FRESH OUT THE BOX: Lily Allen, Banks, Benatton, Broken Bells, Broods, Little Mix, Prince

It's the end of Week #6 of 2014 and Q1 Releases are finally truly cooking with gas. Here's a rundown of the must-listens from this week's new releases...

LILY ALLEN - "Air Balloon"
"When I'm bored, I kinda drift away / I'm not sure quite why we work all day..."
PopJustice described the second single from Lily's upcoming album as Cher Lloyd meets M.I.A.. I don't think that's too far off. Handclappy and breezy (and more than a little bit non-sequter), it's kind of the antithesis of "Hard Out Here" (which I adored) but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. It might take a few listens to warm up to (especially the nah-nah-nah-nah bits) but it's a full little pop nugget.

BANKS - "Brain"
"Trying to look smart but not too smart / To threaten anything they say..."
Fans of dark (female) pop are all flipping out over Banks (real name: Jillian Banks) -- she's legit the new poster child for the genre. "Brain" is the first single I've truly jumped aboard. The song is a quiet, controlled bridge to sonic nirvana -- there are so many layers to this and therein lies the intrigue. Once we hit the halfway point, her voice really opens up and soars.

BENATTON - "Bluffin'"
"I be on my 70's grind / American hustle..."
My guys in Benatton are working hard on a new mixtape due for imminent release any time now, dubbed Rap Over Everything. From what I gather, it's new rhymes over familiar beats to further bolster just how genre-less they are. A valiant effort indeed and I can't wait to hear the whole thing. For now, we can jam to "Bluffin'", available for listen now on Soundcloud. Once they hit 500 listens, they'll drop another cut -- so make sure you get on that...

BROKEN BELLS - "After The Disco"
"The chill of the night has got you dancing away..."
Sure, this piece of pure 70's-funk could totally meld seamlessly into a Daft Punk "Get Lucky" mashup, but don't let that deter you (if you're one of those few who dislike "Get Lucky", I mean). This is the title track (recently released as a single in the UK) from BB's sophomore effort out this week here in the US and their first official release in about three years. The album is a musical wonderland and was recorded with a large string orchestra. The whole set is worthy of your perusal -- especially "Perfect World" and the falscetto-ful "Holding On For Life".

BROODS - "Coattails"
"If you talk me out of my needs and stitch me up at the seams / And I could live my dreams..."
So many duos, so little time. Kiwi sibling troupe Broods (not to be confused with that animated shlock The Croods) offered up their brilliant EP (with the unequivocal best cover art of 2014 so far) and it's a shining beacon in the building trend of anti-shiny pop music. Vocalist Georgia sounds a bit like a Lorde/Sky Ferriera hybrid in the best way possible. The entire collection is a must-listen so make sure you jump on the bandwagon now before they are everywhere. "Coattails" is my current running favorite, but "Sleep Baby Sleep" and "Never Gonna Change" are hot on its heels.

LITTLE MIX - "Nothing Feels Like You" / "Word Up!"
"If I had everything / It wouldn't mean a thing..."
If you are tired of me talking about Little Mix's fun sophomore set hitting shelves in the US this week, then #sorrynotsorry. "Boy" remains my reigning fave of the set for its acapella intro and Destiny's Child nostalgia, but "Nothing Feels Like You", produced by oft-mentioned MNEK, really cooks for its beat alone (plus the handclaps and the tribal feel) and has been getting an obscene amount of plays by me recently. Also, their charity cover of Cameo's "Word Up!" sounds like it would be awful but it's anything but -- it's actually super fun and tongue-in-cheek. The fresh release will be out in the UK in mid-March.

PRINCE - "Pretzelbodylogic (feat. 3RDEYEGIRL)" (teaser here)
"Somebody else's problems / Too tired for another one..."
I haven't been much for Prince's recent releases -- mostly because it doesn't compare to the discography of his I love most: basically running from 1999 through Graffiti Bridge. "Pretzelbodylogic" definitely doesn't signal a new Prince era to salivate over but it's funky and guitar-driven and silly and a fun little listen.

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