<p>The xx</p>

The xx

Credit: Katie Hasty

The xx, Paul Weller, Mumford & Sons make 2010 Mercury Prize short list

Can Dizzee Rascal nab another win?

Biffy Clyro, Corinne Bailey Rae, Paul Well and Dizzee Rascal are among the 12 nominees for this year's Mercury Prize. More than 200 acts and their albums were up for the Album of the Year honor, given out to U.K. or Irish bands who have released new sets in the last 12 months.

The winner will be announced at the Barclaycard Mercury Prize Awards Show on Sept. 7.

The xx is estimated to take the £20,000 prize home and, while I may not be a raving fan of the band, I do appreciate awards such as these going to new and breaking artists rather than the standbys (like 2003 winner Dizzee Rascal).

My hope of hopes is to see Laura Marling take it. I've always very much liked her voice and her style, but she truly came into her own with "I Speak Because I Can," which doesn't miss a single note, and every song necessary and surprising. (Jack White agrees.) I do have a soft spot, too, for Mumford & Sons and Foals, and the very nature of Corinne Bailey Rae's intimate "The Sea" cries out for a little more attention (see: sad). Villagers and Kit Downes have the most outside of chances.

The Paul Weller set is an achievement just in a notable guests it roped in: the former The Jam frontman was joined by his former bandmate Bruce Foxton for the first time since 1982. This would be the first time in 16 years he gets the nod.

Other previous winners include Elbow, Klaxons and Arctic Monkeys.

Here are the nominees for the 2010 Mercury Prize:

Biffy Clyro "Only Revolutions"
Corinne Bailey Rae "The Sea"
Dizzee Rascal "Tongue N' Cheek"
Foals "Total Life Forever"
I Am Kloot "Sky At Night"
Kit Downes "Trio Golden"
Laura Marling "I Speak Because I Can"
Mumford & Sons "Sigh No More"
Paul Weller "Wake Up the Nation"
The xx "xx"
Villagers "Becoming a Jackal"
Wild Beasts "Two Dancers"

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<p>Jimmy Eat World's &quot;Invented&quot; </p>

Jimmy Eat World's "Invented"

Credit: DGK/Interscope

Jimmy Eat World 'Invent' new album for September

Will the new album triumph over their flatlined last?

 

A couple years ago, I had a very short but sweet debate with a co-worker about Jimmy Eat World. When the rockers announced they were to release their new full-length “Chase This Light” in 2007, I was a defender.
 
“Jimmy Eat World?” he snickered.
 
“Yeah!” I said, cawing, as I did my freshman year in high school, “They’re awesome.”
 
There was a pause.
 
“Clarity.”
 
“’Bleed American’.”
 
“Yeah, you’re right. They’re awesome.”
 
“Chase the Light” definitely wasn’t the album we expected, nor, upon listening, the album we hoped for. There constant hiccups of required renewal and, while I personally thought “Big Casino” was a killer single, I can hardly remember any of the rest of it.
 
But I’m allowing the heart on my little sleeve to skip a beat again. JEW is releasing another new set, “Invented, “ on Sept. 28, and at least one tidbit of information gives me hope: producer Mark Trombino, -- who produced those two aforementioned solid records, plus “Static Prevails” -- is back on board.
 
It’s not that “Chase This Light’s” engineers Chris Testa, John Fields or exec producer Butch Vig weren’t able-bodied. Their body of work combined would put any middling pop producer to shame. Frontman Jim Adkins’ strength is in writing pop songs for a Big Rock Record, but there was too much lean on pop and not enough rock. The delivery was tepid. It’s like they all just started getting to know each other and then it went to mastering.
 
So we’ll see what happens when the first single from “Invented,” “My Best Theory,” hits in August. I look forward to hearing the band working behind the decks again with a guy who clearly knows them at their finest.
 
JEW will hit the road later this fall, and are likely happy to be done with their Clarity 10th Anniversary Tour, even if it was a great success and good fun (for me).

 

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<p>The Gregory Brothers</p>

The Gregory Brothers

‘Double Rainbow’ connection: Gregory Brothers ‘honored’ by remix’s reception

Interview: The makers of ‘Auto-Tune the News’ talk kitsch and identity

Unless you don’t read or use the internet, you have been clued in to the existence of the popular YouTube clip “Yosemitebear Mountain Giant Double Rainbow 1-8-10” or, abridged, “Double Rainbow.” The rainbows themselves are somewhat astonishing, but double rainbow encounterer Paul “Yosemite Bear” Vasquez’s reaction to them is, in a word, excitable. You can see the clip embedded below. As of this morning, it’s been viewed in excess of 5.62 million times.

There have been 3.2 million viewers of what could be considered “Double Rainbow’s” musical counterpart, the “Double Rainbow Song,” which remixes Vasquez’s vocals using auto-tune and folded into a dance track. It goes for about 1:30, and is on sale on iTunes for $.99. Just before the weekend, the track showed up on the digital music retailer’s top-sellers pop chart, in the 70s.
 
The men (and one woman) behind the clip is Brooklyn band The Gregory Brothers, who you may recognize as the “Auto-Tune the News” masterminds. While there’s no exact numbers yet how many people have purchased “Double Rainbow Song,” the group hopes to make “a couple bucks” to share with Vasquez, who gave them permission to rework and sell the song. (Vasquez, who has described himself as “in poverty” in other recent interviews, has started selling double rainbow-themed t-shirts.)
 
Evan Gregory, one quarter of the Webby Award-winning group, spoke to HitFix this weekend about the phenomenon, “Auto-Tune” and making serious music when you’re better known for funny.
 
What did [Vasquez] think of your idea for the song?
 
He’s just very generous and sincere. We proposed splitting [the proceeds] out of the gate. We didn’t wanna offer it on iTunes if he wasn’t going to have a part in it… He had enjoyed the song, though at first he was skeptical of our motives. He’s just super nice guy and eventually saw the song we produced done in the celebratory fashion, with respect for the original intent of his posting it.
 
But isn’t part of people enjoying the video and the song out of making fun of the guy’s intensity?
 
Some of the viral explosion is surely due to ironic enjoyment, or speculating or commenters being like, “Is he under the influence?”. Over time, though, especially when you see his interviews, you understand that [he’s] really genuine and excitable. I can assure you what Paul meant and felt was that he was high on life.
 
Are you looking to remix other YouTube phenom?
 
We’re not looking aggressively to remix that kind of stuff. If there’s something that catches our eye, sure, like there needs to be a miracle in demand of a bassline. We noticed that last year: there was a severe dearth of basslines and accompaniment in news.
 
So where are you at in making more episodes of “Auto-Tune the News?”
 
We made six episodes in the first five months [of “Auto-Tune the News”] last year. In the 10 months since then, we’ve put out another 6. We’ll continue to produce it, but we refuse to put ourselves on a schedule. We’re planning some now and we’re gonna keep doing it as long as it’s fun for us… I will let slip that we have a couple pretty tasty articles selected and we have a celebrity cameo coming, but I can’t quite tell you who it is yet.
 
Are you going to find out soon? You know how fast the internet news cycle works.
 
If our celebrity confirms, I’ll be sure to let you know by the end of the day if, y’know, Justin Bieber is down for showing up with us. [Ed: Considering Gregory’s propensity for deadpan humor, I have no way of confirming or denying if he was just joking about the Bieb.]
 
You all have your own more straight-forward musical acts of your own. What are your shows like, and does your audience come expecting “Auto-Tune the News?”
 
When we play in new York, the bulk of the audience is made up of people who’ve known our stuff for years. We’ve been a quartet for three years or so. Since the advent of “Auto-Tune the News,” a lot more people found out about our band and so we’ve started including some different kinds of versions of “Auto-tune” in the show [Ed: see an example of what that may look like at the very end of the “Double Rainbow Song” clip, below]. We’ve also sung along to our own videos. For Vid-Con, we did a very stripped down version of “Double Rainbow,” four of our voices with just acoustic instruments.
 
But some of your separate projects’ music is so much more serious than comedy bits. Do you want to keep the two worlds separate?
 
Being separate doesn’t mean unrelated. We have different bands, but the videos have gotten each a ton of attention, it moves virally. That’s awesome for us. Traffic on YouTube has driven a ton of fans to our other music projects. It’s been really worthwhile enterprise in its own right.
 
Has “Double Rainbow” opened any new doors for you in the music biz?
 
Yes, the song has done well on the iTunes pop chart, but it remains to be seen when the numbers come out what it actually means. We’re not kidding ourselves. It’d be nice to make a couple bucks and share it with Paul. We have heard from numerous fans that the song has been played by radio stations here and there, but we haven’t been contacted about that. Since its not our faces or anything in the video or the song, it’s less tied to our identity. We’ve had some really great doors opened for our video work, though.
 
Do you get a big check from YouTube, considering the millions of views you’ve gotten?
 
We get a small check from YouTube. It adds up in a series in four to five trickles. Perhaps even medium sized rivulets. It funds our band’s bagels. A larger stream comes from people who wanna jog to our tunes on their iPod. And then there’s work for hire. People that like the videos wanna ask us to do music or video of whatever. Last fall, we did a viral piece for Sony. And we did a radio spot this spring for Chipotle, which wasn’t even auto-tune related at all.
 
Check out the thegregorybrothers.com for all the group's videos.

 

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<p>Owl City's Adam Young</p>

Owl City's Adam Young

Exclusive: Will Taylor Swift be on the next Owl City record?

Interview: Adam Young discusses Sky Sailing project and his dream collaborators

Adam Young, the mastermind behind Owl City, says he's only "knee-deep" -- five or six songs -- into his sophomore set, but already has some idea of who may be on it: namely, Taylor Swift.

In an interview with HitFix, Young said he has a track in mind for the county-pop superstar to sing on.

"I have talked to her. She's so busy, but she said if there’s time, she said it’d be lot of fun," Young explains. "There’s this weird hybrid country song I'm working on. There's no title 'cause I haven't made any lyrics yet. But that would be the one."

The pairing isn't firm, though Owl City's management said there's definitely "talking among themselves" for a collaboration. A rep for Swift said the singer is on the road and unavailable for comment.

On its face, the idea wasn't inconceivable to begin with. Swift has been known to Tweet to her pal, and even showed up in the VIP section of his show in New York last year. And Young has said that her "Love Story" is the best love song he's known (and, no, the two have never dated).

Young also has John Mayer on his collaborator wish-list for the follow-up to his 2009 debut "Ocean Eyes," a possibility he hopes to present to the veteran songwriter as they tour together this fall. Coincidentally, Swift and Mayer are close friends as well.

But writing a new album and prepping for that cross-country stint isn't all that's on Adam Young's plate at the moment. There's another release and another high-profile tour to attend to.

Young just released a new set "An Airplane Carried Me to Bed" under the moniker Sky Sailing on Tuesday (July 13). It's a collection of songs written before Young's Owl City project, with emphasis on acoustic instruments rather than synthesizers and keyboards. It's still undeniably Young's voice, but he wanted his two releases to be heard as totally separate projects.

"These came from two different eras," Young says. Sky Sailing's 12 tracks were written three-and-a-half years ago. "I just started writing music, and whatever came out went down on of two different avenues. It's been pretty intuitive. I think it's pretty interesting multiple views from the same guy."
 
He presented the idea to "pretty much" release "An Airplane" as-is to his label Universal Republic and "they were all for it." He essentially took his original recordings, spruced up a couple vocal tracks, added some tambourine and mastered it.
 
"The timing's worked out perfectly," he says.

Timing has also allowed Owl City to serve as tour support for Maroon 5 (along with V.V. Brown) in August. He says he's going to perform Owl City material, rather than Sky Sailing songs, throughout the fall.

"I think it's best to stick to what [fans] might know," he says.

Young says a new Owl City album can be expected late this year or early next.

Here are Owl City's tour dates with Maroon 5 and John Mayer:

Aug.     5th        DTE Energy Music Theatre w/ Maroon 5                    Clarkston, MI
            6th        Verizon Wireless Music Center w/ Maroon 5             Noblesville, IN
            7th        Constellation Performing Arts Center w/ Maroon 5   Canandaigua, NY
            10th      Comcast Center w/ Maroon 5                                     Mansfield, MA
            11th      Nikon at Jones Beach Theater w/ Maroon 5              Wantagh, NY
            13th      Jiffy Lube Live w/ Maroon 5                                        Bristow, VA
            14th      Susquehanna Bank Center w/ Maroon 5                    Camden, NJ
            15th      PNC Bank Arts Center w/ Maroon 5                           Holmdel, NJ
            18th      Cricket Pavilion w/ John Mayer                                  Phoenix, AZ
            20th      Shoreline Amphitheatre w/ John Mayer                     San Francisco, CA
            21st      Sleep Train Amphitheatre w/ John Mayer                  Wheatland, CA
            22nd      Hollywood Bowl w/ John Mayer                                 Los Angeles, CA
            24th      Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre w/ John Mayer         Irvine, CA
            25th      Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre w/ John Mayer          Chula Vista, CA
            28th      Pipeline Café (Headlining)                                          Honolulu, HI
            31st      USANA Amphitheater w/ John Mayer                         Salt Lake City, UT
Sep.     1st        Red Rocks Amphitheatre w/ John Mayer                    Morrison, CO
            4th        Superpages.com Center w/ John Mayer                     Dallas, TX
            5th        Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion w/ John Mayer       Houston, TX
            6th        Amphitheatre at The Wharf w/ John Mayer               Orange Beach, AL
            8th        Aarons Amphitheatre at Lakewood w/ John Mayer    Atlanta, GA
            10th      Ford Amphitheatre w/ John Mayer                             Tampa, FL
            11th      Cruzan Amphitheatre w/ John Mayer                         West Palm Beach, FL
 

 

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<p>Arcade Fire</p>

Arcade Fire

Credit: Eric Kayne

Commentary: Arcade Fire interview on not interviewing, unveil eight album covers

Will the band's promotional and marketing efforts help or hurt sales for 'The Suburbs?'

In late spring, Arcade Fire announced they'd be headlining a few scant festivals this summer. Then, Amazon posted a June 1 release date of new Arcade Fire music with no other information, and the band posts a hello and teases a 12". Prior to its release, a copy of that 12" shows up in a Glasgow record shop after the band Tweeted that there was one to be found. Those songs, "The Suburbs" / "Month of May," end up on Zane Lowe. Then, band members Win Butler and Richard Reed Parry talk about them on NPR and two more songs are farmed out to Zane Lowe and an Entercom-owned Seattle radio station. Tour dates arrive, and exactly one official album announcement goes out from Merge and the band's publicist.

Earlier this week, Billboard posted one of the first print/online interviews the band and its team has permitted. The band also reiterated its request that folks donate to help Haiti. And today, an online shop in Australia unveiled the eight different covers to "The Suburbs," of which a Arcade Fire fan Twitter got wind.

Covert in its dissemination and "hype" of the album's arrival, overt when it comes to getting people donating money to charity: information has been the controlled substance of the band's album release cycle for "The Suburbs" (due. Aug. 3) while the shows and -- ultimately -- the album are the payoff, for fans and the seven-piece group.

Arcade Fire paid for the record on their own, from building out studios to the making of videos. They own all its copyrights, and licensed the record out to labels all over the world for release. Even before, with Merge, they still had a 50/50 deal, unheard of in today's 360-deal-or-nothing press from the majors. Their success is all theirs and their teams'.

The Montreal-based band has been wise containing its public image, keeping behind a curtain when nothing's happening and when everything's happening at once. It's a contrast to the new media environment when seemingly every artist incessantly Tweets, interviews, shoots video blogs and behind-the-scenes clips, takes up every sponsorship/soundtrack/licensing offering, extends every opportunity for "access" online, blab about personal matters beyond what's necessary. This outstanding outpouring of information works for some artists, while others could benefit from saying "no" every once and a while.

Arcade Fire did something like five interviews leading up to the release of 2007's "Neon Bible," and announced the record's existence three months before its March 2007 release. We've been witnessing a similar scheme with "The Suburbs."

"It was such a blessing to really be able to achieve what we wanted to achieve and to be able to pay for it ourselves and do it ourselves," Win Butler told Billboard. "It gave us such a control over our own future that we are very fortunate to have. I don't judge anyone for wanting to take the money to be able to make the records you want to make. We had a very unusual situation."

"When your first album is [2004's] 'Funeral' and it does so well and is so well-loved by people and there's such a level of fervor about the band from the outset, that creates a high level of expectation for everything they do from there on out," said Merge co-founder Mac McCaughan.

And expectation is what is ruffling feathers, in both good ways and bad.

[More on Arcade Fire -- and the eight album covers -- after the jump...]

An article I read on ChartAttack seemed less enthusiastic about the Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" marketing and promotion model, calling these months a "self-produced assault on social media and Internet music publications that is designed to appear spontaneous, but couldn't be more tightly controlled."

For one, "assault" is a bit strong. Every music news outlet, including this one, has its choice of what minutiae it chooses to repeat/report, even with the temptation of what my friend Christopher Weingarten calls "firsties." And from the way the roll-out's gone, it keeps us guessing where and how the next part of the campaign occurs. It's a game, and not in a way that makes one feel f*cked with. It's three months, just like everything else.

And, after the album cycle of "Neon Bible," I don't think anybody who has thought of this year's tactics think of them as deceptively spontaneous. Playing a New York subway station at midnight, unannounced ? One could call that spontaneous. Happy accidents of the recording process like "woop" and the cracks in a voice? You generally can't plan that. But after a few dozen years of labels and bands repeating and adjusting a record release schedule, you can't blame a group for insisting tight control on their image and music when it serves to benefit their artistic vision and longevity.

Apologetic? I certainly am. I like Win Butler's refreshing candor in interviews, even when he's abrasive. "It’s not like we shun success, but at the same time we don’t’ want to shove it down people’s throats... There’s nothing less interesting to me than the idea of marketing the f*ck out of something so people are forced to like it. Some bands are just manipulating people to buy music. That’s how 90 percent of the record industry works! It’s basically the same as selling a f*cking toaster or a cruise package."

You're not going to see a lot of promo photos of Win standing solo, although in some he may stand up front. I think it's good to acknowledge when there's a "frontman" to a group, but still maintain that it's a group effort and not just facade for a single mind. He still does the majority of the interviews on the group's behalf, but its for what at least seems to be more-or-less a unified vision.

I've loved seeing the band grow live, especially the period where Regine Chassagne shed what stage fright she had to become the total beacon that she is today. I don't tire of the whole crew marching out into the crowd for a (calculated) encore. I think they're very giving and physical performers.  I was friends with Will Butler briefly in college, and happily pick him out from the blur of action on stage when they perform. I'm still thankful for that early copy of "Funeral."

They're lightning rod for pot shots, from consumers and critics who don't particularly like their music or find Win's Sprinsteenian inflections too carbon-copied; from the mindless "beefs" and jabs from other artists; from sources who don't have the inside scoop of each new promotional maneuver, exclusive stream or open guest list.

"Every outlet that doesn't get to talk to the band will scalp the best parts of those few interviews for their own audience," that same ChartAttack article continued.

To this point: damn straight. I'm quoting my former outlet above, certainly, because they're one of what will probably be less than a dozen media sources that will score an interview with Butler. It's due to the report's business angle that it's worth quoting for this very article and why it's even running this early, three weeks away from the album's Aug. 3 drop date. While HitFix, for instance, would love to score some face-time with the band -- and God knows, we've tried -- history shows that the NMEs and Rollings Stoneses are next in line for the prize, closer to that date. The random Aussie online stores and Glaswegian record shops are just the exceptions. It's just the Arcade Fire business.

The band survived the sophomore slump blues on "Neon Bible" -- despite it not earning the same critical acclaimed that funeral "Funeral" did -- with a No. 2 start on The Billboard 200. I don't know yet if this particular scheme has helped or hurt "The Suburbs'" outlook of commercial success, but it's been done similarly before, and to great outcome. The songs making the rounds so far are promising. We're hearing and seeing the band in just the way they want to be heard and seen by us, which feels conflicting but comforting. The next three weeks should be fun.

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<p>Kid Cudi in &quot;All Summer&quot;</p>

Kid Cudi in "All Summer"

Song Of The Day: Kid Cudi, Vampire Weekend producer go 'All Summer'

Best Coast grow big heads in advance of album release

B.o.B. covered Vampire Weekend earlier this year, but it looks like Kid Cudi is the up-and-coming rapper who gets to collaborate with one of its members.

Cudi combined efforts with the XL band multi-instrumentalist and producer Rostam Batmanglij and dream-pop-garage-rockers Best Coast for "All Summer," a song crafted for a specific campaign for a particular shoewear company. (I obviously have no problem touting corporate-sponsored creativity, I'm just not the one getting paid to mention 'em.)

The song sounds more Best Coast-y than anything, with Cudi smacked over a verse, but the video is shared equally, with all members bopping around "their apartment" in giant paper mache heads. I mean, who doesn't do their chores in giant paper mache heads?

Vampire Weekend is currently on tour, Cudi just released the single "REVOFEV" from his forthcoming album and Best Coast is prepping the July 27 release of its first full-length "Crazy For You." Click here to witness the latter in full.

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<p>A still from &quot;Inception&quot;</p>

A still from "Inception"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Fiercely surreal: 'Inception' score benefits from Hans Zimmer, Johnny Marr

Watch: The composer and legendary Smiths guitarist performs with 20-piece orchestra a film's premiere

Like the movie itself, the score to "Inception" deserves a revisit.

As stars were lining up for the premiere of "Inception in Los Angeles last night,  I was able to catch an early screening in New York.

As our resident movie critic Drew McWeeny so skillfully said, it's "a logical and orderly descent into a trippy but airtight" character exploration, and director Christopher Nolan "isn't interested in offering you up easy comfort at the end of this experience, and he doesn't care about making you feel good."

Just as much could be said of its score, crafted by the omnipresent and lauded composer Hans Zimmer, who's managed to win one Oscar (for "The Lion King," no less). But Disney this is not. These series of turbulent, dizzying compositions combined familiar elements and signatures with douses of surreality. There's crunchy pizzicato, murky swarms of horns swiveling on a turn in the synths and, of course, the welcome, weird contributions of legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.

Zimmer lets a piano get the viewer feeling sentimental, but freezes the feeling as strings dive to remind you that nothing is quite what it seems. Certainly, the music to "Inception" is dream-like -- as it should be, considering the theme -- but even in times of peace in the flick, a nightmare is just a "kick" away.

And you don't have to take my word for it. Awards watcher Greg Ellwood says Zimmer should be up for Best Score at the Oscars: Zimmer is "slowly joining the ranks of John Williams as one of the most significant composers to work on the silver screen."

Furthermore, check out Marr, Zimmer and a 20-piece orchestra perform at the film's premiere after-party last night, posted below via uStream. Note that only the drummer couldn't be bothered to dress up; a sweaty Zimmer can't help but to talk all over Marr during the interview; around the 19:20 mark, the bass from the electric drums is so heavy it clips the audio; and that our stand-in Edith Piaf could've probably used an ear monitor;

Speaking of which, I found an inclusion of Piaf's "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" in the film's soundtrack cute, considering Marion Cotillard played the late French singer in "La vie en Rose." As viewers will soon see, the song is pivotal for the protagonists' survival.

Marr has most recently been playing guitar for The Cribs, and before that, with Modest Mouse.

Zimmer said he envisioned only one guitar for the score and Marr was the man he called for the job. We don't blame him.

"Inception" is in theaters Friday (July 16).


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<p>Belle &amp; Sebastian</p>

Belle & Sebastian

Credit: Matador

Listen: Belle & Sebastian debut new song, plot tour, confirm fests, finish album

There's movement on the Scottish band's front

For the first time in about three-and-a-half years, there's new news on the music and tour front from Belle & Sebastian.

First, fans can check out the band performing a brand new song, "I Didn't See It Coming," live from their show in Helsinki, recorded Monday [courtesy of Stereogum]. See below.

Frankly, I listened to it for the first time about three hours ago, and I haven't been able to rattle the tune from my brain space since. Frontman Stuart Murdoch and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Sarah Martin share twee verses, a drone drizzles in the background, it goes for about 4:30. Nothing here changes from the Scottish band's formula, but even after seven studio sets, it ain't broke -- don't fix it.

The band has gone further than just confirming festival dates for Matador 21 and Treasure Island. They've plotted several other U.S. and Mexico stops for September and October (listed below), with the promise of more to come. They play a series of festivals overseas this month and next.

So what does it all mean? A new album is afoot. At the end of May, Murdoch posted that the band was "in the final stages" of completing a follow-up to 2006's "The Life Pursuit," the indie pop group's most successful studio set to date.

It's gonna happen, it's just a matter of when, now. An email requesting comment has been sent to a band spokesperson, who had not responded by press time.

Here are Belle & Sebastian's current U.S. and Mexico tour dates:

Sept. 29 New York, Williamsburg Waterfront
Oct. 2 Las Vegas, Palms Hotel / Matador @ 21
Oct. 3 Los Angeles Palladium
Oct. 8 Mexico City, Vive Cuervo Salon
Oct. 9 Guadalajara, Teatro Estudio Cavaret
Oct. 11 Chicago, Chicago Theatre
Oct. 12 Toronto, Massey Hall
Oct. 14 Washington DC, Constitution Hall
Oct. 15 Boston, Wang Theatre
Oct. 17 San Francisco, Treasure Island Festival
Oct. 19 Portland, Arlene Schnitzer Hall
Oct. 20 Seattle, Benaroya Hall

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<p>Panda Bear</p>

Panda Bear

Song Of The Day: Animal Collective's Panda Bear returns in HQ 'Slow Motion'

B-Side to the 'Tomboy' 7", the first of many singles from Noah Lennox

When I spoke to Animal Collective during Sundance this year, only Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, was missing. Now I know what maybe kept him so busy.

The songwriter has been working on a series of 7" single release, each to be released on different labels, throughout this year. The plan is for the releases to lead up to a full-length release, "Tomboy."

The first of these singles available is "Tomboy"/"Slow Motion," released today on the indie group's Paw Tracks label. Some folks received their vinyl early over the weekend and disseminated rips, but we have at least one high-quality stream for you, below, of the B-side.

"Tomboy," though, should be easy enough to find.

The next single will be "You Can Count on Me" / "Alsatian Darn," out later this summer on Domino.

I like this idea of different labels having dibs on the singles. It's a little like a reality show where somebody will win out to release the full length, and a little bit of an indies love-in, for folks to help this hypnotic, experimental-pop loving artist along the way.

Panda Bear's last proper full-length "Person Pitch" came out in 2007 and it was excellent.

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<p>M.I.A.'s &quot;Maya&quot;</p>

M.I.A.'s "Maya"

Review: M.I.A.'s 'Maya' is an unstable, incomplete third outing

More a journal of sketches than a completed artistic work

On M.I.A.’s “Story to Be Told,” the songwriter repeats over and over, “All I ever wanted was my story to be told.

What that story is on her album “Maya” (or “/\/\/\Y/\” if we’re still doing that) is unclear. This is three in the can for the British-born Sri Lankan, though this effort feels decidedly darker and murkier than “Arular” and “Kala.”
 
Maybe it’s political? Opener “The Message” rattles off a empty paranoia in a lyrical line that connects your iPod to “the government.” “Lovalot” compares the country to a chicken factory, but essentially leaves that as its bullet-point, without sonically inspiring the listener to think any more on it. Snitty, razzy, bratty and loveable “Born Free” packed more political implications in its video than the words of the track imply.
 
Maybe it’s an exercise in pop music? “XXXO” is a superb dance jam, doesn’t really let its hair down like those aforementioned bangers did upon first listen. Enjoyable but empty “Teqkilla” sits and waits for someone show up and rap over a placeholder verse (cough cough Nicki Minaj). She promisingly utilizes a sample of “Treats” from Sleigh Bells – the Brooklyn duo signed to her own N.E.E.T. label – but then goes nowhere with it; the result is what sounds like a three-minute-long radio bumper.
 
Maybe it’s a response to her own crowd-pleasing jams like “Paper Planes” or “Boyz?” With its simple rhyming schemes and sunny dub-step beat, “It Takes a Muscle” sticks out from the sound swamps of “Meds and Feds” or “Teqkilla” in its shocking earnestness. Using auto-tune, Diplo transforms M.I.A.’s caw into a new melodic instrument on solid “Tell Me Why,” the result coming out as a nursery rhyme played over a military march. “Steppin’ Up” has that same cadence as Britney’s “3,” the cold beat comprising of the sound of power tools and air brakes instead of synths and drum machines.
 
Maybe it's all of those things. If it is, it's a mess, and not a mess in the way that made me like M.I.A. to begin with.
 
On the whole, “Maya” sounds mostly like a series of sketches with some flashes of inspiration and aggression. M.I.A. tries too hard to prove herself as a singer – something’s she’s not – when she should probably just earn and enjoy her place among great non-singers (like Kurt Cobain, Jay-Z and Patti Smith). Her self-conscious “messaging” gets mixed in with some icky-stick rub-a-dub-dubbing silliness and it lessens the lessons, whatever they are. It’s the sound of her re-inventing her sound, but out of defensive strategy rather than a natural artistic progression. It's a mess. Perhaps she’ll be more fun in the next version of herself.
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