March 15, 2011

Francesca Battistelli, Hundred More Years

Francesca Battistelli, Hundred More Years Popular Christian singer/songwriter Francesca Battistelli recently followed up her hit album My Paper Heart with the new album Hundred More Years. My Paper Heart scored Battistelli four hit singles, as well as a slew of accolades. That's a tough act to follow, but so far reviews for Hundred More Years have been good; and with lead single "This Is the Stuff" doing well, it looks like Battistelli's on pace to equal her previous album's success. What makes Battistelli so appealing is her ability to blend elements of rock, gospel, contemporary Christian, and R&B into a sound all her own. She has a lot to offer, and fans should have a lot to look forward to from this talented artist for years to come. Maybe not a hundred years, but we hope she'll be making records for a good long time!

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New Music Tuesday: Exclusive Pearl Jam, American Idol, Rise Against, Britney Spears, Travis Barker, Steve Martin

Most new music comes out on Tuesdays, and each week we cull through the mountain of new releases to bring you some of the best from different genres. Click below, or find them in Napster’s New Releases/Featured Music section.

Pearl Jam, Vs./Vitalogy (Deluxe Edition) Pearl Jam, Vs./Vitalogy (Deluxe Edition) (Alternative, Rock): As seen in this week's Best Buy circular, Napster has four exclusive bonus tracks available for streaming as a preview of the combined reissue of Vs. and Vitalogy coming March 29, including new live versions of "Even Flow" and "Daughter."


Various Artists, American Idol 10th Anniversary Various Artists, American Idol: 10th AnniversaryThe Hits, Volume 1 (Pop, Rock, R&B): This compilation of favorites from the most popular Idol competitors includes music from Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken and Fantasia as well as David Cook, Kris Allen, Adam Lambert and Lee DeWyze.


Rise Against, Endgame Rise Against, Endgame (Rock, Alternative): For their latest set, the Chicago punk rockers continue to develop the approach they took with their last album, Appeal to Reason. Topics like world politics and current events take shape over accessible melodies and riffs, resulting in rockers like first single "Help Is on the Way."


Britney Spears, Till the World Ends Britney Spears, "Till the World Ends" (Pop, Electronica): The second single from Spears' upcoming album, Femme Fatale, was co-written by Ke$ha along with hitmakers Dr. Luke and Max Martin and comes hot on the heels of first single "Hold It Against Me." And like that track, it's another energetic dancefloor filler.


Travis Barker, Give the Drummer Some Travis Barker, Give the Drummer Some (Rock, Hip-Hop): The blink-182 drummer recruited some of the biggest names in hip-hop, rock, and dance music for his "solo" debut — everyone from the RZA to Slash to Steve Aoki. The first single alone ("Can a Drummer Get Some") features Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Swizz Beatz & Game.


Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Rare Bird Alert Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Rare Bird Alert (Americana):  For his second banjo album, Martin chose to record with the excellent band he took on the road with him to support The CrowAs a bonus, Sir Paul McCartney and the Dixie Chicks each provide lead vocals on a tune apiece.


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March 14, 2011

Justin Bieber's Never Say Never Breaks Records

Justin Bieber, Never Say Never (The Remixes) Justin Bieber's 3D documentary Never Say Never is now officially the top-grossing concert film and third-top-grossing documentary of all time. With over $70 million in ticket sales — and more in its first weekend than either Michael Jackson's This Is It or the Jonas Brothers' 3D Concert Experience — Bieber's Never Say Never (remix album pictured) has surpassed Miley Cyrus' Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds in Concert to claim the top spot for music/concert film receipts, and without adjusting for inflation, he even beats Prince's Purple Rain. With fans lining up to see this film worldwide, it's clear that, far from abating, Bieber Fever continues to spread. Just ask these teens in Liverpool.

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Jonny Greenwood, Norwegian Wood Soundtrack

Jonny Greenwood, Norwegian Wood Soundtrack Last December, novelist Haruki Murakami's dramatic work about a couple's grieving for a lost friend and their sentimental connection to a folksy Beatles ballad was brought to the big screen as Norwegian Wood, directed by Anh Hung Tran. Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood scored the picture, and the music, released last week, is pure Greenwood in its emotional content, yet it represents a distinct departure from his previous score work. Greenwood's adventurous electronic score for Bodysong (2003) and his mesmerizing breakthrough work for There Will Be Blood (2007) each make use of classical elements here and there, but on Norwegian Wood he goes much further: The score album's first track, "Mou Sukoshi Jibun no Koto, Kichinto Shitaino," sounds like the opening of an epic symphony (hint hint, Jonny), and other pieces throughout take advantage of more conventional orchestral arrangements than he has employed in the past (though tracks like "Naoko ga Shinda" sound anything but conventional). He also puts his love for the guitar on display with simple, somber, retro-gleaming tracks like "Toki no Senrei wo Uketeinai mono wo Yomuna" and "Iiko Dakara Damatette" (both of which sound like they could have been recorded in the mid- to late-'60s). Taken as a whole, this soundtrack is a thoroughly heavy and intense listen, lightened only slightly by a few eerie gems from premiere krautrock band Can. But there's beauty in the heaviness, and there are currently few musicians working today who can pull this off the way Greenwood does.

If you like Greenwood's score to Norwegian Wood, check out these other beautiful-yet-bleak works: Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, The Road (2009); Michael Nyman, Drowning by Numbers (1991); Alexander Balanescu, Il Partigiano Johnny (2000). 

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Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Darlene Love, Tom Waits: Into the R&R Hall of Fame They Go

Alice Cooper Tonight's the night. The 26th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place tonight at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. The rockers being celebrated this time around include Alice Cooper (pictured), Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Darlene Love, and Tom Waits. This year's nonperformers recieiving the Ahmet Ertegun Award will be Elektra Records founder Jack Holzman and Specialty Records (Little Richard, etc.) founder Art Rupe. And this year's recipient of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Award for Musical Excellence (formerly the much less glamorous-sounding "Sidemen Category") is the legendary pianist and singer Leon Russell. But wait, there's more: Cooper will be inducted by Rob Zombie; Diamond by Paul Simon; Dr. John by John Legend; Love by Bette Midler; Waits by Neil Young; Holzman by John Densmore of The Doors; Rupe by New Orleans R&B legend Lloyd Price; and Russell by longtime pal Elton John (their fantastic new album together, The Union, just came out last October, btw).

That's a lot of star power, for sure. But what about those who have yet to get in? It's a long list, but some of the more surprising names include Kiss, Deep Purple, Cheap Trick, The Cars, Rush, Iron Maiden, T. Rex, Peter Gabriel... and the list goes on. Interestingly, with regard to Kiss, Gene Simmons recently had this to say: "There will be one more time that [the original lineup] will play together. Sometime in the future, we'll be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There will be one more time when we do it together, to honor the beginning." Any Kiss fans on the induction committee? Anybody?

Anyway, back to the ceremony: While your chances of getting into the Waldorf tonight are pretty slim, if you're in the Cleveland area you might still be able to score a ticket to the simulcast at the R&RHOF museum, which will kick off at 8:30 PM. The ceremony, including performances, will be broadcast on Fuse on March 20 at 9:00 PM Eastern Time.

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March 11, 2011

Tiësto & Hardwell, “Zero 76”

Tiesto and Hardwell, Zero 76 The much anticipated collaboration between Dutch dancefloor masters Tiësto and Hardwell is finally here in the form of new track "Zero 76." While they both hail from the city of Breda in the Netherlands, they each represent a different generation of the electro house scene; maybe that's why dance music fans are finding their pairing so exciting. The track, whose title references the area code of their birth city, is already a frontrunner for song of the year among both critics and the general dance popluation. The younger Hardwell recently showed his own excitement at having the veteran Tiësto (recently named "Greatest DJ of All Time" by Mixmag) serve as his mentor, saying, "Being born and raised in Breda, Tiësto's hometown, I always felt a certain pride when others mentioned his name." By the sound of "Zero 76," it looks like good things are in the works.

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Kim Kardashian, “Jam (Turn It Up)”

Kim Kardashian, "Jam (Turn It Up)" It’s a fact that many actors have been able to be successful in both movies and music. Jennifer Lopez, Brandy, Jamie Foxx, Miley Cyrus, and Janet Jackson are just a few who have been able to dominate the Pop charts while keeping solid acting careers going. Even Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton were able to find some success in the music business. But not every actor turned singer is so lucky. While Tyra Banks has been a big brand in modeling, TV, and movies, she didn’t find the same success in her attempt to become a pop music star; her entry into music was short-lived after the less-than-stellar response to her debut single, "Shake Ya Body" (click here to refresh your memory). And now, reality star Kim Kardashian is dipping her toe in the pop-star pool with the release of her new single, "Jam (Turn It Up)." The reviews have been mixed, but then she insists her music is only meant to raise money for charity. Anyway, if her pop foray fizzles, she won't be alone: Others who've been there and done that with less than chart ruling results include Wayne Brady, Tony Danza, Joey Lawrence, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Nicole Kidman (to name a few). Do you think these or any other actors going into music should stick to their day jobs?

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Sierra Hull, Daybreak

Sierra Hull, Daybreak A splendid blend of contemporary songwriting and traditional bluegrass instrumentation, Sierra Hull's second album, Daybreak, is a tremendous accomplishment, sounding simultaneously current and traditional. Hull wrote seven of the 12 tracks and is, at a very young age, an extremely skilled writer, singer, and instrumentalist. Hull's mandolin playing is stunning. Her tone and precision are simply unbelievable considering that she's just 19 years old. And her vocals are as gorgeous and clear as any bluegrass singer today. Like Sarah Jarosz, Hull plays effortlessly with contemporary themes and structure while maintaining an aura of vintage-style authority and power. This is an impressive album and ups the ante over her already great debut album.

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March 10, 2011

Raekwon, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang

Raekwon, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang Raekwon is back again with a new album, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang. Presented in a continuous mix (mixtape style), the raucous title track sets things off, appropriately starting with kung fu movie dialogue. Featured on the album are Wu-Tang regulars like Method Man on the excellent "Every Soldier in the Hood" and Inspectah Deck, who teams up with UK diva Estelle on "Chop Chop Ninja." To no one's surprise, Ghostface Killah appears on a number of tracks, effectively re-creating the chemistry witnessed on the classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, as well as their other memorable collaborations. Other featured guests include an overdue collaboration with Nas on "Rich and Black" and a surprisingly tame Busta Rhymes on "Crane Style." Jim Jones ("Rock N Roll"), Lloyd Banks ("Last Trip to Scotland") and The Bawse Rick Ross ("Molasses") all also contribute hot verses over RZA-less production. Enlisting a cadre of capable producers including Scram Jones, Mathematics, The Alchemist, and Evidence, Raekwon once again displays his poetic skills without missing a step.

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Bernard Allison, Live at the Jazzhaus

Bernard Allison, Live at the Jazzhaus Recorded in concert in Freiberg, Germany, Live at the Jazzhaus supplies Bernard Allison with the most appropriate forum for his smoldering blues, R&B and rock explorations. Playing with an excellent backing band, Allison unleashes impressive live renditions of tracks from his solo records (particularly from The Otherside) and even a few of his dad's songs. Allison's incredible guitar skills are on full display, and the live setting only serves to add fuel to an already incendiary situation. This is a perfectly sweaty blues-rock extravaganza, and Allison's fans are going to love it.

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