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New This Week

After writing over a hundred of these blogs, I thought it was time for a change!

And what better way to make that change than to write it on a brand new computer? Better yet, how about writing it in a completely remodeled office--one which, in California's exotic San Fernando Valley, is now fully air-conditioned and the very picture of writerly comfort?

That's right! After two years of writing this much-acclaimed blog--with sweat rolling down my back, smoke getting in my eyes, and impatience rearing its ugly head every time I'd see an album credit featuring, Kanye West or Timbaland--I can now kick back, cool my bare feet on this wonderful new tile floor, and let my critical acumen fly!

And as a special bonus? I finally bought a CD player!


 Demi Lovato: Here We Go Again (Hollywood)  Even Demi thinks it's great she's back! Despite the stylish cover photo, the pretty young starlet probably doesn't want to keep this new album a secret! Working with exciting songwriters like John Mayer, Jon McLaughlin, and Anne Preven--writer of "Torn" and member of the much-missed Ednaswap--Demi has returned with a vengeance, putting to rest rumors of collaborations with her sisters Semi and Hemi and taking the next big step upward in a career certain to reach the top of the charts! With the help of ace producer John Fields and the inspiration of a Bruce Springsteen concert DVD behind her, Demi is ready to take on the world, filled with confidence and fully ready to rock! "Now I don't beat myself up when I hit a wrong chord on my guitar," she confides! Imagine the next album!

Here We Go Again - Demi Lovato

Jordin Sparks: Battlefield (Jive)  In the wise words of one of Jordin's musical predecessors, love is a battlefield! So if this album is called Battlefield, that's just another name for love! And if you're like me, you're sure to love this great new album, the second from the American Idol star--is it just me, or don't all of today's best new stars come from the Disney Channel or American Idol?--and certain not to be her last! Getting musical assistance from Dr. Luke and T-Pain on "Watch You Go," Jordin's new album is power-packed, soul-wrenching and spiritually uplifting all at once and definitely the best album she's released in months! Unlike my cynical counterparts who contend that closing her album with two tracks respectively entitled "Faith" and "The Cure" is Jordin's "secret message" that at heart she is a Goth Girl who grew up listening to the Sisters Of Mercy and Bauhaus, I chalk it up to pure coincidence! You go, girl!

Watch You Go (Main Version) - Jordin Sparks

Brooke Hogan: The Redemption (Sobe Entertainment) They say good things come in threes, but that's just because Ashley Tisdale's album isn't out yet! The attractive Hogan, who's spent years cultivating her singing talents, returns here with a surefire winner highlighted first and foremost by the wonderful cover art, which--shall I call a spade a spade?--is simply hypnotic in its beauty and splendor! But what the heck is she looking at? Coming to us via that other great conduit of prime musical talent--a VH1 reality show, in this case called Brooke Knows Best!--the budding young singer shows an unexpectedly sensitive side on such tearjerkers as "Strip," "Handcuffed" and "Ruff Me Up," but finally brings it all home via the sublimely Joni Mitchell-esque "Hey Yo!" Canadian singer Mitchell, incidentally, is also a blonde!

Hey Yo! Featuring Colby O'donis - Brooke Hogan

Helen Reddy: Rarities From The Capitol Vaults (Collector's Choice)  While we're talking about pioneering female singers, let's not forget this unexpected delight from one of the '70s true superstars--the artist whose dazzling "I Am Woman" can be heard here again in an unreleased "alternate" version! Admittedly, hearing the Australian-born singer "trying out" lyrical variations such as "I was woman," "I  am...whoo!!," and "Are we not women?" may be a little jarring, but additional tracks such as "Don't Mess With A Woman" and an extended 12-inch version of "Take What You Find" knock the musical ball right out of the park! An influential figure who's played a role in the careers of Courtney Love, Aimee Mann, knockout French singer Alizée and the Gossip's Beth Ditto, Reddy reportedly starred in Pete's Dragon and Airport 1975!

I Am Woman - Helen Reddy

Sugar Ray: Music For Cougars (Pulse/Universal)  It would be the height of snarkiness to dismiss this, the first Sugar Ray album in six years, purely on the basis of a joke about its title--especially following four separate reviews about new albums by female artists! Additionally, singer Mark McGrath, a bright and humorous man who most recently has been seen on the celebrity news show Extra, shows absolutely no signs of being influenced by John Mellencamp, so there's no joke there, either! All I know is, when I played this thing, my cat Sally jumped around the house hissing, started batting imaginary insects with her paws, and then ran into the bathroom and started lapping water from the toilet! No one ever said Mark McGrath didn't know his audience!

She's Got The (Woo-Hoo) - Sugar Ray

Ian Hunter: Man Overboard (New West)  It struck me that the first time I ever heard Ian Hunter sing--way back on that very first Mott The Hoople album--he sounded quite a bit like Bob Dylan, and today he still does! But 40 years later--know what I mean? He's aged gracefully, still has a great ear for a melodic turn, writes meaningful lyrics--"Arms And Legs" here embraces the age thing--and sounds surprisingly refreshing throughout all of this very good album! Hopefully he'll get his own reality show soon!

Arms And Legs - Ian Hunter

Wye Oak: The Knot (Merge)  I was a big fan of this duo's fabulous first album, If Children, but the Baltimore duo--multi-instrumentalists Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack--have laid off the shoegazey guitar feedback this time out and gone more refined and female! They used to sound like one of those 4AD bands like Pale Saints, or like Slowdive or Adorable; now they're more like Sandy Denny backed by the Larry & the Arthritic Sustain Pedals! It's groovy! This may even beat out Brooke Hogan! Buy it today!

Milk And Honey - Wye Oak

Jay & The Americans: The Complete United Artists Singles (Collector's Choice)  This label has already put together fantastic singles compilations by Jan & Dean and Gary Lewis & the Playboys--artists who were largely appreciated mostly for their singles rather than their album projects--and they've done it yet again with this 3-CD set by '60s hitmakers Jay & the Americans, famous for "Only In America," "She Cried," "Cara Mia," "Come A Little Bit Closer" and the complete mid-'70s career of Bruce Springsteen! Packed with plenty of rare mono mixes, melodramatic sub-Italian warbling and a completely staggering cover of Traffic's "Shanghai Noodle Factory," Snickers really satisfies!

She Cried - Jay & The Americans

Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs: Under The Covers Vol. 2 (Shout! Factory)  Long a favorite of the Yahoo! Music gang--check out this performance from three years ago and you'll see what I mean--Matthew Sweet and Bangle Susanna Hoffs are renowned for their impeccable taste! You'll notice that and more with this second version of cover songs, this time drawn from the '70s and featuring songs by the Raspberries, Big Star, Rod Stewart, Todd Rundgren, Mott The Hoople and even Yes--whose famous guitarist Steve Howe shows up just for kicks! Between him, Lindsey Buckingham and Dhani Harrison, it's a retro-fest sure to either make your eyes moist or bore you to death! The '70s was like that!

Sugar Magnolia - Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs

Portugal. The Man: The Satanic Satanist (Eagle Vision)  Boldly featuring an actual period in the middle of their name, this band now proudly presents the finest album of all time based purely on its title!

People Say - Portugal. The Man

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