Album: Welcome to the Fishbowl (Blue Chair)
Why we care: On the bootheels of his 48,000-strong shindig at Raymond James Stadium, the 44-year-old Chesney releases his 13th studio album, which follows the same chummy template: drinking songs, love songs, maudlin life songs. Kenny's the King of Summer because he's reliable and he's easy. So why change now?
Why we like it: Chesney and tourmate Tim McGraw needed a song to sell their show, but the best they could muster was the flat-beer floparoo Feel Like a Rock Star. The far better duet is with KC's other tourmate, Grace Potter, who joins him for a live You and Tequila.
Reminds us of: Come Over is a moody sequel to 2010's great Somewhere With You.
Download this: The Kleenexian father-son heartbreaker While He Still Knows Who I Am
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
Album: The Lion the Beast the Beat (Hollywood)
Why we care: Vermont's Potter isn't sure who she wants to be. She's built like a pinup and is currently strutting around Kenny Chesney's tour wiggling out a cover of ZZ Top's Tush in Daisy Dukes and bare feet. At the same time, she has a powerful bluesy-rock wail and an able backing band with the sound and versatility of Fleetwood Mac.
Why we like it: For all her tuchus taunting, Potter is a serious talent, adept at Hammond B3 organ, guitar, bass, percussion. But she's a bit of a clunky songwriter at this point, her Janis music outshining her Britney lyricism.
Reminds us of: If you're digging the Fleetwood Mac analogy, think Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham circa Mirage.
Download this: Turntable
Album: Out of the Game (Decca)
Why we care: As a gushy fan of both poperatic warbler Wainwright and retro-pop producer Mark Ronson (a.k.a. Amy Winehouse's spark), I had high expectations for this union of disparate, but always intriguing, skills. There are sumptuous moments, but alas, the tandem doesn't achieve the transcendence we were expecting. Not going to lie: a little bummed here.
Why we like it: Ronson usually blends hip-hop beats and '60s style. Wainwright usually whips up grandiose moments. Instead, the result is mellow '70s sap. At least the cheeky title cut has moments of fun, and Rashida is built with the girl-group swing Ronson adores.
Reminds us of: If Todd Rundgren were a bored New York hipster.
Download these: Jericho and Rashida
The Beach Boys
Album: That's Why God Made the Radio (Capitol)
Why we care: There's a wistfulness bordering on serious depression permeating this project celebrating the Beach Boys' 50th anniversary. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but fair warning, surfer girls and boys: On these new original cuts, Brian Wilson is more interested in remembering the past than celebrating a fun, fun, fun future.
Why we like it: The harmonizing is lush and lovely, and the Boys can still summon chills on such bittersweet songs as Think About the Days, Summer's Gone and Pacific Highways. There's some cheese, too, usually provided by Mike Love, whose Daybreak Over the Ocean could be retitled Kokomo 2012.
Reminds us of: Wilson is 70. Wow. Guess there's no such thing as an endless summer.
Download this: Summer's Gone