Collapse into Now |

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"Let's sing and rhyme/ Let's give it one more time/ Let's show the kids how to do it/ Fine, fine, fine." So sings Michael Stipe on "All the Best," a crunching rocker that cranks up R.E.M.'s 15th(!) studio album. Indeed, the Athens, Ga., boys are still doing just fine, thank you very much, 28 years after making their debut with '83's college-radio classic Murmur. Collapse into Now consolidates on the rebuilding done by '08's Accelerate after the downturn of the Up/Reveal/Around the Sun era. Like Accelerate, the set is produced by Jacknife Lee, who once again provides a sonic jolt on guitar-revved tracks such as "Mine Smell Like Honey." Elsewhere, '91's Out of Time is recalled on cuts like the midtempo, mandolin-laced "It Happened Today" (featuring Eddie Vedder on harmony vocals). While there isn't really anything new-and there isn't the kind of truly transcendent moment that transforms a very good album into a great one-this will surely satisfy fans nostalgic for more of "then" than "now."

Lupe Fiasco

Lasers |

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The New Alt-Rock Renaissance

Alt-rock fans all over the world must have been doing a happy slam dance when Arcade Fire won the Album of the Year Grammy in February for The Suburbs, beating out the far more mainstream bunch of Eminem, Lady Antebellum, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. This was something no real alt-rock band had done before-not R.E.M., not Radiohead, not Coldplay. They weren't the only ones getting props at the Grammys: Muse and the Black Keys scored wins for their most recent-and biggest-selling-albums, while Best New Artist nominations and prime performance spots went to breakout acts Mumford & Sons and Florence + the Machine. Then the latter's Florence Welch gets to sing at the freakin' Oscars! Throw in Vampire Weekend, and it's looking like alt-rock is taking over the planet.


What Lupe Fiasco may lack in laserlike focus on his third album he makes up for with an impressive eclecticism. Seriously, the rapper just about does it all here: pop-friendly anthems ("The Show Goes On"), R&B-flavored jams ("Out of My Head"), conscious hip-hop ("All Black Everything"), electro club bangers ("I Don't Wanna Care Right Now")-you name it. Guests include John Legend, Trey Songz and hook-woman of the moment Skylar Grey (on the reflective single "Words I Never Said").

American Idol finalists and Glee stars aren't the only ones covering other artists' big hits these days: KATY PERRY channeled LADY GAGA during her March 7 concert in Paris, belting out an acoustic (and egg-free) version of "Born This Way." While promoting her new album Goodbye Lullaby, AVRIL LAVIGNE performed a stripped-down rendition of KE$HA'S "TiK ToK" on BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge March 8. And SELENA GOMEZ was all about the ch-ching ch-ching when she covered British pop singer JESSIE J's "Price Tag" (off her upcoming album Who You Are, out April 12) during a March 6 gig at the Houston Rodeo.

Looking like they have sashayed right off the pages of W or the runways of Paris are two fresh-and drop-dead gorgeous-faces: Denmark's OH LAND and Sweden's LYKKE LI. The former, whose far more fabulous full name is Nanna Oland Fabricius, has just released her self-titled debut album, and its whimsical mix of ethereal vocals and electro-pop beats-part Bjork, part Feist, part Goldfrapp-is strangely seductive. Even better is the second effort from the quirky Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes. There's a haunting ache in her voice on torchy, '60s-tinged tunes that make her out like music's answer to Twiggy.


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