The OXD Mirror is a weekly music column brought to you by the boys of OCCUPY THE DISCO (OXD), a New York City based movement created by three music lovers, Ru Bhatt, Josh Appelbaum, and Tadeu Magalhães, who want to share their love for disco, house and dance music with the gay world.
Disclosure: 'White Noise ft. AlunaGeorge'
There's nothing I love more than seeing two buzzworthy up-and-comers team up to put out some great work. Disclosure has been teaming up with talented vocalists like Sam Smith to create sexy, garage house-inspired tracks like their latest hit 'Latch,' which climbed up to #11 on the UK singles charts. After burgeoning popularity with their original tracks and with remixes for artists like Jessie Ware, they've teamed up with Aluna Francis, lead singer of the hot electronic duo AlunaGeorge, to create a fun, upbeat dance track that will keep your feet moving.
The Embassy: 'Related Artist'
Swedish duo Embassy have a knack for creating breezy indie-pop tracks inspired by the likes of Elvis Costello and Saint Etienne. Their latest single, 'Related Artist', combines guitars, some bird noises and husky vocals to create an ethereal track that seems well-suited for a roadtrip playlist.
Grizzly Bear: 'Gun Shy (Lindstrøm Remix)'
Grizzly Bear is a Brooklyn-based band, fronted by openly gay lead singer Ed Droste, who is known for their generally mellow and sweet sound and very tender vocals. The band's most recent release, 2012's Shields, was widely acclaimed by music critics and reached #7 on the US Billboard 200. 'Gun Shy' is a track that does not stray far from Grizzly Bear's very mellow sound - until Norwegian producer Lindstrøm adds his blend of danceable synths and fun beats to the song. Droste's voice lends itself nicely to this upbeat remix; perhaps some pop-inspired tracks could be a fun side project for the very talented Droste some day!
It's not every day that you look at the new release schedule for a given week and find out that at least four new albums being issued this week arrive courtesy of artistically venerable — and commercially successful! — artists who are, almost incidentally, openly gay. But what's really interesting is the diversity we find in those four artists: a 50-year-old iconic elder statesman from Georgia, a young man from London born to Nigerian parents, a pair of Canadian identical twins, and a thirty-something-year-old vegan from Reykjavík, Iceland, who sings predominantly in a language he made up. That they're all gay, one might argue, is the least interesting thing about them. That they're all approaching their art with honesty and a certain level of transparency, however, is more significant. It's not that we're "post-gay" — as some might prematurely suggest — but that, perhaps, there is a growing appreciation for the valuable perspective that is unique to the openly gay artist. Being out only adds to this cultural resonance, and it seemed important to point that out.
ON THE INSIDE: A career-spanning retrospective that leaves few stones unturned, the final R.E.M. collection features 40 tracks — including three new songs — and, if you're over 30 years old, it might surprise you: This band soundtracked your life more than you ever thought possible. To deny the sheer range of influence that R.E.M. has had on American rock music is impossible.
ON THE INSIDE: The follow up to 2010's The Boxer, Kele's latest EP without Bloc Party is more succinct and a whole lot more confident. "What Did I Do?" — the London dubstep-tinged lead single that introduces us to guest vocalist Lucy Taylor — is a good place to start, while his cover of Q Lazzarus's classic "Goodbye Horses" almost rewrites ownership of the song. Also impossible to ignore: Somebody's been hitting the gym lately.
ON THE INSIDE: A double-live album is, in almost all but the rarest of circumstances, a contract-filler or an ego boost. But in the case of Sigur Rós, it's an opportunity: The entire album (and full-length DVD movie) is performed as a four-piece, which brings an almost ascetic quality to the majesty of the original recordings — an equally as satisfying, but differentiated listening experience that reveals how layered these songs really are.
ON THE INSIDE: After six full-length albums, Tegan and Sara's eponymous band release a full-length concert CD/DVD — including a pair of short documentary films — that span the duo's twelve-year career. It's as earnest as you'd imagine. The live set is something like an episode of VH1 Storytellers, and if you've ever been to a Tegan and Sara show, you know: There quite possibly isn't a better format to see them.
In addition to releasing Aphrodite Les Folies: Live In London on CD and DVD on November 29th — in which she covers the Eurythmics! — the indefatigable Kylie Minogue has also announced a new album on deck for 2012. The singer is currently in the studio to rework a number of her classic songs for a 25th anniversary compilation to celebrate the release of her debut single, "Locomotion."
Ellie Goulding is finally gaining traction on American radio with "Lights," but she's clearly trying to keep the songs fresh: The singer will release a new EP, Live at Amoeba, in honor of Record Store Day on November 25. The four-song set was recorded in April at San Francisco's famed Amoeba Records on Haight Street.
Courtney Love's new version of Hole eggs on Brazilian crowd to chant "Foo Fighters are gay," clearly forgets Kurt Cobain's explicit denouncement of homophobia and high-school-jock-speech. Love later claims, "I'm allowed to use the word 'fag' because I'm a gay icon," clearly forgets that no, she isn't.
Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz has been playing it low-key with his new band, Black Cards, but this week, the lyricist gets into the studio chair for a big-room remix of Rihanna's latest single "We Found Love." The result? Sounds like he's been listening to Deadmau5 and Wolfgang Gartner lately.
Bright Light Bright Light keeps hustling along until a tentative February 20th worldwide release date for his long-awaited debut album. This week, he offers up some free downloads of '90s-based mash-ups that he constructed for Another Night, his own monthly party in London: Check out TLC vs. Snap's "Rhythm is a Scrub" and Tori Amos vs. Madonna's "Professional Vogue."
UK electropop favorite Little Boots returns this week with the lead single to her forthcoming as-yet-untitled second album, and it's not your typical three-minute pop song: "Shake" is a six-minute floor-filler produced by Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford, geared more for the club than for the radio, but conceivably viable for either. If you're in the neighborhood, Little Boots comes to America for DJ appearances in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco this time next week.
SOUND & VISION:
Timo Maas — "College '84" (feat. Brian Molko)
This one, I must admit, was a grower: Timo Maas is a long-time German techno and progressive house producer who came of age in the Global Underground era of clubland, while Brian Molko has spent the last sixteen years as the androgynous, openly bisexual lead singer of Brit-glam stalwarts Placebo. The video for "College '84" is not what it seems at first, but by the end, you'll see why this collaboration is all about techno-sex.
Duran Duran — "Girl Panic!"
Jonas Akerlund is behind Duran Duran's epic nine-minute clip for "Girl Panic!" — in which all of your favorite legendary supermodels of the world assume the roles of the band and the members of the band play everything from journalists to bellboys. Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Helena Christenson, Yasmin Le Bon, and Eva Herzigova star, while everyone else takes notes.
Miguel Migs — "Everybody" (feat. Evelyn "Champagne" King)
San Francisco deep house legend Miguel Migs released his latest album, Outside the Skyline, earlier this year, and there was really no getting around it: Of all the guest collaborators on the record — including Bebel Gilberto and Meshell Ndegeocello, among others — the return of disco legend Evelyn "Champagne" King was truly something special. This week, "Everybody" gets the buoyant retro-club video it demands.
Patrick Wolf — "The Falcons"
Lupercalia, the long-awaited fifth album from Patrick Wolf, certainly deserves to find itself across any number of Best of 2011 lists, but "The Falcons" is a pretty awesome string around your finger: Directed by Japanese visual artist Noriko Okaku, Wolf's latest video embodies Lupercalia's joyful energy and airborne tenor. It's the visual equivalent of a weight being lifted.
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.
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!"
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."
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Des Ark Don't Rock the Boat, Sink the F*cker (Lovitt)
Aimee Collet Argote has been using the name Des Ark since 2001, and her history with music is as long as ten years will allow — cutting her teeth in queercore bands like Rubeo, hitting a career high with the J. Mascis–produced Loose Lips Sink Ships in 2005, touring endlessly on the DIY circuit for the last few years as she prepared its long awaited follow-up. So while the newly released — and eloquently titled — Don't Rock the Boat, Sink the F*cker sounds like it came out of nowhere, that's only one aspect of its carefully considered charm: This collection shows Argote at the top of her craft, and puts her in the position of being one of the more captivating queer singer-songwriters working today — exploring the dialectics of love and anger, protest and ennui. And yet this is not a political record as much as a record of intimacy: It's about sex and drugs and broken hearts with an eye on redemption and the simple life: "Let's buy some land and start a family, whatever you ain't never had," Argote sings at the album's end before extolling the emotional virtues of "telling stupid jokes and working on our garden." On Don't Rock the Boat, even the banal is transformed into a radical statement.
In terms of underground hip-hop, no one is doing it quite like Das Racist — a New York rap collective whose work is informed by everything from Dadaism and critical theory to Jay-Z and Saved By The Bell. This week, group member Heems (né Himanshu Suri) took to AlterNet for a less whimsical missive about what we've learned — and haven't learned — in a post-9/11 and post-Bin Laden America: "On 9/11, I saw the Towers fall from my classroom window. On 5/2, I discovered that racism against Middle Eastern and South Asian people in America is as alive as ever."
The rift between Diplo and M.I.A. just got wider. In an interview with Women's Wear Daily, the producer called Maya out for being politically naive and professionally unreasonable: "She's good in a lot of aspects, but when it comes to diehard, facts-on-the-ground politics, she's at zero." When asked if they were still friends, he added, "No, no, no. Not anymore. No one in my camp talks to her anymore. She's kind of really gone crazy."
Relatedly, French DJ and producer SebastiAn released the second track from his forthcoming album, Total: "C.T.F.O." — or "Chill The F*ck Out" — is a distorted synth banger featuring M.I.A., who doesn't seem to be finished with the electro-noise sound she delivered on last year's /|/|/|Y/|. SebastiAn's debut album will be released on May 30.
According to a post on their Facebook page, Grizzly Bear will return to the studio later this month to commence work on the follow-up to 2009's excellent Veckatimest. "We're really not, like, theme-album people," singer Ed Droste says. "It's not going to be some overarching political message. It's going to be songs of the heart. That's what we do."
The much-loved UK duo Hurts recently turned in a remix for Lady Gaga's "Judas" — which Popjustice called a "gothic popstep triumph." It's basically an articulate way of saying Wow.
Stevie Nicks: "When my album and Lindsey's albums come to a stop, then Fleetwood Mac will gather again."
Beyoncé announced that her upcoming fourth album will be titled, quite simply, 4. Remarkably, the singer delivered a staggering 72 songs to her label in consideration for the album — ostensibly including previously reported collaborations with Sleigh Bells and Odd Future's Frank Ocean. Meanwhile, her former Destiny's Child bandmate Kelly Rowland — whose new single, "Motivation," is currently slaying Beyoncé's "Run The World (Girls)" on the charts — has also announced an album title for her third solo effort: Here I Am is expected to see a summer release.
The full-length debut artist album by Lucy Wainwright Roche, first released in October of last year, gets a rerelease this week. If you missed it last fall, you'll probably want to give Lucy a listen: Rufus and Martha's half-sister serves up a modern folk-pop hybrid every bit befitting of her famous last name and occasionally even transcendent of it. Besides saying something about your own caliber of singing and songwriting, getting the Indigo Girls to serve as your background singers takes nerve. But convincing This American Life's Ira Glass to appear on a duet version of Elliott Smith's "Say Yes?" That's kinda genius.
The Notwist could be one of the most underrated bands going right now: The German pop collective practically created a new language that incorporates indie rock, pop, folk, abstract techno, jazz, and even jungle into one cohesive and often emotionally-wrenching sound. With 13 & God — one of their innumerable side projects — the Notwist team up with Anticon experimental rap crew Themselves, adding hip-hop to their increasingly complex palette. Standouts like "Armored Scarves" and "Old Age" expand the possibilities for both groups, all the while increasing the likelihood that Own Your Ghost will become a sort of cross-cultural, cross-genre denouement.
Ever since the inexplicably beyond-anyone's-dreams success of 1999's Play, Moby has very much taken advantage of the freedom of a man who just sold 10 million records. Destroyed is his first wholly independent release after leaving Mute last year, and it reads like a greatest-hits album of songs you've never heard: "Lie Down In Darkness" returns to the crispy gospel breakbeat of his breakthrough album; "Sevastopol" is an updated take on Moby's "Go"-era. As a collection, however, Destroyed is more often a cold and isolated affair — like a winter album getting ready for a summer release.
Once you get past the fact that certain melodic portions of "Sister Wife" are totally lifted from the Christmas classic "Sleigh Ride," you're likely to discover a pretty perfect pop song here. But the allusions don't end there: Fans of Japanese horror kitsch will definitely find multiple references to the 1977 classic House in this comically creepy clip.
Death Cab For Cutie — "Home Is A Fire"
Just in advance of its May 31 release date, Death Cab for Cutie release the second single and video for Codes And Keys. "Home Is A Fire" finds its muse in the wheat-paste street art scene and features Shepard Fairey as both its star and director for maximum authenticity.
CockNBullKid — "Asthma Attack"
Anita Blay didn't seem to be going for the whole sultry pop star nickname thing when she chose CockNBullKid as her nom d'artiste — and for that matter, choosing to make a line like "Oh London I'll never forget you / You were the one I lost my two front teeth to" a lyrical hook on a single for your forthcoming major label debut isn't something Katy Perry would have done. But "Asthma Attack" has an irresistible quality to it all the same and Blay's charisma still shines through effortlessly, in some ways redefining pop seduction in the process.
Alex Metric & Steve Angello — "Open Your Eyes" (feat. Ian Brown)
The Stone Roses were closely aligned with indie-dance club culture in their day, so it's not surprising that lead singer Ian Brown would collaborate with two of the world's most respected big-room house producers for a song that effectively updates the Madchester baggy aesthetic for 2011. As for the video: It's got boxing robots, y'all.
The comeback has never been a particularly surefire proposition: Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark may have made it look easy, but the Human League — who are probably one of the most significant bands of the last 30 years — have been releasing new albums for a decade without so much as an NME blurb. (On playing the nostalgia circuit, Susan Sully recently admitted, "I'm miserable all day doing them. But we need the money and everyone has something they don't want to do.") It should stand to reason, then, that Blancmange — having never seen the chart success of their peers — would suffer a similar fate. But with Blanc Burn, the English duo's first album in 26 years, they quite easily dodge the bullet of irrelevance by simply leaving the past behind. "Ultraviolent," for one, mines a contemporary glitch-pop sound not unlike Lali Puna and "Don't Let These Days" owes somewhat of a debt to Underworld, while "Drive Me" and "Probably Nothing" hark back to the '80s only to pick up the group's penchant for Indian percussion — which, let's face it, nobody was really doing back then anyway. In fact, there's nothing on Blanc Burn to suggest that Blancmange are trying to relive anything, and at its core, this may just be the secret to their comeback code: Whereas many of their peers are vainly chasing ghosts, Blancmange are unobstructed by their own history.
Oh Land Oh Land (Epic/Sony)
Nanna Øland Fabricius's 2008 debut, Fauna, was an ambitious but ultimately uneven record that hinted at a splintered future: Oh Land would either find herself inside of a Björk–like space of accessible eccentricity or she'd make a move towards frustrating experimentalism — like a Scandinavian Coco Rosie armed with a sequencer. It turns out she's neither. For her second record, the self-titled Oh Land, Fabricius strikes an enviable balance between the two: Album-opener "Perfection" emulates some of the more heart-wrenching and harp-drenching moments on Vespertine but pays attention to rhythm with an almost hip-hop–like devotion, while "We Turn It Up" finds itself somewhere between "Hollaback Girl" and the Belle Stars for what might be the most outright celebratory song in ages. But where Oh Land most effectively shines is where she demonstrates a capacity to be none of these things. Songs like "White Nights" and "Sun of a Gun" suggest that — underneath the storybook imagery of sirens and wolves — is a heartfelt realist.
Now that he's found the turntables, you're not likely to see Thom Yorke with a guitar strapped on any time soon: The Radiohead singer showed up to The Airliner club in Los Angeles for a surprise DJ set this past week, spinning everything from Kraftwerk and Fun Boy Three to more underground techno and dubstep tracks by Modeselektor, Squarepusher, and Burial.
Canadian techno pop duo Junior Boys have announced the release date for their third album, It's All True, which is due on June 14 for Domino. The first taste of this record — a swirling, arpeggiated synthpop run called "ep" — is available as a free MP3 download HERE.
Adele is "selling a crapload of records": Her sophomore album, 21, notches two weeks at #1 in America — and becomes this year's first gold-certified album after only two weeks — while her reign at #1 in the UK continues for a staggering seventh week.
Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold quietly released a free three-song solo EP this week, available for download HERE. It's worth it alone for "I'm Losing Myself" — an elegantly understated acoustic duet with Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste.
Logo's fourth annual NewNowNext Awards have announced its headlining musical performers, and they're clearly banking on a big year for Scandinavian pop: Robyn and Oh Land will anchor the show, scheduled to air on April 11.
Having already conquered pop music, musical theater, and film scores, the Pet Shop Boys are now producing for pirouettes: The Most Incredible Thing — a ballet set to one of Hans Christian Anderson's lesser-known works — premieres in London this week, while its score, composed by Pet Shop Boys, is out today. "Our pop is dance music, but you should be able to go into contemporary dance too," says Neil Tennant. "We've never been afraid to explore areas not normally covered by pop."
TV on the Radio bassist Gerard Smith has been diagnosed with lung cancer. In an official statement released this week, the band seems optimistic: "Gerard is fortunate enough to have health insurance and is receiving excellent medical care." TV on the Radio's upcoming fifth album, Nine Types of Light, is due for release on April 12.
Shoegazers (and Jesus & Mary Chain fans) among you will no doubt be interested in hearing Belong — the sophomore album by Brooklyn's The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. If it sounds more epic than their somewhat timid debut, it's with good reason: Belong was produced by Flood and mixed by Alan Moulder —the team behind Smashing Pumpkins' monstrous Melon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, as well as iconic albums by Depeche Mode, The Killers, and Nine Inch Nails. March 29 is the official release date, but the record is currently streaming in its entirety.
Keo Nozari had Billboard calling him a "young George Michael" a couple of years back, and that's still not too far off from where he stands stylistically. But while Love Boutique — his sophomore album out today — certainly owes something to Michael's sensual delivery, it's Nozari's experience as a DJ in the New York City club scene that informs his most original moments: Look to "Acceptable 2 U" for a compelling rock/dance hybrid that stands to be the authentic counterpart to "Born This Way" in the gay anthem continuum.
The Chemical Brothers try their hand at film scoring this week with the release of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to Hanna — the latest cinematic vehicle for Cate Blanchett. As far as Chemicals records go, this one caters more to the psychedelic reel than to block rockin' beats — which, in this case, proves to be a boon for the British production duo: Tagged with restraint, the Chemical Brothers make a strong case for themselves as proper songwriters.
It's kind of impossible to ignore that almost everything we love about glam, androgyny, and American new wave couldn't have happened without the existence of the New York Dolls, who almost unbelievably first disbanded in 1976. (If you don't believe me, ask Morrissey about their enduring influence.) Over 30 years later, David Johansen and company return this week for their fifth album — the wonderfully queerly-titled Dancing Backward In High Heels — and they certainly haven't mellowed with age: Johansen is one of a few remaining rock singers still allowed to sing songs called "I'm So Fabulous" and really mean it.
Now that he's engaged to be married — to a man who works for BBC Radio, no less! — it seems as if Patrick Wolf is also finally ready to embrace a more ebullient kind of pop music in which happy endings are not simply faith, but fact. Unsurprisingly then, the lead single for Wolf's forthcoming Lupercalia is as joyous as this beach-based, wet-clothed, summertime bliss-out of a video.
Living Sisters — "How Are You Doing?"
As far as twee indie-folk goes, the Living Sisters are a supergroup of sorts; its lineup consists of solo star Eleni Mandell, the Bird and the Bee's Inara George, and Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark. But for their debut video, the trio take somewhat of a creative backseat to acclaimed director Michel Gondry, whose idiosyncratic visual fingerprint is truly all over this increasingly tender narrative.
The National — "Conversation 16"
Far be it from me to deny that I'd be shamelessly into any video that stars Mad Men's John Slattery. I mean, it's not that "Conversation 16" isn't an incredible standout moment for The National's romantically morose High Violet — because it is! It's just that, well, I can't be the only one who appreciates a good silver fox. Also worth noting: Matt Berninger totally beat Nicki Minaj in the race to release 2010's first song about eating brains.
Pete & The Pirates — "Come To The City"
Almost three years after their debut, Little Death, Pete & The Pirates trade in their scrappier British indie rock for this moody, but remarkably effective exercise in New Romanticism. "Come To The City" is being released as a digital single today from Stolen Recordings.
It could be construed that by naming her 2008 debut album 19, after her age at the time of its writing, Adele also established a critical lens for it — with her emphasized youth becoming one part disclaimer and one part I-can't-believe-it-either. We couldn't believe it, of course, because the very timbre of Adele's voice invokes a kind of maturity we tend to associate with world-weary soul singers twice her age. But it was also impossible to ignore that the delivery sometimes outweighed the content, and when it did, we could always point to that disclaimer: 19 introduced Adele as an articulate, but ultimately inexperienced teenager — forming a paradigm where songs like "First Love" are literally about first loves, and where wounds feel fresh because they are. Such reasonable shortcomings are essentially wiped clean from 21, in which Adele finds herself expressing a more even-tempered notion of love and loss from a woman on the cusp of adulthood; it's an album in which the ability to assert her own self-empowerment finally catches up with her unrivaled ability to sing about it. So if Adele's newfound confidence is what allows her to move skillfully between genres — dabbling in country ("Don't You Remember"), gospel ("Rolling In The Deep"), and even bossa nova (on a somewhat unnecessary cover of The Cure's "Lovesong") — it's even more radiant when she shares the room with spotlight-grabbers like Rick Rubin and Ryan Tedder and outshines them all. With the release of 21, the critical lens has been tweaked: It's all wonder, no disclaimers.
Hercules & Love AffairBlue Songs (Moshi Moshi)
If the 2008 debut by Hercules & Love Affair was a revelation, it probably had something to do with our collective dance music amnesia: Andy Butler had successfully tapped into the classic house music zeitgeist pioneered by producers like David Morales and Frankie Knuckles — most notably constructing a near-perfect piece of contemplative disco with "Blind" and making a diva out of Antony Hegarty in the process. Hegarty is absent on Blue Songs — as is DFA producer Tim Goldsworthy and vocalist Nomi Ruiz — but Butler's vision persists with a new supporting cast: Shaun Wright's performance on "My House" recalls Robert Owens in his prime and Bloc Party's Kele Okereke takes his turn on "Step Up," for what sounds like an ode to Chicago house legends Virgo Four. But somehow, the album's strongest statement is a cover of Sterling Void's "It's Alright," which eschews the dancefloor direction of the original for a plaintive, almost mournful rendition — perhaps confirming the suspicion that Blue Songs is not an attempt at genre revivalism, but an accomplished exercise in the recontextualization of house.
Beyoncé is currently in the writing stages of her next record, and if this is an indicator, her new list of collaborators might just surprise you: The singer recently completed work with Diplo and Sleigh Bells guitarist Derek Miller. "I actually have no idea if the collaboration will ever be released," Miller says. "Beyoncé works with whoever she wants to work with… It's just a totally different world from what I'm used to."
Death Cab for Cutie have announced the follow-up to 2008's gold-certified Narrow Stairs — which also scored the band their first Billboard #1 album. Codes and Keys will be released on May 31, with bassist Nick Harmer promising, "this is a much less guitar-centric album than we've ever made before."
In a post to her Facebook page called "My Time To Speak," Ciara surprised her fans with a public plea to be released from her contract with Jive Records and alleged that she spent "more than one hundred thousand dollars out of my pocket" to promote a record "only to hear the radio [program directors] tell me my label didn't want the song played." Jive has yet to respond to the accusations.
Björk is, indeed, releasing an album this year, but it's not the one she hinted at: The singer is teaming up with Syrian artist Omar Souleyman for "the first-ever major Western pop release to feature Syrian dabble and Iraqi choubi music." I have no idea what that means, honestly, but we can expect to hear it before the end of the year.
James Yuill's 2008 breakthrough, Turning Down Water For Air, was one of those albums that crystallizes the successful possibility of an idea that hasn't quite been tapped. Before Yuill, "folktronica" was code for bleepy folk songs; after, it was possible to write four-on-the-floor tech-house tracks with an acoustic guitar. Which is why the first thing you'll notice about his third album, Movement in a Storm, is the near-total absence of guitars. Yuill just went ahead and made a pop-techno record, and it may be months before you realize how game-changing this is: Because when it comes to combining this level of dancefloor credibility with classic pop songcraft, it's not even that no one else is coming close. It's that no one else thought it was possible.
Radiohead's eighth studio album came out on Friday, and if you're still holding out for a return to their guitar-based rock roots, The King of Limbs won't do anything to feed your jones. This is an album driven by rhythm and textures, and despite their insistence on being a "band," the reference points that I feel most confident drawing all point to companionless studio programmers like Four Tet (in the rapid staccato of "Bloom") or James Holden (in the techno-glitch editing of "Feral"). It's not easy listening, but when you recall that even OK Computer's first single was a 7-minute song about suspicious robots, it becomes increasingly clear that the rewards are there if you're willing to collect them.
The original motion picture soundtrack for Blue Valentine — the oscar-nominated film starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams — isn't so much a new album by Grizzly Bear as it is a new way to listen to them: Previous album tracks like "I Live With You" and "Lullabye" take on a new meaning as instrumentals, and Horn Of Plenty's "Alligator" appears here as a "Choir Version" featuring Beirut's Zach Condon with Dirty Projectors' Amber Coffman and Dave Longstreth. Ryan Gosling also shows up with a version of "You Always Hurt The Ones You Love," but that one might be for the diehard fans only.
San Francisco's Ex-Boyfriends have always been more than just "queercore" — if it's even fair to so narrowly pigeonhole them at all. On Line In/Line Out, the trio firmly establishes their acumen for writing finely crafted pop songs dressed in indie rock camouflage, while the video for "Uh-Oh!" is a chance for the Ex-Boyfriends to tell a story about ex-girlfriends.
Cut Copy — "Need You Now"
In the world of Cut Copy's "Need You Now" video, boxers wield swords, swimmers throw nunchuks, and sprinters carry baseball bats — presumably all for love. It's also the must-hear opening track from the recently-released and critically acclaimed Zonoscope.
Literature — "It's Cruel"
Austin's Literature play scrappy garage pop with a West Coast heart, which is probably why it makes total sense that they'd film a video that reenacts Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze's legendary foot-chase scene from Point Break. I don't call too many ideas "genius," but this would be a necessary exception.
Bright Light Bright Light — "How To Make A Heart"
Rod Thomas used to be an acoustic guitar-swinging singer-songwriter — and a great one at that — but these days, he's a new wave flame-keeper and UK gay-mag pinup. (The logical next step!) "How To Make A Heart" is the emotive first single from Bright Light Bright Light's forthcoming debut album Make Me Believe In Hope.