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MUSIC NEWS: Amy Winehouse, Rufus Wainwright, Jay Brannan, No Doubt, Snow Patrol, Feist, Owen Duff, Penguin Prison, Starsmith

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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.

EXTENDED PLAY

Rufus Wainwright House Of Rufus: Box Set (Universal) Houseofrufus

It's fair to say that when Rufus Wainwright released his debut self-titled album in 1998, the sheer volume and variety of his future work could hardly be predicted. He used to speak of (and, indeed, continues to mention) his desire to be a contemporary pop star, but if House of Rufus — the 19-disc box set featuring almost everything he's ever put his name on in the last fifteen years — reveals any one thing, it's that Wainwright is no contemporary pop star. Nor should he be. When "Foolish Love" opens the set with its theatrical panache, there is no question that Wainwright's idea of pop music sounds nothing like the radio: there is no traditional chorus, the lyrics are more conversational than radio call hook, and the arrangements — provided by the legendary Van Dyke Parks — haven't been "contemporary" since Parks produced Phil Ochs in 1970. Later, within the context of his "official" discography, Wainwright gives us folk tunes, album-oriented rock, classic torch songs, and his own self-proclaimed "popera." There are new versions of Shakespeare sonnets, liturgical mass music, and two CDs worth of Judy Garland covers. There is even the story of Prima Donna, the opera he composed and premiered in 2009. Factually, there is no "hit single," but more importantly, there is no artistic deficit. Wainwright flourishes as a true visionary artist, almost in spite of himself. In terms of rare music, House of Rufus offers an incredible selection of demos and other unreleased material that needed a wide release — the jaunty "A Bit of You" and fan favorite "Money Song" immediately spring to mind — but there's one song whose omission lends unintended irony to Wainwright's pop aspirations: The only officially commissioned remix of a Rufus Wainwright song — by German techno producers Michael Mayer and Superpitcher — gives "Tiergarten" an epic 14-minute ambient disco workout, and in all these years, it's still the closest he's ever come to finding success on a modern dancefloor.

Also out today: Kelly Rowland — Here I Am (Motown Universal), Jake Walden — Same Something Different (Jake Walden Music), Little Dragon — Ritual Union (Peacefrog), Paul Oakenfold — Never Mind The Bollocks (Perfecto), Popul Vuh — Revisited & Remixed: 1970-1999 (SPV), Metronomy — English Riviera (Big Beat/WEA), Craig Richards — Fabric 58: The Nothing Special (Fabric)

THE DISPATCH

Amy-winehouse Road Musicians are responding en masse to news of the death of Amy Winehouse: Says Lady Gaga, "Amy changed pop music forever." Adele astutely noted that "Amy paved the way for artists like me and made people excited about British music again whilst being fearlessly hilarious and blasé about the whole thing." And in a series of tweets, Rihanna said she was "genuinely heartbroken about this." For a longer read from a surprising contributor, comedian Russell Brand offered a deeply personal essay about Winehouse and their shared affliction of addiction: "Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease … All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation, but as a disease that will kill."

Road The musical tributes for Amy Winehouse have just begun: Esteemed singer-songwriter Jay Brannan covered "Rehab" for a new video on his YouTube channel, while M.I.A. quickly responded to Winehouse's death with a new song: "27" is available for streaming on Soundcloud now.

RoadNodoubtandmajorlazer No Doubt's love for Jamaican dancehall culture, reggae, and ska is well-documented, so it's almost a no-brainer for the crew to hook up with electro-dancehall producers Switch and Diplo — a.k.a. Major Laser — on their forthcoming comeback album. The band revealed they're working on a new song called "Push and Shove" with the duo.

Road Snow Patrol have announced a new EP for release on September 4 — their first new set since 2008's A Hundred Million Suns. The band released a high-quality version of the title track, a quasi-nu-disco stomp titled "Called Out In The Dark," for streaming on YouTube

RoadFriendly_fires_glasto09_DN_012 Whether you love Gaga or you'd rather she just go away, there's little arguing that "Edge of Glory" is kind of a jam. UK post-rave standard-bearers Friendly Fires seem to agree: they covered the song for BBC Radio this week.

Road Today in bizarre musical family dynasties: Bob Dylan's grandson, Pablo, is a rapper.

Road It's hard to believe it's been over three years since the release of Feist's incredible breakthrough album, The Reminder, but the dry spell is over: A 12-song follow-up album called Metals will get its release on October 4, and the singer has released a string of preview videos to whet your appetite.

Road Those of you who remember my Unsigned Artists Special a few months back might remember Owen Duff — the openly gay London-based singer/songwriter whose work, I noted, "transforms the Broadway dream-sequence into a three-minute pop song." In anticipation of a new EP set for release later this summer, Duff threw a sublime cover of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" on YouTube, and pretty much earns that critical distinction all over again.

THE PLAYLIST

This week's Rdio playlist lays tribute to the massive contribution that Amy Winehouse made in creating a hospitable landscape for a British neo-soul and jazz vocal movement that includes, but goes well beyond the phenomenal success of Adele. The circumstances under which this playlist was conceived were, of course, terribly unfortunate. But creating this mix provided a unique opportunity to appreciate the work of Amy's peers and that of her successors — only a partial extent of what will surely become her influential legacy. Direct relations include Dionne Bromfield — the 15-year-old singer who was Amy's goddaughter and protégé — as well as Alex Clare, an ex-boyfriend whose dubstep-soul bears clear traces of her impact. But it's the indirect connections of, say, Kate Nash's straightforward lyrical approach or VV Brown's distinctively English delivery that will remind us most of the profound impact that Amy Winehouse had on British music in such a short amount of time. This mix attests to the fact that her absence will be deeply felt for some time.

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SOUND & VISION

Penguin Prison — "Fair Warning"

Ebullient and seemingly effortless, Penguin Prison's latest single is somewhat of a modern new wave benchmark — meaning that if you took away the roaming arpeggiators and impeccably synthesized rhythm, you'd still have a meaningful pop song. All together, it's a last-minute contender for song of the summer.

Joan as Police Woman — "Chemmie"

Her bio includes stints with Antony & the Johnsons and the Dambuilders, collaborations with Rufus Wainwright and Scissor Sisters, and significant-other status with the late Jeff Buckley, so if the company that Joan Wasser keeps is any indication, her talent-to-notoriety ratio is sadly skewed in the wrong direction. "Chemmie" is the third single from last year's The Deep Field — a jazzy, but soulful take from an emerging artist that demands a second look.

Starsmith — "Lesson One"

His most recent notoriety comes from an impressive list of songwriting and production credits for Ellie Goulding, Girls Aloud's Cheryl Cole, and Kylie Minogue — if you liked "Put Your Hands Up," he's one of the people you'll want to thank — but later this year, Starsmith plans to strike out with his solo debut. "Lesson One" is the second official single from that album, co-written by French club producer Alan Braxe.

The Forms — "Fire to the Ground" (feat. Matt Berninger)

The Forms recent Derealization EP showed a band on the verge of a creative apex, and with the video for "Fire to the Ground" — one of its standout tracks featuring vocals by The National's Matt Berninger — the New York-based duo step up the visual element: Intricate, conceptual, and somewhat dark, insofar as occasionally mirthful dancing can be dark, this is not the kind of choreography you'll see on So You Think You Can Dance.



Bob Dylan Goes Gay, Straight, Ambiguous Together Through Life

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Some around the blogosphere are saying that the 1959 Bruce Davidson photo from his Brooklyn Gang series which appears on the cover of the new Bob Dylan album is a shot of two men kissing. While it's certainly an intriguing and exciting possibility, others familiar with the entire series of photos say it's a girl who appears in other photos from the same session. Still, a beautiful, carefree, ambiguous photo.


Fred McDarrah, NYC Photographer who Covered Stonewall, Dies

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Village Voice photographer Fred McDarrah, who chronicled life in New York for nearly fifty years, died in his sleep in Greenwich Village yesterday. He was 81.

Lots of examples of McDarrah's work can be seen here. He was really one of the greats.

The photo above, right, was taken two nights after the Stonewall Riots on June 29, 1969 outside the Stonewall Inn. The chalk message scrawled on the brick wall reads: "To fight for our country, they invaded our rights."

The Voice writes: "Fred captured Jack Kerouac frolicking with women at a New Year’s bash in 1958, Andy Warhol adjusting a movie-camera lens in his silver-covered factory, and Bob Dylan offering a salute of recognition outside Sheridan Square near the Voice’s old office. Not just a social chronicler, McDarrah was a great photo-journalist. He photographed the still-smoldering ruins of the Weather Underground bomb factory on W. 12th Street. His unerring eye for gesture and detail caught lawyer Roy Cohn whispering what appeared to be tough orders in the ear of a young Donald Trump. For years, McDarrah was the Voice's only photographer and, for decades, he ran the Voice’s photo department, where he helped train dozens of young photographers, including James Hamilton, Sylvia Plachy, Robin Holland and Marc Asnin. His mailbox was simply marked 'McPhoto.'"

A few more of McDarrah's shots, after the jump...

Fred W. McDarrah, 1926-2007 [village voice]
Former Village Voice photographer dies, chronicled tumultuous era [newsday]

Continue reading "Fred McDarrah, NYC Photographer who Covered Stonewall, Dies" »


News: Al Gore, Arctic, Todd Haynes, Wide Stance, J Lo

road.jpg Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch says he believes in civil unions: "I think people should have the same rights as far as probate is concerned, as far as health care is considered, as far as visitation and all those things."

Toddhaynesroad.jpg The New York Times looks at Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan film I'm Not There: "Todd Haynes’s Dylan film isn’t about Dylan. That’s what’s going to be so difficult for people to understand. That’s what’s going to make “I’m Not There” so trying for the really diehard Dylanists. That’s what might upset the non-Dylanists, who may find it hard to figure out why he bothered to make it at all. And that’s why it took Haynes so long to get it made. Haynes was trying to make a Dylan film that is, instead, what Dylan is all about, as he sees it, which is changing, transforming, killing off one Dylan and moving to the next, shedding his artistic skin to stay alive. The twist is that to not be about Dylan can also be said to be true to the subject Dylan."

road.jpg Al Gore frontrunner for Nobel Peace Prize "in a controversial move that could place saving the planet above saving people from war and conflict."

road.jpg An animated study of the melting of the Arctic ice pack.

road.jpg Ugly Betty's subversive flamboyance.

road.jpg Alabama minister dies during autoerotic undertaking. Gary Aldridge "was found hogtied and wearing two complete wet suits, including a face mask, diving gloves and slippers, rubberized underwear, and a head mask." There was also another detail that the Montogomery Advertiser failed to mention in their story on the late pastor.

road.jpg J Lo is assembling a lovely collection of body tents but still hasn't announced that she's pregnant.

Unsureroad.jpg I Love New York 2 contestant "Unsure" is sure of one thing: he enjoys showing his naughty bits off to the gays.

road.jpg "Wide stance" enters the lexicon.

road.jpg The Daily Show's Samantha Bee: "It's been months since the Minneapolis High Court found Larry Craig gay. Now that his petition of 'not gay' has been thrown out, it's official: Larry Craig is gay in the eyes of the law."

road.jpg Gawker heads inside NYC's "Slingback" party.

road.jpg Lesbian who was thrown out of New York restaurant women's room by bouncer because she looked like a man, files civil rights lawsuit: "He began pounding on the stall door saying someone had complained that there was a man inside the women’s bathroom, that I had to leave the bathroom and the restaurant. Inside the stall door, I could see him. That horrified me, and it made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I said to him, 'I’m a female, and I’m supposed to be in here.' After I came out of the bathroom stall, I attempted to show him my ID to show him that I was in the right place, and he just refused to look at my identification. His exact words were, 'Your ID is neither here nor there.'"


Towleroad Guide to the Tube #176

PATTI LABELLE: Goes off on fan at concert.

THE FONZ: Yesterday, was the 30th anniversary of the moment when Happy Days officially "jumped the shark."

TOM VILSACK: Former Iowa governor rips Giuliani's marriage record.

I'M NOT THERE: A report from Venice on the Todd Haynes Bob Dylan film we posted about here.

Check out our previous guides to the Tube here!


Todd Haynes' Dylan Biopic I'm Not There Stirs Up Buzz

Over the last day or so the internet has been abuzz about Cate Blanchett's portrayal of Bob Dylan in gay filmmaker Todd Haynes' (Far from Heaven, Velvet Goldmine, Poison) upcoming experimental biopic I'm Not There.

ImnotthereAs a Haynes fan I'm really looking forward to this film, not only for Blanchett, who features prominently in a scene leaked yesterday in which Dylan converses with beat poet Allen Ginsburg (played by David Cross), but for the unusual approach Haynes has taken, enlisting five additional actors who also play Dylan at various stages of his life.

Haynes is at ease with experimentation (his breakthrough film, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, was a biopic of the singer's life made entirely with Barbie Dolls) and has proven he can do Oscar-caliber drama, so hopefully I'm Not There will be a treat.

Each actor's portrayal, at different stages of Dylan's growth, is shot in a different style meant to showcase various moments on the folk singer-turned-rock star's journey.

Harvey Weinstein told the New York Times on Tuesday that the film is being given a "rolling release": "With a movie like this you have to build it. I don’t think you can go out on 500 screens. The reason for Film Forum is you go where the best word of mouth is on the movie. I like the movie; I think it’s adventurous. The audience is going to have to work — work in a good way."

He also singles out one actor: "I may be jumping the gun, but if Cate Blanchett doesn’t get nominated, I’ll shoot myself."

And here's the leaked scene with Allen Ginsburg:

The film is the first biopic on the legendary folk icon to get the approval of Dylan himself.

Here's Ledger as the singer (his wife Michelle Williams also has a role):

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Shots of the other four actors — Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Marcus Carl Franklin, and Ben Whishaw, after the jump...

Continue reading "Todd Haynes' Dylan Biopic I'm Not There Stirs Up Buzz" »


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