Inside Music with Katie Hasty

Review: Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs' 'God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise'

Has the singer-songwriter unleashed his best album yet?

<p>Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs</p>

Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs

"God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise," Ray LaMontagne's fourth album, is the first to utilize a billed backing band, The Pariah Dogs. It's also the first album the Northeast native has produced on his own.

Any singer-songwriter would fall over themselves to snare the talent that 37-year-old LaMontagne's enlisted -- drummer Jay Bellerose (Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, Joe Henry), bassist Jennifer Condos (Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams), keyboardist Patrick Warren (Fiona Apple, Red Hot Chili Peppers), guitarist Eric Heywood (Son Volt, The Pretenders) and pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz (Wilco, Beck). It's a session supergroup of sorts, with the predictable but welcome husky hum of a master singer's voice.

The result is what a live record should sound like, with the slaps of tambourine against the flesh of a palm, an accidental double bounce of a soft kick drum head, a wisp of accordion pulsing through the pocket. It's  not a perfect record; it's a band record.

And it's good timing, too. "God Willing" dislodges LaMontagne from the single-note path that he was starting to tread, as good as that note may be. Like contemporaries Sam Beam of Iron & Wine and his newer recordings or Ryan Adams when he added the Cardinals, the hive-mind all serving the purpose of that voice gives LaMontagne some new directions.

The first half of the album is a showcase of just that, from the nah-uh blues-funk resilience of opener "Repo Man," to the cinematic exhalations of the title track. Insta-classic "Beg Steal or Borrow” is a country-hued song so natural, one needs only a pair of listens to know the words and melody by heart.

While they're pulling out the stops for new sounds, “This Love Is Over” gets a break-up make-up with a hint of bossa nova chattering behind pedal steel -- it's a little too toothlessly adult contempo, as is the "tired" "For the Summer."
 
LaMontagne's lyrical material hasn't changed much, though the tone is a bit darker than previous "Gossip in the Grain." The folksy utterances of "tying ribbons in her hair" ("Like Rock 'n' Roll Radio") and throwing "tomatoes on the griddle to fry" (in 16-bar stomper "Devil's in the Jukebox) is met with autobiographical nasty-colored memories, loneliness for a woman and disdain for the road (see: "New York City's Killing Me"). It'd all be too precious if it weren't so authentic, a currency with with LaMontagne deals with ease.
 
As this famously shy man becomes even more brave in his loose-fitting suits, his band -- and, heck, that beard -- has become less things to hide behind and more empowering to his style. "God Willin'" is that next leap forward, even with missteps, even with some trepidation. It's full of songs tough to dispel once heard, from an artist whose voice reveals itself, time and again, to do just the same.

Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs' "God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise" will be released tomorrow (Aug. 17).

Song Of The Day: Lady Gaga tourmates Alphabeat get hot in 'Heat Wave'

Still unsure about Tambourine Guy

<p>Alphabeat</p>

Alphabeat

Danish dance outfit Alphabeat opened for Lady Gaga during her Monster Ball tour earlier this year, and its obvious they took some pointers with them.

These fabulous Danes are sharp dressers on top of savvy hitmakers, as is evident in the video for "Heat Wave," their new single. While the clip itself is nothing to write home about, it's that nasty hook and series of swings in Stine B's voice that keep the thing on "repeat." It's an unabashed, fluorescent-lit, big gay Euro-dance-pop ear worm, in worthy competition with my favorite dance-pop singer from this summer, Robyn.

Back to the clip, it is worth noting that Tambourine Man Anders needs to back up and give his girl some room to shine on stage. His adorable haircut and kitten hips aren't enough to steal the show -- a criticism I had of the band back when I saw them at SXSW in March. Still, good energy and: I don't blame you, buddy.

As HitFix Gregory woefully pointed out, the song is not yet available for purchase in the U.S., though request for comment has been put in to the band's management. Meanwhile, you can check out their remix of Gaga's "Telephone," available initially with the international version of "The Remix."

Elliott Smith get an 'Introduction' via Kill Rock Stars

Is this really necessary?

<p>&quot;An Introduction to... Elliott Smith&quot;</p>

"An Introduction to... Elliott Smith"

Credit: Kill Rock Stars

Had he not died, Elliott Smith would have turned 41 last Friday (Aug. 6). And in about two months, he'll have been gone for seven years.

I'm not sure on how or why Kill Rock Stars arrived at this particular timing, but the indie will be releasing what could be Smith's first "hits" compilation of sorts on Nov. 2. "An Introduction to..." is 14 previously released tracks from his seven albums: the five proper studio efforts ("Roman Candle," "Elliott Smith," "Either/Or," "XO," "Figure 8"), "From A Basement on the Hill" (finished posthumously) and KRS demo/rarities set "New Moon."

It contains some well-loved Smith classics like "Between the Bars" and "Waltz. #2," but is missing some other tracks that importantly introduced the rest of the world to Smith when he was still alive, namely the studio version of "Miss Misery" -- which scored him an Academy Award nomination for its inclusion in "Good Will Hunting" -- "Angeles," "Independence," his cover of the Beatles' "Because" from the end-credits of "American Beauty," his take on Big Star's "Thirteen."

It's not that KRS couldn't have dibs on songs that were in "Good Will Hunting" -- considering "Between the Bars" made the cut -- and I find it odd there's only one "XO" song included. The omission of his covers may have been a purposeful effort to focus in on his songwriter in addition to royalty and copyright issues, though I think it would turn a light on his master interpretation skills. And perhaps I would have included more hard rockers, in an allusion to his work with Heatmiser (but, then again, they weren't a KRS band).

Hits sets are tricky, in that they're not meant to sate the diehards, but have a mission of their own. "['An Introduction to...] is intended as an introduction to one of the greatest songwriters of our era. We hope this will enable new generations to learn about Elliott's music by providing a pathway for people to delve more deeply into his immensely satisfying catalog." Fair enough. It rings in much in the same way that anniversary or deluxe reissues of acts like Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake, as reminders.

As previously reported, KRS released a previously unheard Elliott Smith song "Cecelia/Amanda" earlier this year, in conjunction with a re-release of "From a Basement on the Hill" and "Roman Candle."

Below is the tracklist for "An Introduction to..." What would you have included on it?

1 Ballad of Big Nothing - from Either/Or
2. Waltz #2 - from XO
3. Pictures of Me - from Either/Or
4. The Biggest Lie - from Elliott Smith
5. Alameda - from Either/Or
6. Between The Bars - from Either/Or
7. Needle In The Hay - from Elliott Smith
8. Last Call - from Roman Candle
9. Angles - from Either/Or
10. Twilight - from From a Basement on the Hill
11.Pretty (Ugly Before) - from From a Basement on the Hill
12. Angel In the Snow - from New Moon
13. Miss Misery (early version) - from New Moon
14. Happiness (single version) - from Figure 8

Listen: Kanye West, Beyonce team up for 'See Me Now,' rapper returning to VMAs

'Lord' Yeezy alludes to Taylor Swift flap, taps Charlie Wilson -- and Bon Iver?

<p>Kanye West's &quot;See Me Now&quot;</p>

Kanye West's "See Me Now"

Kanye West had some time between Tweets to debut another new track from his forthcoming, as-yet-untitled LP on Hot 97 yesterday.

"See Me Now" features MTV VMA nominee Beyonce as well as Gap Band crooner Charlie Wilson over what sounds like a mix between a military celebration march and what could easily be a Coca-Cola commercial. Within minutes after its premiere, he posted it for free download on his website. Stream it and download it below.

While the feel of the song is distinctly different from first single "Power," it still has the alpha-male swagger, albeit less angry. Ye boasts how he can just stroll into Nobu with no shoes on (even though he also declares his love for boat shoes), likens himself to Socrates ("but my skin more chocolatey") and tells us something we already know ("I am Lord"). He and Beyonce name-check his late mother Donda; and the rapper, for once, gives a laugh over his Taylor Swift VMAs flap: ""I’m back baby, I'mma let you finish / but I got Beyonce on the track / We the greatest in the world baby."

Wilson carries the most memorable melodies, but its Beyonce who gets all the tricky parts -- which is too bad. In the endlessly vamping outro of this six-minute whopper, Uncle Charlie's voice soars and tumbles all around the hook, proving that, while Bey can lift up the tune, Wilson is the one who really breaks it down.

It's a memorable track, though somewhat of a hot mess. The refrain gets a little muddy with all the ad-libbing at the end and it chugs on for too long. Still, it's a sweet taste of things to come on his album, which is sounding more diverse by the day -- particularly since Stereogum is claiming that Bon Iver's Justin Vernon might be on the set. "Skinny Love Lockdown" perhaps?

Oh, and speaking of the VMAs, it appears that King Kanye has been granted a do-over. MTV has confirmed he'll be appearing at the Sept. 12 ceremony. And considering Beyonce and Taylor Swift are nominees again this year, expect many a' camera cutaway to each.

Watch: M.I.A. mugs and runs in new videos for 'XXXO' and 'Illygirl'

Maya's version of a road movie

<p>M.I.A. in &quot;XXXO&quot;</p>

M.I.A. in "XXXO"

M.I.A.'s tour schedule has lightened up, so the Interscope artist has had a little more time to put together a pair of new music videos, culled from her new album "Maya."

All that "XXXO" and "Illygirl" seem to have in common is that they both exclusively feature the songwriter, and they both lack plot.

"XXXO" is like a video version of a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper, interspersed with images of Maya's mug and Maya mugging. 

The blessed day that those "Thank you for adding me" glitter graphics debuted in the comments section of your MySpace profile (remember that?), they effectively became the new version of good old fashioned Valentines, only for every day of the week. So, in a way, this clip is M.I.A.'s long-form Valentine to us. Aw. 

Then, there's "Illygirl," a music video that will probably tip that hangover of yours into the Danger Zone. It features M.I.A. running down a highway, and the sickeningly choppy camerawork of the person running after her. That's all. I looked for a secret message in the mountains, but I only got dizzy and had to sit down for a snack.

And, no redheads were harmed in the making of this video.

M.I.A. only has two overseas stops on her current performance schedule, and she may be looking at paying a fine for one of her latest festival gigs: On Aug. 7, the rapper/singer encouraged her fans to storm the stage during "O Saya" during the Big Chill in the U.K. Organizers are claiming that she breached her contract by endangering attendees, considering hundreds of fans took her up on her offer.

Watch: Tegan And Sara tell you what they don't want in 'Northshore' music video

Compare it to 'On Directing': Which video do you like better?

<p>Tegan and Sara</p>

Tegan and Sara

Credit: Pamela Littky

It's approaching the one-year anniversary of Tegan and Sara's release of "Sainthood," but its album cycle just keeps chugging along.

The duo today released its video for "Northshore," one of the more energetic and challenging tracks from the set, mere days after the clip for "On Directing" dropped.

Both vids were directed by Angela Kendall, and both were shot on the same day. They boast a very minimalistic - if not claustrophobic -- shots of the identical twins, though the new one has some pretty righteous air guitar work.

For vinyl lovers, these come in advance of a very exciting box release from the pop-punk-folk-rockers, the very obviously dubbed "The Official Vinyl Collection Box Set," out Aug. 31. It contains 2000’s "This Business of Art," 2002’s "If It Was You," 2004’s "So Jealous," 2007’s "The Con" and Sainthood , plus bonus record "Home Recordings" of nine exclusive song demos.

Tegan and Sara also recently contributed to touring buddies Steel Train's new album concept "Steel Train"/"Terrible Thrills Vol. 1" and will appear on Margaret Cho's forthcoming comedy-music album "Cho Dependent" on the song "Intervention." Read more about that song -- and hear the thing -- on Cho's website, here.

T&S are tour now with Paramore.


Northshore - Official Tegan and Sara Music Video

Tegan and Sara | MySpace Music Videos

Song Of The Day: Watch this insane video from Nick Cave's Grinderman project

John Hillcoat makes a solid Not Safe For Work effort: Nudity, the occult, D-grade special effects and a fart joke

<p>Grinderman</p>

Grinderman

Nick Cave made our headlines last month as rumor spreads he may be re-writing "The Crow" for the big screen.

If this small screen presentation of his band Grinderman's "Heathen Child" is any indication for future cinematic endeavor, then I'm attending drunk.

The track is culled from the act's forthcoming "Grinderman 2" album, due Sept. 13 via Anti-. The rest of the crew is rounded out by some of Cave's Bad Seeds, Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey, and Jim Sclavunos.

The clip is directed by John Hillcoat, who worked with Cave on "The Road" and "The Proposition." In it is featured B-movie effects of lazers being shot from eyes and bare butts; a naked girl in a bathtub squirming near live action portrayals of Jesus, Buddha, Krishna and the Wolfman; the members of Grinderman wearing the leather trappings of Greek gods; the ilk. 

In short, this insane video is horrible, and it is also amazing.

Grinderman just played Lollapalooza and has announced a North American tour, to kick off Nov. 11 and runs through Dec. 1.

Song Of The Day: Sea And Cake's Sam Prekop previews solo set with 'Silhouettes'

Experimental new album produced by Tortoise drummer John McEntire

<p>Sam Prekop</p>

Sam Prekop

Credit: Thrill Jockey

If the last Sea And Cake album was "Car Alarm" (2008), consider frontman Sam Prekop's forthcoming album to be the commute.

"Old Punch Card" is the songwriter's first solo set in five years, and follows a pretty hypnotic formula: the entire album consists of songs performed on modular synthesizers, with one exception when a guitar was added. The result, if it can be estimated from the first "single," "Silhouette" below, is elemental, a driving high energy and definitely, definitely an odd experiment.

Produced by Sea And Cake/Tortoise drummer and engineer John McEntire, "Old Punch Card" is out Sept. 7 on Thrill Jockey.

The Sea And Cake are "rumored" to be in the studio again, according to a label press release, and are about to set out on tour supporting Broken Social Scene start Sept. 13.

 

Watch: Janelle Monae gets up close and personal in captivating 'Cold War' vid

Raw emotion lets out in this single (and first) take clip

<p>Janelle Monae in &quot;Cold War&quot;</p>

Janelle Monae in "Cold War"

Listen to the words of fast-beating "Cold War" from Janelle Monae, and hear a fighter.

That doesn't mean the pop/soul/hip-hop artist isn't willing to get vulnerable for the lens.

In the music video below, Monae -- naked from at least the shoulders up -- is shot in one long, single take, inches from her face. It's interesting to see some grimaces and unexpected smiles erupt from her features as she lip-syncs, little tics from the side of her mouth and the close of her eyes.

Around the lyric "I was made to believe there's something wrong with me / And it hurts my heart," at 1:38, she loses it. In a breath at 2:15, the tears start to drop.

"'The 'Cold War' music video was filmed in the black box auditorium at The Palace of the Dogs sanitarium. This is the complete first take. This performance is unaltered and unencumbered, as those of us in attendance on that day experienced it," wrote director Wendy Morgan in a statement released today. In a way, it sounded like a defense of the clip's authenticity and re-emphasizes its worth as a first take. For fans who've had a chance to check it out in the last 24 hours, it's a fascinating little artifact of time, for a worthy artist.

Now, will you go and buy her album "The ArchAndroid" already?

Monae heads out on friends and collaborators Of Montreal on tour starting Sept. 13. She's also set for the star-studded Black Ball in New York on Sept. 30.

Watch: Megan Fox, Dominic Monaghan get ugly in Eminem's 'Love the Way You Lie'

Does the expensive clip and Rihanna's snarl bring home the issue of domestic violence?

<p>Eminem and Rihanna in &quot;Love the Way You Lie&quot;</p>

Eminem and Rihanna in "Love the Way You Lie"

Credit: Interscope

Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie" featuring Rihanna fought its way to the top of The Hot 100 chart -- ahead of the sunny fun-time of Katy Perry's "California Gurls" -- and "fight" seems to be the operative word.

It's seemed somewhat unfathomable that a minor-keyed downer about a real-life recurring abusive relationship featuring none other than the publicly physically abused Barbadian singer would top the pop tally during these summer months. But Eminem isn't exactly known for good-natured grins, and something had to follow-up "Not Afraid."

So Joseph Kahn -- director of clips like Britney Spears' "Toxic" and U2's "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" -- helmed this very expensive and emotionally conflicted music video, featuring Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan trapped in a, well, toxic relationship. Monaghan puts back on his "Lost" character Charlie's barbs, and the former "Transformers" actress brings out her claws: both get physically and emotionally violent, insinuating infidelity and regular fights systematically on "repeat."

Eminem says the song was inspired by his out-of-control relationship with double-ex-wife Kim Scott (formerly Mathers), a topic the rapper has long-favored and never put to bed. The track doesn't excuse the desire to put fist to face, but it, and the video, try to explain it. "Ultimately, what I think he's trying to say in the song ... is that he should have walked away a little bit quicker than he did and not let it get as messy as it did," Moneghan told MTV.

Which is why Rihanna's guest spot confuses me a little. Certainly, she was in an unhealthy relationship with her abuser Chris Brown, but interviews and reports don't indicate it was necessarily the same sort of two-way street that "Lie" leads. She stands close to the burning house (in hot pants, no less), but doesn't catch on fire, like Em does. Did she set the fire? Is she going back in the house? Is this any commentary whatsoever on her own relationship with Brown or is she only an voice aiding the story of Eminem's own unhealthy relationship?

"It was believable for us to do a record like that, but it was also something that needed to be done and the way [Eminem] did it was so clever," Rihanna told Access Hollywood. "He pretty much just broke down the cycle of domestic violence and it's something that a lot people don't have a lot of insight on, so this song is a really, really powerful song and it touches a lot of people."

It's not the Rihanna Story yet, but it touches on it, which is illustrated pretty powerfully for both man and woman in the clip.

And, in a nice side note, Fox donated her earnings from starring in "Love the Way You Lie" to Los Angeles women's shelter Sojourn.

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