A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:
The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, "Sing." A joyous, open-hearted folk album (by a Minnesota group) with two fabulous qualities: 1) It's great for sing-alongs on road trips, and 2) The band's goofy name causes instant eye-rolling among hipper friends .
Brad Paisley, Grammy Awards. In a ceremony that seemed like a rerun from last year (here's the lovely and talented Alicia Keys singing; here's Kanye West's giant ego getting bruised), Paisley's performance and ripping guitar work were a breath of fresh air for this non-country music fan.
M.I.A., "Kala." An engrossing beat-filled album from a hip-hop Bjork, "Kala" sounds like the soundtrack to a slightly twisted party, especially the tracks "XR2" and "Paper Planes."
RICH IWEN, MINNEAPOLIS
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Diablo Cody's column on New Kids on the Block, Entertainment Weekly. She totally explains how tween girls fall for certain pop stars, what emotions and gyrations they go through and how the attachment never, ever, really goes away. The best image: She had a giant poster of NKOTB's Joey McIntyre on her closet door and dabbed men's aftershave on his neck and shoulders "so he would smell like a real guy when I kissed him goodnight." Awesome!
Allen Toussaint, Dakota Jazz Club. He transformed a snowy night into a heartwarming "Southern Night" with his chatty, gentlemanly charm, versatile New Orleans musicality and deep bag of terrific songs. Highlights: "Get Out of My Life," "What Do You Want the Girl to Do" and "A Lazy Day."
The Whigs, Varsity Theater. This trio from Athens, Ga., was the perfect college-rock band that would have sounded exciting in the '80s, '90s or today.
JON BREAM, STAR TRIBUNE