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04/19/2007


MUSIC NEWS: Owen, Jamie xx, Rostam Batmanglij, Atlas Sound, Antony Hegarty, Amy Winehouse, Architecture in Helsinki

Mikekinsella

BY NORMAN BRANNON

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.

EXTENDED PLAY:

Owen-Ghost-TownOwen Ghost Town (Polyvinyl)

In the ten years since he began recording as Owen, Chicago native Mike Kinsella has managed to wage as idiosyncratic a career as reality will allow. His sixth album, Ghost Town, represents a synthesis of sorts — where complex folk and songs about fatherhood ("O, Evelyn") intersect with understated guitar solos and oddly innocent sexual suggestions ("Too Many Moons"). Kinsella's paradox, then, is not so much that he's conflicted as it is that he's integrated: Young male singers with acoustic guitars have a tendency to dwell in maudlin strokes of misanthropy, but Ghost Town is more playful than that. Even its tensest moment — on the vibraphone-assisted "No Place Like Home" — channels adult frustration through territorial playground innocence; its harshest pronouncement ("F*ck you and your front lawn") is too cute to generate any ill feelings. At a time when pop records mistake arrogance for empowerment, Ghost Town disarms us with a rare insightful humility.

Also out today: Atlas Sound — Parallax (4AD), Kaskade — Fire & Ice (Ultra), Etta James — Dreamer (Verve Forecast), James Blake — Enough Thunder (Universal), Tycho — Dive (Ghostly International), Various Artists — Gold Panda: DJ Kicks (!K7)

THE DISPATCH:

RostamRoad Vampire Weekend's prolific (and out) keys player Rostam Batmanglij offers up another new song via his Tumblr: "Don't Let It Get To You" crosses tribal tendencies and Eno atmospherics with tried-and-true pop hookery.

Road Drake's new album features at least one unexpected collaboration: The title track, "Take Care," features Rihanna on guest vocals and British dubstep associate Jamie xx on production.

Bradford-coxRoad Deerhunter's Bradford Cox releases a new album under his Atlas Sound guise this week, and in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Cox was decisive in his mission statement: "Hetero-centric, boring scruffy 20-year-olds are ruining the f*cking face of rock and roll," he said. So what's missing? "Queerness. Homoeroticism. Boyhood."

Road The Museum of Modern Art has tapped Antony Hegarty to write, produce, and perform a "performance event" at Radio City Music Hall early next year: "Envisioned as a meditation on light, nature, and femininity, 'Swanlights' includes songs from all four of Antony and the Johnsons' albums set to symphonic arrangements by Nico Muhly, Rob Moose, and Maxim Moston."

Chris-carrabbaRoad This week's essential new streams and downloads: Two songs from the forthcoming posthumous album by Amy Winehouse have leaked. Check out "Our Day Will Come" and "Like Smoke," which features a guest turn from rapper Nas. Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba is offering a free four-song download called Covered in the Flood. The EP consists of reworked material from Big Star, The Replacements, and more. The first song from Nada Surf's forthcoming seventh album, The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy, is called "When I Was Young." And Björk released a new clip for "Thunderbolt" as an exclusive video stream at Boing Boing.

AmandapalmerfergusonRoad Dresden Dolls' Amanda Palmer invited acclaimed out singer-songwriter (and Magnetic Fields mainman) Stephin Merritt — in addition to Moby and author Neil Gaiman — to perform a Rocky Horror Picture Show classic for her appearance on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. It's bizarre! But it was Halloween, of course.

SOUND & VISION:

Architecture in Helsinki — "W.O.W."

The latest single from Moment Bends is a stark, but effective electropop track that demands a stark, monochromatic video treatment. But don't interpret that to mean Architecture in Helsinki have gone dark: Nothing says feel-good like swimming with dolphins and coming in for the hug.

Matt Cardle — "Starlight"

Carpenter-turned-UK X Factor winner Matt Cardle recently performed at London's G-A-Y because, well, he knows the gays loved him from the second he showed up on TV in his plaid shirt and painter's cap. The video for Letters' second single, "Starlight," reads more like a counterpart to Katy Perry's "Fireworks" — sans the exploding bra — but the song is in the classic anthemic Britpop mold of Coldplay and Embrace.

Mates of State — "Sway"

"Sway" is the kind of ebullient indie-pop song you'd throw on at the beginning of a road trip, but for Mates of State, the song has something more to do with winding up in a Lewis Carroll–like world and meeting a moss-growing, blue-skinned man who is capable of giving you the prom you never had as a teenager. By the clip's end, you'll concede they have a point.

Simone Battle — "He Likes Boys"

The first US X Factor cast off to release a single, Simone Battle's "He Likes Boys" tells the story of a woman who has terrible gaydar, bathes in sequin singlets, and decides that having a "new gay best friend" is just as great as seducing him. It's convoluted! And awkward! But while I can't figure out whether or not the song is cute or condescending, I'm confident this won't be the last contemporary pop song written by people who watch way too much Will & Grace.



MUSIC NEWS: Coldplay, Kelly Clarkson, Adam Levine, Everything But The Girl, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, Justin Timberlake, Stars

Coldplay2-SarahLee

BY NORMAN BRANNON

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.

EXTENDED PLAY:

This week is a bit of double feature, in which two high profile releases vie for your attention and everyone's publicity department is on overdrive trying to steer the conversation. Here's an attempt to separate the signal from the noise:

Coldplay — Mylo Xyloto (EMI) MyloXyloto_lores

THEIR PUBLICIST SAYS: "Just as the album art was inspired by the work of New York graffiti artists of the 1970s, Mylo Xyloto takes its cue from the sense of freedom those artists embodied."

THE OBJECTIVE TAKE: That's a stretch considering that '70s graffiti artists in New York were largely poor and disenfranchised people expressing themselves using an untraditional canvas and Coldplay are, like, the biggest (and one of the richest) rock bands in the world using guitars and keyboards. So, OK! Hyperbole aside, the band does take some risks here — a duet with Rihanna actually sounds conventional next to the new-wave-Bruce-Springsteen vibe of "Hurts Like Heaven" — and Mylo Xyloto is unlikely to kick them off their rock star perch this time around: It's a textured, satisfying, and melodically able album, and despite the attempts of adult contemporary songwriters everywhere, no one does Coldplay quite like Coldplay.

START WITH: "Hurts Like Heaven" / "Charlie Brown"

Kelly_Clarkson_-_StrongerKelly ClarksonStronger (19/RCA)

HER PUBLICIST SAYS: "The album is filled with candid, emotionally raw tunes like … 'You Love Me' (in which Clarkson witheringly tells an ex 'you’re not good enough'), 'Einstein' (the cad in question is dismissed with 'Here’s your keys, your bags, your clothes, and now get out of my place'), and the title track, which finds Clarkson putting a fresh spin on Nietzsche’s adage that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger."

THE OBJECTIVE TAKE: Saying that "Stronger" is a "fresh spin" on Nietzsche is kind of hilarious — as if she were the first to appropriate that quote! — but otherwise, it's true: Stronger is an album of kiss-off songs to antagonist boys in the vein of some of her greatest hits. The problem with that? It depends on whether or not you believe that Kelly Clarkson's lyrics are becoming too predictable or, perhaps worse than that, too simplistic in her notions of empowerment. The songs themselves are instantly pleasurable, and some of her best yet. But there's a point in every breakup conversation where one friend must tell the other that he or she needs to move on already.

START WITH: "Dark Side" / "I Forgive You"

Also out today: Matt Cardle — Letters (Sony UK), Justice — Audio Video Disco (Elektra/WEA), Björk & The Dirty Projectors — Mount Wittenberg Orca (Domino), Dntel — Life is Full Of Possibilities: Deluxe Reissue (Sub Pop)

THE DISPATCH:

Adam-levine1Road Maroon 5's Adam Levine to Fox News: "Don't play our music on your evil f*cking channel ever again." Fox News responds: "Dear Adam Levine, don't make crappy f*cking music ever again." It's just a battle where everyone loses, apparently.

Road From a Mess to the Masses, the new documentary film about Phoenix that aired on European television last week, is currently streaming online.

BrightlightRoad While Bright Light Bright Light is still prepping for the release of his debut album, he's still supporting his impeccable new single, "Disco Moment," and taking the time out to play an acoustic set for Gaydar Radio that reveals the depth of his synthpop songwriting. Check out these stripped down versions of "Love Pt. 2" or the aforementioned "Disco Moment" and discover why Rod Thomas might be a one-man Pet Shop Boys.

Road This week's essential streams and downloads? There are a lot of them: Tracy Thorn reunited with Everything But The Girl partner Ben Watt for this cover of "Night Time" — originally recorded by the xx and set to appear on an upcoming EP of the same name. The iconic R.E.M. revealed their final single ever, "We All Go Back to Where We Belong," which is set to appear on their upcoming retrospective Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011. Toronto's Diamond Rings offer up an excellent cover of Teenage Fanclub's "Mellow Doubt" for a new European single. And finally, Charli XCX — a 19-year-old London upstart whose debut single, "Stay Away," is quite likely my favorite song of 2011 so far — releases a long-awaited follow-up: "Nuclear Seasons" suggests that this girl is gunning for album of the year while she's at it.

Robbie+Williams+Gary+Barlow+Radio+1+Interview+iP_t-lXuSPblRoad Ever the cagey one, Robbie Williams has quit Take That (again) and has announced a new record deal with Universal and a new album for 2012. The departure, which went down earlier this year, was perfectly amiable as evidenced by Williams' new songwriting partner in the venture: Take That's Gary Barlow.

Road Lady Gaga isn't finished with Born This Way yet. This week, it was announced that the album will be issued in two new versions next month: Born This Way: The Remix will host studio work from Goldfrapp, Wild Beasts, Foster the People, Michael Woods, Two Door Cinema Club, Hurts, and more, while Born This Way: The Collection features the original and remix albums as well her Monster Ball at Madison Square Garden DVD.

MobyRoad According to a post on his blog, Moby will be showing up on the Craig Ferguson show with a "halloween supergroup" comprised of Magnetic Fields mainman Stephin Merritt, former Dresden Dolls singer Amanda Palmer, author Neil Gaiman, and Moby himself. I'm as confused as you are.

Road David LaChappelle's plagiarism lawsuit over Rihanna's "S&M" video has been settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. The lawsuit, LaChappelle says, was "not personal, it's strictly business. Musicians commonly pay to sample music or use someone's beats and there should be no difference when sampling an artist's visuals."

SOUND & VISION:

FreeSol — "Role Model" (feat. Justin Timberlake)

He's still taking a break from being a pop star, but on the new album by hip-hop/rock group FreeSol, Justin Timberlake steps into the producer's chair — and takes a stab at rapping while he's at it. The result? It's somewhere between good and Saturday Night Live rap-skit — and hashtag rap is so Drake's first album! — but the band behind him is solid.

Active Child — "Playing House" (feat. How To Dress Well)

"Playing House" actually premiered last month, but it got swept up in all the fall new release business around here. So I'm righting that wrong now: Active Child's debut album, You Are All I See, is one of this year's more gorgeous records, and "Playing House" is one of its more plaintive moments — a sullen synthpop song dressed up like a heartbroken R&B opera. It's like they invented something new here, and really, I don't get to say that too often.

Stars — "Dead Hearts"

The Five Ghosts is as haunting as its title suggests, so the idea of shooting a clip for "Dead Hearts" at a funeral is an appropriate one. The trick, then, is transmitting loss without veering into literal maudlin tropes or devolving into total darkness. So it's no small feat that Stars made the most optimistic video about death you can imagine.

Olly Murs — "Dance With Me Tonight"

He lost the 2009 UK X Factor competition to Joe McElderry, but these days, Olly Murs is making #1 singles and trafficking in the kind of feel-good vintage pop-soul that Will Young used to make before he went electro. (After releasing a debut album to disappointing numbers, McElderry is, inexplicably, singing opera now.) "Dance With Me Tonight" is the ebullient second single to come from Murs' upcoming second album, In Case You Didn't Know.



Towleroad Guide to the Tube #906

FERNANDO GARIBAY: Gaga producer talks about work as musical director on Born This Way.

MOBY: The singer gets an electric shock, collapses, and nobody does anything.

DONALD TRUMP: Hates Weiner.

CONE-ING: The new "planking".

For recent Guides to the Tube, click HERE.


MUSIC NEWS: Des Ark, Moby, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Das Racist, Etta James, Hurts, Beyoncé, Alex Winston, Alex Metric & Steve Angello

DESARK©Marc Krause #1 cropped

NORMAN BRANNON

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.

EXTENDED PLAY:

Des_ark_lovitt_press 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.

START WITH: "Bonne Chance""Howard's Hour of Shower" / "FTW Y'all!"

THE DISPATCH:

Das-Racist Road 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."

Road Legendary blues singer Etta James was hospitalized in Southern California earlier this week with "a potentially deadly infection."

Screen shot 2011-05-15 at 9.51.53 PM Road 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."

Road 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.

Road 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."

LE_Hurts Road 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.

Road Stevie Nicks: "When my album and Lindsey's albums come to a stop, then Fleetwood Mac will gather again."

Road 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.

COMING OUT:

Lucy 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.

13god 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.

Mobydestro 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.

Also out today: Franz Ferdinand — Covers EP (Domino), Kate Bush — Director's Cut (EMI), The Elected — Bury Me In Rings (Vagrant), Glasvegas — Euphoric /// Heartbreak: Domestic Edition (Columbia), Austra — Feel It Break (Domino), Tinie Tempah — Disc-Overy (Capitol)

SOUND & VISION:

Alex Winston — "Sister Wife" 

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.



News: Robert Pattinson, Belarus, Mary Bonauto, Iowa, Moby

Road Iowa poll: Voters ambivalent on same-sex marriage.

RoadJamaican gay bar raided by police: "Around 20 officers kicked in doors, shouted anti-gay slurs, beat and pistol-whipped patrons, and made everyone leave, J-FLAG said. As the customers fled, patrons of nearby straight clubs pelted them with bottles and rocks, J-FLAG said."

Lukashenko RoadBelarus President told gay German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle to turn straight: "Lukashenko recently acknowledged the incident, telling reporters that he dislikes 'faggots' and confirming he told Westerwelle 'it is necessary to live a normal life.'"

RoadCalvin Klein and Nick Gruber head to the beach in Miami.

RoadKing's Speech director responds to the news that he shot his movie on the same set as the UK gay porn film Snookered: "It was the right set for me and it was the right set for them."

RoadBanksy caught on camera in Santa Monica?

RoadWatch: Katy Perry's surprise performance with PS22 on Oprah.

RoadObama's DOMA shift puts GLAD lawyer Mary Bonauto in spotlight: "For more than 20 years, Bonauto, now 49, has been a fixture of the Massachusetts gay rights crusade. Her work on behalf of the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders has garnered her a reputation as the region’s most influential gay rights lawyer."

Activists RoadActivists pack confrontational Anoka-Hennepin school board meeting in Minnesota over district's treatment of gays.

RoadAnti-gay hate group MassResistance and Carl Paladino rabbi Yehuda Levin revive campaign against William Finn musical Falsettos.

RoadFirst look: Britney Spears in V magazine.

RoadGay Danish porn star Carsten Andersson tries for pop music career.

RoadScholar: The earliest gay rights movement started in 19th century Germany. "According to Beachy, modern conceptions of homosexuality began, ironically, with an anti-sodomy law. When the German empire was unified in 1871, the Imperial Criminal Code included a law prohibiting sexual penetration of one man by another. Questions about what types of activity should fall under the law spurred a sustained public inquiry into the nature of same-sex eroticism and sexuality in general."

RoadElton John's kid and Neil Patrick Harris' kids have play dates.

Pattinson RoadPattinson dons alligator for Vanity Fair.

RoadDesign god Jonathan Ive leaving Apple?

RoadStudy: Half of men may be infected with HPV. "HPV infection is best known as the primary cause of cervical cancer, the second most common cancer in women worldwide. But various strains of HPV also cause anal, penile, head and neck cancers. Vaccinating men and boys would prevent some of these cancers."

RoadRep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) beats Jeopardy super-computer Watson.

RoadMoby:Major music labels should just die.

RoadVIDEO: In cruel display, Panama footballer kicks live mascot owl on field. Owl dies, athlete may get jail time.

RoadONION: Gay hordes drag helpless citizens from marriages After Obama drops DOMA. "It was just awful—they smashed through our living room window, one of them said 'I've had my eye on you, Roger,' and then they dragged my husband off kicking and screaming."


MUSIC NEWS: Adele, Hercules & Love Affair, Beyoncé, James Yuill, Ciara, Moby, Grizzly Bear, Radiohead, Ex-Boyfriends

Adele

NORMAN BRANNON

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.

ESSENTIAL NEW MUSIC:

Adele21 Adele 21 (XL/Columbia)

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_affair-blue_songs Hercules & Love Affair Blue 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.

THE DISPATCH:

Beyonce Pictures Road 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."

Road 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."

Road 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.

Road 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.

SP Road In one of the more bizarre bits of news this week, Billy Corgan alleged on Twitter that The Smashing Pumpkins' current bassist, Nicole Fiorentino, is actually one of the two girls featured on the cover of his 1993 album Siamese Dream. She neglected to tell him this before, Corgan says, "because she thought maybe we wouldn't let her be in the band." Maura Johnston at Popdust, however, says not-so-fast — and lays out the evidence for a hoax.

Road It's been a busy week for Moby, who announced the release of a new album called Destroyed for May 17, an accompanying book of photography, three new music videos, and a teaser EP called Be The One — which is available as a free download HERE.

Road Lykke Li has leaked a fourth track to lead up to the March 1 release of her sophomore album, Wounded Rhymes, and dare I say it's the best one yet: "Love Out of Lust" is streaming at the singer's Soundcloud page now

COMING OUT:

Jamesyuill 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.

Blue-valentine-soundtrack 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.

Also out today: Toro Y Moi — Underneath The Pine (Carpark), Diplo — Riddimentary (Greensleeves), Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd — Bordeaux (Darla), Danielson Famile — Best of Gloucester County (Sounds Familyre), Bloody Beetroots — Best of: Remixes (Downtown), Gruff Rhys — Hotel Shampoo (Witchita)

SOUND & VISION:

Ex-Boyfriends — "Uh-Oh!"

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.



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