masterpiece “Orphan Girl”).  I’m telling you, by the time you hit track number ten — She & Him’s astonishing acoustic cover of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold On Me,” about which I’ve already waxed rhapsodic here — if you’re not ready to rush to the phone and tell your mommy how much you love and miss her, you’re a stronger man than I, guaran-damn-teed.  And it doesn’t even stop there:  sterling recent efforts from Shelby Lynne (“I Only Want to Be With You,” a highlight from her too-little-heard 2007 Dusty tribute Just a Little Lovin’), David Gray (“You’re the World to Me,” the radio single, which I initially found to be subpar but which has grown on me exponentially, from his Greatest Hits), and Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris (a track from their stellar collaboration All the Roadrunning which gives this collection its title), all light the way toward the record’s shattering conclusion, wherein that long-lost genius Jennifer Warnes — who has been desperately missed, at least in my house — reteams with her mentor Leonard Cohen for a soul-cleansing reading of his all-time classic “Joan of Arc,” an album climax so thoroughly worthy of the tumescent build-up that precedes it that you want to hit your stereo’s repeat button and let this record engulf you anew with its aural magic.


The musical equivalent of Mom’s mac and cheese, or her chicken soup, or her embrace that you’ve been craving in the six months since you last saw her, Us is a warm, comforting knockout, and a gentle but firm reminder that home is where you find it. Get thee to your nearest Starbucks immediately, and find it for yourself.




It’s the sunny first morning of a brand spankin’ new year. I lie in bed listening to A breathe in perfect peace beside me, and it’s quite clear that 2009 could not have possibly granted us a more terrific start. I wrote what follows — a rapid fire discussion of the most brilliant musical offerings from the year just ended — while sitting on Sherry Ann’s couch the night before last, and was trying my damnedest to get it posted before the clock struck twelve, but circumstances beyond my control (damn that champagne!) prevented me from doing so. So just deal. It’s still riveting stuff, no matter the publication date.


P.S. Happy new year, all. As no fewer than two of my Russian elders proclaimed to me just twelve hours ago (in the cutest broken English ever, no less), may it be filled with health, wealth, happiness, and love.



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.


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.



Considering that her last best of set — 2006’s divine Most Wanted, the “collector’s edition” of which came in the coolest black cardboard box bundled with the first music-related poster since George Michael’s Faith days (Lord Jesus, that stubble! And that cross earring!!) that I’ve seriously pondered Scotch-taping to my wall — only came out two years ago, does it land on the side of overkill? Probably. (Sherry Ann even went so far as to term it “ridiculous” in a recent instant message session, although, given the issues she’s facing with Jason Mraz and his flip insistence on re-releasing the same material over and over and over, she’s scarcely in a position to judge.) Is it a worthwhile investment nonetheless? You betcha.

Featuring two new tracks — and, just for good measure, remixes of those two new tracks — plus a handful of past classics, The Best of Hilary Duff can now be found at your local record store, and with its bargain list price (below ten bucks at Best Buy, kids), it might just be the steal of the season.

In part, you can thank the incredible Ryan Tedder for that. Tedder, the driving force behind OneRepublic (hands down, the year’s best new band, as A is bound to learn when we see them play in Austin this evening), also moonlights as one of the most in-demand songwriters and producers in the pop world today — he’s had his hand in so much of 2008’s brilliant music, from Leona Lewis to Natasha Bedingfield to Josh Hoge to James Morrison, above and beyond what his band itself accomplished, that my upcoming year-end countdown is gonna seem like a shrine to the poor man — and he is the man behind those aforementioned new Duff tunes: “Reach Out,” a sly, dynamite reworking of the 1991 Depeche Mode classic “Personal Jesus” (the lyrics are now not as subversive by half, but on that legendary refrain, the one that goes “reach out / and touch me!” (and don’t even play like you can’t sing it by heart!), Duff matches Martin Gore’s iconic come-hither growl bar for bar, believe it); and “Holiday” (not a cover of Madonna’s 1984 breakthrough, but rather a devastating chronicle of the end of a relationship, delivered by Duff with the shattering ease and grace of a young Streisand).

Not to be overlooked on this album are the classic Duff smashes of yore, like last year’s “With Love” or her 2003 tours de force “Come Clean” and “So Yesterday” (the latter of which, in particular, has aged as flawlessly as one of A’s favored zinfandels), and if the price of access to those sparkling new Tedder tunes is having to sit through these songs one more time, I reckon I can totally live with that.

In other words, keep doin’ your thing, Hilary. The Buzz loves ya, gal.