Blake Shelton is an able and accomplished country singer who has been churning out hits since the early 2000s. His single “Honey Bee” is rising up the charts at this writing. With a playful style and charm to burn, Shelton can be a fun listen but ballads seem to bring out his best. It is a testament to the man’s charisma that his fans blast the slightest criticism of his music as if defending a beloved family member or friend. The passion of the defense is on the level of “Leave Britney alone!”” (sobs).

Portugal. The Man’s been around for sometime and I didn’t know a goddamn thing about them till I heard last year’s American Ghetto. To say I was impressed with the band’s funky, rock-the-fuck-out sensibility – which is admittedly very Flaming Lips-esque at times – would shortchange them. “1000 Years” and “All My People” from the album have stuck with me as intense instances of guitar and groovy synth. Last year’s album also occasionally featured choral elements, which was unexpected, peculiar, and ultimately fun; it’s not a new approach of theirs, but it definitely worked best on American Ghetto. I found myself after the first full listen secretly repenting my previous ignorance of their well-crafted and extensive backlog and waited since for their next release, eager to be on top of it all.

Marking yet another step in their slow but steady decline into conventional alt rock, the Red Hot Chili Peppers released the first single of their upcoming album I’m With You, “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie.” This is their first album without the contributions of longtime guitarist John Frusciante; Josh Klinghoffer acts as his replacement.

Some people have ventured to call me lazy. Natasha once responded to such an accusation by saying “I’m not lazy, I’m Brazilian.” As a Brazilian, I understand the strategy of this response; I use it to defend my general friskiness. Friskiness, after all, is a biological necessity. These accusations of laziness, however, must be intellectualized. Instead of deconstructing “laziness”, I want to use it as a launching pad for something completely different.

Swedish group Little Dragon’s sound has been described, in typical reductionist fashion, as “dream pop.” I can see where this term comes from – the combination of soul-punk harmonies and rhythms with the timbres of electronica and synth-pop do conjure a Bjork-like dreamscape in the mind’s eye. But the band is more than just another Scandinavian knock off of the Icelandic Pop Queen. In my view, their crisp, pure take on what is already an original fusion of R&B melodies and rock-punk rhythms is a welcome change from the indie pop scene. The production, suffice to say, is top notch, and singer Yukimi Negano’s soulful delivery cuts a refreshing contrast.

Ok, this is getting ridiculous: Yet another shitty, bong-conducive shoe-string budget music video from an otherwise respectable indie band just dropped. Originating Off of the newest Black Lips Arabia Mountain, the video for “New Direction” is about as shoddy as it gets.

I admit – the first time I listened to Feist was when I saw this commercial for the ipod Nano. Her complicity in Apple brainwashing notwithstanding (it worked), “1234″ is really a good song. It would have been easy to dismiss her music as the work of yet another twee-voiced indie pixie, but she knew how to command a beat and “1234″ was the first example of many. So despite the fact that every other coffeehouse in Williamsburg seemed to have The Reminder on repeat, I grit my teeth and admitted she was for real. (More evidence of this: she had the good taste to cover Nina Simone’s “See Line Woman,” as she did in her blues guitar(!) infused “Sealion.”)

Richard Buckner’s compositions can’t be defined under one umbrella term. ”Alt-country” applies well enough, but then the track wanders off the track and becomes a different style entirely, turning corners into unexpected harmonies. On Our Blood (Merge) his lyrical focus is on human experience’s gray and dark side, a thematic odyssey which has punctuated his style since his first release Bloomed in 1994. When you consider the trials Buckner encountered during the making of Our Blood, including a stolen laptop and a legal hassle, it’s fitting that he sounds exhausted here.

The first time I heard the song was a foggy October day in Massachusetts, junior year. I walked from my dorm aimlessly, past the homecoming football game, through a path in the woods with the leaves scattered across the road. The air had that unmistakable New England crispness; it evoked Vermont Septembers past – elementary school, soccer practice.

Pheonix is one of those many European alt rock bands that had the good business sense (and poor cultural sense) to write their lyrics in the world’s lingua franca rather than that of their own country. The Académie française would surely disapprove that this French group is not singing in la belle langue, but the rest of us who have become comfortable with worldwide English language hegemony are breathing a sigh of relief – it permits us, for example, to easily recognize Pheonix’s newest hit, “Lisztomania.”

Luke Bryan is a perfectly capable country singer with the requisite boyish down-home charm and smiling warmth… though he is also inescapably cookie-cutter in his approach. Tailgates & Tanlines (Capitol) is the Georgia native’s third studio album and he is clearly having a lot of fun on here.

Vampires. Remember when they were scary, wicked, or at least a little fruity? While drained conceptual in the pervasive easy-to-swallow and kid-friendly variation a la Twilight, the vampire trope in its horrific form experiences a small revival with the modern version of classic “FRIGHT NIGHT” and the latest promo from Kid Cudi. (“No One Believes Me” is an exclusive track on the movie’s OST.) Since I am a bit of a sucker for supernatural/ sci-fi media in general, I like this video probably than I should.