<p>&quot;I am... alone&quot;</p>

"I am... alone"

Credit: Columbia

Natalie Maines and new solo album 'Mother': Dixie Chick with a man's 'voice'

Watch the video to her cover of Eddie Vedder's 'Without You'

Natalie Maines released a new album today called "Mother," a mix of rock 'n' roll downers and uppers and some covers. "Without You," originally by Eddie Vedder, has Maines' voice at its core, laying bare some of those emotions that we haven't really tended to in the six years since the Dixie Chicks went on hiatus.

The video, out today too, is even more tame than the take, with a performance shots, some studio goofs, some hugs and fans and a few fashion shots that highlight her beautiful new 'do and her self-aware isolation.

(Watch the video exclusively at EW.)

OK, so let's unpackage the latter a little bit: this is Maines' first solo rodeo, which makes an exceptional job of highlighting her vocals. Even before the 'Chicks, Maines leaned rock and R&B, even as she performed in other country groups. Her choices on "Mother" -- including selections from Jeff Buckley, Pink Floyd and her album producer Ben Harper -- here reflect an appreciation for range and drama, and yet the collection is mostly harmless.

Harmless, which is a word that many would never apply to Natalie Maines. It was 10 years ago that Maines criticized the then-president George W. Bush and protested the Iraq war; in the years that followed, she and her cohorts Emily Robison and Martie Maguire as the Dixie Chicks wore those political leaning and rejecting the rejectors with documentary "Shut Up and Sing." Maines refused to "back down" with acclaimed "Taking the Long Way" with its prominent 2006 single "Not Ready to Make Nice."

"It's a sad sad story when a mother will teach her daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger," reads the lyrics to that song, which then points its way back to Maines and her new "Mother." The title and Pink Floyd's "The Wall" cover weren't selected out of total coincidence: in a way, it's yet another political statement. The Roger Waters tune is ultimately 1) about a rock star and his (single) mom 2) about overprotection and isolation and 3) exercises a skepticism on government and the governing majority.

These are all things Maines knows too well. What I find more interesting is that Maines sings "Mother" as a mother (of two) and a rock star, giving it a woman's sense of ownership and ideal. Single mothers in the '70s and Maines as a country singer with a liberal bent share difficulties as pariahs -- and also happen to be alienated females with a fast-tracked coming-of-age.

As the backlash of the Dixie Chicks continued throughout the 2000s, I had no doubt that some of it was fueled by their gender in the country marketplace. "Dixie Sluts" and "Ditzy Chicks" became choice insults from the era, for example, and they shielded attacks on their abilities as mothers and wives. Country killed Maines' country career, but on her new album Maines herself has scrapped country for rock, notably on songs penned by mostly men (though Maines co-writes, a Patty Griffin song is included and Maguire and Robison collaborate momentarily), in a male-dominated genre. Even though some songs can be interpreted mostly genderless, Maines again finds herself in a platform position not in spite of her gender, but because of it.

I find her voice and her "voice" powerful, even though "Mother" on the whole isn't a terribly strong record. Just like when she and the Dixie Chicks stirred up country homogeneity, I'm just glad she's there. 

The Dixie Chicks have been on hiatus from the studio for six years and from the road for three. Maguire and Robison continue to record under Court Yard Hounds and plan a new release this summer.

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Watch the amazing, creepy video for Queens of the Stone Age's new 'Kalopsia'

Watch the amazing, creepy video for Queens of the Stone Age's new 'Kalopsia'

Go ahead and sample a third of the album, including 'I Appear Missing'

Queens of the Stone Age are two for two as far as affecting animated videos featuring crows pecking at the dead, gore and zombie-like wanderers. Today's new offering, the clip for fresh "Kalopsia," is an achievement in its movements; "I Appear Missing," which appeared last week, is a torture device in color.

Both kind of rule.

"Kalopsia" is "a condition wherein things appear more beautiful than they are," and Josh Homme's voice at least starts out rather beautifully. There's a lot of Bowie feel in this track, even when they open up the room and rock out.

Downer "I Appear Missing" is much more on-the-nose, equal parts depressing and cruelly enlightening. Plus Dave Grohl drums on it, so at least there's a big morbid smile behind it all, before you hit the ground.

That makes it three official studio samplings that are out in the open from QOTSA's new 10-track album "... Like Clockwork," out on June 4. Listen to "Kalopsia," "Missing" and first single "My God Is the Sun" below.

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Review: Vampire Weekend's new album 'Modern Vampires of the City'
Credit: XL

Review: Vampire Weekend's new album 'Modern Vampires of the City'

HitFix
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Choirs, harpisocord, the Eternal and -- or course -- glorious pop music

 

After three albums, Vampire Weekend officially have an evolved history. The band burst out the gate with their bounding pop self-titled, followed by the developing limbs of comparatively underwhelming “Contra” from 2010. With “Modern Vampires of the City,” their patterns of pop and full-witted lyricism have segued with orchestras, choirs, more electronic-based rhythms and years worth of new tales of age and spirit.
 
Gone are the beach bonfires of “Cape Kwassa Kwassa,” or throwback rock of “Kids Don’t Stand a chance.” Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig explains it in part on new song and grand standout “Step”: “Wisdom’s a gift but you trade it for youth / age is an honor, it’s still not the truth.”
 
The band’s always been lean, with most of their tracks in around 3-minutes, but they’re packing them tighter, and thematically they stick to the point. Rostam Batmanglij and Koenig spends “Modern Vampires” on topics of spirituality, personal ritual and aging (both his own and the era).
 
"Diane Young" (read: dyin' young) has Koenig’s voice pitch just like Jamie Lidell like it, fronting a weird funk-rock party band from the ‘50s, playing with the genre with both a smirk and a big toothy grin. His voice is used as an instrument on “Finger Back,” taking us to Jerusalem – apparently at the “falafel shop on 103rd and Broadway” – in a bevy of altar organs of the highest order. He also takes us to church in "Ya Hey", which is so keenly and specifically about God/all-gods: it doesn’t fall out of the wheelhouse, but is another way to revel in the exuberance of language in the solemnity of the subject matter. “Worship You” and “Everlasting Arms,” as you can imagine, has similar warped features, as he explores the space between master and servant, class and honor, just here on Earth.
 
What there is of story here is in New York (“slash San Francisco”), but also in the imagination of producers (band multi-instrumentalist) Batmanglij and Ariel Rechtshaid in the studio. “Worship You” transcends from being a novelty, coke-speed faux-folk-romper into a sophisticated time-traveler through synth frequencies and gurgling samples. The capture the chilly, the doomed romance of “Hannah Hunt,” having Koenig shouting his punny punchline "Though we live on the U.S. dollar / you and me we got our own sense of time”; they follow it with three songs of solid basslines that would have Talking Heads talking.
 
Every song has something hidden, or amplified and then suppressed underneath Koenig’s verbosity and kiddish range; the band sneaks in the fake baroque of a harpsichord and holy choirs on more than one occasion. There’s fantastical flourishes of tambourine and what sounds like a kick drum on a very sturdy moving box for successful midtempo rocker “Don’t Lie.” An upright piano clamors for attention on "Obvious Bicycle," the repeating verses and slight color changes of harmony-laden “Unbelievers” and a bastard crew of rhythmic noise from “Hudson,” which is equal parts coming-of-age and disenchantment.
 
This collection puts Vampire Weekend up and over more than three dozen studio song, enough to say when they’re ascending and when they’re maybe losing their edge. Result: “Modern Vampires” is sharp as hell, elegant and lusciously treated to give it a consistent sheen, even on the weirdos. This is a move up, even from their debut offering, even from their most obvious influences and New York landmarks. After an effort this complete and viciously fulfilling, It’s tough to imagine anything they’d wish to revise, leaving it to its listeners: with so much mood, humor, variety, challenges and, of course, glorious pop music, there's little I'd leave off or add on.

 

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<p>Solange</p>

Solange

Watch Solange strut in 'Locked in Closets' mini-music video

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Don't worry. This is not to sell you the same liquor Solange was hired to sell you.

This is about selling Solange.

The singer's "True" EP dropped in November, as a little taste-tease for a full-length that's supposed to be due out some time this spring.

And this video for "Locked in Closets" is a little taste-tease for it. The other Knowles is seen strutting in in her newly adoptive home-base Brooklyn, at bodegas and salons, subway stops and the dance floor. I know that I lived in New York too long because I'm thinking, "Someone had to do serious neighborhood association battle to paint their brownstone building that shade of pink."

"True" was produced by Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange) and released by Terrible Records, a label co-founded by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor. No word yet on when to expect Solange's third full-length.

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Watch Lana Del Rey emote in her 'Young and Beautiful' music video from 'Gatsby'

Watch Lana Del Rey emote in her 'Young and Beautiful' music video from 'Gatsby'

HitFix
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Hey, at least diamond teardrops aren't a bindi (Selena.)

Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful" was one of my (very few) favorites from off of "The Great Gatsby" soundtrack, so you can imagine my disappointment that the singer has admittedly killed two people. Or at least, that's how I'm reading her diamond teardrops from the "Young and Beautiful" music video.

Aside from the movements from the conductor -- similar to that of Bugs Bunny as Leopold (because I'm a five-year-old child) -- the Del Rey clip keeps fairly stationary, perhaps due to the heft of her aching soul.

"Great Gatsby" is in theaters starting today, with its Jay-Z-aided soundtrack out on Tuesday.

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Watch Pusha T's 'Numbers on the Boards' video with Kanye West and Chief Keef

Watch Pusha T's 'Numbers on the Boards' video with Kanye West and Chief Keef

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Brief cameos make for a focused video

If Pusha T's "Numbers on the Boards" is a prime example of what to expect from the rapper's oft-delayed album "My Name Is My Name," add me to the pre-orders.

I like Push's ferocity and sense of humor here, displayed in this new video as a series of neck-ups with the usual backdrops: dark tunnels, rooftop views, the Paris Metro. But it's all pretty dark -- the execution, plus the shots -- equalling something tight, focused, minimally produced but lithe and bounding. It's a cool creation, produced by Kanye West who makes about a one-second appearance at the end. Chief Keef took time out to stop reading Shakespeare to make a cameo too.

"I might sell a brick on my birthday," the former dealer boasts in one of his many drug-dealing boasts. "Thirty-six years of doing dirt like it's Earth Day (god)."

"My Name Is My Name" is due on July 16 via mouthful Getting Out Our Dreams, Inc./The Island Def Jam Music Group.

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Watch Avril Lavigne's, like, totally immature 'Here's to Never Growing Up' music video

Watch Avril Lavigne's, like, totally immature 'Here's to Never Growing Up' music video

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Co-written by fiancé Chad Kroeger, co-sponsored by 1998

My favorite part of Avril Lavigne's "Here's to Never Growing Up" is that there isn't a single acoustic guitar or drum machine in it. Think about it.

My least favorite part is there was no pig's blood involved.

While the track itself is a combo of Ke$ha's "We R Who We R" and Miley Cyrus' "Party In the U.S.A.," the video will remind you why you left your prom early to go drink in the car. In 1998.

"Here's to Never Growing Up" is the first song from Avril Lavigne's next album, her fifth, due some time in 2013.

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<p>The-Dream</p>

The-Dream

Credit: Andrew Zaeh

Listen: Jay-Z guests on The-Dream's low-brow 'High Art'

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Hit that, then go out

The-Dream and Jay-Z combine yet again for a new song off of the former's "IV Play." "High Art" is pretty low-brow, with The-Dream intro'ing "I'm tired of talking 'bout it, lets do it / Girl I'm missin' you like bitches miss my music / And I swear I can't wait to drop ya, hit your body with that yoppa." Bitches, note, also love being called bitches. Also, dropping E is the universal language for "I miss you, and I'm going to go out with my friends soon."

There's a lot of filler on this party song before you get to Hov's goods, when he gently explains his success and how, y'know, controlling girls are when they think you're going to be hanging out with "nasty bitches." Ugh, right?

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Listen to Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull's derivative, lab-made 'Live It Up'

Listen to Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull's derivative, lab-made 'Live It Up'

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Redone checks the 2012 carbon copy

Jennifer Lopez combines with Pitbull for a generic, Redone-produced single, for promotion around "American Idol" and the summer-bound months: "On the Floor." According to Lopez, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and thus a new song is born. "Live It Up" by Jennifer Lopez, featuring Pitbull, dropped today in a haze of deja vu.

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Watch: Gary Oldman and Marion Cotillard star in David Bowie's 'Next Day' video

Watch: Gary Oldman and Marion Cotillard star in David Bowie's 'Next Day' video

NSFW video is predictably sacrilege... or is it holy?

"Thank you Gary. Thank you Mary. Thank you everybody," says David Bowie, playing Jesus. He's also giving gratitude to his co-stars in the new music video to his song "The Next Day," from his fresh album of the same name: Gary Oldman and Marion Cotillard star as a corrupt priest and a prostitute in the short film, which strangely clocks in a little shorter than the song's 3:27 run-time.

Still, it's enough tape for some self-flagellation, stigmata, the beating of a homeless man, a depraved Catholic cardinal dishing out money, Mother Mary and madonna/whores, kissing of rings and cutting of rugs by Cotillard and Oldman, the latter of whom should win Lifetime Achievement For Hair in one fell swoop.

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