EW mined the Web and found solid gold: 14 tracks to jump-start the New Year

By EW Staff
Updated January 12, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: Norah Jones: Danny Clinch; Kanye West: Eric Ogden/Corbis Outline; Ciara: James Patrick Cooper/Retna

Download This: 14 tracks to jump-start the New Year

Early January is a desolate time for the record industry, with few new CDs hitting stores. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of fresh music. Here’s a look at some great new downloads to fill up your just-unwrapped MP3 player. Our selection is heavy on tracks from albums coming down the pike, balanced with a few late-2006 highlights — and one long-lost vintage track — you might have missed. So start 2007 with a simple-to-keep resolution: Create a new playlist.

1. THE SHINS, ”Phantom Limb”
This is exactly the kind of alt-pop the Oregon quartet is so loved for. There’s a buoyant melody, some vivid (if abstruse) imagery, and a bridge of ooooh-waaahh-ooohs that’ll make any day a bit better. (New album out Jan. 23.) A- (Hear it on iTunes)

2. CIARA, ”Can’t Leave ‘Em Alone”
No matter how hard she tries, the crunk diva can’t help but fall for those reckless bad boys. Twinkling keyboards provide a breezy backdrop, while 50 Cent plays the devilish rogue on this lively duet. B+ (Hear it on iTunes)

3. RJD2, ”Beyond the Beyond”
One of indie rap’s most noted producers is trading his turntables for a microphone: On March 6’s The Third Hand, he’ll reintroduce himself as a funky crooner. The switch pays off here, where he layers his pristine harmonies into a psychedelic round. B+ (Hear it on EW.com)

4. JC CHASEZ, ”Until Yesterday”
The ex-‘N Syncer’s pop-funk song (from an upcoming March CD) reveals a nasty side: It’s a nervy, poisonous kiss-off to a cheating lover. It’s also proof that producer Justin Timberlake is as able at the mixing board as he is on the mic. A (Hear it on iTunes)

”I been gettin’ money since Kojak had an Afro,” raps Fabolous on his hilarious brag-athon. Kanye, no stranger to boasts himself, fits right in. A- (Hear it on iTunes)

6. CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH, ”Underwater (You and Me)”
The blog sensations live up to the hype with a majestic, glockenspiel-laden tune from their Jan. 30 album. Thank producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips) for conjuring a sound fit for driving into the sunset. B (Hear it on the band’s website)

7. LUCINDA WILLIAMS, ”Are You Alright?”
The first single from West (due Feb. 13) is a pleading dispatch to a fella who ”flew away like a little bird.” It’s so sad, you’ll cry in your longneck. B+ (Hear it on iTunes)

8. PATTY GRIFFIN, ”Heavenly Day”
This cut off next month’s Children Running Through features nicely subtle keyboards from the Faces’ Ian McLagan. Not that the folk chanteuse requires too much help as she effortlessly slow-burns her way through an evocation of good times inspired, apparently, by a day she spent with her dog. B+ (Hear it on EW.com)

9. THOM YORKE, ”Analyse (Various remix)”
British DJ duo Various escort the Radiohead singer onto the dance floor with an irresistible take on his introspective solo song. Even the most dedicated wallflowers might get swept along by the whirlwind of heavy beats. A- (Hear it on EW.com)

10. THE MYNAH BIRDS, ”It’s My Time”
This previously unavailable 1966 garage-rock treasure boasts one of the oddest pairings in rock history: Rick James and Neil Young. Shelved after James was jailed for going AWOL from the Navy, it’s also on volume 6 of The Complete Motown Singles. A- (Hear it on iTunes)

Though the Southern rapper is fired up on the new club thumper, it’s eternal hitmaker R. Kelly who leaves the biggest impression, with his insistent, wailing chorus. A- (Hear it on iTunes)

12. CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG, ”The Songs That We Sing”
The actress, singer, and daughter of legendary composer Serge breathily coos a noirish number (penned for her by Jarvis Cocker, Air, and the Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon) that will appear on her April 24 U.S. debut, 5:55. A- (Hear it on Vice Records’ website)

13. THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE QUEEN, ”Herculean”
Blur/Gorillaz leader Damon Albarn formed this group with members of the Clash, the Verve, and Fela Kuti’s Africa 70. This ominous groove from their Jan. 23 debut deserves a prominent spot on each of those legends’ résumés. A (Hear it on iTunes)

14. NORAH JONES, ”Thinking About You”
”My cold hands needed a warm, warm touch,” she purrs in the lead single from her much-anticipated Jan. 30 LP. Thanks to the Memphis-soul brass and organ parts, the song sounds just toasty. B+ (Hear it on iTunes)

By Clark Collis, Ryan Dombal, Michael Endelman, Leah Greenblatt, and Simon Vozick-Levinson