<p>Feist, &quot;Metals&quot;</p>

Feist, "Metals"

Credit: Cherrytree/Interscope

Review: Feist's 'Metals' is heavy and refined

The Canadian singer-songwriter returns after four-year wait: what's the weather like?

Feist’s records are less defined by their genre and more by the textures and intimacy of the recordings. On Leslie Feist’s latest “Metals” – a title that would otherwise indicate a rock record – there is a new heaviness that makes it feel like it’s max capacity, even on its smallest-sounding songs. It so far best defines this singer-songwriter; what it lacks in urgency from frequently lethargic tempos, it feels immediate, fluid and close.

Feist’s last “The Reminder” (2007) was made in an old mansion-turned-studio outside of Paris. She waited a couple years and then returned to making music, out of a converted barn in Big Sur. While the climates may have been different, it was the utility of space and inspiring beauty that remained a constant, and it shows. Practically every song has a one-take, happy mistake feel to it, the instruments impeccably mic’ed, familial and un-neglected.
Just start from the top: a bang of a kick drum, a bari sax and dark guitar phrases of opener “The Bad In Each Other” depicts a mood as much as the sad lyrics. Sleepy “Caught a Long Wind” puts the breeze at Feist’s back as a bird, as it leads into album single “How Come You Never Go There.” It lends no comparison to previous Feist singles like “Mushaboom” or “1234” in that it’s more of a torchy bubble-burster than bubble-gum. She does bring a little sugar, however, to “The Circle Married the Line,” a simple song with strings bobbing in pizzicato, and a xylophone and tender woodwinds filling in the gaps.
There are a handful of tracks that wed folk songs with nursery melodies, like “Bittersweet Melodies,” “Comfort Me” and “Anti-Pioneer,” the latter of which is a slow, slow, slow, slow dance with some mean guitar work in doses. The power picks up on “Commotion,” with strings uniquely holding down the rhythm section, and “The Undiscovered First,” the blue flame of which furls up into tight-fisted tambourine shimmies and the harrumphs of guitars through warm tube amps, both battling Feist’s vocal yelps and precarious harmonies. “Cicadas and Gulls” smoothes things out just as much as you’d think a song called “Cicadas and Gulls” would.
And throughout is that voice, her natural recording-ready quality, like good and bad weather moving between tracks. It is always the glue that binds this recording family with Mocky and Chilly Gonzalez into a operating whole, even in the infinity of songs like "Graveyard": "Roots and lies / our family tree is old /
From there we climb the golden hill / calmly will eternity." “Metals” sounds like something grown-into, of planned and unplanned elements that didn’t require too much discussion to manifest. After a four-year wait, it’s good news that Feist has made an album this easy to listen to.
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Watch Florence + The Machine 'Shake It Out' in stylish new video

Watch Florence + The Machine 'Shake It Out' in stylish new video

Single culled from Nov. 1 new album release

Florence + The Machine's first single and music video to "Ceremonials," due Nov. 1, has dropped, and there's a lot going on here.

Florence Welch traded only a few of her Stevie Nicksian chiffon gowns for something a little wilder, tighter, for this clip. In it, the singer is equal parts naughty and nice as she cavorts between dancing, drinking, shaking it out and shrinking away during this fairy tale party. She flows between beautiful people in masquerade masks and drops in on a seance. There's candles and indirect light galore, and the styling is beyond pristine. What is this, an Annie Lennox video?

And beyond that, her vocals remind me of Lennox here, too, in their strength and abounding character. While a couple lyrics' metaphors are, erm, beaten to death, the melody leaves no room for misery or second-guessing. This is easily one of Welch's best vocal performances to date, and the imagery will leave a mark on fans and aspiring fans to boot.

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<p>Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga</p>

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga

Credit: Vevo

Watch: Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett have fun in 'Tramp' video

Mother Monster tries a showtune on for size

Lady Gaga is used to putting her paws up, but now she's a babe in arms.

The pop superstar joined forces with Tony Bennett on his "Duets II" album for "The Lady Is a Tramp," an upbeat number from '30s musical "Babes in Arms." And while I don't this this Lady is always well-suited for showtunes (particularly up against the undefeatable Bennett), the pair seem to have a really fun time, in that weirdly I-just-met-you sort of way. Gaga is fun as a filly and Tony just kind of eggs her on.

As previously reported, Bennett earned his very first No. 1 album at the age of 85 last week with the duets set.

Gaga was on hand on Saturday night -- along with other musical stars like Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder -- to celebrate Sting's 60th birthday at the Beacon Theater in New York.

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Interview: Will OK Go make a full-length movie?

Damian Kulash explains what makes this video-making foursome different from Rihanna

Damian Kulash didn’t set out to have a band that dances on treadmills or invested part of its profits in color coordinated suits. But OK Go has become a brand, on top of an expression of the evolving nature of the music business. Their reputation for producing forward-thinking and fun-fashioned music videos has allowed them some rare opportunities, like re-making the “The Muppet Show” theme for the new movie, creating a fight song for hometown Chicago’s pro soccer team and penning “The Greatest Song I Ever Heard” for Morgan Spurlock’s “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” 

The foursome was at first on Capitol records and now run their own show, label and publishing; they are their own A&R and advances, which has allowed them to collaborate with companies like Chrome and then turn around to engineers from MIT. Regardless of audiences opinion of OK Go’s variety of pop rock, it can’t be denied they’ve influenced music videos, “viral” videos (whatever the hell that means anymore) and independent marketing.
Late this summer I sat down with Kulash to discuss the band’s goals with the next record, their plans for more videos and what makes them different from Rihanna.
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Feist streams new album 'Metals' in full

Have fun with word association

There's good reason to be excited for Feist's new album. I'll get to that when I post my review of "Metals" later this week.

In the meantime, you can stream it for yourself, in full, at Feist's website.

She also took time for craft hour with a little note to fans, and to reveal what words journalists thought of when she said the word "Metals," a little word association for you nerds.

Feist's tour starts on Oct. 15; the album arrives next week on Oct. 4.

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<p>Bruno Mars</p>

Bruno Mars

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Bruno Mars' pens kiss-off 'Rain' track for 'Twilight: Breaking Dawn'

Is this sad jammer for Bella and Jacob?

Fans of the "Twilight" series -- or at least the soundtracks -- now have a first taste of the "Breaking Dawn" set.

Bruno Mars has dropped kiss-off single "It Will Rain" today (Sept. 27), and boy is it stormy.

I wish the acclaimed singer/songwriter wasn't yelling at me the entire time, but at least he's pushing his range and there's no irritating, requisite rap verse. The bass end is pushed way, way up in the mix, giving it a Timberlake sheen.

So what do you think this song with soundtrack in the movie? Does Jacob fall out of love with Edward? Does Bella have to put down a kitten?

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<p>Tom Waits</p>

Tom Waits

Listen: Tom Waits brings 'Back' a bawler

Songwriter releases another song from 'Bad As Me'

Tom Waits new album title "Bad as Me" certainly has a tinge of brawler, but his newly released song "Back in the Crowd" is trending bawler. And by that I mean I just slow-danced by myself and had a good cry.

Purchase the track through the usual digital suspects or listen for free on Spotify.

The Southwestern, nylon-string-enhanced loner ballad is the second track to arrive from the new Anti- album, after the stomping title track.

"Bad as Me" is out Oct. 24.

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<p>Mastodon, &quot;The Hunter&quot; (I mean, just look at it.)</p>

Mastodon, "The Hunter" (I mean, just look at it.)

Credit: Reprise

Album review: Mastodon, 'The Hunter'

Enter here, metal and non-metal fans

Now is the perfect time for Mastodon’s “The Hunter” arrival. This month has been a running log of grunge and ‘90s rock revisits, in addition to the speculation that the Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration album will equal a worst-case scenario. Plus, somehow, Mastodon has spent the last three records as the metal band added to the playlists of people who don’t typically listen to metal. 

The Atlanta-based foursome got a bump, in part, from scoring their first film, 2010’s “Jonah Hex,” and spent the last several years touring with more general rock groups like Cursive, Against Me! and Soundgarden as much as they have with Slayer, Metallica and Killswitch Engage. “Blood Mountain” (2006) and “Crack the Skye” (2009) shared the progressive temperaments of King Crimson and the serrated post-punk and -rock of Helmet along with other typically cited influences. But this latest set is the best testament of Mastodon’s expanding, diverse appeal.
“Curl of the Burl” is a good example of this: while it’s not nearly my favorite track on the album overall, it has all the trappings of a mainstream hard rock hit. The band flies into the triumphantly dark “All the Heavy Lifting” with the thrashy encouragement to “Just close your eyes / And pretend everything’s fine” during its enormous chorus – this right before the comparatively tender title track, its vocals ripped from an Ozzy instructional guide.
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'Breaking Dawn' soundtrack revealed: Iron & Wine, Bruno Mars, Noisettes
Credit: Atlantic/Summit/Chop Shop

'Breaking Dawn' soundtrack revealed: Iron & Wine, Bruno Mars, Noisettes

Surprise: No new Muse (or Robert Pattinson) on the 'Twilight Saga' songlist
The tracklist to "The Twiight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" has finally been unveiled, and there are a few surprises.
First, what we knew: all the tracks included are exclusive, or are exclusive remixes or alternate versions
The "fun" surprises: I love seeing Joy Formidable and Theophilus London on this list, they even out some of the sad bastards and emo bands like Sleeping at Last, Aqualung and Iron & Wine (as loveable as they are). The Daytrotter version of the Everly Brothers -- The Belle Brigade -- may surprise "Twilight's" long-time fans.
Here is the "bummer" surprises: No Muse, for the first time in "Twilight" soundtrack history. And it is actress Mia Maestro (Carmen) who contributed the Mystery Twilight Alumni track, not Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart or Jackson Rathbone.
And the "huh?" surprise: Who the hell is Cider Sky? The band has, at press time, exactly one dozen fans on Facebook... and is fronted by Simon Wilcox, the female "singer-songwriter with boys' name" that astoundingly showed up on the "Brothers" soundtrack a couple years ago. So this is apparently the band's debut?
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<p>Wilco, &quot;The Whole Love&quot;</p>

Wilco, "The Whole Love"

Credit: dBpm

Album review: Wilco's 'The Whole Love'

Let's quit talking about 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot'

While we’re talking about the arbitrary, 5- or 10-year incremental celebrations of albums, let’s prepare for impending decade anniversary of Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” That seminal effort dropped in April 2002; pick through reviews of the Chicago-based band’s last three albums – 2009’s “Wilco (The Album),” 2007’s “Sky Blue Sky” and 2004’s “A Ghost Is Born” -- and see critics reaching and plucking out what they can of some semblance to “YHF.” 

That’s in part because Wilco still subscribes to those same influences like Beatles, Big Star and the Byrds. But it’s still evident on new “The Whole Love” that the band no interest in making “YHF 2.” Why would they? Every album since then has had a different tone and, for the most part, different personnel. (I write this, too, as more site continue appraising Ryan Adams' new material to that of "Heartbreaker." There's yet another artist who cannot escape criticism waged for not sounding like his past.)
Here, on “The Whole Love,” is where advancement is heard most in the musicianship. The lineup -- frontman Jeff Tweedy, bassist John Stirratt, guitarist Nels Cline, keyboardists/multi-instrumentalists Mikael Jorgensen and Patrick Sansone and drummer Glenn Kotche -- is now consistent, and there’s an even delegation of roles. Cline is like the weirdo ringer, adding volume and dangerous textures to tracks like “Dawned on Me,” and Kotche being the micomanager, with little details in his rhythms on otherwise-sleepy “Capitol City” and subtlety to already-subtle “Rising Red Lung.” Stirratt makes himself known on the biggest rockers, like single “I Might” and “Standing O,” the latter of which breaks up the soft middle section of the album (but why do both feature the same organ part, borrowed from Elvis Costello's Attractions?).
Which brings me to one of my major qualms with “The Whole Love,” in its sequencing and propensity to tease.
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