"Down by the Water"
Surprise! This isn't an 18-minute prog epic. Instead, it's a tight folk rocker from the Decemberists' forthcoming album, The King Is Dead. R.E.M.'s Peter Buck adds signature guitar chime, Gillian Welch contributes powerhouse backing vocals, and there's also a badass harmonica-accordion duel. It's not entirely clear what frontman Colin Meloy is going on about, but his imagery is evocative. About this "lash-flashing Leda of Pier 19," sir, we would like to hear more. | More »
"Not in Love"
"Not in Love" was a generic arena-rock tune by big-haired Eighties band Platinum Blonde. But with the help of the Cure's frontman, Canadian synth duo Crystal Castles have transformed it into an awesomely gothic, vocoder-slathered dance-floor monster. Shunning love but singing with lust, Smith wails as the bass line rumbles and the keyboards go from spookily churchy to magnificently claustrophobic. This is Smith's catchiest, most immediately satisfying record since "Friday I'm i... | More »
It's a match made in battle-rap heaven! On this single from Minaj's upcoming debut, two motormouths – both of whom know their way around a punch line, love goofy voices and suffer from severe cases of multiple personality disorder — team up for nearly five minutes of back-and-forth word-hurling. They rhyme like they're playing hot potato with a live grenade, and Swizz Beatz's hushed, chugging production throws the microphone viciousness into jarring relief. The... | More »
Michelle Mangione and Grace Slick
"Edge of Madness"
A benefit track for victims of the BP oil spill, "Madness" begs for justice on behalf of the Gulf Coast over spry zydeco. Too bad Slick, Jefferson Airplane's grande dame, is barely audible. Jefferson Airplane: The Miracle Rockers | More »
Rihanna feat. Drake
"What's My Name"
With the second single from the forthcoming Loud, Rihanna has created a perfect little tropical storm: Over dark, humid synths and swirling snare skitters, she's in full-on Caribbean-queen mode, dialing up her islander accent and rolling out a to-do list for any adult male seeking entrance into her chambers: "Hey, boy, I really wanna see if you can go downtown with a girl like me," she sings, kicking off the chorus. Her former fling Drake further steams things up with a little, um, math:... | More »
"We R Who We R"
This Dr. Luke-produced anthem — about "sick and sexified" kids who wave their freak flags while hitting the clubs — was inspired by a rash of suicides among gay youth. Lady K and human rights are an awkward fit. But she gets credit for doing empowerment her way, even if the song (from an upcoming EP) suggests "I Will Survive" by way of Girls Gone Wild. Photos: Ke$ha's Rock & Roll Party: Backstage and Behind the scenes With Pop's Wildest New Star | More »
Band of Horses
Months after Cee Lo covered their slow-burn gem "No One's Gonna Love You," Band of Horses step out of their bearded comfort zone with a charged-up version of the Lady Killer's homage to his home state. It's an indie-rock pep rally — backed by the University of Georgia marching band, no less. Random Notes: Bon Jovi, Prince, Bruce Springsteen | More »