Paul McCartney

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It's been a good fall for elder British pop gods. On the heels of resurgent releases by Elton John and Sting last month, Paul McCartney has swooped down as if from Olympus to bless us with his first album of original material since 2007. And after his 2012 collection of standards, Kisses on the Bottom, it sure is sweet to hear one of the greatest songwriters ever rocking these New tunes. Just check out the sparkling title track and you'll hear McCartney, at 71, reinvigorated with a Beatles-esque bounce in his step. That exuberance extends to the rousing "Everybody Out There" and "I Can Bet," with its soulful, sexy strut. Some cool producers—Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse), Paul Epworth (Adele) and Ethan Johns (Kings of Leon), as well as Giles Martin (son of Beatles producer George Martin)—are respectful of Sir Paul's vibe while adding some fresh textures, making the old sound new again.

Pearl Jam

Lightning Bolt

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Ten has always been a good number for Pearl Jam: Their 1991 debut, Ten, was a multiplatinum beast. Now with their 10th studio disc, the grunge greats have made one of the year's best rock records. It's everything you want from a PJ album: earnest, furious, tender, transcendent. They even cut loose and have some fun on the hip-swerving "Let the Records Play." Through it all, they remain fully committed to every note. "This is just too good to be gone," declares Eddie Vedder on the heartbreaking closer "Future Days," leaving no doubt that they're here to stay.



From "Crooked Smile" with J. Cole to their new greatest-hits disc 20 and a VH1 biopic premiering Oct. 21, TLC is back—crazy, sexy and cool.

1 "NO SCRUBS" (1999)

The ultimate dismissal of all deadbeat dudes, this smash still gets plenty of love from me.

2 "WATERFALLS" (1994)

That wah-wah guitar, those horns and a river-deep message.

3 "UNPRETTY" (1999)

Another message song—and another No. 1. "So damn unpretty"? So damn beautiful.

4 "CREEP" (1994)

What's good for the cheater is good for the cheatee, warns TLC. Just keep it on the down-low.


A killer, vaguely sinister groove cautioning about bad pals.


"Royals" just hit No. 1. How did you celebrate?

I went to see [the alt-rock band] Phoenix play in New York. I love them. It was so cool!

People like Selena Gomez have even been covering the song.

It's always surprising. I noticed [singer-songwriter] Mayer Hawthorne did this mellow, jazzy cover, which was quite interesting.

Your real name is Ella Yelich-O'Connor. How did you come up with Lorde (pronounced "Lord")?

"Lord" is an aristocratic title, and I like the juxtaposition of something quite strong and masculine and then adding the "E" to make it kind of soft and feminine.

Your music is pretty mature and moody for your age. How do you explain it?

Teenagers are pretty moody - that's who we are! There's a lot of ambivalence and feeling lonely. I've also got a lot of older friends, so maybe that contributes to me sounding older.

"Royals" knocked Miley Cyrus from the top of the charts. Are you a fan?

I really like her songs. I think they're awesome. I've tweeted about them many times!

Cassadee Pope

Frame by Frame

While the third-season Voice champ is being marketed as a country artist—groomed as such by her coach Blake Shelton—she isn't really Nashville. Despite some identity issues on her debut, she's a solid, malleable performer and even shows songwriting skills.

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Tyler Farr

Redneck Crazy

Scoring a country hit with the titular breakup ballad, Farr brings more down-home spirit to his debut album. Though he may not be the best singer, he takes you on a smooth truck ride with both honky-tonk stompers ("Dirty") and good ol' weepies ("Hello Goodbye").

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Amos Lee

Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song

After topping the Billboard pop chart with his last album, 2011's Mission Bell, this singer-songwriter ventured to Nashville to record this country-flavored set, even getting Alison Krauss and Patty Griffin to sing on two rootsy beauties.

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Days Are Gone

On their debut, which opened at No. 1 in the U.K. (and No. 6 in the U.S.), L.A.'s three Haim sisters alternately evoke the 2013 answer to Wilson Phillips, Tegan & Sara as a trio and the female version of the Bee Gees. It all makes for some sweet California breeziness.

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