Review: Jim James 'Regions of Light and Sound of God'

Review: Jim James 'Regions of Light and Sound of God'

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My Morning Jacket frontman's funky solo step outside of arena-sized jams

In his work with Monsters of Folk and on all the varietal Yim Yames tracks, its easy to hear that Jim James has a "small music" streak in him when he's not fronting arena jammers My Morning Jacket.

And make no mistake: there are what I'd call "jams" still on "Regions of Light and Sound of God," with keen, rolling guitar lines and long instrumental sections. This solo set contains more hooks and melodic pop ideas tucked in the back pocket of James' jeans, flourishing with the help of horns and sampled drums. Pushed to the front is James' delicate alto, as opposed to his full-throated tenor, dreamily looping through left-of-center world rock like "All Is Forgiven" and time-travel funks like awesome opener "State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)."

At times he channels George Harrison to cool, wallpapery, new-age effect. The close-eyed groove of "Dear One" and acoustic hybrid "A New Life" feel amicably retro, in its lyrics of "babes" and "stardust" and "daily every minute your possession of my mind / ticking synchronicty of time." Other times, he's chopped up his pop-folk motifs and re-assembled them into a similar sonic magic that the Dirty Projectors have (here's looking at you "Of The Mother Again"). Conceptually, it's "inspired by life and the novel in woodcuts 'God's Man' by Lynd Ward." Sonically, it's an earful.

"Regions of Light and Sound of God" is progress for James, with nuanced and progressive performances all over its, well, regions. Not every song will captivate the listener, but maybe that's the secret to relaxing and enjoying  James' little mists and mystics.

<p>Local man starts from bottom</p>

Local man starts from bottom

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Drake drops new song 'Started from the Bottom' a week early

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Rapper posts open letter to fans, hype machine revs up

Drake told the world he'd be dropping a new single on the weekend of the Grammys, but it appears "Started from the Bottom" wished to make itself known a few days early.

The Young Money MC and singer hatched the song on his OVO website, along with an open letter supporting the song's claims that he "started from the bottom."

"I feel sometimes that people don't have enough information about my beginnings and therefore they make up a life story for me that isn't consistent with actual events," Drake said. "My family and my second family (consisting of the best friends anybody could ever have) all struggled and worked extremely hard to make all this happen. I did not buy my way into this spot and it was the furthest thing from easy to achieve."

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Vampire Weekend announces new album title and tour dates
Credit: XL

Vampire Weekend announces new album title and tour dates

'Modern Vampires of the City' creeps in on May 7: Check out the album cover

Vampire Weekend have finally formally announced their new album, dubbed "Modern Vampires of the City." The NYC band remains with XL for this third full-length, which will get a touring launch starting at South By Southwest.

"Modern Vampires of the City" features 12 tracks, making it the most tracks of any VW album; as previously reported, the set was produced by member Rostam Batmanglij and Ariel Rechtshaid (Usher, Major Lazer, Charli XCX) and it will be released May 7.

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<p>Joe King</p>

Joe King

Exclusive Interview: The Fray’s Joe King stepping out solo with KING

King isn’t stepping off, though: The Fray aim for Q4 release

The Fray’s Joe King is ready to step out solo with a new pop-oriented project, with a radio-ready single and an album in the wings. The Colorado-based songwriter will be releasing new music under the simple name KING and aims to release an EP of fresh material by April. 

Since starting out 11 years ago, The Fray has featured King and singer Isaac Slade splitting songwriting duties, each track a collaboration. After three albums, some No. 1 hit singles and millions of tickets sold, King felt that the time was now to hunker down and release tracks that are all his, from writing to the performance.
 
The project has been in the works for a year-and-a-half, with songs produced as the band has been on tour. Now, as The Fray are in-between albums in the release cycle, King knew the time was right. He’d be able to make the solo effort he wanted and still remain with the band.
 
“There comes a bit of a downside when you’re writing these songs, and you end up letting your best friend sing them. It’s worked, and he’s the only other person I ever want to sing them. He’s a great singer, and I’m not trying to throw that whole thing. But creatively, it became such an urge. I kept thinking ‘I’m ready for this,’” he said in our recent interview. “It’s been talked about. I just hadn’t been in the place to do it.”
 
On a personal level, the 32-year-old hitmaker found himself in a “place” he’d never been before. Married when he was 19, King is now divorced, with some free time and some new “beginnings.”
 
“Post-divorce and dating girls… Man, yeah, I’ve never done that. I’ve only been with one woman, so I definitely started to experience things and new ways of thinking. Making this album became this self-discovery thing,” he said. 
 
The result, in part, is lead single “Need a Woman” featuring Trombone Shorty, with the hooky refrain “I need a woman by Friday.” The first lyric: “I get addicted to beginnings.”
 
"It’s about loving the beginnings of something, the flirtatiousness and that energy.”
 
Sonically, “Need a Woman” is synth-driven and uplifting, King’s rich, consonant-heavy vocals balanced with high keyboard pings and persistent programmed drums. And it does not at all sound like the Fray, nor what one would really call a “breakup record.”
 
“I didn’t want it to sound like a stripped down, acoustic, real melancholy piano thing. On so many solo records, that kind of thing’s really obvious. Not that that's bad -- everyone wants to do a Ray Lamontagne record. But I didn’t want to play coffeeshops,” he said. “I became obsessed with Peter Gabriel and his breakaway from Genesis, because it doesn’t sound like a solo thing. His approach to production, the blending of synth bass and real drums, programmed drums and real drums… I love that ‘80s blending of instruments.”
 
Helping with the aesthetic was Brooklyn producer Adam Pallin, who would swap tracks with King remotely, and other Denverites like Patrick Meese (Tennis, Meese) and Grammy Award-winning artist/producer Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic). He’d bounce his songs off of other area musicians, like Immaculate Noise favorite Nathaniel Rateliff.
 
“I did all of my vocals at [Tedder’s] place. He’s like Nathaniel. They’ll play something for you and it’ll just kinda kick your ass. They’ll show you what they’re working on and you’ll be like, ‘F*ck, I gotta step up my game,’” King said. “Someone told me, ‘Don’t do this because you’re reacting to The Fray.’ And I’m not, it’s not a brush-off to what The Fray does. It’s hard being the songwriter continuing to write songs for 10 years and then after a while it becomes empty when you don’t have an outlet. It’s a family, you have to change it up and push yourself.”
 
So just what does his family think of the music? King didn’t want to play the songs for the rest of The Fray until they were in finished form. So it was only at the end of December they sat down.
 
“These are my brothers, I care more about what they think about than my mother. As I hit play, I thought, am I having an affair?” he said. “After it ended, it was the response I dreamed of. Ben clapped. Isaac was like, ‘Holy sh*t.’ Dave was dead silent, and that’s Dave for you. Ben was like, ‘All I cared about was that it doesn’t sound like The Fray.’”
 
Now King is shopping KING to labels with plans for a five-song, as-yet-untitled EP due this spring and hopes that “Need a Woman,” when it's released, becomes a 2013 summer jam.
 
And this is not at all to say that The Fray – who have best-sellers like “How to Save a Life” and “You Found Me” – won’t have more hits of their own. King is confident KING set won’t interfere with his band’s album-making schedule, as the group is currently writing for their fourth full-length for an estimated Q4 release this year.
 
“As I’ve been talking to labels, they rightly asked ‘How’s it gonna work with The Fray?’ But I’m not as concerned about that. It’s just now I feel that same anxiety I felt seven years ago, when The Fray was about to put out [the album ‘How to Save a Life’]. I’m thinking, Are people gonna like this? I believe in it. I think its good. It’s a happy, confident new artist anxiety.”

 

<p>Giant co-leader Fumm from &quot;Jack the Giant Slayer&quot;</p>

Giant co-leader Fumm from "Jack the Giant Slayer"

'Jack the Giant Slayer' set visit: Bryan Singer's first 3-D adventure

Where does the 'modern' come in on a classic fairytale?

In some of the new poster images from “Jack the Giant Slayer,” one sees tiny hairs jutting from the points of the giants’ noses, with schmutz furling out between bone-gnawing gnarls of teeth. These aren’t cartoons, but finely-rendered characters, each different, at least one with two heads, all hovering between 22- and 32-feet high when they’re screen ready. And there are hundreds of them, according to “Giant Slayer” director Bryan Singer.

“In ‘X-Men: First Class,’ our average shot cost like 25,30 grand,” Singer said on the fairy tale set, in lush and diverse pastures outside of London. “A movie like this they’re like 80 thousand dollars.
 
Singer produced “First Class” but passed up directing it in order to apply himself to this redux on an old tale. It’s without irony that the decision was due to filmmaking magnitude.
 
Before “Alice in Wonderland” or “Snow White and the Hunstman,” or “Red Riding Hood,” “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” and “Puss in Boots,” Singer “wanted to see a fairy tale brought to life on a full grand scale.  What if a beanstalk grew miles high in the sky? What if giants were real?” he said, breaking from the allergens of a naturally misty forest clearing. He donned three pairs of glasses around his neck: sunglass, 3-D glasses and eyeglasses.
 
“I wanted to see that a fairy tale done on a large, large budget film. As a big fantasy film, this was a way to take a simple, the simplest fairy tale, and embellish it and kind of make an original fairy tale.”
 
--
 
During my visit to the set in summer of 2011, onlookers couldn’t see giants' little nose hairs and dirty fingernails. The film was called “Jack the Giant Killer” back then, and was originally slated to arrive in the summer last year. Due to the corporate shuffle, the March 2013 date gave at least more cooking time to these fantastical giants.
 
But on a sound stage, just around the turrets of a newly erected castle, there was a much smaller story being told. Jack (boyish Nicholas Hoult) and Princess Isabelle arrange themselves in a hutch of a scene: after the giants have descended from their sky-bound land to attack the humans, the two teens hide inside a fur-lined cloak as they peak out at the perpetrators. It feels just like a kid would hunkered under the sink or behind mom’s dry cleaning for a game of hide-and-seek. It is probably the smallest thing about “Giant Slayer.”
 
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<p>Ewan McGregor as Elmont in &quot;Jack the Giant Slayer&quot;</p>

Ewan McGregor as Elmont in "Jack the Giant Slayer"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

'Jack the Giant Slayer': Ewan McGregor talks pastries, princesses and pre-vis

Q&A with a military dandy

The retelling of a classic fairytale – one as famous and re-trod as Jack and the Beanstalk – is that it can get an update or a flourish with each redux. Or in the case of “Jack the Giant Slayer,” a stylistic twist. Ewan McGregor is a representative sample of the notion, in part, because: just look at that hair-do.

It’s not that the physical evolution of the star from “Trainspotting,” “Moulin Rouge” and “The Impossible” into Top Dog in the King’s guard in the “Giant” movie is all that revolutionary. McGregor’s character Elmont’s cowlick is a mile-high and his battle armor is form-fitting and slick, a dandy by all standards. Even as slipped from the idyllic set of “Jack the Giant Slayer” to discuss his role with a group of us journalists, he strode into the room with a swagger.
 
From where did a fashionable, horse-riding pretty boy military presence grow from the original “Beanstalk” story? The answer is from director Bryan Singer’s want for style, as evident from his “X-Men” movies, and his esteemed filmmaking army spinning humor out of this yarn (because what’s a dimple-chinned macho man without his funny faults?).
 
McGregor, lead Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci, Bill Nighy, Ian McShane and other able-bodied vets round out this reimagining, with the “imagining” playing a central role to their performances: as CGI creations with the help of motion-capture, the unseen, malevolent forces, were built-out in post-production, thus the actors worked their wares without them in place.
 
Below, McGregor talks about that process, and what it takes to become a pastry, and exactly what he thinks of pre-vis (hint: not a fan).
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Watch Ellie Goulding's 'Explosions' video

Watch Ellie Goulding's 'Explosions' video

Fire in black and white

Most explosions have a brilliant array of flaming color. Ellie Goulding's video for "Explosions" is in all black and white.

This performance-mostly clip doesn't give much insight into the ballad or the performer, but the song still stands as brilliant vocal theater.

"Explosions" is from Goulding's latest album "Halcyon," out last year. The English singer is currently on tour in the U.S., where you can see her in full color.

Beyonce's Super Bowl Half Time promo photo: Sexy referee

Beyonce's Super Bowl Half Time promo photo: Sexy referee

Destiny's Child star copped your Halloween get-up

This year for Halloween, er, the Super Bowl, Beyonce is wearing her sexiest referee getup. The superstar singer posted the promotional photo to her Tumblr, where she's also been sporting some sneak-peak photos of the rehearsals leading up to her official half time show performance for the NFL Championship this coming Sunday.

The stiff-arm pic appears to be from the same shoot that led to the initial teaser image for Bey's booking, where she's sporting hash marks on her cheeks. It continues the years-long tradition of other half time performers like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and the Who posing in thigh-high heels and hot pants in support of their appearances. (Prince, oddly, abstained.)

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<p>Merry Clayton and Darlene Love</p>

Merry Clayton and Darlene Love

Credit: HitFix

Darlene Love and Merry Clayton talk taking 'Twenty Feet From Stardom' on tour

Director Morgan Neville hints at making his doc even more musical than it already is

PARK CITY, UTAH -- Not wanting "Twenty Feet From Stardom" to be over when it's over is a perfectly reasonable reaction to seeing the film. If, logistically, a few things fall into place, it doesn't have to be over.

The Sundance-premiered documentary was a hit as soon as it flared up on the screens in Park City this month, with Weinstein label Radius-TWC picking up the title in the first acquisition of the festival. The film featured several in-studio performances from greats like Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Lisa Fischer, and the filmmakers even had two of those tracks pressed onto promotional 7" records.

And last week, for those who witnessed it, a quintet of those vocalists gave a "one-night-only" performance of "their" greatest hits -- tracks like the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" and the Crystals' "Da Doo Ron Ron" which depended heavily on those backing tracks -- and they took the house to church. For Love, Clayton, Fischer, Tata Vega and Judith Hill, they not earned their way into the spotlight, but they loved the material and seemingly each other.

Speaking with me in Park City, "Twenty Feet" director Morgan Neville intimated that a series of live concerts could be in the works in supporting the film's theatrical release, said to be this summer. "I think they're ready... I think it's dawning on them that this is a special moment."

For Love and Clayton -- who swapped stories and overflowing enthusiasm for the final product during our chat -- they don't want to get their hopes too high, but if it "flows"... then more live music and perhaps even an album together could be in their collective future.

Watch the videos above and below. Do you think Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Sting and others could back them?

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<p>Marilyn Manson in &quot;Wrong Cops&quot;</p>

Marilyn Manson in "Wrong Cops"

How Marilyn Manson ended up in Quentin Dupieux's 'Wrong Cops'

'Rubber' director addresses cast puke

PARK CITY, UTAH -- Casting Marilyn Manson as a teenager takes at least a little imagination, and director Quentin Dupieux never seems to be shy of that. During the Sundance Film Festival, the brain behind "Rubber" and the more recent "Wrong" introduced his freak version of a perfect world, "Wrong Cops."

And in its first "episode" of three shown at the fest, Manson is needled by lead lousy cop Mark Burnham for his music taste and is falsely accused of prostitution.

In this dys-utopia, Manson worked his casting. "He killed it," Dupieux said in the Q&A after premiere.

He also explained how an industrial/hard rock musician found his way into an absurdity like "Wrong Cops." "[Manson] was in love with 'Rubber,'" the French director said. "I wrote the part for him… he just did it."

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