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Record Store Day 2014 Roundup: Reviews and samples of new stuff by Bruce Springsteen, Jack White, and the glorious return of Veruca Salt

Another Record Store Day is in the books, and based on preliminary statistics and the number of photos of crowded indie shops that popped up all over Instagram on Saturday, it appears to be bigger than ever.

This year’s crop of exclusive vinyl releases featured several big-time reissues or first vinyl appearances of classic albums, but there were also a handful of newly minted pieces of music unveiled via Saturday’s festivities. Bruce Springsteen released a four-song salvo, Jack White set a record with a record, and Veruca Salt announced their return via two new tracks. Check out the reviews of these new tunes from big-name artists below.

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Cyndi Lauper's 'She's So Unusual': An everlasting, once in a lifetime album

On the new deluxe 30th anniversary edition of Cyndi Lauper’s debut, the everlastingly saucy supersmash She’s So Unusual, you can hear the “Work in Progress Rough Mix” of “Time After Time,” in which Lauper sings the song the way people have now for years, across the globe: by mumble-humming nonsense syllables until hitting the chorus. Of course, she probably hadn’t finalized (or memorized) the lyrics yet. We just can’t resist picking up that hard-wired melody, even when we need words scrolling across a karaoke screen to nail them.

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Eminem's 'Marshall Mathers LP2,' streaming now -- Is this a new, self-aware Slim Shady?

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Eminem wouldn’t be Eminem—or Slim Shady, or Marshall Mathers—if he didn’t allot some of his whizbang rhymes to homophobic slurs and misogynistic fantasies. “Rap God,” a single from his eighth album in which he belittles unnamed rivals as “fags” and “gay,” kicked up the latest in a long line of debates about his compulsion to attack women and gay men.

But on The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (which is streaming now on iTunes, ahead of its Nov. 5 sale date), the 41-year-old works his me-or-my-demons shell game more furiously than ever. On the seven-minute-plus opener “Bad Guy,” he imagines his own commeuppance, as the brother of his old stalker character “Stan” kidnaps Em to avenge his late sibling. Facing death, Marshall hears his “lack of a conscience”: “I’m the bullies you hate, that you became/With every faggot you slaughtered/Coming back on ya, every woman you insult/That, with the double standard you had when it comes to your daughters.”

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On the scene: Drake takes over Barclays in Brooklyn

Drake may be the greatest rapper alive.  And now we might want to crown him the hardest working man in showbiz, too. On the New York stop of his “Would You Like a Tour?” at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center last night (Oct. 28), the Toronto rapper emerged in workout-appropriate sneakers and a baby blue outfit that could’ve been a high-end take on the classic Canadian tuxedo, issued a formal introduction (“I go by the name of Aubrey Drake Graham”) and proceeded to pull out every last stop in romancing “one of the best audiences I have ever played for in my life.”

About three quarters of the way through the show, that included mounting a huge circular platform that dropped down from the ceiling and allowed him to call out section numbers in the nosebleeds, note women’s features that he liked (long legs, red hair) and chat up individuals in the crowd: “Hey, I see you in that Commes des Garçon hoodie … You! You’re clapping like you at a Miley Cyrus show …” If that soon seemed like a Borscht Belt routine (and it especially did when he described two men wearing suits as “Bernstein and Feldman over here”), the larger effort drew from the long tradition of soulmen wooing females from the stage. READ FULL STORY

Avril Lavigne's new self-titled album, streaming today: Read EW's review

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Avril Lavigne, Avril Lavigne (Epic)

Avril Lavigne’s twice-married, pushing 30—and speaking for sloppy teens like the Lorax who grabbed the axe. We’re supposed to hope for more from a star releasing her fifth album (which is streaming now on iTunes, a week ahead of its release), never mind one doing it at a time when even music’s biggest brats get folks clucking about high-toned topics like appropriation and blasphemy.

Avril, who turned 29 last month, can’t compete with Miley and Kanye when it comes to making a spectacle of pop spectacle. But the irresistibly zippy, perceptive and, on two (possibly three) occasions, deeply weird Avril Lavigne reminds us that maturity sometimes means doubling down on what’s expected of you—even when that involves rapping about the “motherf—ing cops” on a fleet little song called “Bitchin’ Summer.”

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New Releases Roundup: Read EW's reviews of Katy Perry, Arcade Fire, and more

Every Tuesday morning in New Releases Roundup, we’ll publish our reviews of the week’s top releases as found in the pages of Entertainment Weekly. This week: Katy Perry, Arcade Fire, The Head and the Heart, Brandy Clark, and Poliça.

Katy Perry, Prism  “Katy’s superpower, now more than ever, is minting songs so relatable that their insights quickly scale up to inspirational. ‘I don’t negotiate with insecurities,” she sings on ‘Love Me,’ a luminous ballad in Prism‘s otherwise sluggish last third. Insecurities are sorta like personal terrorists, and she defeats them with nü-disco jams like ‘International Smile,’ an air kiss to a jet-setting DJ girlfriend.” (Click here for Nick Catucci’s full review.)

Arcade Fire, Reflektor  “Butler & Co. have always known whose side they’re on when it comes to existential questions about war or suburbia. But here, with LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy as their new producer, they sound as separatist as they feel.” (Click here for Nick Catucci’s full review.)

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Down with '00s nostalgia! Up with the Dismemberment Plan!

It’s a columnist’s cliche to say so, but when it comes to unpleasant inevitabilities, nostalgia’s right up there with death and taxes: We know it lies in wait, poised to deny the whatever’s good right about life right now—age and maturity, cool new shit, the Present. But lately it feeds another perspective-sapping distraction: Microtargeted online lists meant to light up little networks of people who share largely meaningless past experiences, like what massive university they attended or chain store they shopped at in high school. That’s what really grinds my gears. Surely there exists a list of Signs You Listened to Emo. And surely we’re fine as a culture having moved on from emo’s heyday, whatever you might think of Fall Out Boy’s punky new album or that song Haley Williams made with Zedd (or the current output of Dischord Records, for that matter). And I say this as an unreconstructed emo boy. READ FULL STORY

New Releases Roundup: Read EW's reviews of Paul McCartney, Pearl Jam, Gavin DeGraw, and more

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Every Tuesday morning in New Releases Roundup, we’ll publish our reviews of the week’s releases as found in the pages of Entertainment Weekly. This week: Paul McCartney, Pearl Jam, Gavin DeGraw, the Avett Brothers, and Scotty McCreery. 

Paul McCartney, New  “McCartney earns points just for seeking out new ideas, but New hangs on the strength of the songs. He’s got formidable storytelling chops (which especially inform the dreamy ‘On My Way to Work’), but he is also smart enough to get out of the way of a bombastic hook, as on the punchy ‘I Can Bet.”’ (Click here for Kyle Anderson’s full review.)

Pearl Jam, Lightning Bolt  “Eddie Vedder, now 48, hurls down a new, if unsurprising, preoccupation: mortality. Vedder wonders whether the bell tolls for him on the otherwise easygoing ‘Sirens,’ a piano-plunking ballad to rank with their classics, and human life itself seems to be ”tempting fate” on the album’s knotty, lovely centerpiece, ‘Infallible.”’ (Click here for Nick Catucci’s full review.)

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Pusha T, the Last Great Gangsta Rapper

How gangsta is Pusha T? So gangsta that on his first official solo album, the killer My Name Is My Name, the marvelously menacing Virginia rapper includes a soaring inspirational anthem, “Hold On”—and invites the profoundly unsentimental Rick Ross to join him on it. (Though “[you] couldn’t fathom my wealth/Build a school in Ethiopia/should enroll there myself” may be Ross’s most civic-minded statement yet.) He’s so gangsta that he calls a song that features Chris Brown “Sweet Serenade.” He’s so gangsta that he has Jeezy, a relic of the peak-thug era, rap on “No Regrets.”

Pusha—one half of the sadly dormant coke rap duo Clipse, prolific mixtape and guest rapper and member of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music—sums himself up this way on “No Regrets”: “Nowadays I sell hope/what, you rather I sell dope?/What I sell is a lifestyle/naked bitches on sailboats.” That’s “hope” the way Rick Ross can understand it. Pusha remains a deadpan, do-it-to-death thug whose self-awareness never undermines his drug-dealer fairy tales.

Which makes him an exception among the great rappers with recent albums. Danny Brown, who just released the terrific Old, uses meanness as just another one of his masks. Drake surrenders to complexity—he’s tougher on Nothing Was the Same, but still like a boyfriend who’s needy at home and aloof around your friends. On Doris, Earl Sweatshirt is utterly—and engrossingly—cerebral. And then there are the A$APs: image jockey Rocky and the inspiringly weird Ferg. Pusha may be the last gangsta standing—not an anachronistic monolith, but a living, snarling monument to hardcore hip hop.

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New Album Roundup: Read EW's reviews of Justin Timberlake, Drake, Icona Pop, and more

Every Tuesday morning in New Album Roundup, we’ll publish our reviews of the week’s releases as found in the pages of Entertainment Weekly. This week: Justin Timberlake, Drake, Elton John, Danny Brown, Icona Pop, and CHVRCHES. 

Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience—2 of 2  The 20/20 Experience found Timberlake and longtime collaborator Timbaland turning the latter’s signature syncopated funk into a strangely insular experience. Apparently the producer saved his haymakers for round 2, because he’s in full classic-Timba mode here…. Those throwback blasts give 2 of 2 a more immediate punch than its predecessor, even as 2 falls prey to the same pitfalls.” (Click here for Kyle Anderson’s full review.)

Drake, Nothing Was the Same  Nothing Was the Same bristles with epiphanies, absurdities, and plenty of bluster, but it’s all fodder for a hyper-realistic portrait of Aubrey Drake Graham, not some coronation ceremony…. Meanwhile, the music itself, largely produced by his stalwart collaborator Noah ’40′ Shebib, explores affinities with songs that overlap and build on each other. It’s a thinking rapper’s paradise.” (Click here for Nick Catucci’s full review.)

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