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Vampire Weekend's new album 'Modern Vampires of the City' streaming now on iTunes: Read EW's review here

Surprise! (Or not — who isn’t putting their album up on iTunes the week before physical release date lately?)

New York’s prep-rock royals Vampire Weekend are the latest to join the digital prerelease party today with a stream of their third studio album, Modern Vampires of the City. Below, an expanded version of the review from EW‘s issue out this Friday.

Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City (XL)

Let’s be real: A lot of you have already made up your minds about this band. Four fresh-faced Ivy League grads in boat shoes peddling Paul Simon-y songs with titles like “Oxford Comma” and “Diplomat’s Son”? Pfft. But even the most determined pffters, the holdouts who’ve spent the past five years ardently ducking the New York quartet’s slier-than-thou Benetton pop, will have a pretty damn hard time resisting this one.

This isn’t to say that Vampire Weekend’s third effort is a wild departure from their first two. Modern Vampires is still rife with all the sunny-day hooks, East Coast imagery, and blueblood signifiers you’ve come to expect. (Sample lyrics: “You got the luck of a Kennedy,” “Hannah tore the New York Times up into pieces.”) This time, though, the band spends less time admiring their own clever lines and throwaway quips. A new kind of focus is evident here, and the result is twelve tightly plotted, fully realized songs that share a common thread.

Even the geography is tighter. Never landlocked, Vampire Weekend sent postcards from Cape Cod, California, and beyond on their previous albums, but Modern Vampires is all but tethered to New York. Even when song characters manage to drift elsewhere, they seem to yearn for home. The stable sense of setting works in the band’s favor, freeing frontman Ezra Koenig up to explore deeper, more universal themes — like mortal anxiety. “Wisdom’s a gift but you trade it for youth/Age is an honor — it’s still not the truth,” he croons on “Step,” while on “Don’t Lie,” he warns all the young Turks,“There’s a headstone right in front of you, and everyone I know.” Looks like that pun at the heart of lead single “Diane Young” isn’t there just to be clever.

Of course, you don’t have to care about Koenig’s quarterlife crisis and poeticized NYC life; Lena Dunham’s might be enough for you. (Tellingly, the two are friends; Koenig recently made a cameo on Girls.) As with their previous albums, Vampire Weekend’s elegant under-the-chandelier pop and upper-crust punk rave-ups still provide subtext-free sonic pleasures all on their own.

But when everything here lines up the right way — and more often than not, it does — Modern Vampires is the perfect album for the coming Atlantic summer. Think of it like saltwater taffy: bright and sweet, with plenty to chew on.

Grade: A– 

Best Tracks: “Unbelievers” • “Don’t Lie”

More on EW.com:
Inaugural BottleRock brings Black Keys, Kings of Leon, and Anthony Jeselnik to Napa Valley
Rootsy Americana band the Black Lillies release video for ‘The Fall’ — EXCLUSIVE
Lauryn Hill sentenced to three months in prison for tax evasion

Fleetwood Mac release 'Extended Play' EP, first new music in 10 years

How did a group of sexagenarians sneak up on us like this?

Though they’ve been promising this release for weeks, Fleetwood Mac finally unleashed their Extended Play EP on iTunes this morning. The band, which is currently on tour (they’ll be rocking the Sprint Center in Kansas City tonight), has been playing new tunes on stage since they kicked off, and frontman Lindsey Buckingham has been promising the release of Extended Play for several weeks.

The four songs on Extended Play represent the first newly recorded Fleetwood Mac tracks since their 2003 album Say You Will, which went gold. The highlight is “Without You,” which features a confidently strummed folk-rock stomp and some top-shelf vocal interplay between Buckingham and Nicks. If it sounds like classic Mac, that’s because it is: “Without You” was originally written by Nicks over 40 years ago and was intended as a contribution to their pre-Fleetwood combo Buckingham Nicks.

Buckingham and Nicks co-produced “Without You,” while the rest of the EP was produced by Mitchell Froom, who has previously worked with Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello, Los Lobos, and Paul McCartney.

Check out the band playing “Without You” during a performance at New York’s Madison Square Garden earlier this month.  READ FULL STORY

The iTunes Store is 10 years old today

On April 28, 2003, Apple launched the iTunes Music Store. A decade later, iTunes has become by most metrics the most popular music store in the world, with over 25 billion individual songs sold. Of course, calling iTunes a “Music Store” sounds a bit old-fashioned, since iTunes helped to end the whole idea of an actual, physical music store. (RIP, Tower Records.) READ FULL STORY

New Phoenix album 'Bankrupt!' now streaming on iTunes

Apparently, anything Justin Timberlake, David Bowie, and Depeche Mode can do, Phoenix can do aussi.

The French-bred foursome’s new album Bankrupt! doesn’t officially hit for another week, but you can listen to the album in its entirety right now on iTunes.

Phoenix are currently in a holding pattern in between Coachella weekends (they’ll headline again this Saturday, April 20, just as they did this past Saturday).

Stay tuned to the Music Mix for critic Melissa Maerz’s full review of Bankrupt!, and word to the wise: the third track, “S.O.S. In Bel Air,” is the keystone. In the meantime, enjoy the official video for first single “Entertainment” after the jump:

READ FULL STORY

David Bowie's first new album in 10 years now streaming in iTunes. Worth the wait? The EW review

David Bowie is full of surprises. A few weeks ago, he announced that his first new album in 10 years was imminent. Though The Next Day wasn’t due to hit stores until Tuesday, March 12, the album is currently streaming on iTunes in its entirety.

The official EW review of David Bowie’s The Next Day is below, and a version of it will be appearing in the magazine on newsstands next Friday, March 8.

David Bowie
The Next Day
ROCK (Iso/Columbia)

Early in his career, David Bowie realized that reinvention came naturally to him, and soon the spirit of change became his prime persona. Through all of his alternate guises — space alien, drugged-out cartoon, machine-obsessed private detective, guy who just discovered the Pixies — he’s maintained a spectacularly consistent inconsistency, and while not all of it has worked, at least we always knew that another character was following right behind.

For the last decade, however, his chief guise has been Invisible Man. Following turn-of-the-last-century releases Heathen and Reality (which found him reuniting with classic-era producer Tony Visconti), he suddenly disappeared, cutting short a tour, ignoring music, and making only occasional appearances amidst rumors of failing health so persistent that the Flaming Lips recorded a song called “Is David Bowie Dying?” In the meantime,  pop stars like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé got rich crafting their own evil twins and countless bands co-opted Bowie’s fashionable bohemian androgyny. READ FULL STORY

A song called 'Monkey Drums' is iTunes' 25 billionth download. What was your first?

Chase-Buch_510x317.jpg

Who says nobody buys music anymore?

Today, iTunes announced the sale of the 25 billionth song on the digital-retail giant.

The track, Chase Buch’s “Monkey Drums (Goksel Vancin Remix)” was downloaded by a German gentleman named Phillip Lüpke. His good fortune (and his enthusiasm for deep house remixes) has netted him an iTunes gift card worth 10,000 Euro.

The iTunes store first launched in April 2003 and has often celebrated milestones like this along the way. They hit their first billion in 2006 when a Michigan man, Alex Ostrovsky, purchased Coldplay’s “Speed of Sound” (he got a call from Steve Jobs, 10 iPods, a new iMac, and $10,000 in iTunes credit for his troubles). According to a press release, iTunes sells 15,000 downloads every minute.

Though there are other ways to legally download music, iTunes remains dominant (they control nearly 90% of that market), and for most people iTunes represents the gateway into all music buying.

I can remember purchasing my first iTunes download as vividly as I can remember buying my first cassette: I was working at another magazine and needed to check a lyric on a song from 13th Floor Elevators’ Easter Everywhere, and the quickest way to do that was to buy it through iTunes. (For a long time, it was the only album I had on that particular computer thanks to a faulty disc drive.) To this day, I can’t hear “Slip Inside This House” without thinking about the Apple logo.

So we ask you, dear readers: What was your first music purchase on iTunes? And how many do you reckon you’ve contributed to the 25 billion (and counting)? Let us know in the comments.

Read More on EW.com:
Beyonce, Destiny’s Child get big post-Super Bowl bumps on iTunes
iTunes reveals top-selling music, movies, TV, books, and apps of 2012
What songs did you listen to the most this year? EW’s music staff weighs in

AC/DC, longtime iTunes holdouts, finally join the party

Anybody who has ever been to an AC/DC concert knows that they are pretty much permanently anchored in 1980, the year singer Brian Johnson replaced the late Bon Scott and the band released their iconic Back in Black. And that’s OK, because Back in Black rules and AC/DC rock really hard.

It also might explain why it took so long for the band to show up on iTunes. AC/DC has never made any of its music available for digital purchase—until today. The group’s entire back catalog is now available on the premiere digital music retailer as of this morning, which means that the seven digital music enthusiasts who don’t own Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap can now complete their collections.

The rollout not only includes the entirety of the band’s studio albums, but also their live albums (including Live at River Plate, which just came out today), soundtracks, box sets (including the excellent Bon Scott compendium Bonfire), and a series of official AC/DC ringtones. AC/DC’s catalog has always sold extremely well (Back in Black regularly outsells new albums on the Billboard 200), which is mostly because the band has never released a greatest hits album and at least partially because they’ve never been available digitally.

The gambit has paid off: When the band released their last studio album Black Ice in 2008, it sold 784,000 copies in its opening week, even though it was only available at Wal-Mart and also contained 12 variations on “Hell’s Bells” (which, to be fair, has described every AC/DC album since 1980).

As of this writing, AC/DC had yet to have any real impact on the iTunes charts (Back in Black is number 65 on the albums chart, and there aren’t any singles in the iTunes Top Singles), but it will be interesting to track what sort of impact this move has on one of the most lucrative back catalogs in rock.

Read More on EW.com:
With Beatles now on iTunes, who are the last holdouts—and why?
‘Iron Man 2′ pairs up with AC/DC for full soundtrack album
Review: AC/DC, Black Ice

Grammys 2012: Adele's '21' tops iTunes charts and Amazon Best Sellers list

adele-21_320.jpg

“We could have had it all.” Well, at this point, Adele you sort of do have it all.

In addition to her Grammys sweep last night (the acclaimed songstress won in all six of her nominated categories, including Record of the Year for “Rolling in the Deep” and Album of the Year for her platinum smash 21), Adele is once again dominating the charts. As of Monday, the Grammy-winning 21 (which has spent fifty weeks on Billboard) topped the iTunes charts, just ahead of Whitney Houston‘s Greatest Hits album. The late singer’s catalog unsurprisingly saw a surge in sales over the weekend after the news of her passing. But Adele (whose previous Grammy-winning album 19 also found its way into the top 10) wasn’t the only one to get an iTunes boost. Coldplay, the Civil Wars, and Kelly Clarkson also saw a boost thanks to their Grammy appearances.
READ FULL STORY

Rihanna crowned best-selling digital artist of all time

How does one sell nearly 50 million downloads in six years? By releasing nearly 50 million singles in six years.

Hyperbole aside, Nielsen Soundscan revealed that Rihanna is now the top-selling digital artist of all time (time here being about as old as the iTunes Store), having moved 47.5 million digital tracks since her 2005 debut.

This gives her a safe lead ahead of runners-up the Black Eyed Peas, who have 42.4 million digital tracks under their Tron belts, and Eminem, who ranks third with 42.29 million.

The Grammy-winning singer’s previous accomplishments include eclipsing Madonna to become the fastest artist to produce 20 Hot 100 top-10 singles, which she pulled off with “We Found Love.”

Of course, one might say RiRi breaks a lot of records largely by making a lot of them. Since 2005, the Barbadian chart beast has released six studio albums and an astonishing 27 singles — more than the BEPs and Eminem combined in the same amount of time.

The full list is below; see if you can count how many of them haven’t collaborated with Rihanna before: READ FULL STORY

Today in Kelly Clarkson: Yes, she's ditching 'Idol' for the 'Voice'; no, Ron Paul didn't actually affect her sales

Sorry, Seacrest: Kelly Clarkson is making a Breakaway from American Idol.

The singer and first Idol winner will serve as a mentor on the next season of The Voice, the New York Post reports. The episode will air in the spring and feature the “Mr. Know It All” songstress giving tips to contestants under Voice coach Blake Shelton’s wings.

Could this mean that Idol is officially square now, eclipsed by newcomers like The Voice and The X Factor?

“The thing I love about The Voice is that they’re more mentors — they’re not judges,” Clarkson said of Idol‘s hotter, younger sister in an interview last September. “I would never really want to be a judge, just because I don’t want to break people’s hearts.”

Added Clarkson, “I so want to audition for The Voice and see if I can get the chairs to turn around!”

Elsewhere, Billboard reports that the Ron Paul bump that supposedly lifted Clarkson’s sales ended up being a bit of a hoax.

While her most recent album Stronger did in fact experience a rise in the charts, it actually dropped in sales — just not as steeply as other albums, likely due to a big promotional push from the Apple iTunes Store.

Read more on EW.com:
Kelly Clarkson sees sales pick up following Ron Paul endorsement
Kelly Clarkson gets into extended Twitter war over endorsement of Ron Paul
Kelly Clarkson isn’t the only celeb showing support for a presidential hopeful

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