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MUSIC NEWS: Amy Winehouse, Rufus Wainwright, Jay Brannan, No Doubt, Snow Patrol, Feist, Owen Duff, Penguin Prison, Starsmith

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BY NORMAN BRANNON

Guestblogger RDIO_GENERIC_120X60 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

Rufus Wainwright House Of Rufus: Box Set (Universal) Houseofrufus

It's fair to say that when Rufus Wainwright released his debut self-titled album in 1998, the sheer volume and variety of his future work could hardly be predicted. He used to speak of (and, indeed, continues to mention) his desire to be a contemporary pop star, but if House of Rufus — the 19-disc box set featuring almost everything he's ever put his name on in the last fifteen years — reveals any one thing, it's that Wainwright is no contemporary pop star. Nor should he be. When "Foolish Love" opens the set with its theatrical panache, there is no question that Wainwright's idea of pop music sounds nothing like the radio: there is no traditional chorus, the lyrics are more conversational than radio call hook, and the arrangements — provided by the legendary Van Dyke Parks — haven't been "contemporary" since Parks produced Phil Ochs in 1970. Later, within the context of his "official" discography, Wainwright gives us folk tunes, album-oriented rock, classic torch songs, and his own self-proclaimed "popera." There are new versions of Shakespeare sonnets, liturgical mass music, and two CDs worth of Judy Garland covers. There is even the story of Prima Donna, the opera he composed and premiered in 2009. Factually, there is no "hit single," but more importantly, there is no artistic deficit. Wainwright flourishes as a true visionary artist, almost in spite of himself. In terms of rare music, House of Rufus offers an incredible selection of demos and other unreleased material that needed a wide release — the jaunty "A Bit of You" and fan favorite "Money Song" immediately spring to mind — but there's one song whose omission lends unintended irony to Wainwright's pop aspirations: The only officially commissioned remix of a Rufus Wainwright song — by German techno producers Michael Mayer and Superpitcher — gives "Tiergarten" an epic 14-minute ambient disco workout, and in all these years, it's still the closest he's ever come to finding success on a modern dancefloor.

Also out today: Kelly Rowland — Here I Am (Motown Universal), Jake Walden — Same Something Different (Jake Walden Music), Little Dragon — Ritual Union (Peacefrog), Paul Oakenfold — Never Mind The Bollocks (Perfecto), Popul Vuh — Revisited & Remixed: 1970-1999 (SPV), Metronomy — English Riviera (Big Beat/WEA), Craig Richards — Fabric 58: The Nothing Special (Fabric)

THE DISPATCH

Amy-winehouse Road Musicians are responding en masse to news of the death of Amy Winehouse: Says Lady Gaga, "Amy changed pop music forever." Adele astutely noted that "Amy paved the way for artists like me and made people excited about British music again whilst being fearlessly hilarious and blasé about the whole thing." And in a series of tweets, Rihanna said she was "genuinely heartbroken about this." For a longer read from a surprising contributor, comedian Russell Brand offered a deeply personal essay about Winehouse and their shared affliction of addiction: "Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease … All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation, but as a disease that will kill."

Road The musical tributes for Amy Winehouse have just begun: Esteemed singer-songwriter Jay Brannan covered "Rehab" for a new video on his YouTube channel, while M.I.A. quickly responded to Winehouse's death with a new song: "27" is available for streaming on Soundcloud now.

RoadNodoubtandmajorlazer No Doubt's love for Jamaican dancehall culture, reggae, and ska is well-documented, so it's almost a no-brainer for the crew to hook up with electro-dancehall producers Switch and Diplo — a.k.a. Major Laser — on their forthcoming comeback album. The band revealed they're working on a new song called "Push and Shove" with the duo.

Road Snow Patrol have announced a new EP for release on September 4 — their first new set since 2008's A Hundred Million Suns. The band released a high-quality version of the title track, a quasi-nu-disco stomp titled "Called Out In The Dark," for streaming on YouTube

RoadFriendly_fires_glasto09_DN_012 Whether you love Gaga or you'd rather she just go away, there's little arguing that "Edge of Glory" is kind of a jam. UK post-rave standard-bearers Friendly Fires seem to agree: they covered the song for BBC Radio this week.

Road Today in bizarre musical family dynasties: Bob Dylan's grandson, Pablo, is a rapper.

Road It's hard to believe it's been over three years since the release of Feist's incredible breakthrough album, The Reminder, but the dry spell is over: A 12-song follow-up album called Metals will get its release on October 4, and the singer has released a string of preview videos to whet your appetite.

Road Those of you who remember my Unsigned Artists Special a few months back might remember Owen Duff — the openly gay London-based singer/songwriter whose work, I noted, "transforms the Broadway dream-sequence into a three-minute pop song." In anticipation of a new EP set for release later this summer, Duff threw a sublime cover of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" on YouTube, and pretty much earns that critical distinction all over again.

THE PLAYLIST

This week's Rdio playlist lays tribute to the massive contribution that Amy Winehouse made in creating a hospitable landscape for a British neo-soul and jazz vocal movement that includes, but goes well beyond the phenomenal success of Adele. The circumstances under which this playlist was conceived were, of course, terribly unfortunate. But creating this mix provided a unique opportunity to appreciate the work of Amy's peers and that of her successors — only a partial extent of what will surely become her influential legacy. Direct relations include Dionne Bromfield — the 15-year-old singer who was Amy's goddaughter and protégé — as well as Alex Clare, an ex-boyfriend whose dubstep-soul bears clear traces of her impact. But it's the indirect connections of, say, Kate Nash's straightforward lyrical approach or VV Brown's distinctively English delivery that will remind us most of the profound impact that Amy Winehouse had on British music in such a short amount of time. This mix attests to the fact that her absence will be deeply felt for some time.

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SOUND & VISION

Penguin Prison — "Fair Warning"

Ebullient and seemingly effortless, Penguin Prison's latest single is somewhat of a modern new wave benchmark — meaning that if you took away the roaming arpeggiators and impeccably synthesized rhythm, you'd still have a meaningful pop song. All together, it's a last-minute contender for song of the summer.

Joan as Police Woman — "Chemmie"

Her bio includes stints with Antony & the Johnsons and the Dambuilders, collaborations with Rufus Wainwright and Scissor Sisters, and significant-other status with the late Jeff Buckley, so if the company that Joan Wasser keeps is any indication, her talent-to-notoriety ratio is sadly skewed in the wrong direction. "Chemmie" is the third single from last year's The Deep Field — a jazzy, but soulful take from an emerging artist that demands a second look.

Starsmith — "Lesson One"

His most recent notoriety comes from an impressive list of songwriting and production credits for Ellie Goulding, Girls Aloud's Cheryl Cole, and Kylie Minogue — if you liked "Put Your Hands Up," he's one of the people you'll want to thank — but later this year, Starsmith plans to strike out with his solo debut. "Lesson One" is the second official single from that album, co-written by French club producer Alan Braxe.

The Forms — "Fire to the Ground" (feat. Matt Berninger)

The Forms recent Derealization EP showed a band on the verge of a creative apex, and with the video for "Fire to the Ground" — one of its standout tracks featuring vocals by The National's Matt Berninger — the New York-based duo step up the visual element: Intricate, conceptual, and somewhat dark, insofar as occasionally mirthful dancing can be dark, this is not the kind of choreography you'll see on So You Think You Can Dance.



News: Poland, HIV, Don Lemon, Michelle Obama, Scotland

 road Terrence Malick's new film The Tree Of Life wins the Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Poland  road 14 people arrested in Poland after 150 anti-gay protesters try to disrupt a gay pride parade in that country.

 road Is this a sign that Sarah Palin will run for president?

 road Director Nicolas Winding Refn just can't keep his hands off of Ryan Gosling

 road The FDA approves the first new HIV drug, called Edurant, in three years: "The new medicine may still find a niche among patients who don't respond to Atripla or can't tolerate its side effects."

 road Republican state representative Frederick Ladd Wintle arrested after pulling a gun on a reporter he mistakenly thought was a drug dealer.

 road Kelly Clarkson to release new single in July.

 road Blogger snags interview with his "man crush"; prime minister Vladimir V. Putin.

Obama  road Michelle Obama alludes to gay families in speech to graduates at West Point: "I ask you to remember that family has always been a centerpiece of our American story. No matter how you’ve grown up, no matter how you define family, all of you have someone in your life who believed in you and pushed you."

 road Japan kicks Russell Brand out of the country.

 road Academy Award-winning songwriter who penned “You Light Up My Life" found dead in apparent suicide.

 road Freshly out news anchor Don Lemon: "It's time for us, especially black people, to stop trying to pray the gay away and to get on our knees and start praying that the discrimination of gay people ends."

 road Michael Bublé gives marriage with the same woman another shot.

 road Scottish politician calls the exclusion of openly gay ministers in the Church of Scotland "old-fashioned prejudice masquerading as morality."


Movies: A Tale of Two Arthurs

Arthur-batman
 Arthur in the Batsuit. The Schumacher Batsuit of course, the one with the nipples.

GuestbloggerNATHANIEL ROGERS
...would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

 
YOUR FEATURE PRESENTATION
The more things change the more they stay the same? The comedy Arthur (1981) opened during a recession and high  unemployment rates. Here we are again in 2011 when all but the richest are hurting and that drunken millionaire is rearing his head again. He's hoping you'll laugh with him or at him -- either will do as he has no shame. The first time around audiences did just that. They embraced Arthur's reckless entitlement and threw millions more into his seemingly bottomless coffer, turning the film into one of the biggest blockbusters of early 80s cinema.

The remake, also named ARTHUR (2011) is in some ways a recreation with virtually the same character in a nearly identical plot. The few changes are cosmetic though Arthur's net worth hasn't changed all that much, rising from $750 million to $950 million, which has to be the smallest bump that any über-wealthy American has received over the past 30 years of the country's widening economic gap.  "Hobson," Arthur's confidant, protector and enabler is also virtually the same but for a gender change: goodbye Sir Gielgud, hello Dame Mirren.

Greta Gerwig has the unenviable task of stepping in for Liza Minnelli.

MORE, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Continue reading "Movies: A Tale of Two Arthurs " »


Towleroad Guide To The Tube #831

WHAT AN ENTRANCE: Newt Gingrich greets CPAC admirers to "Eye of the Tiger." Seriously.

ARTHUR: Can Russell Brand hold a candle to Dudley Moore?

"CASTLES IN THE SNOW:" Video from Twin Shadow's debut album, Forget.

RIGHT WING YOUTH OF AMERICA: Salon's Justin Elliot interviews man from "Youth for Western Civilization."

For recent Guides to the Tube, click HERE.


Photo: Helen Mirren Gives Russell Brand a Bath

Brand

Brand tweeted this from the set of the Arthur remake, saying, "At last. A bath from Helen Mirren. Never has getting clean been more dirty."

If you're familiar with the original, Mirren plays the John Gielgud role.


News: Bullfighting, Russell Brand, NASCAR, Cape Town, CBS

Road  Same-sex marriage off to slow start in Portugal: 20 couples have married.

Bullfight RoadSpanish region of Catalonia bans bullfighting: "The ban — the first in mainland Spain — was hailed as a major victory by animal welfare groups that have long crusaded against what they consider to be a barbaric and outdated practice."

RoadRussell Brand wears his undies to church — for remake of Arthur.

RoadNathaniel Rogers hits the Mad Men premiere in Times Square.

RoadOld Spice's recent YouTube viral campaign was a huge success. Sales of its Body Wash are up 106%.

RoadGreat White Shark tagged off Cape Cod.

RoadCincinnati Episcopal priest resigns over gay issues within the church: "The Anglican Communion has been in a state of crisis for several years over the choice of the American Episcopal Church to ordain bishops living in openly homosexual relationships and to pronounce liturgical blessings on people living in same sex relationships."

RoadJoan Rivers spotted shooting her reality TV show.

RoadSorry, not yet. Probably never.

Askars RoadAlexander Skarsgard is the new face of Hickey Freeman.

RoadThe NYT looks at how marriage equality has affected Cape Town, South Africa: "More than 3,000 same-sex couples have been married in South Africa, with about half of those couples including at least one foreigner, the government says. The law permitting same-sex marriage has begun to pave the way for greater tolerance of homosexuality, advocates contend, and the weddings have provided a shot in the arm to companies catering to those tying the knot. 'Apartheid suppressed tolerance, but once that was out of the way our society has moved so fast and most people just go with the flow,' said Mr. Brits, a nondenominational minister."

RoadTexas Alcoholic Beverage Commission TABC has only made 81 arrests in 2010 for public intoxication as opposed to 761 in 2009. Did the Rainbow Lounge Raid in Fort Worth have something to do with the decrease?

RoadJames Franco's request to teach "special class" at Yale denied.

Hercules RoadA Q&A with Hercules and Love Affair's Andy Butler.

RoadFederal judge upholds dismissal of Michigan counseling student who refused to treat gay clients because of her religious beliefs: "In an order granting summary judgment to the university on Monday, Judge George Caram Steeh of the U.S. District Court in Detroit held that the university's requirement that the student be willing to serve people who are homosexual was reasonable, and did not amount to an infringement of the Christian student's constitutional rights to free speech and free expression of religion."

RoadCBS President Nina Tassler and CBS "not happy with ourselves" over failing grade from GLAAD on LGBT representation.

RoadNJ library removes Queer Anthology, cites child pornography?

RoadPhoenix International Raceway reaches out to gay NASCAR fans: "PIR recognizes that they have a very diverse fan base and they want to reach out to all of them. While covering the Subway Fresh Fit 500 in April, Queer4Gears.com founder, Michael Myers began conversations with Phoenix International Raceway officials. To his knowledge, Myers said that this will be the first time that any NASCAR sanctioned facility has reached out to fans in the L.G.B.T. community. 'Just a small push like including the L.G.B.T. community on the official web site of Phoenix International Raceway is a step in the right direction for uniting the different stereotypes that surround the racetracks on a weekly basis' said Queer4Gears.com founder Michael Myers."


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