• Last band standing / The Killers

    The Killers, 'Battle Born' (Vertigo/Island)

    Think back to what constituted "rock" when the Killers broke out in 2004. Bands were back. New York rediscovered post-punk. Disco was no longer a dirty word to dudes with guitars. And even the emo kids started buying drum machines. But eight years on, what happened to all those dressed-up guys rocking the dance floor? The White Stripes, LCD Soundsystem, Fall Out Boy, all gone; the Vines, the Bravery, Panic! at the Disco, all forgotten; Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, the Hives, barely hanging on. Who would've predicted that beyond the Strokes (and should they ever get it back together, those abominable Kings of Leon), the only remaining band with a seemingly unbeatable blazers + hooks + riffs + grooves + cheekbones combo still threatening to sustain their run as an international, cross-generational arena-rock phenomenon would be the one behind "Mr.

  • Frank Ocean on <i>Late Night with Jimmy Fallon</i> / Photo by Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

    Frank Ocean, Miguel, and Holy Other Usher in PBR&B 2.0

    Something happened last year to R&B, something more radical than most of us realized.

  • Niki & The Dove

    Niki & the Dove, 'Instinct' (Sub Pop/Mercury)

    It's amazing what a name change, some British buzz, and a few sequins can do. Before placing fifth in the BBC's Sound of 2012 poll of new acts and signing to Sub Pop, Stockholm's Niki & the Dove toiled under the radar through much of the last decade. In 2003, singer Malin Dahlström and conservatory-schooled keyboardist Gustaf Karlöf contributed to jazz-house act Stockholm Cyclo, which morphed into Karlöf's similarly lounge-y Stalker Studio. While in all-female folktronica trio Midaircondo, Dahlström sang Stalker's one semi-notable song, "We Should Fall"; after that, Dahlström and Karlöf appeared in Gothenburg's short-lived indie band the Dora Steins, where they picked up Magnus Böqvist, provider of the rhythms that now animate their current collaboration. Got all that?

  • Idjut Boys, 'Cellar Door' (Smalltown Supersound)

    Mixing femme soft rock with slo-mo disco, deep reverb and sunny vibes, this grooves like Fleetwood Mac in Dub.

  • Michael Kiwanuka, 'Home Again' (Cherrytree/Polydor)

    Nakedly expressive Anglo-Ugandan sings wistful soul-folk dressed up with diverse, bravura orchestration.

  • Chris Brown / Photo by Splash News

    Chris Brown, 'Fortune' (RCA)

    In Magic Mike, the new Steven Soderbergh film based on its star Channing Tatum's real-life experience as a teenage stripper, the central character specializes in contagious delusion. Mike sees himself as a businessman, an artisanal furniture designer, a mentor to his even more naïve pupil; anything but a stripper. He refuses to acknowledge who he really is. Moreover, the enthusiasm and craft with which he drops his drawers are so seductive that they periodically blind his good-girl love interest, who functions as the film's moral compass. With the help of some slick choreography, Mike transcends his humble background and the seediness of his surroundings to become a genuine artist, like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

  • Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, 'Trouble' (Polydor)

    Oxford boffin croons over early house signifiers as kaleidoscopic jazz butterflies flutter.

  • Roxette, 'Travelling' (Capitol)

    Now that their Scandinavian students call the pop shots, these '80s throwbacks finally sound contemporary.

  • The Hundred in the Hands, 'Red Night' (Warp)

    Claustrophobic dream-pop darkness doesn't compensate for the lack of actual pop this time around.

  • Saint Etienne, 'Words and Music By' (Universal)

    A sustained, meticulous love letter to pop culture, the ultimate statement from consummate fans.

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