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04/19/2007


MUSIC NEWS: Nicola Roberts, Bloc Party, Swedish House Mafia, Little Boots, Rostam Batmanglij, Will Young, Sigur Rós, Lights, Björk

Nicola Roberts

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:

Nicola Roberts Cinderella's Eyes (A&M UK) Cinderellas Eyes

Girls Aloud may be one of the biggest U.K. pop groups of all time, but in America, they're somewhat of a curiosity: They were a girl group manufactured by a 2002 reality television competition. They were a hit-making machine whose underlying hit-making production machine, Xenomania, became almost as famous as the girls themselves. And perhaps less endearingly, they were the band that spawned Cheryl Cole, who is now best known on these shores for lasting half an episode as a judge on the U.S. X Factor before being sent back to England. Despite all this, we should care. Because when Girls Aloud were great — and they did, indeed, have their fair share of transcendent moments — they embodied everything we love about pop music.

Nicola Roberts wasn't Girls Aloud's Beyoncé — or their Kelly Rowland, for that matter — which is all the more reason why Cinderella's Eyes has already positioned itself as somewhat of a coup. Unlike Cole's post-GA output — which is only as good as you think Will.I.Am is good — Roberts made an album that doesn't depart from the blueprint as much as it sends it up-to-date: The Diplo–produced "Beat Of My Drum" is a raucous freestyle affair, while "Lucky Day" — co-written by Canadian electro trio Dragonette — takes the spirit of 2008's Girls Aloud/Pet Shop Boys collaboration out of Neil Tennant's sullen range and into an elated place. That said, formulas work for a reason, and when Roberts teams up with former Xenomania member Jon Shave for "Say It Out Loud" — an impossibly pleasurable synthpop track, the caliber of which we haven't heard since "Dancing On My Own" — it's like she's no longer a struggling solo artist from a multiplatinum group, but the star of a group who never got her due.

Also out today: Feist — Metals (Cherrytree/Interscope), Björk — Biophilia (Nonesuch), MGMT — Late Night Tales (LNT/EMI), Lights — Siberia (Last Gang), Indigo Girls — Beauty Queen Sister (IG/Vanguard), Zola Jesus — Conatus (Sacred Bones), Craig Wedren — Wand (Megaforce), Death In Vegas — Trans Love Energies (Drone)

THE DISPATCH:

Bloc Party Road Bloc Party have only marginally cleared up rumors of Kele Okereke's dismissal, with guitarist Russell Lissack saying that while he hasn't spoken to Kele in a couple of months, and while there are "no bad vibes," the remaining three members are still auditioning new singers. "It's not really a secret because Kele's been pretty busy doing solo stuff," he explains. "The other three of us wanted to meet up and make music." On his blog, Kele still sounds confused: "A big part of me is laughing hard at all of this, but another part of me is all like WTF?"

Rostam Road This week in free downloads: Vampire Weekend's out keyboardist/producer Rostam Batmanglij took to his Tumblr this week to introduce a new Indian raga–influenced solo track called "Wood." DJ A-Trak remixed The Rapture's latest single,"How Deep Is Your Love?" and dedicated the Dub mix to recently departed Ed Banger producer and DJ Mehdi. Meanwhile, New York duo Ford & Lopatin get the French remix treatment on "Too Much Midi (Please Forgive Me)"courtesy of Alan Braxe.

Road Little Boots resurfaces with an emotive piano rendition of Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend."

Will Young Road Will Young cops to the Pet Shop Boys and Bronski Beat influence on his excellent new album, Echoes, but still isn't sure he can express his sexuality more openly: "You're still a minority. There are lots of people who don't want to think about" — he pauses and laughs — "anal sex, to be honest. And I don't have a problem with that."

Road Sigur Rós premiered their latest feature film, Inni, in Reykjavik, Iceland, last week. A 2CD+DVD package for Inni will get its release on November 15, and features music from the movie as well as bonus tracks and a previously unreleased song called "Lúppulagid." 

Jake elton Road The Scissor Sisters made an appearance at the New Yorker Festival this weekend to dish about Elton John, who recently brought Jake Shears and Babydaddy a box full of sweaters and shoes ("He's like your favorite grandma"), as well a shared moment with Gore Vidal: "At moments he was delighted by me, at moments he was disgusted by me," Shears said.

Road Commercial house music makes another bold leap into the mainstream: Swedish House Mafia — the trio of Sebastian Ingrosso, Axwell, and Steve Angello — have announced two "One Night Stand" performance dates at Madison Square Garden in New York and the Milton Keynes National Bowl in England.

SOUND & VISION:

Lights — "Toes"

She's gone on tour with Owl City, but don't hold that against her: Lights Valerie Poxleitner — that's Lights to you — released an incredible sophomore album called Siberia today, and "Toes" is a pretty solid example of what this self-written/self-produced album achieves: Tightly-programmed beats and shoegaze tendencies underlie a solid pop proficiency, while Toronto's Holy F*ck — no strangers to a sequencer themselves — lend a hand.

Björk — "Moon"

I have yet to really dig into Björk's new album Biophilia, also out today, but a lot of that has to do with the overwhelming idea of discovering an album with an iPad app for each song. That's not easy listening! Which is probably the point: The harp-plucked "Moon" is more of a linear movement than your standard recursive pop song, and it's Björk's willingness to go there that keeps us willing to follow the path she forges.

Cher Lloyd — "With Ur Love" (feat. Mike Posner)

A runner-up from last year's X Factor in the U.K., Cher Lloyd's first single was the most regrettable song to rhyme "swagger" with "Jagger" in recent memory — and there have been quite a few entries in that race! But follow-up single "With Ur Love" is a much-needed rebound, ostensibly meant to remind us that Lloyd didn't get as far as she did on the X Factor for her rapping: If London street-pop wasn't a thing before, it is now.

Holy Ghost! — "Hold My Breath"

DFA's resident electrodisco duo Holy Ghost! have known each since they were six years old, and that shows in this song's impeccable tightness and intuitive phrasings. The music owes its debts to Sheffield and Manchester, of course, but these references suits the video's evocative collection of still and moving pictures: It would almost be nostalgic if it weren't happening right now.


 


MUSIC NEWS: Frankmusik, Nirvana, Erasure, Arthur Russell, Portishead, Kele, Sneaky Sound System, Death Cab For Cutie

Frankmusik

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:

Frankmusik-do-it-in-the-am Frankmusik Do It In The AM (Cherrytree/Interscope)

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.

Also out today: Nirvana — Nevermind: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Geffen), Wilco — The Whole Love (Anti-), Blink-182 — Neighborhoods (DGC), Plaid — Scintilli (Warp), Twin Sister — In Heaven (Domino), Spank Rock — Everything is Boring and Everyone is a F*cking Liar (Bad Blood), Apparat — Devil's Walk (Mute)

THE DISPATCH:

Nirvana with rupaul Road For the 20th Anniversary of the release of Nirvana's Nevermind, I put together a list of ten albums also released in 1991 that less noticeably changed the world. They sold about 29 million copies less than Nevermind — at least — but all of them altered the course of music in the last twenty years.

Road 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.

Road 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.

Road Influential trip-hop trio Portishead are threatening to go back into the studio for the first time since 2008's Third. "I'm going to start in January," says Geoff Barrow. "Historically that could mean f*cking ten years."

Jake-Shears Road 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."

Road 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.

Bjork-2011_610 Road 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."

Road 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.


 


MUSIC NEWS: Das Racist, Kaskade, Coldplay, Patrick Wolf, Barbra Streisand, Beth Ditto, Diamond Rings, Battles, Crazy P

Das racist

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:

Das Racist Relax (Greedhead Music) Das-racist-relax1

The first time I saw Das Racist was an accident — and even as far as accidents go, it was especially unexpected. They were set up on a makeshift stage on the first floor of New York's Whitney Museum, at one point bringing a young child on stage to help sing the only real hook to their best-known song: "I'm at the Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell!" On some level, this was a perfect introduction: Since 2008, the Brooklyn-based hip hop trio have been merging high and low art with a postmodernist's determination, and on their first official album, Relax, Das Racist refine this ideocultural pastiche to include their closest approximation to commercial hip-hop. In that sense, "Girl" is probably the album's most startling revelation — an Iberian new wave track with a purely pop chorus is actually subversive for these guys — but even more conventional tracks like lead single "Michael Jackson" or "Selena" take rap's historic sense of wordplay to its least obvious conclusion: the first merges Spanish lyrics with Lion King jungle-speak before, apropos of nothing, announcing, "Yeah, I'm f**king great at raaaapppppping!"; the second replaces an entire verse with a series of nonsensical syllables. Of course, it's an acute sense of self-awareness that separates Das Racist from, say, Jay-Z and Kanye West — who most recently released an entire album boasting of their riches during the country's worst economic climate since the Depression — and on "The Trick," a track produced by Vampire Weekend's out keyboard player Rostam Batmanglij, you get the sense that when Heems thanks his fans for "coming to our shows and clapping again and again," it might be the only transparent lyric on the entire album. It's a suggestion that would, in fact, go completely unchallenged if he didn't follow it up by saying, "I'm wack / Yo, I never tell the truth."

Also out today: Ladytron — Gravity The Seducer (Nettwerk), Blondie — Panic of Girls: U.S. Edition (Noble), Melanie C — The Sea (AIS), St. Vincent — Strange Mercy (4AD), John Barrowman — Tonight's The Night: The Very Best (Sony UK), Wild Flag — Wild Flag (Merge), Melissa Ferrick — Still Right Here (Mpress), Toro Y Moi — Freaking Out EP (Carpark), Mates Of State — Mountaintops (Barsuk)

THE DISPATCH:

Kaskade Road It's been a hell of a week for electrohouse producer Kaskade: On the bright side, Ryan Raddon — as he's known to his mother — picked up a new accolade this week when the readers of DJ Times voted him America's Best DJ. On the other hand, earlier this week a fan pulled his shoulder out of his socket. "Lucky for me," he says, "one of my backstage crew knew what to do and popped it right back in."

Road Unearthed video of Barbra Streisand emerges: "I feel like a faggot," she says.

Chrisrihanna Road More details are surfacing about Mylo Xyloto, the forthcoming new album by Coldplay, including this interesting tidbit: The 14-song album will also feature "Princess of China" — a duet between Chris Martin and Rihanna.

Road Patrick Wolf is finally coming to America to support his excellent new album Lupercalia — whose lead single features a very American video. "I confused the whole of the United Kingdom with that," says Wolf. "But I was really on a Chet Baker tip and a Bruce Weber tip and thinking about Brian Wilson. That's a big part of the music I've grown up listening to."

Bethditto Road Beth Ditto came to New York City last week for Fashion's Night Out, where she showed up at the MAC Cosmetics store in Soho for a solo performance with a rainbow-colored dress and a pair of voguing male backup dancers in tow. She played two originals and two covers, including Dolly Parton's "Jolene" and — naturally! — Madonna's "Vogue."

Road Also covering Madonna this week: Vanessa Carlton feels "Like a Virgin."

Road Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, premiered a new documentary series for Hulu called A Day In The Life, and his latest subject is copyright rebel and mashup master artist Girl Talk.

Road Michael Stipe has a Tumblr.

Road If you're curious about the upcoming feature-length Sigur Rós film, Inni, you're not gonna get a straight answer from them: This week the band released a new teaser video featuring an extremely ambient backing track and film of people cutting fabric. Because, like, that explains everything.

THE DOWNLOAD:



DOWNLOAD: Crazy P — "Open For Service"

The first of this week's free downloads comes from the long-running UK disco-house duo Crazy P. Formerly — and perhaps better — known as Crazy Penis, the Nottingham-based crew helped establish the legendary Manchester house label Paper Recordings in the '90s and made an extended splash on 2008's Stop Space Return for 20/20 Vision. "Open For Service" is the opening track from When We On — their first full-length for OM Records, due out on September 27. The single is out now.

DOWNLOAD: Sneaky Sound System — "We Love" (Bart B More Remix)

The Sydney-based Sneaky Sound System are set to release their third album, From Here To Anywhere, on October 7 via Modular Recordings — the label most recently responsible for Cut Copy, among others. Lead single "We Love" was already a classy club-tinged electropop single before Dutch producer Bart B More got his hands on it, but on the remix, the synths get filthy, cutting the difference between mid-'90s house and a house party at Diplo's.

SOUND & VISION:

Diamond Rings — "You & Me"

Toronto's John O, better known as Diamond Rings, returns with a video that speaks to the likely childhood of an androgynous synthpop artist — a world in which kids paint themselves up in make up, mace their bullies, and then fly away in a homemade spaceship. It's a dream come true for most of us.

Battles — "My Machines"

Let's just immediately put this one up for an Awesome Video Award: Brooklyn's Battles team up with '80s new wave legend Gary Numan at a suburban galleria mall while a young man wages a futile battle with the escalator that even the emergency stop button can't end. Unbelievably, it was all shot in one take.

Eli Escobar — "Desire" (featuring Nomi Ruiz)

New York DJ Eli Escobar teams up with the former voice of Hercules & Love Affair and current Jessica 6 principal Nomi Ruiz for "Desire" — a quintessential freestyle house track that unapologetically fuses Frankie Knuckles with Jellybean Benitez. Which, if you're unsure, is a good thing.

Fanfarlo — "Replicate"

They've been called London's Arcade Fire — which is really just a lazy way of saying they have permanent mandolin and glockenspiel players in their band — but Fanfarlo have forged a more unique path for themselves, generally by hewing closer to the conventionally pop aspects of their avant-pop identity and leaving the marching bands at home. "Replicate" is the first single from their as-yet untitled second album.



MUSIC NEWS: Bombay Bicycle Club, Madonna, James Blake, Emeli Sandé, Midnight Music, The Saturdays, Tayisha Busay

Bombay-bicycle-club

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:

Bombay Bicycle Club A Different Kind Of Fix (Universal)  A-different-kind-of-fix

After the release of 2009's I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose, Bombay Bicycle Club were routinely dismissed for being a competent, if not somewhat gifted band in the London indie-punk canon — as part of a new wave that was already in its waning state and quite possibly years short of another revival. Their story should have ended in 2010, when the band beat out the XX, Mumford & Sons, and La Roux for NME's Best New Artist award, except that it didn't: Bombay Bicycle Club's surprise all-acoustic follow-up album, Flaws, forced a reevaluation of their music — and more specifically, of lead singer-songwriter Jack Steadman — that all but erased their scrappy debut from collective memory, and swapped accolades from the music weeklies with nominations for Ivor Novello Songwriting Awards. For A Different Kind Of Fix, BBC return to the full-band format and bravely justify three disparate albums with a cohesive collection of songs that is at once endearingly innocent and patently mature. "How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep?" opens the album with the kind of dreamy, hypnotic rhythm generally reserved for electronic dance music — the emotion in its ebbs and flows — while lead single "Shuffle" transforms a neo-vaudevillian piano riff into a summery disco-not-disco track befitting the Speaking In Tongues–era Talking Heads. The album's ongoing dialectic between the ethereal and the rhythmic could be partially chalked up to the hand of Animal Collective producer Ben Allen, but the reality is potentially deeper: If Steadman is positioning BBC as a post-genre songwriting vehicle, it may be because he no longer cares to write music that relies on genre as a crutch — if he ever did.

Also out today: Grace Jones — Hurricane: U.S. Edition (PIAS), The Rapture — In the Grace of Your Love (DFA), Samiam — Trips (Hopeless), Mista Majah P — Tolerance (IDC)

THE DISPATCH:

Madonna Road Madonna's latest directorial attempt, the forthcoming W.E., had moviegoers at the Venice Film Festival "rolling in the aisles" — and it's not even a comedy! — but details of her twelfth album will provide a more sobering, if not celebratory effect: A lead single is due in February or March 2012, with a new full-length to follow next spring. Ray Of Light producer William Orbit is back in the studio captain's chair, as are Martin Solveig and relative newcomer Jean-Baptiste Kouame — who co-wrote much of Kelis' excellent Flesh Tone.

Road Fresh from his collaboration with Bon Iver, James Blake announces a new EP: The six-track Enough Thunder will be released on October 10, and will feature "Fall Creek Boys Choir" as well as his Internet-favorite cover of Joni Mitchell's "Case Of You."

Road Superstar producer Dr. Luke — of Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and Britney Spears fame — has perfected his strategy against the cadre of litigious songwriters claiming he stole their work: Sue them for defamation until they submit

Emeli-sande Road Exciting new singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé gets a write-up in the Guardian this week for a piece about "female artists turning commercial pop somber with songs of pain and despair." More exciting: It was revealed that Sandé is a featured writer on the forthcoming third album by Leona Lewis.

Road Formed by ex-members of Hercules & Love Affair, the New York-based Midnight Music have essentially taken the "nu" out of nu-disco, faithfully adhering instead to the live disco blueprint of bands like the Salsoul Orchestra and Heatwave. Scion/AV recently released the band's debut digital EP, What The Eyes Can't See, which you can currently stream from Soundcloud or download for free. The band leaves on tour with Cut Copy and Washed Out this month.

Royksopp Road This week's essential streaming: Toro Y Moi introduced "All Alone," a teaser from his upcoming Freaking Out EP — and compared to his chillier chillwave fare, this new song is, in fact, somewhat of a freakout. Justice have premiered the surprisingly distortion-free title track from Audio, Video, Disco, which is due out on September 19. Röyksopp posted two free new songs to their website this week: a remix of the Irrepressibles' "In This Shirt" and, more stunningly, a 14-minute atmospheric house cut called "Shores of Easy." And finally, Tokyo Police Club have made their ambitious "10 Days, 10 Covers, 10 Years" live project available for streaming on Soundcloud. Check out their take on tracks by Kelly Clarkson, Moby, Miley Cyrus, Jimmy Eat World, Phoenix, and more.

NewOrder Road New Order are back — without Peter Hook.

Road England's Trophy Wife are set to release a new EP called Bruxism on October 17, and have most notably chosen a different producer for each of its five tracks: Abstract techno pioneers Plaid, Tracey Thorn producer Ewan Pearson, post-rock band Foals, and electro-folk troubadour James Yuill are among the collaborators. Opener "Canopy Shade" is streaming on Soundcloud now.

SOUND & VISION:

When Saints Go Machine — "Kelly"

Konkylie, the recent album by Copenhagen's When Saints Go Machine, has the kind of depth rarely seen from a debut — a feat largely accomplished by the band's versatile musicianship and singer Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild's delicate, yet deliberate falsetto. Third single "Kelly" is a testament to that balancing act — brooding, but not maudlin; dark, yet allowing light in through the cracks.

Matt Cardle — "Run For Your Life"

Last year's winner of the UK X Factor, Matt Cardle is the latest artist in Simon Cowell's world domination plan. But there's a hitch: Cardle's extreme likability — which endeared him, unsurprisingly, to many an English gay man — is rooted in his aw-shucks, unsuspecting, everyman tendencies. Unfortunately, the video for his debut album's lead single plays up some sort of bizarre Harlequin romance angle that feels contrived, and by the look on Cardle's face, uncomfortably forced. Not even Take That's Gary Barlow, who wrote the song, can save it.

The Saturdays — "All Fired Up"

With Girls Aloud on a vaguely indefinite hiatus and none of the original members of Sugababes actually in the group anymore, The Saturdays must see "All Fired Up" as an opportunity of sorts — and in the world of Euro dance-pop, you could do far worse than picking up one of the more memorable recent tracks from uber-reliable UK production/songwriting house Xenomania. The people seem to agree: This weekend, "All Fired Up" hit #1 on the UK iTunes chart as soon as it was released.

Tayisha Busay — "Focus"

Brooklyn-based queer electro trio Tayisha Busay are prepping the release of their debut album, Focus/Virus, and lead single "Focus" is already shaping up to be the band's most realized work so far — a grim, New York version of Kraftwerk's "The Robots" with a generous dose of pop sensibility and human intervention. The clip's a little edgy, but its meditation on the reversals of power is hardly esoteric.



MUSIC NEWS: David Guetta, Smashing Pumpkins, James Blake & Bon Iver, Robyn, Penguin Prison, Foo Fighters, Big Freedia, Leona Lewis

Guetta

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:

David Guetta Nothing But The Beat (Capitol) Nothing But The Beat

David Guetta's third album, Pop Life, was hardly a fully realized work, but his intention was clear. In 2007, when it was released, European club music had been desegregated from overseas Top 40 pop for years — but more often than not, this crossover was a matter of fact and not a concerted effort. Guetta was one of the first to put that extra effort in — beginning by hiring legendary pop songwriter Cathy Dennis to work on the record with him — and despite its failures, Pop Life was Guetta's first semi-hit album. It also arguably paved the way for Lady Gaga's The Fame only one year later, which cracked open the American market for this style, and in turn, paved the way for Guetta's truly massive One Love in 2009. (If you really want to complete the circle, listen to "Born This Way" again and see if you don't hear the similarities to "When Love Takes Over.") This week, Guetta returns with Nothing But The Beat — the first new album since his mainstream breakthrough — and it's nothing if not contemporary. This is, however, a blessing and a curse: In a landscape where "Guetta-beat" is being produced by dozens of like-minded studio hacks, the struggle for Guetta to retain his voice is often foiled by his propensity for nabbing scene-stealing guest stars. The album's first two singles — "Where Them Girls At," featuring Nicki Minaj and Flo-Rida, and "Little Bad Girl," featuring Taio Cruz and Ludacris — are archetypes of the old Guetta-beat, and with his trance-based structural dynamics having been appropriated by everyone from Dr. Luke to Stargate, neither song really stands out from any number of singles on the radio right now. The same can't be said, however, for standouts like the Usher–led "Without You" — a sort of arpeggiated progressive-house cousin to Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With You" — and the fact that this will be the third track sent to radio is a signal that Guetta is already thinking ahead. Because when the current commercial dance boom subsides, as all pop micro-trends do, it will always be the actual song under the synths that matters most.

Also out this week: Beirut — The Rip Tide (Pompeii), Red Hot Chili Peppers — I'm With You (Warner Bros.), Jill Scott — The Original Jill Scott From The Vault Vol. 1 (Hidden Beach), Cobra Starship — Night Shades (Decaydence/Fueled By Ramen), Male Bonding — Endless Now (Sub Pop)

THE DISPATCH:

Billy corgan Road Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan took some flack from fans for granting an exclusive regular column to Crestfallen — a fan site run by a Mormon adherent who openly supported California's Proposition 8. But things got more heated after Devi Ever, a guitar-pedal engineer and transgender woman who spent money developing a custom bass pedal at Corgan's request and was then ignored, aired her grievances towards the singer on the Internet: Corgan responded with a series of verbal threats (claiming he would "knock [her] f*cking lights out") and transphobic slights (calling her a "he/she" and "a sad creation"). Corgan has since deleted the offending tweets, but unfortunately for his bigoted temper, the Internet is forever.

James-Blake-Bon-Iver Road Last week's self-started rumor of a Bon Iver and James Blake collaboration came to fruition as promised: "Fall Creek Boys Choir" is one of the most elegant songs to come from either camp, and it's available on iTunes this week.

Road We're still waiting on a new album from Phoenix, but if the band is delayed, it's understandable: Frontman Thomas Mars married filmmaker Sofia Coppola in Italy over the weekend.

Road This week's essential streams and downloads: Starsmith released his version of the latest Marina and the Diamonds single, "Radioactive," and then somewhat mysteriously took it down from his Soundcloud page a few days later. Luckily, Hype Machine still has the stream. The debut album by Wild Flag — featuring members of Sleater-Kinney, Helium, and The Minders — is up at NPR now. And let's not forget Penguin Prison: A self-titled debut is due next week and the latest retromodern track to leak is called "Don't F*ck With My Money."

Robyn Road Robyn's Body Talk trilogy was an ambitious undertaking in dozens of ways, but one of the less examined aspects of the project has been its bold and innovative visual identity — from the album artwork and videos to her concert styling and online interactive campaigns. The Creator's Project took all this into account and put Robyn in a room with the album's creative director, Mary Fagot, for an enlightening video interview on the subject.

Road David Bowie's "Space Oddity" is now a gorgeously illustrated children's book.

Foo fighters Road Foo Fighters are going on tour this fall, and to let you know about it, they did what any other self-respecting rock band would do: They filmed a teaser video, completely in the nude, showering together. Needless to say, it's NSFW — especially the close-up shots of each member's rear end. No lie.

Road The forthcoming second album by Baltimore-based hip hop crew Spank Rock will be called Everything is Boring and Everyone is a F*cking Liar, and our first taste is a track called "Nasty" — featuring an outrageous coda from New Orleans sissy bounce ambassador Big Freedia, who has spent this year quickly shattering the limits of acclaim and mainstream acceptance for queer rappers. The album, due September 27, also features work from Santigold and hip hop megastar Pharrell Williams.

SOUND & VISION:

Leona Lewis & Avicii — "Collide"

The nasty lawsuits are behind them, so the first video from Leona Lewis' upcoming third album has earned its official release. I'm personally a bit torn about the track, and the video — which positions Lewis as more of a summer babe than a smart chanteuse — doesn't seem to reconcile anything for me. I will say this: The original Penguin Café Orchestra composition that Avicii used as the basis for this much-contested track totally outshines its revision.

Bombay Bicycle Club — "Shuffle"

A Different Kind of Fix is Bombay Bicycle Club's highly guarded third album — which means I can't give it a fair assessment until its release next week — but if it's anything like its lead single, the London–based band may have a proper hit on their hands: "Shuffle" is the missing link between their scrappy post-punk debut and their leftfield follow-up of whispery folk confessionals, held together by a newfound sense of rhythm and joy.

Florence & The Machine — "What the Water Gave Me"

Florence Welch promised that her band's new songs were "drawn to dark metaphors," and "What The Water Gave Me" — the first single from Florence & The Machine's as-yet-untitled second album — delivers in spades: "When I was writing this song I was thinking a lot about all those people who have lost their lives in vain attempts to save their loved ones from drowning," she says, suggesting that her warning was an understatement.

Emeli Sandé — "Heaven"

The debut single from Scottish singer Emeli Sandé went to #2 on the UK charts this week, and with good reason. "Heaven" is one of those pleasurable, but slightly edgy pop singles that breed both familiarity and discovery: Recent tracks by Katy B and classic album cuts from Massive Attack certainly inform the music — a sort of trip-hop/drum-n-bass hybrid — but Sandé's capable voice is clearly what makes this song memorable in long run. It's a great way to start a career.



MUSIC NEWS: Will Young, Active Child, Stephin Merritt, Bright Light Bright Light, Leona Lewis, Tayisha Busay, Snow Patrol, Chromeo

Will-young

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:

Will Young Echoes (RCA) Will-young-echoes

He's still largely anonymous in America, but after selling more than 8 million albums everywhere else in the world — and celebrating this achievement with 2009's excellent The Hits compilation — now seems as a good a time as any for Will Young to rock the boat. On his fifth studio effort, Echoes, the out gay pop star has done just that: For one thing, hiring electropop maestro Richard X to helm production duties for the entire album was a bold move — not only because Richard X has never produced an entire full-length album for an artist of this size before, but because Young's sole experience with making electronic music before this album was a one-song collaboration with Groove Armada. And perhaps therein lies the genius. Echoes is the sound of a clean slate and the reintroduction to a Will Young that sounds more inspired than we've ever heard him. Opener (and lead single) "Jealousy" is a solid barometer for the album's tone, managing to convey sorrow through all of the musical signifiers we associate with euphoria, while the electro-disco "Runaway" showcases Young's soulful vocal chops utilizing an entirely fresh palette. But it's "Come On" that, by track 2, perfectly fuses past and present — retaining Young's classic sensibility, although trading in the stadium-sized string sections for synths. It's far too early to make any predictions, but this far into 2011, track for track in its entirety, I have yet to hear a more exciting and cohesive commercial pop album. Echoes will be called a reinvention, but it's actually just insanely good.

THE DISPATCH:

Att24180 Road Eager to get her new single out — or just conceding to the fact that they did pretty much steal someone else's song — Leona Lewis (alongside label head Simon Cowell) have resolved their legal dispute with 22-year-old Swedish producer Avicii over "Collide," the lead single from Lewis' forthcoming third album. Complete details of the agreement have not been disclosed, but only a few days after leaving court new artwork for the single emerged, crediting the song to "Leona Lewis/Avicii." No word on whether or not Ministry of Sound still plans to release "Fade Into Darkness," the original Avicii composition at the center of this dispute.

Road Have James Blake and Bon Iver teamed up to form a new band? According to Blake's Twitter feed, the duo has planned something for tomorrow, August 24, under the name Fall Creek Boys Choir.

Bright+Light+Bright+Light+Bright+Light Road If you haven't heard Bright Light Bright Light yet, make it a priority: the London-based electropop songwriter recently released the impeccable "Disco Moment" as lead single for his forthcoming debut, and this week, he whipped up a DJ mix for BUTT magazine, who also get down to some need-to-know facts — like, "Have you ever had sex in the toilets?" — for a concise Q&A.

Road New York's Tayisha Busay have been fixtures in the city's indie dance and queer nightlife scene for some time now, but with the release of their forthcoming debut album, Focus/Virus, the trio are finally poised to hit the national stage. "Focus" is the first taste from the album, and it's a stunner that draws from vintage Kraftwerk and early New York proto-freestyle along the lines of Dominatrix. Stream it now from Soundcloud, and expect to hear much more from Tayisha Busay later this year.

Matt-Cardle-X-Factor Road Last year's winner of the UK X Factor, Matt Cardle, has announced an October 17 release date for his debut album, Letters, which includes lead single "Run For Your Life," written by current X Factor judge and Take That mainman Gary Barlow. "We had 99% of the album finished, then the track came through from Gary," Cardle says. "I was nearly in tears recording the vocals."

Road When it comes to battling biopics, Truman Capote has nothing on the late, lamented Jeff Buckley. There are three films about the highly influential singer currently in production, including Greetings from Tim Buckley (starring Penn Badgley as Jeff), A Pure Drop (directed by Australian auteur Brendan Fletcher), and an as-yet-unnamed production helmed by Ridley Scott's son, Jake — the only one to earn its blessings from the Buckley estate.

Victor willis Road Victor Willis — better known as the original cop in the Village People — is suing someone again this week, but this time, he might actually make history! Citing a federal copyright provision that allows songwriters to regain control of registered titles beginning in 1978, Willis filed papers to regain control of his share of songs like "Y.M.C.A.," "In The Navy," and "Go West," which continue to accumulate millions of dollars annually. The companies currently holding the copyrights, of course, are fighting the claim, calling Willis an "adapter of French songs" that are not subject to U.S. law. But Willis' legal counsel counters this claim with a compelling challenge: "I dare you to go to Paris and find a Y.M.C.A."

COMING OUT: 

Active+child_you+are+all+i+see Pat Grossi is a a true postmodernist — which is to say that on You Are All I See, his debut album as Active Child, there is no one dominant narrative, but a string of coexisting, albeit seemingly divergent ideas. It's not that classical harp, '80s synthpop, and slow-jam R&B are incapable of getting along, but more that before Grossi, no one ever put them in the same room. The end result is chilling at times — with Grossi's inimitable choir-like falsetto grimly anchoring standouts like "Way Too Fast" and the title track — but when the lights go down on "Playing House," it's like moving out of the church and into the bedroom. Throughout decades of rock 'n' roll history, there's still nothing like unexpected sex.

Stephin-Merritt-Obscurities Obscurities is the latest release by acclaimed (and out) singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt, and if you're interested in tracing artistic trajectories, this 14-song collection will come in handy: Assembling the many compilation appearances, outtakes, and previously unreleased material that led up to the release of Magnetic Fields' universally loved and impossibly epic — 69 Love Songs boxset, Obscurities reassesses what it means to be a castoff. In less capable hands, songs like "I Don't Believe You" and "Take Ecstasy With Me" could be centerpieces for a "proper" album.

Also out today: Various Artists — Muppets: The Green Album (Walt Disney), Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks — Mirror Traffic (Matador), CSS — La Liberación (Fontana), Goldie — Fabriclive 58 (Fabric), Austra — Sparkle EP (Domino)

SOUND & VISION:

Mirror Mirror — "Interiors"

I missed this one when it came out earlier this month, so let's correct that wrong right now: From their second album Interiors, due out next week, New York's Mirror Mirror make atmospheric neo-psych with a gentle gothic touch — a perfect backdrop, then, for this noir-inspired clip starring Rumi Missabu, one of the final survivors from San Francisco's legendary drag collective The Cockettes. Seriously, it's a work of art.

Snow Patrol — "Called Out In The Dark"

They came into mainstream prominence as the Scottish answer to Coldplay, so skeptics might be quick to call foul on the disco-fused lead single from Snow Patrol's forthcoming sixth album — as if they were riding trends or something. But if Gary Lightbody proves anything on "Called Out In The Dark," it's that he knows a little something about club music: Years before Snow Patrol, Lightbody was a house music DJ and even wrote a song for UK house stalwarts Freeform Five. The authenticity — and playfulness — on his band's latest single shows.

Chromeo — "When The Night Falls" (feat. Solange Knowles)

Fresh from her collaboration with Rewards for the DFA label, Beyoncé's little sister moves further down the indie-dance rabbithole with a cameo on the latest single by French Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo. "When The Night Falls" is the fourth single from Business Casual, but the first to feature a street gang of angry pregnant women.

Matt & Kim, Andrew WK & Soulja Boy — "I'm A Goner"

This week's unlikely collaboration: Brooklyn's cutest power pop duo Matt & Kim team up with the frequently bloody Andrew WK and Atlanta rap prodigy-cum-whipping post Soulja Boy for "I'm A Goner." The surprisingly successful song is available as a free download now, and its video reestablishes Matt & Kim's lock on feel-good filmmaking — even if everyone in the clip is technically dead. It's like "Thriller" for hipsters.



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