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

Mikekinsella

BY NORMAN BRANNON

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

Follow Norman on Twitter at @nervousacid.

EXTENDED PLAY:

Owen-Ghost-TownOwen Ghost Town (Polyvinyl)

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

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

THE DISPATCH:

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOUND & VISION:

Architecture in Helsinki — "W.O.W."

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

Matt Cardle — "Starlight"

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

Mates of State — "Sway"

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

Simone Battle — "He Likes Boys"

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



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

Coldplay2-SarahLee

BY NORMAN BRANNON

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

Follow Norman on Twitter at @nervousacid.

EXTENDED PLAY:

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

Coldplay — Mylo Xyloto (EMI) MyloXyloto_lores

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

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

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

Kelly_Clarkson_-_StrongerKelly ClarksonStronger (19/RCA)

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

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

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

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

THE DISPATCH:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOUND & VISION:

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

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

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

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

Stars — "Dead Hearts"

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

Olly Murs — "Dance With Me Tonight"

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



NEWS: Angelina Directs, Rihanna Digs S&M, Uganda AIDS Situation Grows Dire

Milk&Honey
Road Watch the first preview for In The Land of Blood & Honey, the Bosnian war pic written and directed by Angelina Jolie, AFTER THE JUMP...

Road Saudi heir dies in New York.

Road Generation X is sick of Generation Y's grousing:

... Generation X is tired of your sense of entitlement. Generation X also graduated during a recession. It had even sh**tier jobs, and actually had to pay for its own music. (At least, when music mattered most to it.) Generation X is used to being f***ed over. It lost its meager savings in the dot-com bust. Then came George Bush, and 9/11, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Generation X bore the brunt of all that. And then came the housing crisis.

Generation X wasn't surprised. Generation X kind of expected it.

Road Single-celled organisms measuring 4 inches in length! They're the biggest cells on earth, and they're poisonous.

Road Rihanna departs hotel clutching an "X-rated lesbian bondage manual" ...

Road ... after she dropps over £1,000 in a Parisian S&M shop.

Road This dog has a seeing eye dog. They both need a home.

Road Australian justice: Lady has drunken sex with a 16-year-old, two 14-year-olds, and one 12-year-old. She doesn't go to jail.

Road Australian progress: Acting Premier Andrew Fraser discusses the future of marriage equality in Queensland.

Meerkat

Road Baby meerkats, courtesy of BuzzFeed. Just 'cuz.

Road The sex lives of gay guys are pretty normal.

Road Irish lesbian wedding, deferred by impenetrable legalese.

Road Rosie O'Donnell isn't worried about horrible ratings.

Road Uganda's losing ground in the battle with AIDS.

Road Attorneys! Please refrain from bringing meth to court! Thanks!

Road Some American Idols top charts.

Road Some American Idols lose their record labels.

Road Hitchens: Qaddafi should have lived.

Continue reading "NEWS: Angelina Directs, Rihanna Digs S&M, Uganda AIDS Situation Grows Dire" »


Rihanna Depicts Abusive Relationship in 'We Found Love' Video: WATCH

Rihanna

Rihanna's music video commentary on her time with Chris Brown?

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Rihanna Depicts Abusive Relationship in 'We Found Love' Video: WATCH" »


Coldplay and Rihanna Team Up for 'Princess of China': LISTEN

"Princess of China" is an attempt by Coldplay to try something different. They've enlisted Rihanna. It's from their forthcoming album Mylo Xyloto.

MyloxylotoStereogum writes:

“Princess” is a swing for the fences, with Rihanna scene-setting on a big wordless melody and some new-look stuttering Europop synths. Chris told MTV News it’s “a song that I’d secretly kind of written to see if Rihanna would want to sing it, and that "at this point, we have nothing to lose, and so we’ve been trying some new things and trying to break down the perceived boundaries between different types of music."

Listen, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Coldplay and Rihanna Team Up for 'Princess of China': LISTEN" »


Rihanna Debuts New Track 'We Found Love': LISTEN

Rihanna

Rihanna's first single off her new album, "We Found Love", debuted this morning after being "unlocked" on Facebook, was produced by Scottish singer, DJ, and producer Calvin Harris, and has his electronic dance music stamp all over it.

Listen, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Rihanna Debuts New Track 'We Found Love': LISTEN" »


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