Album: Partie Traumatic (Columbia)
In stores: Now
Why we care: Imagine a High School Musical extra fronting the Cure (or at least Human League), and you'll get the idea behind Jacksonville's Black Kids, a hot hyper band in love with postpunk energy and British refinement. This multiracial coed collective is huge overseas, and now the band is looking to charm 'em back here in the Sunshine State.
Why we like it: With synth-jacked choruses ("Love, love, love me already!") and bleeps and bloops straight out of a robot pickup joint, BK's music is loud and strutty and thoroughly Anglo. Singer Reggie Youngblood looks like Corbin Bleu but croons with the upper-crusty edge of ABC's Martin Fry. And yes, it works.
Reminds us of: MTV circa '82
Download this: I Wanna Be Your Limousine
Album: Hey Ma (Decca/Mercury)
In stores: Sept. 16
Why we care: If we're talking the most heart-sleeved emoters in Brit-pop, I'd put James singer Tim Booth up there with Liam Gallagher (Oasis), Fran Healy (Travis) and Chris Martin (Coldplay). James scored with omnisexual smash Laid. But fans adore the Mancunians even more for such from-the-gut cuts as Say Something and Sometimes.
Why we like it: This is the first new James album in seven years, and it's a gushy one. Booth & Co. have no use for subtlety and instead opt for cinematic crescendos and monsoons of guitar. The topics range from giving birth to mourning death, the political and the personal woven into earnest arena rock.
Reminds us of: "Say something, anything . . ."
Download these: Bubbles and Oh My Heart
New Kids on the Block
Album: Greatest Hits (Columbia)
In stores: Aug. 12
Why we care: You might think I have a cool job. The CDs. The concerts. The awesome hair. But there are hazards. For instance, on Nov. 2, I will be at the St. Pete Times Forum reviewing the New Kids on the Block reunion show. And I will be surrounded by a phalanx of screaming 31-year-old women who would gladly stab a music critic to get to Jordan Knight. Like I said: hazards.
Why we like it: I was a dork in 1988 for myriad reasons. But I'm proud to say one of those reasons was not for liking NKOTB, the boy band that sold 70-million albums. This cheese-whipped time capsule will provide hours of nostalgic fun for the aforementioned stabbers.
Reminds us of: My fave New Kid? Cubby.
Download this: I'll Be Loving You (Forever)
SONG OF THE WEEK
Nas feat. Keri Hilson
Album: Nas (Def Jam)
In stores: Now
Why we care: Anti-Hero is more like it. Nasir Jones, who many consider the top MC in rap, made headlines for wanting to name his new album a racial slur. It was a statement, he said. A dialogue starter. As you can imagine, his label loved that idea. So the 34-year-old Queensbridge native begrudgingly went self-titular, saving his "statement" for the music.
Why we like it: "Try telling Bob Dylan, Bruce or Billy Joel they can't sing what's in their soul." On first single Hero, Nas defends his reasoning for the n-word brouhaha. Featuring Keri Hilson on the hook and producer Polow Da Don on the marching-band-in-space beats, the song is as catchy as it is caustic.
Reminds us of: Well what do you know, Billy Joel finally got some street cred!