"Where are We Now?" is the first single off David Bowie's new album, his first in 10 years, released on his 66th birthday, produced by his longtime producer Tony Visconti. His new album will be released at the beginning of March.
Author Chris Andersen's new book Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger offers readers tidbits from the Rolling Stone legend's life, including a time in the early 1970s when he and fellow singer allegedly David Bowie allegedly had a long-term affair.
In what appears to be a collection of memories, old lovers and friends recall a brief period when Jagger and Bowie regularly and openly slept together. One former colleague, backup singer Ava Cherry, told Andersen that the men were "sexually obsessed with each other" and then there's the time Bowie's former wife Angie walked in on them naked in bed, sleeping.
But it also seems that the relationship was more than just sex: the men reportedly had a mutual respect and admiration. Cherry told Andersen the men were emotionally intertwined and "practically lived together for several months." Several months many, many years ago, even before the biggest clue that Mick Jagger and David Bowie had a fling: the 1985 video for their rendition of "Dancing in the Streets."
David Guetta's third album, Pop Life, was hardly a fully realized work, but his intention was clear. In 2007, when it was released, European club music had been desegregated from overseas Top 40 pop for years — but more often than not, this crossover was a matter of fact and not a concerted effort. Guetta was one of the first to put that extra effort in — beginning by hiring legendary pop songwriter Cathy Dennis to work on the record with him — and despite its failures, Pop Life was Guetta's first semi-hit album. It also arguably paved the way for Lady Gaga's The Fame only one year later, which cracked open the American market for this style, and in turn, paved the way for Guetta's truly massive One Love in 2009. (If you really want to complete the circle, listen to "Born This Way" again and see if you don't hear the similarities to "When Love Takes Over.") This week, Guetta returns with Nothing But The Beat — the first new album since his mainstream breakthrough — and it's nothing if not contemporary. This is, however, a blessing and a curse: In a landscape where "Guetta-beat" is being produced by dozens of like-minded studio hacks, the struggle for Guetta to retain his voice is often foiled by his propensity for nabbing scene-stealing guest stars. The album's first two singles — "Where Them Girls At," featuring Nicki Minaj and Flo-Rida, and "Little Bad Girl," featuring Taio Cruz and Ludacris — are archetypes of the old Guetta-beat, and with his trance-based structural dynamics having been appropriated by everyone from Dr. Luke to Stargate, neither song really stands out from any number of singles on the radio right now. The same can't be said, however, for standouts like the Usher–led "Without You" — a sort of arpeggiated progressive-house cousin to Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With You" — and the fact that this will be the third track sent to radio is a signal that Guetta is already thinking ahead. Because when the current commercial dance boom subsides, as all pop micro-trends do, it will always be the actual song under the synths that matters most.
Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan took some flack from fans for granting an exclusive regular column to Crestfallen — a fan site run by a Mormon adherent who openly supported California's Proposition 8. But things got more heated after Devi Ever, a guitar-pedal engineer and transgender woman who spent money developing a custom bass pedal at Corgan's request and was then ignored, aired her grievances towards the singer on the Internet: Corgan responded with a series of verbal threats (claiming he would "knock [her] f*cking lights out") and transphobic slights (calling her a "he/she" and "a sad creation"). Corgan has since deleted the offending tweets, but unfortunately for his bigoted temper, the Internet is forever.
Last week's self-started rumor of a Bon Iver and James Blake collaboration came to fruition as promised: "Fall Creek Boys Choir" is one of the most elegant songs to come from either camp, and it's available on iTunes this week.
This week's essential streams and downloads: Starsmith released his version of the latest Marina and the Diamonds single, "Radioactive," and then somewhat mysteriously took it down from his Soundcloud page a few days later. Luckily, Hype Machine still has the stream. The debut album by Wild Flag — featuring members of Sleater-Kinney, Helium, and The Minders — is up at NPR now. And let's not forget Penguin Prison: A self-titled debut is due next week and the latest retromodern track to leak is called "Don't F*ck With My Money."
Robyn's Body Talk trilogy was an ambitious undertaking in dozens of ways, but one of the less examined aspects of the project has been its bold and innovative visual identity — from the album artwork and videos to her concert styling and online interactive campaigns. The Creator's Project took all this into account and put Robyn in a room with the album's creative director, Mary Fagot, for an enlightening video interview on the subject.
Foo Fighters are going on tour this fall, and to let you know about it, they did what any other self-respecting rock band would do: They filmed a teaser video, completely in the nude, showering together. Needless to say, it's NSFW — especially the close-up shots of each member's rear end. No lie.
The forthcoming second album by Baltimore-based hip hop crew Spank Rock will be called Everything is Boring and Everyone is a F*cking Liar, and our first taste is a track called "Nasty" — featuring an outrageous coda from New Orleans sissy bounce ambassador Big Freedia, who has spent this year quickly shattering the limits of acclaim and mainstream acceptance for queer rappers. The album, due September 27, also features work from Santigold and hip hop megastar Pharrell Williams.
SOUND & VISION:
Leona Lewis & Avicii — "Collide"
The nasty lawsuits are behind them, so the first video from Leona Lewis' upcoming third album has earned its official release. I'm personally a bit torn about the track, and the video — which positions Lewis as more of a summer babe than a smart chanteuse — doesn't seem to reconcile anything for me. I will say this: The original Penguin Café Orchestra composition that Avicii used as the basis for this much-contested track totally outshines its revision.
Bombay Bicycle Club — "Shuffle"
A Different Kind of Fix is Bombay Bicycle Club's highly guarded third album — which means I can't give it a fair assessment until its release next week — but if it's anything like its lead single, the London–based band may have a proper hit on their hands: "Shuffle" is the missing link between their scrappy post-punk debut and their leftfield follow-up of whispery folk confessionals, held together by a newfound sense of rhythm and joy.
Florence & The Machine — "What the Water Gave Me"
Florence Welch promised that her band's new songs were "drawn to dark metaphors," and "What The Water Gave Me" — the first single from Florence & The Machine's as-yet-untitled second album — delivers in spades: "When I was writing this song I was thinking a lot about all those people who have lost their lives in vain attempts to save their loved ones from drowning," she says, suggesting that her warning was an understatement.
Emeli Sandé — "Heaven"
The debut single from Scottish singer Emeli Sandé went to #2 on the UK charts this week, and with good reason. "Heaven" is one of those pleasurable, but slightly edgy pop singles that breed both familiarity and discovery: Recent tracks by Katy B and classic album cuts from Massive Attack certainly inform the music — a sort of trip-hop/drum-n-bass hybrid — but Sandé's capable voice is clearly what makes this song memorable in long run. It's a great way to start a career.
Aside from Watch the Throne, the anticipated collaborative effort from Kanye West and Jay-Z, the summer release drought continues this week. But that doesn't mean there isn't new music to be heard: This time around, I've assembled a handful of free and legal downloads to give away — including a track that's somewhat personal to say the least.
WHY: Los Angeles singer-songwriter Pat Grossi literally began his career as a choirboy, so it's no wonder that last year's Curtis Lane EP introduced a voice that was as angelic as it was ghostly. For his forthcoming debut album, You Are All I See, Grossi reins in his new wave tendencies and breaks new ground with an almost textural R&B — as if Jonsí from Sígur Ros decided to sing the D'Angelo back catalog. This is, trust me, an incredible thing.
WHEN: You Are All I See is released August 23 via Vagrant.
WHY: Longevity is a rare beast in the music industry, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out how it's done: Liverpool electropop vets Ladytron are entering their second decade as a band because they've always been intent on expanding and redefining the boundaries of what it is that they do. With "White Elephant," the band goes back to basics, composing a classic pop standard through a modern pop lexicon. If that's tension that you hear, they're doing it right.
WHEN: Gravity the Seducer is released September 13 via Nettwerk.
WHY: I don't generally merge my two career paths in any way, but it's free download week and I'm in the giving spirit. While the majority of you might only know me for my work here, I'm actually far better known as a musician, having played in a number of bands and worked as a songwriter for others over the last twenty years. Last month, I was commissioned to do a remix for one of the best working artists right now — London singer-songwriter James Yuill — and the resulting track turned out to be one of my favorite things I've ever worked on. If it gives you a more multidimensional image of who I am, then I suppose that's a good thing, right? Enjoy!
WHEN: James Yuill's excellent Movement in a Storm, featuring the original version of "Crying for Hollywood," is out now.
Yesterday, an English high court heard testimony from Swedish club producer Avicci alleging that Simon Cowell and Leona Lewis are responsible for plagiarizing his forthcoming single, "Fade Into Darkness," on Lewis's current single "Collide." Avicci is hoping to prevent the commercial release of "Collide," which is currently scheduled for September 4 in the UK, and the producer has a case: Cowell's label approached Avicii's management to use the song for Lewis, but they declined, having already secured a fall release with Ministry Of Sound. Sad to say, I'm not sure "Collide" is a song worth fighting for.
Influential UK tech-house label Soma celebrates their 20th anniversary this year with a 3-CD retrospective of the label's history. No small footnote to that history, the collection opens with "Drive" — a previously unreleased Daft Punk demo from 1994. The track was originally meant to be included on Daft Punk's first 12-inch EP for the label, but was left off in favor of future classic "Da Funk."
Poly Styrene may have passed away before its release, but her final album, Generation Indigo, still breathes life: "Ghoulish" is being released as a new single this week, and the song is backed with a haunting remix by Hercules & Love Affair that volleys between hypnotic Italo-disco and classic Detroit techno.
It was announced this week that Amy Winehouse's North London home will become headquarters for the Amy Winehouse Foundation — an organization established to help young people with substance abuse problems. Meanwhile, Tony Bennett promised to donate 100-percent of the royalties from "Body & Soul" — his recent duet with Winehouse — to the foundation.
Former Mojo Magazine editor and David Bowie biographer Paul Trynka talks about his latest book, David Bowie: Starman, and gives his best educated guess for the singer's future based on all he's learned: "My heart says he'll come back, but my head says he's not likely to."
World music-slash-indie hybrid Beirut return from their recent cross-pollinations with Blondie for a new record called The Rip Tide, due out on August 30. The entire album is streaming at Soundcloud now. Also worth checking out: German techno favorites Modeselektor are offering teaser streams from their forthcoming album Monkeytown, including the much anticipated "Shipwreck" and "This" — both of which feature Radiohead's Thom Yorke on vocals.
Notable indie director and queer film icon Gregg Araki recently spoke with the Guardian at length about his love for the British shoegaze movement and its recent revival: "The sad thing is, today a band like Slowdive wouldn't be able to have a career. They hardly dealt in huge figures, but they sold enough to get a career out of it," he says. "There's no money for such things at the present, no incentive for record companies to repackage their music."
This week's Rdio playlist was inspired by the recent announcement of nominations for this year's MTV Video Music Awards. I decided to dig into the archives in order to figure out who some of the best losing nominees were, and I was actually quite surprised by what I found. (For example, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" lost its Video of the Year nod to Van Halen's "Right Now." True story!) But as I continued to dig, I was more surprised to see artists like Jeff Buckley or Roni Size/Reprazent in the nominee pool at all; there seemed to be as much of a story in the artists that got shut out of the VMAs as there was in the winner's circle. So this playlist celebrates the videos that should have won (the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' clip for "Maps" was insanely moving), the videos whose nominations were surprising (Belly's Star is one of the better lost albums from the '90s), and the videos whose artists became next-big-things that didn't quite make it (although Amerie's "1 Thing" still stands as an essentially flawless R&B track). Losers of 2011, take note! You're in excellent company.
SOUND & VISION:
Best Coast — "Our Deal"
It sounds more like a movie than a music video, but the latest single from Best Coast is totally getting the cinematic treatment: Directed by Drew Barrymore, this Warriors–like romantic tragedy stars Community's Donald Glover, Kick-Ass star Chloë Moretz, and, umm, iCarly's Miranda Cosgrove, among others.
Hunx & His Punx — "Lover's Lane"
Having already transcended the queer-punk label with their across-the-board well-received Too Young to Be in Love album, Hunx & His Punx rewrite your prom night with this campy but crucial video for "Lover's Lane" — as if the girl-group era had been merely a foil for gay love this whole time.
Wild Beasts — "Bed Of Nails"
If Smother wasn't one of the best records released so far in 2011, it was certainly one of the most unique. Wild Beasts singer Hayden Thorpe has the kind of highly literate, androgynous voice that endeared us to artists like Marc Almond and Antony Hegarty; on "Bed of Nails," he utilizes that falsetto to raise the anthemic potential on the best hypnotic Krautrock rhythm since "Running Up That Hill."
Toro Y Moi — "How I Know"
As far as indie pop goes, the latest from chillwave's most prominent defector Toro Y Moi is way more sunny than scary. But that doesn't stop the single from getting a satirical, and often hilarious horror treatment: It's a place where ghosts aren't afraid to bust out vintage American Bandstand choreography and bubblegum can literally kill you.
The big Britney breakdown of 2007 is mostly a memory four years later, and Femme Fatale is, on some level, her first post-skinhead album to really escape that ghost — which is to say that, gratefully, Britney Spears has just gone back to being Britney Spears. But what exactly does that mean? It begins with the early assertion that Spears wanted to make a "fierce dance record" — and that is, for the most part, what she delivers: The album's first two singles have set the tone with their loyalty to the filtered rave-synth, whose prominence persists throughout. "Trip To Your Heart," for example, transforms that harsh filter into a skillfully gentle club track and "I Wanna Go" plants a subtle nod to "Blue Monday" before giving in to the album's overall Euro-club aesthetic. But as true to her stated objective as it may be, listening to Femme Fatale still begs the question: Is this an album that only Britney Spears could have made? That's harder to assess. A song like "Big Fat Bass" says more about producer Will.I.Am than it does about Spears, who plays Fergie's role in what sounds like a jettisoned Black Eyed Peas track. And for all the positive accolades surrounding the rather spectacular dubstep break in "Hold It Against Me," it seems the credit is somewhat misplaced — unless we are to assume that it was Spears who introduced Magnetic Man to producer Dr. Luke. (Possible, but improbable.) So while Femme Fatale is technically Britney Spears' strongest album ever, it's still not likely to carve any new niches for the 29-year-old elder stateswoman — and, in that sense, her best album yet is also something of a missed opportunity: The album's executive team, Dr. Luke and Max Martin, already wrote and produced pretty much every major pop single from 2010, and by staying on that course, Spears chose to be contemporary over innovative. It's good. But she could have had it all.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart Belong (Slumberland)
The 2009 self-titled debut by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart was at once universally acclaimed and backhandedly derided; notions of the band's sound as "collegiate" or "twee" were meant to describe their sincerity, but in context, also came off as a critical shrug. How could it not? As part of a Brooklyn landscape that seems to value irony and detachment, the band's dissonant diary confessionals provided resistance to the stone-faced standard. Unexpected to everyone, then, this was rewarded when even Pitchfork said they "could be the most promising indie pop group around." This week's release of the Pains' follow-up album makes good on that promise in similarly unexpected ways: If their first record was a reticent launch, then Belong marks a noisy return from the outset of its sensitive, but sinewy title track — using a wall-of-guitars approach borrowed from '90s American indie bands like The Swirlies and Velocity Girl — to the more Anglophilic "Heart In Your Heartbreak" and "My Terrible Friend," which take some cues from The Primitives and The Cure, respectively. The approach is thoroughly modern: By refining the occasionally maudlin execution of their first record with a more tempered sentimentality, Belong is — in so much as an album with lyrics about "waking up at your parents' place" can be — refreshingly heartfelt.
After a year in which Justin Vernon's name became less associated with pastoral indie folk and more entangled with Kanye West, he's finally ready to step out of the hip-hop shadows: A new album by Bon Iver will be released in June, and Vernon's collaborative forays have seemingly affected the tone. "I brought in a lot of people to change my voice," he says, adding, "not my singing voice, but my role as the author of this band."
Virgin Records passed on David Bowie's 23rd solo album, called Toy, back in 2002. It's been missing for almost ten years now, but unsurprisingly, the Internet has found it.
If you're anything like me, a new Depeche Mode album is as exciting for the new influx of remixes as it is for itself. This week, Mute Records announced a June 7th release date for a triple-disc set called Remixes 2: 81-11 — spanning 20 years of reinterpreted Depeche Mode tracks including work by UNKLE, M83, Trentemøller, Vince Clarke, Röyksopp, and super-producer Stuart Price under his Jacques Lu Cont guise.
Final Fantasy's Owen Pallett — whose other job as a string arranger has him working with Arcade Fire, Duran Duran, and Grizzly Bear, among others — recently called out Morrissey in the press as "the best example of someone I really admire but align myself in opposition to." His reasoning: "[Morrissey has] allowed himself to stay in the closet, or at least be ambiguous for so long as if it's not a big deal," Pallett explains. "Basically, I decided early on that I was always going to be candid in interviews."
As Adele's insanely successful new album continues to rule, her peers are lining up to sing praise — literally. This week John Legend released an angelic acappella version of "Rolling In The Deep," available HERE as a free download.
Hot on the heels of his inexplicably Auto-tuned New Order charity single, George Michael tweeted details for a follow-up single called "Every Other Lover In The World" — produced by openly gay Sydney-based producer Stereogamous. It's a "full on house track," he warns.
Their early association with electroclash didn't hurt, but Ladytron certainly outlived the trend: Always more than just an '80s throwback, the Liverpool-based group has been incorporating elements of disco, krautrock, and art pop into their sonic palette for ten years now, and today marks the release of their first anthology. Best of 00-10 includes early analog synthpop like "Playgirl" and "Seventeen," as well as practically synth-free classics like 2008's "Ghosts." But what's most memorable about this collection is the fact that even in its stylistic diversity, there is a singular, but familiar identity that clearly emerges. As it turns out, in the province of modern pop, Ladytron's influence may be underreported.
It's kind of impossible to listen to Credo, the ninth official full-length album by the Human League, without conjuring up some memory of their celebrated past — from the dark German-influenced electro of their '70s output to their ubiquitous, and frequently sunny 1980s chart anthems — but in fairness to the present, their latest record only warrants such recall in brief flashes: The kind of irrepressibility they once mined with, say, "Open Your Heart" does not reemerge here, and even more confusingly, the album's current single, "Never Let Me Go," rescinds the Human League's actual futurist credo with a decidedly present-day Auto-tuned pop vocal. You almost get the feeling that their recent admissions of depression and desperation have seeped into the record — if not in its lyrics, then certainly in its psyche — and that works in some places, to be honest. But this probably won't be the prodigal album they were hoping for.
Considering that this project was originally conceived with a Svengali–like desire to assemble a teenage girl band, Too Young To Be In Love — the first proper full-length by Hunx & His Punx, featuring former Gravy Train!!!! member Seth Bogart — finds a gritty lo-fi aesthetic surprisingly elevated by its reverence for Phil Spector and the American vocal group. Bogart's self-admitted strategy of singing tales of female teenage heartbreak through a gay man's lens renders a real sweetness to these songs that resists irony; the unfeigned sentiment of songs like "If You're Not Here" and "Lovers Lane" nearly transcend the trope-cum-campiness of it all.
If you have yet to run into the Sissy Bounce scene from New Orleans, a quick synopsis: The sound originated back in 1998 in a New Orleans housing project with a transgendered woman (and former prostitute) named Katey Red, went on to somehow infiltrate the city's straight hip-hop clubs, and is finally going national with the recent success of gender-bending Big Freedia — whose latest video precedes a self-titled EP sponsored by Scion A/V.
Maritime — "Paraphernalia"
The post-Promise Ring project of Davey von Bohlen and Dan Didier, Maritime are set to release their fourth album, Human Hearts, on April 5. Until then, it seemed like a good idea to take advantage of one of the snowiest winters ever by filming the video for lead single "Paraphernalia" outdoors — in the middle of a snowstorm. It's like nature's special effects.
Alex Clare — "Too Close"
For all Alex Clare's being touted as London's next great soul singer, "Too Close" is a lot more Jamie Lidell than Sam Cooke. But that might have something to do with the fact that Diplo and Switch — the producers behind Major Lazer and much of the first two M.I.A. albums — are behind the boards for this churning, dubstep-tinged track. Clare is also Amy Winehouse's ex-boyfriend, so read into his lyrics at your own risk.
Mr. Fogg — "Answerphone"
The third single for Mr. Fogg's forthcoming debut album, Moving Parts, is a modern electronic interpretation of the pop anthem — a song that draws from stadium groupthink and bedroom isolation in equal measure. It's appropriate, then, that Fogg would allow this dichotomy to exist throughout this one-take, self-made video; its soundtrack is also the best new song I've heard this week.
Maureen Dowd interviews Ted Olson and David Boies about the federal challenge to Proposition 8 in the NYT. Olson told her, "I think there’s something the matter with you if you don’t care enough
to feel the suffering that they’ve been through and if you’re not
emotionally upset about the fact that we’re doing an immense amount of
harm to people,” he said. “We’re not treating them like Americans.
We’re not treating them like citizens." And Boies took Obama to task for his pace on the issue:
While Charles Cooper, the lawyer on the anti-gay-marriage
side, cited President Obama’s declaration that marriage should only be
between a man and a woman, Olson noted that Obama’s parents could not
have married in Virginia before he was born.
I asked the lawyers
if they were disappointed that the president who had once raised such
hope in the gay community now seemed behind the curve.
“Damned right,” Boies snapped. “I hope my Democratic president will catch up to my conservative Republican co-counsel.”
Olson added: “I’m not talking about Obama, but that’s what’s so bad
about politicians. They say, ‘I must hasten to follow them, for I am
Obama sees himself as such a huge change that he
can be cautious about other societal changes. But what he doesn’t
realize is that legalizing gay marriage is like electing a black
president. Before you do it, it seems inconceivable. Once it’s done,
you can’t remember what all the fuss was about.