<p>Metric</p>

Metric

Interview: Metric on 'Synthetica,' sci-fi, indie labels and 'Twilight' soundtracks

Jimmy Shaw talks about independent freedoms and Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil'

 

Metric's previous album "Fantasies" was a game-changer for the band, and for independent rock artists in general. The Canadian band proved you don't need a major label deal in order to get a song on commercial rock radio, and with optimal placement on a "Twilight Saga" soundtrack as well as on Muse's 2010 tour bill, Metric was playing substantial venues with substantial returns on selling their album. And furthermore, it's (sadly) unique for female-fronted rock bands to achieve as much.
 
On "Synthetica," the band continues to blend its brand of pop with rock, and with a literal vengeance. "If you imagine a nightmarishly fake version of me as a pop star, that's her," singer Emily Haines says of her "Synthetica" persona. "And this record was about me saying, I'm going to give more to the music than ever, but there's no way I'm going to turn into someone like that."  
 
Haines' voice as strong as ever, pushing through hard synth lines and looping guitarwork, engineered by Metric guitarist and producer Jimmy Shaw. "Synthetica" was released last week and bowed at No. 12 on the Billboard 200, a band high-water mark helped by the band's own label deal meshed with Mom + Pop.

Below is my interview with Shaw, on purposeful dichotomies, sci-fi and "Twilight" soundtracks.
 
HitFix: Your album’s been out for a week. Do you read your own press? Do you allow for criticism to affect the way that you operate?
 
Jimmy Shaw: I do my best and not let that stuff get into my head at all because if I did, then basically all my musical ideas would be like a collaboration of all the people that had criticisms of what I was doing, you know?  And it starts to actually not become your voice at all. It starts to become your voice of compromise, and your voice of being scared of being torn down.  Ultimately, as much as I want people to like the music that I make, I’d rather have it stay true to exactly what I want to do than sort of shape it and twist it depending on what random people have said to me over the years, you know?
 
This album is at least partly concept-driven. There’s a lot of pop elements to it, but there’s also kind of a revolt against pop and to that kind of material. Was there a conscious effort to kind of make a record about that --  that lyrically kind of went around and kind of spoke to what it is to be in the rock and pop sphere right now?
 
It wasn’t a conscious effort, but there was something that happened halfway through the record. We didn’t go into the thing with a concept in place on any level at all. It was about halfway through it that we started realizing the sort of theme going on that was really about duplicity of all sorts of things, and the dichotomy between one side and the other of all different things in life, of technology and organics, and synthesis and natural surroundings, and truth and dishonesty, all sorts of things. And really looking at the examination of where do you stand in between all these different things. As we started to notice that becoming more and more of a common thread, we sort of went with it more and more.
 
Yeah, I was thinking of the differences between digital and analog, which is kind of a line in the sand for a lot of producers and bands, too. 
 
Are you guy sci-fi dorks? Do you like science fiction? Is that a theme for you?
 
I mean, I don’t really read science fiction, but then again to be honest I don’t really read very much. I like – it’s not like I’m really into the themes of it but I like the way that certain things, parts of it, make me feel. For me, the aesthetics is slightly more in line with like retro future. I’m not totally into, like, the current Star Trek; do you know what I mean? That’s really not my bag at all, but I really f*cking love “Blade Runner,” like that shit blows my mind. The opening scene of “Blade Runner.” And the movie “Brazil” is one of my favorite things of all time, it’s that kind of weird way they used to see the future before the future actually arrived, and it really doesn’t even look that different. It’s just that we all have iPhones.
 
This deal with Mom + Pop; this is the first time you guys have worked with them. They don’t sign just anybody – artists have to have their own act together -- but you guys obviously don’t sign with just anybody either.
 
That’s true.
 
It seems like this would’ve been a really long negotiation process. Can you tell me a little bit about what it is to work with Mom + Pop, and what you get out of it, instead of doing your own thing? Because you guys kind of set a benchmark as to what you can do as an independent artist.
 
Yeah, well the thing that’s interesting about it is that it really is just an extension of us just doing it on our own. When we set up a sort of worldwide situation for the release of Fantasies,  we were going into America and doing it completely on our own. We literally had no one on the ground in the U.S., no one working the record actually lived in the U.S. and it’s the biggest territory in the world, so that became a real challenge. It became really difficult and it became just sort of like one sort of unnecessary battle that we were fighting the entire time.
 
Thankfully, we fought that battle pretty well and we had more success on that record than we had previously, but there were elements of it that we were just, like, dude. We were battling the wrong battles and our energy could’ve been going into different places. Then Mom + Pop came on board halfway through “Fantasies” and we did the deal about six months in and they sort of jumped on board and kept working with that record all the way to the end. They came to us and recognized that the reason that they were talking to us in the first place is that we obviously knew how to guide our own path. We knew how to steer our ship and we know what we’re doing and we know what we want to do, and we know what we don’t want to do. 
 
They came on board fully willing to not try and replace that, which is what the label does with musicians so often. It’s like, “Okay, great, so now you’ve written a couple of songs, I’m going to tell you how to run your career at this point,” and most of the time they just run it into the ground. For them there was like a real mutual respect in a way. It was like they respected everything we’ve done and how we were doing it, and they didn’t want to f*ck with our process.
 
The relationship is really clear, you know? I don’t want to sound like I was skeptical, but frankly I’m shocked at how much we’re in line with each other right now, and things are running symbiotically. Everyone seems to be having the same ideas of everything. We’re all thinking the same thing, and it’s kind of great.
 
I was wondering if you guys think you’re going to be in that final “Twilight Saga” soundtrack?
 
I highly doubt it because I don’t think they use so many bands twice, but you never really know. You never know.
 
Are you guys in talks or have confirmed anything with any other movie, any other movie soundtrack? Because you do have this sound that lends itself so well to film.
 
Yeah, I agree with that, but not right now. I mean, literally, as it stands right now, I have about 12 days off for the rest of the year, so there’s a – I actually hope something really awesome doesn’t come in because, I mean, I have to have to turn it down.
 
And you have worked on Emily’s solo stuff before; are there any other plans for anybody in the band to do another solo thing after this whole record cycle? 
 
I suppose there’s always the possibility. Again, it’s kind of hard to see right now because there’s so much Metric in the near future, that you never really know what you feel like when you come out of that. I did not – I didn’t expect after touring “Fantasies” for two years that I would feel energized and inspired to go in to the studio and start making a record really the next day.
 
That surprises me, too.
 
You know? And I did. So it’s hard to know. Sometimes the turn of events will be like, “Oh my God, I’ve got to get away from these f*cking people for two years.” Or it could be the exact opposite, and be like “Let’s go get a house in the country.”
 

 

Read Full Post
<p>Usher and Rick Ross in &quot;Touch 'N You&quot;</p>

Usher and Rick Ross in "Touch 'N You"

Watch: Usher and Rick Ross in a mood in 'Touch 'N You' music video

Careful, ladies: the rapper's good at chess

Rick Ross has love on the mind -- and some mysterious gentlemen -- for the music video to "Touch 'N You," his collaboration with Usher.

The singer and rapper both star in the clip, which also features Rozay's pretty girlfriend who is partial to the high-heels-and-swimsuit look, because such a trend is incredibly practical and easy to pull off sport. It's a very romantic scene, even circa 2:14, when his lady love perceives an inevitable loss at a chess game. (Three of her pieces have been taken by Rozay, and it appears he pulled his queen out early and claimed a pawn and rook in quick succession, though why would he pull the queen back? And no that's not a euphamism, but I digress.)

Near the end, there's a mysterious meeting of men and the girlfriend walking in and looking pissed. I don't understand this, and perhaps it will be more fully explained in the "Touch 'N You" sequel, "Touch 'N Two." Wake me when it's here.

Ross and Usher's "Touch 'N You" -- which I actually really like -- is off of the rapper's forthcoming, long-awaited "God Forgives I Don't," due on July 31.

Read Full Post
<p>Fiona Apple's &quot;The Idler Wheel...&quot;</p>

Fiona Apple's "The Idler Wheel..."

Album review: Fiona Apple's 'The Idler Wheel...'

HitFix
A-
Readers
A+
Six-year wait for songwriter's masterful anxiety is totally worthwhile

It’s taken Fiona Apple six years to get down the masterful anxiety of “The Idler Wheel…” The full title itself – “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do” -- must’ve taken at least a couple of weeks and a few sleepless nights. The songwriter has proven over and over again to be both a slave and master to her own carefully selected words, with this current slate aching with the weight of sage, savage and self-effacing confessionals.

Good thing the arrangements never get in the way. In a year where Adele’s lush “21” still dominates the charts, Apple and multi-instrumentalist Charley Drayton produced these 10 tracks to sound like largely like two people sharing inside jokes with only musical toys and a moody upright at their disposal.
 
Take “Periphery,” for instance: the elementary piano line is answered by the instrument’s strings getting slapped, and a rhythm section consisting of what literally sounds like duct tape being ripped up from skin. “I don’t even really like you anymore at all,” Apple reveals childishly, bored and disappointed by her ex-lover’s bullsh*t. It’s all machinery and steam sounds in the intro to “Jonathan,” as she whirly-waltzes into Coney Island atop a tuneless mash of a piano pretending to be a calliope, skittering drums, screeches of “gulls” and her vocal counter-melody.
 
Featured, too, are some of the singer's finest vocal performances in her career. A few were unveiled in the weeks preceding the album’s release, like in war-crying “Every Single Night” and funny heartbreaker “Werewolf.” They're just teasers for more pressing and quixotic plot elements. Get into the guts of the thing and “Regret” pops out, or a her swing-dance version of “Revolution No. 9” (“Hot Knife”) sneaks up.
 
The jittery vibrato and broken howls on “Valentine” are closely recorded like a friend leaving you a pissy voicemail about a lousy date she had. “I stand no chance of growing up” she laments, but then puts the blame on “you you you you.” “Daredevil” shares the same slams, lacerations and tongue twisters, and puts them atop the sounds of thighs being slapped for percussion. “I may need a chaperone!” She laughs it off.
 
"The Idler Wheel's" thick language, overall, empties the listener: Apple’s all salt, and it can be terrifyingly sweet. Every song feels more valuable on repeat listens, even when she’s minimalistically and resolutely gloomy.  Its efficiencies are balanced by its voluptuous neediness, a tax that you’ll be happy to shoulder.

 

Read Full Post
<p>Cat Power's &quot;Sun&quot;</p>

Cat Power's "Sun"

Credit: Matador

Listen: Cat Power returns with 'Ruin' from her first new album in six years

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
A travel song, post-break-up

The wait for a new Cat Power record was, in part, due to a relationship and a break-up, but fans' first taste of Chan Marshall's next "Sun" is more about travel than anything.

"Ruin" bops along to the sounds of the various countries to which Marshall's travel -- not the native styles of music, mind you, but the actual names of the countries. Can't say I'm wild about the silly over-pronunciations of said countries, like Meh-heeko and Great Breht-ahn, but it's a driving, cool-eyed song with a undeniable refrain.

Cat Power played all the instruments on "Sun," and produced it herself too. Which is always impressive. She and her mixer  kinda pulls the whole thing on "Ruin" back a bit much (around the 2:15 mark) but damn if she didn't do a nice job driving the whole jangly, piano-rocking thing.

"Sun," as previously reported, arrives on Sept. 4 via Matador. It's the follow-up to 2008's covers set "Jukebox" and the first set of originals since 2006's "The Greatest." Marshall explained to the Stool Pigeon recently that the wait was because she was working hard at making her relationship with her boyfriend -- now ex-boyfriend and actor Giovanni Ribisi -- work. But a woman who changes her hair changes her life: after years of also dabbling on the record, she split, three days later cut her hair mad short, and then went to France to finish this album.

Read Full Post
<p>Shia LaBeouf in Sigur Ros' &quot;Fjogur piano&quot;</p>

Shia LaBeouf in Sigur Ros' "Fjogur piano"

Watch: Shia LaBeouf stars in serious and NSFW Sigur Ros music vid

'Fjögur píanó' next in line for experimental short film series

You've probably never seen actor Shia LaBeouf like this.

The "Transformers" star co-leads the music video to Sigur Ros' new "Fjögur píanó," the third song to get an experimental music video treatment from their album "Valtari." LaBeouf and actress/dancer Denna Thompson perform as “a man and woman locked in a never-ending cycle of addiction and desire,” forcing them through some high-stress, abstract dream sequences during which both stars appearing completely in the nude.

It is emotional and also very beautiful. I found it kind of hard to watch more than once, with all its lacerations and breaking glass and the weirdo car scene -- with the actors kidnapped and licking insect-filled lollipops -- with all its sharks. But the performances are worth while and the styling is absolutely breathtaking. The track didn't stand out much from the album for me, but now it doesn't seem as interstitial.

Also, Shia should stick to the ponytail. It's kinda working for me. Reminds me of Milo Ventimiglia on Fergie's "Good Girls Don't Cry" music video.

Oh, the things I'm finding myself say today.

Read Full Post
<p>Peter Buck (2008)</p>

Peter Buck (2008)

Listen: R.E.M.'s Peter Buck goes solo on '10 Million BC'

Boggy garage rocker arrives ahead of as-yet-untitled solo set

Since R.E.M. split, it sounds like guitarist Peter Buck has been spending time in the garage.

The rocker is stepping out solo with a new album and now has "10 Million BC" to show for it. The boggy, Jon Spencer-styled track made its bow on WFMU this week, with Buck's collaborator in The Baseball Project, Steve Wynn, introducing it.

"10 Million BC" is from Buck's forthcoming, as-yet-untitled effort, with no word yet when to expect a whole package -- a package which may be released on vinyl-only.

R.E.M. called it quits last September. And I've really enjoyed Michael Stipe's cameos on "Colbert."

Read Full Post
<p>Carly Rae Jepsen</p>

Carly Rae Jepsen

Here's that 'Call Me Maybe' and 'Walking on Broken Glass' mash-up you wanted

Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij puts Carly Rae Jepsen's and Annie Lennox together

I don't need any more "Call Me Maybe" covers. But a mash-up with Annie Lennox's "Walking on Broken Glass?" Definitely.

Carly Rae Jepsen's No. 1 smash summer hit has been successfully melded with Lennox's 1992 hit by Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij, and posted on his Tumblr as "Call Me on Broken Glass."

"This one is strictly for the lulz," Batmanglij posted. And here I thought it was for a Grammy.

Jepsen's track has also been mashed-up with other big pop tracks with equally sunny dispositions, like Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life."

Read Full Post
<p>Best Coast</p>

Best Coast

Watch: Best Coast hit the coast in 'The Only Place' video

Exactly what you'd think a Best Coast music video would look like

For the budget of hamburgers, three dozen bottles of hot sauce, watermelons, a broken drum kit, a gorgeous car rental and some pastel wear, Best Coast completed the video to their new track "The Only Place."

Much like the sound of Best Coast, the clip is harmlessly mischievous, adorable, bright and all about the drive.

"The Only Place" is culled from the band's latest album by the same name, released on May 15 via Mexican Summer.  They're currently on tour with dates below the vid, including their stops at Metallica's Orion Music + More festival and Bumbershoot.

Read Full Post
<p>David Byrne &amp; St. Vincent's &quot;Love This Giant&quot;</p>

David Byrne & St. Vincent's "Love This Giant"

Credit: 4AD/Todo Mundo

Listen: David Byrne and St. Vincent combine for 'Who' and a new album

Jagged and melodic, for 'Love This Giant'

It was "in-the-works" for two-and-a-half years, but now it's confirmed today that St. Vincent and former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne will release an entire collaborative album, "Love This Giant." The 4AD/Todo Mundo effort will drop on Sept. 11, and has been preceded by the first song to arrive, "Who."

This jagged and melodic number bumps around with polyrhythms and unusual harmonies -- a la Dirty Projectors and tUnE-yArDs -- with a lot of belting from Byrne and angelic refrains from St. Vincent (aka vocalist and guitarist Annie Clark). The brass does a lot of carrying here, which I love: the horns give it some emotional weight to all the whimsy and 1,000-yard staring.

There will apparently be a lot of horns on the album overall, with help from the guys in Antibalas and The Dap-Kings helping out. Engineer and songwriter John Congleton of moody rock outfit The Paper Chase also lends a hand on programmed drums. Ten of the album's 12 tracks were co-written by Byrne and Clark, and each writing one individually.

And with a snap of your fingers, a new album has likely entered into the top 10 of NPR's year-end list.

Read Full Post
<p>Big K.R.I.T.</p>

Big K.R.I.T.

Credit: Steve-ography

Listen: Big K.R.I.T. says 'Thank You Kindly' to fans of his 'Underground'

Southern rapper has his acceptance speech all worked out

No telling if rapper Big K.R.I.T. will earn a Grammy nomination for work off of his confusingly titled studio debut "Live from the Underground" or for his guest spots on tracks from Wiz Khalifa or Curren$y. But in case he wins any award, he already has an acceptance speech worked out.

"Thank You Kindly" really is a big, simple, slobbery wet kiss from the Mississippi-bred rhymer, a one-off thank-you-note on the heels of the release of "Underground" last week. That effort, as we learned today, bowed at No. 5 with 41,000 on the Billboard 200 album sales chart today.

"I wanted to thank all the fans for the support, so I did this one for ya’ll," he wrote on the song's SoundCloud page.

"Underground" had an enormous amount of support right off the bat, at least from its guesting musicians. From artists like B.B. King to Melanie Fiona to Ludacris to 2 Chainz.

K.R.I.T. made it onto HitFix's 2012 Summer Songs list with "I Got It," as well as helped lead our Hip-Hop's New Class of characters.

Read Full Post