Christina Aguilera's new album, "Bionic".

Looks like things are starting to heat up again on the new release front, with albums out from a variety of current and former superstar artists.

First on the list is Christina Aguilera with her fifth English-language studio, non-holiday album. “Bionic” is the title, and if you’re an Xtina fan, you probably don’t need me to tell you about the album’s direction. After all, she’s been talking about it ever since she debuted “Keeps Gettin’ Better” on the VMAs two years ago. Moving away from the more soulful sounds of her last album, “Back to Basics”, “Bionic” finds Aguilera getting all electro on our asses. Public response has been pretty muted so far-first single “Not Myself Tonight” peaked outside the Top 20 on the pop charts. However, the woman’s voice can not be denied. Let’s see if a very interesting list of collaborators combines with that voice and creates a credible album.

Two years before Christina became a kid superstar, a trio of brothers from Oklahoma had that spot. It’s been well over a decade since Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson graced the pages of teen magazines everywhere, but the brothers have carved out their own little niche in the musical world with solidly constructed pop anthems. They’ve also managed to maintain a certain level of success without resorting to publicity stunts, without going on drugs or doing anything other than popping out babies every 20 seconds. If this were 1999, would I be excited about a new Hanson album? No. In 2010? Hell, yes! “Shout it Out” hits stores today and is certain to be one of those feel-good summery pop albums that the Hanson guys seem to specialize in.

Unless you’re a major hip-hop head, you probably don’t know who Rhymefest is, and that’s a shame. The Chicago emcee got his big break by co-writing “Jesus Walks” with Kanye West. It won ‘Fest a Grammy and was followed by his debut album “Blue Collar”. It wasn’t a huge success, but that has no bearing on the fact that it was one of the better hip-hop albums of that time (and it hasn’t lost it’s luster…I might actually like it MORE now). Anyhow, ‘Fest has kept busy on the mixtape circuit, most notably with a Michael Jackson tribute mixtape that dropped last summer. His second proper album, “El Che”, promises a familiar mix of knowledge and punchlines that should be familiar to any fan of “conscious”/backpacker/soulful hip-hop.

And that’s not it, ladies and gentlemen! Also in stores this week-a new album from anarchist punk rockers Against Me!, the second solo effort from Erasure’s Andy Bell, another country-flavored record from Jewel, the return of Lil Jon (WHAT???-yes, I know I’m five years late on that joke), the solo debut from Gym Class Heroes’  Travie McCoy, a covers album from Nada Surf, the soundtrack to the third volume of the “Twilight” series, and yet ANOTHER “Glee” album!

I’d be unable to complete this column without the invaluable assistance of Pause and Play. Make sure you check that site out!

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