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Madonna releases six tracks from her forthcoming album 'Rebel Heart'

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Madonna’s next album isn’t due until March 2015, but you can listen to the first six tracks now. On Saturday morning, the pop icon responded to a recent leak of unfinished demos from her forthcoming album, Rebel Heart, by releasing several tracks ahead of schedule.

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How to Dress Well explores emotions amid explosions for Connect Sessions

Music and visual art have always been deeply intertwined, and on Wednesday three pairings of artists and musicians explored what that relationship means in the electronic age. As part of their Connect Sessions series of collaborations, Microsoft and Spin presented performances by three musical acts with custom video projections.

The night began with a solo performance by Ian Williams of proggy art-rock scene stalwarts Battles, whose twitchy synthesizer psychedelia was paired with a hyperkinetic video piece by Ron Amstutz that used stop-action animation of a dancer assuming contortionist-like positions in front of painted grids to suggest an analog adaptation of 8-bit video game graphics. It ended with electronic Com Truise playing in front of intricate geometric graphics by CandyStations that played well with the retro-futuristic elements woven into his pop-tinged techno.

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Eccentric pop auteur Liam Hayes shares a non-algorithmic playlist

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Chicago-based musician Liam Hayes has been making soulful baroque pop for a couple decades now. His orchestral leanings and respect for the classical age of American pop have earned him plenty of comparisons to Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach, and have made him an icon in the small but fervent cult devoted to that sound. One of his better known fans is Roman Coppola, who had Hayes appear in his film A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III. In a few weeks Hayes will release a new album, Slurrup (out Jan. 13 on Fat Possum) that upholds his reputation for intricately crafted compositions and unshakeable hooks.

In preparation for Slurrup‘s release, Hayes has made EW a playlist. “This is not a desert island or deep cuts list,” he writes. “It’s not based on an algorithm and they are in no particular order. These are just some songs that I’ve enjoyed and continue to enjoy. Perhaps you will too.”

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Our 2014 gift guide for music lovers

Buying gifts for music lovers gets more complicated every year. You used to be able to just buy them CDs or vinyl, but as more and more listeners move to streaming networks and ditch their physical collections, that’s not so much of an option. For those who are shopping for picky music addicts, we offer 10 suggestions, from coffee table books to hearing protection to gear that’ll help them create their own noise.

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Best of 2014: EW's music staff picks their personal favorites

EW‘s end of year lists are a group effort, the product of several rounds of nominations, negotiations, arguments, and compromises. While there were a lot of passionate appeals made on behalf of our favorite albums and songs of 2014 when we were assembling our official list, not every one of our jams made the final cut. Presented here are our music staff’s personal favorite albums and songs that were left off.

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Miguel drops 3 surprise tracks

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Miguel just dropped three new tracks in a genre that one might call “baby-making music.”
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First Aid Kit share video for 'Wild' R.E.M. cover

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The rustic soundtrack for the new film Wild hit stores last month. Among the standout cuts is Swedish duo First Aid Kit’s cover of R.E.M.’s 1998 song “Walk Unafraid.” Now the group has released a Wild-inspired music video for their cover, which “speaks to the overall beauty of the movie,” according to music supervisor Susan Jacobs. It features footage from the film as well as the First Aid Kit women wandering a forest in outdoorsy sweaters. You can stream it below.

“Walk Unafraid” appeared on one of R.E.M.’s less well-known records, Up. First Aid Kit joins contributors including Lucinda Williams, Bruce Springsteen, Simon & Garfunkel, Portishead, and Leonard Cohen on the soundtrack. Read our review of Wild, which is in theaters now.

This Week in Diplo: The week that kept on giving

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The official video for Skrillex’s “Dirty Vibe” with Diplo, CL, and G-Dragon dropped this week, and while I can’t be sure if G-Dragon and CL (Skrillex and Diplo are cameo-less) are doing impressions of late ’90s and early 2000s American rap videos or if this is meant to be taken seriously, it’s pretty fun.

And to continue the holiday-release-giving: Diplo gave EW three blistering playlists on Spotify. The first is hip-hop. It kicks off with Rae Sremmurd and blows through tracks by Migos, ILoveMakkonen, Kanye, 2 Chainz, Chris Brown, Frank Ocean, and so many more.

The second is future house-based. Duke Dumont, Oliver Heldens, Route 94, AlunaGeorge, and more make up two and a half hours of fun.

And the third—proving Diplo either really does exist in a genre-less state of taste or he’s very generous during the holidays—is psychedelic rock. The Mops, The Seeds, The Bees, The Telescopes, The Yardbirds (are we sensing a pattern here?) are all there.

And because why do one when you can do seven, Jack Ü has previewed seven official remixes for “Take Ü There” this week. The package was partially leaked a month ago, with the Felix Cartal, TJR, and Vindata remixes releasing earlier than intended. The rest of the collection is rounded out by Tchami, Tujamo, Netsky, and (drumroll, please) Zeds Dead.

Check out the rest on their Soundcloud.

Aside from that, it’s been a lot of travel (Jamaica, India) and promotion for Jack Ü’s biggest show ever: Headlining NYE at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Get tickets here.)

Sam Smith becomes the first singer to sell a million album sales in the U.S. and the U.K. in 2014

Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour hit the million album sales mark in both the U.S. and the U.K.—the first album to do so in 2014.

According to Time, Smith’s debut album was confirmed to have passed the million sales mark in the U.K. within the past 24 hours by the Official Charts Company (OCC); the album had reached that milestone in the U.S. the day before. Other notable million-sales albums of 2014 include Ed Sheeran’s and Taylor Swift’s 1989, though neither album has hit the million-sales mark on both sides of the Atlantic.

Smith—who was already having a stellar year, having been nominated for six Grammys, including the highly coveted Album of the Year nomination—shared a brief statement on the milestone to the OCC and said, “Thank you so much to every single person who has purchased my album.”

Here's the inevitable dance remix to 'Mockingjay's' 'Hanging Tree'

If you end up clubbing in Vegas to some bump and grind dub-step, don’t be surprised when you think to yourself, “Hmmm, is that Jennifer Lawrence I hear?”

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