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04/19/2007


MUSIC NEWS: Owen, Jamie xx, Rostam Batmanglij, Atlas Sound, Antony Hegarty, Amy Winehouse, Architecture in Helsinki

Mikekinsella

BY NORMAN BRANNON

Guestblogger Norman Brannon is a pop critic, musician, and author based in New York City. He presents a weekly music update here on Towleroad and writes regularly at Nervous Acid.  

Follow Norman on Twitter at @nervousacid.

EXTENDED PLAY:

Owen-Ghost-TownOwen Ghost Town (Polyvinyl)

In the ten years since he began recording as Owen, Chicago native Mike Kinsella has managed to wage as idiosyncratic a career as reality will allow. His sixth album, Ghost Town, represents a synthesis of sorts — where complex folk and songs about fatherhood ("O, Evelyn") intersect with understated guitar solos and oddly innocent sexual suggestions ("Too Many Moons"). Kinsella's paradox, then, is not so much that he's conflicted as it is that he's integrated: Young male singers with acoustic guitars have a tendency to dwell in maudlin strokes of misanthropy, but Ghost Town is more playful than that. Even its tensest moment — on the vibraphone-assisted "No Place Like Home" — channels adult frustration through territorial playground innocence; its harshest pronouncement ("F*ck you and your front lawn") is too cute to generate any ill feelings. At a time when pop records mistake arrogance for empowerment, Ghost Town disarms us with a rare insightful humility.

Also out today: Atlas Sound — Parallax (4AD), Kaskade — Fire & Ice (Ultra), Etta James — Dreamer (Verve Forecast), James Blake — Enough Thunder (Universal), Tycho — Dive (Ghostly International), Various Artists — Gold Panda: DJ Kicks (!K7)

THE DISPATCH:

RostamRoad Vampire Weekend's prolific (and out) keys player Rostam Batmanglij offers up another new song via his Tumblr: "Don't Let It Get To You" crosses tribal tendencies and Eno atmospherics with tried-and-true pop hookery.

Road Drake's new album features at least one unexpected collaboration: The title track, "Take Care," features Rihanna on guest vocals and British dubstep associate Jamie xx on production.

Bradford-coxRoad Deerhunter's Bradford Cox releases a new album under his Atlas Sound guise this week, and in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Cox was decisive in his mission statement: "Hetero-centric, boring scruffy 20-year-olds are ruining the f*cking face of rock and roll," he said. So what's missing? "Queerness. Homoeroticism. Boyhood."

Road The Museum of Modern Art has tapped Antony Hegarty to write, produce, and perform a "performance event" at Radio City Music Hall early next year: "Envisioned as a meditation on light, nature, and femininity, 'Swanlights' includes songs from all four of Antony and the Johnsons' albums set to symphonic arrangements by Nico Muhly, Rob Moose, and Maxim Moston."

Chris-carrabbaRoad This week's essential new streams and downloads: Two songs from the forthcoming posthumous album by Amy Winehouse have leaked. Check out "Our Day Will Come" and "Like Smoke," which features a guest turn from rapper Nas. Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba is offering a free four-song download called Covered in the Flood. The EP consists of reworked material from Big Star, The Replacements, and more. The first song from Nada Surf's forthcoming seventh album, The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy, is called "When I Was Young." And Björk released a new clip for "Thunderbolt" as an exclusive video stream at Boing Boing.

AmandapalmerfergusonRoad Dresden Dolls' Amanda Palmer invited acclaimed out singer-songwriter (and Magnetic Fields mainman) Stephin Merritt — in addition to Moby and author Neil Gaiman — to perform a Rocky Horror Picture Show classic for her appearance on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. It's bizarre! But it was Halloween, of course.

SOUND & VISION:

Architecture in Helsinki — "W.O.W."

The latest single from Moment Bends is a stark, but effective electropop track that demands a stark, monochromatic video treatment. But don't interpret that to mean Architecture in Helsinki have gone dark: Nothing says feel-good like swimming with dolphins and coming in for the hug.

Matt Cardle — "Starlight"

Carpenter-turned-UK X Factor winner Matt Cardle recently performed at London's G-A-Y because, well, he knows the gays loved him from the second he showed up on TV in his plaid shirt and painter's cap. The video for Letters' second single, "Starlight," reads more like a counterpart to Katy Perry's "Fireworks" — sans the exploding bra — but the song is in the classic anthemic Britpop mold of Coldplay and Embrace.

Mates of State — "Sway"

"Sway" is the kind of ebullient indie-pop song you'd throw on at the beginning of a road trip, but for Mates of State, the song has something more to do with winding up in a Lewis Carroll–like world and meeting a moss-growing, blue-skinned man who is capable of giving you the prom you never had as a teenager. By the clip's end, you'll concede they have a point.

Simone Battle — "He Likes Boys"

The first US X Factor cast off to release a single, Simone Battle's "He Likes Boys" tells the story of a woman who has terrible gaydar, bathes in sequin singlets, and decides that having a "new gay best friend" is just as great as seducing him. It's convoluted! And awkward! But while I can't figure out whether or not the song is cute or condescending, I'm confident this won't be the last contemporary pop song written by people who watch way too much Will & Grace.



MUSIC NEWS: Erasure, Björk, Washington, Lady Gaga, The Feeling, Kylie Minogue, Phoenix, Body Language, When Saints Go Machine

Erasure 2011 tomorrows world

BY NORMAN BRANNON

Guestblogger Norman Brannon is a pop critic, musician, and author based in New York City. He presents a weekly music update here on Towleroad and writes regularly at Nervous Acid.  

Follow Norman on Twitter at @nervousacid.

EXTENDED PLAY:

Usually, I'd dedicate this space to one new release for a more in-depth evaluation, but this week — for the first time in a long time — there were actually so many new albums coming out that I could talk about, I didn't feel like choosing only one. So instead, here's a list of Three Albums You Would Absolutely Not Be Wasting Your Money On — all of which are in stores today:

Erasure Tomorrow's World (Mute) Erasure-tomorrows-world_jpg_300x300_crop-smart_q85

WHO: Legendary synthpop pioneers celebrate 25 years and 25 million records sold with their fourteenth album.

WHY: Even with producer Frankmusik behind the boards, the inimitable Erasure blueprint is alive and well and arguably better. Vince Clarke's musical vision — which draws from classic pop, soul, and teutonic techno — appears here in a sharp, refined model, while Andy Bell's influence on the current generation of music-makers is frighteningly obvious from the start of album opener "Be With You": If it reminds you of recent hits from Rihanna or Katy Perry, it's because there'd be no Stargate without The Innocents.

START WITH: "Be With You" / "What Will I Say When You're Gone"

BjorkBiophilia Björk Biophilia (One Little Indian/Nonesuch)

WHO: Quite possibly the most successful eccentric musician to ever make music by recording the sound of stepping on glass returns with her ninth album.

WHY: The beauty of a new Björk album often lies in the sheer unexpectedness of it and Biophilia continues this tradition by reinventing what it means to be a full-length album. As if the music — in which she literally invented new musical instruments to compose with — wasn't enough, there is also an iOS app designed to accompany each song. But don't let that scare you: Even without the apps, Biophilia returns to the emotionally resonant and celestially-inspired mood that propelled Vespertine while charting an entirely modern course.

START WITH: "Moon" / "Thunderbolt"

Washington Washington I Believe You Liar (Universal Republic)

WHO: An Australian singer-songwriter deploys on American shores with the debut album that went platinum back home.

WHY: There aren't a lot of freshman records that arrive with this much complex self-awareness, but Washington's debut — a joyful pop record that flirts with jazz, soul, indie, and Broadway panache in equal measures — is a difficult-to-pigeonhole and satisfyingly idiosyncratic statement from an artist that's only scratched the surface. It's the kind of album that makes critics just inarticulate enough to say things like, Hey. This is f**king awesome.

START WITH: "Holy Moses" / "Sunday Best" / "How To Tame Lions"

Also out today: Tayisha Busay — Focus/Virus (Control Top), Radiohead — TKOL RMX 1234567 (XL/Ticker Tape), Ryan Adams — Ashes & Fire (Pax-Am/Capitol), Beni — House of Beni (Modular), Britney Spears — B in the Mix: The Remixes Vol. 2 (Jive), The B-52s — With the Wild Crowd: Live In Athens, GA (Eagle), The Smiths — Complete: Super Deluxe Collector's Box Set (Rhino)

THE DISPATCH:

Brian-May-Lady-gaga Road A new report suggests that Queen are in talks to go back on the road — with Lady Gaga in the late Freddie Mercury's shoes.

Road SPIN ran a special report on homophobia in indie rock this week, while also celebrating the genre's uncommonly queer visibility: "This sphere has more out figures than virtually any other major art form, except possibly theater: Stephin Merrit, Beth Ditto, Antony Hegarty, Mark Eitzel, Tegan & Sara, Bloc Party's Kele Okereke, Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste, Le Tigre's JD Samson, Sigur Rós' Jonsi Birgisson, Wild Flag's Carrie Brownstein, Patrick Wolf, Ani DiFranco, Owen Pallett, the Hidden Cameras' Joel Gibb, and Bob Mould, who is comfortable enough to detail his 45th birthday present to himself — a male escort — in his recently published memoir."

Dan_gillespie_sells Road The Feeling's out frontman Dan Gillespie Sells has shown up on fashion shoots before, but this collaboration is somewhat groundbreaking: Burberry will be releasing his band's new single, "Rosé," becoming the first-ever designer label to do so.

Road Kylie Minogue can add a new title to her already-impressive CV: This week, the pop singer was presented with an honorary Doctorate of Health Sciences from Anglia Ruskin University in Essex for her work promoting breast cancer awareness following her own bout with the disease.

Road This week in essential streams: Before his work with M.I.A., Major Lazer, and Beyoncé, Switch was better known for making fidgety house records and running the esteemed Dubsided record label. This week, he resurrects both projects with "I Still Love You," featuring Andrea Martin. Kate Bush's forthcoming album, 50 Words for Snow, features guest turns by Elton John and Stephen Fry; this week, she released the lead single "Wild Man." And finally, Justice's Audio, Video, Disco doesn't drop for another two weeks, but two more tracks have leaked: Check out "Canon" and "Newlands" — both of which attest to the classic hard rock influence that the duo have threatened us with in the press.

Phoenix-band-01 Road A new film documenting the rise of Phoenix and their universally lauded fourth album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, now has a trailer. From a Mess to the Masses premieres on European TV later this week.

Road Best known for his soundtrack work, Jon Brion is also a celebrated producer for the likes of Fiona Apple, Rufus Wainwright, and Kanye West. This week, it was announced that Brion has signed on to produce the next full-length album by Best Coast.

THE DOWNLOAD:


DOWNLOAD | Body Language — "Falling Out" (Honey Soundsytem Remix) [OM Records]

Brooklyn's Body Language release their debut album, Social Studies, next week — an organic blast of nu-disco funk and vintage R&B swagger — but this week, we're giving you a free download: The Honey Soundsystem remix of "Falling Out" runs on the kind of ethereal deep house aesthetic that put San Francisco house on the map and irretrievably added psychedelia to the city's house lexicon. If you've ever danced outdoors to Doc Martin or Dubtribe, you definitely know what I'm saying.

SOUND & VISION:

When Saints Go Machine — "Parix"

"Parix" is one of a handful of songs that I was actually obsessed with this year — a near-perfect crystallization of Antony-styled falsetto and low-slung R&B beat-making, Scandinavian avant-garde and recursive pop hooks. It sounds impossible on paper largely because no one else sounds like this band.

Florence & The Machine — "Shake It Out"

The second single from the forthcoming Ceremonials — out October 28 — gets a neo-gothic clip that doesn't reflect Florence's darker tone as much as it helps in producing it. There's either a party or a possession going on, but "Shake It Out" most likely sets out to blur the distinction.

Junior Boys — "Banana Ripple"

The epic nine-minute climax of this year's It's All True, "Banana Ripple" is like the realization of a New Order 12" on Germany's Kompakt label. The video — which basically marvels over the nature of ice — is somewhat more confounding.

Icona Pop — "Nights Like This"

Sweden may never have another Robyn, but Icona Pop's newest single is a worthy successor to her electropop canon. The video is more grindhouse than house party, and the song itself is genuinely irrepressible, suggesting that this duo are more than the sum parts of their Pro Tools rig — as if the Knife took off their masks and decided to have some fun.



MUSIC NEWS: Nicola Roberts, Bloc Party, Swedish House Mafia, Little Boots, Rostam Batmanglij, Will Young, Sigur Rós, Lights, Björk

Nicola Roberts

BY NORMAN BRANNON

Guestblogger Norman Brannon is a pop critic, musician, and author based in New York City. He presents a weekly music update here on Towleroad and writes regularly at Nervous Acid.  

Follow Norman on Twitter at @nervousacid.

EXTENDED PLAY:

Nicola Roberts Cinderella's Eyes (A&M UK) Cinderellas Eyes

Girls Aloud may be one of the biggest U.K. pop groups of all time, but in America, they're somewhat of a curiosity: They were a girl group manufactured by a 2002 reality television competition. They were a hit-making machine whose underlying hit-making production machine, Xenomania, became almost as famous as the girls themselves. And perhaps less endearingly, they were the band that spawned Cheryl Cole, who is now best known on these shores for lasting half an episode as a judge on the U.S. X Factor before being sent back to England. Despite all this, we should care. Because when Girls Aloud were great — and they did, indeed, have their fair share of transcendent moments — they embodied everything we love about pop music.

Nicola Roberts wasn't Girls Aloud's Beyoncé — or their Kelly Rowland, for that matter — which is all the more reason why Cinderella's Eyes has already positioned itself as somewhat of a coup. Unlike Cole's post-GA output — which is only as good as you think Will.I.Am is good — Roberts made an album that doesn't depart from the blueprint as much as it sends it up-to-date: The Diplo–produced "Beat Of My Drum" is a raucous freestyle affair, while "Lucky Day" — co-written by Canadian electro trio Dragonette — takes the spirit of 2008's Girls Aloud/Pet Shop Boys collaboration out of Neil Tennant's sullen range and into an elated place. That said, formulas work for a reason, and when Roberts teams up with former Xenomania member Jon Shave for "Say It Out Loud" — an impossibly pleasurable synthpop track, the caliber of which we haven't heard since "Dancing On My Own" — it's like she's no longer a struggling solo artist from a multiplatinum group, but the star of a group who never got her due.

Also out today: Feist — Metals (Cherrytree/Interscope), Björk — Biophilia (Nonesuch), MGMT — Late Night Tales (LNT/EMI), Lights — Siberia (Last Gang), Indigo Girls — Beauty Queen Sister (IG/Vanguard), Zola Jesus — Conatus (Sacred Bones), Craig Wedren — Wand (Megaforce), Death In Vegas — Trans Love Energies (Drone)

THE DISPATCH:

Bloc Party Road Bloc Party have only marginally cleared up rumors of Kele Okereke's dismissal, with guitarist Russell Lissack saying that while he hasn't spoken to Kele in a couple of months, and while there are "no bad vibes," the remaining three members are still auditioning new singers. "It's not really a secret because Kele's been pretty busy doing solo stuff," he explains. "The other three of us wanted to meet up and make music." On his blog, Kele still sounds confused: "A big part of me is laughing hard at all of this, but another part of me is all like WTF?"

Rostam Road This week in free downloads: Vampire Weekend's out keyboardist/producer Rostam Batmanglij took to his Tumblr this week to introduce a new Indian raga–influenced solo track called "Wood." DJ A-Trak remixed The Rapture's latest single,"How Deep Is Your Love?" and dedicated the Dub mix to recently departed Ed Banger producer and DJ Mehdi. Meanwhile, New York duo Ford & Lopatin get the French remix treatment on "Too Much Midi (Please Forgive Me)"courtesy of Alan Braxe.

Road Little Boots resurfaces with an emotive piano rendition of Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend."

Will Young Road Will Young cops to the Pet Shop Boys and Bronski Beat influence on his excellent new album, Echoes, but still isn't sure he can express his sexuality more openly: "You're still a minority. There are lots of people who don't want to think about" — he pauses and laughs — "anal sex, to be honest. And I don't have a problem with that."

Road Sigur Rós premiered their latest feature film, Inni, in Reykjavik, Iceland, last week. A 2CD+DVD package for Inni will get its release on November 15, and features music from the movie as well as bonus tracks and a previously unreleased song called "Lúppulagid." 

Jake elton Road The Scissor Sisters made an appearance at the New Yorker Festival this weekend to dish about Elton John, who recently brought Jake Shears and Babydaddy a box full of sweaters and shoes ("He's like your favorite grandma"), as well a shared moment with Gore Vidal: "At moments he was delighted by me, at moments he was disgusted by me," Shears said.

Road Commercial house music makes another bold leap into the mainstream: Swedish House Mafia — the trio of Sebastian Ingrosso, Axwell, and Steve Angello — have announced two "One Night Stand" performance dates at Madison Square Garden in New York and the Milton Keynes National Bowl in England.

SOUND & VISION:

Lights — "Toes"

She's gone on tour with Owl City, but don't hold that against her: Lights Valerie Poxleitner — that's Lights to you — released an incredible sophomore album called Siberia today, and "Toes" is a pretty solid example of what this self-written/self-produced album achieves: Tightly-programmed beats and shoegaze tendencies underlie a solid pop proficiency, while Toronto's Holy F*ck — no strangers to a sequencer themselves — lend a hand.

Björk — "Moon"

I have yet to really dig into Björk's new album Biophilia, also out today, but a lot of that has to do with the overwhelming idea of discovering an album with an iPad app for each song. That's not easy listening! Which is probably the point: The harp-plucked "Moon" is more of a linear movement than your standard recursive pop song, and it's Björk's willingness to go there that keeps us willing to follow the path she forges.

Cher Lloyd — "With Ur Love" (feat. Mike Posner)

A runner-up from last year's X Factor in the U.K., Cher Lloyd's first single was the most regrettable song to rhyme "swagger" with "Jagger" in recent memory — and there have been quite a few entries in that race! But follow-up single "With Ur Love" is a much-needed rebound, ostensibly meant to remind us that Lloyd didn't get as far as she did on the X Factor for her rapping: If London street-pop wasn't a thing before, it is now.

Holy Ghost! — "Hold My Breath"

DFA's resident electrodisco duo Holy Ghost! have known each since they were six years old, and that shows in this song's impeccable tightness and intuitive phrasings. The music owes its debts to Sheffield and Manchester, of course, but these references suits the video's evocative collection of still and moving pictures: It would almost be nostalgic if it weren't happening right now.


 


MUSIC NEWS: Frankmusik, Nirvana, Erasure, Arthur Russell, Portishead, Kele, Sneaky Sound System, Death Cab For Cutie

Frankmusik

BY NORMAN BRANNON

Guestblogger Norman Brannon is a pop critic, musician, and author based in New York City. He presents a weekly music update here on Towleroad and writes regularly at Nervous Acid.  

Follow Norman on Twitter at @nervousacid.

EXTENDED PLAY:

Frankmusik-do-it-in-the-am Frankmusik Do It In The AM (Cherrytree/Interscope)

Frankmusik launched his second album firmly on the defense. "It's got bit of an American twang to it because, f*ck it, I'm in America," he said in an interview this past April. "So when people are gonna say it isn't me, 'Frankmusik sold out,' I'll just say, 'No, Frankmusik got more concise,' and they can suck a d*ck." Well, OK then!

Historically, of course, great records have rarely been initiated with the self-awareness that there may be something disingenuous about them, and in the case of Do It In The AM, that self-conscious decision-making is nearly audible on songs like "No I.D." — the spiritual cousin to Rebecca Black's "Friday" and Murray Head's "One Night In Bangkok," if you can imagine that — and the commercial-radio-by-the-numbers title track which, as Frankmusik attests, sounds painstakingly American. Like he was trying. Fortunately, once you get past these ill-fated attempts at having the next Pitbull-assisted radio hit (sans Pitbull, thankfully), there is an album: Opener "We Collide" flirts with the kind of pleasurable, but edgy electropop that Stuart Price pioneered with recent albums for Take That and The Killers, while "Wrecking Ball" sounds like it could have emerged from Frankmusik's successful album sessions with Ellie Goulding. In fact, by the time you get to Track 10 — the simply brilliant "Struck by Lightning" — it becomes increasingly hard to believe that the lows on Do It In The AM are so damn low. Because the highs are simply transcendent.

The point Frankmusik seems to have missed in his preemptive strike is that this has less to do with "selling out" as it does with knowing what makes you unique and developing that to its greatest potential. When he speaks in his own voice, Do It In The AM is delightful. But the detours are disastrous.

Also out today: Nirvana — Nevermind: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Geffen), Wilco — The Whole Love (Anti-), Blink-182 — Neighborhoods (DGC), Plaid — Scintilli (Warp), Twin Sister — In Heaven (Domino), Spank Rock — Everything is Boring and Everyone is a F*cking Liar (Bad Blood), Apparat — Devil's Walk (Mute)

THE DISPATCH:

Nirvana with rupaul Road For the 20th Anniversary of the release of Nirvana's Nevermind, I put together a list of ten albums also released in 1991 that less noticeably changed the world. They sold about 29 million copies less than Nevermind — at least — but all of them altered the course of music in the last twenty years.

Road Frankmusik's new album may be touch and go, but I've got high hopes for his work with Erasure: A complete stream of Tomorrow's World and track-by-track commentary by the band is online now.

Road Experimental pop and disco pioneer — and queer icon — Arthur Russell changed the face of the dancefloor with "Let's Go Swimming." This week, Audika Records reissues the single with a dub mix from disco legend Walter Gibbons and a previously unreleased version of "Make 1, 2 (Gem Spa Dub)" that clocks in at eleven minutes long.

Road Influential trip-hop trio Portishead are threatening to go back into the studio for the first time since 2008's Third. "I'm going to start in January," says Geoff Barrow. "Historically that could mean f*cking ten years."

Jake-Shears Road Scissor Sisters mainman Jake Shears isn't penning your average collaborator dream-list: At the top of the heap is Queens of the Stone Age singer Josh Homme. "I really, really want to sing on the next QOTSA album," says Shears. "I think that he's a genius, a genuine rock hero living among us."

Road New music you'll want to stream: Beni's forthcoming House of Beni promises to do for runway house what Frankie Knuckles did for whistles. "Someone Just Like You" is the latest track to surface and features The Rapture's Mattie Safer on vocals. Also, MGMT have curated the latest edition of the Late Night Tales series, out next week, and the band covers Bauhaus' "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything" for the occasion. Neo-psychadelic goth, then? It actually works.

Bjork-2011_610 Road Björk talks with New Scientist about the technological and scientific inspirations and intersections on her forthcoming album, Biophilia: "If you write a song with acoustic guitar, is there [automatically] soul in it? I've heard tons of guitar songs with no soul at all. If music created with electronics or a computer has no soul, it's because nobody put it there."

Road R.E.M. announced their break-up after thirty-plus years as a band, but they won't go out quietly: Their final release is called Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982–2011, and it will be a two-disc, 40-song retrospective of the band's inimitable career — also featuring three new tracks.

SOUND & VISION:

Kele — "What Did I Do?" (featuring Lucy Taylor)

Bloc Party's out frontman is kind of worried that he's been kicked out of his band, but not enough to halt the release of his upcoming The Hunter EP on October 31. "What Did I Do?" is the lead single, and introduces a bunch of firsts: Guest singer Lucy Taylor, a new dubstep-tinged direction, and a newly muscled and shirtless physique he wasn't exactly touting on the Silent Alarm tour.

Washington — "Holy Moses"

I know very little about Washington outside of this video, and sometimes, that's the best way to evaluate something: The costuming might recall Lady Gaga and Tori Amos, but the song itself is one of those effortlessly ebullient tracks that are basically impossible to contrive. Washington's vocal, meanwhile, is strong, seductive, and best of all, perceptibly sincere.

Sneaky Sound System — "Big"

I'm starting to really look forward to the third album from Sydney–based Sneaky Sound System. Due out on October 7, From Here To Anywhere has already spawned a pretty fantastic lead single in "We Love," but single number-two connects the band with a more emotional tenor: "Big" comes from the Robyn school of slightly-melancholy-but-ultimately-uplifting arpeggiated pop. This is much harder to pull off than you'd think.

Death Cab For Cutie — "Stay Young, Go Dancing"

The latest by Death Cab is something like The Notebook of indie rock videos: You're kind of expecting Ryan Gosling to jump out and win someone's heart. But it's actually more sweet — and realistic — than that. "Stay Young, Go Dancing" is an anthem of aging in love.


 


MUSIC NEWS: 2011 Fall Music Preview, Grace Jones, Feist, Björk, M83, Solange Knowles, Jónsi, The Smiths, Ellie Goulding, Will Young

Grace-jones-608x411

BY NORMAN BRANNON

Guestblogger RDIO_GENERIC_120X60 Norman Brannon is a pop critic, musician, and author based in New York City. He presents a weekly music update here on Towleroad and writes regularly at Nervous Acid.  

Follow Norman on Twitter at @nervousacid.

THE 2011 FALL MUSIC PREVIEW:

Grace Jones Hurricane (PIAS America) Grace Jones - Hurricane

WHO: A legendary pop music and style icon, if there were no Grace Jones, there would be no … well, almost everyone.

WHY: Hurricane has already seen its release overseas, hitting the Top 40 Albums Chart in ten different countries, but its official American release isn't due until next month. Collaborations with everyone from Wendy & Lisa to Tricky and Sly & Robbie guitarist Barry Reynolds flesh out the album, but make no mistake: This is a modern Grace Jones affair.

WHEN: September 6

The RaptureIn The Grace of Your Love (DFA) The_rapture_grace-of-your-love

WHO: New York City provocateurs who spearheaded this decade's indie-dance movement.

WHY: After a dalliance with the major label world and ongoing collaborations with traditional techno scene stars, Brooklyn's Rapture return to James Murphy's DFA label for their fourth full-length album. Lead single "How Deep Is Your Love?" inverts a piano-house hook into a nu-disco argument against modern quantized rhythms — loose and funky, like what you'd imagine ESG would sound like in 2011.

WHEN: September 6

Das-racist-relax1 Das RacistRelax (Greedhead Music) 

WHO: Political satirists, authentic rappers, and neo-Dadaist muckrakers drop their official debut.

WHY: If you wanna get all academic about it, Das Racist are becoming increasingly effective cultural critics with an Absurdist slant. A quick definition of the movement — of "an avant-garde style in which structure, plot, and characterization are disregarded or garbled in order to stress the lack of logic in nature and man's isolation in a universe which has no meaning" — kind of underlines the fact, and on their debut actually-for-sale album, the crew seem at it again: Rest assured, "Rainbow in the Dark" has nothing to do with Ronnie James Dio.

WHEN: September 13

Ladytron-gravity-the-seducer LadytronGravity The Seducer (Nettwerk)

WHO: Longstanding electro-pop favorites from Liverpool, Ladytron anticipated the '80s revival before the '90s were over.

WHY: Having already released three songs from the album, there is a suggestion here that Ladytron are taking a more ethereal approach: "Ambulances" weaves in and out of consciousness not unlike Elizabeth Fraser's Cocteau Twins, while lead single "White Elephant" offers a synthesized take on a classic Motown rhythm. It's a whole lot of ageless beauty.

WHEN: September 13

Bjork-biophilia-real-artwork BjörkBiophilia (One Little Indian/WEA)

WHO: A fearless sonic innovator, Björk's influence and dialogue with the entirety of the electronic music world is inestimable.

WHY: If "Crystalline" is any indication, Biophilia may very well hark back to Björk's more abstract techno output — the tension of its glitch giving way to a lawless breakbeat that, somehow, never loses the melody. The simultaneous control and lack of restraint is just masterful.

WHEN: September 27

Feist452_2 FeistMetals (Cherrytree/Interscope)

WHO: A Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter who is both a member of Broken Social Scene and a one-time collaborator with Elmo on Sesame Street.

WHY: The long-awaited follow-up to The Reminder, Feist's fourth proper solo album doesn't seem to be making any drastic left turns, as the singer calls on trusted producers Mocky and Chilly Gonzales to help oversee the project. The addition of Valgeir Sigurðsson to the fold, however, may suggest a more orchestrated approach: Sigurðsson's CV includes work with alt-classical composer Nico Muhly, avant-folk duo Coco Rosie, and fellow Icelander Björk.

WHEN: October 4

M83Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (Mute) M83-artwork

WHO: Your favorite French ambient-electro mainstay and nu-gaze architect gets ambitious.

WHY: If you haven't heard the lead single from this forthcoming double-album by M83, then hurry up. "Midnight City" is exactly what Anthony Gonzalez promised from this formidable work, describing it as "pop — and very epic." If he can maintain this kind of enterprising spirit over two discs, we may be talking about an instant classic here.

WHEN: October 18

Coming out today: Moonface — Organ Music, Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped (Jagjaguwar), Jim Ward — Quiet in the Valley, On The Shores The End Begins (Tembloroso), Steve Mason — Ghosts Outside (Domino), Arcade Fire — The Suburbs: Deluxe Edition + Scenes from the Suburbs (Merge), Archers of Loaf — Icky Mettle (Reissue) (Merge)

THE DISPATCH:

Ronnie Road In one of the more remarkable moments to occur in the wake of Amy Winehouse's death, legendary singer Ronnie Spector released her as-yet-unheard, and utterly amazing rendition of "Back to Black." "I'm devastated," Spector said. "Every time I looked at her, it was like I was looking at myself. She had my beehive, my eyeliner, my attitude. She had such a great soul in her voice and her lyrics were so amazing that I couldn't help but sing one of her songs." Also worth noting: I composed an essay about the cultural and critical response to Winehouse's passing for MySpace Music. The takeaway? This isn't about us.

Road Beyoncé's younger sister Solange has been making the indie rounds a lot lately — collaborating with members of Grizzly Bear and Of Montreal, among others. Now, she can add DFA recording artist to her budding résumé: Solange lent her vocals to the latest 12" single by Rewards, which you can stream in its entirety now.

LCD-Lego-Soundsystem Road As long as we're talking DFA, it's worth mentioning that a pretty fantastic shot-for-shot Lego recreation of LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" video also came out this week. It's kind of brilliant.

Road Reissue, repackage, repackage — or so goes the famous song. When Morrissey isn't too busy offending our sensibilities for compassion, he's signing off on insanely embellished box sets like the one Rhino plans to release on October 3: The Smiths Complete: Deluxe Collectors Box Set features remastered versions of the band's entire album discography on both CD and vinyl, as well as 25 7-inch singles, posters, and freshly written liner notes.

Jonsi Road Out singer-songwriter and Sigur Rós frontman Jónsi has been tapped to compose the soundtrack for Cameron Crowe's latest film, We Bought A Zoo. The movie stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, and it's technically the second time Crowe has turned to Jónsi for scoring: Vanilla Sky featured "Svefn-G-Englar" from Sigur Rós's second album, Ágaetis Byrjun.

Road If the recent shoegaze revival hadn't already been confirmed, Death Cab For Cutie want to see that it is: The band stopped by the BBC Radio studios last week to perform a cover of the classic Ride song "Twisterella."

THE PLAYLIST:

This week's Rdio playlist was inspired by the New York heatwave — and more specifically, by my desire to sequester myself in front of an air conditioner and just chill out for a while.

"Chilled" is an anti-heatwave compilation featuring an emphasis on downtempo and acoustic tracks, which as I realized while I was putting this together, tends to seriously veer towards melancholy. But the sad song is a staple of almost every genre — even Shannon's "Let The Music Play" is downright depressing if you think about it — and, on some level, I've always gravitated towards raw nerves: The insanely desperate crescendo of Ida's "Little Things" still gets to me fifteen years later, the resignation of a Christian artist renouncing his Christianity — as on David Bazan's "Hard To Be" — doesn't get any more real, and Owen's "Bad News" is not the kind of song you'll put on to cheer your friend up. Still, there's consolation in the inconsolable: This is one for your more introspective moments or your next Sunday morning comedown.

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SOUND & VISION:

Beni — "It's A Bubble" (feat. Sean Delear & Turbotito)

It's almost a bit too feigned to be real, but Sydney producer Beni genuinely wants to usher the underground ball scene into the mainstream with an album called House of Beni, Paris is Burning–derived songs like "O.P.U.L.E.N.C.E.," and the video for "It's A Bubble" — which takes place at a Parisian ball. If vintage bitch-tracks and runway shade turn you on, there's a lot to work with here.

Ellie Goulding — "Starry Eyed" (U.S. Version)

Much-loved London singer Ellie Goulding continues her campaign for American domination with a new video for "Starry Eyed," and maybe I don't know much about these things, but I prefer the playful naiveté of the original version — if only because this one seems to imply that we're more susceptible to videos that feel like outtakes from Twilight. Either way, the song is pretty much perfect.

Underworld — "Diamond Jigsaw"

The standout track from Barking, "Diamond Jigsaw" is a throbbing pop song at heart — its melodic sensibility no doubt improved upon by German trance producer Paul van Dyk, who co-wrote the song. The video is a classic outsider's tale, as told by some sort of denim monster in search of his denim-monster son. I think.

Will Young — "Jealousy"

Outside of the U.S., Will Young has already achieved multiplatinum success as an out gay man and a quasi-soul pop singer — becoming the most approximate successor we've got to, say, George Michael. But on his forthcoming sixth album Echoes, Young teams up electropop producer Richard X for a sound that's already feeling like a reinvention: Lead single "Jealousy" is as emotive and grief-stricken as you can get when you're going four to the floor. It's also total pop gold.



MUSIC NEWS: Beyoncé, Patrick Wolf, Taking Back Sunday, Missy Elliott, Hunx & His Punx, Oh Land, CocknBullKid, Darren Hayes

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BY NORMAN BRANNON

Guestblogger Norman Brannon is a pop critic, musician, and author based in New York City. He presents a weekly music update here on Towleroad and writes regularly at Nervous Acid.  

Follow Norman on Twitter at @nervousacid.

EXTENDED PLAY:

Beyonce-4-cover Beyoncé 4 (Columbia/Sony)

The early word on 4 indicated that Beyoncé was moving into some uncharted territory: Reports surfaced of a recorded collaboration with Diplo and the Brooklyn noise-rock duo Sleigh Bells. The underperforming lead single "Run the World (Girls)" seemed to confirm a forward-thinking direction of some sort, sampling Major Lazer's "Pon de Floor" and pairing fidget-house pioneer Switch with R&B stalwart The-Dream on coproduction duties. And Odd Future's Frank Ocean got the call to write and produce. In the end, some of those things made it onto the album, but "forward-thinking" is not quite the right word for the outcome — in fact, just the opposite. Beyoncé's fourth album is, by and large, a record guided by the rearview, and the bulk of its material — downtempo, occasionally sullen, grasping for timelessness — ends up in some sort of mid-'80s R&B limbo. When they're there, the hits are forceful and definitive: "I Still Care" boasts an incredible urgent vocal delivery over a beat-driven, ambient soul track and "Countdown" is a midtempo open-letter-to-the-ladies empowerment song as good as any Beyoncé's ever given us. Unfortunately, the misses are just as pronounced — whether it's the Bruce Hornsby '80s rock-lite of "Best Thing I Never Had" or the grossly anachronistic "Love On Top," time-stamped by Shalamar in 1982 — and by album's end, the difference between 4 and its predecessors is a psychic one. Beyoncé says that she became "focused on [these] songs being classics, songs that would last," but in doing so, she tempted a well-known artistic truism: Longevity is achieved with time, not intent.

THE DISPATCH:

Ed Road Stereogum compiled a list of reactions to last week's passage of the Marriage Equality bill in New York, including notes from LGBT artists like Kaki King, Justin Bond, Tegan & Sara, JD Samson, and Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij, as well as allies like Ted Leo, The Decemberists' Colin Meloy, Best Coast, and Passion Pit. But the most personal reaction came from Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste: "As a gay man in a 7-year relationship getting married later this year, I can't tell you how thrilled I am about NY marriage equality!"

Road Missy Elliott has been largely out of the public eye since The Cookbook was released in 2005, and recent revelations might explain the gap. This week, Elliott revealed to People magazine that she's been suffering from Graves' disease — an autoimmune disorder better known as hyperthyroidism. "I couldn't write because my nervous system was so bad," she said. "I couldn't even use a pen."

Hunxpunx Road Hunx & His Punx recently stopped by the KEXP studios in Seattle to share their brand of queer retro-rock. A full performance stream is available for listening now.

Road A profile in the Guardian this weekend revealed two little-known facts about the ongoing rise of Nanna Øland Fabricius — or Oh Land to you and me: For one, the Brooklyn-via-Copenhagen singer had been originally tapped to open for Shakira at Madison Square Garden. (She declined.) But more perplexing, a random meeting in a London studio led Rihanna to request that Fabricius write a song for her. That never happened, she said, because "I got so intimidated that I didn't give a proper response."

Bombay-bicycle-club Road This week's premiere listens are plentiful: Björk's "Crystalline" is our first full taste of her forthcoming Biophilia, Wilco's "I Might" is the lead single from The Whole Love, Gold Panda released a new and unreleased track for download called "MPB" in advance of his forthcoming U.S. and European tours, and my personal favorite track of the week goes to Bombay Bicycle Club, whose upcoming third album A Different Kind Of Fix promises to be a rhythmically-oriented follow-up to last year's largely acoustic Flaws. The first single is called "Shuffle."

Santigold Road Following up on a cameo for the new Beastie Boys album, Brooklyn's Santigold is hard at work prepping her second full-length album with help from friends like Karen O and Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio and Jane's Addiction member Dave Sitek, and even Jay-Z — who called the album so far "epic" and "important." You can also expect to see Santi in an upcoming movie starring opposite Community's Donald Glover.

Road In support of his just-published memoir, Bob Mould sat in with The Roots on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon this week — and tackled a kind of awkward version of Sugar's "If I Can't Change Your Mind" in the process.

Road Arcade Fire will be releasing a deluxe edition version of The Suburbs on August 2, which will also feature Scenes from the Suburbs — a Spike Jonze-directed short film inspired by the album. The movie is currently available to watch, free of charge and in its entirety, from the indie film site Mubi.

COMING OUT:

Lupercalia Patrick Wolf's long-awaited Lupercalia is an album about love, and on "Bermondsey Street," he makes it clear that this is a love that dares speak its name. He sings: "Love knows no boundaries / Sees beyond sexuality / And holds the sun in the palm of its hand / And laughs down on the cynical man." On some level, Wolf is singing from an autocritical standpoint: His fifth album is a kiss-off to cynicism and a love note to the idea that romanticism and realism are not as far apart as many might suggest. To that end, there are countless images of space ("The City," "House") and time ("The Future," "Time of My Life," "Slow Motion"), but none more vivid than the 51-second long ode to his fiancé, also named "William," in which Wolf counts his blessings, and asks, "Oh William, will you be my conqueror?" It's a far cry from the title track to his last album, The Bachelor, where he swears "I'll never marry at all," but it's also a much better look: Whereas Morrissey seems intent on staying miserable forever, Patrick Wolf is finally ready for joy. It really does get better.

Taking-Back-Sunday-self-titled-album-art-work Taking Back Sunday have had more ex-members than they've had records, so the line-up for their self-titled fifth album seemed like kind of a big deal: For the first time in almost ten years, the original members behind their breakthrough debut Tell All Your Friends were reuniting for an all-new set. Of course, recreating the past is more boring than inventing a new future, and on Taking Back Sunday, the band does a little bit of both. Lead single "Faith (When I Let You Down)" is an all-grown-up version of the band that filters a clever lyrical conceit through church organs and a choir-like middle-eight, while "Sad Savior" mines the past with an unflattering tribute to Weezer's Blue Album and an outro heavily lifted from Braid's "Never Will Come For Us." But if Adam Lazarra has any one gift, it's the one that allows him to sing simple things like "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, come back" with a sympathetic pathos that easily forgives its own lack of profundity.

Also out today: The Feeling — Together We Were Made (Island UK), Gillian Welch — The Harrow & The Harvest (Acony), The Chemical Brothers — Hanna: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Sony UK), John Digweed — Structures Two (Bedrock), Dolly Parton — Better Day (Dolly)

SOUND & VISION:

CocknBullKid — "Yellow" 

The fourth UK single from CocknBullKid gets a video this week and gives new evidence to establish Anita Blay's unique position in the pop music canon: The bells and whistles and glittery outfits worked fine for Beyoncé at Glastonbury, but the first thing Blay does in the video for "Yellow" is take the bells and whistles off — choosing instead to rely on simple sets, an exultant everyman cast, and the best song Sugababes never wrote.

Darren Hayes — "Talk Talk Talk"

After four years away, Darren Hayes returns with the lead single from his upcoming Secret Codes and Battleships. A collaboration with Swedish producer Carl Falk, who is currently riding high after a UK #1 single for Nicole Scherzinger, "Talk Talk Talk" pits Hayes' pensive delivery against a silvery club track — and, so far in 2011, I'm hard-pressed to recall a more confident comeback.

Anna Calvi — "Desire"

She's got the co-sign from Brian Eno and the producer of PJ Harvey behind her, and that right there says a lot about what to expect from Anna Calvi. "Desire" is at once widescreen and soft-focus, with Calvi's unmistakable voice as its deep and expansive anchor. Like Harvey, you get the idea that we're really only scratching the surface of her depth. 

Wynter Gordon — "Til Death"

Honesty time! When I first got the link for "Til Death" a few weeks ago, I passed on it. A club track about partying "til death" and a tautological video of people at a party gave me the impression that, somewhere along the line, somebody ran out of ideas. But this weekend, while I was clearing out some of the promos on my desk, I threw on Wynter Gordon's With The Music I Die EP for a second-chance listen, and — maybe I was under the influence of this week's Pride festival — but this damn song really grew on me! I'm not one to believe in guilty pleasures, but OK: I might feel a little bit guilty here.



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