The British songstress and former X-Factor winner is back with a new foot-stomping single that marks a departure from the sound she became known for with her breakout hit, "Bleeding Love." As Billboard reports, the video for "Fire Under My Feet" "focuses on individuals who are each marching to the beat of their own drummers." Those individuals include out gay supermodel Shaun Ross, a drag queen, an inked-up tattoo artist, a boy ballet dancer (think Billy Elliot) among others. Of the video, Lewis tweeted, "It was so much fun making the video and every story behind each person featured is truly inspiring. I hope it inspires you too."
Meanwhile, MTV notes that the song sounds similar to Adele's 2010 jam, "Rolling In The Deep." It is too early to tell whether or not enough of a resemblance exists between the two songs for any legal action to be taken, as the song has only just dropped. However, a controversy is likely the last thing Lewis is hoping for with this song especially given the legal back-and-forth that ensued with DJ and producer Avicii over her performance of the song "Collide" in 2011.
Bombay Bicycle ClubA Different Kind Of Fix (Universal)
After the release of 2009's I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose, Bombay Bicycle Club were routinely dismissed for being a competent, if not somewhat gifted band in the London indie-punk canon — as part of a new wave that was already in its waning state and quite possibly years short of another revival. Their story should have ended in 2010, when the band beat out the XX, Mumford & Sons, and La Roux for NME's Best New Artist award, except that it didn't: Bombay Bicycle Club's surprise all-acoustic follow-up album, Flaws, forced a reevaluation of their music — and more specifically, of lead singer-songwriter Jack Steadman — that all but erased their scrappy debut from collective memory, and swapped accolades from the music weeklies with nominations for Ivor Novello Songwriting Awards. ForA Different Kind Of Fix, BBC return to the full-band format and bravely justify three disparate albums with a cohesive collection of songs that is at once endearingly innocent and patently mature. "How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep?" opens the album with the kind of dreamy, hypnotic rhythm generally reserved for electronic dance music — the emotion in its ebbs and flows — while lead single "Shuffle" transforms a neo-vaudevillian piano riff into a summery disco-not-disco track befitting the Speaking In Tongues–era Talking Heads. The album's ongoing dialectic between the ethereal and the rhythmic could be partially chalked up to the hand of Animal Collective producer Ben Allen, but the reality is potentially deeper: If Steadman is positioning BBC as a post-genre songwriting vehicle, it may be because he no longer cares to write music that relies on genre as a crutch — if he ever did.
Madonna's latest directorial attempt, the forthcoming W.E., had moviegoers at the Venice Film Festival "rolling in the aisles" — and it's not even a comedy! — but details of her twelfth album will provide a more sobering, if not celebratory effect: A lead single is due in February or March 2012, with a new full-length to follow next spring. Ray Of Light producer William Orbit is back in the studio captain's chair, as are Martin Solveig and relative newcomer Jean-Baptiste Kouame — who co-wrote much of Kelis' excellent Flesh Tone.
Fresh from his collaboration with Bon Iver, James Blake announces a new EP: The six-track Enough Thunder will be released on October 10, and will feature "Fall Creek Boys Choir" as well as his Internet-favorite cover of Joni Mitchell's "Case Of You."
Superstar producer Dr. Luke — of Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and Britney Spears fame — has perfected his strategy against the cadre of litigious songwriters claiming he stole their work: Sue them for defamation until they submit.
Formed by ex-members of Hercules & Love Affair, the New York-based Midnight Music have essentially taken the "nu" out of nu-disco, faithfully adhering instead to the live disco blueprint of bands like the Salsoul Orchestra and Heatwave. Scion/AV recently released the band's debut digital EP, What The Eyes Can't See, which you can currently stream from Soundcloud or download for free. The band leaves on tour with Cut Copy and Washed Out this month.
Konkylie, the recent album by Copenhagen's When Saints Go Machine, has the kind of depth rarely seen from a debut — a feat largely accomplished by the band's versatile musicianship and singer Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild's delicate, yet deliberate falsetto. Third single "Kelly" is a testament to that balancing act — brooding, but not maudlin; dark, yet allowing light in through the cracks.
Matt Cardle — "Run For Your Life"
Last year's winner of the UK X Factor, Matt Cardle is the latest artist in Simon Cowell's world domination plan. But there's a hitch: Cardle's extreme likability — which endeared him, unsurprisingly, to many an English gay man — is rooted in his aw-shucks, unsuspecting, everyman tendencies. Unfortunately, the video for his debut album's lead single plays up some sort of bizarre Harlequin romance angle that feels contrived, and by the look on Cardle's face, uncomfortably forced. Not even Take That's Gary Barlow, who wrote the song, can save it.
The Saturdays — "All Fired Up"
With Girls Aloud on a vaguely indefinite hiatus and none of the original members of Sugababes actually in the group anymore, The Saturdays must see "All Fired Up" as an opportunity of sorts — and in the world of Euro dance-pop, you could do far worse than picking up one of the more memorable recent tracks from uber-reliable UK production/songwriting house Xenomania. The people seem to agree: This weekend, "All Fired Up" hit #1 on the UK iTunes chart as soon as it was released.
Tayisha Busay — "Focus"
Brooklyn-based queer electro trio Tayisha Busay are prepping the release of their debut album, Focus/Virus, and lead single "Focus" is already shaping up to be the band's most realized work so far — a grim, New York version of Kraftwerk's "The Robots" with a generous dose of pop sensibility and human intervention. The clip's a little edgy, but its meditation on the reversals of power is hardly esoteric.
David Guetta's third album, Pop Life, was hardly a fully realized work, but his intention was clear. In 2007, when it was released, European club music had been desegregated from overseas Top 40 pop for years — but more often than not, this crossover was a matter of fact and not a concerted effort. Guetta was one of the first to put that extra effort in — beginning by hiring legendary pop songwriter Cathy Dennis to work on the record with him — and despite its failures, Pop Life was Guetta's first semi-hit album. It also arguably paved the way for Lady Gaga's The Fame only one year later, which cracked open the American market for this style, and in turn, paved the way for Guetta's truly massive One Love in 2009. (If you really want to complete the circle, listen to "Born This Way" again and see if you don't hear the similarities to "When Love Takes Over.") This week, Guetta returns with Nothing But The Beat — the first new album since his mainstream breakthrough — and it's nothing if not contemporary. This is, however, a blessing and a curse: In a landscape where "Guetta-beat" is being produced by dozens of like-minded studio hacks, the struggle for Guetta to retain his voice is often foiled by his propensity for nabbing scene-stealing guest stars. The album's first two singles — "Where Them Girls At," featuring Nicki Minaj and Flo-Rida, and "Little Bad Girl," featuring Taio Cruz and Ludacris — are archetypes of the old Guetta-beat, and with his trance-based structural dynamics having been appropriated by everyone from Dr. Luke to Stargate, neither song really stands out from any number of singles on the radio right now. The same can't be said, however, for standouts like the Usher–led "Without You" — a sort of arpeggiated progressive-house cousin to Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With You" — and the fact that this will be the third track sent to radio is a signal that Guetta is already thinking ahead. Because when the current commercial dance boom subsides, as all pop micro-trends do, it will always be the actual song under the synths that matters most.
Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan took some flack from fans for granting an exclusive regular column to Crestfallen — a fan site run by a Mormon adherent who openly supported California's Proposition 8. But things got more heated after Devi Ever, a guitar-pedal engineer and transgender woman who spent money developing a custom bass pedal at Corgan's request and was then ignored, aired her grievances towards the singer on the Internet: Corgan responded with a series of verbal threats (claiming he would "knock [her] f*cking lights out") and transphobic slights (calling her a "he/she" and "a sad creation"). Corgan has since deleted the offending tweets, but unfortunately for his bigoted temper, the Internet is forever.
Last week's self-started rumor of a Bon Iver and James Blake collaboration came to fruition as promised: "Fall Creek Boys Choir" is one of the most elegant songs to come from either camp, and it's available on iTunes this week.
This week's essential streams and downloads: Starsmith released his version of the latest Marina and the Diamonds single, "Radioactive," and then somewhat mysteriously took it down from his Soundcloud page a few days later. Luckily, Hype Machine still has the stream. The debut album by Wild Flag — featuring members of Sleater-Kinney, Helium, and The Minders — is up at NPR now. And let's not forget Penguin Prison: A self-titled debut is due next week and the latest retromodern track to leak is called "Don't F*ck With My Money."
Robyn's Body Talk trilogy was an ambitious undertaking in dozens of ways, but one of the less examined aspects of the project has been its bold and innovative visual identity — from the album artwork and videos to her concert styling and online interactive campaigns. The Creator's Project took all this into account and put Robyn in a room with the album's creative director, Mary Fagot, for an enlightening video interview on the subject.
Foo Fighters are going on tour this fall, and to let you know about it, they did what any other self-respecting rock band would do: They filmed a teaser video, completely in the nude, showering together. Needless to say, it's NSFW — especially the close-up shots of each member's rear end. No lie.
The forthcoming second album by Baltimore-based hip hop crew Spank Rock will be called Everything is Boring and Everyone is a F*cking Liar, and our first taste is a track called "Nasty" — featuring an outrageous coda from New Orleans sissy bounce ambassador Big Freedia, who has spent this year quickly shattering the limits of acclaim and mainstream acceptance for queer rappers. The album, due September 27, also features work from Santigold and hip hop megastar Pharrell Williams.
SOUND & VISION:
Leona Lewis & Avicii — "Collide"
The nasty lawsuits are behind them, so the first video from Leona Lewis' upcoming third album has earned its official release. I'm personally a bit torn about the track, and the video — which positions Lewis as more of a summer babe than a smart chanteuse — doesn't seem to reconcile anything for me. I will say this: The original Penguin Café Orchestra composition that Avicii used as the basis for this much-contested track totally outshines its revision.
Bombay Bicycle Club — "Shuffle"
A Different Kind of Fix is Bombay Bicycle Club's highly guarded third album — which means I can't give it a fair assessment until its release next week — but if it's anything like its lead single, the London–based band may have a proper hit on their hands: "Shuffle" is the missing link between their scrappy post-punk debut and their leftfield follow-up of whispery folk confessionals, held together by a newfound sense of rhythm and joy.
Florence & The Machine — "What the Water Gave Me"
Florence Welch promised that her band's new songs were "drawn to dark metaphors," and "What The Water Gave Me" — the first single from Florence & The Machine's as-yet-untitled second album — delivers in spades: "When I was writing this song I was thinking a lot about all those people who have lost their lives in vain attempts to save their loved ones from drowning," she says, suggesting that her warning was an understatement.
Emeli Sandé — "Heaven"
The debut single from Scottish singer Emeli Sandé went to #2 on the UK charts this week, and with good reason. "Heaven" is one of those pleasurable, but slightly edgy pop singles that breed both familiarity and discovery: Recent tracks by Katy B and classic album cuts from Massive Attack certainly inform the music — a sort of trip-hop/drum-n-bass hybrid — but Sandé's capable voice is clearly what makes this song memorable in long run. It's a great way to start a career.
He's still largely anonymous in America, but after selling more than 8 million albums everywhere else in the world — and celebrating this achievement with 2009's excellent The Hits compilation — now seems as a good a time as any for Will Young to rock the boat. On his fifth studio effort, Echoes, the out gay pop star has done just that: For one thing, hiring electropop maestro Richard X to helm production duties for the entire album was a bold move — not only because Richard X has never produced an entire full-length album for an artist of this size before, but because Young's sole experience with making electronic music before this album was a one-song collaboration with Groove Armada. And perhaps therein lies the genius. Echoes is the sound of a clean slate and the reintroduction to a Will Young that sounds more inspired than we've ever heard him. Opener (and lead single) "Jealousy" is a solid barometer for the album's tone, managing to convey sorrow through all of the musical signifiers we associate with euphoria, while the electro-disco "Runaway" showcases Young's soulful vocal chops utilizing an entirely fresh palette. But it's "Come On" that, by track 2, perfectly fuses past and present — retaining Young's classic sensibility, although trading in the stadium-sized string sections for synths. It's far too early to make any predictions, but this far into 2011, track for track in its entirety, I have yet to hear a more exciting and cohesive commercial pop album. Echoes will be called a reinvention, but it's actually just insanely good.
Eager to get her new single out — or just conceding to the fact that they did pretty much steal someone else's song — Leona Lewis (alongside label head Simon Cowell) have resolved their legal dispute with 22-year-old Swedish producer Avicii over "Collide," the lead single from Lewis' forthcoming third album. Complete details of the agreement have not been disclosed, but only a few days after leaving court new artwork for the single emerged, crediting the song to "Leona Lewis/Avicii." No word on whether or not Ministry of Sound still plans to release "Fade Into Darkness," the original Avicii composition at the center of this dispute.
Have James Blake and Bon Iver teamed up to form a new band? According to Blake's Twitter feed, the duo has planned something for tomorrow, August 24, under the name Fall Creek Boys Choir.
If you haven't heard Bright Light Bright Light yet, make it a priority: the London-based electropop songwriter recently released the impeccable "Disco Moment" as lead single for his forthcoming debut, and this week, he whipped up a DJ mix for BUTT magazine, who also get down to some need-to-know facts — like, "Have you ever had sex in the toilets?" — for a concise Q&A.
New York's Tayisha Busay have been fixtures in the city's indie dance and queer nightlife scene for some time now, but with the release of their forthcoming debut album, Focus/Virus, the trio are finally poised to hit the national stage. "Focus" is the first taste from the album, and it's a stunner that draws from vintage Kraftwerk and early New York proto-freestyle along the lines of Dominatrix. Stream it now from Soundcloud, and expect to hear much more from Tayisha Busay later this year.
Last year's winner of the UK X Factor, Matt Cardle, has announced an October 17 release date for his debut album, Letters, which includes lead single "Run For Your Life," written by current X Factor judge and Take That mainman Gary Barlow. "We had 99% of the album finished, then the track came through from Gary," Cardle says. "I was nearly in tears recording the vocals."
When it comes to battling biopics, Truman Capote has nothing on the late, lamented Jeff Buckley. There are three films about the highly influential singer currently in production, including Greetings from Tim Buckley (starring Penn Badgley as Jeff), A Pure Drop (directed by Australian auteur Brendan Fletcher), and an as-yet-unnamed production helmed by Ridley Scott's son, Jake — the only one to earn its blessings from the Buckley estate.
Victor Willis — better known as the original cop in the Village People — is suing someone again this week, but this time, he might actually make history! Citing a federal copyright provision that allows songwriters to regain control of registered titles beginning in 1978, Willis filed papers to regain control of his share of songs like "Y.M.C.A.," "In The Navy," and "Go West," which continue to accumulate millions of dollars annually. The companies currently holding the copyrights, of course, are fighting the claim, calling Willis an "adapter of French songs" that are not subject to U.S. law. But Willis' legal counsel counters this claim with a compelling challenge: "I dare you to go to Paris and find a Y.M.C.A."
Pat Grossi is a a true postmodernist — which is to say that on You Are All I See, his debut album as Active Child, there is no one dominant narrative, but a string of coexisting, albeit seemingly divergent ideas. It's not that classical harp, '80s synthpop, and slow-jam R&B are incapable of getting along, but more that before Grossi, no one ever put them in the same room. The end result is chilling at times — with Grossi's inimitable choir-like falsetto grimly anchoring standouts like "Way Too Fast" and the title track — but when the lights go down on "Playing House," it's like moving out of the church and into the bedroom. Throughout decades of rock 'n' roll history, there's still nothing like unexpected sex.
Obscurities is the latest release by acclaimed (and out) singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt, and if you're interested in tracing artistic trajectories, this 14-song collection will come in handy: Assembling the many compilation appearances, outtakes, and previously unreleased material that led up to the release of Magnetic Fields' universally loved — and impossibly epic — 69 Love Songs boxset, Obscurities reassesses what it means to be a castoff. In less capable hands, songs like "I Don't Believe You" and "Take Ecstasy With Me" could be centerpieces for a "proper" album.
I missed this one when it came out earlier this month, so let's correct that wrong right now: From their second album Interiors, due out next week, New York's Mirror Mirror make atmospheric neo-psych with a gentle gothic touch — a perfect backdrop, then, for this noir-inspired clip starring Rumi Missabu, one of the final survivors from San Francisco's legendary drag collective The Cockettes. Seriously, it's a work of art.
Snow Patrol — "Called Out In The Dark"
They came into mainstream prominence as the Scottish answer to Coldplay, so skeptics might be quick to call foul on the disco-fused lead single from Snow Patrol's forthcoming sixth album — as if they were riding trends or something. But if Gary Lightbody proves anything on "Called Out In The Dark," it's that he knows a little something about club music: Years before Snow Patrol, Lightbody was a house music DJ and even wrote a song for UK house stalwarts Freeform Five. The authenticity — and playfulness — on his band's latest single shows.
Chromeo — "When The Night Falls" (feat. Solange Knowles)
Fresh from her collaboration with Rewards for the DFA label, Beyoncé's little sister moves further down the indie-dance rabbithole with a cameo on the latest single by French Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo. "When The Night Falls" is the fourth single from Business Casual, but the first to feature a street gang of angry pregnant women.
Matt & Kim, Andrew WK & Soulja Boy — "I'm A Goner"
This week's unlikely collaboration: Brooklyn's cutest power pop duo Matt & Kim team up with the frequently bloody Andrew WK and Atlanta rap prodigy-cum-whipping post Soulja Boy for "I'm A Goner." The surprisingly successful song is available as a free download now, and its video reestablishes Matt & Kim's lock on feel-good filmmaking — even if everyone in the clip is technically dead. It's like "Thriller" for hipsters.
Aside from Watch the Throne, the anticipated collaborative effort from Kanye West and Jay-Z, the summer release drought continues this week. But that doesn't mean there isn't new music to be heard: This time around, I've assembled a handful of free and legal downloads to give away — including a track that's somewhat personal to say the least.
WHY: Los Angeles singer-songwriter Pat Grossi literally began his career as a choirboy, so it's no wonder that last year's Curtis Lane EP introduced a voice that was as angelic as it was ghostly. For his forthcoming debut album, You Are All I See, Grossi reins in his new wave tendencies and breaks new ground with an almost textural R&B — as if Jonsí from Sígur Ros decided to sing the D'Angelo back catalog. This is, trust me, an incredible thing.
WHEN: You Are All I See is released August 23 via Vagrant.
WHY: Longevity is a rare beast in the music industry, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out how it's done: Liverpool electropop vets Ladytron are entering their second decade as a band because they've always been intent on expanding and redefining the boundaries of what it is that they do. With "White Elephant," the band goes back to basics, composing a classic pop standard through a modern pop lexicon. If that's tension that you hear, they're doing it right.
WHEN: Gravity the Seducer is released September 13 via Nettwerk.
WHY: I don't generally merge my two career paths in any way, but it's free download week and I'm in the giving spirit. While the majority of you might only know me for my work here, I'm actually far better known as a musician, having played in a number of bands and worked as a songwriter for others over the last twenty years. Last month, I was commissioned to do a remix for one of the best working artists right now — London singer-songwriter James Yuill — and the resulting track turned out to be one of my favorite things I've ever worked on. If it gives you a more multidimensional image of who I am, then I suppose that's a good thing, right? Enjoy!
WHEN: James Yuill's excellent Movement in a Storm, featuring the original version of "Crying for Hollywood," is out now.
Yesterday, an English high court heard testimony from Swedish club producer Avicci alleging that Simon Cowell and Leona Lewis are responsible for plagiarizing his forthcoming single, "Fade Into Darkness," on Lewis's current single "Collide." Avicci is hoping to prevent the commercial release of "Collide," which is currently scheduled for September 4 in the UK, and the producer has a case: Cowell's label approached Avicii's management to use the song for Lewis, but they declined, having already secured a fall release with Ministry Of Sound. Sad to say, I'm not sure "Collide" is a song worth fighting for.
Influential UK tech-house label Soma celebrates their 20th anniversary this year with a 3-CD retrospective of the label's history. No small footnote to that history, the collection opens with "Drive" — a previously unreleased Daft Punk demo from 1994. The track was originally meant to be included on Daft Punk's first 12-inch EP for the label, but was left off in favor of future classic "Da Funk."
Poly Styrene may have passed away before its release, but her final album, Generation Indigo, still breathes life: "Ghoulish" is being released as a new single this week, and the song is backed with a haunting remix by Hercules & Love Affair that volleys between hypnotic Italo-disco and classic Detroit techno.
It was announced this week that Amy Winehouse's North London home will become headquarters for the Amy Winehouse Foundation — an organization established to help young people with substance abuse problems. Meanwhile, Tony Bennett promised to donate 100-percent of the royalties from "Body & Soul" — his recent duet with Winehouse — to the foundation.
Former Mojo Magazine editor and David Bowie biographer Paul Trynka talks about his latest book, David Bowie: Starman, and gives his best educated guess for the singer's future based on all he's learned: "My heart says he'll come back, but my head says he's not likely to."
World music-slash-indie hybrid Beirut return from their recent cross-pollinations with Blondie for a new record called The Rip Tide, due out on August 30. The entire album is streaming at Soundcloud now. Also worth checking out: German techno favorites Modeselektor are offering teaser streams from their forthcoming album Monkeytown, including the much anticipated "Shipwreck" and "This" — both of which feature Radiohead's Thom Yorke on vocals.
Notable indie director and queer film icon Gregg Araki recently spoke with the Guardian at length about his love for the British shoegaze movement and its recent revival: "The sad thing is, today a band like Slowdive wouldn't be able to have a career. They hardly dealt in huge figures, but they sold enough to get a career out of it," he says. "There's no money for such things at the present, no incentive for record companies to repackage their music."
This week's Rdio playlist was inspired by the recent announcement of nominations for this year's MTV Video Music Awards. I decided to dig into the archives in order to figure out who some of the best losing nominees were, and I was actually quite surprised by what I found. (For example, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" lost its Video of the Year nod to Van Halen's "Right Now." True story!) But as I continued to dig, I was more surprised to see artists like Jeff Buckley or Roni Size/Reprazent in the nominee pool at all; there seemed to be as much of a story in the artists that got shut out of the VMAs as there was in the winner's circle. So this playlist celebrates the videos that should have won (the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' clip for "Maps" was insanely moving), the videos whose nominations were surprising (Belly's Star is one of the better lost albums from the '90s), and the videos whose artists became next-big-things that didn't quite make it (although Amerie's "1 Thing" still stands as an essentially flawless R&B track). Losers of 2011, take note! You're in excellent company.
SOUND & VISION:
Best Coast — "Our Deal"
It sounds more like a movie than a music video, but the latest single from Best Coast is totally getting the cinematic treatment: Directed by Drew Barrymore, this Warriors–like romantic tragedy stars Community's Donald Glover, Kick-Ass star Chloë Moretz, and, umm, iCarly's Miranda Cosgrove, among others.
Hunx & His Punx — "Lover's Lane"
Having already transcended the queer-punk label with their across-the-board well-received Too Young to Be in Love album, Hunx & His Punx rewrite your prom night with this campy but crucial video for "Lover's Lane" — as if the girl-group era had been merely a foil for gay love this whole time.
Wild Beasts — "Bed Of Nails"
If Smother wasn't one of the best records released so far in 2011, it was certainly one of the most unique. Wild Beasts singer Hayden Thorpe has the kind of highly literate, androgynous voice that endeared us to artists like Marc Almond and Antony Hegarty; on "Bed of Nails," he utilizes that falsetto to raise the anthemic potential on the best hypnotic Krautrock rhythm since "Running Up That Hill."
Toro Y Moi — "How I Know"
As far as indie pop goes, the latest from chillwave's most prominent defector Toro Y Moi is way more sunny than scary. But that doesn't stop the single from getting a satirical, and often hilarious horror treatment: It's a place where ghosts aren't afraid to bust out vintage American Bandstand choreography and bubblegum can literally kill you.