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February 2011

February 28, 2011

Lady Gaga Births “Born This Way” Video

Lady Gaga, Born This Way We just recently expressed our disappointment that Lady Gaga didn't really wow us at the Grammys with any over-the-top antics, giving instead a pretty straightforward (though admittedly rockin') rendition of her new single, "Born This Way." So imagine our delight when we discovered the over-the-top craziness of her just-premiered video for the song—it's a lot to absorb. And let us just warn you now that it's not for the faint of heart: For over seven minutes, this epic sci-fi "manifesto from Mother Monster" features unicorns, gruesome body modifications, disturbing birthing scenes, guns, skeletons, and an opening ode to Hitchcock—all with Mother Monster herself, front and center, writhing in her underwear. In other words, this is the Lady Gaga we have come to know and love.

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Drive-By Truckers, Go-Go Boots

Drive-By Truckers, Go-Go BootsDrive-By Truckers are back with another fine album. With Go-Go Boots boosting the band's catalog to an even dozen records in about as many years, DBT have demonstrated an impressive ability to keep the music coming, but more important, their records consistently have an enormously appealing quality. The band has managed to learn and grow, get better at their instruments, write better songs, and generally evolve, asll without losing the rawness and vulnerability that made them such a treasure back in '98 when Gangstabilly first signaled that America had a new favorite country-flavored alt-rock band. Go-Go Boots may be a bit mellower that typical DBT, but the album seems somehow even deeper than the band's recent work and definitely gets more engrossing with each successive listen.

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February 27, 2011

Trent Reznor and Randy Newman Win Best Score and Song Oscars

The Social Network Toy Story 3 This evening at the 83rd Academy Awards, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross won the Oscar for Best Score, while Randy Newman took home the award for Best Song. What an interesting career Trent Reznor has had: From edgy industrial rock icon with Nine Inch Nails through his Oscar tonight (as well as his previous Golden Globe) for his work on The Social Network, he's shown himself to be a musician of pretty astonishing depth. We've been a fan of the score since its release, so we're really psyched for Reznor and Ross—as well as whatever further score work this experience may lead to. Meanwhile, on the Best Song side of the music Oscars, loveable veteran Randy Newman, whose work on Toy Story 3 we also instantly adored and whom we also recently admired for an astounding 20 lifetime nominations, took home his second Oscar tonight for "We Belong Together." Pretty decent choices from the Academy, in our book. What do you think?

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February 25, 2011

Slaughter House, Slaughterhouse EP

Slaughter House, Slaughterhouse EP Some of hip-hop's fiercest rhymers form the latest super-group, Slaughter House, consisting of Royce da 5'9", Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz and Crooked I. For their follow-up to their self-titled 2009 album, the group (recently signed to Eminem's Shady Records) release another self titled excursion but in the shorter form of an EP featuring six gritty new songs. The opening track "Back on the Scene" features Dres of Black Sheep contributing to the hook with his iconic line from "The Choice is Yours (Revisited)." The ruckus doesn't stop there as "Sun Doobie," produced by Mr. Porter, continues the frantic tempo. Also featured on production is Black Milk and his heavy drums on "Everybody Down." The LOX make an appearance on the "Put Some Money On It (Remix)," originally a Joell Ortiz number. If these first two offerings are any indication of what we can expect from their upcoming Shady Records release, then the competition better beware.

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Hillsong United, Aftermath

Hillsongunited, aftermath Popular Australian praise and worship band Hillsong United returns with their second studio album Aftermath.  Following the success of their first studio album All of the Above, and countless live albums, Aftermath debuted at #1 on the Christian charts and in the top 20 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart (a great feat for a Christian album).  Capitalizing on the positive reception of Aftermath, the band has just embarked on a nationwide tour (click here for details).
It is refreshing to see an act garner fame and recognition by spreading a positive message, and part of the band’s success is that they are able to maintain their Christian roots by performing a contemporary style of praise and worship mixed with mainstream rock. Check out the new album and become a believer.

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The Highs and Lows of Buju Banton

Buju_Banton When most people say they have good days and bad days in a given week, what they usually mean is that a presentation went well, their kid got an A, the dry cleaning wasn't ready on time, or the cat had to be taken to the vet after swallowing a peanut—the stuff of everyday life. Of course, when the extraordinary things happen, good or bad, they quickly bring the more mundane occurrences into perspective. For Buju Banton, the last 10 days were likely among the best and worst he's ever had. On Feb. 13, the reggae star was awarded the Grammy for Best Reggae Album for Before the Dawn, his first. But what should have been an extended celebratory period was short lived, as on Feb. 23, he was found guilty on drug charges in Tampa. The conviction could result in a minimum sentence 15 years in federal prison. Banton's lawyer announced that he intends to appeal the case. In the meantime, the outcome has saddened fans and fellow artists alike, with stars like Junior Reid and Tony Rebel coming out in support of the embattled singer. Whatever the final outcome, Buju Banton has surely felt the vertigo associated with a rather unfortunate emotional roller coaster.

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Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers, Rare Bird Alert

Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers, Rare Bird Alert Steve Martin has made another banjo album. Well, bluegrass album, really, but prominently featuring banjo (as much bluegrass music does). Anyway, it's a real doozie, and it's scheduled for release on March 15. Those who have heard The Crow, Martin's 2009 banjo-album debut, know that a) Martin is no slouch on the instrument (a matter we have discussed before), and b) he surrounds himself with excellent players, including some of the all-time banjo and bluegrass greats. So, for Rare Bird Alert, his second foray into the "serious" album-making world (the title has to do with his upcoming bird-watching movie, The Big Year), he recruited one Tony Trischka, long a supporter of Martin's banjo-playing alter-ego, to produce. And for his band, he made the wise decision of working with The Steep Canyon Rangers, the very classy North Carolina string band he took on the road with him to support The Crow, and to whom he pays the highest of compliments in Rare Bird's wonderful liner notes: With the Rangers, he writes, "I enjoyed once again something I had once grown to loathe: the road." So, band and Martin set about recording a new set of Martin originals (he wrote or co-wrote everything on the album), and the results are just beautiful. The album sounds so graceful, one almost forgets this man's wild and crazy roots. It's interesting, because Martin's writing on this album, both musically and lyrically, seems to let in a bit more of his abundant humor than on The Crow, where his clear respect for the music somewhat muted the funny. In the career arc of Steve Martin, it's fascinating to see and hear him at this juncture, no longer the outrageous laugh-getter, but more of a Mark Twain-style humorist (even though this album includes a bluegrass version of his '80s yukfest "King Tut). And like Twain, there's only one of him, and that's all there will ever be. Oh, did we forget to mention that both Sir Paul McCartney and the Dixie Chicks (all three of 'em) provide guest vocals on a tune apiece? Well, they do, and they sound great, too.

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February 24, 2011

Cristian Castro to Team Up with Aventura?

Cristian_castro2 Aventura2

Mexican singer and national treasure Cristian Castro announced plans for  an upcoming album that would represent a departure from his recent pop-inspired offerings. The set will delve into tropical sounds, including possible forays into salsa, merengue, and the very popular Dominican form known as bachata. And whom better to pair up with for a round of bachata than the acknowledged kings of the style, Aventura? That's right: No one. Castro confirmed that he met up with Henry from Aventura recently in New York to talk about the potential collaboration. We'll keep you posted on what could be one of the biggest releases of this year—or next.

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Bell Biv Devoe on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

BellBivDevoe1-cropped-proto-custom_31-thumb-350xauto-17493 Please allow the fangirl in me to properly gush: last night's Bell Biv Devoe reunion on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was amazing. The '90s R&B boyband performed two of their classics—the brilliant "Poison" and "Do Me!"—backed by the world's grooviest house band, multiple Grammy award-winning The Roots, and the results were magical. Sure, everyone is older, but they still have the moves, and both Jimmy and the crowd were loving it. Check out the performances, and I dare you to not sing along. It's impossible. And if that gets you in the mood for more classic R&B and hip-hop hits from that era, be sure to check out Napster's "New Jack Swing" playlists, Vols. 1 and 2.

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Chaka Khan, ClassiKhan

Chaka Khan, ClassicKhan Oh boy — this is fun. Chaka Khan is best known for her high-energy R&B numbers like the classic "I Feel for You," but this lady is a masterful vocalist and can bring her skills to bear on a wide range of material, including standards. And that's what makes this 2004 set such a good time: She is more than up to the task of interpreting "Great American Songbook" material, but she does it with signature sass and unmistakable joy (and here with the help of the London Symphony, no less). Speaking of signature sass, maybe that's why she chooses to throw down on "Goldfinger," John Barry's most James Bond of James Bond moments, as well as "Diamonds Are Forever"; clearly she and Shirley Bassey are kindred spirits on some level. Beyond those magic moments, the choice of songs is just wonderful: "Hey Big Spender," "Stormy Weather," "Crazy," "'Round Midnight"? What? Yes. We told you this was fun. Wait 'til you hear it — we're smiling just writing about it.

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