The Bird and the Bee
Album: Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future (Blue Note)
In stores: Jan. 27
Why we care: This mod-sexy L.A. duo oozes Space Age cocktail swing and retro electro pop. The music is made to accompany a highball binge (or at least an affair with Dottie your secretary). The lyrics, on the other hand, are modern and cheeky — or as modern and cheeky as a love song about David Lee Roth leaving Van Halen. "Come on, Dave!"
Why we like it: Inara George is the bird, and despite her aloof delivery, she's an active singer, layering myriad vocals that flirt and flutter. Producer-bandleader Greg Kurstin is the bee, buzzing the tracks with fly-by keyboards and intricate beats that hip, hop, repeat.
Reminds us of: Brit brat Lily Allen
Download these: My Love and Diamond Dave
Beyonce, Mos Def
Album: Cadillac Records (Sony BMG)
In stores: Now
Why we care: Cadillac Records, the new flick and accompanying soundtrack, pays tribute to the '50s and '60s stars of Chicago's Chess label: Muddy Waters, Etta James, Chuck Berry and more. In a potentially ugly move, director Darnell Martin allowed her actors to cover such classics as At Last and I'm a Man. Thankfully, Star Jones didn't play Etta.
Why we like it: Give credit to Jeffrey Wright (Waters), Beyonce (James) and rapper Mos Def (Berry) for delivering solid, reverent performances that might teach a kid a thing or two about the genesis of pop . . . and rock . . . and rap.
Reminds us of: ''Ridin' along in my automobile / My baby beside me at the wheel . . .''
Download this: No Particular Place to Go
Album: The Fame (Interscope)
In stores: Now
Why we care: If this were 1983, I'd have an easier time explaining Lady Gaga's success. The vanilla dance-floor vixen excels at a monotonous delivery, Atari-era dance beats (anyone remember Nu Shooz?) and clunky sex rhymes. Unlike most vapid pop stars today, she's neither famous nor charismatic enough to get by solely on tabloid juice. And yet, she's currently killing on iTunes.
Why we like it: Gaga (a.k.a. 22-year-old Yonkers native Stefani Joanne Germanotta) dresses like a platinum drug diva and says she'll do anything for fame. How am I still bored? The best track is Poker Face, in which she uses wonky '80s production to tout her po-po-po-poker face.
Reminds us of: Nu Shooz is eating my brain.
Download this: Poker Face
SONG OF THE WEEK
Song: The Fear
Album: It's Not Me, It's You (Capitol)
In stores: Single on iTunes now; album in stores Feb. 10.
Why we care: I love the current crop of sassy, snappy Brit brats. Saucer-eyed MySpace princess Lily Allen, whose 2006 debut Alright, Still . . . was a big hit, is at the top of that snotty heap. Her much-awaited sophomore album doesn't come out until February, but I'm digging first single The Fear, about a London club kid trying to harness some semblance of soul.
Why we like it: "I don't know what's right and what's real anymore." Allen's lush, lackadaisical voice and the accompanying synth washes are reminiscent of London's swinging '60s mod movement. She wants to care about integrity and honesty . . . but there's a killer bash tonight, luv, so she'll handle it in the morning.
Reminds us of: The Bird and the Bee