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

The Killers' "Battle Born"

Credit: Island

Review: The Killers, 'Battle Born'

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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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<p>Corin Tucker Band</p>

Corin Tucker Band

Credit: John Clark

Interview: Corin Tucker on 'Kill My Blues,' Odd Future and Pussy Riot

Watch the Corin Tucker Band's music video for 'Neskowin'

“It hasn’t been easy to transition into being a mom with two kids, having a career,” Corin Tucker said in our recent interview. Sounds like a struggle that any mother with a job has, and – bless the mothers – they gotta have their outlet. Tucker’s creative outlet is her job. Tucker’s job is rock ‘n’ roll. 

Corin Tucker Band’s “Kill My Blues,” their sophomore set, is particularly cathartic, it seems. After their first release “1,000 Years,” “we really as a group had a lot of fun with the dance-ier and more rockin’ numbers… I thought about how my audience reacted to those songs, and the covers we were doing. I think that was one of the motivating forces, to make something that people move to, to have a groove going. We were able to really achieve that with adding Mike Clark,” the former Sleater-Kinney co-founder said of their added guitarist.
 
Clark, interestingly, was in Stephen Malkmus’ latest backing band the Jicks, a group Tucker’s former S-K bandmate Janet Weiss played in. Weiss now drums in Wild Flag with the other S-K co-founder Carrie Brownstein.
 
It’s only natural to keep up with what the trio is doing post-break-up, but for Tucker, it’s just part of her long history in independent rock music. Her first project, duo Heavens to Betsy, was among the punk-rooted trailblazers in the riot-grrrl movement in the early ‘90s: their one full-length dropped on Kill Rock Stars, the same label home to half of Sleater-Kinney’s output. The trio’s final album “The Woods” (which, today, remains so very excellent) went out via Sub Pop in 2005, but Tucker went back to KRS with her Band’s two albums.
 
“Kill Rock Stars has a willingness to really work with the artist, and to be flexible with what they’re doing… part of being an independent artists means having your hands in the business all the time, so they bring in a lot of ideas about it,” Tucker said. “I feel like there’s a team spirit going.”
 
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<p>Ben Folds with a Fraggle</p>

Ben Folds with a Fraggle

Watch: Anna Kendrick, 'Fraggle Rock,' Rob Corddry join Ben Folds Five video

'Do It Anyway' has the trio and the Henson puppets in reunion mode

"It's like a double reunion," Ben Folds says in the making-of video for "Do It Anyway." He's describing the sensation of his band putting out their first album in 13 years, and of "Fraggle Rock" coming back together for their 30th anniversary to help promote the set.

"Do It Anyway," as the rock group said, has a bounce like Muppets composer Paul Williams, so it works here for the video, which also features comedian Rob Corddry as a studio engineer and Anna Kendrick as the front desk ditz.

But, yeah. It's mostly Fraggles, and the imagination of Nerdist's Chris Hardwick. "We're making a Fraggle rock video," he enthuses.

Is this the sign of more Fraggly things to come? If the franchise is on the cusp of 30 years, we certainly hope so: just check out the reaction of all the musicians and actors to the theme song at the end of the clip.

"Do It Anyway" is off of "The Sound of the Life of the Mind," out tomorrow (Sept. 18). Do you like the track? Does the video give your heart much joy? Where's your Boy George tat?

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<p>Lady Gaga is an art piece</p>

Lady Gaga is an art piece

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: 'Lady Gaga Film' premieres as Lady Gaga behaves like Lady Gaga

Pop star gets a head tattoo -- live! -- and promos perfume at Guggenheim

A few hundred words have been written recently about Lady Gaga's Fame fragrance and it's television commercial. A few more were penned this week as she shaved a new 'do onto her head in an apparent tribute. Last night, the full-length "Lady Gaga Film" bowed at a museum.

These all have something to do with each other, but it's mostly just a week of Lady Gaga being Lady Gaga.

Television commercials for Mother Monster's perfume were culled from a longer film, cleverly titled "Lady Gaga Film," directed by photographer Steven Klein. The 5:30-long clip made a full debut at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which hosted the fragrance's launch with Gaga herself.

More on the party later. First the film. There's some humping motor oil and a mind-graft with black plastic garbage bags. Gaga first appears as a giant gold idol, then later completely naked with her subjects crawling on her bits. There's some German, chanting and sex. It's very expensive. I think it's art? She thinks it's art.

Anyway, she made quite an entrance with her new consumer purchase item at the Guggenheim, and that entrance was also art.

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<p>Christina Aguilera</p>

Christina Aguilera

Listen: Official version of Christina Aguilera's 'Your Body' drops

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Leaked version effectively dwarfed, made to wear fuzzy handcuffs

Check that snare! The official drop of Christina Aguilera's "Your Body" has occurred, so clear the floor, and the bed.

As I suspected in the original review of "Your Body," "f*ck your body" has been replaced by "love your body" in that Enrique style the kids love. Aguilera's voice is crisp and up-front in this boudoir battle cry, and the shuffling early '00s beat is prime for any number of potential remixes. I'm personally holding out for the Major Lazer carnivale-reggae take, were such a thing to exist (crossing fingers, looking at Diplo).

The track is a fresh arrival for "The Voice" judge whose show has been rivaling "The X Factor" and "... Got Talent" and the news trickling in from "American Idol." Co-judge Adam Levine may have had a grip on the summer with his band Maroon 5's "Payphone," but this could be Aguilera's autumn with this Max Martin banger.

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<p>Amanda Palmer</p>

Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer draws criticism for hugs-as-pay touring musician approach

'Volunteer Corps': Albini weights in... does David Byrne too?

This week, Amanda Palmer started her recruiting the "orchestra" members of her Grand Theft Orchestra Tour with an announcement: she'd be drafting "professional-ish" quality horn and string players locally at each gig. "We will feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch and thank you mightily for adding to the big noise we are planning to make."

Let's be clear about something: Amanda Palmer did not invent the notion of paying musicians in drink tickets and a good hang.

Palmer fell under fire for her pay structure regardless, and for a few reasons.

According to the New York Times, the Boston-based songwriter will be paying her three regular touring members, but still wants seven or eight unpaid performers for each night: a string quartet and three or four saxophone players.

The songwriter made headlines earlier this summer for raising a record-breaking $1.2 million through Kickstarter, to make and promote her next new record "Theatre Is Evil." That album bowed on Tuesday and Palmer claims those funds were used in promoting and marketing and creating the set.

She also said that paying seven or eight musicians for three dozen tour dates would amount to $35,000, which she does not have or has not delegated or does not want to delegate. Plus, she told the Times, "If you could see the enthusiasm of these people, the argument would become invalid. They’re all incredibly happy to be here," she said. “If my fans are happy and my audience is happy and the musicians on stage are happy, where’s the problem?”

Not all of her fans are happy, and some have thought the move was unfair to musicians. Musicians Unions are not happy, saying her recruiting method devalues working musicians' work.

But, indeed, many of her fans are fine with the move: the $1.2 million is evidence of their loyalty and acceptance of this other type of "crowdsourcing."

Palmer's path -- even when she was on Roadrunner -- has always been unique, and these days, firmly DIY. Her music isn't my cup of tea, but I admire her enterprising and intimate connection with her fans. In my interview with her in 2010, she admitted to the tendencies of her "hardcore" fans, and then the need to recapture new fans' attentions after an album drops.

It's more than just the hardcore fans that will make the Grand Theft Orchestra Tour successful. And have no doubt: it will be really, really successful.

And that's where I break with her decision. Her logic says that her rotating mini-orchestra should get paid $0 or $35,000, and suggested no number in between. But Palmer is going to kill this tour. Murder it dead. She's playing mid-sized ballrooms and theaters, and she will sell many of them out. And she will have $35,000 and then some to spare by the end of it.

If Palmer says it took $1.2 million to make this album, sure, fine, it's totally fine. Blow it on catering and payroll. The math may bother me, but spending it on what she wants doesn't bother me, and I don't think the many fans that paid to make her album "possible" would disagree. But it's misleading to say that at the end of this tour, she can't afford to pay her players, even if $35k is high.

In her Tumblr, she noted the "poetic placement" of an article about David Byrne was next to her Times article. David Byrne even name-checked Palmer in his article, "as an example of someone who creatively crowdsources things," she posted. Plus: "when david byrne guested with the grand theft orchestra a few months ago at the music hall of williamsburg, we paid him…in beer."

Halt. Stop right there. I think Amanda Palmer knows that David Byrne is compensated for his music, and deserves to be. David Byrne played Palmer's show for a drink token not just because he likes Amanda Palmer, but because of a little something called good will. Generosity. Good will and generosity helped to raise $1.2 million, and not solely just because people like her previous albums.

To answer Palmer's question "where's the problem?", I'd say the move, more than anything, is tacky. Palmer could have listed "Play with my band" as one of the "rewards" for donating to her album fund. She, instead, experienced the love and generosity of her hardcore fanbase's outpouring of good will and vibes, and then dipped into the pot again, in a very public and tactless way. Her fans' exceptionalism is no excuse.

There are musicians and Amanda Palmer fans who would love the exposure and the fun of playing with her. There are musicians and Amanda Palmer fans who would love to play with her, but believe they deserve to get paid. Those who will play for free will get the gig, whether or not they are better players than those who decline the opportunity (and, at that, the lottery). Palmer will value you as an "Orchestra" member if you play for free, so what does that say about how she values all performers and touring artists, beyond how happy they are?

Chronic crank and brilliant record engineer Steve Albini, in his discussion online at the Electrical Audio board, used the word "waste" toward what happened with Palmer's Kickstarter fun. Furthermore, I'd call this tactic a waste of good will. Of course some of her hardcore, professional-ish fans would play for free. That doesn't mean she should let them.

 

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<p>Nicki Minaj at the MTV&nbsp;VMAs</p>

Nicki Minaj at the MTV VMAs

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Nicki Minaj drops snotty new single 'The Boys' with Cassie

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Female, and punk as hell

Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" was the graceful, bangin' balance between the pop and rap sides of her coin, a track with perfect peace with current top 40. Now with "The Boys," the Young Money artist yet again achieves that yin and yang, for urban radio. On top of that, we get a -- gasp -- feminine view into Minaj's songcraft.

After so many songs adopting the common male hip-hop vernacular, Minaj puts Roman aside for the moment to talk about "The Boys," featuring rising R&B vocalist Cassie. These hip-hop guys are "always spending all their money on love," an assertion that's notable for a couple of reasons. First, the chorus arrives on the heels rumors flying about Cassie and notable money-and-love lover Diddy.

Second, it's the counter-argument to "the boys" going broke because of their girlfriends: it's not the girls asking for money, it's the boys blowing it themselves. Kanye, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, crew boss Lil Wayne and others all have verses insisting on outfitting their women in the very brand names they endorse... or worse, call out the bitches, hoes and other pet names for "taking" rappers' cash for money for purses, shoes, whatever.

Third, it removes the female from general equation, and simply points the cashflow toward "love," here as a service rendered, or a simple commodity. "They want to touch it, taste it, see it, pet it, bone it, own it," the auto-tuned voice sings, defining "love" as less than a woman and more of an object. You know: money, cash, hoes, money, cash, chicks, what.

That sentiment goes hand-in-hand with the big, soupy-sweet hook of the chorus, which could also be read a couple of ways. "You get high / Love a bunch of girls / And then cry / on top of the world" may read with the last line as a quote "And then cry, 'On top of the world'" or it could simply be the rapper whining or crying when he's at the top of his game. Either way, "loving" a bunch of girls is the prerequisite to the rapper's successful business model.

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<p>Ben Howard, Plan B and Lianne La Havas</p>

Ben Howard, Plan B and Lianne La Havas

2012 Mercury Prize Nominations: Listen to 5 artists you should know

Plan B, Richard Hawley, Michael Kiwanuka, Ben Howard and others up for British award

Much like its other years, the 2012 Mercury Prize shortlist is yet again dominated by mostly rock-leaning artists, with other genres weaved -- or perhaps forced -- in. However, there are quite of few artists on the tally that have sold considerably fewer albums than some higher profile acts who were snubbed.

Here is the 2012 Mercury Prize Shortlist:

Alt-J "An Awesome Wave"
Ben Howard "Every Kingdom"
Django Django "Django Django"
Field Music "Plumb"
Jessie Ware "Devotion"
Lianne La Havas "Is Your Love Big Enough?"
Michael Kiwanuka "Home Again"
Plan B "Ill Manors"
Richard Hawley "Standing at the Sky’s Edge"
Roller Trio "Roller Trio"
Sam Lee "Ground Of Its Own"
The Maccabees "Given To The Wild "

Solo artist and Pulp touring guitarist Richard Hawley is the most recognizable name to ears here in the U.S., along with the familiar rock strains of the Maccabees, rapper Plan B and electro-pop singer Jessie Ware. Others like Alt-J, Roller Trio, Sam Lee and Lianne La Havas are far more under the radar than excluded Coldplay, Kate Bush, Emile Sande, Ed Sheeran and 2010 Mercury Prize winners The xx.

Of the 12 nominated artists, two are people of color and one prominently features a band member of color; and there are two are women. There's one rap artist, one English folk artist, one jazz troupe and splashes of pop all over the place despite a notable absence of a "pop-pop" act.

That's not to say the shortlist is just mostly lily-white rock and devoid of imagination. It's just kind of subdued compared to years before. The winner will be announced on Nov. 1.

Below I've pulled out videos and songs from five artists to get filled in on, including the ladies and the outliers.

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<p>Eminem and Pink</p>

Eminem and Pink

Listen: Eminem and P!nk reunite for 'Here Comes the Weekend'

Party.

Remember when Pink showed up on Eminem's resilient party rocker "Won't Back Down" from "Recovery?" That particular combo and code is reiterated this week as Slim Shady makes a quick stop through Pink's new "Here Comes the Weekend."

The Saturday-Sunday cheer is jagged and mostly built on the stilts of his oft-repeated refrain. There's very little setup to Em's verse, which has him heading into town for festivities, and to act like "an idiot."

Otherwise, you're left with a very Pinkinem big beat to set your sirens off. Not the best pop song we've heard from Pink, but it could very well sell some shoes or some cars in a commercial.

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<p>Dave Matthews Band's &quot;Away From the World&quot;</p>

Dave Matthews Band's "Away From the World"

Album Review: Dave Matthews Band, 'Away From the World'

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Hit and miss for a band just past two decades old

Dave Matthews Band’s latest “Away from the World” shouldn’t be judged alone by its single “Mercy,” a rock lite Good-Feeling Word Salad that clings hard to the teeth. It means well, a sentiment that could describe just a couple of songs off of this Steve Lillywhite-produced set, but bombs compared to one of its “Worldly” companions like “Gaucho,” another and more refined expression of the disappointment and dealings with the “World’s” inequity. 

It’s all about taming those flourishes, and it’s Lillywhite whose gift is to parse the excessive elements of an instrumentally gifted band. After more than 20 years, they ought to be capable of doing it themselves, yet they end up with tracks like “Snow Outside” which sounds like 30 tracks when five or six could do. Be forewarned, too, that despite its epic buildup and release, “Drunken Soldier” ambles on eternally like a… well, you know.
 
However, there’s at least a pair of tracks that (thankfully) strip down to skivvies: ukulele-led “Sweet” is an appropriate title for a tender exercise in happy accidents while “Belly Full” is only one guitar and one vocal.
 
Carter Beauford has always been and remains the metronomic glue for the band, despite the gentle caw of its namesake’s voice or the stable of backing players. He’s especially poignant on creeper “The Riff,” Matthews’ bedroom-eyed break with reality.  “[I] take another drink / so I can lose control,” Matthews growls from the “Rooftop,” the sort of uninhibited “sweet spot” that attracted listeners to begin with. “I want / you to / tell me that you want me.” You can tell he means it, ‘cause of all of the blaring instruments.
 
"Away From the World" is out today (Sept. 11).

 

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