Au Revoir Simone, "The Bird of Music"
Witty, urbane pop from this all-female Brooklyn three-piece that get it done on a battery of swirling synthesizers and a perpetually percolating drum machine. As easy on the ears as they are on the eyes, Au Revoir Simone (named after the famous line in "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure") have piled their debut full-length high with dreamy analog melodies and melancholy sentiments as though they're auditioning to be the house band in a stage rendition of Sofia Coppola's "Virgin Suicides." It's too bad Hello Kitty doesn't do TV commercials.
The Horrors, "Strange House"
Skinny British goth boys sporting forests of jet-black hair like a brood of Robert Smith's bastard love children, The Horrors churn out a dark-lit dirge of psychedelic garage-punk that's all attitude and shock tactics. Notorious for confrontational live shows that find singer Faris Badwan assaulting audiences with anything that's not nailed down (including his own body), their anticipated debut finds common ground between the Ramones, the Cramps and a young Nick Cave on speed.
Also ready to drop:
Rufus Wainwright, "Release the Stars" Canadian-American pop troubadour with a flair for the dramatic returns with album No. 5.
Doloris O'Riordan, "Are You Listening" An apt question, as the diminutive singer of '90s alternative sensations the Cranberries returns on the solo tip.
Wilco, "Sky Blue Sky" Jeff Tweedy and his rotating cast of Americana compatriots don't veer too far from their Dixie-soul heartland roots.
Linkin Park, "Minutes to Midnight" SoCal emo rap-rockers make the move toward maturation with Rick Rubin (the producer of Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Stadium Arcadium") at the helm.
The National, "Boxer"
Elegant and ambitious indie rock from the borough of Brooklyn, the early word on "Boxer" is that it's ornate and sprawling sound will do for the National what "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" did for Wilco and transform them into the next American supergroup. The first single, "Fake Empire," is a brooding, hypnotic blend of rolling pianos and singer Matt Berninger's haunting baritone croon. "Boxer" is already being considered as one of the year's finest long-players.
Maroon 5, "It Won't Be Soon Before Long"
Now that hipsters have made peace with their love for Justin Timberlake's meticulously constructed future pop, it's Maroon 5's turn to leave their guilty-pleasure status behind and win over the haters with their own brand of infectious blue-eyed soul. JT will definitely want his falsetto back after hearing Adam Levine trill through the insanely catchy "Makes Me Wonder" over a bumping disco beat. It's futile to resist; all the cute girls will be dancing to this one all summer long. So dance already!
Also ready to drop:
Three 6 Mafia, "Last 2 Walk" "Hustle & Flow's" Academy Awardwinning gangster-rap duo from Memphis make the ghetto safe for the rest of us.
The Used, "Lies For the Liars" Dirty emo fire-starters look to reclaim their crown from the new kids on the Hot Topic T-shirt wall.
The Bravery, "The Sun and the Moon" Critically derided new wave revivalists again face the firing squad with more of their Duran Duraninspired emoting.
Tim Armstrong, "Poet's Life" Rancid frontman braves it alone with a collection of snarling ska-punk anthems.
Ozzy Osbourne, "Black Rain" America's beloved soft and cuddly Prince of Darkness actually gets political on his first collection of new tunes in five years.
R. Kelly, "Double Up"
Chicago's controversial R&B mastermind/loverman hooks up with a cavalcade of hip-hop's latest crop of stars for this "Best of Both Worlds"styled collection of mostly club jams interspersed with his trademark mid-tempo ballads. Kels passes the mic to the likes of Young Jeezy, Snoop Dogg, T.I. and Pharrell. He's sure to keep the proceedings extra sexy, so keep it away from impressionable youngsters who should still be listening to Chris Brown and Ne-Yo.
Satellite Party, "Ultra Payloaded"
Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrell teams up with Nuno Bettencourt from…Extreme? It'll take more than words to decipher this tripped-out new polyglot that features appearances by a disparate mob including Fergie, Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante and New Order's Peter Hook, whose inimitable bass style lifts single "Wish Upon a Dog Star" to unexpected heights. Farrell hasn't sounded this impassioned in years, so watch out. He's sneaky that way.
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