<p>Meredith Bragg</p>

Meredith Bragg

Exclusive Song Of The Day: Meredith Bragg heads into the 'Second Golden Age'

Virginia songwriter gets personal on his fourth full-length album

On first spin, there wasn't a single notion that jumped out at me about Meredith Bragg's new album "Nest"; I simply wanted to hear more. After a couple more head-tilting listenings, it's striking what a well-balanced effort it is, dabbling in electronic and dance music, sensitive singer-songwriter fare, pop and a variety of narratives.

"Nest" is a personal record, driven, and it all starts with track one, "Second Golden Age." The Virginian songwriter lays his lyrics down in a bed of looping atmospherics and precise guitar phrasing. "And as the frenzy fills up everyone / it can never be the same," he sings on this new Age, a little nervousness building behind his smooth, simple, boyish voice.

The Kora Records effort is due on July 19, next week, and another song "The Birds of North America" -- inspired by John James Audubon -- has already been previewed; check out the music video.

"Nest" is Bragg's fourth set.

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<p>Crooked Fingers</p>

Crooked Fingers

Eric Bachmann preps new Crooked Fingers set amid Archers of Loaf reunion

Songwriter is having a busy 2011

There's been a quite a bit of 1990s relapse going on lately, whether it's been the threat of new albums from Blink-182 or Bush, or that Soundgarden reunion, or the fact that Primus and Stephen Malkmus have a fresh ones on the way and early Elliott Smith and Modest Mouse have been recently unearthed.

And if you were an Archers of Loaf fan, then you must know already, but the band is back at it for the first time since 1998. They're on tour on and off through September -- mostly shows in the South where they're from, the East Coast and West Coast -- and Merge is reissuing all four of Archers of Loaf's albums.

First up is 1993's "Icky Mettle," the band's debut, out on Aug. 9 with remastering from Bob Weston and some new liners from Rob Christgau. "Vee Vee," "All the Nation’s Airports" and "White Trash Heroes" will come back out next year.

Meanwhile, Archers frontman Eric Bachmann is seemingly done teaching English abroad and has been busy with an effort of his own. Under his moniker Crooked Fingers, Bachmann will release a new album "Breaks in the Armor," also out on Merge. The drop date is Oct. 11 (are we really talking about October already), and it features guest vocals from singer/songwriter Liz Durrett, who has also helped out on records from Vic Chestnutt and Phosphorescent. Matt Yelton -- and engineer who runs sound for The Pixies -- is helming.

"Breaks in the Armor" is Crooked Fingers' first album since 2008's self-released "Forfeit/Fortune."

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<p>Luke Temple</p>

Luke Temple

Song Of The Day: Luke Temple flexes his 'Muscle' on new single

From new album 'Don't Act Like You Don't Care' -- see, we're not

Luke Temple has been on my radar for a long time; and before he was rocking and lulling out with his full band Here We Go Magic, he was already pumping out delightfully well-arranged pop-rock tunes under his own name. 

Temple's back at the solo thing and is prepping the release of a new album, "Don't Act Like You Don't Care." Trouble is, I can't help but to care... when the lead single "More Than a Muscle" is this, well, strong.

Amazingly, the album was made in eight hours with only three microphones and a 4-tracker on hand.

The indie songwriter will drop "Care" on Aug. 30 via excellent Western Vinyl. And if you haven't have enough after "Muscle," give another free track "Ophelia" a whirl.

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<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

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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'

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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 -
and
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
Hiway/Fevers
Drmz
The Twist
Rte. 28/Believers
Scenes From A Circus

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