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Sean Daly's CD picks: Zac Brown Band, Fireman, Hilary Duff, Michael Franti & Spearhead

Zac Brown Band

Album: The Foundation (Home Grown)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Atlanta's Zac Brown Band (aka Kid Rock's favorite new act) mixes the high times of Jack Johnson's mellow strum with the escapist fare of country's Kenny Chesney. It's beer, bongs and dreaming of a fatter paycheck. It should be cloying, or at least forgettable, but there's a rich sincerity to Brown's voice and his band's picking.

Why we like it: ZBB just scored a No. 1 with the Dixie-wistful Chicken Fried: "You know I like my chicken fried / Cold beer on a Friday night / A pair of jeans that fit just right." But the quintet shines when it strives for more than just daydream fantasies. The bluegrassy Mary blends a fiddle frenzy with lush, cozy harmonies.

Reminds us of: I like husky singers. Eat up!

Download these: Mary and Highway 20 Ride

Grade: B+

The Fireman

Album: Electric Arguments (MPL)

In stores: Now

Why we care: If I told you this is an album of buzzing, chittering noise experiments, would you keep reading? What if I told you the Fireman is really the duo of Paul McCartney and electronica madman Youth? And that it sounds like Wings meets Radiohead? Yeah, I thought so. Keep reading.

Why we like it: The really weird thing is that McCartney hasn't sounded so inventive and free and bizarro in years. Yes, there are plenty of head-scratchers; a la Admiral Halsey, Macca croons in a variety of odd voices. But there are also moments of pure joy, especially Sing the Changes, which sounds like a band on the run.

Reminds us of: The Beatles' Michelle as played by a swarm of electric eels.

Download this: Sing the Changes

Grade: A

Hilary Duff

Album: The Best of Hilary Duff (Hollywood)

In stores: Now

Why we care: For a few weeks now, the Bambi-wide eyes of Hilary Duff have been staring at me from the cover of her new hits album. I've tried to bury the disc under Funyun bags and hate mail, but the former Mouse Houser — who set the stage for Hannah Montana mania — keeps resurfacing. Hmm, maybe I'm feeling guilty . . .

Why we like it: Duff's 2003 hit So Yesterday is the best Disney single of the past decade. Unfortunately, it's also the only good thing on this disc. But let's give Hil credit while we can: Her Lizzie McGuire show taught Disney how to market stars in this disposable century. Now her time is done. She's 21.

Reminds us of: Enjoy every moment, Miley . . .

Download this: So Yesterday

Grade: C-

SONG OF THE WEEK

Michael Franti & Spearhead

Song: Say Hey (I Love You)

Album: All Rebel Rockers (Anti)

In stores: Now

Why we care: In a curious coincidence last week, my pals Lane (from Tampa Bay) and Marissa (from Kankakee, Ill.) both recommended this song. I'd never heard it before, but it's been stuck in my head since. The multiculti Franti & Spearhead have been world-beat cult faves for years, but this likable dancehall stomp, recorded in Jamaica, should be huge.

Why we like it: "Seems like everywhere I go / The more I see, the less I know / But I know one thing / That I love you." Over a hopping midtempo riddim, Franti toasts love in a world gone mad. It's hard not to fall for the wholesome party vibe of this one. Now go get funky.

Reminds us of: Damian Marley's sublime All Night, which should be on everyone's iPod.

Grade: A

Sean Daly's CD picks: Zac Brown Band, Fireman, Hilary Duff, Michael Franti & Spearhead 12/13/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 5:13pm]

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