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 Frank Turner is a surprising diamond in the UK’s mostly pop-laden rough. The London punk-bred songster, educated at Eton, spent much of the new millennium rocking out with hardcore outfits such as Kneejerk and Million Dead. But during the last five years, Turner has scrupulously honed his high-spirited acoustic guitar-driven sound, as heard on his last two albums, Love Ire & Song (2007) and Poetry of the Deed (2009). And in this time frame he’s amassed legions of fans across the U.S. as well as overseas thanks to his vibrant live show. He practically took over the American festival circuit this year with appearances at Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits.

Today, Turner offers us an early holiday treat, so to speak, with the release of his Rock & Roll EP. This five-song charmer was recorded in just three days at the Church Studios in Crouch End in north London and it’s classic Turner: earnest folk-tinged hooks (“Pass It Along” and the Springsteen-esque “To Absent Friends”) that blend nicely with Turner’s unwavering sincerity à la Billy Bragg. As he sings on “I Still Believe” — one that’s become a massively popular crowd-pleaser on both sides of the Atlantic — “Now who’d have thought that after all/Something as simple as rock ‘n’ roll would save us all.” Right on Frank!

The Rock & Roll EP is available via iTunes and Epitaph’s official online store.

In other music news:

Liam Gallagher‘s Beady Eye will drop their hotly-anticipated debut album, Different Gear, Still Speeding, on February 28 in the UK (so hopefully the U.S. version will follow on Tuesday, March 1?). The 13-song set was recorded in London with famed English producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, Morrissey, Travis). There’s a song on it called “Beatles and Stones”… Ummm, I can only imagine what this is about? (NME)

For those still unsure about the jaunty “Bring the Light”, let’s give it another go. WARNING: Some lyrical content is NSFW:

Blur bassist Alex James seemingly enjoys life on his cheese farm in the English countryside. Don't laugh, for James' most famous cheese "Little Wallop" has won him a handful of awards. Anyhow, the dapper father of five offers up a few foodie hints for the upcoming holiday. It's all about the "Rudolph" steak, apparently. (The Sun)

– In other Blur-related news, frontman Damon Albarn says he might put Gorillaz to bed upon the band's winter tour of the UK. Gasp! (Australia's The Age)

– British songstress Natasha Bedingfield issues her third studio LP, Strip Me, today in the U.S. Her new single, "Can't Fall Down" is another lovely and inspiring number much like her 2004 American Top Ten hit, "Unwritten." Billboard has the goods.

"The album's called Strip Me because it's all about stripping it down to who we are as humans," Bedingfield said. "We're united about our needs, our desires and our pain, all the different things we go through together. Strip Me felt like it explains what the songs are about more than any other title I could think of. So it has a double meaning, but I think people kind of know me enough to know what I mean by it."

New Order and former Joy Division drummer Stephen Morris chats with The Quietus about the new Joy Division vinyl box set +-, out this week in the UK. He also reveals his 13 favorite albums just like Morrissey did with his 13 favorite singles and albums earlier this year. Good stuff!

– Duffy's Endlessly — which debuted at No. 9 in the UK Top Ten — also arrives in the U.S. this week. In a recent interview with Wales Online, the Welsh-born soul singer admits that she nearly left the music biz following the crazy popularity of her 2007 Grammy-winning debut, Rockferry.

"I thought about walking away, I really did," Duffy said. "Not because I thought I'd done it. It's just that I missed the simple things in my life, a life that had got so complicated. I found myself longing to be on an empty beach in North Wales, walking with only myself and my thoughts for miles around — but that being said, I never have any regrets."

Despite Anglophenia readers voting the album's first single "Well Well Well" as the most annoying song of 2010, check out Duffy's performance of the elegant title track on BBC's Later…with Jools Holland.

What are you listening to this week?

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By MacKenzie Wilson