tuesdays in the record store with brandon
--- the Buzz to here ---



Work got absolutely nutty at the beginning of March, so the record store reports temporarily had to fall by the wayside. And now it’s freakin’ May, and A has begun to axe me if we’re ever gonna get another one. But better late than never, yes? Herewith, a quick recap of the brilliance which has populated the new release wall over the past couple of months:


  • Her comeback single “A Little Bit Stronger” is a slow-burning smash this spring at country radio, and now country sweetheart Sara Evans returns with her latest full-length effort Stronger, which also contains a cover of Rod Stewart’s 1989 gem “My Heart Can’t Tell You No.”

  • The amazing Augustana are back with a strong new self-titled
    release, the tantalizingly fine lead single from which popped up in
    Honey from the Hive earlier this week.
  • (more…)



A full eight weeks in (!), 2011’s new music slate finally gets cleared for takeoff, courtesy of the white-hot sophomore effort from a staggeringly talented young woman whose bracing debut three years ago won her the Grammy Award for Best New Artist and the immediate respect of her shell-shocked peers. Without further ado:


But first, a new wave of compilation discs under the Icon umbrella arrives this week, and the most prominent among the latest batch of titles comes from rock queen Melissa Etheridge, whose eleven-track collection isn’t nearly as comprehensive as her 2005 greatest hits set, but which is nonetheless remarkably up-to-date, as it includes her fabulous 2010 smash “Fearless Love” holding court alongside such expected classics as “Come to My Window” and “I’m the Only One.” In other words, Icon stands as a perfectly serviceable Etheridge primer. (Other new entries in the Icon series include Buddy Holly, The Four Tops, Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh, Salt-n-Pepa, Tony! Toni! Tone!, Billy Ray Cyrus, Aaron Neville,
Kool and the Gang, .38 Special, The Mavericks, and the legendary Loretta Lynn.)




Call it the post-Valentine’s hangover: there’s no great lot happening this week at your local record store, as a handful of well-regarded midlisters step forward with their latest efforts. Leap in, kids:


  • Pioneering indie rock queen PJ Harvey is back with her
    tenth studio album, Let England Shake.

  • After a couple of side projects as a solo artist, Conor Oberst is back
    in charge of folk faves Bright Eyes and back with their latest record,
    The People’s Key.

  • Pop-punk players The Drive-By Truckers lace up their Go-Go Boots.

  • Previously released material from Colbie Caillat, MoZella, and
    Sherry Ann’s new fave Matthew Perryman Jones punctuates the
    original television soundtrack for ABC Family’s latest smash series
    Pretty Little Liars.

  • I can’t even fathom who thought this was a good idea: presumably to mark her recent tragic passing, the terrific Teena Marie‘s career earns its own entry in the fabulous new Icon series. But who decided it would be appropriate to leave off her best song (and, by far, biggest hit), “Lovergirl”?

  • The magnificent Margo Timmins and her captivating Cowboy Junkies return with Demons, the second volume in their unfurling Nomad series.

  • He may have struck out with all of his Grammy bids, but don’t cry for teenybopper Justin Bieber: his 3D concert film Never Say Never raked in some $30 million at the box office, and the quasi-soundtrack EP — which features cameos from Miley Cyrus, Jaden Smith, Kanye West, and Rascal Flatts — looks like a lock to debut at the top of next week’s album chart.

  • The fourth season — and final one featuring the peerless
    Michael J. Fox as a series regular — of one of A’s favorite sitcoms,
    Spin City, arrives on DVD.

  • Finally, if you haven’t yet caught up with Arcade Fire‘s The Suburbs — this year’s utterly mystifying Grammy victor for Album of the Year — your local Target store is selling it this week for the nice price of $8.99.



As per usual, January ended markedly stronger than it began musically, and February kicks off with a much-anticipated deluxe edition rerelease of one of the most fabulous, most pivotal albums of the ’80s ever. Dig in:


While I most certainly should have been working, I spent the lion’s share of the day last Saturday geeking out on the fourth season of my old favorite guilty pleasure California Dreams, NBC’s early-’90s smash Saturday morning sitcom whose episodes the marvelous folks at Shout! Factory have been slowing doling out on DVD. Season four’s fifteen episodes are newly available via the Factory’s superb Shout! Select program, which brings less commercial titles such as this to DVD in bare-bones presentations to give the die hard fans access without having to fight the eternally tough battle for shelf space at traditional retail.
(Other offerings in the Select line include seasons of My Two Dads, Simon and Simon, and Rhoda.) And you can best believe this season of Dreams contains more ravishing work from the beyond beautiful Aaron Jackson — on whom I continue to be man enough to cop to harboring a ginormous crush — who, in one of my favorite episodes, “We’ll Always Have Aspen,” runs into a former flame and must navigate anew the treacherous travails of teenage love. (Laugh if you will, but I watched this episode, like,
five times this week! God bless you, Mr. Jackson!)




There’s a bit more action at the record store this week than there has been in the last couple, but this Tuesday’s biggest release comes to us from the film world, where the bona fide frontrunner for this year’s Best Picture Oscar makes landfall on DVD. Dig in:


Nomination ballots for this year’s Academy Awards race are due at week’s end, and you can bet your bippy that a good many of them will be marked with across-the-board votes for
The Social Network, David Fincher’s dazzling dramatization of the controversial origins of the global phenom now known as Facebook. Working with a typically terrific (and vividly verbose, natch) script from the masterful, magnificent Aaron Sorkin — whose efforts here are damn near certain to land him the golden statuette he has long deserved — Fincher assembles a crackerjack cast to bring this story to life, including the staggering Jesse Eisenberg (who so flawlessly and fabulously crawls into the skin of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that it’s quite easy to take for granted what a taut tightrope he is walking in portraying a character who is not always easy to like) and the amazing Andrew Garfield (as Zuckerberg’s college pal and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, who finds himself frozen out of the company after Mark is seduced by the bells and whistles of Silicon Valley), and coaxes from all this post-adolescent agita a riveting yarn about youth, deception, and what it truly means to be a friend in today’s isolated world. (Incidentally, the great character actor David Selby — best known for his starring roles in Dark Shadows and Falcon Crest — appears in Network as an attorney who engages in several blisteringly brilliant scenes of verbal jousting with Eisenberg, and we discussed his role in this film when he
popped into Brandon’s Buzz Radio last October.)




I have been chasing my new boxer puppy Kelly around my house for four straight days now, watching her get used to her new digs and trying — mostly in vain, unfortunately — to prevent her from peeing on every flat surface in sight. Hence, I am so far behind in Buzz posts this week that I fear I’ll never get caught up. (Regardless, I’ll try!) Luckily, this week’s record store report is a spectacularly easy one:


  • Easy because there are no major new wide releases of note this first week of 2011; indeed, the only arrival of consequence is the third wave of this superbly efficient Icon series of best-of compilations which began rolling out back in September. The latest lucky recipients of retrospective discs in this series include:

    • Vanessa Carlton (who has spent the past decade chasing the ghost of her spry debut smash “A Thousand Miles”)
    • Brian McKnight (ditto, regarding his solo star turn with
      1999’s “Back At One”)
    • Imogen Heap (whose set includes her brilliant 1998 debut singles “Come Here Boy” and “Candlelight,” as well as some work she did as lead vocalist for the electropop band Frou Frou)
    • Lee Ann Womack (whose disc blessedly includes “Mendocino County Line” — her exquisite duet with Willie Nelson — but, sadly, not her terrific cover of Don Williams’ “Lord I Hope This Day is Good” — which really ought to show up in Honey from the Hive, stat — nor her unjustly overlooked latest single, “Solitary Thinkin'”)
    • that legendary, late southern sage Jerry Clower (“The Chauffeur and the Professor” failed to make the cut here, but just try not to laugh listening to “You’re On My List”)
    • El DeBarge (most of whose disc is turned over to the wonderful work he created in the mid-to-late-’80s with the family band that bore his surname)
    • Cher (whose set is half ’60s-era classics like “Half Breed” and “Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves,” and half second-act triumphs like “I Found Someone” and “If I Could Turn Back Time,” but you won’t even “Believe” what’s not present and accounted for here)
    • and, finally, Sheryl Crow, whose entry in this rollout comes in a just-the-facts-ma’am single disc or in a more robust two-disc set.



With Jesse McCartney’s new album getting pushed back to January at the last minute, there is very little of note happening on the new release wall at your local record store in the closing weeks of 2010. To wit:


  • Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx dives back into the hip-hop world
    with his latest album, Best Night of My Life.

  • If I told you I’m crazy about “Pretty Girl Rock” — the lead single
    from Keri Hilson‘s brand new sophomore effort No Boys Allowed
    would you think me crazy?

  • Heads up, A: This week, Target premieres an exclusive EP from the Glee cast entitled Love Songs, a collection of six tracks from the series, including “The Boy is Mine” and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”

  • A physical CD is due in stores in mid-February, so until then, iTunes
    has an exclusive release window on All You Need is Now, the thirteenth studio album from Duran Duran. Billed as the sequel that their 1982 global breakthrough smash Rio never managed to get, Now is produced by red-hot Mark Ronson.

  • Speaking of iTunes exclusives: don’t miss “It Happened Today,” the tantalizing first taste of R.E.M.‘s upcoming album Collapse Into Now (due in March); and also check out Live – Fall 2010, a five-track EP of concert performances from Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs.



The canny scheduling of the year’s most anticipated pop novelty punctuates this week’s (rather muted) action on the new release wall. Take a gander:


What Sony must be praying will make a suitable last-minute stocking stuffer arrives this week with the controversial release of Michael, a collection of ten newly-completed recordings culled from the supposedly deep vaults of the dearly departed King of Pop, Michael Jackson. There is a considerable amount of heat swirling around this record, with more than a few whispers that it’s not actually Michael’s voice on these tracks. And call me naive, but I choose to believe that the current curators of his estate wouldn’t dare risk tarnishing Jackson’s magnificent musical legacy by taking that kind of greedy risk. (Nor do I believe top-flight folks like 50 Cent, Akon, and Lenny Kravitz — all of whom make guest appearances here — would play along with such a ruse.) Having said that, Mike was notoriously prolific and always laying down something on tape; there are said to be hundreds of unreleased Jackson recordings laying around waiting to see the light of day, so you can bet Michael won’t be the last such posthumous release.




The post-Thanksgiving hangover has faded, and it’s pretty much all downhill from here, with only a handful of major releases left on the calendar before the clock strikes twelve and all the rest of this fall’s new records jockeying for berths in Christmas stockings the world over. Take a peek:


  • Those infernal, insufferable Black Eyed Peas are back on the block with The Beginning, which includes their heinous reinvention of Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ Oscar-winning theme song from Dirty Dancing. (It’s bad enough that them flipin’ Glee kids had to go and fuck with this inviolable classic from my childhood, but listening to Fergie try this one on for size literally makes me want to puncture my poor eardrums with a chewed-up Bic pen cap.)
  • Speaking of those chirpin’ churren from McKinley High’s New Directions: Glee: The Music, Volume 4, the latest collection of covers from Fox’s smash television series, contains a handful of highlights from this season’s first half, including the cast’s exhilarating take on Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and newcomer Darren Criss’ sweetly affecting remake of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.”

  • Her terrific 2008 album Rockferry was a Grammy-winning sensation
    that had us all begging for mercy; this week, my favorite Welsh goddess this side of Bonnie Tyler — the divine Duffy — follows up her debut with a sophomore effort, Endlessly.

  • Led by their current radio smash “Rhythm of Love,” those pesky
    Plain White T’s return with their latest record, Wonders of the Younger

  • She’s been playing it cool in the four years since her explosive breakthrough with 2007’s The Reminder, but Feist is back this week with the new CD/DVD combo Look At What the Light Did Now, which documents the making of Reminder and contains live performances captured on the world tour she mounted to support the record.

  • Anybody out there remember El DeBarge? The terrific work he turned in with the family band that bore his surname landed them a string of huge hits in the mid-to-late ’80s, and he returns to the spotlight with a new solo effort, Second Chance.

  • As was tipped off in yesterday’s dispatch from the hive, the fabulous Natasha Bedingfield is back this week with her third album, Strip Me.

  • Country icon Tim McGraw neatly ties up nearly two decades of consistent success with a new two-disc retrospective entitled, simply, Number One Hits.
  • Up-and-coming singer/songwriter Diane Birch returns this week with a new digital EP, The Velveteen Age, which includes a funky cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ brilliant breakthrough “Kiss Them for Me.”
  • If you missed its very limited theatrical run this past summer, don’t fail to catch up with the new documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty
    a stirring (and surprisingly gripping) chronicle of the return to prominence of Disney’s animation division, which had become an embarrassing afterthought in the years since Walt had passed on, and which, thanks to a series of key personnel moves and creative risktaking, enjoyed a staggering renaissance beginning with the arrival of 1989’s Oscar-winning instant classic The Little Mermaid — on DVD.
  • Finally, head on down to your local Barnes and Noble this week and pick up their exclusive DVD edition of Davd Gray‘s recent appearance on PBS’ magnificent music series Live from the Artists’ Den. (And since you’re there anyway, go ahead and pick up similar exclusive Den DVDs from Patty Griffin and the ferocious Tori Amos; I dare you to tell me you wouldn’t love to spend the rest of the year bisecting the corners of that equilateral triangle!)



Life has been a bit crazy the past couple of weeks, but the record store report is back in action, and wouldn’t you know it’s just in time for the quarter’s three busiest frames. Holiday shopping season is in full swing, kids, and the music business is playing along mightily. Dig in:



Recent smashes from almost all of A’s favorite gals — Katy Perry (“Teenage Dream”), Sara Bareilles (“King of Anything”), Sugarland (“Stuck Like Glue”), and Ke$ha (“Take It Off”) — not to mention midlist hits from Maroon 5, OneRepublic, and Paramore, punctuate the track list for the new compilation Now That’s What I Call Music! 36. Also noteworthy from the Now folks: following up their pulse-pounding pair of discs celebrating the best of the ’80s, they have now turned their gaze to another decade with a strong new collection, Now That’s What I Call the 1990s, a masterful mix of grungy garage rock standards (Blind Melon’s “No Rain,” Collective Soul’s “Shine”), fair Lilith-era lovelies (Joan Osborne’s “One of Us,” Lisa Loeb’s “Stay (I Missed You),” Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch”), and the passionate prom-night epics of the day (Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be,” Shawn Mullins’ “Lullaby”). Of course I have a few quibbles with the song selection here — let it suffice to say that “Missing” and “Mr. Jones” and “You Oughta Know” and “Hold My Hand” and “I Don’t Want to Wait” must land front-and-center spots on the inevitable Volume 2, no excuses — but if you ever doubted that the ’90s brought us every bit as much terrific tuneage as the decade it succeeded,
this record stands as a stark testimony to the fallacy of that argument.




As the industry recovers from a Swift-sized hangover, November opens with a bit of a whimper this week. Enjoy this respite of sorts; the action picks up again next week:


One of last year’s strongest efforts receives its inevitable upgrade this week, as Train‘s terrific fifth album — the sterling Save Me, San Francisco — returns to the new release wall with its so-called Golden Gate Edition. The new deluxe update features a pair of previously available tracks (“The Finish Line,” which premiered as a one-off digital single in conjunction with the Winter Olympic games, and “Half Moon Bay,” which came as an exclusive bonus track with the original digital release of SM, SF last fall), as well as a new holiday offering (“Shake Up Christmas,” soon to be the centerpiece of a massive new yuletide-inspired Coca-Cola campaign), a bizarro uptempo remix of the album’s sweet closing track “Marry Me,” an alternate mix of the record’s best track (the propulsive “Parachute”), and a hilarious cover of Rihanna’s classic smash “Umbrella,” on which the friskily fearless Pat Monahan proves he has one hell of a sense of humor to accompany his pristine pipes.




This week, it’s Taylor Swift’s universe, and we all just live in it. ‘Nuff said:


Even though the set’s uptempo lead single “Mine” is neither half as interesting nor entertaining as “Love Story,” the cross-format smash which introduced her previous album, Speak Now, the third album the absolute hottest thing going right now in music — that sly, seemingly ubiquitous songstress Taylor Swift — is on track to shatter Shania Twain’s eight-year-old mark for the biggest sales week ever posted by a female country artist. Twain managed to move some 875,000 copies of her most recent studio effort Up! in its debut week in the fall of 2002; based on sales figures from the first couple of days, industry insiders are whispering loudly that Speak could well have been snatched up a staggering one million times by close of business on Sunday. (For a bit of perspective, this week’s number one record — Sugarland’s fascinating The Incredible Machine — sold just over 200,000 copies in its opening frame; Toby Keith and Lil Wayne also topped the chart this month, with first-week sales of 70,000 and 120,000, respectively.) There’s no doubting that Swift writes spectacularly strong, eminently relatable tunes (even though her ability to effectively sing them remains in serious question), and for an industry mired in tumult and searching desperately to regain its mojo, a week such as this serves as a powerful reminder that buyers can still be lured to their local record store in droves when given good reason. And for that, regardless of whatever faults her music may or may not wear proudly, Swift should be applauded. (If you’re looking for even more Swift, pick up your copy of Speak Now at Target, whose exclusive deluxe version of the album contains six bonus tracks, including the pop radio mix of “Mine.”)




A pair of bands who, even though they could not be more distinctly different, are responsible for some of the most compelling and most magnificent music of the past decade face off against each other this week, and though I generally end up with egg on my face whenever I make such bold proclamations, is it entirely impossible to believe that the album of the year waits patiently behind door number…?


‘Tis that time of year once again, as that annual tradition known as the Christmas album rears its ugly head anew. And while you await the imminent arrival of Annie Lennox’s yuletide offering (which must be considered this season’s marquee holiday release, and whose first single is just up at iTunes), you could do a hell of a lot worse than to tide yourself over with Christmas in Harmony, the very first seasonal release from the wondrous Wilson Phillips, who this year — believe it or not! — mark their twentieth year as recording artists. Harmony brilliantly reunites these ladies with producer Glen Ballard (who shepherded their sensational self-titled 1990 debut record to glory), who tosses a handful of holiday-related originals into the mix alongside Christmas classics like “Silent Night” and “Little Drummer Boy.” (Also stepping forward with Christmas albums as we chug toward November: those incredible
Indigo Girls, the sassy Shelby Lynne, and — in a pair of Target exclusives — Sheryl Crow (turning in a slightly revised version of her 2008 holiday record Home for Christmas, which itself was a Hallmark exclusive)
and Lady Antebellum (closing out their preposterously perfect year with
A Merry Little Christmas, a six-track EP of holiday favorites).