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<p>Fitz and the Tantrums</p>

Fitz and the Tantrums

Fitz & The Tantrums announce 'Dreamy' new album

'More Than Just a Dream' due on May 7

Fitz & The Tantrums' sophomore set will finally drop this spring. "More Than Just a Dream" is due May 7 through Elektra, a change-up from the soulful band's first album drop through indie Dangerbird.

The first single from "Dream" will be "Out of My League," described in a release as "an exhilarating slice of pop-soul."

The Los Angeles-based sextet released "Pickin' Up the Pieces" in 2010, but grew in stature much more substantially in 2011, when they performed at some of the country's biggest music festivals. That growth was also amped by their single "MoneyGrabber," so with any luck, "Out of My League" will have the same effect.

Second album releases are also crucial for a tour-heavy band like Fitz, giving them a promotional opportunity to head back into the waters. When I interviewed lead Michael Fitzpatrick in 2012, he was all too aware of the need to grow, as well as the need to satisfy with the songs.

"For me, the focus is  songwriting, like challenging myself as a songwriter, as a producer, to make sure that I like really push myself, evolve and write the kind of songs that I think are going to hopefully sustain us for a whole other record. I don't want to suffer from the sophomore slump," he said at the time.

This time, it's producer Tony Hoffer (Beck, M83, Phoenix) who is helping to shoulder the weight of a new record. The biggest hurdle may be radio, and moving over to a major may help. Elektra (an "independent entity within Warner Bros.") was dormant for a minute in the aughts, but relaunched a couple of years ago by moving over the careers of Bruno Mars and CeeLo; Elektra's new president Jeff Castelaz co-founded Dangerbird, and so his success has been their success, too. So there's hope?

The single release, as well as expected tour dates, will follow soon.

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"Cheer Perfection"

 "Cheer Perfection"

Credit: TLC

'Toddlers & Tiaras' to return plus a peek at the season finale

'Cheer Perfection' also picks up an order for 8 more episodes

TLC has renewed "Toddlers & Tiaras" for a sixth season as well as ordered an additional eight, one-hour episodes of "Cheer Perfection." Both series are slated to return summer 2013.

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<p>That, ladies and gentlemen, is a 'Big Ass Spider!'</p>

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a 'Big Ass Spider!'

Credit: Big Ass Spider!

SXSW announces the 2013 Midnighters with a 'Big Ass Spider' and Zombie and Vampires in love

An eclectic mix with a Wingard/Barrett showcase as a special sidebar

It is the announcement of the midnight section of the SXSW festival that always gives me that final nudge to the ribs that finally signifies the end of Sundance and the start of the next phase of my year.  Today, SXSW Midnighters reveals its line-up, and the festival snaps into complete focus, and unsurprisingly, it's going to be a ton of fun in Austin from March 8th to the 16th.

I think the fact that the still they chose to send out today is for "Big Ass Spider," the new film by Mike Mendez, pretty much sums up the attitude of this particular midnight selection.  There is an irreverence that is part of their programming that always makes it a kick.  It is worth it to stay up late at SXSW.  You want to be there in that room when something like "Attack The Block" plays for the first time because you want to feel that energy from that crowd

Much of the SXSW line-up has already been announced, and you can see it at the festival's official site.  Meanwhile, taco-crazed Jarod Neece fired up the e-mails this morning to send out a missive in which he details what kind of lunacy awaits festivalgoers this year.  “Full of scares, sex, madness, laughs, chills and major mind f*cks, we hope there's a little something for everyone.”  What's really scary is that when you're talking to Neece, you can hear the asterisks in his swearing.  It's something else.

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Charles Esten in "Nashville"


Credit: ABC

Interview: Charles Esten of "Nashville" says why he's fighting for Deacon's sobriety

The former improv star says acting and singing aren't that different

As Deacon Claybourne on "Nashville," Charles Esten plays a talented musician with a troubled past, a conflicted relationship with both female stars of the show (Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere) and a history of addiction. In real life, Esten is also a singer/songwriter, but fortunately he doesn't share Deacon's angst. I spoke to the actor at this winter's TCAs, and found the former "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" improv artist and onetime Buddy Holly (for the London production of  "Buddy") to be country-cool and thrilled to be putting his real-life songwriting skills to use. 

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"Top Chef"

 "Top Chef"

Credit: Bravo

'Top Chef' will cook up season 11 and kicks off nationwide try-outs

The popular Bravo show wants you... if you can really cook

Foodies, rejoice! Bravo has announced that "Top Chef" will be returning for an eleventh season. Open calls for chefs interested in competing in the high-stakes culinary competition series will be held in cities across the country starting on February 11th. Additional information and downloadable applications can be found at 

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<p>'The Avengers'</p>

'The Avengers'

Credit: Marvel Studios

'The Avengers' cast members to present at the Oscars

Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson won't be making the trip

While "The Avengers" may not be up for any major awards at this year's Oscars, the Academy has still found a way to include some of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

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<p>Josh Groban</p>

Josh Groban

Credit: AP Photo

Interview: Josh Groban on rocking out on 'All That Echoes' and tattoos

Famous baritone enlists Paul McCartney and Pearl Jam players for set

While a Josh Groban album may be the last place one would expect “Kashmir”-like strings and guitars, on “All That Echoes,” the classical crossover singer veers momentarily into Led Zeppelin territory on the lushly atmospheric  “Hollow Talk.” 

If the detour surprises his fans, that’s just fine with the multi-platinum singer.  “I feel like we’ve done something really special, hopefully they will too,” he says. “Most importantly, if it’s honest, they’ll get that, but I always enjoy giving people what they didn’t know they wanted.”

“All That Echoes,” which came out Tuesday (Feb. 5), and quickly topped iTunes albums chart,  features the famous baritone singing seven songs he co-wrote. Groban’s songs stand side-by-side with five others by such noted songwriters/artists as Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Webb, and Glen Hansard.

Produced by Rob Cavallo, Groban’s sixth studio album aims to capture the vibrant feel of his live shows. To facilitate that energy, Cavallo, best known for producing acts like Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls, and My Chemical Romance, collected a who’s who of rock musicians to play on the set, including drummers Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam) and Abe Laboriel Jr. (Paul McCartney), as well as bassist Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction), guitarist Tim Pierce (Dave Matthews) and keyboardist Jamie Muhoberac (Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac).  The rockers played alongside a harpist, violinist and cellist.

“They balanced each other out in such an amazing way to see every day,” Groban says. “The rock guys brought an energy to the orchestral players and the orchestral players brought a fluidity and a musicality and kind of more of a restraint, if you will, to the guys that were coming form the rock side...When we’re in [the studio], we’re just thinking about making really exciting things come out of the speakers. It doesn’t become more complicated than that.”

While the album falls well within the boundaries that Groban’s longtime popera fans expect, he’s also eager to go against any perceived stereotyping he’s experienced.

“Anybody in the public eye at any level in any part of the entertainment or sports world feels expectations from their fans and feels a certain amount of pigeonholing from their fans. I don’t think I’m any exception to that,” he says. “At the same time, it’s a delicate balance when you’re in the studio and kind of siloed in your own little world and you’re battling between what you’re inspired by everyday and what the expectations of the fans are and what your main goal is, which is to be a communicator of music to make people feel good or to feel the music fully. Ultimately if you’re having the time of your life but people aren’t connecting to your sound, then, to a certain extent, you’ve kind of missed the cause.”

One of more striking songs on the album is “Below the Line,” which Groban wrote after volunteering with “Live Below The Line,” a non-profit that raises funds for people living in extreme poverty. It also spreads awareness by asking people to live on $2 a day, the amount that 1.3 billion people living in poverty subsist on. 

“I just happened to be exploring that particular charity and going through the fasting period on a day I had to write and so while the song itself is not specifically about that organization, it triggered a lyrical message that we ran with and that we felt was a good universal, humanist kind of message. That song was written within two or three hours... and I was really hungry. That message [is] if we’re not helping others  and not seeing the bigger picture of what’s happening in the world, then we’re truly not helping ourselves.”

Groban, who will appear on “CSI: New York” as himself on Valentine’s Day, co-hosted “Live with Kelly” a number of times and was rumored to be in the running to become the permanent co-host before Michael Strahan got the job. Groban stresses he could have never handled full-time hosting duties with his busy music schedule, but adds he loved interviewing people and it gave him a new sympathy for journalists.
“You’re trying to fill many roles when you’re interviewing. On a show like that, you’re genuinely curious about things that are going on with them, but you have about 30 seconds to get the answer and then you have to make sure, of course, that you’re making them look good and that you get it all in before commercial,” he says. “You’ve got a million things going on around you while you’re trying to have the conversation.”

The singer, who has also acted on "The Office," and "Crazy,Stupid, Love,"  among other shows, recently told Reuters that he hopes to take a hiatus from making music in the next few years to do theater.

The prodigious (and often hilarious) Tweeter will hit the road to support “All That Echoes”  in April. On the schedule are three shows at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl. Sure to be in attendance are his most fervent fans, dubbed Grobanites. Some of his fans feel such ardor towards the singer that they go so far as to get tattoos os his signature.

Though flattered by his fans’ passion, Groban says he has no one’s name he’d like permanently etched on his body. “You know, if I were going to get a tattoo, i probably would have gotten one by now,” he says. “No, I think that I try to keep my tattoos ingrained in my brain.”

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<p>A scene from &quot;Kon-Tiki.&quot;</p>

A scene from "Kon-Tiki."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Foreign Language Film

'Amour,' 'War Witch,' 'No,' 'A Royal Affair' and 'Kon-Tiki' square off

(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.) 

Have things finally turned around in what used to be the Oscars' most annually frustrating category? It's one where the commendable requirement that members see all five nominees before voting can lead to some unpopular upsets. But after year upon year of controversial omissions, vanilla inclusions and frequently forgettable winners, the Academy looks likely to crown the year's most universally acclaimed world cinema title for the second year in a row. To make matters all the sweeter, it's not their only reasonable option. This year's slate of nominees in the category is arguably the richest in recent memory: a healthily border-crossing mix of perspectives with one revered auteur balanced by a couple of bristly, exciting up-and-comers.

One might credit the Academy's consistent tweaking of the rules in this category for making it appear a little more on the money in the past few years: they were aware there was a problem, and hats off to them for addressing it. But it must be said that the individual countries played ball this year, too -- with very few exceptions, the national committees charged with selecting their official Oscar submission chose wisely. The resulting longlist of 71 films, the largest in Oscar history, was veritably stacked with festival sensations and under-the-radar gems. Winnowing it down to five was always going to be a heartbreaking process, but we still have reason to cheer those left standing.

The nominees are...

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<p>Christopher Plummer, Octavia Spencer, Meryl Streep and Jean Dujardin at last year's Academy Awards.</p>

Christopher Plummer, Octavia Spencer, Meryl Streep and Jean Dujardin at last year's Academy Awards.

Credit: AMPAS

Roundup: Streep, Dujardin, Spencer and Plummer all returning to the Oscars

Also: News from the Euro fest circuit, and a legal victory for James Cameron

Aside from last night's VES Awards, it's a pretty slow day on the circuit, so let's lead with some unsurprising but reassuring news. Not that you had any reason to suspect otherwise, but last year's quartet of acting Oscar winners -- Jean Dujardin, Meryl Streep, Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer -- will all be on hand to present at this year's awards, joining Mark Wahlberg and his fuzzy friend from "Ted" on the list of confirmed presenters. Assuming the Oscarcast producers don't veer from the traditional format, you could already start imagining the juxtapositions: many people's choice for Greatest Actress Alive handing the Oscar to many people's choice for Greatest Actor Alive, welcoming him into the triple-winner club to boot, is a particularly nifty photo op waiting to happen. And while Jennifer Lawrence remains at the front of the Best Actress race, how sweet would it be to see Jean Dujardin present the award to his senior compatriot, Emmanuelle Riva? [The Wrap]

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<p>The &quot;Community&quot;&nbsp;producers are new, but the faces in front of the camera remain the same.</p>

The "Community" producers are new, but the faces in front of the camera remain the same.

Credit: NBC

New 'Community' producers Moses Port and David Guarascio preview season 4

On losing Chevy Chase, preparing for senior year and whether, in hindsight, they'd have chosen to succeed Dan Harmon
In succeeding “Community” creator Dan Harmon as showrunners of the NBC comedy, Moses Port and David Guarascio have been placed in a trickier position than most TV producers. First, it’s not often that a writer as singularly associated with a show as Harmon was with “Community” leaves it, whether voluntarily or because they were fired. Second, when it’s happened in the past with shows like “NYPD Blue” post-Milch, “The West Wing” post-Sorkin and “Gilmore Girls” post-Sherman-Palladino, the replacements have tended to be people who had already been working on the show and watching the creator at work. Port and Guarascio are comedy veterans who most recently worked on ABC’s “Happy Endings,” but their only prior affiliation with “Community” was as viewers of the show.
I spoke with them back in October, when “Community” was supposed to debut on October 19 in a new Friday timeslot. Instead, it was held until tomorrow night, when it’ll be back in its familiary Thursday at 8 p.m. berth for a 13-episode fourth season that Port and Guarascio believe has a good chance of not being the end of the series.
When I was in LA last month, I sat down with them for an expansive discussion about the challenges of stepping in for Harmon, their reaction to Chevy Chase’s abrupt exit late in the season (and how the show will deal with it), their take on where most of the characters are heading into season 4, their reaction to getting their very own Twitter spoof account, and a lot more.
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<p>&quot;Life of Pi&quot;</p>

"Life of Pi"

Credit: 20th Century Fox

'Life of Pi' and 'Brave' rule the 11th annual Visual Effects Society Awards

'The Avengers,' 'The Hobbit' and 'The Impossible' also pick up prizes

It was a predictably great night for "Life of Pi" at tonight's Visual Effects Society Awards as the film picked up four prizes, including the big daddy, Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Motion Picture. Not only that, but as previously announced, the film's director, Ang Lee, received the Society's Visionary Award. "It's not visual effects. It's visual art," Lee said upon receiving the prize.

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<p>&quot;The&nbsp;Invisible War&quot;</p>

"The Invisible War"

Credit: Cinedigm

Chuck Hagel questioned about the military's 'Invisible War' in confirmation hearing

A documentary that could bring real change may be tempting to voters

Chuck Hagel weathered quite the storm from his fellow Republicans during his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense. But part of the debate strewn about in those eight hours pertained to something very much at the fore of discussion in this year's documentary feature race.

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