Vampire Weekend

Contra |

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INDIE ROCK

CRITIC'S CHOICE

When your debut album lands you on SNL, the pressure is on for the next one. But Vampire Weekend—the smart indie-rock band composed of four Columbia University grads—takes the expectations in stride on the breezy Contra. Gliding by in 37 minutes, it's all executed with such understated cool that they barely break a sweat in their cardigans. The Afro-pop accents—shades of Paul Simon's Graceland—are, if anything, more pronounced than they were on 2008's Vampire Weekend, kicking in with the kalimba thumb piano on the opener "Horchata." But ska ("Holiday"), calypso ("California English") and mariachi music ("Run") are also deftly mixed into their melting pot.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Cousins," the punchy, punk-spiked single

OK Go

Of the Blue Colour of the Sky |

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ALT-ROCK

For those of you most familiar with OK Go from their dancing-on-treadmills routine in 2006's "Here It Goes Again" video—which became a YouTube sensation and won a Grammy—there's a lot more to the quirky quartet than that memorable bit of kitsch. Their third studio album finds these geeks getting downright funky. Indeed, Blue Colour displays tinges of the Purple One on cuts like "WTF?"—a falsetto showcase for frontman Damian Kulash—and the synth-laced standout "White Knuckles." Meanwhile, they reveal some Stonesy soul on "Needing/Getting," with its lyrical echoes of "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

Kid Sister

Ultraviolet |

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DANCE-RAP

These are tough times for female rappers, with Missy Elliott, Eve and Lil' Kim all having seen better days. (Sorry, Kim, Dancing with the Stars doesn't count.) But Kid Sister (real name: Melissa Young) helps to fill the void on her funky-fresh debut. Granted, she's not a pure emcee, doing her share of singing as well, and her music is more electro-pop than hip-hop. Some songs, such as the old-school party jam "Life on TV," conjure up Neneh Cherry, while others, like the hyperkinetic highlight "Switch Board," bring to mind M.I.A. She gets notable assists from Estelle, Gnarls Barkley's Cee-Lo and her fellow Chicagoan Kanye West. The latter shows up on the synth-lacquered "Pro Nails," which extols the beauty of mani-pedis. Although Kid Sister isn't the best rapper or singer, she proves that sheer energy and enthusiasm can go a long way.

Catch the 52nd Annual GRAMMY® Awards

Sunday, Jan. 31, 8 p.m. ET/PT, live on CBS

FOR DOWNLOAD PICKS INFO GO TO PEOPLE.COM/DOWNLOADTHIS

>• Producer T Bone Burnett (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) works his rootsy magic again on this countrified collection featuring convincing performances by Jeff Bridges and Colin Farrell alongside singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham.

>JIMMY BUFFETT

Buffet Hotel

Buffett continues his love affair with the water on "Beautiful Swimmers" and "Surfing in a Hurricane." But he sinks with his wack attempt at rapping on "Turn Up the Heat and Chill the Rosé."

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ANNIE

Don't Stop

On her second album, this Norwegian dance-pop diva evokes Kylie Minogue with cooler beats and a cheekier attitude on giddy tracks like "I Don't Like Your Band."

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RICKIE LEE JONES

Balm in Gilead

The "Chuck E.'s in Love" singer soothes the soul on Balm. She makes like Billie Holiday on "The Moon Is Made of Gold," written by her dad.

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PINK MARTINI

Splendor in the Grass

Bringing the cabaret to your living room, this 13-member ensemble delights with jazzy ditties sung in English, French, Italian and Spanish.

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>CORINNE BAILEY RAE (right) returns with "I'd Do It All Again," a jazz-kissed ballad from The Sea, her second studio CD due Jan. 26. $1.29 at rhapsody.com.

LIL WAYNE hooks up with Eminem on the fist-pumping "Drop the World," from Weezy's still-gestating album Rebirth. $0.99 at amazon.com.

TRACE ADKINS scores a rollicking winner with "Ala-Freakin'-Bama," a digital exclusive from the country singer. $1.29 at iTunes.com.

>With six nods for his comeback CD, BLACKsummers'night, the R&B star is gearing up for a big winter's night.

MOST MEMORABLE GRAMMY ENCOUNTER

At [last month's] nominations show, I was walking offstage and there Smokey Robinson was. He made comments about [BLACKsummers'night], and I couldn't believe that someone with this incredible legacy was aware of what I did. Powerful.

WHO HE'S ROOTING FOR

I hope Robert Glasper [nominated with Bilal for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for "All Matter"] wins. Not because he's played keyboards on tour with me, but because he really put out a brilliant record. And I love Kings of Leon. I hope they win everything!

AWARDS-SHOW DATING DIFFICULTIES

I always feel bad when I go on a date to an awards show. You're focused on a bunch of other things, so the person you care the most about probably shines the least. It's really not fun. But I've got a relationship going right now, and she's so understanding.

ON HIS iPOD

I've got this Alicia Keys song "Un-thinkable (I'm Ready)" on repeat. It just drives me crazy. And I love the old stuff, like Nat King Cole. And Jay-Z's latest, The Blueprint 3—I love the lyrics. He's a Brooklyn boy, and I'm from BK too!

>• Producer T Bone Burnett (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) works his rootsy magic again on this countrified collection featuring convincing performances by Jeff Bridges and Colin Farrell alongside singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham.

>JIMMY BUFFETT

Buffet Hotel

Buffett continues his love affair with the water on "Beautiful Swimmers" and "Surfing in a Hurricane." But he sinks with his wack attempt at rapping on "Turn Up the Heat and Chill the Rosé." [

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]

ANNIE

Don't Stop

On her second album, this Norwegian dance-pop diva evokes Kylie Minogue with cooler beats and a cheekier attitude on giddy tracks like "I Don't Like Your Band." [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

RICKIE LEE JONES

Balm in Gilead

The "Chuck E.'s in Love" singer soothes the soul on Balm. She makes like Billie Holiday on "The Moon Is Made of Gold," written by her dad. [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

PINK MARTINI

Splendor in the Grass

Bringing the cabaret to your living room, this 13-member ensemble delights with jazzy ditties sung in English, French, Italian and Spanish. [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

>CORINNE BAILEY RAE (right) returns with "I'd Do It All Again," a jazz-kissed ballad from The Sea, her second studio CD due Jan. 26. $1.29 at rhapsody.com.

LIL WAYNE hooks up with Eminem on the fist-pumping "Drop the World," from Weezy's still-gestating album Rebirth. $0.99 at amazon.com.

TRACE ADKINS scores a rollicking winner with "Ala-Freakin'-Bama," a digital exclusive from the country singer. $1.29 at iTunes.com.

>With six nods for his comeback CD, BLACKsummers'night, the R&B star is gearing up for a big winter's night.

MOST MEMORABLE GRAMMY ENCOUNTER

At [last month's] nominations show, I was walking offstage and there Smokey Robinson was. He made comments about [BLACKsummers'night], and I couldn't believe that someone with this incredible legacy was aware of what I did. Powerful.

WHO HE'S ROOTING FOR

I hope Robert Glasper [nominated with Bilal for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for "All Matter"] wins. Not because he's played keyboards on tour with me, but because he really put out a brilliant record. And I love Kings of Leon. I hope they win everything!

AWARDS-SHOW DATING DIFFICULTIES

I always feel bad when I go on a date to an awards show. You're focused on a bunch of other things, so the person you care the most about probably shines the least. It's really not fun. But I've got a relationship going right now, and she's so understanding.

ON HIS iPOD

I've got this Alicia Keys song "Un-thinkable (I'm Ready)" on repeat. It just drives me crazy. And I love the old stuff, like Nat King Cole. And Jay-Z's latest, The Blueprint 3—I love the lyrics. He's a Brooklyn boy, and I'm from BK too!