Jonsi and Alex Hub

MUSIC NEWS: Sigur Rós, R.E.M., Kele, Tegan and Sara, Kylie Minogue, Little Boots, Duran Duran, Patrick Wolf, Feist, Ellie Goulding



Guestblogger 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.


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.

R.E.M.-Part-Lies-Part-Heart-Part-Truth-Part-Garbage-1982-2011R.E.M. Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982–2011 (Warner Bros.)

WHO'S OUT: Michael Stipe

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.

Kele HunterKele The Hunter EP (Witchita)

WHO'S OUT: Kele Okereke

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.

SigurRos InniSigur Rós Inni (XL)

WHO'S OUT: Singer Jonsí Birgisson

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.

Get-AlongTegan & Sara Get Along (Warner Bros.)

WHO'S OUT: Tegan and Sara Quin

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.


KylieRoad 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."

Road 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-loveRoad 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.

Road A live collaboration between Feist and out Grizzly Bear vocalist Ed Droste — singing "Cicadas & Gulls" from the former's new album Metals — appeared this week, as did the first new Feist remix I've heard this year: London's Clock Opera, who many of you will recognize as That Band I've Been Raving About All Year, transformed "How Come You Never Go There?" into a vintage house cut with electro sensibilities and Salsoul horns.

Black-cardsRoad 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.

Road 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."

Road 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.


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.

MUSIC NEWS: 2011 Fall Music Preview, Grace Jones, Feist, Björk, M83, Solange Knowles, Jónsi, The Smiths, Ellie Goulding, Will Young



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.


Grace Jones Hurricane (PIAS America) Grace Jones - Hurricane

WHO: A legendary pop music and style icon, if there were no Grace Jones, there would be no … well, almost everyone.

WHY: Hurricane has already seen its release overseas, hitting the Top 40 Albums Chart in ten different countries, but its official American release isn't due until next month. Collaborations with everyone from Wendy & Lisa to Tricky and Sly & Robbie guitarist Barry Reynolds flesh out the album, but make no mistake: This is a modern Grace Jones affair.

WHEN: September 6

The RaptureIn The Grace of Your Love (DFA) The_rapture_grace-of-your-love

WHO: New York City provocateurs who spearheaded this decade's indie-dance movement.

WHY: After a dalliance with the major label world and ongoing collaborations with traditional techno scene stars, Brooklyn's Rapture return to James Murphy's DFA label for their fourth full-length album. Lead single "How Deep Is Your Love?" inverts a piano-house hook into a nu-disco argument against modern quantized rhythms — loose and funky, like what you'd imagine ESG would sound like in 2011.

WHEN: September 6

Das-racist-relax1 Das RacistRelax (Greedhead Music) 

WHO: Political satirists, authentic rappers, and neo-Dadaist muckrakers drop their official debut.

WHY: If you wanna get all academic about it, Das Racist are becoming increasingly effective cultural critics with an Absurdist slant. A quick definition of the movement — of "an avant-garde style in which structure, plot, and characterization are disregarded or garbled in order to stress the lack of logic in nature and man's isolation in a universe which has no meaning" — kind of underlines the fact, and on their debut actually-for-sale album, the crew seem at it again: Rest assured, "Rainbow in the Dark" has nothing to do with Ronnie James Dio.

WHEN: September 13

Ladytron-gravity-the-seducer LadytronGravity The Seducer (Nettwerk)

WHO: Longstanding electro-pop favorites from Liverpool, Ladytron anticipated the '80s revival before the '90s were over.

WHY: Having already released three songs from the album, there is a suggestion here that Ladytron are taking a more ethereal approach: "Ambulances" weaves in and out of consciousness not unlike Elizabeth Fraser's Cocteau Twins, while lead single "White Elephant" offers a synthesized take on a classic Motown rhythm. It's a whole lot of ageless beauty.

WHEN: September 13

Bjork-biophilia-real-artwork BjörkBiophilia (One Little Indian/WEA)

WHO: A fearless sonic innovator, Björk's influence and dialogue with the entirety of the electronic music world is inestimable.

WHY: If "Crystalline" is any indication, Biophilia may very well hark back to Björk's more abstract techno output — the tension of its glitch giving way to a lawless breakbeat that, somehow, never loses the melody. The simultaneous control and lack of restraint is just masterful.

WHEN: September 27

Feist452_2 FeistMetals (Cherrytree/Interscope)

WHO: A Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter who is both a member of Broken Social Scene and a one-time collaborator with Elmo on Sesame Street.

WHY: The long-awaited follow-up to The Reminder, Feist's fourth proper solo album doesn't seem to be making any drastic left turns, as the singer calls on trusted producers Mocky and Chilly Gonzales to help oversee the project. The addition of Valgeir Sigurðsson to the fold, however, may suggest a more orchestrated approach: Sigurðsson's CV includes work with alt-classical composer Nico Muhly, avant-folk duo Coco Rosie, and fellow Icelander Björk.

WHEN: October 4

M83Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (Mute) M83-artwork

WHO: Your favorite French ambient-electro mainstay and nu-gaze architect gets ambitious.

WHY: If you haven't heard the lead single from this forthcoming double-album by M83, then hurry up. "Midnight City" is exactly what Anthony Gonzalez promised from this formidable work, describing it as "pop — and very epic." If he can maintain this kind of enterprising spirit over two discs, we may be talking about an instant classic here.

WHEN: October 18

Coming out today: Moonface — Organ Music, Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped (Jagjaguwar), Jim Ward — Quiet in the Valley, On The Shores The End Begins (Tembloroso), Steve Mason — Ghosts Outside (Domino), Arcade Fire — The Suburbs: Deluxe Edition + Scenes from the Suburbs (Merge), Archers of Loaf — Icky Mettle (Reissue) (Merge)


Ronnie Road In one of the more remarkable moments to occur in the wake of Amy Winehouse's death, legendary singer Ronnie Spector released her as-yet-unheard, and utterly amazing rendition of "Back to Black." "I'm devastated," Spector said. "Every time I looked at her, it was like I was looking at myself. She had my beehive, my eyeliner, my attitude. She had such a great soul in her voice and her lyrics were so amazing that I couldn't help but sing one of her songs." Also worth noting: I composed an essay about the cultural and critical response to Winehouse's passing for MySpace Music. The takeaway? This isn't about us.

Road Beyoncé's younger sister Solange has been making the indie rounds a lot lately — collaborating with members of Grizzly Bear and Of Montreal, among others. Now, she can add DFA recording artist to her budding résumé: Solange lent her vocals to the latest 12" single by Rewards, which you can stream in its entirety now.

LCD-Lego-Soundsystem Road As long as we're talking DFA, it's worth mentioning that a pretty fantastic shot-for-shot Lego recreation of LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" video also came out this week. It's kind of brilliant.

Road Reissue, repackage, repackage — or so goes the famous song. When Morrissey isn't too busy offending our sensibilities for compassion, he's signing off on insanely embellished box sets like the one Rhino plans to release on October 3: The Smiths Complete: Deluxe Collectors Box Set features remastered versions of the band's entire album discography on both CD and vinyl, as well as 25 7-inch singles, posters, and freshly written liner notes.

Jonsi Road Out singer-songwriter and Sigur Rós frontman Jónsi has been tapped to compose the soundtrack for Cameron Crowe's latest film, We Bought A Zoo. The movie stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, and it's technically the second time Crowe has turned to Jónsi for scoring: Vanilla Sky featured "Svefn-G-Englar" from Sigur Rós's second album, Ágaetis Byrjun.

Road If the recent shoegaze revival hadn't already been confirmed, Death Cab For Cutie want to see that it is: The band stopped by the BBC Radio studios last week to perform a cover of the classic Ride song "Twisterella."


This week's Rdio playlist was inspired by the New York heatwave — and more specifically, by my desire to sequester myself in front of an air conditioner and just chill out for a while.

"Chilled" is an anti-heatwave compilation featuring an emphasis on downtempo and acoustic tracks, which as I realized while I was putting this together, tends to seriously veer towards melancholy. But the sad song is a staple of almost every genre — even Shannon's "Let The Music Play" is downright depressing if you think about it — and, on some level, I've always gravitated towards raw nerves: The insanely desperate crescendo of Ida's "Little Things" still gets to me fifteen years later, the resignation of a Christian artist renouncing his Christianity — as on David Bazan's "Hard To Be" — doesn't get any more real, and Owen's "Bad News" is not the kind of song you'll put on to cheer your friend up. Still, there's consolation in the inconsolable: This is one for your more introspective moments or your next Sunday morning comedown.



Beni — "It's A Bubble" (feat. Sean Delear & Turbotito)

It's almost a bit too feigned to be real, but Sydney producer Beni genuinely wants to usher the underground ball scene into the mainstream with an album called House of Beni, Paris is Burning–derived songs like "O.P.U.L.E.N.C.E.," and the video for "It's A Bubble" — which takes place at a Parisian ball. If vintage bitch-tracks and runway shade turn you on, there's a lot to work with here.

Ellie Goulding — "Starry Eyed" (U.S. Version)

Much-loved London singer Ellie Goulding continues her campaign for American domination with a new video for "Starry Eyed," and maybe I don't know much about these things, but I prefer the playful naiveté of the original version — if only because this one seems to imply that we're more susceptible to videos that feel like outtakes from Twilight. Either way, the song is pretty much perfect.

Underworld — "Diamond Jigsaw"

The standout track from Barking, "Diamond Jigsaw" is a throbbing pop song at heart — its melodic sensibility no doubt improved upon by German trance producer Paul van Dyk, who co-wrote the song. The video is a classic outsider's tale, as told by some sort of denim monster in search of his denim-monster son. I think.

Will Young — "Jealousy"

Outside of the U.S., Will Young has already achieved multiplatinum success as an out gay man and a quasi-soul pop singer — becoming the most approximate successor we've got to, say, George Michael. But on his forthcoming sixth album Echoes, Young teams up electropop producer Richard X for a sound that's already feeling like a reinvention: Lead single "Jealousy" is as emotive and grief-stricken as you can get when you're going four to the floor. It's also total pop gold.

Sigur Rós frontman and Boyfriend Release Album: Riceboy Sleeps


If you're a fan of Icelandic band Sigur Rós, you may want to check out Riceboy Sleeps. It's a new release by Jónsi Birgisson of Sigur Rós and his boyfriend Alex Somers. Together they produce art and music, combining their lush, ambient, ethereal compositions with nostalgic imagery. Their album just came out this week.

Riceboysleeps I've posted the EPK for it, AFTER THE JUMP...

There's also an extensive interview with the couple at Woolf & Wilde. In it, Jónsi talks about how they met:

"My band Sigur Rós were touring and we happened to be in Boston. At first I met Alex’s brother, who gave me his CD as he is a music maker also. I was listening to it and it was quite good, not like many CDs we get from our fans [laughs]. After the show I met Alex’s brother again and there was Alex standing beside him. Wow! As soon as I saw him I thought that he was the most beautiful boy I have ever seen. But for some reason I thought he must be straight. Then I had to get into my bus heading to another city to play. Anyway during six months I stayed in touch with Alex’s brother via emails and when I finally returned again to Boston, I decided to give him a call and meet for a beer somewhere. I called and Alex answered. He came to the hotel where I was staying and we just never went out for that drink. And that was it."

Sample the album on the EPK and listen to an interview, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Sigur Rós frontman and Boyfriend Release Album: Riceboy Sleeps" »


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