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04/19/2007


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

Sigur-Rós

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:

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.

THE DISPATCH:

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.

SOUND & VISION:

Timo Maas — "College '84" (feat. Brian Molko)

This one, I must admit, was a grower: Timo Maas is a long-time German techno and progressive house producer who came of age in the Global Underground era of clubland, while Brian Molko has spent the last sixteen years as the androgynous, openly bisexual lead singer of Brit-glam stalwarts Placebo. The video for "College '84" is not what it seems at first, but by the end, you'll see why this collaboration is all about techno-sex.

Duran Duran — "Girl Panic!"

Jonas Akerlund is behind Duran Duran's epic nine-minute clip for "Girl Panic!" — in which all of your favorite legendary supermodels of the world assume the roles of the band and the members of the band play everything from journalists to bellboys. Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Helena Christenson, Yasmin Le Bon, and Eva Herzigova star, while everyone else takes notes.

Miguel Migs — "Everybody" (feat. Evelyn "Champagne" King)

San Francisco deep house legend Miguel Migs released his latest album, Outside the Skyline, earlier this year, and there was really no getting around it: Of all the guest collaborators on the record — including Bebel Gilberto and Meshell Ndegeocello, among others — the return of disco legend Evelyn "Champagne" King was truly something special. This week, "Everybody" gets the buoyant retro-club video it demands.

Patrick Wolf — "The Falcons"

Lupercalia, the long-awaited fifth album from Patrick Wolf, certainly deserves to find itself across any number of Best of 2011 lists, but "The Falcons" is a pretty awesome string around your finger: Directed by Japanese visual artist Noriko Okaku, Wolf's latest video embodies Lupercalia's joyful energy and airborne tenor. It's the visual equivalent of a weight being lifted.



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: Florence and the Machine, Jay Brannan, Amy Winehouse, Rufus Wainwright, Westlife, Modeselektor, Jessica 6

Florence-and-the-machine

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:

Florence+TheMachine_CeremonialsFlorence and The Machine Ceremonials (Island)

The second album by Florence and the Machine is anything but a retreat: On Ceremonials, Florence Welch sacks subtlety for the kind of epic grandeur we normally associate with prog-rock or '70s AOR — the most significant difference being its sheer lack of pretentiousness and Welch's uncanny ability to transcend her own creation. In other words, despite the larger-than-life instrumentation and broad musical strokes, this album is clearly the vehicle of a vocalist. It's all an incredible balancing act, of course, and Adele producer Paul Epworth does his best to reign it in and keep it focused. Sometimes, the tension is almost inconceivable — "Never Let Me Go" is like the nonexistent lost collaboration between Sarah McLachlan and Siouxsie and the Banshees, while "What the Water Gave Me" sounds like Trentemøller got his hands on a PJ Harvey song — but when the elements come together for songs like "Shake It Out," you're almost shaken out of the experience of listening to an album and actually drawn inside of it. Ceremonials is more than simply expansive; it's inclusive.

Also out today: Darren Hayes — Secret Codes and Battleships (EMI Import), The Decemberists — Long Live the King (Capitol), Radio Slave — Works + Selected Remixes 2006-2010 (Rekids), Susan Boyle — Someone to Watch Over Me (Columbia)

THE DISPATCH:

JaybrannanRoad The long-awaited sophomore album from Jay Brannan has been given an early 2012 release date, and our first taste of the record is a song called "Greatest Hits" — which is streaming on Soundcloud and available on iTunes now. The as-yet-untitled follow-up to 2008's Goddamned features production by David Kahne, who has worked on records by Paul McCartney, The Strokes, k.d lang, and Kelly Clarkson to name a few.

Road The first posthumous album by Amy Winehouse is set to be released on December 5. Lioness: Hidden Treasures will feature 12 tracks including unreleased music, alternate versions, two new songs, and covers of material by Leon Russell and the Shirelles.

WainwrightsRoad The McGarrigle-Wainwright annual family Christmas show went on a two-year hiatus when Rufus Wainwright's mother, Kate McGarrigle, became ill and eventually succumbed to cancer in 2010, but the show is coming back for two nights in December. Also on Rufus Wainwright's docket: a new album with Mark Ronson producing and the Dap-Kings as his backing band. "I'm making an actual pop record," he says. "It's been a while since I've done that."

Road R.E.M.'s Mike Mills on the future of Michael Stipe: "I don't think that [music] is where his passion lies. I think he wants to be in the visual arts. I imagine Michael will do a lot of sculpture and photography. I think those are his big interests now."

Road Patrick Wolf recently recorded a live set for SHOWStudio's Café Concert Series in London. High-quality video from the concert is streaming online now.

The-goodnaturedRoad If you have yet to familiarize yourself with The Good Natured, do yourself a favor: The band — featuring 20-year-old singer/songwriter (and charismatic ingénue) Sarah McIntosh — releases the Skeleton EP this week and set out on their first American tour early next year. The new record is streaming on Soundcloud now, and features the irrepressible "Wolves" — produced by current Charli XCX producer and "Dancing On My Own" co-writer Patrik Berger.

Road Adele has been forced to cancel all of her remaining scheduled appearances in 2011 due to a vocal cord hemorrhage that has driven doctors to recommend throat surgery. "I have absolutely no choice but to recuperate properly and fully," the singer says, "or I risk damaging my voice forever."

SOUND & VISION:

Westlife — "Lighthouse"

Despite selling 44 million albums over their 14-year career, Westlife have always been somewhat of an easy mark in the English boy-band canon, but I've always liked them — and the fact that Mark Feehily has spent the last six years in the group as an openly gay singer in a female-dominated market speaks to their indifference to the capitalist boy-band stereotype. The group's forthcoming Greatest Hits collection will be Westlife's final album, and "Lighthouse" — written by Take That's Gary Barlow — is its lead single.

Modeselektor — "Shipwreck" (feat. Thom Yorke)

No one is making tuneful abstract techno like Modeselektor these days, and on their newest album, Monkeytown, the German duo has once again commanded the attention of Radiohead's Thom Yorke, who already provided vocals for their 2007 single "The White Flash." With "Shipwreck," the band invokes classic Aphex Twin while Yorke weaves his trademark falsetto in and out of the dense rhythm. It's not easy listening, but it sits right up there with anything from The King of Limbs.

Martin Solveig & Dragonette — "Big in Japan"

He's been confirmed as one of a handful of producers working on Madonna's new album, but until we get to hear those results, there's this: Martin Solveig teams up with Canadian trio Dragonette for the fourth single from his latest album, Smash, and another brazen round of broad-gestured, big-room French house.

Jessica 6 — "Prisoner of Love" (feat. Antony)

Former Hercules & Love Affair singer Nomi Ruiz formed Jessica 6 in 2008, but the band truly arrived earlier this year with the release of See The Light — an album whose flirtations with disco, R&B, and classic house reveal a sophisticated relationship with genre that leaves plenty of room for charismatic singularity. Antony Hegarty's guest turn on "Prisoner of Love" is only meant to remind you that even disco sings the blues.



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.



MUSIC NEWS: Penguin Prison, Massive Attack & Burial, Robyn, Major Lazer, Big Freedia, Lykke Li, Radiohead, Death Cab For Cutie, M83

Chris Glover

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:

Penguin PrisonPenguin Prison Penguin Prison (Downtown)

On the same day that Penguin Prison releases his debut album, former Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump will introduce a higher-profile debut called Soul Punk — an album that is inexplicably drawing comparisons to Michael Jackson and Kanye West. In reality, Stump took his predictable falsetto and imposed it over a handful of tested R&B tropes. But it's "soulful" largely because he told you it was.

Aside from appearing in a handful of high school plays with his performing arts school classmate Alicia Keys, Chris Glover doesn't have many names to drop or superstar cards to pull, but that's no matter. Penguin Prison succeeds in ways that Stump hasn't quite figured out yet: It's referential without replication. It channels the same '80s R&B that drives Soul Punk without being consumed by it. It tells us more about Glover than what his favorite Prince album is. Outside of the occasional nod to Quincy Jones, we also know this a New York album — equal parts Arthur Russell and early Madonna — and gratefully, it's much harder to cite the references where Glover strays. So while it's possible that he loves Blancmange or that first Badly Drawn Boy album, you'll never put your finger on it.

Which is kind of the point: That Penguin Prison is slippery like that is one of the reasons why tracks like "Don't F*ck With My Money" and "Fair Warning" work in the same way that most great pop singles do. To be faithful without being uncomfortably familiar is the mark of a real soul punk.

Also out today: M83 — Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (Mute), Lalah Hathaway — Where It All Begins (Stax), Body Language — Social Studies (OM), Real Estate — Days (Domino), Westlife — Greatest Hits (RCA UK), My Brightest Diamond — All Things Will Unwind (Asthmatic Kitty)

THE DISPATCH:

MassiveattackRoad Before there was dubstep, there was just plain dub. But somewhere in between there was Massive Attack — a UK collective that brilliantly merged dub characteristics with hip-hop breakbeats and sample-heavy house fundamentals. This week, a two-song collaboration between Massive Attack and dubstep pioneer Burial emerged: "Four Walls" is a dark ambient soundscape that demands patience and rewards accordingly, while "Paradise Circus" is an ethereally reworked version of the track from Massive Attack's recent Heligoland LP. A limited edition 12" of the songs is already sold out.

Road Robyn isn't quite done with Body Talk just yet: The singer will appear as a musical guest for the Ellen Degeneres Show on October 20, where she'll perform "Call Your Girlfriend."

Big-freediaRoad Sissy bounce ambassador (and undisputed queen) Big Freedia is teaming up with Spank Rock for the Check Yo Ponytail tour, which begins on October 20 in Los Angeles and runs cross-country through November. Also just released: a Flinch remix of Freedia's "Excuse" that somehow manages to add even more bass.

Road This week's crucial streaming: Lykke Li resurfaces with this haunting new version of the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody." Diplo and Switch have not abandoned their Major Lazer project, and they're leaking demos for their new album to prove it: "Original Don" is one of the tracks up for consideration. And the Cure's Robert Smith makes an appearance on "Come To Me," a new song from UK post-rockers 65DaysOfStatic. Smith's vocal is more filtered and fractured than pushed up front, but the result is sublime.

Cut CopyRoad Death Cab For Cutie have announced the new Keys and Codes: Remix EP — a companion piece to their excellent Codes and Keys album released earlier this year. They're revealing the tracks in succession over at this mini-site, where you can listen to remixes by Cut Copy and The 2 Bears now.

Road Radiohead are seemingly everywhere these days, but here's a new way to listen to them: Thom Yorke recently stopped by London's Boiling Room for a 30-minute DJ set, and it's available for download now.

SOUND & VISION:

Tayisha Busay — "Nothing's Happening"

Focus/Virus, the debut album by Tayisha Busay out on Amazon and iTunes today, brings the Brooklyn trio out of the queer-pop underground and into a new light: The new record is sophisticated and insanely hooky, while the aesthetic evokes everything from Kylie Minogue to Kraftwerk — without the fragmented quality of a band that's trying too hard. Not that they've lost their sense of humor: "Nothing's Happening" employs Girl Talk visual artist and video director Thu Tran for an unabashedly campy dose of neon graffiti.

M83 — "Midnight City"

One of this week's must-hear new releases, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming — the latest album from M83 — is the kind of 21-song double-album that words like "epic" were created to describe. Lead single "Midnight City" is indicative of the record's grand gestures, and the video is no less absorbing. Because it's always a good idea to let loose a bunch of kids with psychokinetic powers in an abandoned factory with a camera crew.

The Saturdays — "My Heart Takes Over"

You can't fault them for trying, and with "My Heart Takes Over" — the latest from their forthcoming third album On Your Radar — The Saturdays get that much closer to snatching Sugababes' UK girl-pop crown. It's the third single, so, you know, this is the one where they show you they're all sensitive and stuff. But surprisingly, it works.

Fanfarlo — "Deconstruction"

It's only been a couple of weeks since Fanfarlo released the video for "Replicate" — the lead single from their as-yet-untitled second album. In some ways, the follow-up clip, "Deconstruction," is that video's opposite: It's more of an uptempo indie pop song filtered through a tongue-in-cheek highbrow concept — as if Derrida showed up to direct a Joe Jackson video.



MUSIC NEWS: Erasure, Björk, Washington, Lady Gaga, The Feeling, Kylie Minogue, Phoenix, Body Language, When Saints Go Machine

Erasure 2011 tomorrows world

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:

Usually, I'd dedicate this space to one new release for a more in-depth evaluation, but this week — for the first time in a long time — there were actually so many new albums coming out that I could talk about, I didn't feel like choosing only one. So instead, here's a list of Three Albums You Would Absolutely Not Be Wasting Your Money On — all of which are in stores today:

Erasure Tomorrow's World (Mute) Erasure-tomorrows-world_jpg_300x300_crop-smart_q85

WHO: Legendary synthpop pioneers celebrate 25 years and 25 million records sold with their fourteenth album.

WHY: Even with producer Frankmusik behind the boards, the inimitable Erasure blueprint is alive and well and arguably better. Vince Clarke's musical vision — which draws from classic pop, soul, and teutonic techno — appears here in a sharp, refined model, while Andy Bell's influence on the current generation of music-makers is frighteningly obvious from the start of album opener "Be With You": If it reminds you of recent hits from Rihanna or Katy Perry, it's because there'd be no Stargate without The Innocents.

START WITH: "Be With You" / "What Will I Say When You're Gone"

BjorkBiophilia Björk Biophilia (One Little Indian/Nonesuch)

WHO: Quite possibly the most successful eccentric musician to ever make music by recording the sound of stepping on glass returns with her ninth album.

WHY: The beauty of a new Björk album often lies in the sheer unexpectedness of it and Biophilia continues this tradition by reinventing what it means to be a full-length album. As if the music — in which she literally invented new musical instruments to compose with — wasn't enough, there is also an iOS app designed to accompany each song. But don't let that scare you: Even without the apps, Biophilia returns to the emotionally resonant and celestially-inspired mood that propelled Vespertine while charting an entirely modern course.

START WITH: "Moon" / "Thunderbolt"

Washington Washington I Believe You Liar (Universal Republic)

WHO: An Australian singer-songwriter deploys on American shores with the debut album that went platinum back home.

WHY: There aren't a lot of freshman records that arrive with this much complex self-awareness, but Washington's debut — a joyful pop record that flirts with jazz, soul, indie, and Broadway panache in equal measures — is a difficult-to-pigeonhole and satisfyingly idiosyncratic statement from an artist that's only scratched the surface. It's the kind of album that makes critics just inarticulate enough to say things like, Hey. This is f**king awesome.

START WITH: "Holy Moses" / "Sunday Best" / "How To Tame Lions"

Also out today: Tayisha Busay — Focus/Virus (Control Top), Radiohead — TKOL RMX 1234567 (XL/Ticker Tape), Ryan Adams — Ashes & Fire (Pax-Am/Capitol), Beni — House of Beni (Modular), Britney Spears — B in the Mix: The Remixes Vol. 2 (Jive), The B-52s — With the Wild Crowd: Live In Athens, GA (Eagle), The Smiths — Complete: Super Deluxe Collector's Box Set (Rhino)

THE DISPATCH:

Brian-May-Lady-gaga Road A new report suggests that Queen are in talks to go back on the road — with Lady Gaga in the late Freddie Mercury's shoes.

Road SPIN ran a special report on homophobia in indie rock this week, while also celebrating the genre's uncommonly queer visibility: "This sphere has more out figures than virtually any other major art form, except possibly theater: Stephin Merrit, Beth Ditto, Antony Hegarty, Mark Eitzel, Tegan & Sara, Bloc Party's Kele Okereke, Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste, Le Tigre's JD Samson, Sigur Rós' Jonsi Birgisson, Wild Flag's Carrie Brownstein, Patrick Wolf, Ani DiFranco, Owen Pallett, the Hidden Cameras' Joel Gibb, and Bob Mould, who is comfortable enough to detail his 45th birthday present to himself — a male escort — in his recently published memoir."

Dan_gillespie_sells Road The Feeling's out frontman Dan Gillespie Sells has shown up on fashion shoots before, but this collaboration is somewhat groundbreaking: Burberry will be releasing his band's new single, "Rosé," becoming the first-ever designer label to do so.

Road Kylie Minogue can add a new title to her already-impressive CV: This week, the pop singer was presented with an honorary Doctorate of Health Sciences from Anglia Ruskin University in Essex for her work promoting breast cancer awareness following her own bout with the disease.

Road This week in essential streams: Before his work with M.I.A., Major Lazer, and Beyoncé, Switch was better known for making fidgety house records and running the esteemed Dubsided record label. This week, he resurrects both projects with "I Still Love You," featuring Andrea Martin. Kate Bush's forthcoming album, 50 Words for Snow, features guest turns by Elton John and Stephen Fry; this week, she released the lead single "Wild Man." And finally, Justice's Audio, Video, Disco doesn't drop for another two weeks, but two more tracks have leaked: Check out "Canon" and "Newlands" — both of which attest to the classic hard rock influence that the duo have threatened us with in the press.

Phoenix-band-01 Road A new film documenting the rise of Phoenix and their universally lauded fourth album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, now has a trailer. From a Mess to the Masses premieres on European TV later this week.

Road Best known for his soundtrack work, Jon Brion is also a celebrated producer for the likes of Fiona Apple, Rufus Wainwright, and Kanye West. This week, it was announced that Brion has signed on to produce the next full-length album by Best Coast.

THE DOWNLOAD:


DOWNLOAD | Body Language — "Falling Out" (Honey Soundsytem Remix) [OM Records]

Brooklyn's Body Language release their debut album, Social Studies, next week — an organic blast of nu-disco funk and vintage R&B swagger — but this week, we're giving you a free download: The Honey Soundsystem remix of "Falling Out" runs on the kind of ethereal deep house aesthetic that put San Francisco house on the map and irretrievably added psychedelia to the city's house lexicon. If you've ever danced outdoors to Doc Martin or Dubtribe, you definitely know what I'm saying.

SOUND & VISION:

When Saints Go Machine — "Parix"

"Parix" is one of a handful of songs that I was actually obsessed with this year — a near-perfect crystallization of Antony-styled falsetto and low-slung R&B beat-making, Scandinavian avant-garde and recursive pop hooks. It sounds impossible on paper largely because no one else sounds like this band.

Florence & The Machine — "Shake It Out"

The second single from the forthcoming Ceremonials — out October 28 — gets a neo-gothic clip that doesn't reflect Florence's darker tone as much as it helps in producing it. There's either a party or a possession going on, but "Shake It Out" most likely sets out to blur the distinction.

Junior Boys — "Banana Ripple"

The epic nine-minute climax of this year's It's All True, "Banana Ripple" is like the realization of a New Order 12" on Germany's Kompakt label. The video — which basically marvels over the nature of ice — is somewhat more confounding.

Icona Pop — "Nights Like This"

Sweden may never have another Robyn, but Icona Pop's newest single is a worthy successor to her electropop canon. The video is more grindhouse than house party, and the song itself is genuinely irrepressible, suggesting that this duo are more than the sum parts of their Pro Tools rig — as if the Knife took off their masks and decided to have some fun.



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