<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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<p>Nicki Minaj at the 2010 BET Awards</p>

Nicki Minaj at the 2010 BET Awards

Credit: AP Photo

Nicki Minaj at No. 1: How she got there, why it's important and what it all means

Does the female MC deserve to be at the top of the rap chart?

For the first time in eight years, a female MC has topped Billboard’s Rap Songs chart. Nicki Minaj’s “Your Love” picks up where Missy Elliott’s “Work It” left off back in 2002.

It’s curious how the track even made its way there, and how the 25-year-old rapper and singer has navigated her way to becoming an in-demand featured vocalist and, come Nov. 23, full-fledged solo artist with her debut studio set.
 
 “Your Love” wasn’t even supposed to be a single, but was picked up by fans and, ultimately, radio after its demo version was included on her “Barbie World” mixtape earlier this year. It was re-recorded and came on the heels of her first single “Massive Attack.”
 
The strength of the reaction to “Your Love” may have been sparked by nostalgia, from the sample of Annie Lennox’s own crazy-eyed hit “No More I Love You’s” which leaves plenty of space for Minaj’s one-liners and that sliding, auto-tune-enhanced hook. Her high-register rapping rings relative to the nickname the black Miley Cyrus, Minaj’s own self-description.
 
It’s night and day compared to “Massive Attack,” which fell flat on the charts and left early fans cocking their heads; it was a non-beat meeting a non-structure for a non-song, even with the strength of guest Sean Garrett and Minaj’s wit (and ear-popping accents). It had an accompanying Hype Williams clip that wrecked with the ever-reliable desert music video genre and further defined Minaj’s pretty-ugly/ugly-pretty visual allure -- but it still didn’t feel like a proper solo introduction.

[More thoughts on Nicki Minaj after the jump]

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<p>Charlize Theron in &quot;Crossfire&quot;</p>

Charlize Theron in "Crossfire"

Watch: Charlize Theron defeats ninjas in Brandon Flowers' 'Crossfire' video

The Killers frontman plays victim while Theron plays action hero

Last week we saw Maroon 5's Adam Levine get beat up by his lady love. But this week, Brandon Flowers gets saved from the pain by his leading woman, who just happens to be Charlize Theron.

In the clip for "Crossfire," shot by stuntman Nash Edgerton ("The Matrix," "Knight and Day"), "The Road" actress defeats ninjas with throwing stars, swords and martial arts in order to save the life of The Killers frontman. He sits bound, helpless, in a handful of scenarios, his face mauled, his shirt stained with dirt and his own blood. He also lip-syncs. It's actually a very funny video, if not sweet and empowering as well.

It brings to mind another recent music video that utilized the fierce beauty of another Hollywood star: remember how Emmy Award-nominated "Mad Men" actress Christina Hendricks got torn apart in Broken Bells' "Ghost?"

"Crossfire" is the first single from Flowers' solo debut, "Flamingo," due Sept. 14. The song rolled out last month; I review it here.

 

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<p>DJ Shadow</p>

DJ Shadow

Song Of The Day: DJ Shadow teases 2011 album with fresh 'Def Surrounds Us'

What do you think of this glitchy electro evolution?

I always hold my breath when I hear DJ Shadow's name. "Entroducing" was just the start of his experiments in hip-hop and electronica, but there's been some patchy contributions along the way. His turn with U.N.K.L.E. was brilliant, his 2006 album "The Outsider" was not. His mix "Diminishing Returns" sounded fresh, his collaborations with Cut Chemist inspired, his remix of Keane a snoozer.

So I was a little anxious to hear of a new track out, "Def Surrounds Us." In what Shadow (born Josh Davis) describes as a mix of electro, dub-step and drum 'n' bass, the track swirls around an ominous spoken word sample with a wiry, minimalistically trippy beat and subtle crescendo. The result? Pretty good.

Some Kind of Awesome pointed out the stream, ripped from Zane Lowe's BBC 1 show. It features a few good words with the DJ, who seems laser-focused on shining off his as-yet-untitled solo set and follow-up to "The Outsider." Shadow says he's finished with about 35 or 40 minutes of tracking. Now, instead of anxious, I'm just eager to hear more.

What do you think of "Def Surrounds Us?"

DJ Shadow - "Def Surrounds Us" (Radio Rip) by Some Kind of Awesome

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<p>Lupe Fiasco</p>

Lupe Fiasco

New Festival Alert: Chi's North Coast boasts Lupe Fiasco, Chemical Bros., Disco Biscuits

Electronic, jam and hip-hop reigns supreme at Labor Day weekend fest

Lollapalooza and Pitchfork are two major festivals that have thrived in Chicago, so some independent promoters think it best to test if three times is a charm.

The North Coast Music Festival will be held over Labor Day weekend (Sept. 3-5) this year, with an emphasis on jam, electronica and hip-hop to round out its headliners. Chi's own Lupe Fiasco, dance vets Chemical Brothers and the Disco Biscuits are among the headliners to grace Union Park, with a fantastic $75 three-day pass to entice concert-goers.

Other announced artists include Moby, De La Soul, Nas and Damian Marley, Paul Van Dyk, Boyz Noize and Flying Lotus. It makes sense now that JamBase and Relix are partners. Grace Potter, Umphree's McGee (always the bridesmaid, never the bride) and Jakob Dylan are perfectly serviceable rock acts, though not additions that make me go "wow."

Organizers are adding other Third Coast-centric acts like Loyal Divide, Van Ghost and Future Rock to the bill, giving it a modest, hometown sheen as well.

I'm curious to see how this particular festival goes over, consider its eclectic billing, how cheap tickets are, Labor Day competition and the fact that locals may be sick of music festivals by September.

Ninety percent of the acts currently announced are really, really decent choices, though they may not attract -- say -- Lady Gaga, Big Boi or Green Day numbers. On top of that, for music lovers, a few other Labor Day music festival happenings come to mind : Bumbershoot in Seattle (Bob Dylan, Weezer, Drake), Jazz Aspen Snowmass (Wilco, Black Crowes, Sharon Jones) and All Tomorrow's Parties in upstate New  York (the indie rock nerd-fest that I will be attending). 

What do you think? Does this festival sound enticing?

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<p>Wilco's Jeff Tweedy</p>

Wilco's Jeff Tweedy

Credit: AP Photo

Wilco leave Nonesuch, 'potentially' starting their own label

Should the Chicago-based rock act release their own albums?

Wilco guitarist Nels Cline recently let it slip that the Chicago-based rock act has left Nonesuch and is "striking out on our own."

He told Express Night Out [link via Pitchfork] that the band is brewing a new record label, though he doesn't know the name of it yet. The group has its own Solid Sound music festival coming in August, but after, "I think our main task... is to work on new material and a new album... [frontman] Jeff [Tweedy] was basically not wanting to be on a record label for a while -- he didn't renew his contract with Nonesuch -- so we're striking out on our own, our own label."

The band's publicist told HitFix, "Wilco's deal is up with Nonesuch Records. While it has not yet been determined who will release the next Wilco record, forming their own label and releasing future albums through it is definitely a potential scenario."

Which leaves open the possibility of the band opting to sign a traditional label deal. Or a joint venture. Or starting an entirely independent shop to put out more than just their own material.

It'd obviously be to the band's benefit to release their own and their members' solo material through their own label outfit, as the proceeds would go directly into their own pockets.

But the latter possibility sounds the most intriguing, since Wilco has shown an interest in touting the talents of other artists (hence Solid Sound). Putting out 7" records or even full-length sets from unknowns might benefit them financially and as a good will project to propel their name further into the 2010s. A deal with a distributor like Red or a new artist-centered label like French Kiss could provide the machinery to get fresh efforts to the masses.

Which is why the band made a deal with Nonesuch in the first place. When Reprise sat on "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" back in 2001, it was by the grace of Nonesuch that the record finally got it a release date in 2002. Perhaps a Wilco-founded label could be the blessed home to great releases in the future.

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<p>Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon</p>

Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon

Watch: Gaslight Anthem's New York-centric 'American Slang' music video

Does one of the year's best rock songs get an equally great clip?

Let's set at least one thing straight: Gaslight Anthem's "American Slang" is one of the best new rock records this year, and its title track one of the best rock songs. Even after my initial review of the track it's grown on me tenfold; it's satisfyingly hyperbolic, anthemic and sets a good pace for running.

That being said... the new music video? Kinda meh.

Shot in black and white, it follows the quartet through Manhattan and Brooklyn, their pretty mugs alternating between looking morose and bored (though there is one darling shot of frontman Brian Fallon cracking up). We see a church steeple, some urban decay, live concert footage and homeless people. There's flitting looks at Wall Street and the Lower East Side's Allen Street. It's a sleepy homage to the city that never sleeps.

It wouldn't be fair to say Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" did this, only better, because Jay-Z has a gajillion dollars. However, it'd be nice if shooter Kevin Custer allowed the camera to linger on images of intrigue and meaning, rather than, like, "Look at this broken telephone. Then look at it in a second shot. So cool."

Curious that this squarely New Jersey-heralding group set its sites on New York for its first video, but then again, there's nine other tracks to take to New Brunswick.

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<p>Of Montreal</p>

Of Montreal

Song Of The Day: Of Montreal previews new album material with 'Hydra Fancies'

Solange and Janelle Monae have a 'False Priest' in common

Of Montreal is prepping the release of something like its 12th album "False Priest," and has unleashed at least two tracks for advanced listening.

"Hydra Fancies," the latest of these, will be featured on lit magazine The Believer's song compilation disc as part of its music issue, streaming below. A slightly alterered version will appear on "False Priest," due Sept. 14.

The track is on the less-flouncy side of Kevin Barnes and Co.'s output, though still with the signature synth slurs and doubled vocals.

The first available (free!) single, "Coquet Coquette," has a more jammy, adrenaline rush to it, much more organic in feel than the pop-weirdo-rock band's last album "Skeletal Lamping" on the whole.

"False Priest" will feature contributions from Solange Knowles on intriguingly titled "Sex Karma" and from the unstoppable Janelle Monae, on two tracks "Our Riotous Defects" and "Enemy Gene." In fact, Monae collaborated with Of Montreal on (more or less) her own tune "Make the Bus," a previous Song Of The Day.


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