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November 2010

November 30, 2010

Tim McGraw, Number One Hits

Tim McGraw, Number One Hits 'Tis the season for greatest-hits compilations, and Tim McGraw's new collection, Number One Hits, is excellent. It's the second such set that we've taken a look at in the last week or so (Alan Jackson's 34 Number Ones was awesome also). McGraw has had quite a few excellent compilations, but this one, of course, is the most up-to-date. It also provides the best overview of his career, and even at 24 tracks never lags, even for an instant. For McGraw's fans and for all who appreciate modern country sounds, Number One Hits is a fine album.

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30 Seconds to Mars video controversy

30 Seconds to Mars It turns out that Lady GaGa isn't the only one who can stir up controversy with her videos. Alt-rockers 30 Seconds to Mars are receiving some unexpected attention over the 13-minute mini-movie for their latest single, "Hurricane." It seems certain television networks are concerned about the clip's sexual content, and said concern has prompted Jared Leto, the band's singer/frontman and director of the video in question to speak out about the matter, saying, "I just think it’s interesting that when you turn on the news or whatever else catches your interest, how much violence and negativity is available out there. As soon as it comes time for sexuality, it’s a big shock that people are sexual beings. It’s an interesting double standard to me." Considering one of Leto's last directorial efforts, the clip for 30 Seconds to Mars' "Kings and Queens," won an MTV Video Music Award, we are willing to take a chance and check out his latest effort. Both songs are from the highly acclaimed album This is War, released late last year.

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Ken Elkinson, Music for Commuting, Vol. 1-6

Ken Elkinson, Music for Commuting, Vol. 1-6 Guess where this guy's based? Heh heh, if you guessed Los Angeles, City of Angels amid a metallic sea of auto-covered pavement, you'd be right. Multi-instrumentalist Ken Elkinson has created a compositional series, Music for Commuting, here compiled as Vols. 1-6. At first glance, you might take the title literally—other New Age artists have released material with the sole intent of traffic-frustration-ease, like Steven Halpern's Drive Time Rx. But unlike Halpern's upbeat, borderline smooth-jazz offering, Elkinson's is a patient, expansive sound that can almost be seen as an embrace of surrounding environments, or simply a accompaniment to life's journey as a whole. Comparisons have been made to Brian Eno's Music for Airports, though Elkinson has stated his influences come more from '80s synth-pop and Pink Floyd. Overall, Music for Commuting, Vol. 1-6 is an enjoyable synth-tastic ride full of effervescent, spacey, and exploratory etherea. And with tracks like "The Man with the Orange Shoes," "The Unforgiving Fog," and closer "Mission Accomplished?," Elkinson's nostalgic, slightly tongue-in-cheek, but austerely sincere musical personality brims with a persistent likeability.

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New Music Tuesday: Black Eyed Peas, Glee Cast, Soulja Boy, Jazmine Sullivan

Most new music comes out on Tuesdays (it's a U.S. record business tradition), and each week we cull through the mountain of new releases to bring you some of the best from across different genres. Click below, or find them in Napster's New Releases section.

Black Eyed Peas, The Beginning Black Eyed Peas, The Beginning (pop, hip-hop): Still reaping the rewards from their last album, The E.N.D, BEP release a new set of pop-rap sure to once again captivate listeners. Will.i.am and company's latest features hits "Do It Like This," Light Up the Night," and current fan favorite "The Time (Dirty Bit)."


Glee Cast, Glee The Music, Volume 4 Glee Cast, Glee: The Music, Volume 4 (pop, soundtracks): The latest installment from the popular TV series features memorable performances from the current season, including versions of "New York State of Mind," "Billionaire," "Forget You" (featuring Gwyneth Paltrow), and Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream."


Soulja Boy, The DeAndre Way Soulja Boy, The DeAndre Way (hip-hop): The successful teenage rap sensation's new album is out now, with the book Teenage Millionaire, a retelling of his experience in the record business, soon to follow. The new set features the singles "Pretty Boy Swag" and "Speakers Going Hammer."


Jazmine Sullivan, Love Me Back Jazmine Sullivan, Love Me Back (R&B): For the follow-up to her Gold debut, Fearless, Sullivan enlists a top-notch production crew including Missy Elliott, No I.D, and Salaam Remi. Love Me Back is driven by the sample-heavy single "Holding You Down (Goin' in Circles)" and the smooth ballad "10 Seconds."


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November 29, 2010

Your Best of 2010 List

List Now that we're in the holiday home stretch for 2010, the recap lists for the year in music will start to appear. It's a perfect time to take stock and dig back through your library of recent favorites, as well as find some tips from trusted sources and even from artists themselves about albums you may have missed the first time around. We'll be rolling out our new annual genre lists over the next few weeks, but don't wait for us to start putting together your own "Best of" lists. It's never too soon to get an early jump.

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Hans Rotenberry & Brad Jones, Mountain Jack

Hans Rotenberry and Brad Jones, Mountain Jack The family tree of this project may already be familiar to roots enthusiasts who also happen to follow Tennessee power-pop, but as for the rest of us, what a pleasant surprise! Hans Rotenberry has been front-dude and guitarist/songwriter of Nashville-area rock stalwarts The Shazam for a dozen years or so (hint: Shazam is the title of The Move's third album), and Brad Jones is the Nashville-area producer who has worked with the likes of Matthew Sweet, Jill Sobule, and Imperial Drag (as well as producing Hayes Carll's stellar Trouble in Mind) who produced three or four Shazam records. Hard to say how they came to create Mountain Jack as a duo, Rotenberry and Jones, but the result is that word that too often gets applied to hooky pop: infectious. There. We said it. Thing is, while the sing-along songs and satisfying chord changes are familiar from Rotenberry's earlier work (the Shazam catalog is well worth checking out), this set has a deep reverence for southern roots even while having fun with 'em. It's got twang, but it rocks. "Froggy Mountain Shakedown," the album's most charming track, may have served as the album's impetus (given how many times the phrase "Mountain Jack" appears), and it's a hoot—and there is a banjo on it, as well as some respectable pickin'. The rest invokes an influence here and there (The Traveling Wilburys on "A Likely Lad," the Stones on "Greef"), but there's a winning individual personality to the whole thing that kinda demands repeat listens. Many repeat listens, in fact. Still not convinced? Give "Buffalo Daughter" a whirl and see if it doesn't turn your head.

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Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, L.A. Guns, Skid Row: Napster Rock Playlists for the Holidays

Classic Rock Christmas (Napster Playlist) How do you like your holiday rock music? Vintage, with true classic-rock cheer, or head-bangingly brutal, with a dash of raunchiness? Napster's two new holiday rock playlists celebrate both schools of rock with "Classic Rock Hard Rock Holiday (Napster Playlist)Christmas" and "Hard Rock Holiday." You'll find well-known artists such as Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Beach Boys, and Tom Petty performing festive renditions of "Merry Christmas, Baby," "Here Comes Santa Claus," and "Deck the Halls" on "Classic Rock Christmas." For fans of hard rock with serious attidude, you'll find more unusal jinglers like "No Presents for Christmas," "Run Rudolph Run," and "Naughty Naughty Xmas" as slayed by metal maulers L.A. Guns, Skid Row, King Diamond, Twisted Sister, and more on "Hard Rock Holiday." Either way, grab your air guitar, click play and rock along all season.

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Black Eyed Peas to Play the Super Bowl

Black Eyed Peas, The Beginning Are you ready for some football? And how about another amazing halftime show for the biggest of the big games? Next February's big event during Superbowl XLV in Texas will feature hip-hop superstars Black Eyed Peas, it was announced last week on Turkey Day. Will.i.am and crew become the first non-rock act in seven years to get the halftime spotlight, and they have some big shoes to fill after performances in recent years by The Who, The Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. While we know we'll hear all the hits from the multi-million selling chart-topper The E.N.D., fans will likely be just as eager to hear the new material, including the latest single, "The Time (Dirty Bit)." Check out their new album, The Beginning, tomorrow and prepare yourself for more B.E.P. domination in 2011.

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November 24, 2010

Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Love him or hate him, Kanye West delivers. For what could be his finest work to date, he has gathered an extended amalgamation of talent to accompany him on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, his fifth album. Prior to the release of the album, early reports indicated that both legendary producers and underground beatsmiths were working with West on the production, marking a stark contrast with his last effort, 2008's 808's and Heartbreaks, and a seeming indication of a return to a traditional hip-hop style. Out of the initial list, which included DJ Premier, Madlib and Pete Rock, only the RZA of Wu-Tang fame made the final cut, with his contribution to the album's opening track, as well as a brief hook on the track "So Appalled." For the final product, Kanye's core producers, besides himself, include his mentor, No I.D., and Plain Pat. The crew assemble a cohesive collection of songs, putting together some of the most inspired music in Kanye's catalog yet. Aside from the album's singles, standout tracks include "Monster," where Nicki Minaj outshines everyone; the ambitious anthem, "All of the Lights"; "Devil in a New Dress," with all of its humorous observations; and "Hell of a Life," a decadent fantasy befitting the album's title. Recommended.

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J. Cole Live at the Key Club

J. Cole North Carolina native J. Cole performed in front of a sold out crowd at Los Angeles' Key Club this past weekend. Best known for being the first artist signed to Jay-Z’s newly formed Roc Nation label, the rapper has been creating quite a buzz in the music world. In anticipation of his debut album, tentatively titled Cole World (due in early 2011), the southern rapper at this gig went through a slew of songs from his mixtapes: The Come Up, The Warm Up, and the just-released Friday Night Lights. His set wouldn’t have been complete without a performance of his debut single “Who Dat,” “Lights Please” (which secured his deal with Roc Nation), and his now-infamous verse from Miguel's hit single. “All I Want Is You.” Judging by the capacity crowd’s reaction (they knew every song), you'd think J. Cole was a seasoned star going on his fifth album, not a relative newcomer about to release his debut. In any case, if his performance and songs are any indication of what’s to come, I have a feeling it's definitely going to be a Cole World soon enough.

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