It didn't take long for the first exciting new bands of 2009 to emerge. Scotland's Glasvegas and England's Late of the Pier each released debut albums and became overseas sensations last year. Now they're Stateside and actually living up to all the Brit hype.
Glasvegas—the clever name comes from being Glaswegian—was proclaimed "the best new band in Britain" by the influential NME. The finest songs on their self-titled CD, like "Daddy's Gone," make a strong case for that, finding the missing link between '50s and '60s pop and '80s alt-rock.
Late of the Pier, though, is even better. They're certainly more fun, as their stage names—Samuel Dust, Rouge Dog Consuela, Francis Dudley Dance and Jack Paradise—might indicate. These lads make Fantasy Black Channel
a trippy rush of dance-rock grooves, squiggly synths and quirky vocals. Just try not jerking your body to a pulse-racing track like "Heartbeat." We dare you.
LATE OF THE PIER:
For more information on where to find our Download This picks, go to people.com/downloadthis
FALL OUT BOY Folie à Deux
After Green Day and My Chemical Romance, now it's FOB's turn to make their Big Album. Just check out the epic centerpiece, "What a Catch, Donnie," which pours on the strings and a choirful of guest vocalists.
ANTHONY HAMILTON The Point of It All
In the Auto-Tune generation of R&B, Hamilton is a throwback to when singers were singers and songs were songs. "Diamond in the Rough," a gem of a slow jam, sounds like an old Isley Brothers tune.
TOM JONES 24 Hours
With the retro movement ongoing in the U.K., the Welshman reclaims his '60s sound on his first U.S. studio release in 15 years. "If He Should Ever Leave You" hangs with Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" or Duffy's "Mercy."
KANYE WEST 808s & Heartbreak
On his risky, radical latest, the Grammy-winning rapper turns crooner. His electronically manipulated vocals help create a virtual world where he explores cool—and chilly—ambient sounds. Take that, T-Pain.
The R&B singer, 21, is up for five Grammys Feb. 8 for her hit debut, Fearless
ON THE GRAMMYS It's like a dream right now. Hopefully I can [perform]. I would love for Stevie Wonder to play for me, but that's just my high hopes!
ON BEING FULL-FIGURED I'm very confident in who I am. I'm happy to be a role model for other women who can look at me and say, "She isn't starving herself." But I'm starting to work out more now.
ON MENTOR MISSY ELLIOTT She's taught me a lot, makes me work harder. If I ever need anything, I just call her up.
ON HER HIT "BUST YOUR WINDOWS" It is a true story [about vandalizing the car of a cheating boyfriend]. I'm not very proud of doing it, but it has helped my career!
LEONA LEWIS delivers a captivating rendition of Snow Patrol's bittersweet ballad "Run," from Spirit: The Deluxe Edition
, in stores Feb. 3. At amazon.com.
THE RACONTEURS team with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe for a toe-tapping remix of "Old Enough." At iTunes.com.
LILY ALLEN electrifies on "The Fear," from Feb. 10's It's Not Me, It's You
. At napster.com.
BABYFACE returns with the mid-tempo charmer "I Need a Love Song," from his upcoming R&B disc. At rhapsody.com.
• The producer, 58, whose hitmaking career is celebrated in the new concert CD/DVD Hit Man: David Foster & Friends
, recalls some of his most memorable recordings.
WHITNEY HOUSTON, "I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU"
Whitney was filming [1992's The Bodyguard] all day and came into the studio at night. Dolly Parton [who wrote it and sang the original] called while we were recording. Whitney's mom was there and told me, "You're witnessing greatness."
CELINE DION, "BECAUSE YOU LOVED ME"
René [Angélil], her manager and husband, sent the song over, and I loved it. Celine came in the next day and sang it. To this day she is my favorite singer to work with because she trusts me so much. Whatever I ask her to do, she'll do. She never complains.
BARBRA STREISAND, "SOMEWHERE" After it was mixed, she asked me to bring it to her home in Malibu. It was a Saturday night, and she was throwing a party. I knocked on the door; Elizabeth Taylor answered it and said, "You must be the man with the music." She was in full evening wear. I was wearing jeans!
TONI BRAXTON, "UN-BREAK MY HEART" On the day she was doing vocals, she was sick, and between takes she'd go rest. You'd never know she [had a cold] on that song!
U.K. BUZZ BANDS