<p>Paul Van Dyk</p>

Paul Van Dyk

Interview: Paul Van Dyk on electronic ‘Evolution’ and Madonna’s drug blunder

Check out the video for 'Eternity' featuring Adam Young of Owl City

With 20 years of experience in the electronic music industry, it’s safe to say that Paul Van Dyk is an authority on the subject. Today (April 3), the German producer and DJ released his new studio album “Evolution,” after five years chock full of singles, compilation and remix contributions, work on the “Dark Knight Rises” soundtrack, crafting songs for video games like “Mirror’s Edge” and racking up frequent flyer miles as one of dance music’s biggest festival and circuit jetsetters.

And as an authority, Van Dyk has some strong feelings about current events in the electronic music realm.
 
Notably, he’s spoken out about Madonna’s “Molly” drug reference from her appearance at the Ultra Music Festival late last month. (Check out video of her comment at the link.)
 
“Even the beginning of electronic music, we always had to fight against the preconception that everybody who listens to our music is on drugs, and whoever makes our music is on drugs. We’ve been made out to be a drug house rather than a music of substance,” he told me in our interview. “Then Madonna comes along, puts herself on stage and is ruining it by voicing what she did.
 
“This is such a creative artform, with great artists involved… It is fair to say that Madonna doesn’t do anything without something behind it. Her appearing [at the festival] was a really clear marketing statement, for a younger audience. What’s funny is she doesn’t know too much about what electronic music is. She makes phenomenal pop music, and uses electronic sounds and elements. I just wouldn’t think that she’s an electronic artist.”
 
When it comes to his own collaborations, Van Dyk said that it’s not of utmost importance that he works with people who “understand what electronic music is. It’s just that they respect what electronic music is all about.” On “Evolution,” he decided to combine powers with Owl City’s Adam Young, for the track “Eternity” that seems very much inspired by young songwriter’s hit “Fireflies.” The two artists had been in touch back-and-forth over the last four years, even as their careers grew in dramatic stature.
 
“In our music world it’s easy to get and stay in contact. Everybody knows the mailing address of my office. You can talk to your favorite artists on Facebook. Everybody can do it,” he said.
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<p>Ben Howard</p>

Ben Howard

Interview: Rising British star Ben Howard on Mumford & Sons, album release

Watch the music video to the rising talent's 'The Wolves'

It’s notoriously difficult, at times, for British artists to break in the United States, to garner the same amount of success here than they do in their home country.

“People are always warning you about stuff, about it being extraordinarily hard. But people [in the U.S.] have been amazing,” said Ben Howard.
 
Of course, the young singer/songwriter has Mumford & Sons on his side, which -- y’know -- helps. He issued his debut album “Every Kingdom” Stateside on Communion, the label and music community founded by Mumfords’ Ben Lovett, nurtured through that band’s fanbase worldwide.
 
“[Communion] are all big music lovers, and business comes second. When I was talking to other record labels, they were much stricter with stuff, too much of a brand strategy and a business plan. Communion is just making good stuff, and that’s what the music industry needs-- it always needs music fans,” Howard said in our interview. He said that the opportunity to do something of a collaboration with the Mumfords is always up in the air. “A nice thing is everyone keeps their minds open to that sort of thing.”
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<p>T.I.</p>

T.I.

Listen: T.I.'s new album gets an 'official' first single, 'Love This Life'

HitFix
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Readers
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Is this a good direction for TIP's hustle?

T.I. isn't the best singer, but he got a fitting hook and an easy beat for "Love This Life," which his label Grand Hustle/Atlantic is dubbing as the first single from long-awaited album "Trouble Man."

So a centerpiece for "Man" is T.I.'s woman, on whom he spends his energy with "Love This Life."

"You know, you love / Bitch, you know you love this life/ Don't nobody do you like me," T.I. reiterates on the refrain. Because if there's one thing that ladies love, is being told what they like. And to be called bitch.

Beyond some obvious strain between romance and being a hustler, T.I. has dropped a generally likeable, Mars-produced track, his flow bounding after the beat with ease and an accessible drum sample that could take it to top 40 and not just the rap charts.

No insight has been revealed as to when to expect "Trouble Man" except "later this year; there have been some fits and starts in getting an album proper from TIP ever since he left the pokey in late summer last year. He's launched his reality show "T.I & Tiny: The Family Hustle," put out a book last fall, premiered a mixtape on New Year's Day in 2012 and has dropped a few promotional singles with "I'm Flexin'" featuring Big K.R.I.T. as the biggest standout. It didn't track so big with crossover radio, so maybe that's why there's a push with "Love."

T.I. is on tap as producer of Iggy Azalea's forthcoming debut album "The New Classic"; he will also star along side of Kelsey Grammer in Starz series "Boss."

What do you think of "Love This Life?"

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<p>So many fonts! Nicki Minaj's &quot;Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded&quot;</p>

So many fonts! Nicki Minaj's "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded"

Credit: Cash Money/Young Money/Universal Republic

Review: Nicki Minaj's 'Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded'

HitFix
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Readers
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Multiple personalities slaughtered by the company she keeps

It’s been said before, but it’s worth reiterating, especially in consideration of “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded”: Nicki Minaj is a rapper, a better rapper than she is a singer. Let the rapper rap.

The Young Money/Cash Money artist does much of that in the first half of “Reloaded,” a confoundingly long album of 19 tracks. The latter half is devoted to Nicki Minaj, Pop Star, a calculated configuration with an evident desire to throw more than one’s fair share at the wall to see what sticks. The “Roman Reloaded” title flimsily attracts fans to its core conceit, the fleshing-out of Minaj’s trash-talking alter-ego Roman, a loose fetter that falls away with each overwrought play for top 40 airplay.
 
I’m not saying it’s lame to experiment, that any single artist should be confined to any one genre by the influence of any single source. Her former hit “Super Bass” is a good example of working her lane and still getting paid and, sadly, a track that serves more at a frustrating anomaly than a guide for great expectations on “Reloaded.”
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<p>Whitney Houston in &quot;Sparkle&quot;</p>

Whitney Houston in "Sparkle"

Watch the first trailer from 'Sparkle,' Whitney Houston's cinematic swan song

Jordin Sparks and her 'sisters' answer to Houston's Emma, a mom with her own singing past

In my interview with Whitney Houston last fall, she spoke much of the themes of motherhood in her forthcoming remake of the 1976 film "Sparkle." In the first look at the film in the newly released trailer, it seems to feature a lot of that, and what it is to be a teenager and a rising star.

The film clip debuted this morning, featuring its namesake played by Jordin Sparks, plus other top cast like Mike Epps, Carmen Ejogo, Tike Sumpter, Derek Luke and -- yup! -- Cee Lo Green. Houston appears as the Williams sisters' sassy mom, who considers her past as a rising star that never reached her potential.

The film promises to integrate music from the Motown era, plus new compositions from R. Kelly with input from executive producer Whitney Houston herself. The trailer doesn't indicate yet what the late singer's big number in the film will look like, but with all that talent, it's not a question "what" song, but just how many.

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<p>Dirty Projectors</p>

Dirty Projectors

Listen: Dirty Projectors release new track 'Gun Has No Trigger'

Bjork had an effect on her 'Orca' collaborators

Bjork and the DPs collaborated on "Mount Wittenberg Orca" and now, more than ever, the Icelandic star's influence on frontman Dave Longstreth's voice is heard like never before on new track "Gun Has No Trigger." I enjoy the boldness of his biggest notes here, and that cold, surreal phrasing. I also continue to applaud the return of his backing singers Amber Coffman, Haley Dekle and Angel Deradoorian who sing like the women that they are (as opposed to sounding like little girls).

But don't look for the hooky, boppy arrangement like those that were all over 2009's "Bitte Orca." This is a much sadder, simpler track.Longstreth told SPIN to expect as much.

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<p>Wayne Coyne with some heady fwends</p>

Wayne Coyne with some heady fwends

Credit: Warner Bros.

Interview: Flaming Lips frontman talks 'Heady Fwends,' recording for Ke$ha

Wayne Coyne talks about Beck and Jimmy Page, Billie Joe Armstrong and McDonald's

The Flaming Lips tapped into some seriously weird talent for their forthcoming collaborative album “The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends” -- weird, not just in type, but the breadth. The Oklahoma-based rock band put their heads together with noise rockers Lightning Bolt for something called “ I'm Working At NASA On Acid,” but then flipped a cover of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” with Erykah Badu. Other big names like Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Yoko Ono and Nick Cave grace the track list of “Fwends,” but it was Ke$ha that surprised Lips frontman Wayne Coyne the most.

“She’s a f*cking freak,” he told me in our interview this week. “She is so much fun and so creative and she just goes for it.”
 
The pop singer is actually a huge fan of the band, and called Coyne herself to make the connection. After months of back and forth, he went to her house, they banged out apocalyptically inclined “2012” (“It’s what you’d think it’d sound like”) and even got to work on three or four “other ideas” over a day and a night, stuff for the Lips and stuff that may potentially make the cut for Ke$ha’s next album. They already have another session lined up.
 
“I wouldn’t really approach people just based on ‘You’re a big pop star.’ And I’m not saying I want to be a producer. We’re just gonna get together again just before Easter and probably do three or four more ideas. And then I’ll take those to my people and we’ll f*ck with them. I don’t know if anything ends up on her record, I just loved working with her, she gave it her all.”
 
Turns out that almost everybody who contributed songs to “Fwends” put at least little bit of themselves into the album… literally. As widely reported last week, each contributing artists’ blood will be incorporated into extremely limited edition releases, dispersed into “the middle of the record.”
 
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<p>The Mars Volta</p>

The Mars Volta

Review: The Mars Volta tighten up on 'Noctourniquet'

HitFix
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Readers
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Word salad, tangled rhythms and some slow jams for the ladies

Making your way through a new Mars Volta record isn’t that it's always a challenge; there’s just always the promise of density and compositions that take some digestion. With newest “Noctourniquet,” there’s also bigger bevy of memorable refrains than before, with fewer diatribes. The songs are singular and tighter, too. This may piss some fans off.

Omar Rodríguez-López again arranges each track like a choir of power tools, this time with drummer Deantoni Parks (of KUDU) battling melodies with avant, behind- or off-beat flavors or with a metronomic exactness. I mention the importance of this new rhythm member because of the tumult of tracks like standout “Dyslexicon” or bendy “The Malkin Jewel.” Toms tangle up with bass lines, with singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s trill and hooligan-yelps jutting into the machine like brambles, even on the slower tunes.
 
And of those, there are a few in the 13 tracks.
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<p>Regina Spektor in &quot;All the Rowboats&quot;</p>

Regina Spektor in "All the Rowboats"

Watch: Regina Spektor is scared in 'All the Rowboats' music video

HitFix
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Readers
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Head for the sea when the walls close in on you

I like Regina Spektor's new single "All the Rowboats" an awful lot, and now the track from "What We Saw From the Cheap Seats" went and got itself a matching music video.

The singer-songwriter isn't the most convincing pantomime (or lip-syncer), and the animation is a little touch-and-go, but much like that song, it seems to be more about atmosphere than anything else. The serious and ominous track puts Spektor's beautiful mug under a very large bed of hair and sets to work on causing her much discomfort. Sometimes the rocking of a boat is the only comfort.

"My beautiful friends Adria Petty, Peter Sluszka and Ivan Abel co-directed it! It was like getting the band back together- I love their brains and hearts! So many people worked very hard on this and it was really interesting to make. I hope you enjoy!!!!!" she enthused on her Facebook page.

"What We Saw from the Cheap Seats" is out on May 29; another song from it, "Don't Leave Me- (Ne Me Quitte Pas)," bowed last week. You can also find the tracklist via that link. The pre-order for the iTunes digital deluxe version of the album is open today.

Spektor will also release a pair of Russian cover songs on Record Store Day, April 21. 

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<p>Bon Iver's Justin Vernon</p>

Bon Iver's Justin Vernon

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Bon Iver collaborates with Flaming Lips on 'Ashes in the Air'

Record Store Day release doesn't care what you think of it

The problem with posting the lyrics to a new song is that there may be a heavier reading into said song than intended or necessary. But when it comes to the Flaming Lips, they might not care one way or another. The experiment is much more necessary to the adventure.

That could be said of "Ashes in the Air," their collaboration with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon for their Record Store Day collaborative effort "The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends." Even if the sheet of lyrics hadn't revealed its exacting phrases, the words "f*cked up" and "robot dogs" would surely jump out at you anyway. Laser sounds and synths swirl around this little dirge, a death salute suitable to Vernon's usual style.

See ya in six minutes, if you last.

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