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“Disclosure’s loping dance-pop single ‘Latch,’ a number 11 U.K. hit in 2012, introduced Sam Smith, a London-born vocalist with a deeply emotive voice….This is an understated and promising first step from an unpredictable and distinctive talent.” –All Music Guide

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“If one could draw a Venn diagram with Southern California punk-pop giants Green Day on the left and British boy band sensations One Direction on the right, the circles would most likely intersect to create Australia’s 5 Seconds of Summer….5 Seconds of Summer have crafted an album of songs that stick in your head like neon bubblegum on a hot summer sidewalk.” –All Music Guide

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Interpol: El Pintor

“As the titular anagram of Interpol’s name suggests, El Pintor refocuses and realigns the fundamentals of the band’s music….El Pintor is Interpol’s most consistent album since Antics; fans who love the band for its pure sound will probably enjoy it more than those looking for stop-you-in-your-tracks moments.” –All Music Guide

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Jason Mraz: Yes!

“[I]t emphasizes Jason Mraz the sensitive singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar slung across his shoulders. He flirts with rhythms floating up from the Caribbean, he covers Boyz II Men’s ‘It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,’ he cops a bit of the Lumineers’ big-beat folk stomp, and he strums a ukulele — but these are all mild, complementary accents to a sun-kissed collection of romantic songs.” –All Music Guide

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They Want My Soul is the quintet’s most booming LP, eons ahead of their Pixies-worshipping beginnings and a far cry from the relatively small-scale charm of their early-2000s touchstones Girls Can Tell and Kill the Moonlight, as well as their self-consciously lo-fi 2010 record, Transference. The album sounds like a proper follow-up to Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, the clear-eyed 2007 LP where everything clicked into place and a restless band finally hammered themselves into stone.” –Pitchfork

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“J. Mascis is developing a distinct persona for his solo work, and so far it dovetails nicely with his other projects, sharing certain virtues while having a mind of its own, and Tied to a Star is another step in an unexpected and quite welcome career evolution.” –All Music Guide

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“[T]his is a band that proved with its debut that it can go from icy, distant, and often excruciatingly beautiful to downright feral at the crack of a snare drum (or pots and pans, as the group’s humble, dorm room beginnings often required), and This Is All Yours does little to tarnish their reputation as choirboys with dark passengers.” –All Music Guide

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PHOX: PHOX

“The eponymous debut album from the Baraboo, Wisconsin-based seven-piece is as unassuming as it is oddly decadent, offering up a heady mix of cosmopolitan, worldbeat-infused, yet still distinctly Midwestern-sounding indie pop and breezy collegiate folk that falls somewhere between Vampire Weekend, Norah Jones, Brazilian Girls, and Sade.” –All Music Guide

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“Many young singers are stalked by an ill-fitting, virtually unshakable descriptor….For Nikki Lane, that descriptor seems to be ‘outlaw country.’…Neither word in that phrase does justice to Lane’s bold, idiosyncratic sound…. All or Nothin’ simply sounds like the work of a performer who knows when to embrace her contradictions: classic and modern, iconoclastic and approachable, country and rock, urban and rural.” –NPR

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Kasabian 48:13

“Kasabian have reached a point where their music speaks for itself….Their original blueprint of rousing ladtronica has expanded into wild, colourful and psych-buggered territories….Kasabers have reached the juncture in their career where, with our full trust in their judgement, they can become whatever band they want. The band they want to become is a Mexicana go-go ambient hip-hop troupe.” –NME

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Johnny Winter: Step Back

“From the get-go, Winter seemed to want his listeners to know Step Back would be full of surprises….Much of the variety of the program is due to the musical approaches of the guests. It’s very evident all hands on deck are out to have an upbeat good time….Whatever the future might hold, the two releases from 2014, the box set and Step Back, are as hot as Winter ever got.” –Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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“French Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin is known for his recordings of ultra-virtuoso music….[H]e succeeds in setting a mood and keeping it going….[I]t’s clear that Hamelin is anything but a one-note pianist.” –All Music Guide

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“Jesse Winchester['s] songs were covered by everyone from Elvis Costello to Emmylou Harris. Winchester died of cancer in April, but not before making this superb final album… taking us through a whole gamut of emotions on this proud climax to a great career.” –Boston Globe

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“This hushed duo set sounds like the epilogue to Jasmine, the collection of reflections on Broadway classics and ballads that Jarrett and double-bassist Haden made four years ago….Jarrett’s timing and sense of space, plus Haden’s spontaneous countermelodies, continue to provide low-lit delights….It’s just as good as Jasmine, and hopefully not a Last Dance for this partnership.” –The Guardian

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“Lady Gaga’s classical training has always been key to her origin story, so this album with 88-year-old crooner Tony Bennett is no big surprise. Gaga has real chemistry with Bennett….[O]n challenges like the subtle Billy Strayhorn ballad ‘Lush Life,’ the queen of the little monsters more than proves she can be a sophisticated lady too.” –Rolling Stone

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Joe: Bridges

“Joe is engaging from beginning to end without sounding as if he’s trying particularly hard….Overall, this is more finely detailed than the majority of adult contemporary R&B, and there’s a little more rhythmic bite through some deft dancefloor-aimed material….It all adds up to one of the singer, songwriter, and producer’s best albums.” –All Music Guide

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“O’Connor is pushing herself on every song here…  always with some purpose. A quarter-century into a career that has swung unpredictably from acoustic dissent to big-band jazz to reggae and dub experimentation, she continues to lay claim to every musical possibility and refuses to define herself with only one particular style.” –Pitchfork

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Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams

“The aptly titled Ryan Adams is a Ryan Adams album, not too far removed from his last few LPs even if it jettisons the twangy Americana for a different, darker, but no less historically grounded sound….[T]he music itself offers a nice twist on the singer/songwriter mode….[W]ith its murky production and throwback guitar sound, Ryan Adams sounds like it could have been recorded at any time between 1979 and 1987.” –Pitchfork

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Jennifer Lopez: A.K.A.

“[T]his record attempts to push J-Lo further into modern dance, by having her duet with T.I., Pitbull, and Rick Ross, not to mention Iggy Azalea….A bit more of A.K.A. is devoted to this cacophonic attack than usual… and while that’s a heavy indication of how Lopez wants to rebrand herself for 2014, the sound also conveniently camouflages whatever lyrics she’s singing about her divorce from Marc Anthony.” –All Music Guide

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“If ever there were a prototypical John Mellencamp title, it’s Plain Spoken. Mellencamp has long striven for direct, forthright communication, so the title suits his overall aesthetic as well as this album in specific….If his bitterness is unavoidable in the lyrics or in his voice, his music softens his bite, turning these tunes into melancholy laments instead of invective, so there winds up being a bit of a needed cushion to Mellencamp’s straight talk on Plain Spoken.” –All Music Guide

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