<p>Kanye West and Jay-Z at SXSW</p>

Kanye West and Jay-Z at SXSW

Credit: VEVO

UPDATED Quick hit: Watch Kanye West's and Jay-Z perform 'H.A.M.' from SXSW

Austin show featured Kid Cudi, John Legend, Pusha T, Mos Def, Bon Iver

One of my least favorite memories of South By Southwest this year was being bit by the time vampire that was the line into Kanye West's late-night "surprise" VEVO concert. But one of my favorite memories was the show itself.

West went through the majority of "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," if you'll remember, but he also had a handful of famous friends in his back-pocket for most of the show, the biggest being "Watch the Throne" cohort Jay-Z. VEVO has finally posted portions of that March gig, starting with Ye and Hov on "Watch the Throne" sessions single "H.A.M."

That minimal stage also yielded other guests like Kid Cudi, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, John Legend, Pusha T and Mos Def, along with a marching band.

"H.A.M." dropped at noon today. Other clips will become available later today, I'll toss them in as they come to me.


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<p>Elliott Smith</p>

Elliott Smith

Listen: Two unreleased Elliott Smith, Isaac Brock songs culled for charity comp

'Live From Nowhere Near You: Vol. II' features new music from Eddie Vedder, Shins, Strokes

On July 19th, and imprint called Greyday Records will release a second volume of its "Live From Nowhere Near You" charity compilation. Looking through the first one, out in 2003, a few artists jump out: Spoon, Emily Haines, Brad Hargreaves of Third Eye Blind.

For "Live From Nowhere Near You, Vol. 2," many of the names may be familiar to you.

Over three discs, musicians including Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst with Spoon's Britt Daniel, the Strokes' Julian Casablancas and Fabrizio Moretti, Modest Mouse, the Shins' James Mercer, Wilco, Ryan Adams, Josh Homme (hi, Josh), Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker, the Decemberists' Chris Funk and John Moen, Daniel Johnston and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder make up the contributors to tracks. Each song is a collaboration street musicians; the set serves to benefit a Portland, Ore., non-profit Outside In, which aids homeless youth.

A partial list of contributors is available on the Greyday website. It mentions "many" of the songs are previously unreleased or rare.

Two interesting inclusions both set their sites on one particularly dystfunctional arm of the goverment: no, not Congress. The United States Postal Service.

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<p>Super Heavy</p>

Super Heavy

Listen: Mick Jagger's supergroup Super Heavy debuts new 'Miracle Worker'

Who's most prominent in the mix: Damian Marly, Joss Stone, A.R. Rahman, Dave Stewart or Jagger?

Mick Jagger, A.R. Rahman, Joss Stone, Dave Stewart and Damian Marley have formed the supergroup Super Heavy, but it's the latter's reggae rhythms that seem to have influenced the band's first single "Miracle Worker."

Now: imagine a room of distinct and forceful singers trying to pick out a strong verse melody that befits their own comfortable range, but only really matching up on a chorus. It pulls back on the reggae melodic ideas, but goes with a high-sheen pop-rock structure, a tinge of "world" flavor, a turn-taking hodge-podge of ideas.

I don't hate it, but it certainly doesn't make me eager for a final product from the group in September. And it is far, far away from the Rolling Stones, for you super (heavy) fans out there.

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<p>Beyonce in &quot;Best Thing I Never Had&quot;</p>

Beyonce in "Best Thing I Never Had"

Watch: Beyonce shows her assets in 'Best Thing I Never Had' video

The best revenge is wedding well

The best revenge is wedding well.

At least that's what Beyonce would have you believing in her believably self-satisfied music video to "Best Thing I Never Had." This tiny fiction features Mrs. Jay-Z marrying somebody other than Jay-Z and taunting her douchebag high school ex-boyfriend by looking really, really hot.

About half of the clip has Bey traipsing around in nuptial lingerie, touching herself with a soft white rose and basically posing all the way boys imagine Victoria's Secret models do when nobody's "looking."

Then, it's my favorite part of weddings: when brides hurtle themselves downhill on golf courses at high speeds so as to indicate their enthusiasm for marriage. After the veil's lifted and rings are exchanged, it's party time, where Beyonce continues her trend of dancing with little kids, because that never gets less wholesomely cute. It's a reception culled straight from the sample photo in the picture frame. All that seems to be missing are fireworks, a bald eagle and cupcakes from Magnolia.


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<p>Kings of Leon</p>

Kings of Leon

Interview: Kings Of Leon doc director sends ‘Talihina’ to Showtime

Stephen C. Mitchell on throwing punches, smoking pot and the Followill spoils

After a premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this spring, documentary “Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon” is ready for its national debut, as the band’s fame continues to grow internationally. Showtime has nabbed the rights to the feature-length film, and will air it on Aug. 21 at 10 p.m. EST/PST.

First-time director, fan and friend Stephen C. Mitchell focused the camera in on celebrity as much as it did the music of brothers (and cousins) Followil, following the gawky blue-screened embarrassments of their pre-rock days to the arena-filling moments preceding the start of their latest album “Come Around Sundown” (2010).

Read my review of the film here, as well as the interview with three-quarters of Kings of Leon following the movie’s debut.

For Mitchell, there was never a big debate over what boundaries he set between being the band’s resident video archivist and their pal. In fact, one of “Talihina’s” centerpiece moments was nearing the end, when it’s clear frontman Caleb Followill had had a few, and it seemed the pair were just riffing, having a heart-to-heart.

“We were both f*cked up,” Mitchell told me in an interview this April. “We had a work day that day, and as we were leaving the studio, he said, ‘Come over tonigh and let’s knock down an interview. I did, but Iwasn’t prepared. I just set up a camera on a tripod, mic’ed him up and just sat on his back porch, the two of us. We just drank wine and smoked some pot and hung out and talked. He just kinda spilled it… to me, it was like he was talking just to me, but for the audience, it was like he was talking just to them.”

Still, Mitchell said, the guys were never acting for the camera; they were “acting up” for the camera. “Half the time, I think all they really wanted to do is just get me to laugh.”


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<p>Kelly Clarkson</p>

Kelly Clarkson

Listen: Kelly Clarkson's newest leak won't 'Let Me Down'

Is this angsty rocker doing it for the fans?

Man, who let poor Kelly Clarkson down? 'Cause they've really done it this time.

The latest leak/preview -- one of a handful from the former "American Idol" champ's over this last year -- is "Let Me Down," and it features the strong-headed singer in an absolute tizzy over an offending party. I agree, Kelly: dating is really, really hard.

There's some basic, elementary wordplay, but you've got to appreciate easily following the bouncing ball when there's a production as big as this. The mastering is blown big with all the weight of mainstream radio rock, the industrial drums battling meandering guitars and the twee harmonies blasting through the chorus. That opening guitar wah riff is a little too Lenny Kravitz for my taste, but all's forgiven when she sets fire to the whole thing in the bridge.

There's also those big breathing breathy breaths everywhere, popularized so keenly by Clarkson and kindred Pink. It brings a little humanity to the machine.

No word from a spokesperson yet on what the status of "Let Me Down" is, though Clarkson was a bit miffed at a leak in May and took to her Facebook to explain that the album will get in our greedy little hands just as soon as it's ready.

"I promise y'all I'm just as anxious to get my cd out! The recording is all done and now we're finishing up with mixing the record and getting ready to release the single in July," she wrote on May 14.

Hey, look at that. It's July now. Can you believe it?


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<p>A.A. Bondy</p>

A.A. Bondy

Quick hit: A.A. Bondy announces new album

Will it make 'Believers' out of us?

I know I'm late on this one, but I'd be remiss not to mention it. One of my favorite contemporary folk-rock songwriters A.A. Bondy is putting out a new album on Sept. 13. "Believers" is 10-tracks long, "conjured during and between dreams, in bare rooms, and on the late night streets of America."

It was recorded just this past spring in California with Rob Schnapf, who -- if we're talking about the same guy, here -- has produced some pretty big names and records, from Beck, Foo Fighters and Jimmy Eat World. This should be interesting.

Out on Fat Possum, this will be Bondy's third full-length, and the follow-up to 2009's "When the Devil's Loose," which was better-constructed than his first solo album "American Hearts," though that first album meant so much more to me personally.

I was 25 during my Big Drunk Brooklyn Summer and I had booked a double-bill of Bondy and O'Death to play in my friend's loft's living room. A hundred people showed up and it almost, on impact, made the space look like a bomb shelter, where every bit of humanity was poured into Solo cups. Bondy had just self-released "American Hearts," before he signed. He was sullen and loved his wife, the keyboard player, and those strangers managed to shut the hell up just one song in. Bondy mystifies.

As does his poetic allusion in the recent press release:

I dreamed
a strange and wonderful machine -
a lantern rocking in the deep deeps.
                        - J. Villareal

Oh rapture, sweet rapture.

Here is the tracklist for A.A. Bondy's "Believers":

The Heart Is Willing
Skull & Bones
Down In The Fire (Lost Sea)
Surfer King
123 Dupuy Street
The Twist
Rte. 28/Believers
Scenes From A Circus

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<p>Sufjan Stevens</p>

Sufjan Stevens

Watch: Sufjan Steven makes an artsy-craftsy 'Get Real Get Right' video

This thing was made out of glitter and construction paper -- literally

Sufjan Steven's may have released his latest "The Age of Adz" last October, but he certainly couldn't have been rushed for the serious stop motion required of the music video to "Adz" track "Get Real Get Right."

And by "serious," I mean it was a real commitment to make. But I don't mean serious as in it'll be nabbing any Oscars or Grammy Awards. The songwriter directed the animated clip, which consists of paper cutouts of Prophet Royal Robertson art, glitter and confetti. God shows up a few times, predictably. It's a war on paper.

Stevens promises some more confetti, "neon gaffe tape (bring it if you got it!), balloons... x-treme dancing and sweat" at his two shows for Celebrate Brooklyn (no, not THAT Brooklyn) at Prospect Park in New York on Aug. 2 and 3. Tickets for those shows -- the only ones the New York-by-way-of-Michigan transplant has on schedule -- are up now.

Read my review of Stevens' "Adz" here.


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<p>Arcade Fire's Win Butler</p>

Arcade Fire's Win Butler

Credit: AP Photo

Arcade Fire, Destroyer, Ron Sexsmith score 2011 Polaris shortlist spot

Of the 10 artists and albums named, who deserves this indie-happy award?

Like many independent music lovers, I grow tired, bored or, often, angry at the lack of unknowns named as nominess for the Grammy Awards. But outside the U.S., there are awards shows that open the door to lesser-known albums, including the Mercury Prize in the U.K. and the Polaris Music Prize in Canada.

The latter's organizers announce this year's shortlist of nominees today, which include world-renowned Canadians Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs," of course, but there's also some shockers and newcomers to uphold.

Here are the shortlist of artists and albums up for the 2011 Polaris prize:
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Austra – Feel It Break
Braids – Native Speaker
Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
Destroyer – Kaputt
Galaxie – Tigre et diesel
Hey Rosetta – Seeds
Ron Sexsmith – Long Player Late Bloomer
Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin’ On
The Weeknd – House Of Balloons


Ron Sexsmith is a perennial favorite up there, and even though the prize has been around only since 2006, it's surprising that this mark's Destroyer's first appearance on the shortlist. And Stetson's connection to Arcade Fire as a touring saxophonist couldn't have hurt him.

But perhaps the biggest shocker is the inclusion of The Weeknd's "House of Balloons," as it was released as a free mixtape through the mysterious songwriter's website in time for the eligibility period. I'd love to see the Grammys come up with a wild card like that.

Those are debut albums from Austra, Timber Timbre, Braids and Galaxie; the latter seems to be the sole French-only lyricist on the list.

I'll admit that I haven't spun "Tigre et Diesel" or "Native Speaker" ever before, so I'm certainly planning on brushing up. Arcade Fire's album was supurb, but I would love to see a lesser-known take the honor, particularly Destroyer, or, hell, why not one of the lady-led groups like Austra or Braids?

Winners will be awarded C$30,000 this year, with the winner announced on Sept. 19.

Who do you like from the list?

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<p>Jack White with the Raconteurs in 2008</p>

Jack White with the Raconteurs in 2008

Credit: AP Photo

Jack White reuniting with Raconteurs live for first time in two years

Watch: Rocker collaborates with John Paul Jones, Dead Weath cohort, Seasick Steve

It was just a couple weeks ago that Jack White found a new musical collaborative partner in Stephen Colbert. Now, it seems, that the ex-White Stripes frontman is reuniting with friends for his next endeavor.

The Raconteurs -- White's "supergroup" rock outfit with Brendan Benson and two members of the Greenhornes -- are playing live for the first time together in two years for the first annual MI Fest, to be held on Sept. 17 in Brooklyn, Mich. (The OTHER Brooklyn.)

The threat here, too, is that band "will be joined by several artists from the Third Man Records’ roster" for the performance, according to a release. So it looks like White's Nashville-based Third Man Records is heading up to his homestate of Michigan for the last throes of summer.

Sheryl Crow is helping to co-headline. Alto Reed’s AllStars, Bear Lake, Hot Club of Detroit, Jill Jack, Mark Farner (formerly of Grand Funk Railroad), Marnée, Mitch Ryder, The Howling Diablos, The Juliets, The Rockets, The Romantics, Ty Stone & The Truth and Whitey Morgan & The 78s are also confirmed, with more artists to be added to the lineup.

Early bird tickets are already up, and general onsale begins July 9.

The Raconteurs have no other dates on schedule and have made no announcement regarding new music or a new album.

So there's this, and Colbert: but White is obviously interested in mixing and matching his music with business (and pleasure).


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