<p>Ke$ha's &quot;Die Young&quot; cover</p>

Ke$ha's "Die Young" cover

Credit: RCA

Watch: Ke$ha unleashes lyric video for new single 'Die Young'

Dancing 'til you die?

For her new single "Die Young," Ke$ha taps back into the speak-singing power that launched her first big hit "Tik Tok," but some of the hungover trash-talking specificity of that old track is missing here.

The singer and songwriter now has both feet into the dance-pop tropes, as she hits the dance floor, ode-ing your heartbeat; however, I do applaud the superiority of verse 2, particularly the rhyming scheme "Young hunks, taking shots / Stripping down to dirty socks." 'Cause you know that ish actually happened at some point in Ke$ha's time on this earth -- if not every day -- and Lord knows the term "hunk" is vastly underused into today's common vernacular.

The late-night cable access vibe of the lyric video released today doesn't do much about "That magic in your pants," but there's some ghostly shots of der Ke$ha riding the subway with her raccoon eyes and penchant for trouble, with a hint of Tokyo futurism. The violent colors indicate another endeavor into the '80s neon fever-dream that dominated her stylistically aggressive "Cannibal."

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<p>Joe Swanberg at the Fantastic Fest debates</p>

Joe Swanberg at the Fantastic Fest debates

Credit: Katie Hasty

Fantastic Fest Debates: Behind the scenes of film fest blood sport

Watch a fight: Are Tim League's Drafthouse bouts courting personal beefs?

“Looks like somebody wasn’t in on the joke.”

These are words a colleague said after the Fantastic Fest Debates this weekend, about an hour after critic Devin Faraci’s clock was cleaned by filmmaker Joe Swanberg.
 
The Debates event followed the same format this year as it has for the four previous: a verbal debate, followed by a physical fight in a boxing ring. There's an announcer and entrance music. The Badass Digest mainstay and the mumblecore director exchanged some academic barbs and name-calling on the very subject of mumblecore, and then they fit boxing gloves on their hands, put in mouth guards and tried to beat the piss out of each other.
 
I can see why the Debates may be taken as a joke on their face. For one, the night’s six combatants’ outfits largely looked like they were homemade with Sharpies, bought at a thrift store or purchased from a Halloween pop-up shop. “Rocky” and "Karate kid" jokes abounded, as did cinematic self-referentials fueled by the granular genre knowledge of a few hundred Fantastic Fans. WWE sumptuousness pairs with the non-athleticism of such a nerd gathering in a multitude of naturally hilarious ways.
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Fantastic Fest photos: 'Miami Connection's Dragon Sound reunion, karaoke, costumes

Fantastic Fest photos: 'Miami Connection's Dragon Sound reunion, karaoke, costumes

The sound of a band with only two songs

AUSTIN -- Not very many people have seen "Miami Connection," but it basically represents why people come to Fantastic Fest every year. The B-movie -- picked up by Drafthouse films for a 25th anniversary re-release -- is a clunky, hilarious and surprisingly moving film by the end. In it is an inexplicably successful band Dragon Sound, led by the film's writer, director and lead actor Y.K. Kim. This band plays only two songs, and they both are melodically alike, and one is called "Against the Ninja." This gives you some idea what you're up, er, against: the looks, feels and sounds of 1987, through the film filter of a man and his martial arts.

"Miami Connection" didn't exactly blossom in its own time, but was heralded by audiences here at the 2012 festival, an appreciation completed by Dragon Sound's electric drum-laden reunion, complete with a fist-pumping "TAE KWON DO!" chant and a little help from the Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest staff. And, yes, those t-shirts are on sale.

Other weekend highlights included a Monsters' Ball costume contest, seeded in Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie!" premiere earlier in the evening on Thursday.

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<p>How to Destroy Angels</p>

How to Destroy Angels

Trent Reznor's How To Destroy Angels releasing new EP

Collaboration with wife has a label home at Columbia

Happy holidays! How about some honey-voiced industrial music?

Trent Reznor's How to Destroy Angels -- his group with wife and vocalist Mariqueen Maandig, longtime collaborator Atticus Ross and art director Rob Sheridan -- is preparing another EP release, titled "An Omen." It will be the first drop through their new label home on Columbia.

Wait, Columbia?

Trent Reznor's name has been among the closest-associated with "new indie" or "digital economy" or the good old-fashioned "DIY." Since his snipey break with Interscope during his Nine Inch Nails days, Reznor's been a vocal proponent of operating outside of the traditional major label system. He's sold his recordings -- including his Academy Award-winning compositions for "The Social Network" -- through his own social networks and partnerships and got to keep the royalties in-house (his own house).

Nipping it in the bud, he offered this short response via Facebook:

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<p>Logan Lerman and Emma Watson in &quot;The Perks of Being a Wallflower&quot;</p>

Logan Lerman and Emma Watson in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ soundtrack: Good taste as love letter

Stephen Chbosky's own screen adaptation moves beyond teen romance

 

Youth commands that all must endure a Smiths phase. If it was not you yourself who, at one point, attended the church of Morrissey, then at least a family member or someone close to you did. Stephen Chbosky, author of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” recognizes this post-1982 rite and fully integrated in to his own screen adaptation, with the story’s principals fledgling through high school and exchanging mixtapes in the meanwhile.
 
Starring Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson as an island on the island of “misfit toys” in the early ‘90s, “Wallflower” is an achingly real peer back into the awkward and frequently painful growth of those years.  Lerman’s mentally troubled lead Charlie’s most poignant moments revolved around the passage of holidays (every school kid looks forward to the breaks), and by his major musical moments. His first standout is “Asleep,” by the Smiths. It’s fitting, as the viewer gets to know Charlie. It’s also a bummer.
 
Other standouts are Charlie’s first feeling of “infinite,” during David Bowie’s “Heroes.” He hits the dance floor for the first time when the two-person clique of Watson’s Sam and her misanthropic stepbrother Patrick (Miller) peel themselves from the wall: “Finally, they’re playing good music,” Patrick says over the start of “Come on Eileen.” Charlie makes his first cassette for Sam, which includes Nick Drake. It’s first spin at a party is then rejected by Sam’s lame love interest Craig (“I don’t write poetry… poetry writes me”) in favor of hit “Bust a Move” by Young MC, which appropriately sports the line “A chick walks by you wish you could sex her / But you're standing on the wall like you was Poindexter.”
 
Behind the songlist of “Perks” is Alexandra Patsavas, who – aside from tracking all your favorite DVR’ed dramas – is no stranger to soundtracking teenaged drama: that is, the “Twilight Saga.” All of it. The screen material aside, she’s succeeded in commissioning new tracks from bands that have since busted wide open.
 
Here, on “Perks,” Patsavas revisits an era with which she’s deeply familiar, and spins it as a teen would see it. There’s the tensions between The Ultimate Slow Dance (Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over”) and the jagged grunge of all-female L7’s “Pretend That We’re Dead.” Sam has a personal epiphany describing the moment she heard a Cocteau Twins song while Charlie slips into a 900 ft. Jesus track as he’s stoned off his gourd.
 
Essential to plot, too, is the prominence of “Rocky Horror Picture Show LIVE,” the a little circus of loving, tight-knit freaks that grew loud and strong in the post-Reagan years. Charlie’s debut in the show itself was reminiscent of the “Under Pressure” scene from “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” another movie with a spin on teen mental illness.
 
What struck me most about the music from “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is that it presents good taste as a love letter. In those tough teenaged years of self-discovery, the formation of refined and personal tastes is almost essential to survival. Just as John Cusack’s Rob in “High Fidelity” exposed girls he liked to his Top 5s, so does each distinct  misfit toy in “Wallflower.” Mae Whitman’s character Mary Elizabeth wants to highten Charlie’s knowledge base with “Billie Holiday and foreign films.” Charlie’s teacher (Paul Rudd) is his fount of indispensible literature. Despite its perceived un-coolness, Charlie rocks a fitted suit to class. And to express love to one another, Charlie and Sam exchange mixtapes, in the hope of turning each other onto something new or simply to endear.
 
It’s smart that during one of Charlie’s mental “breaks,” there’s only silence. For theater-goers, it will be just as jolting, as we spend our days filling up with Top 5s, instant queues, Smiths songs and other love letters.

 

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Exclusive: 2012 Fantastic Fest debates to feature blogger, twins and a 'Miami Connection'

Exclusive: 2012 Fantastic Fest debates to feature blogger, twins and a 'Miami Connection'

Joe Swanberg puts his game face on

AUSTIN -- It's only right that Fantastic Fest's signature event is the potent combination of intellectual discourse, visual culture and blood sport. The Fantastic Fest Debates have become more prominent with each passing year and according to Carrie Matherly, Assistant Director of Fantastic Fest, 2012's crop of showdowns will be no exception.

The premise remains the same: two combatants debate on a topic, and then fight -- or "fight" -- in a boxing ring. This year's crop of four debates includes a couple new twists, in that martial arts will replace boxing in some cases, and the opening fight will feature a woman-on-woman scuffle.

As for the latter, they're siblings -- twins, actually. And both are martial arts experts. And co-directors. And they'll be dressed as Kitana and Mileena from "Mortal Kombat."

Jen and Sylvia Soska, the directors of Fest U.S. premiering "American Mary," will literally kick things off on Saturday at the Debates, on the topic of remakes. "They had a hard time coming up with a topic, because they agree on almost everything," Matherly conceded.

Is Exploding Pants Syndrome a thing?

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<p>Fantastic Fest is a face-meltingly good time: my personal favorite as a 100 Best Kills contender (&quot;Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark&quot;)</p>

Fantastic Fest is a face-meltingly good time: my personal favorite as a 100 Best Kills contender ("Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark")

Fantastic Fest: 5 Great Events That Aren't Movies

Haunted houses, the boxing ring debates and fantastical sex

The undead in slow-motion; gore-stained flesh; firearmed robots; foreign language throw-downs; webby animated fictions; and a documentary about penises. I'm not saying Fantastic Fest attendees can get sick of such things. I'm saying there's something more in case you want it.

Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League and his team have locked down a schedule of genre-driven extra-curriculars from seasonally appropriate hauntings to the famed Debates to having sex with air in a public formum.

And this year, I'm not only soaking in Fantatstic Fest for the first time, but attending the fest for the first time as a newly transplanted Austinite. The upshot to this is that my comfort zone isn't challenged to heartily: the various events essentially take place in the same block at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and League's own Highball lounge and bar, the epicenter of post-film playtime in Austin.

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<p>Tegan and Sara's &quot;Closer&quot; single artwork</p>

Tegan and Sara's "Closer" single artwork

Credit: Warner Bros.

Listen: Tegan and Sara drop radio-friendly new single 'Closer'

HitFix
A-
Readers
A+
Flirtatiously catchy

When I spoke to Tegan Quin earlier this year about her and her sister Sara's new album, she promised it'd be more radio-friendly. Judging from "Closer," the first single from the as-yet-untitled set, she wasn't joking.

The synth-happy, sex-ready track has a blues structure at times, and without all the tears. Tegan and Sara repeat their sweet refrains twice each, concluding they'd want their lover-to-be "underneath me." "Let's make things physical / I won't treat you like you're typical," they bop over lasers, harmonies and a BPM that winds you up for... whatever.

Aguilera, Usher, Enrique and the rest may outline specifically what they want their bedroom playtime to be in the most explicit terms possible; here, the Quins keep their requests and desires simple, melodically innocent and flirtatious. And no acoustic guitars here.

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<p>Ryan Bingham</p>

Ryan Bingham

Credit: Anna Axster

Oscar winner Ryan Bingham talks 'Tomorrowland' and writing a new soundtrack

Country and rock songwriter talks about life after 'Crazy Heart' and 'Weary Kind'

“It’s me, motherf*cker, I’m knocking on the door.” These are words not entirely unexpected from the same guy who took home a Grammy and an Oscar for “The Weary Kind” nearly three years ago. But the lyrics are indicative of at least the confrontational sound coming from “Tomorrowland,” Ryan Bingham’s new record and the first for his own label Axster Bingham Records. (The quoted track’s called “Guess Who’s Knocking.” Should have started with a spoiler alert.) 

The country and rock songwriter said in our interview that he spun a lot of records from the late ‘70s – the Clash, Bowie, Iggy Pop, Jimi Hendrix, Zeppelin – when making the set, out of a friend’s private, secluded home in Malibu. Punk rock records “opened the door, was a really big influence” on the final result, sussed out with co-producer Justin Stanley. He incorporated a lot more electric guitars, for one.
 
The bigger, more robust rock sonics could also be the reaction to Bingham’s own career legacy up until now. His co-writes with T Bone Burnett on the “Crazy Heart” soundtrack put him on the map, but for his more tender material.
 
“I write real personal stuff, and I played a lot of tours kinda stripped down and acoustic. After a while, it’s just hard to get through those songs every night. It’s hard to be that vulnerable,” he said. Over the couple of years that followed “Crazy Heart,” for one, both of his parents passed away.
 
“Now, playing shows with these [songs] are a lot of fun. I get to rock the f*ck out.”
 
And his touring and recorded successes are in tandem with his wife Anna Axster, half the namesake of the label. She helps to manage; she’s also at work creating a  feature film “A Country Called Home,” and Bingham will be writing the music for the movie.
 
“It’s a film about tolerance,” he said. It follows a young girl from a small town to her move to a bigger city, but some “family issues” follow her as she heads back home. Bingham said the story was inspired by his travels across middle America, touring with his wife in “places you wouldn’t visit when you go on a trip. “
 
The film is getting cast right now, and Bingham hopes it starts shooting in the spring. It would be his first original soundtrack since “Crazy Heart.”
 
Bingham will begin touring in support of “Tomorrowland” starting next week on Sept. 25. The album is out today (Sept. 18).
 

 

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<p>The Killers' &quot;Battle Born&quot;</p>

The Killers' "Battle Born"

Credit: Island

Review: The Killers, 'Battle Born'

HitFix
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Readers
A-
What fuses six producers' work together, besides glitter and tears?

The Killers’ last album “Day & Age” was marked by their further embrace of glitter and dance. New “Battle Born,” in a way, is their ignoring the day and age – that is, this current one. 

The Las Vegas quartet has a nostalgia and escapism thing going on in this set, and not just in its lyrics; it has all the Born-to-Run bravado in its anthems while band also ducks down its head and wades unwaveringly into decadent ‘80s power balladry, vocally adept ‘70s arena rock and Depeche Mod-ular synth-pop.
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