Album: Amanda Leigh (Storefront)
In stores: Now
Why we care: I was going to ignore the new Mandy Moore album, but my colleague Steph Hayes is a big fan of the minor-league Britney. So I asked her why bother? "She's funny, sweet and doesn't dress like a $3 prostitute. She's gorgeous, but has a real body with arms that aren't the size of Red Vines." Oh, Steph, you had me at "prostitute."
Why we like it: A few years ago, Moore was stuck in Class A Fluffville. But the 25-year-old, whose voice is stronger without polish, dropped the pop and married space-case Ryan Adams. She has since opted for a deceptively jaunty Elton-John-in-the-'70s vibe. The keyboards are glammy, the harmonies soar.
Reminds us of: Mandy and the Jets
Download this: Pocket Philosopher
Album: City of Black & White (Aware/Columbia)
In stores: Now
Why we care: When we last heard Mat Kearney, the Oregonian sounded just like Coldplay's Chris Martin. On his third album, Kearney still sounds like Martin — seriously, it's flippin' creepy. But whereas Coldplay veered off from the easy-to-digest love songs, Kearney remains loyal to matters of the heart that crash and crescendo. We find that overt wussiness darn refreshing.
Why we like it: Kearney might be even wussier than before, which is a compliment (sort of). The 30-year-old used to bust into weird raps, but here he relies mainly on the nasally croon and Kleenexian falsetto. This album is loaded with great prom themes, so learn the name.
Reminds us of: I'd take Kearney over Coldplay.
Download these: Here We Go and Lifeline
Album: Elvis Presley (RCA/Legacy)
In stores: Now
Why we care: Previously in Listen to This, I gushed about my newly acquired vinyl copy of David & David's Boomtown album. This week, I'm gushing about my newly acquired 180-gram vinyl copy of Elvis Presley, the King's 1956 debut for RCA. This iconic history lesson was remastered last year, and there's a gussied-up CD, as well. But the real star for me is the album art: a B&W shot of a euphoric Elvis hitting his guitar and hollerin' almighty.
Why we like it: My kids love this album, a raw, rump-shaking affair courtesy of E and such stalwarts as Scotty Moore and Chet Atkins chicken-scratching on the geetar. The hit is Blue Suede Shoes, but it's all heaven-kissed.
Reminds us of: I love my record player.
Download this: Trying to Get to You
SONG OF THE WEEK
Song: Rise Up
Album: Bible Belt (S-Curve)
In stores: On iTunes; album out Tuesday
Why we care: I'm always on the lookout for good hangover songs. (Not that I have a hangover, but hey, there's always tomorrow.) George Harrison's Cheer Down is classic, U2's The Playboy Mansion, too. A good hangover song is infused with both pity and remorse, end-credit drama and the sunrise dread of what-have-I-done? I got a lot of that going on. I find it curiously comforting. But I digress . . .
Why we like it: The Michigan-born Birch is the daughter of a traveling preacher, and while there's some high-holy in her debut single, there's also bite. She's the spitting image of British ne'er-do-well Lily Allen, but her sound is entirely organic, old-school: a little Norah Jones, a little Natalie Merchant.
Reminds us of: I need to buy more Advil.