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Like Alicia Keys or Lauryn Hill, [Keri Hilson is] right up Grammy’s alley—a singer/songwriter urban hybrid hyphenate, whose innovative rhythms and sounds at once build and expand on traditional R&B themes, making her a lock for at least a Best New Artist nom,
ON RECORDS: LENNY BEER’S SUMMERTIME FAVES
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Between his Blackberry scrolling, golf game, UCLA class and threatening phone calls to Clipper owner Donald Sterling, you wouldn’t think HITS’ own workaholic Lenny Beer would have any time left over to actually listen to music. But listen the man does, and with his always-unerring ability to guess what we’ll be listening to before we do, here are his summertime, half-year picks.

Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote): Fronted by Sofia Coppola’s baby daddy and French heartthrob Thomas Mars, they’ve risen like their namesake, but have actually been around close to 10 years, releasing five albums. Glassnote’s Daniel Glass picked them up for distribution here and the rest is history. The hipsters have now taken notice and, after an unprecedented three-song performance on Saturday Night Live (Lorne Michaels apparently loves ‘em), the groundswell is continuing as the band tours to much acclaim. Airplay’s already building steadily on the first single, “1901,” but some people like “Lisztomania” even more.  It’s the same kind of buzz that turned Radiohead from a cult band into an arena group, and Phoenix is a lot more accessible. A real contender for Grammy Best New Artist and, if momentum continues, some major category noms are possible as well.

The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love (Capitol): I’ve already raved about Colin Meloy and company when I began campaigning for Grammy recognition several months ago. Taking the concept of the rock opera into the 21st century, Meloy shows the future potential of album-length works by packing it with one great song after another.

The Airborne Toxic Event (Island): This L.A.-based band’s self-titled debut got picked up from indie Shout! Factory, as the group continue to grow their fan base with relentless touring. “Wishing Well,” the second single after “Sometime Around Midnight,” is now starting to take off, too, but it’s the latter that figures to be around come year-end critical list and award-show nomination time. Lead singer/songwriter Mikel Jollett is a dark, brooding, literate intellectual who’s already written his first novel and named the band after Don DeLillo’s White Noise. They’ve already built up a strong international following, selling out everywhere, while their TV performances, complete with their chamber string orchestra accompaniment, are already legendary on YouTube.

Keri Hilson, In a Perfect World… (Mosley Music Group/Interscope): Part of the Atlanta-based songwriter coalition known as The Clutch, Hilson was signed by Timbaland to his label after writing hits for Britney Spears, Ciara, Usher and Ludacris, as well as guesting on albums by Diddy and Lloyd Banks. Her debut album bowed in the Top 5 on the sales chart back in March. Like Alicia Keys or Lauryn Hill, she’s right up Grammy’s alley—a singer/songwriter urban hybrid hyphenate, whose innovative rhythms and sounds at once build and expand on traditional R&B themes, making her a lock for at least a Best New Artist nom, and possibly much more.

Colbie Caillat, “Fallin’ for You” (Universal Republic): Her first single is already our guilty pleasure for the summer. Reminiscent of a great Fleetwood Mac track, it’s exploding at radio and is now Top 5 at iTunes, more than living up to her original viral breakout. Can’t wait to check out the entire album. Caillat is the real deal. 

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