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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: Ellie Goulding, R.E.M., The Good Natured, Jennifer Hudson, George Michael, Death Cab for Cutie, Beth Ditto, Rival Schools

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NORMAN BRANNON

Guestblogger Norman Brannon is a pop critic, musician, and author based in New York City. He presents a weekly music update here on Towleroad and writes regularly at Nervous Acid.  

Follow Norman on Twitter at @nervousacid.

ESSENTIAL NEW MUSIC:

Ellie-Goulding-Lights Ellie Goulding Lights (Cherrytree/Interscope)

On paper, it doesn't look too good: A young English girl, inspired by Deftones and Rage Against the Machine, learns how to play guitar. She eventually finds her voice in the acoustic tradition, and — determined to find a collaborator of some sort — takes her search to MySpace. For most singer-songwriters, the third part of this story might reveal an unenviable ending, but for Ellie Goulding, this unlikely start translated into four UK hit singles, a number-one UK album, and a Critic's Choice nod at the Brit Awards — all before her 24th birthday. It helps, of course, that the friends she made on MySpace include electro-pop songwriter Frankmusik and Kylie Minogue producer Starsmith, but there is no doubt as to whose album this is: Lights is a complex record that bares Goulding's indie folk roots on a songwriting level — tracks like "Guns and Horses" and "Your Biggest Mistake" owe a distant, but present appreciation for Sufjan Stevens — while standout track "This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)" approaches contemporary synthpop territory with more of an eye on Kate Bush than Katy Perry. It all culminates into what is likely to be one of this year's most idiosyncratic pop albums, in addition to one of its best: Having defied the artificial separation between commercial and clever, Lights is too smart to be anyone's guilty pleasure. 

Collapse-into-now R.E.M. Collapse Into Now (Warner Bros.)

It's no secret that R.E.M. found itself at its least propulsive upon the departure of original drummer Bill Berry in 1997; without his distinctive backbeat, the band overly relied on melody and melancholia to their own detriment. On 2008's Accelerate, however, there seemed to be an awakening, a reminder that almost everything we love about American indie rock had been invented by R.E.M. in 1983, and on Collapse Into Now — their fifteenth studio album — the band integrates this 30-year history into what is easily their most compelling album in years. Peter Buck's presence is deeply felt here — tracks like "All The Best" and "Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter" recall much of his harder-edged guitar work — while Michael Stipe's inimitable voice resonates with an earnestness we didn't realize we missed so much. So if he's not afraid to sing "Let's show the kids how to do it," it's because he can: When star turns from Eddie Vedder, Peaches, Patti Smith, and The Hidden Cameras' Joel Gibb simply fade into R.E.M.'s background, the power of that hard-earned confidence clearly emerges.

UP FRONT:

The Good Natured — "Wolves"

A few weeks ago I linked to a video by The Good Natured, a UK–based group who are quickly becoming artists-to-watch in 2011. Their first American release — a three-song EP called Be My Animal — will be issued next week, and "Wolves" will serve as a digital bonus track to the package. This week, however, it's yours to stream and download for free HERE. At only 20 years old, singer-songwriter Sarah McIntosh writes with incredible sophistication, and if "Wolves" tells us anything about the quality of her work, it's that this song is somehow the "bonus." For almost anyone else, it would be a dream lead single.

Jennifer Hudson — "Where You At" (Dave Audé Radio Mix)

Jennifer Hudson's long-awaited sophomore album I Remember Me is due for release on March 22, but this week, Towleroad readers are treated to an exclusive remix for its first single: "Where You At" was written for Hudson by R. Kelly, but this mix — reconstructed by veteran producer Dave Audé — gives the original a classic New York house vibe not unlike more recent fare from Frankie Knuckles. Stream it from the player or download the MP3 for free HERE.

THE DISPATCH: 

Death-cab Road As mentioned last week, the new Death Cab For Cutie album is called Codes & Keys and is due for a March 31 release. This week, a Ben Gibbard solo version of the title track leaked online in the form of a somber, yet sparse piano track — as elegant and emotionally resonant as ever. Also in the form of a live recording, Gibbard teams up with queer punk icon Bob Mould for a version of Sugar's "If I Can't Change Your Mind."

Road The three-man Remix Artist Collective, better known as RAC, have released a second volume of their brilliant remix compilation series. RAC Vol. 2 features electro and synthpop revisions of originals by Phoenix, Phantogram, Surfer Blood, Washed Out, and many more. This crucial collection is available for free download HERE.

George_michael Road George Michael is slated to release a charity single for this year's anti-poverty campaign headed by Comic Relief, and this time, it's a cover: Michael has reworked the 1987 New Order song "True Faith" — with a hella lot of Autotune. A digital release will be available on March 13, while a physical package will follow in stores the following day. You can listen to a 3-minute clip HERE

Road Also in George Michael news: His name has been coming up frequently as being on the shortlist for judges to join Simon Cowell on the American version of UK television phenomenon The X-Factor. Also in the running: Mariah Carey, Jessica Simpson, Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls, and former American Idol rival Paula Abdul.

Road Not content with his recent Oscar-winning soundtrack for The Social Network, Trent Reznor is in talks to move in front of the camera — to play a vampire

Road Daft Punk have announced Tron: Legacy R3CONFIGUR3D — a remix album featuring new material by M83, Moby, Paul Oakenfold, Kaskade, Sander Kleinenberg, and Robyn–collaborator Klas Åhlund's Teddybears.

Gang-gang-dance-promo-2011 Road The experimental Brooklyn outfit Gang Gang Dance entered the mainstream consciousness after Florence and the Machine were called out for lifting a part of 2008's "House Jam" on their single "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)." (Florence graciously copped to the rip-off and agreed to pay them for it. "I'm a massive fan of Gang Gang Dance and it was in homage to them," she said.) This week, the first track from the band's upcoming fifth album was released as a stream, and — while it is certainly their poppiest yet — Gang Gang Dance are not going down easy: "Glass Jar" is a swirling, rhythmic synthpop epic that clocks in at more than 11 minutes. Eye Contact will be released on May 9 via 4AD. 

Road NPR is streaming the first-ever publicly released track by Wild Flag, the inadvertent supergroup featuring Helium's Mary Timony, The Minders' Rebecca Cole, and Sleater-Kinnery vets Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss. A debut two-song 7-inch single, produced by Spoon's Britt Daniel, will see its release on April 16; a full-length album is forthcoming.

COMING OUT:

BethdittoEP Beth Ditto teamed up with UK tech-house producers Simian Mobile Disco for a vinyl-only EP last year, but this week, the Beth Ditto EP gets its domestic digital release. Musically, it's a pretty fantastic appropriation of the Def Mix Collective sound — think David Morales in the Red Zone — but the EP's real strength lies in Ditto's contemplative delivery. If anything, it's a club record about going home from the club by yourself.

I realize I'm totally putting my cred on the line here, but I'm just gonna go out and say it: Avril Lavigne's latest, Goodbye Lullaby, is actually really good! It's not going to be the album that reinstates her multiplatinum credentials, but that seems like part of the plan: Nothing about this record is particularly heady or groundbreaking, but tracks like lead single "What The Hell" and "Smile" are about as perfect a pop song as anyone writing about a public divorce might ever be able to muster. There's a brooding adult album inside of Lavigne somewhere; to some extent, Goodbye Lullaby feels like the end of her innocence.

Pedals Rival Schools released one album in 2001 and then essentially vanished. Ten years later, the New York supergroup returns with Pedals, and the result is an almost implausible blend of melodic indie pop, '70s mod, echoplexed shoegaze, and the band's notable hardcore roots. Singer Walter Schreifels really finds his voice here — especially on the sobering "Racing To Red Lights," which reveals his as-yet-unrevealed acumen for the art of the truly desolate ballad. 

Also out today: Memphis — Here Comes A City (Arts & Crafts), Alexi Murdoch — Towards The Sun (Zero Summer), Johnny Greenwood — Norwegian Wood: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Nonesuch), Exene Cervenka — The Excitement of Maybe (Bloodshot), Scritti Politti — Absolute (EMI)

SOUND & VISION:

The Wombats — "Anti-D"

I liked the first Wombats record enough, but if this is a sign of what's to come on This Modern Glitch, I'm sold: "Anti-D" is my favorite new song of the week, attached with a colorful, climactic video. Also, apparently, if you put a UK pop-punk band in the studio with Jacknife Lee, they become instantly capable of writing smart, orchestral Britpop anthems. Dude makes all things possible.

Olly Murs — "Heart On My Sleeve"

Former X-Factor runner-up Olly Murs releases the third single from his debut self-titled album, and this one is a bit more Westlife and a little less Mark Ronson. Because every ska-tinged neo-soul singer needs his torch song, obviously!

Architecture in Helsinki — "Contact High"

They share a hometown and a record label with Cut Copy, but stylistically, the lead single for Architecture In Helsinki's fourth full-length album balances falsetto funk with pop tricknology. The video adds a visual component to their vocal androgyny while bringing new meaning to the term "touchy-feely."

Yelle — "Safari Disco Club / Que Veux-Tu" 

The debut clip for Safari Disco Club — the second album by French electropop stalwarts Yelle — is, at over eight minutes long, more than just a music video: It's a quasi-surrealist visual experience that spans two songs, two sets, and a handful of costume changes. Eagle-eyed fans of America's Best Dance Crew also get a treat: Season 2 runners-up Fanny Pak are Yelle's back-up crew.


 


News: Bullying, Scott Brown, Fin Whale, Golden State Warriors

 road Golden State Warriors announce first 'Gay Night'.


Zegers  roadKevin Zegers emerges from the underbrush for Flaunt.

 roadEllen Degeneres and Simon Cowell sitting on different ends of the table for a reason.

 roadMassachusetts Senator Scott Brown dined with teabaggers and anti-gay hate group before voting with Harry Reid.

 roadHUD seeks help with anti-gay discrimination study: "Starting Thursday, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department will enlist residents in three cities with large gay populations - Chicago, New York and San Francisco - to offer ideas on how such a study should be conducted."

 roadMadonna gets Jesus a record deal.

 roadCitibank blocks account of gay start-up Fabulis because of "objectionable content." "Do I think Citibank or Citigroup is a homophobic malicious company? No. Do I think some compliance officer is a moron who made a really stupid decision? Yes. Three hours of trying to sort this out provided even more comedic insanity than I even revealed on the blog post. Including a bank manager who didn’t want to talk about this because she was uncomfortable talking about the content of our blog over a recorded phone conversation." TechCrunch weighs in. Citi responds. Chapter ends.

 roadWatch: The NSFW trailer for Showgirls 2.

Finwhale  roadMassive fin whale washes ashore in England.

 roadEvita revival coming to Broadway.

 roadPresbyterians to ordain gay minister: "A regional governing body of the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country has voted to ordain a gay Madison man with a long-term partner, bucking national church policy that bars gays and lesbians in open relationships from the ministry and perhaps setting a precedent. The decision Saturday in Madison by the John Knox Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is expected to have a national impact and be challenged by opponents."

Olly  roadX-Factor contestant Olly Murs enjoyed playing "gay chicken" with fellow contestant Danyl Johnson: “Gay chicken is this game where you lean in to kiss someone and you await to see who turns away first.  We were leaning in and laughing, but then Danyl actually closed his eyes! I’ve always been really open-minded. I don’t judge people.”

 roadJ Lo to host SNL this Saturday.

 roadUK gay man wins discrimination claim against company that tried to "de-gay" his pub: "The former assistant manager said he had been ordered to put up a sign outside that said 'This is not a gay pub' and made to reprimand a homosexual couple for their overtly romantic behaviour, before being told he was 'another kind of gay'...The firm was ordered to pay Mr Lisboa £4,593.75 in compensation."

 roadThe New York Post's Andrea Peyser is not interested in a sexy firewoman.

 roadHomophobic bullies in UK taking their conquests to YouTube: "It is the most recent development in the ongoing problem of homophobic bullying, which remains a major issue even as Brent Council has begun a concerted effort to tackle it. Youth worker, Lukasz Konieczka said the latest way in which some youngsters were being bullied was through group attacks known as 'rushing,' which are then broadcast on the internet."


WATCH: George Michael Duets with X-Factor Winner Joe McElderry

Mcelderry

A duet with George Michael helped lift 18-year-old Joe McElderry to victory over rival Olly Murs on Britain's X-Factor over the weekend. Olly performed a duet with Robbie Williams.

Watch both performances and the winning moment, AFTER THE JUMP...

Recently...
Olly Murs, X-Factor Finalist, Strips for a Spray Tan [tr]

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Olly Murs, X-Factor Finalist, Strips for a Spray Tan

Ollymurs

This is Olly Murs. He's a finalist this season in the UK's X-Factor. The show found it necessary to follow him to his weekly spray-tan. Which is interesting for no other reason than the gratuitous stripping down to his underwear.

Video (along with some of his singing), AFTER THE JUMP...

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Continue reading "Olly Murs, X-Factor Finalist, Strips for a Spray Tan" »


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