Album: A Little Bit Longer (Hollywood)
In stores: Now
Why we care: The Jonas Brothers are officially better than Maroon 5. Better than Matchbox Twenty, too. You can snark all you want about this era's New Kids on the Block. You can even question whether the Mouse Housers write their own songs. But the results are as obvious as those Tiger Beat 'dos: Joe, Nick and Kevin are catchy, glammy f-u-n.
Why we like it: The pride of Wyckoff, N.J., the JoBros excel in likable eighth-grade power pop, the subject matter never more pressing than "She's such a flirt / And I am the lonely heart." The guitars jangle, the boys coo and the choruses come quick, a prefab song structure for fans with the attention spans of fruit flies.
Reminds us of: Hanson with better eyebrows
Download these: Shelf and One Man Show
Album: Forth (On Your Own)
In stores: Now
Why we care: After 1997's Urban Hymns (the platinum album with the hit Bitter Sweet Symphony), the Verve closed up shop, ego and infighting the likely causes. But sensing that there was something more to prove — or at least eager to kick Coldplay's keister — the reunited Brit-poppers have released Forth, a captivating return to form.
Why we like it: Mercurial frontman Richard Ashcroft sounds even snottier than he did way back then, substituting a romantic croon with more bite. But the music remains a lush swirl of epic whooshes, guitar theatrics and cautious hope. First single Love Is Noise thrives on an electro-hiccup hook reminiscent of INXS.
Reminds us of: Coldplay with better eyebrows
Download these: Love Is Noise and Rather Be
Album: Sleepless Nights (Saguaro Road)
In stores: Sept. 9
Why we care: A Patty Loveless album is a lot like the first cocktail after a breakup, a bittersweet salve but a salve nonetheless. This album of "traditional country soul" standards is a perfect vehicle for the 51-year-old Kentucky gal. She's an old-school entertainer who plays to both the wallflowers and the do-si-doers.
Why we like it: Loveless' voice remains a rich, complex dream, cutting and soaring with all the oomph of a long kiss . . . or a hard slap. She puts deep hurt into He Thinks I Still Care, as a fine honky-tonk band backs her up. Loveless sells this collection as "a history lesson," but she puts an original stamp on days gone by.
Reminds us of: My breakup salve? Tang.
Download this: He Thinks I Still Care
SONG OF THE WEEK
Song: What's Victoria's Secret?
Album: Venus in Overdrive (New Door)
In stores: Now
Why we care: For all of you people who heartlessly mock American Idol — shame! shame! — let it be known that teen-dream stars keep their fans forever and ever. New Kids on the Block, Donny Osmond, and especially Rick Springfield, a.k.a. Dr. Noah Drake, who can still get 'em all het up 25 years after his heyday.
Why we like it: Blame it on his hunky looks, but the 59-year-old Aussie has never received much credit for his musical chops. But on the new album, and the new single, Rick's power-pop skills are in catchy shape, although he could go easier on the production smarm.
Reminds us of: All together now: "Jessie is a friend / Yeah, I know he's been a good friend of mine / But lately something's changed . . ."
Song grade: C+