<p>Alexander Ebert</p>

Alexander Ebert

An epic interview with Alex Ebert on 'All Is Lost,' Golden Globes and Edward Sharpe

Frontman/composer on the history of cool, Oscars, Grammys and that Heath Ledger musical

LOS ANGELES - The score to Robert Redford's quiet, isolated film "All Is Lost" is, as one could expect, quiet and isolated. It's very patient output from composer and songwriter Alex Ebert, whose regular gig in the roving roots rock and psych-pop band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros features him resembling more of a tent revival preacher, a charismatic reveler-leader of a pack 12-strong musicians plus their fervent fans.

So "All Is Lost" is a reflection of alternate abilities, or a weirder, more alienated take on Ebert's knack for headstrong melodies and executions. He's stretched out, too, before in his old project Ima Robot and as a solo act, having released one album, "Alexander," as the latter. But it's this recent film music endeavor that's earned him a Golden Globe Awards nomination, for Best Original Score.

The singer and songwriter and I met in Los Angeles during this hotly contested awards season to talk about the making of the grave "All Is Lost" soundtrack and the evolution of Edward Sharpe, among plenty of other topics like the history of cool, Heath Ledger's creative strengths, derivative works, "selling out," starving art and activism. Below is our abridged Q&A.

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<p>Salaam Remi</p>

Salaam Remi

Interview: Grammy nominee Salaam Remi on 'In the Chamber,' Nas and Jennifer Hudson

Watch the title track music video featuring Akon

Salaam Remi will have a lot to celebrate about 2013 as he rings in the new year. He was recently nominated for four Grammy Awards, including one for his recent solo set “Salaam Remi One: In the Chamber,” for Best Urban Contemporary Album, plus others for his work with Miguel, Hiatus Kaiyote, and Mack Wilds. The producer, songwriter and studio instrumentalist launched his label Louder Than Life, too, for which he can hand-pick his collaborating artists.

Above, you can hear just one of his recently collaborations, with Akon “One in the Chamber” (directed by Robby Starbuck).

For 2014, Remi will be all over the next Jennifer Hudson effort, and will at least be taking phone calls with Nas; “In the Chamber” will also get the deluxe edition makeover for re-release in March 2014.

Below is an abridged interview I had with Remi, on his past – like working with the Fugees, Amy Winehouse, posthumous Michael Jackson material and “Sparkle” – and what it takes to have a successful future as an engineer and label head.

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<p>Danny Brown, Jon Hopkins and Neko Case</p>

Danny Brown, Jon Hopkins and Neko Case

Top 10 Best Albums of 2013

Listen to songs (in one case, an entire album) from My Bloody Valentine, Disclosure, Nick Cave and more.

Within my top 10, there's only one new artist. Inside my top 30, there's about 10.

Electronic music had a huge year with the return of Daft Punk, but also with new artist Disclosure, Jon Hopkins' career masterpiece "Immunity, and efforts from others like Boards of Canada, Juana Molina, Baths and Fuck Buttons.

You don't see a lot of rock in the top tiers of the Grammy nominations for 2014, and as loathe as I am to say it, I gotta say I feel almost (almost) the same way. I've loved the work that MBV, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, Portugal. The Man, Bill Callahan and left of center acts like Parquet Courts and Fidlar have done. Queens of the Stone Age and Red Fang are the most rock 'n' roll of these. Beyond that, I didn't feel like I heard enough, maybe, or we had brain space only for massive pop acts like Beyonce (loved), Lady Gaga (disliked), Britney Spears (promptly forgot) and Katy Perry (great singles, exhausting album).

I'm seeing a lot of outlets put "Yeezus" in their top spots, and while I agree its an aggressive, intoxicating album, I put it far lower on my list (than, say, my 2010 No. 1, "My Beautiful, Dark Twisted Fantasy) because it's almost challenging me to give extra points for being honest. Jason Isbell takes that prize, with raw and powerful "Southeastern." Nick Cave gets in there with his twisted, sexual sneering. Danny Brown (my 2011 N. 7) got weirder, at No. 4 this year with "Old."

I'm not a Drake girl, though I think that "Nothing Was the Same" was his best-contructed album. So long as we're talking new-era R&B, I could take Blood Orange dancing all night. Good year for the veteran ladies -- for Neko Case, India.Arie, Laura Marling, Tegan & Sara and new spins (for me, at least) out of Sarah Jarosz, Savages, Feathers and more.

Dancing, architecture. Let's listen to music, shall we?

<p>Evil genius Beyonce</p>

Evil genius Beyonce

Credit: Beyonce.com

11 reasons why Beyonce's new surprise album is genius and insane

Grammys, videos, Jay Z and giving the finger to year-end with 'Beyonce'

At precisely midnight on Friday the 13th (of December 2013), Beyonce dropped her fifth studio album, self-titled, and it was a total surprise. The album is available exclusively through iTunes through Dec. 20, when it will then be available as individual tracks. Beyonce said that CD copies will be available by Christmas.

And that sound of your Twitter feed blowing up is because it's insane. And kind of a genius move. Below are my initial thoughts on why:

1. Beyonce's husband Jay Z imparted unto the world "Magna Carta Holy Grail" amid much hype this summer -- the noise was not because of the strength of the songs (seriously, not in the least), but because of his groundbreaking deal with Samsung, offering the set as a free download to Samsung users who downloaded its app. No doubt, Beyonce's hype cycle is undeniably, erm, shorter, but it's a huge get for Apple who is -- you guessed it -- a competitor to Samsung, in the mobile market. His album featured Beyonce, and hers features Hov. His app downloads couldn't be counted toward the Billboard 200. Hers will. Adorable. Maddening.

2. Sure, Grammy Awards, go ahead and have your enormously slow Friday night to post your nominations last week. Beyonce is using the slow late-night hours, but her name will be dominating headlines all of Friday. You know what else she'll be dominating? The Grammy Awards, come January. Just as Justin Timberlake had no real reason to overtake the 2013 Grammys ceremony except to promote his new set, Beyonce just got herself a ticket (even though we know Beyonce will never be in want for Grammys tickets, ever). Jay Z's "Part II (On the Run)" featuring his wife is also up for an award, maybe she'll drag him up for her performance for once?

3. Sony certainly is having a wild night: not only is Bey's label home drinking champagne on her behalf, but also decided that Thursday night is a good night to push some fresh, new Spider-Man spinoff news to the world. It's like while everyone else in the world is figuring out how to re-gift this summer's blockbusters on DVD, Sony's still playing Santa Claus. Eggnog for everyone.

4. Kanye West spent pre-album promotion talking all about his methodology of not pushing a radio single and still selling enough copies of "Yeezus" for the No. 1 spot. After he topped the Billboard 200, he then he spent the weeks that followed that mulling "Yeezus'" painful second-week slide and -- you guessed it -- pushing a radio single. Depending on the news cycle between now and the New Year, Beyonce's starpower and staying power may be the echo to West's rebel yell. And she may do it better.

5. I'll bet Rihanna's glad she didn't try to rush yet another in-time-for-Christmas album as she's done with the previous four. She'd have been trampled.

6. Yes, "Beyonce" qualifies for the charts. This b-bomb of news will certainly help in the three days left in the sales week, and could help her easily take the top next week since there are no new or old titles that will sell more than, say, 140,000 copies. The added bonus of 17 (17!) videos makes the $16 price tag look like a steal compared to this week's chart-topper, Garth Brooks' Walmart exclusive boxed set priced at $25-$30. Individual songs go up for sale on Dec. 20. Physical will be ready in time for stocking stuffers, but she's pissed off brick & mortar stores (including big boxes like Best Buy and Target) something awful. Beyonce could be looking at least three weeks at the top since One Direction, Britney Spears and various Christmas albums no longer seem like a threat, but she can't expect a big push from other retailers since her love affair is squarely with iTunes.

7. What's insane is that everyone involved kept mum. Literally every outlet I've heard from got one or two hours max heads up time on this release. Drake hasn't posted to Twitter in a couple of days. Beyonce's been on tour and you're like, Yeah, of course you're stone-cold. Nobody's talked to Frank Ocean lately because Frank's not talking. It feels almost like a betrayal. What fun.

8. No countdowns to a music video release, no video teasers, no behind-the-scenes prequels. Beyonce has her career partially on the strength of her videos, and she's released 17 all at once. It's a lot to behold, which may effect each visuals' staying power. But again, Beyonce is trying to challenge the status quo and the listening experience. Who knows if that Terry Richardson joint will get lost in the fray, but his last outing was with Miley Cyrus and we all know how that went. Video is Beyonce's painterly medium, and "Beyonce" is a "Visual Album." Just remember there's a "clean" version download for the faint of heart.

9. Tonight was Queen B's 100th concert on her Mrs. Carter Tour. Every show's special, right?

10. A few other big surprise albums come to mind from 2013: David Bowie's "The Next Day" and My Bloody Valentines' "m b v" were from fairly dormant artists but enjoyed their news and critical cycles. Sleigh Bells and Four Tet are much smaller scale and the surprise didn't seem to benefit them much. Jay Z and Kanye had their surprise announcement but still had some promo time. Radiohead is still the gold standard as far as surprise album drops go, and they're the same headlining, A-list scale as Beyonce -- different genres. Will fans take to it like Radiohead or Bowie fans did to those bands' experiments?

11. I pity the long leads. Many a critic have already made up their top 10 lists, many are posted, many are about to appear in print or other intricate, well-thought-out form of featured gray matter. Beyonce doesn't care about your top 10 list. Beyonce has 14 songs on her list and their all hers.

Bonus: Her rapping on "Drunk in Love" (feat. Jay Z) makes my head herrrt. "Haunted" is dope.

Here's the tracklist for" Beyoncé":

1. Pretty Hurts
2. Haunted
3. Drunk In Love (feat. Jay Z)
4. Blow
5. No Angel
6. Partition
7. Jealous
8. Rocket
9. Mine (feat. Drake)
10. XO
11. Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche)
12. Superpower (feat. Frank Ocean)
13. Heaven
14. Blue (feat. Blue Ivy)

<p>Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez</p>

Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez

Credit: Talisman Brolin

Interview: 'Frozen' composers Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez react to Globes nom

'Book of Mormon' and 'Winnie the Pooh' writers on ladies in cinema

Composers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez together composed the music for 2011's "Winnie the Pooh" and the musical adaptation of "Finding Nemo," but just this morning nabbed their first Golden Globe nomination for a different Disney property. "Let It Go" from "Frozen," performed by Idina Menzel, is now up for a 2014 for Best Original Song.

Lopez and Anderson-Lopez have earned acclaim for their work on Broadway and in TV/Film -- in their own right for musicals like "In Transit" and "Book of Mormon" and together on projects like kids' TV show "Wonderpets"

Below, I talk to the couple about their nomination, females in the working music world and their next theater endeavor.

 

Congrats on your nomination. You’ve each earned awards in theater and in film. What does the Golden Globes nomination mean to you?
 
Robert: We’ve been watching the Golden Globes forever. We never imagined being nominated for one. It’s an incredible honor and we’re grateful.
 
Kristen: I’m so excited, for Tina – that is, Tina Fey and Amy Pohler. Totally.
 
There’s different versions of the song out there, and it seems to work for very different reasons. Did you write with that in mind, how’d that work?
 
Robert: When we wrote “Let It Go,” we already had Idina in mind, she was such a great Elsa. And then when Disney came back and said “We want to do a different version” and this time it was with Demi Lovato. We got to work with another producer, tailor a different version, change the bridge. But we love both versions.
 
Why do you think “Frozen” worked as a movie on the whole?
 
Kristen: I think it’s a wonderful message about families, and about how fear can distance us. You can strengthen the bond if you go toward the love, that is, true love will heal everything. It’s a good message for the holidays, or any time. I love the message that sisterhood is just as valid and strong as romantic love.
 
Speaking of women’s representation, you just don’t always see a lot of women composers and writers in the Best Song or Best Score field. Do you feel pressure or have any thoughts about being one of the few recent entries there, Kristen?
 
Kristen: First, I’m just thrilled and grateful to be here and to have a nomination. Statistically there’s something going on there [in the nominations].  Fifty percent of people graduating from these writing schools are women, and they are less and less represented as time goes on. I feel like I have been inspired and learned so much from the amazing female writers that I have in my life. They’re a wonderful group of women that I’m hoping will be a part of changing the playing field.
 
And with “Frozen” and “Catching Fire” leading the way with female protagonists, I’m excited for more doors to be opened to female stories.
 
You guys have written for kids, for families and for adult-only audiences. What does it take to write – lyrics especially – music that’s funny for a variety of audiences?
 
Robert: We look to be a little subversive, no matter what audience. We’re always looking where that line is, try and skate very close to that line. When people are surprised, that’s when they’re likely to be affected by a story.
 
What’s next for you in 2014?
 
Robert: We have a lot of projects lined up. The one we actually can talk about is “Up Here.”
 
The musical with Alex Timbers?
 
Robert: Yeah, it’s about consciousness. It’s reverent about all things romantic comedy and yet looks at cosmic questions and self.
 
Are there more Disney films – or any other films – you’re working on in the future?
 
Robert: We loved working with Disney. We had the best time working with them hope to have another chance to do it again.
 
<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: AP Photo

Taylor Swift, Coldplay, U2, Alex Ebert vying for music Golden Globes

Does Alex Ebert have a chance against Hans Zimmer, John Williams or 'Mandela?'

Taylor Swift is yet again in the running for a motion picture award, as her "Sweeter Than Fiction" joins other big-name acts like U2 and Coldplay in the 2014 Golden Globes category for Best Original Song. The single from the film "One Chance" was co-written by fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff, giving "Sweeter Than Fiction" an extra edge of star power (though Swift can typically hold that down on her own).

The country crossover star was up for a Golden Globe Award last year, too, for "Safe & Sound" with The Civil Wars, though Adele's "Skyfall" took home that music award because she's Adele and she takes home all of the awards.

U2 signaled a bout of action with their "Ordinary Love" for "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," their first new material since 2009's "No Line on the Horizon." The rock crew purportedly contributed at the behest of Harvey Weinstein; they've gone on to hint that a new album may arrive in Q2 of 2014, which is good timing should they make an appearance at the January Globes ceremony.

Music from actual musicals made their way into Best Original Song, as "Inside Llewyn Davis" and "Frozen" both get their nod. Idina Menzel sings on "Let It Go" from the latter film; it was composed by "Winnie the Pooh" collaborators and husband-and-wife duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (it is a decidedly safer song than Robert's "Book of Mormon" compositions). When you see "Inside Llewyn Davis" -- no "should" about it -- you may find the "Please Mr. Kennedy" nod particularly comedic, given the context of its novelty. Oscar Isaac has better performances and better tunes out of his titular role, but the Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver support certainly gave this a boost on the ballots.

What you don't see on here? Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful" from "The Great Gatsby" which was, notably, one of the rare "new" movie musics representing on the woefully 2012-based 2014 Grammy nominations list.

The Best Original Score tally is just as competitive as Best Original song, with mainstays like Hans Zimmer ("12 Years a Slave") and John Williams ("The Book Thief") facing off against scores like Alex Ebert's pensive and isolating "All Is Lost." Ebert is perhaps better known as the eccentric frontman of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, making the sound and nomination reminiscent of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' get for "The Social Network.

Alex Heffes' "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" has a decent shot, too, given the eclectic winners over the last five years. Foreign-language and foreign lands featured prominently in recent winners "Life of Pi," "The Artist," and "Slumdog Millionaire." Another Brit, Steven Price, simply went out of this stratosphere for "Gravity" -- that's a story sort of similar to former honoree "Up," right?

Best Original Score
"All Is Lost" - Alex Ebert
"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" - Alex Heffes
"Gravity" - Steven Price
"The Book Thief" - John Williams
"12 Years A Slave" - Hans Zimmer

Best Original Song
"Atlas," Coldplay ("The Hunger Games: Catching Fire")
"Let It Go," Idina Menzel ("Frozen")
"Ordinary Love," U2 ("Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom")
"Please Mr. Kennedy," Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver ("Inside Llewyn Davis")
"Sweeter Than Fiction," Taylor Swift ("One Chance")

<p>Lana Del Rey</p>

Lana Del Rey

Watch Lana Del Rey as a stripper-poet-saint in 'Tropico'

It's not as crazy as it sounds
At last night's premiere of "Tropico," Lana Del Rey announced that the short film is the final project for her 2012 breakthrough album "Born To Die" and that she'll release follow-up record "Ultraviolence" sometime next year. The new album title comes the book-turned-film "A Clockwork Orange," one of few references missing from the symbolism overload of "Tropico." Watch it here or below.
 
"Tropico" opens in the Garden of Eden with Del Rey as Eve and model Shaun Ross as Adam, plus Jesus, John Wayne, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and a unicorn. It quickly turns into a music video for "Body Electric," which fits the original sin theme pretty well. Once Del Rey bites into the apple though, all hell breaks loose and we fast-forward to a dystopian Los Angeles where she's working as a stripper and Ross is a convenient store clerk. 
 
Before "Gods and Monsters" begins, Del Rey rips off some great poets -- including Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg -- and whispers their words (and a few of her own) as scenes reveal that she's a lousy pole dancer, Ross is a criminal and they're hanging in the Latino gang crowd. That's about as much of a narrative as we get. 
 
Redemption arrives in the final scene as Del Rey and Ross cruise into a golden field in a sea green Bel Air, with John Wayne reciting a speech about America. Naturally, the song "Bel Air" kicks in and we watch as the couple becomes transformed from black-clothed sinners to white-wearing saints. Wayne serenades them into heaven with the classic "Always on My Mind."
 
Director Anthony Mandler's work is really the star of the film -- especially in the shots of L.A. and the finale -- so if you don't like Del Rey's music, at least watch it on mute.
<p>Metric</p>

Metric

Get lost in Metric's vibrant new video for 'Lost Kitten'

This is the best voguing you'll see all year
Canadian pop outfit Metric journeys to Mexico City for its new video "Lost Kitten," a single off its 2012 album "Synthetica." But don't expect to see the band anywhere in this video that is stylized like a Pedro Almodóvar film and chronicles the story of a lost, voguing dancer. Check it out here or below.
 
The song "Lost Kitten" recalls Metric in its angsty-pop "Grow Up and Blow Away" period, with frontwoman Emily Haines chirping sassy lines like "they got it, they want it, they give it away." The video takes a literal approach to the song's plea for home and security, following ballroom dancer Sheldon McIntosh (also known as Toronto drag performer Tynomi Banks) as he searches for his mother on the streets and outskirts of Mexico City. 
 
The color-saturated video opens with McIntosh waking up on a couch in a sequined jacket, white shorts and black kitten heel boots (Lady Gaga should steal this look) and finding a postcard from his estranged "Mama." McIntosh starts to softly hum the lyrics "you've got my eyes, you've got my eyes" and the actual song kicks in when he begins his quest. The video elegantly juxtaposes the glamorous, strutting McIntosh with the bustling city of vendors and commuters. In the video's stunning finale, McIntosh vogues on the deck of a flat-bottomed boat drifting down a canal that leads to his mother's arms.
 
Directed by fellow Canadian Sammy Rawal, the video was funded by MuchFACT, which provides grants to Canadian artists. The band grapples with conformity, the natural world and modern technology on "Synthetica," which was re-released last month as an instrumental, synthesizer-only album called "Synthetica Reflections." The new "Synthetica" interactive app allows fans to remix songs from the album.
 
If you want to see the beautiful Haines, she stars in the new video for the album's title track, which you can watch here.

Fifth Harmony talks 2013 jams, a Christmas album: Video
Credit: HitFix

Fifth Harmony talks 2013 jams, a Christmas album: Video

Check out the HAIM name-drop

How cute are Fifth Harmony? So very cute. I caught up with "The X Factor" fivesome on the red carpet at the American Music Awards earlier this week, fresh off of singing "Better Together" in the AMAs pre-show.

Each took time out to say what their No. 1 jam of 2013 would be, with Justin Timberlake's "Mirrors," HAIM's "If I Could Change Your Mind," a Rihanna single and more.

Considering it was cold (at least for L.A.), I also asked if they'd be into ever recording a Christmas album. And just guess their answer.

Get your coffee ready, 'cause here's some sugar. Check out the vid. Fifth Harmony's EP "Better Together" was released in October.

 

<p>Anton Yelchin and Kate Mara in &quot;After the Disco&quot;</p>

Anton Yelchin and Kate Mara in "After the Disco"

Credit: PopFilms/Columbia/The Creators Project

Anton Yelchin talks 'Star Trek,' 'Burying the Ex,' 'Terminator' and astronaut work

Is the Russian-American actor on for another round of 'Terminator?'

The long-form music video/short film for Broken Bells' "After the Disco" wielded a lot of star power, including fun sci-fi work from Jacob Gentry, Kate Mara in a pink uniform and the gifted melancholy of Anton Yelchin.

I had the chance to catch up with Yelchin as the two-part project premiered, to talk about the space-bound video plus a few other projects he's on, including the next "Star Trek," the possibility of another round of "Terminator," his starring roe in Joe Dante's "Burying the Ex" and making music in his spare time.
 
I think between the Broken Bells project and "Star Trek," you may have a future as an astronaut.
 
I just always feel like I’m floating around in space.
 
Such is the life of the actor…
 
I actually just think that’s just me.
 
In part 2 of “After the Disco,” I was half expecting a dance sequence. Can you dance?
 
No. Not at all. I’m like the anti-Baryshnikov. I can’t dance for shit.
 
You said this was your first music video. Think you want to do something like it again?
 
I’d love to do something like that again. It just depends on what music is, what the idea is, I was really fortunate that this was my first music video. I thought it was really fun.
 
You’re a musician too, aren’t you?
 
I’d really hesitate to say I’m a musician. I really think that I really respect real musicians, and it’d be an insult to call myself one. I make weird noise on my guitar.
 
I’m into making feedbacky, drone stuff on my guitar with pedals, with lots of feedback and onto tape.
 
Do you have any favorite guitars and amps?
 
I usually play through my Deluxe… it sounds great without any pedals, it’s a beast so you really can’t even go past “1.” I’m not a techy person I just like to figure out how to make sounds.
 
Are there any artists or songs you listen to to get pumped up, to go to work?
 
I don’t want to sound pretentious, I just like listening to the city. I find in a way its sounds are very interesting. I don’t know if there’s any real difference between music and sound anyway, it’s all just sounds.
 
But I’m really listening to the Misfits every day driving work. I’m working on a film with Joe Dante right now, and I feel like horror punk in this character I’m playing… I’ve loved the Misfits for a long time.
 
"Burying the Ex" – does it qualify as a zombie film?
 
There’s a zombie element to it, but the genre blend of horror and comedy. I like to just think of it as a Joe Dante film.
 
Are there any favorite fun horror films you’ve been watching lately?
 
I watched “White Zombie” with Bela Lugosi. “I Walked With a Zombie,” “The Unknown” is really macabre…. Tod Browning is so fucking weird. Lots of Vincent Price. Vincent Price is the man.
 
Are any of those creeping into your character in “Ex?”
 
I’m trying to put them in, but who knows.
 
Are you on for the next “Terminator?”
 
I don’t know, no one’s said anything to me. I have no idea. I literally know nothing about it.
 
For the “Star Trek” films, in approaching you for the next film in the series, do they ever give you a heads up about how much your character is going to be in the film? What kind of insights do you get as they start?
 
I get no insights. They call, they say, “We're going to make the film, we’re going to make it at this time.” And then they say, “Come read the script.” And then I read it and then I see how much work I have.
 
Do you have any idea how much of you we’ll have in the next film? I know I could have used more Chekov in the last film.
 
I really actually know nothing about it. I thought maybe I’d know more by now. I wasn’t around much this summer while I was working, I wasn’t in the loop.
 
When you’re on set for “Star Trek,” who’s the biggest clown?
 
We’re all pretty weird. When we get together.