<p>Romy Croft of The xx</p>

Romy Croft of The xx

Credit: AP Photo

The xx win U.K.'s Mercury Prize over Paul Weller

Watch: The band reacts predictably with few words

It's official: The xx have won the U.K.'s much-esteemed Mercury Prize, taking home the honor over favored short-listed nominee and veteran rocker Paul Weller. The award was issued for their debut self-titled album.

Oliver Sim of the band had this to say in accepting the £20,000 award: "We've had the most incredible year and it has just felt like every day we've just woken up to something incredible we just weren't expecting. It has felt just like a haze. Being here is like a moment of clarity in all that's happening."

Jools Holland presented the award at the ceremony, held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Other nominees like former winner Dizzee Rascal, Mumford & Sons, Weller, Biffy Clyro and Corinne Bailey Rae were present.

The three-piece, known for its shy nature, had nothing but shock in so many words to express in the video below to BBC. They, naturally, donned black.

It makes me feel a bit bad for Weller, who was also up for the prize 16 years ago and lost then, too. And, as I previously mentioned, I think that Laura Marling -- who was up two years ago -- should've taken it home. Then again, Weller could probably rack that money prize in in a night, and already enjoys the recognition from founding The Jam on top of generally releasing noteworthy albums. And years from now, we'll be naming awards for Marling.

Head judge Simon Frith said that "The xx" was "a record of its time" calling it "a very urban record, it is part of that urban soundscape when no one has any idea what is going to happen next."

This is not the time to dump on The xx or its fans, but there's two ways to read into that former comment, and I know which one I favor. It can be read as "The xx" -- to its lovers -- is the best album, hands down, from 2009. Or it could be a recording representative of just that: a time. The band is not comprised of extraordinary musicians and its songs are not particularly innovative. They combine uncomplicated sonic elements and moods from around this late 2000s period, coming up with a lovely, mellow, small-sounding album that was made "in a converted garage the size of a bathroom," as member Romy Croft said.

It's a good choice, and a safe choice, for the now.

Click here to watch the band accept their award, and for a BBC interview.

 

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<p>Robyn's &quot;Body Talk Pt. 2&quot;</p>

Robyn's "Body Talk Pt. 2"

Credit: Cherrytree

Win an autographed copy of Robyn's 'Body Talk Pt. 1' and 'Pt. 2'

Immaculate Noise says: 'We Dance to the Beat'

Many people will remember this summer for the heat wave -- two new Robyn records, that is.

I've spent a little time catching up with the Swedish dance-pop artist's "Body Talk Pt. 1," out earlier this year with "None of Dem" and "Dancing on My Own." Then there was "Hang With Me," culled from "Body Talk Pt. 2," released today. Part three of the trilogy will be out later 2010.

HitFix has two autographed copies each of "Pt. 1" and "Pt. 2," and I'm itching to give them away.

To enter the contest, complete the following:

Follow HitFix and Immaculate Noise on Twitter. Then, Tweet a message that contains @HitFix @katieaprincess and #rockinrobyn. Wit is appreciated, but not required.

You must be 18 and old to enter, and be a resident of the United States. Entries will be accepted up through 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday (Sept. 9).

There will be four winners total, two to receive "Pt. 1," and two to receive "Pt. 2."

Wanna purchase your own digital copy of Robyn's "Body Talk Pt. 2"? Check it at iTunes. Wanna buy a physical copy? Here it is on Amazon.

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<p>Interpol</p>

Interpol

Credit: Matador

Album Review: Interpol's self-titled indie release will satisfy fans

But can the New York quartet make any new converts?

"I'm a good guy," sings Paul Banks on the opener "Success" to Interpol's self-titled Matador effort. As the song -- and the rest of the album -- unravels, it turns into a statement of good intentions at its best and utter sarcasm at its worst. Later, Banks laments in splendid "Always Malaise (The Man I Am)," requesting release from his lover: "It pains me to say / And I'll do what I can / because that's the man I am."

There's a lot of that on "Interpol," a dark swirl of earnestness and outright hostility, between bars of the band's signature blend of oscillating, reverbed guitars, now-departed bassist Carlos D's heavy bars and those repeating four or five notes that Banks deadpans throughout.

Produced by rock master Alan Moulder, the 10-song set sounds solid and complete. It sets a mood, it continues a trend, but not much evolution. That's good news for fans.  Expect the jagged pieces and the intermittent launch into dance-rock, like on "Summer Well." The choppy, synched vocals on "Barricade" recall the primitive rock riffs of "Turn Off the Bright Lights." First single "Lights," released months ago, is still one of Interpol's best tracks, as it’s an essence of the band's most recognizable sonic elements.
 
There's a few new tricks thrown into the usual mix. "Memory Serves" is the band showing its hand, by stripping to vocals and drums by the end, a glimmer of what would be without all the tech and effects. "Try It On" features a descending line played on a piano that sounds like it was copped from a high school choir room, plus a very well-placed shaker – the vocal line, however, doesn’t move much, rendering the song static. The next track "All the Ways" starts as a slow march to the end of the album, lumbering with a lackadaisical rhyming lines and Banks daring to bare that heart on his sleeve, collapsing into the repeating line to his romantic subject, "I know the way you'll make it up for me."
 
The finale, "The Undoing," is – predictably -- the relationship undone, like an ascent into heaven or descent into sleep. "Damaged" indeed, with those discordant transition notes to turn the stomach and the chant-singing murmuring through what sounds like the stages of grief. Then with the synth horns (really?) and organ, the chugging snap of the snare and a fade-out. It's a dreamy, Muse-like exit.
“Interpol” will do well for Matador, and sate the band’s fanbase, particularly as more eye-catching videos are released and as they hit the road with U2. They are a group whose influences are obvious and that fact will continue to annoy those who it annoys. But for those already on board, ride on.
 
Read our interview with Interpol here.
 
"Interpol" is released today and can be heard in its entirety on MySpace. Check out the music video to "Lights" and "Barricade."

 

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<p>The Beatles</p>

The Beatles

New music service Zaptunes claims legal Beatles downloads, EMI responds

Bogus-sounding service deemed bogus

For one hot minute, the collective internet cocked an eyebrow at a claim from Zaptunes, a new music service, and it's claim this week to offer "100% legal" downloads of mp3s for a mere $25 per month for up to 2,500 downloads. And, wouldn't you know it, it's running a promotion now which enables users to try out the site for free. And that includes the free and legal downloads of... The Beatles? Led Zeppelin?

Those two acts have infamously shot down deals to joining popular retail sites like iTunes and tethered music services like Rhapsody over licensing disputes. So it seemed odd that EMI/Apple, for instance, would strike a deal with an unknown upstart for a digital introduction to the Fab Four.

Which then leads us to the fine print: under the Terms of Use, Zaptunes specifies

ZapTunes.com does not provide any downloads from its servers. ZapTunes.com just enables its members to find free or paid music available on the Internet. The Artists/Tracks displayed on the home page and other parts of the website are for promotional purposes only and may not be available for free or paid download.

ZapTunes.com has a database of websites that offer free and legal music downloads. Whenever a registered members looks for a song, ZapTunes searches for that song in the database, and if it finds a website offering a legal download of that song, it is displayed it to the user. If not, then ZapTunes looks for that song on Amazon, iTunes and various other paid to download websites, and displays the user their options.

In other words, users unwise enough to invest $25/mo. in this service would essentially be paying Zaptunes to run a fancy Google query for free mp3s floating around the internet or, perhaps more accurately, send a quick crawl through Last. fm, only to then shoot users to pre-existing digital retailers that everybody already knows doesn't sell the Beatles anyway.

According to HypeBot, Zaptunes claims to have a deal in place with "Sony Music" -- interestingly, they didn't specify Sony/ATV publishing, co-owned by the Michael Jackson family trust -- which controls part of the Lennon/McCartney Beatles catalog. But then a rep said he couldn't go into further detail of the licensing agreement.

And to all this, EMI/Apple -- who owns the Beatles' recordings -- told HitFix, "No comment on speculation." To which, I'm like, yeah, no kidding.

 

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<p>Matt &amp; Kim</p>

Matt & Kim

Credit: Fader

Song Of The Day: Matt & Kim pack new album with 'Cameras'

That's some speak-singing right there

Matt & Kim is one of those acts whose lyrics I never really pay attention to, particularly because they tend to use words and verses as just another form of setting the beat. "Cameras," the first single from the band's as-yet-untitled third album, is an example of this, where Matt Johnson could very well be spewing proverbs, or the ingredients from a box of cereal, or nonsensical syllables, and it'd still make for a solid, energy-emanating song.

Because this Brooklyn duo is all and only about rhythms, and they have one nailed here, with blips from what sounds like an old gaming console, to the rattling trombones of a high school marching band and an '80s throwback drumbeat. Johnson's voice just gives rise to the chorus' crescendo and flattens out that sneaky minor, making it feel dynamic and complete. It sounds like a celebration, and, if the track is any indicator of what's to come on the album, there's going to be plenty to celebrate.

The single goes wide on the web tomorrow, but you can stream it on the band's Facebook or, if you don't feel like "liking" them, Seattle station The End got the premiere.

No word yet when the album will be released (on Fader's label), but we bet it's before Christmas and we bet there will be more info soon on Matt & Kim's Twitter.

Being the road warriors they are, the pair are touring extensively this fall, dates below. They're still gaining traction after their video for "Lessons Learned" went viral and won awards at the 2009 MTV VMAs and at the 2009 MTVu Woodie Awards, so look for more packed houses.

Here are Matt & Kim's tour dates:

 

Sept 15th Westcott Theater # Syracuse, NY
16th Beachland Ballroom # Cleveland, OH
17th Newport Music Hall # Columbus, OH
18th Majestic Theater # Detroit, MI
19th Metro # Chicago, IL
21st Majestic Theater # Madison, WI
22nd First Ave # Minneapolis, MN
23rd The Granada Theater # Lawrence, KS
24th Ogden Theater # Denver, CO
25th Virgin Mobile FreeFest Columbia, MD
27th The Rickshaw Theater Vancouver, BC
28th Showbox * Seattle, WA
29th Roseland Theater * Portland, OR
30th The Fillmore * San Francisco, CA
Oct 1st House of Blues * San Diego, CA
2nd Music Box at The Henry Fonda Theater * Los Angeles, CA
3rd Music Box at The Henry Fonda Theater * Los Angeles, CA
6th The Clubhouse * Tempe, AZ
8th House of Blues * Dallas, TX
9th Austin City Limits Austin, TX
11th The Lyric Oxford % Oxford, MS
12th House of Blues % New Orleans, LA
13th Club Downunder % Tallahassee, FL
14th Culture Room ! Fort Lauderdale, FL
15th State Theater ! St. Petersburg, FL
16th Masquerade ! Atlanta, GA
17th Exit In ! Nashville, TN 19th Orange Peel ! Asheville, NC
20th Cats Cradle ! Carrboro, NC
21st The Canal Club ! Richmond, VA
22nd 9:30 Club ! Washington, DC
23rd Rams Head Live! ! Baltimore, MD
24th Starlite Ballroom ! Philadelphia, PA
26th Webster Hall ! New York, NY
27th Webster Hall ! New York, NY
28th Water St. Music Hall ! Rochester, NY
29th Phoenix Theater ! Toronto, ON
30th Le National ! Montreal, QC
31st Northern Lights ! Clifton, NY
Nov 2nd Higher Ground ^ Burlington, VT
3rd Port City Music Hall ^ Portland, ME
4th House of Blues ^ Boston, MA
5th Toad's Place ^ New Haven, CT
6th Pearl Street Nightclub ^ Northampton, MA
# w/ So So Glos
* w/ Fang Island
% w/ Big Freedia
! w/ Donnis
^ w/ Javelin
 

 

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<p>Kanye West</p>

Kanye West

So that Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Raekwon 'Runaway Love' remix happened

Yo JB! This sounds just how you think it would!

Take the sample from Wu-Tang Clan's famed "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta F*ck Wit" and buttress it with the chorus from Justin Bieber's lady-sounding "Runaway Love." Give Raekwon a couple sweet verses to rap. Give Kanye West one.

The result is what is being dubbed Kanye West's "Runaway Love" featuring Raekwon and Justin Bieber. This would be a lot more fun if it were a proper mashup, but, on its face, it's not very good. It's just a remix folks, nothing to see here, except for two obnoxious internet phenoms and perhaps Raekwon laughing his head off all the way to the bank.

This track was brought to you by the letter Tweet, a result of the Twitter love-in between the three artists a couple weeks ago.

Kanye West is bound to remain omnipresent as he continues to unleash drips and drabs over the social networking sites and new tracks every Friday in anticipation of his forthcoming, as-yet-unnamed album.

Click here to check out the track.

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<p>Win Butler of Arcade Fire</p>

Win Butler of Arcade Fire

Credit: AP Photo

Arcade Fire's interactive music video for 'We Used to Wait' sends you home

These are pop-up windows you won't want to close... Or maybe you will

Like Broken Bells' latest clip, Arcade Fire is pushing the boundaries of what's considered a music video these days.

"We Used to Wait," from the band's latest "The Suburbs," has been cast into a website dubbed "The Wilderness Downtown" with an interactive interface that takes the address of your childhood home and spits out a unique video experience. A number of moving images, in sync with the music, appear in pop-up windows -- some feature a generic shoot of a teen in a hoodie running on wet streets, and some are from Google Earth satellite images of shots compiled from around your old 'hood.

Granted, get "used to waiting" for the experience to work. The video is intended for viewing in Google Chrome (and, sometimes, Safari) and has an excruciating load time. It crashed my browser three times and I've got a machine capable of quantum physics and somersaults. This is likely due to the fact that, now, thousands of fans are trying to operate the site simultaneously. So you may wait until tomorrow to see what a craphole your old house has become.

And that seems to be some of the point. Arcade Fire's album is a reflection on the neighborhoods we grew up in, in the banalities and nostalgia of the 'burbs. Running along with our hooded friend through our own street gives off a sense of exploration as well as escape. But the fact that it's not tailor-made for each user -- that this is, in fact, a generic program on its face -- in itself becomes a false experience on massive scale. Tantalizing!

The Wilderness Downtown site is a product of mastermind Chris Milk, who took us on a first-person camera trip to the airport in Kanye West's "All Falls Down" clip and the head-f*ck that was Gnarls Barkley's cover of "Gone Daddy Gone."

Check out our review of "The Suburbs" here.
Check out another music video to Arcade Fire's "Ready to Start."

What do you think of The Wilderness Downtown / "We Used to Wait?"

 

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<p>The Weepies</p>

The Weepies

Credit: Nettwerk

The Weepies, Whole Foods link for album release initiative, and why this matters

What other acts have had strong brand alignment? And which ones should?

Independent twee pop act The Weepies announced a "music initiative partnership" with Whole Foods supermarkets, which will place the band's new album "Be My Thrill" prominently in check-out aisles across the country starting Sept. 7 for two months (general release is on Aug. 31). The CDs will likely sit next to organic breath mints, yoga magazines and discount bottles of white tea.

The chain's blog, Whole Story, will also have exclusive rights to start streaming the whole thing starting on Sept. 3, marking the first time the site's hosted a full album stream. The feature will be wedged between posts on likely topics like grass-fed cattle, chewable vitamin spotlights, seasonal changes in diet and mood or focus on farms.

I'm not being facetious in the distinctions between products: these branding touchstones are items that Whole Food have long sought to propagate, and, no doubt, the decision to align themselves with a brand identity such as Whole Foods' was one long considered by the band and its label Nettwerk.

Because at the end of the day, Nettwerk needs to sell product in order to stay in business, and The Weepies thus far have admirably sold their artistry as product.

To get a tip on what the band has to offer, check out the duo's new song "Please Speak Well of Me" below.

The BostonCambridge-based act has been featured in prominent TV advertisement for JC Penney and Old Navy before, and have been all over the map in licensing to TV shows. They play soft-hearted, harmless adult-leaning music -- a hot commodity in licensing these days -- stuff that a lot of people would like but conceivably would never be discovered if they hadn't pulled the trigger on what was once considered "selling out." They're not hipster blog sweethearts, and even if they were, that hardly means a guarantee of any sort of paycheck.

Starbucks is a comparably brand that came to mind when I read this announcement. While the coffee chain's record label wasn't exactly a bustling success story, Starbucks has been a brand spanked onto many an album artist -- even ones that didn't stock their albums on shop shelves. Andrew Bird, Wilco and, most recently Ray LaMontagne have been "Select" artists there before, alongside James Taylor greatest hits sets or Christmas compilations and easy listening covers collections.

There's media "brand" bands too -- like Grizzly Bear's "Veckatimest" becoming an unofficial NPR darling in 2009, or when The National let the New York Times stream their "High Violet" earlier this year. Then there's tours like Paramore going out for Honda, or Jagermeister covering all its lovers with country act Pat Green or schlocky modern rockers Korn. (As I mentioned earlier this year, music has a long history with beverage brands.) Devo handed over their entire "Something For Everybody" marketing and promotions campaign, appropriately, to an ad agency (which, by the way, would have made an outstanding episode of "Mad Men"). And that doesn't even get into the "branding" of licensing music to certain shows, movies, networks or picture houses.

Where I think that this Weepies announcement strikes an odd chord with new music lovers is the span of the Whole Foods brand. Sure, it's a yuppietopia with a penchant for overpricing, but it's a huge, entire line of products, not just ceramic mugs and coffee gift sets. And it's not the music passivley playing overhead as customers push carts of pineapple and specialty chocolate. It's kind of a big deal, though I'm unsure of how much money was exchanged into whose hands.

This brand identity and opportunity to the Weepies is an expanding of the corporate music mind for labels and music consumers -- since our CD stores have been shut down or cornered into Targets and other big boxes, how else do we get our new music recommendations? Word of mouth, engines like Pandora, terrestrial and satellite radio, shops from Hot Topic to Hallmark, TV programs, movie soundtracks.. and now, the grocery aisle. It isn't that novel, except in maybe scale.

Whole Foods and the Weepies? Sure. In my head, it works. Forget "pure" artistry -- it's not like the album are songs written about gluten-free baby food or Amy's Burritos -- the band found itself a better bedfellow than most.

It got my head spinning about other artists who would make for good branding synergists*. Drake should hook up with Axe -- "Thank Me Later" should be a name of a new body spray. Thievery Corporation could drive Lexus and Vampire Weekend could fly JetBlue. Instead of just keeping with album exclusives and clothing lines, Miley Cyrus should go all the way with her love affair with Walmart while the Ting Tings could add some flare to the rows and the extra-long fitting room line in H&M. And what's to keep them?**

* Not a real word.
** Contracts.
 

The Weepies - Please Speak Well of Me by nettwerkmusicgroup

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<p>Fistful of Mercy</p>

Fistful of Mercy

Listen: Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur, George Harrison's son Dhani form Fistful Of Mercy

Check out the newly minted supergroup's self-titled song

Details are scant, but it appears Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur and Dhani Harrison (of the George variety) have combined to form a new singer-songwriter supergroup Fistful of Mercy.

So far, they've gotten around to posting a Twitter account (under the "Men Who Stare At Goats" moniker Lyn Cassady, no less), a MySpace with dummy text for a bio and a Facebook account that reveals they're posted in Venice, Calif.

On top of that, they've revealed their first known song, a self-titled, sadly sweeping rocker. Vocally, there's little trading of vocals on "Fistful of Mercy," though there's a lot going on in that chorus, where it sounds like three wispy, raspy guys who all split into harmonies but in their heart-of-hearts all wish they were singing melody.  I could be a little off, but the chorus seems to say, "Maybe it's soft inside of a fistful of mercy / maybe it counts from where we are / the land of the thirsty / hungry." The track'ss enhanced by violin, a little tonal and slide guitar work and a dramatic cache of drumming.

The beginning of the clip features a sketch of a goat. We see a goat theme developing.

The band has announced its first public performance, to take place at Easy Street Records in Seattle tomorrow night (Aug. 27).

No release dates or label information is available. A rep had not replied to our request for more information by press time.

Harper last released "White Lies for Dark Times" with the Relentless7 in 2009, out on Virgin. Joseph Arthur has been releasing album over the last four years on his own label, Lonely Astronaut, with his last studio full-length out in 2008. Dhani Harrison, son of Beatle George Harrison, first started playing music when he helped complete his dad's last effort, 2002's "Brainwashed." He sings and plays guitar with his band thenewno2, which has completed one album.

What do you think of the song?

Fistful of Mercy from Fistful of Mercy on Vimeo.

 

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<p>Margaret Cho</p>

Margaret Cho

Credit: Lindsey Byrnes

Interview: Margaret Cho is ‘Dependent’ on Andrew Bird, Fiona Apple, Ani DiFranco

Exclusive: Comedienne recording new song 'Stick It In' with The Cliks frontman

Margaret Cho lost her voice over the weekend and is very sweetly describing her new and first comedy music hybrid album “Cho Dependent.” She gushes on the “warmth and love” there was between her and her famous collaborators like Andrew Bird, Fiona Apple, Jon Brion, Tegan and Sara, Ani DiFranco and the New Pornographers’ A.C. Newman, who worked on music to her lyrics. It’s fielding a balance, she said, between being known as a comedian but have great standards for a musical output.

Is it, perhaps, like having two sides to a coin, an alter-ego?

“It’s no ‘Sasha Fierce.’ Though maybe I oughta…” Margaret Cho laughs. “It’s still comedy.”
 
The longtime comedienne’s +1 Records effort is the product of a year and a half of cobbling together songs in a variety of methods, whether laying down recordings live in her rudimentary home studio, or by dubbing over tracks laid down remotely. Considering artists from Ben Lee to Tommy Chong hail from all over the world, it seemed that a complete album materializing, ultimately, was a miracle. Or is just that Cho is the glue that can bring it all together.
 
“I feel like I have a real knack for collaboration. It’s at least one thing I know that I know I’m good at,” she says. She already had pre-existing friendships with artists like Brion, DiFranco and Apple and respected the music of acts like Tegan and Sara. Through those connections, she was able to get in touch with Brendan Benson, Patti Griffin and even got down to shoot a video, “I’m Sorry,” with Bird (below). Check out, too, her clip with Grant Lee Phillips on “Eat Sh*t and Die”; both were shot by Liam Sullivan of “Shoes” fame.
 
“Dependence” was also an opportunity to shine a light on another of Cho’s hidden acumen: alt-country music. The album runs the gamut of cabaret tunes to faux-pop, but there is an extra emphasis on folkier tunes.
 
“I love country. I especially love alt-country,” she says, citing Gillian Welch, Ryan Adams and Dave Rawlings. “If I could have a true, distinctive country voice, it’d be Emmylou [Harris] or Dolly Parton. But I don’t. Maybe could do a good impression, instead.”
 
The Cho Dependence 2010 tour has already kicked off, with a stop in Provincetown, Mass., tonight. Cho says that it’s more of a comedy show than a traditional music tour date, though she’s making sure to throw in a few tunes. She expects that friends like Lee, Brion and Apple may show up intermittently throughout the tour.
 
She also has another song release coming out soon, a combined effort with friend Lucas Silveira of The Cliks on a song dubbed "Stick It In," which will be released as an online exclusive and will also be included on the next music album.
 
Cho also hopes to stop off at more music festivals next year like she did at  Bonnaroo this past summer, for the opportunity to present her show to audiences outside of the comedy circuit. “You can get really experimental and wild and theatrical,” Cho explains, which would explain at least a couple of dramatic characters who she’d also love to collaborate with on the next musical endeavor: Linda Perry and David Bowie.
 
Cho is also currently preparing for the February return of “Drop Dead Diva” on Lifetime.

Below are Margaret Cho's music videos with Andrew Bird and Grant Lee Phillips, in "I'm Sorry" and "Eat Sh*t and Die," respectively.

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