<p>Sufjan Stevens</p>

Sufjan Stevens

Credit: Marzuki Stevens

On-the-spot review: Sufjan Stevens releases new EP to ‘All Delighted People' today

Listen: Streaming and on sale now, for $5, on Bandcamp: Hooray

When Sufjan Stevens announced his epic theater tour for this fall, we estimated that an album may be on the way.  

That wish has been granted, as the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter has released a new EP, “All Delighted People” today. As in now.
 
The eight-track set is streaming and for sale now on Bandcamp, which is a fantastic choice for digital retail. I use it constantly -- it’s streamlined, no frills programming, and puts money directly into the pocket of its artists/labels. The set goes up for sale on all other digital stores on Aug. 23 (for those iTunes purists). The Asthmatic Kitty press release says it will be pressed on CD and vinyl for sale later this year -- merry Christmas.
 
"Delighted" is Stevens’ first “song-oriented” album since 2006’s “The Avalanche: Outtakes & Extras from the Illinois Album.”
 
The 11:38 title track is, just, wow. It’s a “dramatic homage to the Apocalypse, existential ennui, and Paul Simon’s ‘Sounds of Silence,’” and borrows a couple lyrics from that latter track. I dare say, Stevens has got soul. He allows for his normally tranquil tenor to stray all over the scale, even crack on a couple notes. "All Delighted People" also gets a “classic rock” redux on track six.
 
His voice gets doubled by an electric on the enchanting “Enchanting Ghost” while “The Mouth of Gabriel” gets cute with what sounds like a series of toy instruments and feet marching place, some back-tracked synths and a flute line that’s straight from a Jonsi song. The sweetly creepy “The Owl and the Tanger” has been a “mainstay” at his live shows, but makes a recorded debut here. It’s nuanced, to say the least, with a muted, simple piano line, a harmony on the third and some emotional outpouring that reminds me of “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” only with more autobiography.
 
As for “Arnika”: if this were a vinyl record, itwould be an excellent first track on a B-side. It’s got a mish-mash of imperfect finger pickings and flitting banjo. “Could I have it all/Could I have you for a night in the warmth of your bed… I’m tired of life.” Then a creak of a chair. What the hell, why not. Then there’s a 17-minute track, “Djohariah.” It’s mostly wordless up until about 11:40. And it’s got wah pedal all over it.
 
So this is what the workshopping was all about.
 
Considering the girth of at least a pair of songs, plus the scale of sound that’s explored in a scant eight tracks, I’d say $5 is a pretty good deal for this “EP.” It’s a sign, too, of the broad brush Stevens will be painting with on his grand theater tour, one of the top stints this fall
 
The composer mostly worked on promoting his “BQE” film-music project last year. Happy to hear he’s back to laying down songs like these.
 
But since the songs are available now, it’s best you get your hands on it and give it your own spin. What do you think of “All Delighted People?” And are you going to pay the $5 for it?
 
Here is the tracklist for “All Delighted People”:

1. All Delighted People (Original Version)
2. Enchanting Ghost
3. Heirloom
4. From the Mouth of Gabriel
5. The Owl and the Tanager
6. All Delighted People (Classic Rock Version)
7. Arnika
8. Djohariah

 

 

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<p>&quot;I love you, Kanye.&quot; &quot;I&nbsp;love you, Justin.&quot;</p>

"I love you, Kanye." "I love you, Justin."

Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Raekwon collaboration really is happening

Blame Twitter

File this one under We'll Believe It When We Hear It, but Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Raekwon are planning to record together, if the Twitterverse has anything to say about it.

The idea sprung from a love-fest between Ye and The Bieb, as Kanye Tweeted that he liked the young pop star's "Runaway Love." Bieber geeked out. Then Kanye was like, Isn't this fun we're both on Twitter and, oh yeah, "“Maybe we can do something together. Me, You and Raekwon.” Because, yeah, whatever, Raekwon. To prove he knows who Raekwon is, Bieb referred to him as the Chef and nerded again.

In summary: "Will you go into the studio with me? Circle YES or NO." The exchange probably would be better fleshed out in notes passed during math class and were not a 140 character limit in effect, but naturally, wouldn't be as publicly attention-gobbling.

Chef Rae then told XXL “It’s definitely gonna happen” in an interview last night. 

“When you got these kinda talents merging together to do something exciting, I think it’s something that’s gonna make the fans check it out. I’m big fans of both of these guys. I think, at the end of the day, shorty is a sensation. And [for him] to acknowledge me it makes me feel good that the young generation is checkin’ me out like that. And at the same time it gives me a position to play a big brother in the game," the Wu-Tang member said. "Yeezy called me and we gon’ make it pop. At the end of the day we’re all doing our thing in the game and for them to even just have a conversation and just put my name in it it feels good…And we gon’ make a hit."

Then, naturally, Raekwon took his Twitter account to announce, "On my way to the airport to nyc to get up wit my legendary @kanyewest! Yall asked for it now we’re gonna deliver!"

I don't know what color Fame's coattails are, but I hope Raekwon's wearing something that matches. The MC is no chopped liver, but this would be a mega high-profile gig that would eclipse most all of his previous opportunities. As a non-Belieber, I appreciate Rae's non-compliment of the 16-year-old, mentioning only that he's a "sensation." But then again, I'm just tired of A-listers from West to D-listers like the Kardashians slobbering all over an adorable walking piggy bank robot with "respect." Even if that 800x slower remix of "U Smile" is pretty neat.

UPDATE (4:46): West Tweeted, "Finishing @JustinBieber Runaway Love remix too... don't know when they gonna drop it but Raekwon's verse is crazy!!!" I'll bet.

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<p>The Ting-Tings</p>

The Ting-Tings

Credit: Columbia

Song Of The Day: The Ting Tings return with two 'Hands'

Does this hold up against 'Shut Up & Let Me Go' or 'That's Not My Name?'

It was kind of sweetly sad when the Ting Tings took the stage of "Saturday Night Live" in January only to perform two hits ("Shut Up & Let Me Go" and "That's Not My Name") from an album they'd released two years earlier -- and at least one of those songs had been around longer than that.

Thankfully, the Columbia-signed duo has a new trick up their sleeves -- or, rather, out of their sleeves. "Hands" is the first new sounds from the band since releasing 2008's "We Started Nothing," and could very well end up on their sophomore set. It was recorded in the winter of 2009, and was mixed by venerable DJ Calvin Harris.

You can hear a stream on the track on the band's Facebook page, for the price of your soul your "Like." A "Low Sunday Indie Fix" remix is also available, though I think you have to surrender your deepest secrets to Sony or something, so I recommend hearing it here instead.

While I thought "Shut Up" is like Blondie at its snottiest best, and "Name" was like The Go! Team (remember them?) attacking "Hey Mickey," "Hands" sounds like the Ting Tings really starting to carve out their own unique niche, in an '80s new wave revival/speak-singing kind of way. It's catchy as hell, though still understated compared to the majority of "We Started Nothing." With somebody like Harris on board, it makes me eager to hear how else each of their two hands got, er, busy.

What do you think? Are they "working too hard" or not hard enough?

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<p>&quot;Coquet Coquette&quot;</p>

"Coquet Coquette"

Watch: of Montreal's 'Coquet Coquette' will tear your heart out

Love sucks, bites, hurts, plus: a very merry cassette release

A coquette is a woman who desires mens' affections without having to surrender any true intentions.

of Montreal's "Coquet Coquette" is a music video that seemingly has nothing to do with coquettes. However, it is a good excuse to feature ritual violence, loincloths and cannibalism. (And,perhaps, a very brief peek of Les Savy Fav's Tim Harrington, but that's probably just my eyes playing tricks on me.)

Frontman Kevin Barnes makes a cameo himself, as a sort of survivor of the slaughter. I'm not sure if this tale is based on a historical incident -- of an island of mostly white people that turn against the Others ("Lost"?), but it's a battle that will surely be recounted by our children, and our children's children, for days upon days.

"Coquet Coquette" is the leading single from of Montreal's forthcoming new album "False Priest," out on the highly popular release date of Sept. 14. It was produced by Barnes and Jon Brion and features guest spots from Janelle Monae and Solange Knowles (!).

And good news for cassette lovers: a limited edition run of 500 copies with a 12-panel booklet of Barnes family art is being run of the album, and it comes with a digital download of the album.

As previously reported, of Montreal's tour with Monae was among our top 10 indie rock tours to see this fall. Three new dates have since been added, with a stop in San Francisco on Oct. 29 and a two-day stint in Atlanta on Nov. 6-7. Have you bought your tickets yet?

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<p>Will Sheff</p>

Will Sheff

Song Of The Day: Okkervil River's Will Sheff debuts 'Lay of the Last Survivor'

Singer-songwriter places heart sturdily on sleeve, plus a very solo acoustic 'Plus Ones'

Will Sheff from Okkervil River stopped off at New York's Living Room last week and, somehow, I didn't know about it.

Thankfully, somebody was there with a camera with a HQ mic to capture some of the singer-songwriter's self-deprecation and a new song.

He performed "Lay as the Last Survivor" solo and acoustic, a taste of what may be on the rock act's first album in a couple of years. The track whirls with Sheff's usual litany of metaphor, with a ballsy, high-pitched revamp at the end. Check out TwentyFourBit for previously recorded bitter pill, "Plus Ones."

The band -- signed to one of my all-time favorites Jagjaguwar -- last released "The Stand Ins" in 2008, what was originally intended to be the second disc of 2007's "The Stage Names." Sheff's other band Shearwater also released a set, "Rook" in 2008 and an ode to nature, "Golden Archipelago," in February.

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

Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs

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

Has the singer-songwriter unleashed his best album yet?

"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).

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<p>Alphabeat</p>

Alphabeat

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

Still unsure about Tambourine Guy

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."

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

"An Introduction to... Elliott Smith"

Credit: Kill Rock Stars

Elliott Smith get an 'Introduction' via Kill Rock Stars

Is this really necessary?

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

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

Kanye West's "See Me Now"

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?

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.

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

M.I.A. in "XXXO"

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

Maya's version of a road movie

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.

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