• The Pains of Being Pure at Heart Pump Fresh Blood into 'Days of Abandon'

    The Pains of Being Pure at Heart Pump Fresh Blood into 'Days of Abandon'

    The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have wisely taken two steps back and one step forward for their latest, Days of Abandon. The Smashing Pumpkins-esque guitars and production of their sophomore album, Belong, are gone; but so is the lo-fi shimmer of their 2009 self-titled debut and the early singles that spurred their initial press attention. In their place is clear, angelic singing and clean guitars, which lack the obfuscating distortion that the Pains previously hid behind.

  • Big Sean / Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/FilmMagic

    You Should Take Big Sean's 'Hall of Fame' More Seriously

    Last year, Big Sean was given ample opportunity to flaunt his rapping talent, and he did so: On G.O.O.D. Music's "Mercy" and "Clique," surrounded by heavyweights from Kanye to Jay Z to Pusha T to 2 Chainz, he stepped up with goofy, immediately quotable verses that showed a vast improvement from his spotty debut solo album, 2011's Finally Famous.

  • French Montana / Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty

    French Montana, 'Excuse My French' (Maybach Music/Bad Boy/Interscope)

    French Montana lacks a certain intangible quality. He isn't as "wavy" as former cohort Max B (though he's not in prison, either). He lacks the supercharged personality of frequent collaborator Waka Flocka Flame. And even though he started his own record label, Cocaine City, before aligning with Maybach Music and Bad Boy, he doesn't exactly exude the I-own-you-all mogul quality of a Diddy or Rick Ross.

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