Hot times, summer in the city. The kids are out of school and the music industry hopes some new releases will catch their curiosity and pocket money.
THAT LAMBERT SINGLE: iTunes is your place today to score the (semi) "new" single from "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert called "Want" (B-). It's from a soon-coming album called "On With the Show," a project made before his run to glory, and music he's now kinda disavowing.
The releasing label, Hi-Fi Records (home to "A.I." runner-up Melinda Doolittle, Smashmouth, Todd Rundgren, Dionne Warwick and Donnie and Marie Osmond), says Lambert was integrally involved in the project, co-writing eight tracks. But a statement from the singer intimates he was there basically as a hired gun, a needy performer lured in to make some preliminary demos and hear how he'd sound in a professional studio.
Oh, and some of the material on this "new" album dates back to 2005. Whatever.
His performance on "Want" proves the point that he could sing the phone book. It's a cloying, dull-witted variation on a John Lennon all-you-need-is-love piano ballad, but the guy sells the hell out of it. Lambert's officially sanctioned debut for 19 Records is expected out sometime in the fall.
JONAS BROTHERS: While likewise primed for the "youngsters," as Ed Sullivan used to call them, the new Jonas Brothers album "Lines, Vines and Trying Times" (Hollywood, B) might actually win over some listeners who wouldn't think once about tuning in the Disney Channel. Gawsh, Mickey, the lead track, "World War III," is actually set in a bedroom where all hell's breaking loose (with help from the Earth Wind & Fire horn section) between composer/singer Nick Jonas and an unseen/unheard friend.
Other happy surprises that could broaden the Jonas' target "demo" include their catchy, fiddle-fired (by Stewart Duncan) country-rocker "What Did I Do to Your Heart," a plushly harmonized (with a tip of the hat to the Bee Gees) "Much Better," and their hip-hop-flavored "Don't Charge Me for the Crime," which Common helped out on. (Fear not, parents, the bros are innocent of all charges!)
Nick Jonas' power ballad duet with Miley Cyrus on "Before the Storm" has "crowd pleaser" stamped all over it. And I was happily taken by a frisky rocker about a toxic chick "Poison Ivy" that compares kindly to that prior song of the same name.
YEARNING YORN: Yearning to be free, yet at the same time romantically connected? Pete Yorn just might be that secret voice that's singing in your heart, articulating your innermost emotions on "Back and Fourth" (Columbia, A-).
Perfectly timed for the season are beach-set visions like "Paradise Cove," where the narrator "got what I wanted and it's never enough," and his echoey memory sketch of "Last Summer" where, of course, "we can't go back again." But the one that really killed me was "Social Development Dance," his homage to a girl who slipped away, figuratively and literally.
Guided by Omaha producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley) and that most versatile label exec Rick Rubin, with a first-rate band including backing vocalist Orenda Fink (Azure Ray), the package slots comfortably with the most storied, romantic folkpop of Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel, plus other currents like Damien Rice and Counting Crows' Adam Duritz. Think rough around the edges vocals floating above equally light, dancing guitar lines.
DREAM GIRLS: What's my idea of an ideal summer date? Kendel Carson on "Alright Dynamite" (Train Wreck, B+). This pouty pretty is a little bit country, a little bit rock-and-roll. And sexy as all get out, voyeuristically prancing around in "Ooh That Dress" or getting a guy to buy her "Cowboy Boots," picking off "Ten Lost Men" or boldly proclaiming, "I Don't Wanna Be Your Mother."
Carson is the latest prodigy of producer/composer Chip "Wild Thing" Taylor.
Also pouring on the heat is Astrid Williamson's latest, "Here Come the Vikings" (One Little Indian, B). Singing in breathy tones against carefully textured arrangements at turns punchy/danceable and cabaret popish, this Shetland, England, lass comes off like a cross of Tori Amos, Enya and that other Astrid - Gilberto. Exotic, intelligent and accessible.
MARLEY FOR YOUNG 'UNS: The children's music market is so big even Bob Marley has felt compelled to jump in this summer with "B Is For Bob" (Tuff Gong, B). What's that you say? Bob's not around anymore? No problem, mon.
Son Ziggy is on board as executive producer for this project, which tweak-tweaks the most universal of Marley "common sense" anthems, work couched so that even "the baby will understand too, you know," the artist once explained.
In some instances, Bob's performances have been made more bedtime friendly and refreshing by stripping away parts of the original Wailers arrangements ("Three Little Birds" and "Stir It Up"), adding lively hand percussion ("Jamming") or introducing a children's chorus ("Bend Down Low").
Yet in other cases - "Lively Up Yourself" and "Could You Be Loved" - the producers just left well enough alone. Everyting irie. *