<p>Future of the Left</p>

Future of the Left

Interview: Future Of The Left talk ‘Common Sense’ and the most annoying fans

How does Andy Falkous feel about Denzel Washington and Mclusky song requests?

Earlier this month, Future of the Left released their new album “The Plot Against Common Sense.” You could say, in a way, the band encourages some nonsense, anyway. FotL’s live shows are rowdy, most banter-heavy social events (and yes, they’re more like an event than a traditional concert), a hard rock free-fall through song titles like “Robocop 4 – F*ck Off Robocop” and “adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood.” The Welsh group boasts new members Jimmy Watkins and Julia Ruzicka to round out this eclectic new mix of tunes on ”Common Sense,” which has inspired an increase in dancing at these shows.

Their audience has broadened, too. According to frontman/songwriter and founder of FotL’s former bedrock band Mclusky, they’ve gotten more press opportunities out of this Xtra Mile Recordings deal than they did with their last label, 4AD. They just finished a U.S. tour and plan on returning later this year.
 
Below is an abridged chat I had with the very enteraining Falkous, on his business perspective on label deals, annoying fans, his old songs with Mclusky and film.
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<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: Lady Gaga performs brand new song 'Princess Die' live

Sad song about suicide? Read all the lyrics

Lady Gaga performed a brand new song "Princess Die" for her Melbourne audience this week, and she seemed pretty aware that the tune would head straight to YouTube today.

In her intro, she warned that the song may or may not be on her next new album -- the title which will be announced in September -- and that it's sad, solo tone shouldn't be a reflection on its overall sound. "Princess Die," however, reflects Mother Monster's most "deep and personal thoughts I've ever had."

She emphasized that it was spelled "D-I-E," not "Di," the nickname for England's late Princess Diana, who perished in a car crash in 1997. However, some lines from the song mirror Diana details, particularly with the last verse about paparazzi, the limo and her rich boyfriend. However, the piano-led track points more toward a suicide, or someone who is considering suicide, which may have some folks up in arms.

If Gaga decides to keep this thing slow, it will probably be her darkest song yet. A very odd choice for a roll-out of new material, but OK: she needs that dimension anyway, to get her more intimate with her fans. But let's hope she also has a dance single up her sleeve by time she finally decides to announce some U.S. tour dates.

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<p>The founding Avett Brothers</p>

The founding Avett Brothers

Credit: Universal Republic

Listen: The Avett Brothers unveil new 'Carpenter' album with song 'Live and Die'

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Folky quintet's first since 2009's 'I and Love and You'

The Avett Brothers are returning with their first album since 2009's "I and Love and You," with "The Carpenter" out on Sept. 11 this year.

The set has been preceded by the first single "Live and Die," which is available for streaming via NPR as of today. The tune goes up for purchase on July 9; it's a style familiar to fans of the band, which has steadily stepped away from rockabilly elements and bluegrass toward more middle-of-the-road, pleasant, folk-inspired pop tunes with their penchant harmonies. This one starts out with a trotting banjo and ends with a chorus that can only be dislodged from your mind with a crowbar.

Listen to "Live and Die" here.

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<p>Far East Movement</p>

Far East Movement

Interview: Far East Movement on ‘Dirty Bass,’ Justin Bieber’s ‘humbleness’

New music video and... another 'G6'

A group with a No. 1 hit song is a tough act to follow, particularly if you’re in that group. Far East Movement earned the top spot with their song “Like a G6” in 2010, and made some headway on radio, too, with “Rocketeer.” Now the hip-hop-loving dance quartet is back with their album “Dirty Bass,” with the hope to achieve some of the same widespread success. Cameos from artists like Tyga, Cassie and freakishly popular Justin Bieber should, y’know, help. 

“Right after ‘G6’ we kept staying on the road and we’d see the crowds and thought, ‘This is crazy.’ But we went into the studio, we didn’t want to think about how we did off the last album, and let’s totally reinvent,” Far East Movement’s Kev Nish said of their newly released album. “That’s what the Beastie Boys would do. We played around with our visuals. When we were touring with Rihanna or [Lil] Wayne, we’d duck right back off stage or on the bus or the backstage and take that energy from the crowd and work it into new ideas.”
 
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<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.”
 

 

<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.

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

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

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

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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.

 

<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

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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.

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<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.

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<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."

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