<p>Kanye West</p>

Kanye West

Credit: AP Photo

Kanye West drops trailer to 'Cruel Winter' short film... in advance of new album?

G.O.O.D. music crew seems to think something big's on the way

Are we ready for a new world order? That's what the trailer to a new short film, "Cruel Winter," asks us. Kanye West has probably already crowned himself king of said order.

The rapper/producer has apparently headed up another short, fueling speculation that "Cruel Winter" will not only be a film but a complete album to follow-up his G.O.O.D. Music compilation "Cruel Summer."

The video itself answers almost nothing, using only the ominous-sounding pre-recorded sample and pictures of the coldest months wreaking havoc on the landscape. It could be incredibly beautiful. And pretentious. Or, with any luck, both.

Read Full Post
<p>Vampire Weekend on &quot;Jimmy Kimmel Live&quot;</p>

Vampire Weekend on "Jimmy Kimmel Live"

New Music: Vampire Weekend debut 'Unbelievers' on 'Jimmy Kimmel'

New York indie-pop troupe preparing another new release?

Happy Halloween! Here is a gentle new pop song!

It looks like Vampire Weekend are back and in effect, as they took to the stage on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and spooked the audience in the most sane, easy way possible: with boppy piano, Ezra Koenig's square longing and some righteous facepaint. The song is called "Unbelievers."

What's missing here is, frankly, a proper sound mix, but also the electric guitar: I rather miss that hollow-body Gretsch, and chonking acoustic guitar isn't quite filling in those spaces. Still, it's a second solid look into what the band has been up to. Vampire Weekend premiered a fresh track, "New Song No. 2," at a show in July.

If history has any bearing on when we hear more studio material, remember that the pop-rock band's first two albums both came out in January, getting a leg up during the slow post-Christmas period.

Read Full Post
Listen: Ludacris, David Guetta and Usher combine for banger 'Rest of My Life'

Listen: Ludacris, David Guetta and Usher combine for banger 'Rest of My Life'

HitFix
B
Readers
A+
Rap, R&B and dance stars combine for 'Ludaversal' single

Three mega-stars from dance, R&B and rap have combined for one damn uplifting single. Ludacris recruited Usher and David Guetta for "Rest of My Life," a quiet-LOUD-quiet wave of "women, weed and alcohol," extolling the virtues of the wilder side of life.

Despite the declarations, this thing is fairly tame for Ludacris, who leans hard on PG-13 hip-pop lyrics, letting Usher pump up the pre-chorus and giving Guetta the floor for all of the "chorus," which is the sound of top 40 radio programmers (or is it singular, "programmer," now?) positively losing it. The song goes up on iTunes tomorrow and goes wide for adds on Nov. 19, right before Thanksgiving.

This is Ludacris doing ore pop. Do you want the rest of the record to sound that way?

Read Full Post
<p>Beyonce and Miguel</p>

Beyonce and Miguel

Credit: Instagram

Beyonce hits the studio with Miguel

Dreams come true, folks

Hey, it's not just that Miguel has put out what is possibly one of the best R&B albums this year. But his hard work (and those VOCALS, oh the vocals) have caught more than just my and 64,999 other album buyers' attentions.

Miguel Tweeted and Instagrammed a photo of himself standing next to a smiling Beyonce yesterday. The two appear to be in the studio -- and considering Miguel has penned for acts like Usher before and earned Grammy nominations for his performances, dude's got the chops to work with one of the most popular female singers today.

The songwriter/producer has apparently been writing for a whole crop of Virgos this month, according to his Tweet (Beyonce's b-day was on Sept. 4): 

Beyonce is on tap to perform during the Super Bowl Halftime Show in February, and you can bet your bottom dollar that she'll be promoting something new at that time. If Ryan Tedder is to be believed, Bey's got two "projects" in the works. Now that she dropped from Clint Eastwood's "A Star Is Born" reboot, some time has been freed up for other projects, including a documentary about her own life. Diane Warren is also proclaimed to be writing tunes for the superstar.

Miguel released "Kaleidoscope Dream" in late September.

<p>&quot;CeeLo's Magic Moment&quot;</p>

"CeeLo's Magic Moment"

Credit: Elektra/Atlantic

Review: CeeLo Green's Christmas album 'CeeLo's Magic Moment'

HitFix
C
Readers
A+
How does 'The Voice' judge do with guests Christina Aguilera, the Muppets and Straight No Chaser?

About a third of CeeLo Green's 14-track Christmas album is pretty solid. This includes consideration that CeeLo's overall approach to singing tends toward the heavy-handed, an attribute absolutely compatible with Christmas records. But the most unnatural elements -- the forced styles outside his comfort zone, clunky duets, uninspired excesses -- are what ultimately causes "CeeLo's Magic Moment" to stumblebum around the season with only a few perfectly packaged gifts. 

Green positively delights over the three-song stretch of tracks 3 to 5, with "This Christmas," "The Christmas Song" and "White Christmas," all the Motown sheen over top Green's smiling consonants and midtempo bops. The mood on either side there is ruined, first, by his duel with powerhouse (and "The Voice" cohort) Christina Aguilera on "Baby, It's Cold Outside," a tune that turned out less conversational than it is two horny people yelling at each other ("YOU'VE REALLY BEEN NICE!..." "I'M THRILLED WHEN YOU TOUCH MY HAIR!"). Green's standing endorsement from the Muppets rallies on hot mess "All I Need Is Love," as it relies whole-cloth on "Mahna Mahna" with sprinkles of the word "Santa," the chosen ad lib over "baby."
 
"Magic Moment" is inflicted with Atlantic labelmates Straight No Chaser on three tracks, especially on novelty "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," as it's apparent the a capella crew's 15 minutes has extended into four years. Rod Stewart shows up on R&B classic "Merry Christmas Baby" to easy-listening effect, but it and the plain cover of Joni Mitchell's tender "River" lacks the color and heart that gospel choir-backed tracks like "Mary Did You Know." "All I Want for Christmas" and "Silent Night" dynamically are written in two different ways, but ultimately burst with the same bombast and artless backing from the same arranger's desk.
 
Select songs from "Magic Moment" would make such a highly successful EP in many ways, but like most EPs, it wouldn't sell the way a full-length set would, so Green bears what he can here with his wonderful voice. But ain't it just like Christmas, to over-extend?

 

<p>Nicki MInaj's crazy eyes in &quot;Va Va Voom&quot;</p>

Nicki MInaj's crazy eyes in "Va Va Voom"

Watch: Nicki MInaj's 'Va Va Voom' video is a fairytale with no sound magic

HitFix
C+
Readers
A+
Next single from 'Roman Reloaded - The Re-Up' takes from the sugar bowl

As evident on the original release of "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded," Nicki Minaj can't help but to oscillate between trash-talking raps and pure, saccharine pop music for her singles, her sides and, apparently, her personalities. For the upcoming "Re-Up" of "Roman," the bonus tracks have been taking turns batting, starting with heady and bratty "The Boys" featuring Cassie, and now with this new cavity "Va Va Voom."

Of course, Minaj can't help but to play the villain sometime in this fairytale-driven narrative, but for the most part is the Queens-bred artist mugging in a variety of false lashes, with her penchant bright colors swimming all around her. I literally laughed out loud when when a dastardly Robin Hood darkens her doorway as she bakes sweets in a cottage (not making this up) and as she idles alongside a unicorn in a creek (still not making this up).

Read Full Post
<p>M83 at Austin City Limits</p>

M83 at Austin City Limits

Credit: Katie Hasty

Watch: Hope set for liftoff in M83's 'Steve McQueen' video

Contest-winning clip is full of wonder

M83's video for "Steve McQueen" deals with a lot of the same themes the lyrics to the song do: there's something hopeful and mysterious springing forth from us, at times, when the secret unlocking of our greatest desires feel, for once, within reach.

The clip thusly features a kid, a wrangler of magic around some unknown plot involving his toy animals and an unorthodox use of the garden sprinkler. It's colorful and unknowable, with animations from Spike Jonze collabo Sylvain Derosne, under the direction of Derosne and Balthazar Auxietre.

It came about as part of a video contest (in partnership with Genero.tv), with the directors describing their depiction of the “power of childhood, an eagerness for life, and the kind of paradoxical energy you have when you grow up.”

I'm confused by it, but I like it.

"Steve McQueen" is the next single from M83's "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming" from last year. It will be out with multiple remixes starting on Nov. 27. M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez is also releasing a 12" for Record Store Day's Black Friday edition, with four remixes of that track, on Nov. 23.

<p>.fun in &quot;Carry On&quot;</p>

.fun in "Carry On"

Credit: Fueled By Ramen

Watch: fun.'s drinky 'Carry On' video arrives as band announces tour dates

Further proof that fun. love musicals

The band fun.'s "Carry On" always sounded like a drinking, transitional song from a musical. In their music video for the track, the band took the cue.

The three-piece pop-rockers take to the New York city twilight and to its pubs for shots and grinning shenanigans for the track, which is the third single from "Some Nights" (after solar eclipse "We Are Young" and the title track). The musical vibe is only helped by Nate Ruess' incessant suspender urges and everybody's textbook definition of "boyish charm." Where's the conflict for the second act?

The clip arrives in time for fun.'s tour dates announcement. The headlining stint starts Jan. 23 and runs through Feb. 16 and is a continuation of the group's fall/winter trek, many dates to which are already sold out. Tickets for the new shows -- excluding big 'uns like Radio City Music Hall -- go on sale on Oct. 26.

Read Full Post
<p>Local Natives</p>

Local Natives

Credit: Bryan Sheffield

Listen: Local Natives' 'Breakers' precedes new full-length album

Indie rockers produce part of 'Hummingbird' with The National's Aaron Dessner

Local Natives will soon be at a locality near you. The band has completed a new effort, titled "Hummingbird," out on Jan. 29, and have dropped new song "Breakers" in celebration. It's a little like Fleet Foxes raiding all of Dirty Projectors guitar processors, which is not at all a bad thing.

"Hummingbird" was recorded in Los Angeles, Montreal and Brooklyn. In the case of the latter, the quartet hit up The National's Aaron Dessner to produce, out of his Ditmas Park, Brooklyn studio. And of the former, the band actually outfitted their own new recording space in Silverlake.

Read Full Post
<p>RZA&nbsp;in &quot;The Man With the Iron Fists&quot;</p>

RZA in "The Man With the Iron Fists"

Interview: RZA talks Wu-Tang reunion, 'lonely' road for 'Man With the Iron Fists'

Soundtrack firsts and Kanye West's contribution

Only a few days away from the soundtrack release to his film “The Man With the Iron Fists,” RZA admits that -- for the most part -- he got what he wanted, even if the film itself took about seven years to come to fruition.

The tracklisting to "Iron Fists" includes contributions from Kanye West, the Black Keys and RZA’s original family, the Wu-Tang Clan with standouts from Ghostface Killah and Method Man. And like just like in his film, RZA’s all over it.
 
When it came to picking and choosing artists for the soundtrack, “I got who I wanted on there,” he told me in a recent interview. RZA said West made himself available early on, and he asked the Black Keys to conjure something they originally cooked up together during the making of collaborations experiment “Blakroc.” Corinne Bailey Rae is “one of my favorite singers and she got a chance to see [the film] at 70% done. She and her sister said they loved it as women, and when she let me know that women would love it as well, I thought ‘This is great.’”
Read Full Post