Typically subdued singer-songwriter Ben Harper's new single might make you wanna do a little boogie. Plus: new singles from Saigon, KT Tunstall, Chamillionaire featuring Slick Rick, and Bishop Allen

By Simon Vozick-Levinson
July 20, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

Ben Harper gets a little funky

If there’s one thing most casual fans expect to hear in a new Ben Harper tune, it’s his softly strummed acoustic guitar. Those listeners might be momentarily thrown by the lead single from Harper’s upcoming LP Lifeline (due in August), leaning as it does on a rhythmic piano-bass boogie. Not to fear, though: With the troubadour’s weathered, Richie Havens-esque vocals in place, the vibe is as warm and soothing as ever. (Buy it on iTunes)

SAIGON, ”C’mon Baby”
Producer Just Blaze is responsible for some of the finest fist-pumping rap anthems of the past five years, from Jay-Z’s ”Public Service Announcement” to Kanye West’s ”Touch the Sky” to Ghostface Killah’s ”The Champ” to T.I.’s ”Help is on the Way” (to pick a few highlights from a resume full of ’em). More recently, he’s also emerged as one of the genre’s most entertaining bloggers, offering in-studio anecdotes and exclusive audio snippets to the online masses. And when Just uses both skills at once, well, watch out. Last week he posted a brand-new single from his protégé Saigon — better known in some circles as the real-life rapper with whom Turtle briefly partnered in season two of Entourage — and it’s predictably hyper-flammable stuff. If Saigon’s gritted-teeth threats don’t get you heated (”If I don’t hurt n—-z that play with my wealth/I’m like me on Entourage, god — I’m playing myself”), the electric howls exploding from Just’s sampler deck ought to do the trick. (Download it from Just Blaze’s blog)

”I felt a change a-comin’,” Tunstall sings on her new single, ”I felt a change a-comin’ soon.” Whatever kind of change she’s talking about, it must not have been a musical one: ”Hold On” features the exact same kind of driving melody and knee-slapping syncopation that made her last album, 2004’s Eye to the Telescope, a breakout hit. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. As a matter of fact, tossing off another tune as unassumingly hummable as ”Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” or ”Suddenly I See” is an impressive accomplishment in itself. (Buy it on iTunes)

With only one major hit to his name (last year’s killer ”Ridin”’), billions of people have heard the Houston rapper Chamillionaire’s music, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll treat him as a serious career artist or a one-hit wonder. The first official single from his follow-up album, this fall’s Ultimate Victory, leaves no doubt that Chamillionaire, at least, considers himself one of the all-time greats. It opens with an intro that’s nearly identical to the one from 50 Cent’s ”In Da Club,” then shifts to a hook which shouts out Snoop Dogg’s ”Gin and Juice” and ”Murder Was the Case.” His verses feature a clever flagged-down-by-the-fuzz scenario that feels like an unofficial sequel to Jay-Z’s ”99 Problems” (”Til I talk to my lawyer, you get no reply/You’ve obviously been watching too much CSI”). Capping it all off is a tight cameo from Slick Rick — still a world-class storyteller after all these years. Chamillionaire might not be quite ready to stand beside Rick in rap’s hall of fame, but he’s certainly getting there. (Hear it at AOL Music)

BISHOP ALLEN, ”Click Click Click Click”
These Brooklyn indie-rockers won many a blog mention last year with the dozen EPs they released, one for each month on the calendar. It was an inventive way to build buzz, but the music on Bishop Allen’s new album The Broken String is plenty interesting in the absence of any such gimmicks. This teaser track sports a delightfully stuttering chorus and bright, festive production; we recommend that you click click click click it straight to your hard drive, then pick up the full-length when it drops next week. (Download it from Bishop Allen’s website)