Watch: Kacey Musgraves talks Daft Punk, 'Merry Go 'Round' and playing dress-up

Watch: Kacey Musgraves talks Daft Punk, 'Merry Go 'Round' and playing dress-up

From the Billboard Music Awards: 'Miguel would make a cool country duet'

LAS VEGAS - Kacey Musgraves nailed her performance of "Merry Go 'Round" at the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday, but it doesn't mean she wasn't nervous.

The country singer, who is currently opening for Kenny Chesney on his world tour, stopped to talk to HitFix on the red carpet, revealing that she gets a little fright before she steps up to perform on awards shows.

However, the 24-year-old was in good company as singers like Bruno Mars, Prince, Madonna and Miguel also took to the stage to perform or present at the show. "Miguel would make a cool country duet," she surmised.

Musgraves also said that she thought Little Big Town would come back around with their "Pontoon" this summer as a hot-weather jam (along with Daft Punk's "Get Lucky"), and that she actually enjoys the "dress-up" aspect of ceremonies like these. Watch our full interview: Is "Blowin' Smoke" or "Merry Go 'Round" your jam?

Review: Thirty Seconds To Mars' new album 'Love Lust Faith + Dreams'
Credit: EMI

Review: Thirty Seconds To Mars' new album 'Love Lust Faith + Dreams'

HitFix
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Readers
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Jared Leto takes a turn at shaman-Jesus, again

Thirty Seconds To Mars’ new album “Love Lust Faith + Dreams” starts with the song “Birth” and ends with a music box playing the them to “Swan Lake,” the go-to tune to signal Death. The rock band is counting on its listeners to make this connection and to follow all the other very obvious themes of “Love Lust Faith + Dreams.” 

And, in case you can’t follow, there’s literally an announcement at the top of each concept: “Lust,” “Love” and so on. 
 
That’s the main problem with an album like this, and 30STM on the whole: there is no room for subtlety, not because the band can’t “do” subtle, but that they make a conscious choice not to.
 
Jared Leto yet again lets his outsized personality lead this crop of stadium-emo and brute-disco tunes, as a shaman-Jesus whose truisms are wholly dependent on your belief in Him (Leto). “All we need is faith” he leads over and over again on apocalyptic “End of All Days.” “Love is a dangerous game to play,” he concludes on “The Race.” He rhymes “city of angels” (on the song of the same name) with “comfort of strangers,” and “I don't wanna live a lie that I believe / Time to do or die… Faith is coming, that I know / Time is running, got to go” on the little chestnut of wisdom “Do or Die.”
 
The trio is as ambitious and equally indulgent in high concept music-making with a broader array of stylistic choices than their last “This Is War.” Like the Killers when they turned the corner with dancey “Day & Age,” 30STM adds more thumps, strings and BPMs to the mix. Unfortunately, they fill the space (and space-rock) with a litter of gang vocals on almost every song, indulging in hair metal-levels of “whoa-ohs,” “yeah-ahs” and rounds.
 
“Pyres of Varanasi” seems to be a bit of fantasy “world music” fulfillment than it serves its album, which keeps a pretty fixed (if not unrelenting) pace. It at least it provides room for a breath right before hypnotic “Bright Lights,” the best and most concretely complete song on this album. “I’m leaving, gone yesterday / Brutal, laughing, fighting, f*cking / The price I had to pay,” Leto broods. And then, again, with the “Oh-ohs.”
 
Again, this album works if the listener generously gives themselves over to the spirit of the thing -- all throttle, power, punishment, wantonness and deadpanning; it helps that Leto’s voice is better than ever. But, then again, it’s OK to pass on “Love Lust Faith + Dreams,” even if everybody along the way in the making of the set apparently said "yes," and never said "no."

 

<p>The National's &quot;Trouble Will Find Me&quot;</p>

The National's "Trouble Will Find Me"

Credit: 4AD

Review: The National's new album 'Trouble Will Find Me'

HitFix
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Readers
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Brooklyn five-piece have done it again, with a melancholy (and lively) set of winners

 

Some songs about age and regret will be predictably glum. The National makes them into an art, too, on “Trouble Will Find Me,” the Brooklyn-based band’s sixth full-length album. From the suffering upright piano and solemn bass on “Pink Rabbits” to climactic heart-rush of “Sea of Love,” there’s always a current of unflinching melancholy, with the National’s enduring, intelligent rhythm section.
 
“I wish I could rise above it / but I stay down with my demons,” singer Matt Berninger sings in “Demons,” directly after unusually peppy opener “I Should Live in Salt.” Even between these two songs, there’s a fun mix of time signatures; in “Don’t Swallow the Cap” there’s a horn resembling a sigh and a female voice whimsically filling out the gray. And if the lyrics in “I Need My Girl” don’t stab at your emotions, then allow for the National’s most soothing guitar line ever fill that Feelings void.
 
See, even with Berninger’s low bellow and intimate despair, the five-piece always succeeds in giving dimension and life to their rock dynamic. Hoary, they’re still spirited. Berninger will sing a dirge “Oh but your love is such a swamp,” (“This Is The Last Time”) like a friend, where you’re like, “Matt. Jesus, buddy…” But then the pile-on of murmuring synths and keys, a snappy drum jump from certifiable motherf*cker Bryan Devendorf and a girl-choir brings it back up.
 
“Trouble Will Find me” is a clinging, claustrophobic meeting of bad feelings in a really beautiful, exotic room. It’s situated to be powerful, but rather than with a shout like on better-known “Mr. November” (2005), it’s with a convicted chant like on “Graceless.”  “I’m gone through the glass again / just come and find me,” Berninger sings. “God loves everybody / don’t remind me.”

 

Listen to two new songs from The Weeknd: 'Kiss Land' and 'John Carpenter'

Listen to two new songs from The Weeknd: 'Kiss Land' and 'John Carpenter'

R&B singer ain't nothin' to relate to

The Weeknd has always been a little dark. He's always been bold with his sexual exploits. But on one of his two new songs, "John Carpenter," he opens up about a different corner of his life.

"I got a brand-new place, I think I seen it twice all year/ I can't remember how it looks inside, so you can picture how my life's been/ I went from staring at the same four walls for 21 years/ To seeing the whole world in just 12 months / been gone for so long I might've just found God," he lament-excites. "I don't got no friends... this ain't nothing to relate to."

He still talks, literally, about how many women he can "f*ck" on the road, what ladies do with their tongues when they're around him, but it's a similar mold that got people in a tizzy over Drake: emotional coldness and boldness. The intense beat is met with noisy ghosts that trail off into Weeknd's monotone condition. It's weird, but at least it's new.

Sharing the same YouTube airspace (at the beginning) is "Kiss Land," which is apparently the title track to the R&B singer and producer's next album, due out later this year. It's much more on par with his usual sounds and tirade, like a lot of neon and a lot of blackness as he traipses through lines like "Go 'head girl strip it down, shut your mouth / I just wanna hear your body talk." No wonder there's a scream from the top. It's a track with lots of grring distortion and exhalation from his quivering, high voice. And it's too bad it didn't show up in time for the film "Spring Breakers," because they're serious soul mates.

<p>The-Dream</p>

The-Dream

Watch: The-Dream doesn't care for foreplay in 'IV Play' music video

HitFix
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In case you were wondering, he's talking about 'straight sex'

I want to take moment and note that the Lego Palace that is the venue for The-Dream's "IV Play" music video also features stairs that look straight outta the Comic Con convention center in San Diego.

The R&B singer throats the words every girl longs to hear: "I can give a f*ck about foreplay." So he can, doesn't mean he will. He then gently drapes his arm on the ass of a model as though it were a piece of furniture. Man knows his audience.

"IV Play" goes for longer than IV minutes, which may be longer than the IV minutes The-Dream can "straight sex" without IV Play.

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<p>Kelly Rowland from the cover of her album &quot;Talk a Good Game&quot;</p>

Kelly Rowland from the cover of her album "Talk a Good Game"

Listen to Kelly Rowland's intensely personal 'Dirty Laundry'

Singer reveals abusive relationship and 'bittersweet' feelings toward Beyonce

Kelly Rowland is releasing a new solo effort, and "Dirty Laundry" is airing a lot of source material. The former Destiny's Child singer makes two revelations in this new track: one is her feelings on the success of Beyonce as she, comparitively, lived "in her shadow." The other is that she was physically abused by an ex-lover.

To the former, she sings, backed by a melancholy piano: "While my sister was on stage, killin’ it like a motherf*cker / I was enraged, feeling it like a motherfucker / Bird in a cage, you would never know what I was dealing with / Went out separate ways, but I was happy she was killin' it... Bittersweet, she was up, I was down."

Beyonce makes another flashback cameo, as Rowland was surviving post-"Survivor," as a survivor of abuse.

"Started to call them people on him / I was battered / He hittin the window like it was me, until it shattered / He pulled me out, he said, “Don’t nobody love you but me / Not your mama, not your daddy and especially not Bey,” she continues. The ending of this particular verse hurts my heart. "He turned me against my sister / I missed ya."

Hell if I and many other critics haven't lobbed jokes about how Kelly or Michelle would never make it bigger than Beyonce. Rowland -- who's always had a sharp voice and knows how to tell a story -- hasn't had the chance for a superstar trek since Destiny's Child days. Her song here, though, isn't about to turn that negativity into more negativity, but into something positive by cleaning up her own feelings on the matter.

Saying that she was conflicted and angry during a time of DC post-breakup blues is actually very self-award and gutsy. But disclosure that she'd gone through a dark and misguided period through abuse is no easy feat either, even on a simple confession produced by The-Dream. R&B singers' bread and butter is emotional climaxes of relationships, from the chase, the bedding, the wedding or the breakup (and of course all tensions in-between). While many scorned lovers' songs make enemies of their exes or insinuate their own indiscretions, there are extreme few that outline actual terror of physical, emotional or sexual abuse in the legal sense. Rowland's dirty laundry here isn't only that she was abused in secret, but that those abuses led to her hurting others. It's a meta-narrative on an R&B trope and the record-making industry, and a sensationally true story, which makes it totally fascinating as a piece of art.

And entertainment. Rowland's voice her is top-notch, don't you think?

Rowland's album "Talk a Good Game" is due on June 18.

<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.

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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Readers
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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.

 

<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.