Erasure's Andy Bell and Vince Blarke team up with stop-motion animatior Martin Meunier (Coraline, James and the Giant Peach) for their take on a Latin carol. The track is the first from their upcoming album Snow Globe.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
First of all, let's not be delusional about it. When Take That became a Beatles–sized phenomenon in the U.K. in the early to mid-'90s, they were both one notch above New Kids on the Block and one notch below: One notch above, perhaps, because band member Gary Barlow was actually a co-songwriter on all of their material since the beginning, and one notch below because taking off your shirt was a non-negotiable part of the audition process. (Needless to say, their pecs and abs were in fine order.) But something happened along the way, and it's a story that remains unprecedented in the last 30 years of boy band history: In the ten years that it took for Take That to break up and get back together, all five members somehow managed to become accomplished songwriters in their own right, and the resulting comeback records — 2006's Beautiful World and 2008's The Circus — were pleasurably sophisticated self-written albums that objectively validated this development. Last year's Progress was the first Take That album to feature Robbie Williams since 1996, and it was, by all accounts, the band's second reinvention. Progressed, an 8-song EP out today, is an extension of that sound — a retromodern synth-based pop produced by Stuart Price, whose work with the Killers and Keane are good reference points here — but it's also their first attempt to integrate the current direction with the anthemic orchestral pop that defined their first comeback: Album opener "When We Were Young" merges acoustic and electronic elements with Williams and Barlow's wistful back-and-forth and "The Day The Work Is Done" suggests that Mark Owen — whose solo albums veered more towards British indie rock — is Take That's most under-appreciated talent. If Progressed makes a wrong turn anywhere, it's arguably when the band falls too far back into the mid-'90s schmaltz and pomp of overwrought ballads like "Don't Say Goodbye." Because, as the album's title implies, Take That have always seemed to fare better when they're moving forward.
Currently out on a co-headlining tour with Taking Back Sunday, Thursday's Lukas Previn composed an interesting tweet on Saturday in which he revealed that the band had been tipped off to a potential protest of their Seattle concert by the Westboro Baptist Church. In response to the Westboro rhetoric, and in solidarity with the gay community, Previn tweeted, "We all are wearing pride flag t-shirts and Geoff and I just got called sodomites." A photo of the band wearing these rainbow flag t-shirts on before the show surfaced on the Internet, but Westboro were, at last tweet, a no-show.
This week's most bizarre story: Two men were arrested in an alleged plot to murder British singer Joss Stone. The men were arrested outside of her home carrying swords, rope, and a body bag. For her part, Stone is not unhinged: "I'm all good," she said. "People are crazy, but that's OK. I'm carrying on, I'm painting my bathroom. I'm baking cakes."
Were it not for Bikini Kill and Le Tigre frontwoman Kathleen Hanna, the space in rock music that occupies radical feminist activism and queer empowerment would be a whole lot emptier. This week it was announced that her latest project, The Julie Ruin — which also features Bikini Kill's Kathi Wilcox and Kiki and Herb's Kenny Mellman — are currently recording an album slated for release in January.
In addition to his forthcoming "techno album" with Depeche Mode's Martin Gore, this week Vince Clarke announced the return of Erasure. The duo will be touring in America this summer, while the new album — called Tomorrow's World and produced with Frankmusik — gets its release in the fall.
In case you missed it, Patti Smith inexplicably appeared on this weekend's Law & Order: Criminal Intent to play "Columbia University mythology professor Cleo Alexander." You can watch the clip now.
One more week until Patrick Wolf's Lupercalia makes its way to the States as an import, but until then, enjoy this top-of-his-game cover of Kate Bush's iconic "Army Dreamers."
Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino revealed that the video for their forthcoming single "Our Deal" will be directed by Drew Barrymore, and features appearances by iCarly's Miranda Cosgrove, Community's Donald Glover, and that awesome kick-ass girl with the purple hair from, umm, Kick-Ass. In other words, they can't go wrong.
Nerina Pallot's fourth album begins with "Put Your Hands Up" — the song she originally wrote for Kylie Minogue with husband Andy Chatterley, who makes progressive house records under the aliases of Skylark and The Buick Project. In Pallot's hands, it's not an Aphrodite-styled pop number nor a club track, but a vintage, bluesy, guitar-based song — and by the end of its first chorus, it's obvious that hers is the definitive version. Year Of The Wolfis like that: It's a pop album in the sense that the song is the thing, and Pallot's songcraft paired with an unlikely, but necessary production by Suede's Bernard Butler surprisingly positions Wolf for a potential breakthrough of Adele-like proportions. Tracks like "All Bets Are Off" or "I Do Not Want What I Do Not Have" (co-written by Linda Perry) are vintage, but not throwback; they hark to a golden era of pop music but resist the urge to wax nostalgic. In other words, timeless.
To the world outside of underground techno, John Tejada is probably best known as a technical advisor to The Postal Service's Jimmy Tamborello, who enlisted the producer for help on his James Figurine solo album in addition to working on The Postal Service remix of Feist's "Mushaboom." But in the clubs, Tejada is a respected producer and DJ whose work spans over fifteen years and literally hundreds of tracks. Parabolas is his first album for Kompakt, and with it, Tejada offers a refined sense of musicality and an expanded palette of subdued tricknology. The minimal breakbeat of "Subdivided" or the elegant melodic techno of "The Honest Man" tend to insinuate that Tejada is classically trained, which he is. But they are also cleverly designed to make you forget it.
The irrepressible Matt & Kim return with the second single from their sleeper third album Sidewalks, and here's the thing: Every time Matt & Kim make a new video, I'm convinced — if only for three-and-a-half minutes — that they're the best band in the world. Or that they should be my best friends. Because you can't not be happy watching this.
Rye Rye — "New Thing"
It's only been a week since Rye Rye released a video for her collaboration with Robyn; this week, the Baltimore rapper teams up with fashion designer Prabul Gurung for the second video from her long-awaited debut album. "New Thing" was directed by fashion photographer Kenneth Cappello and showcases Gurung's latest resort collection — which also serves as inspiration for the clip's set and lighting design.
Stars — "We Don't Want Your Body"
Seeing as gay men are often targeted for our alleged obsessions with body image, it's a relief to see Stars shine a light on the straights: Honestly, the men and women who star in "We Don't Want Your Body" make most of the guys on BigMuscle look kind of scrawny.
Belle & Sebastian — "I Didn't See It Coming" (Richard X Remix)
It wasn't until I first heard this track that I realized how overdue Belle & Sebastian were for a remix. Richard X, who has written and produced singles for Kelis and Sugababes in the past, almost effortlessly transforms this indie folk song into a Kylie–styled melodic club track, which — in some sort of alternate universe, anyway — actually has the muscle to put Belle & Sebastian on a modern pop chart.
(Apologies - posted this without the video earlier)
Via Joe comes this uplifting re-do of Erasure's "A Little Respect" from Andy Bell and LGBT youth at the Hetrick Martin Institute, along with some other cameos.
"Proceeds from the track will be donated to The Hetrick-Martin Institute, the home of the Harvey Milk High School, in New York, and the True Colors Fund. The Hetrick-Martin Institute, the nation's oldest and largest LGBTQ youth service organization, provides a safe and supportive environment to all young people -- regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity so that they can achieve their full potential. The HMI Redux features a youth chorus from the Hetrick-Martin Institute who also appear in the music video, directed by filmmaker Jason Stein."