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MUSIC NEWS: Washed Out, Ladytron, Xiu Xiu, Cut Copy, Das Racist, Hidden Cameras, Sufjan Stevens



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.


Washed-Out-Within-And-Without1 Washed Out Within and Without (Sub Pop)

As far as micro-genres go, "chillwave" is the most pedantic and unnecessary of the lot: Most often used to describe albums by artists like Toro Y Moi, Memory Tapes, or Washed Out, the term seems meant to replace what might have otherwise fallen under the '90s "shoegaze" umbrella. But if "chillwave" actually functions as a signifier for anything, it's not the sheer sonics of this new wave — whose ambient drones and reverb-drenched mixes didn't actually need an updated taxon — but the American-ness of its champions. The distinction is subtle: Washed Out's debut album, Within and Without, could never have been made if it weren't for seminal English albums like Souvlaki by Slowdive or Nowhere by Ride — and there's really no getting around that — but the decision to call in producer Ben Allen is a significant one in terms of differentiation. Allen's work with Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley, and fellow Atlantans Deerhunter offers valuable insight into the psychedelic house effect of "Soft" or the vintage hip-hop breakbeat that propels "Before." Which is to say that whereas the British shoegaze sound was, by and large, an extension of the rock music tradition, Within and Without draws from contemporary urban American musical movements with a nuanced, yet playfully naïve touch. The combination is endearing, but more importantly, unique: Washed Out may have created the first American post-rave album to feature all of the ecstasy and none of the serotonin-depleted mope.

START WITH: "Soft" / "Eyes Be Closed" / "Echoes"

Also out today: Eleanor Friedberger — Last Summer (Merge), R.E.M. — Life's Rich Pageant: 25th Anniversary Edition (Capitol), Radical Dads — Mega Rama (Uninhabitable Mansions)


LadytronRoad Following their recent Best of 00-10 collection, Liverpool electropop outfit Ladytron have announced the new decade will begin with their fifth full-length album, Gravity The Seducer, as well a new single called "White Elephant." A three-song sampler for the album, including the single, is available for streaming now.

Road Jamie Stewart's avant-garde tendencies have propelled a ten-year career for Xiu Xiu, so it's not altogether surprising that an upcoming single will see his antipop inclinations collide head-on with chart-pop sensibility: A cover of Rihanna's "Only Girl (In The World)" teases out a dark and unsettling side to the song that may have been buried under the bright filtered synths of the original.

RoadDiamond-rings Lots of new music to stream and download this week: Cut Copy posted a tight and techy remix of "Blink and You'll Miss a Revolution" by the aforementioned Toro Y Moi. Canadian fellows P.S. I Love You announced the release of Figure It Out, a collection of singles and EPs featuring a stellar collaboration with Diamond Rings called "Leftovers," now available for download. Also on the download tip comes a stripped-down house revision of Chromeo's "When The Night Falls" by Hercules & Love Affair. And finally, another never-before-heard track from the late, lamented Elliott Smith surfaced online for streaming this week: "The Real Estate" will appear on Live From Nowhere Near You — a three-disc charity compilation whose proceeds will benefit a homeless youth organization called Outside In.

Tiesto Road DJ Tiësto and The Alchemist are the first two names attaching themselves to writing and producing for a comeback album from Fab Morvan — better known as one-half of Milli Vanilli. This can't end well.

Road The first official album by hip-hop wiseguys and critical theory provocateurs Das Racist was announced this week: The 14-song Relax will be released on September 13 through the band's own Greedhead Music and features collaborations with El-P, Diplo, Yeasayer's Anand Wilder, and Vampire Weekend's out producer and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij.

Road I've been a vegetarian for almost 24 years now, so hey, Morrissey! I feel you and your animal rights pain! But even I couldn't resist the chuckle from a headline like this: Morrissey Bitten By A Dog.


During the slow summer weeks of the industry release schedule, we'll be picking up the slack with some Rdio playlists. Last week's "Best of 2011 (So Far)" mixtape fit the bill in a timely manner, but this week I went a bit more freewheeling: "The Endless Summer" is a collection of ten tracks that, in some way to me, speak to the season at hand. There was a hefty list to whittle down before I realized that I wanted to focus on some of the more emotive electronic music in my collection, and the end result got a windows-open test drive before I hit publish.

The tracks themselves are largely from the last few years, and once again, I tried to split the focus between lesser-known artists that may have gone under the radar the first time around — like the excellent People Press Play or the last underrated album from Styrofoam — as well as tracks from bigger artists that may have been swept under the rug. (See: Basement Jaxx and Underworld.) So give it a shot. With any luck, you may just find a new summer jam.



Hidden Cameras — "Do I Belong?"

After ten years together, there are few lesser-known gay artists than Joel Gibbs and Hidden Cameras, and the video for "Do I Belong?" — with its opening sequence of countless shirtless torsos of all shapes, sizes, and fur-quotients and latex-clad cameos — will do very little to further mainstream the band. Clearly, that's always been somewhat the point.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart — "The Body"

Just in time for the heatwave, one of the more irrepressibly sunny tracks from the Pains' excellent Belong gets the beachy video it deserves. The moral of this story: Grown-ups have less fun.

Taking Back Sunday — "Faith (When I Let You Down)"

The notion of the parody video is a hit-or-miss affair, but the newest video from Taking Back Sunday — which cites Guns N Roses, Ellen Degeneres, Boogie Nights, and YouTube cat movies in a narrative arc worthy of an E! True Hollywood Story — gets the formula right: It's the makings of a LOLCAT tragedy.

Sufjan Stevens — "Get Real, Get Right"

In addition to his duties as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, indie polymath Sufjan Stevens tries on the Director and Animator roles for his latest video. "Get Real, Get Right" is the newest single from last year's The Age of Adz.

Highlights from the 2007 Coachella Music & Arts Festival


Guestblogger_2[by Arjan Writes, guest blogger] Over the last few years, the Coachella Music & Arts Festival has grown into one of the biggest outdoor music festivals in the country. When Madonna appeared last year, she added a mainstream flavor to the event and brought a whole new audience with her. This gave organizers the confidence to grow the event and turn it from a 2 to 3 day event. Set in the scorching desert three hours east of Los Angeles, this year's event was action-packed with some of the hottest talents of the moment perform.

There were many great moment, but here are a few of the highlights (click images to enlarge):

Bjork returned to Coachella playing on Friday night wowing the crowd with new tracks ("Earth Intruders") and old favorites ("Hunter," "Army Of Me," "Pagan Poetry"). She appeared in a costume that looked like The Last Emperor meets Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. 

The Red Hot Chili Peppers played an energetic set on Saturday. They mixed it up a little and covered Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" with a few bars of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love."


Perfectly coiffed and styled, The Feeling turned it up a few notches for their show on Sunday afternoon. Openly-gay frontman Dan Gillespie-Sells (above and right) stayed true to form. He introduced the last song "Love It When You Call" with "I will leave you with this little tune, my darlings."


Mika (left) appeared a little earlier on the mainstage. Dressed in a simple white tee and "cartoon motion" military pants, he went over very well with the crowd of boarder dudes and rock chicks who had settled early in front of the stage in anticipation of Rage Against the Machine later that day.

Break out act The Klaxons (below, right) presented a fresh, exhilarating sound on Sunday that had me dizzy on my feet from beginning to end. Set included the delicious "Golden Skans." This is a band to watch.

Members of British band Placebo have never made a secret of their sexuality. Singer Brian Molko (below, left) is bisexual and bassist Stefan Olsdal is openly gay. The group played a tight, soaring rock set that included a remake of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill."

Placebo_brianmolko Klaxons

Tiesto made the Dutch proud when he headlined the mainstage and closed the Saturday program. This was the first time a DJ was chosen in favor of a rock act to get this honor. Tiesto played a pre-programmed set that was timed in conjunction with compelling visual effects. He included older fan favorites and tracks from his new album "Elements of Life."

PeachesPeaches (left) rocked her set on Friday night. This chicks knows how to bring it. The brash performer kept a steady pace accompanied by the handsome JD Samson on keys and drummer Sam Maloney. After opening the show with her light saber routine, she jumped on the drum set while chanting "Impeach my bush, impeach my bush."

Rufus Wainwright played songs from his new album "Release The Stars" on Saturday in a packed Mojave tent. Appearing in a robed "gay messiah" costume, he played the piano and acoustic guitar. He was backed by a full band including a horn section. He was quoted saying, "It's great to be here in the desert, where all the rejects had to go and the Jews and the homosexuals."

Dance lovers were in for a treat well with kicky sets by French DJ David Guetta, Felix da Housecat and Paul van Dyk. Faithless delivered a powerful performance on Friday night, sending the crowd into frenzy with live renditions of "Mass Destruction" and the pumping " Insomnia."


Arjan is the author of the music blog Arjan Writes, where you can find new music, free downloads, album reviews, and artist interviews. More on each of these artists there.

News: Dieux du Stade, Gay Bishop Dissed, DJ Tiesto, Palm Springs

road.jpg Palm Springs' gays "unified in outrage" over openly gay Mayor Ron Oden's courteous welcome of Focus on the Family's "Love Won Out" conference for ex-gays to the area. Oden, a minister, says he was only being Christian: "I do not agree with Focus on the Family... yet, I believe that I should show them common or Christian courtesy."

Messinaroad.jpg Ready for more French rugby? Dieux du Stade 2007 is on its way and features one of our recent faves, Geoffroy Messina. Order HERE.

road.jpg Latvian Parliament passes amendments to labor law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. Move brings Latvia in line with EU directive.

road.jpg Openly gay HGTV Design Star winner David Bromstad will develop a "color show" for the 13-episode series he won, says he's unlike his onscreen persona: "I’m a weirdo. I’m a very quiet person when I’m not working. All i really do is go to the beach; I stay home, I don’t go out. I’m kind of a homebody. But when I’m around people, I think I just thrive around people, they give me so much energy."

road.jpg Sean Penn's advice to his daughter's dates: "I tell them that whatever they do to my daughter that night, they better be prepared to come home and do it to me too."

Tiestoroad.jpg DJ Tiësto hospitalized in the Netherlands for heart condition.

road.jpg Gay man passed over in election of new Episcopal bishop: "It marked the second time in five months that a diocese of the U.S. Episcopal church has considered a gay person for bishop. In an election in May the Diocese of California, headquartered in San Francisco, also passed over a candidate who was gay. The 2.4 million-member U.S. church has been in turmoil since the 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, believed to be the first openly gay bishop in more than 450 years of Anglican history. Gay activists in the Newark Diocese said before the vote that choosing their new bishop was about picking the right person for the job, and not not about sexual identity.

road.jpg REVIEW: Rupert Everett memoir "a splendid book, a monument to a series of demi-mondes and fleeting bittersweet moments. Definitely several cuts above the conventional showbusiness memoir, laced with quirky insights and dazzling phrases, it reads like a lurid dream, recalled in deliciously acute detail - in short, a heady triumph of observation and reverie."


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