Hear new material from The Shins, Rick Ross, Jay-Z and more
We're less than two weeks into the new year, but the period of reassessing 2011 records has officially passed and the trickle of new music is about to become an onslaught. Here are 10 fresh tracks worth your time to get this year started off right.
Rick Ross featuring Styles P - "Keys to the Crib"
This track from Rozay's new "Rich Forever" mixtape -- a forerunner to his impending LP "God Forgives, I Don't" -- shows his battles with life-threatening seizures haven't made him any less dominant on the mic. Nor have they cost him his sense of humor. ("My only trending topic is the cash"? Brilliant.) His Drake/French Montana collab "Stay Schemin'" is worth a listen too, especially if you're interested in keeping up with Drake's feud with Common.
The Shins - "Simple Song"
Simple Song by theshins
Though James Mercer and his newfangled Shins lineup have fully embraced glossy, professional production that makes me miss the blurry instant nostalgia of their early days, "Simple Song" feels straight out of "Chutes Too Narrow" -- sharp, streamlined pop as a vehicle for Mercer's signature melodic touch and on-point observations. The upcoming "Port of Morrow" might be worth hearing after all.
Bill Fox - "Withering Soul"
The legendary Cleveland singer-songwriter, whose cult lauds his solo albums and prior work with power-pop titans The Mice, has spent the past couple years emerging from a decade of silence with a string of increasingly frequent concerts around Ohio and a slow leak of unreleased archival tracks. The resurgence comes to a head next week with the release of "One Thought Revealed," Fox's first new album since 1998's "Transit Byzantium." Lead single "Withering Soul" reminds me of "Time Out Of Mind"-era Bob Dylan in the way it puts a creepy baroque spin on Fox's gleaming folk-pop.
Black Dice - "Pigs"
Black Dice - Pigs by Ribbon Music
From a band known for noisy experimentation, this is pure fun. Sixth album "Mr. Impossible" is due in April.
Jay-Z - "Glory"
Less than 48 hours after her birth, Sean Carter delivered a tribute to his new baby daughter Blue Ivy Carter. Jay's voice sounds slapdash and giddy at first, like we're hearing a private demo. Then he hits his stride in full proud papa mode, professing his love and beaming over "my greatest creation." Props to Corban Goble for proclaiming that this "will surely go down as the 2012′s most 'awwwwww!'-inspiring rap track."
Craig Finn - "New Friend Jesus"
Acoustic folk-rock isn't my favorite look for Finn, who's at his best when spinning stories like this over The Hold Steady's arena-rock sounds. But for those who can't get enough of Finn's gift for scene-setting detail (or his obsession with characters who undergo religious conversion), this will still hit the spot. Finn hits The Basement on Feb. 9, and his solo joint "Clear Heart Full Eyes" is out later this month.
Frankie Rose - "Know Me"
The first lady of 80s revivalism shoots for Cure-style synth pop and scores. Keep your ear to the ground for Rose's upcoming "Interstellar."
La Sera - "Please Be My Third Eye"
La Sera - Please Be My Third Eye by hardlyartrecords
Rose's former Vivian Girls bandmate Katy Goodman has a new solo offering too, just as enchanting in its blend of charging guitars and sighing melodies.
Wild Belle - "Keep You"
Keep You . 12" Vinyl by Wild Belle
A Santigold-esque stomper from Chicago, recommended by former Columbus fixture Ahmed Gallab, who continues to create music as Sinkane when not touring and recording with Yeasayer. Those horn blasts are gnarly.
King Khan and the Shrines - "Bite My Tongue"
Everyone's favorite South Asian garage rock whirlwind checks back in with a breezy, horn-powered romp inspired by old-school R&B. "Bite My Tongue" will appear on an upcoming 7-inch.