Punky pixie siren Kiesza - whom we've mentioned a time or two - picked up her six string for a stunning acoustic cover of Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box." She doesn't claim it the way Johnny Cash did Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt", but rather softens the harshness and dissonance to make it something hauntingly beautiful and different of her own.
You can listen to her performance and compare it to Nirvana's original AFTER THE JUMP...
Frankmusik launched his second album firmly on the defense. "It's got bit of an American twang to it because, f*ck it, I'm in America," he said in an interview this past April. "So when people are gonna say it isn't me, 'Frankmusik sold out,' I'll just say, 'No, Frankmusik got more concise,' and they can suck a d*ck." Well, OK then!
Historically, of course, great records have rarely been initiated with the self-awareness that there may be something disingenuous about them, and in the case of Do It In The AM, that self-conscious decision-making is nearly audible on songs like "No I.D." — the spiritual cousin to Rebecca Black's "Friday" and Murray Head's "One Night In Bangkok," if you can imagine that — and the commercial-radio-by-the-numbers title track which, as Frankmusik attests, sounds painstakingly American. Like he was trying. Fortunately, once you get past these ill-fated attempts at having the next Pitbull-assisted radio hit (sans Pitbull, thankfully), there is an album: Opener "We Collide" flirts with the kind of pleasurable, but edgy electropop that Stuart Price pioneered with recent albums for Take That and The Killers, while "Wrecking Ball" sounds like it could have emerged from Frankmusik's successful album sessions with Ellie Goulding. In fact, by the time you get to Track 10 — the simply brilliant "Struck by Lightning" — it becomes increasingly hard to believe that the lows on Do It In The AM are so damn low. Because the highs are simply transcendent.
The point Frankmusik seems to have missed in his preemptive strike is that this has less to do with "selling out" as it does with knowing what makes you unique and developing that to its greatest potential. When he speaks in his own voice, Do It In The AM is delightful. But the detours are disastrous.
Frankmusik's new album may be touch and go, but I've got high hopes for his work with Erasure: A complete stream of Tomorrow's World and track-by-track commentary by the band is online now.
Experimental pop and disco pioneer — and queer icon — Arthur Russell changed the face of the dancefloor with "Let's Go Swimming." This week, Audika Records reissues the single with a dub mix from disco legend Walter Gibbons and a previously unreleased version of "Make 1, 2 (Gem Spa Dub)" that clocks in at eleven minutes long.
Scissor Sisters mainman Jake Shears isn't penning your average collaborator dream-list: At the top of the heap is Queens of the Stone Age singer Josh Homme. "I really, really want to sing on the next QOTSA album," says Shears. "I think that he's a genius, a genuine rock hero living among us."
New music you'll want to stream: Beni's forthcoming House of Beni promises to do for runway house what Frankie Knuckles did for whistles. "Someone Just Like You" is the latest track to surface and features The Rapture's Mattie Safer on vocals. Also, MGMT have curated the latest edition of the Late Night Tales series, out next week, and the band covers Bauhaus' "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything" for the occasion. Neo-psychadelic goth, then? It actually works.
Björk talks with New Scientist about the technological and scientific inspirations and intersections on her forthcoming album, Biophilia: "If you write a song with acoustic guitar, is there [automatically] soul in it? I've heard tons of guitar songs with no soul at all. If music created with electronics or a computer has no soul, it's because nobody put it there."
R.E.M. announced their break-up after thirty-plus years as a band, but they won't go out quietly: Their final release is called Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982–2011, and it will be a two-disc, 40-song retrospective of the band's inimitable career — also featuring three new tracks.
SOUND & VISION:
Kele — "What Did I Do?" (featuring Lucy Taylor)
Bloc Party's out frontman is kind of worried that he's been kicked out of his band, but not enough to halt the release of his upcoming The Hunter EP on October 31. "What Did I Do?" is the lead single, and introduces a bunch of firsts: Guest singer Lucy Taylor, a new dubstep-tinged direction, and a newly muscled and shirtless physique he wasn't exactly touting on the Silent Alarm tour.
Washington — "Holy Moses"
I know very little about Washington outside of this video, and sometimes, that's the best way to evaluate something: The costuming might recall Lady Gaga and Tori Amos, but the song itself is one of those effortlessly ebullient tracks that are basically impossible to contrive. Washington's vocal, meanwhile, is strong, seductive, and best of all, perceptibly sincere.
Sneaky Sound System — "Big"
I'm starting to really look forward to the third album from Sydney–based Sneaky Sound System. Due out on October 7, From Here To Anywhere has already spawned a pretty fantastic lead single in "We Love," but single number-two connects the band with a more emotional tenor: "Big" comes from the Robyn school of slightly-melancholy-but-ultimately-uplifting arpeggiated pop. This is much harder to pull off than you'd think.
Death Cab For Cutie — "Stay Young, Go Dancing"
The latest by Death Cab is something like The Notebook of indie rock videos: You're kind of expecting Ryan Gosling to jump out and win someone's heart. But it's actually more sweet — and realistic — than that. "Stay Young, Go Dancing" is an anthem of aging in love.
Robbie Daw presents a weekly pop music update here on Towleroad. Robbie runs his own site called Chart Rigger.
This spring has seen somewhat of an electro-pop revolution coming out of England, and leading the charge, so to speak, is London-based duo La Roux (aka, Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid).
The pair's single "In For The Kill" cracked the Top 10 of the U.K. chart this week, and a remix of the tune is being included on the "Quicksand" EP that's to be released here in the States via Cherrytree/Interscope this coming Tuesday. In the meantime, you can download "Quicksand" in its original form, as well as several remixes, in an indie EP already up on U.S. iTunes.
La Roux have been doing several North American gigs this week. Tomorrow they perform at San Francisco's Popscene, while Saturday they'll be doing the Wyndham Palm Springs Hotel's Saturday Pool Party during White Party weekend. They wrap things up in the States at L.A.'s Roxy on Sunday night.
Below are some recent synth-heavy clips from across the pond:
LA ROUX: Their video for "In For The Kill."
ANTIGONE: The Aussie-born, London-based singer's "More Man Than Man." Her new single "Promiscuity" was added to iTunes this week, and her album AntigoneLand will be available on April 20.
CALVIN HARRIS: The 25-year-old Scottish songwriter/producer's new single "I'm Not Alone."
LITTLE BOOTS: A live clip of her upcoming late-May release "New In Town." Little Boots played South By Southwest in Austin last month.
It's hard to believe, but today marks 15 years since Kurt Cobain was found dead. Technically, his suicide is said to have taken place on April 5. Whether you're a fan of Nirvana's music or not, it certainly was a moment of cultural significance, and, as cliched as it sounds, the end of an era. Do you remember where you were when the news broke? (I'd just finished classes that Friday afternoon during my sophomore college year, and walked into the library where a bunch of students were talking about it.)
Two Suns, the second album from Bat For Lashes (aka Natasha Khan).
Erasure's career-spanning hits set Total Pop!—40 Hits. Also available in a 3-CD/DVD version is Total Pop!—Deluxe Box. Andy Bell will be signing copies of the collection at L.A.'s Amoeba Records tomorrow after doing an in-store DJ set.
Robbie Daw presents a weekly pop music update here on Towleroad! Robbie runs his own site called Chart Rigger.
"Teenage angst has paid off well. Now I'm bored and old." So begins Nirvana's third and final album, 1993's In Utero—the opening lines of "Serve The Servants."
Nirvana. Not the most gay topic of discussion, nor the gayest of music to bring up. So why bring it up at all?
This week is actually the eve of my first year doing a pop music column on Towleroad.
One question I keep coming back to is this: what really constitutes "gay music"? Scissor Sisters, Ari Gold, Elton John, Sam Sparro, Darren Hayes, Pet Shop Boys, The Feeling, George Michael and Andy Bell are mainstream gay artists or groups with gay members—all of which we've talked about here on Towleroad—but is the actual music those folks create gay?
As well, Madonna, Amy Winehouse, The Killers, Britney Spears, Sally Shapiro, Mariah Carey, LCD Soundsystem, Robyn, Kylie Minogue, Frankmusic, Sugababes, Cyndi Lauper, Spice Girls, Girls Aloud and Saint Etienne are music artists who have somewhat of a "gay appeal," though what does that really mean?
Is country music gay enough? Did Mika ever come out? Does Hip hop speak to us? When all was said and done, was Hard Candy any good?
And where do Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus, Duffy, Fall Out Boy, Santogold and Smashing Pumpkins fit in?
The truth is, I don't have the foggiest idea. What I do know is that pop music is subjective. And while I can't answer the question on what gay music truly is, I can say that no two people will probably every see completely eye to eye when it comes to individual taste.
But that's okay. Life would be pretty dull otherwise.
Over the past year, I've pondered my own psychological state after listing to Mariah's "Touch My Body," posed the question to you on whether Katy Perry is truly offensive, let nostalgia get the best of me over the re-release of Michael Jackson's Thriller and offered up Robyn scolding her godchildren in Swedish over the phone from Stockholm here on Towleroad—all in the name of delivering pop music news to the online masses from one guy's gay perspective.
Something about pop, whether it be one song, one artist or a single bar or note, can reach into the heart and send the imagination soaring, or hurtling back to a certain time and place.
Which brings us back to the original topic at hand. This past week NPR ran an interesting "All Things Considered" feature on 17-year-old Los Angeles native Spencer Elden (pictured right), who you may remember best as the baby swimming after the dollar bill on the cover of Nirvana's Nevermind album.
Admittedly, I'm a longtime Nirvana fan from the time when I was 17 myself and Nevermind hit like a grenade. So it's a bit surreal to catch up on what this kid's been up to.
Given that Elden appeared sans clothing on the cover, it's amusing to read him looking back: "Quite a few people in the world have seen my penis. So that's kinda cool. I'm just a normal kid living it up and doing the best I can while I'm here."
As for teenage angst paying off well, he notes that his father was given $200 for letting his son be photographed for the seminal, 26-million-selling record's artwork.
I guess it should be noted that, judging from his comments about "worrying about stupid girls," Spencer is apparently straight—a fact which inevitably calls to mind the opening of "All Apologies," the last track on Nirvana's final album:
"What else should I say? Everyone is gay?"
THE WEEK'S NEW RELEASES:
Josh Kelley's Backwoods. (You know, the guy married to Katherine Heigl.)
Please welcome Robbie Daw, who will be penning weekly music posts for us here on Towleroad! Robbie runs his own pop music site called Chart Rigger.
Cheers, Rhino! Aiming at the holiday market, Warner Bros.' specialty label unleashes the massive, four-disc Brit Box: U.K. Indie, Shoegaze And Brit-Pop Gems Of The Last Millenium today. It's a pretty extensive compilation that is the perfect gift for any Anglophile of the generation who, while we Americans were being bombarded with early '90s grunge culture and flannel (and the watered-down Collective Soul/Everclear guitar pop that followed), spent their teen years videotaping MTV's erstwhile Sunday night alternative rock program 120 Minutes just to catch a glimpse of the latest Charlatans or Soup Dragons clip coming over magically from across the ocean.
Overall, The Brit Box aims to present the listener one song from each of the players in the ravey Madchester, Brit Pop and Cool Britannia scenes, as well as ones released during the commercialized collapse of the latter once Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister. Each disc is broken up by periods of years, and the first one (1984 - 1990) gets it right with all the influences; The Smiths, The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Echo And The Bunnymen and The Primitives. The key '90s staples are present: songs that reveled in the mundanity of everyday British life such as Blur's "Tracy Jacks", Pulp's "Common People" (below, left), Saint Etienne's "You're In A Bad Way" and Oasis' "Live Forever".
Of course, the fatal flaw with undertaking a project this massive is that it's virtually unfathomable to include just "She Bangs The Drum" by The Stone Roses (pictured) -- arguably the band that kicked off the Brit Pop movement, and the reason this box set exists -- and not include "I Am The Resurrection", "Fool's Gold" or "I Wanna Be Adored" (let alone their whole first album).
Likewise, while it's nice that Suede's "Metal Mickey" is included, it's almost a crime to not be able to hear the drugged-up "Animal Nitrate" as well. Its fetishized, gender-bending video (above, right) was curiously banned in the U.K. in 1993 for featuring Suede frontman Brett Anderson kissing a man, albeit one wearing the mask of a pig.
Ultimately, The Brit Box is a great beginning and a nostalgic reminder of worthy music that may have passed the Stateside listener by. For those looking for a proper taste of Brit Pop, though, check out the self-titled debuts from The Stone Roses and Suede, as well as Pulp's Different Class, Oasis' Definitely Maybe and Saint Etienne's So Tough.
There's sure to be some crying at the discotheque...or at least in the sweaty, beer-drenched corners of hipster hole-in-the-walls around the world. New York-based electroclash duo Avenue D (pictured right), known for their explicit club hits "Do I Look Like A Slut?" and "The Sex That I Need", have decided to call it quits after six years. Daphne and Debbie, former proteges of DJ and producer Larry Tee, had this to say in their email newsletter: "...as you may have already guessed: AVENUE D IS BREAKING UP. It's been a great six years, (thanks to all of you) and we are ready to move on to new things. Now the good news: We are going to have TWO FINAL SHOWS!!!! DEC.1ST - BROOKLYN, NY @ AREA 51 which is also our BIRTHDAY PARTY! DEC. 29TH (or 28th) - MIAMI, FL @ STUDIO A. Even more good news: we will be releasing 3 CDs and a DVD along with our breakup...also our current albums are now available on the iTUNES STORE."
On the complete flipside of The Brit Box, Universal has finally issued Nirvana's Unplugged In New York on DVD. In addition to featuring a highly strung-out Kurt Cobain (just watch those teeth grind!), the set contains the full set list that didn't all make it on air for the November 1993 performance, as well as a behind-the-scenes documentary on the broadcast and unedited rehearsal footage. With the stage covered in funereal flowers, it's both eerie and sad to watch now knowing Cobain was dead five and a half months later.
Music blogger Arjan snagged an interview with Duran Duran's John Taylor, who is currently promoting the band's new album, Red Carpet Massacre. The handsome bassist commented on DD's gay appeal: "We just appeared, perhaps, to be very open. We took our image very seriously. It was not a macho presentation. It was a presentation that had its roots in glamour, and, you know, there was an ambiguity to it, I suppose. And I think the sound and the look and the subject matter made it sort of appealing to a gay audience. It was certainly not threatening. I would think we have an audience that any gay man or woman is gonna feel comfortable in."
Best Buy and Live Nation, the firm Madonna recently signed a music deal with, have teamed up to exclusively release Mariah Carey's The Adventures Of Mimi live DVD at Best Buy retail outlets. The double disc, available December 4, contains extras including Spike Lee's 15-minute spoof, Loves & Haters, starring Carey as herself.
TODAY'S NEW RELEASES:
Daft Punk's Alive 2007, a live set recorded at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy sports arena in France this past summer. There is also an enhanced version available with an enhanced CD containing 50 pages of photographs and five bonus tracks.
The surprisingly none-too-shabby self-titled debut from this year's American Idol winner, Jordin Sparks. Despite a few bland ballads, it's not a bad little pop album. It's also one of the first offerings from an Idol champ that Clive Davis hasn't had an executive-producing hand in.
Dreaming Out Loud by Ryan Tedder's band, OneRepublic. The album contains the original version of "Apologize" as well as the remix by Timbaland that's currently in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. Incidentally, Tedder also co-wrote and produced the current #1 single in the U.K., "Bleeding Love" by last year's X Factor winner, Leona Lewis.
The 20th anniversary edition of U2's Joshua Tree. In addition to being available in CD and double-vinyl format, the deluxe edition features a 36-page booklet and bonus disc of B-sides and rarities, and the box set edition features the bonus CD, a 56-page hardcover book and concert DVD.
D-Sides, a collection of remixes, B-sides and bonus tracks from Gorillaz. In a review of the collection, Entertainment Weekly notes in its current issue, "Much of the album would've been lucky to appear on the flip side of a vinyl single back when people bought such things...B-Minus Sides might've been more accurate."
Please welcome Robbie Daw, who will be penning occasional music posts for us here on Towleroad! Robbie runs his own pop music site called Chart Rigger.
"Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)," the new single from the Spice Girls, has leaked weeks ahead of its official release. Have a listen and see (or, rather, hear) what you think:
It's pleasant in that "2 Become 1" way, but after all the hype, isn't this new Spice track missing that certain zig-a-zig-ah?
"Headlines" will be included on the Spice Girls' Greatest Hits. Last week it was reported that the British fivesome had signed a deal with Victoria's Secret for the upcoming CD to be sold exclusively in the lingerie chain's U.S. stores beginning November 13. The compilation will also be available on iTunes. Otherwise, there won't be a wide retail release in American outlets until January.
Meanwhile, tabloids are reporting that the video shoot for "Headlines," which happened on Friday, almost collapsed under the fivesome's "diva demands": "Things were very delayed. The director was tearing his hair out and threatened to walk. The girls were so tired and Emma [Bunton] was crying as the shoot just went on and on."
Additionally, Sony Home Entertainment is reissuing the 1997 film Spice World in a "special edition" DVD on November 27, a week ahead of the Girls' world tour.