"A House Is a Home," Ben & Ellen Harper Grammy winner Ben Harper teams up with his mother, Ellen, for Childhood Home, which releases this week. This is the first single from the album. Their tender harmonies and reflections here are like flipping through a family photo album, reminding us of every trial and all the successes our own families experience. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
"Africana," Los Rakas One of the hottest Latin acts is this Hip-Hop duo of Panamanian cousins who hail from the Bay Area. With a little bit of reggaeton and a lotta bit of cool, Los Rakas released their first full-length album, El Negrito Dun Dun & Ricardo, on April 15. This track is my favorite of the bunch, with a mix of sweet melodies and ass-shaking bass. I'm anxiously waiting until they make another stop in H-Town. YO SI SOY! RAKA! MARCO TORRES
"Bang It Out," Breathe Carolina (feat. Karmin) Breathe Carolina and Karmin are two acts who I think have high ceilings, but just need to put the pieces together to get there. This song is a good start; sure it's a fluffy club track, but BC bring the energy and a bit of an edge and Amy Heidemann is better than most of the singers that sing on dance tracks. And that hook? Magnificent. CORY GARCIA
"Benz Friendz (Whatchutola)," Future feat. Andre 3000 Future's brand-new album Honest has been killing the game lately. On this fun and filthy track from his debut album, he teams up with Dungeon Family compadre Andre 3000, who provides all the cool and crazy that we expect from the OutKast MC. And somehow, some way, Future uses Autotune in a non-annoying manner, with a tearful vocal delivery that endears his character to the listener. Future is the truth; I'm just being honest. MARCO TORRES
"Blue Smoke," Dolly Parton Corny as she can be, Dolly Parton rarely jokes around when it comes to the music she grew up on, which comes to her as naturally as the rippling creeks and early-morning Appalachian mists of her hometown near Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Putting on the bravest face she can, Parton armors herself to board the "heartbreak train" of the title (also the title of her new album, due next week) with glistening dobro, slippery fiddle, a faint Johnny Cash drumbeat and some absolutely impeccable country-gospel harmonies after the double-time breakdown at the bridge. Kudos to the guy singing baritone, too. CHRIS GRAY
"Breakfast," Kelis Kelis was already the bee's knees, what with her milkshakes that brought all the boys to the yard and all. Now she's managed to top herself by releasing an album comprised of songs about food entitled, well, Food. In her typical style, the songs have absolutely nothing to do with actual food items, but have everything to do with eating...if you catch our drift. She's as random and fantastic as ever on the innuendo-laced "Breakfast," a throwback track that makes no sense and complete sense all at once. ANGELICA LEICHT
"Damascus By Sundown," Jack Rentfro and the Apocalyso Quartet Jack Rentfro is a Knoxville, Tenn. journalist and creative writer who happens to set some of his poetry to music. And this is not the frilly poetry of your freshman English class at Mom and Pop University. His new album, Damascus By Sundown, is a stunning document and a creative wonder chock full of thoughtful smart-isms like "I Have Come For Your Bones," "Elvis Limousine" and "Talking Like a Crazy Man."
But it is the beatnik-like, ten-minute title-track rundown of all our military follies that clamps a steel grip on the mind and refuses to let go. Rentfro attacks our prejudices and nationalistic jingoism like a Gatling gun that never runs out of ammo, like a lunatic wino riffing on Lawrence of Arabia. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
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