The Sisterhood of the Traveling PantsThe soundtrack to the new film The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants opens with a stirring new piano ballad from Chantal Kreviazuk, co-written with Five for Fighting's John Ondrasik. A remix of Five For Fighting's single "If God Made You" also appears on the soundtrack, which features mainly female singer-songwriters, ranging from the pop of the Faders, Rachael Yamagata, Katy Perry and Natasha Bedingfield to the rootsy twang of Shannon Curfman and Brandi Carlile.

The latest batch of hits collections from the Sony Legacy label comes from Screaming Trees, Barry Manilow, Poi Dog Pondering and Loggins & Messina.

Ocean of Confusion: Songs of Screaming Trees 1990-1996 collects 19 tracks from the Seattle band that made its name in the thick of the early '90s "grunge" music movement. Included are "Who Lies in Darkness," "Alice Said, "Ocean of Confusion" and more.

The Essential Barry Manilow includes two CDs, filled with the crooner's most popular work, "Mandy," "Could It Be Magic," "I Write the Songs," "This One's for You," "Copacabana," and "Looks Like We Made It," as well as his cover of "Memory" and his jazzy collaboration with Kid Creole, "Hey Mambo." There are 34 tracks in all.

Poi Dog PonderingThe Best of Poi Dog Pondering (The Austin Years) features 14 tracks from the bohemian folk-rock band's most popular period, 1988-1991. Included are two unreleased versions of old songs, as well as fan favorites "Everybody's Trying," "Jack Ass Ginger" and their Irish folk-style cover of New Order's "Love Vigilantes."

The Best: Loggins & Messina Sittin' in Again collects 18 of the duo's songs from the '70s, including "Your Mama Don't Dance," "House at Pooh Corner" and "A Love Song." The collection precedes a summer tour from Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina their first in nearly 20 years.

 

Butch WalkerButch Walker
Letters
(Epic)


Butch Walker was in town this week to play a show at the Metro, and he will be touring this summer with Avril Lavigne, so he may be back again. Walker broke into the pop music world with Marvelous 3 in 1999, thanks to their hit single "Freak of the Week."

After crafting another solid CD of power pop that, unfortunately, didn't manage the same radio action, the 3 disbanded, and Walker released a solo disc that also went nowhere fast.

Over the past couple of years, he's turned his sights to producing, and his work with the Donnas, Lavigne, Bowling for Soup, Simple Plan and American Hi-Fi has turned out plenty of punky, poppy, radio-friendly rock gems (including Lavigne's hit "My Happy Ending," which Walker co-wrote).

Now he's back with his own name on the CD spine for a second solo album, and the result is uneven he's scattered a handful of tepid, throwaway ballads in between some unbeatable, high-octane, fiercely harmonized pop-rock.

On the plus side, Letters offers some of Walker's best songs yet. The tracks with big anthem harmonies such as "Maybe It's Just Me," (which should be a summer radio smash), the Cheap Trick-would-be-proud pounding drums of "Lights Out," or "#1 Summer Jam," which takes a nod at Nick Lowe's classic "Cruel to Be Kind," will have you cranking up the volume knob and headbanging along.

The disc's first single, "Mixtape" (which also appears on the "One Tree Hill" soundtrack), doesn't quite rock as hard, but does spotlight Walker's radio-perfect vocal harmonies to great effect as he sings about a lover who "gave me the best mixtape I had."

For fans of Walker's rock attack, the mellow, easy listening fare that lives alongside those powerful rock tracks unfortunately does not pack the same "catchy" impact. "So at Last," "Promise" and the country-shuffle of "Race Cars and Goth Rock" meander on and make the fast-forward finger itchy.

And "Joan," while a beautifully quiet piano portrait with a hint of Ben Folds in its execution, seems a little out of place in the midst of a power-pop CD. If anything, it should have closed the album, rather than brought things to a tempo-halt right in the middle of the disc.

Like his work with Marvelous 3, Walker's material often sounds like it was rescued from the heyday of late '70s/early '80s AM radio power pop when bands such as the Kings, Off Broadway, Cheap Trick and Nick Lowe took frequent stabs at the charts.

Simple but memorable melodies, chiming guitars and wall-of-sound harmony lines make many of his songs instant sing-alongs. When he turns his amp up and writes rock tracks, he's amazing. When he gets contemplative well this listener, anyway, gets sleepy.