<p>The Mars Volta</p>

The Mars Volta

Review: The Mars Volta tighten up on 'Noctourniquet'

HitFix
B
Readers
A
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

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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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<p>The Shins, &quot;Port of Morrow&quot;</p>

The Shins, "Port of Morrow"

Review: The Shins' new album 'Port of Morrow'

HitFix
B-
Readers
B+
What can be left to say about James Mercer?

The Shins’ “Port of Morrow” runs into the same problems that albums like those from the New Pornographers or of Montreal do. There is a calculation and formula to great pop songwriting, and its expert writers sometimes struggle to distinguish each song as an individual work. There’s only small windows of spontaneous possibilities, like the predictable pinch-hits of Nels Cline when a Wilco song gets lost.

With this set, there is no new argument you could lodge against Mercer as a songwriter that you couldn’t before: if you’re a fan, you won’t find any reason to be dissuaded. It’s his backers that have changed. Between this and 2007’s “Wincing the Night Away,” Mercer recruited an all-new, experienced band, and he reteamed with Broken Bells cohort Danger Mouse for production. But still, at the center, is Mercer’s simple melodies, verbosity and that talk-timbre voice. Mercer didn’t re-invent the wheel, it’s just housed somewhere else.
 
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<p>The Black Keys' Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach on &quot;The Colbert Report,&quot; defending &quot;selling-out&quot;</p>

The Black Keys' Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach on "The Colbert Report," defending "selling-out"

The Black Keys take a crack at Spotify: What's the beef?

Does Patrick Carney have a point?

The Black Keys have been a vocal opponent of Spotify before. Only this time they've called an important music/media tech guy and "assh*le." Oh gosh!

Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney clarified the band's stance to Grand Rapids, Mich. radio station WGRD this week, indicating that the streaming service's royalties scheme doesn't have enough of a payout for the band to make all releases available.

"The idea of a streaming service, like Netflix for music, I’m totally not against it. It’s just we won’t put all of our music on it until there are enough subscribers for it to make sense," he said. "Trust me, Dan and I like to make money. If it was fair to the artist we would be involved in it... I imagine if Spotify becomes something that people are willing to pay for, then I’m sure iTunes will just create their own service, and they’re actually fair to artists.”

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<p>Smashing Pumpkins</p>

Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins finally put a date to 'Oceania,' team with EMI

Is Billy Corgan's long-gestating project going to be fully realized? Why it matters

Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins seem finally ready to release their long-gestating album-in-an-album project, "Oceania," due June 19. And with the announcement, comes other indications of sea change.

The album is an incorporated part of Corgan's 44-song concept project "Teargarden by Kaleidyscope," which initially intended to thrwart the traditional album release schedule and promotional thinking. Corgan and Co. -- drummer Mike Byrne, bassist Nicole Fiorentino and guitarist Jeff Schroeder -- have released 10 official "Kaleidyscope" tracks, practically as they were being created, in a work-in-progress effort to bring singular attention to each song in consideration of the whole, which is a conceptual "Fool's Journey" through Tarot cards. The first eight tracks were packed into two different EPs, both released in 2010. The last "Kaleidyscope" song was released in May 2011.

So up until the news today, fans have been left to wonder what happened to that "journey" in the last 10 months, with talk of "Oceania," but not a specific idea of how it fit into the Kaleidyscopic vision, particularly since the band has been dropping tracks almost exclusively on their own.

"Oceania," as has been revealed, will be released through Corgan's own Martha's Music publishing with distribution and support from EMI Label Services and Caroline Distribution.

"The Smashing Pumpkins created Oceania as an album experience, and it is intended for the process of the release to follow a path of inclusion, so that best efforts are made for all the fans hear it at the same time as press or radio. We were excited to find partners in EMI Label Services that were equally passionate about the plan for the album release as well as being huge fans of the Pumpkins," says Peter Katsis in a statement.

Now just who the hell is Peter Katsis?

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Listen to Pitbull yell at you for 3 minutes in new 'Men In Black 3' song

Listen to Pitbull yell at you for 3 minutes in new 'Men In Black 3' song

'Back in Time' borrows heavily from 'Love Is Strange,' dubstep craze

For all the anticipation and money going into "Men In Black 3," there was a collective shrug from the internet when it was announced that Pitbull would be composing its theme. 

Continue shrugging. "Back in Time" is a high-mastered, thudding bumbler, with Pitbull's big-mouthed, good-timing, half-handed zingers draped in samples from a well-known, beloved former hit (Micky & Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange") and a few bars of dubstep just to prove it's "with it." In other words, it's a Black Eyed Peas song without lady vocals.

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<p>Kevin Lyman</p>

Kevin Lyman

Interview: Warped Tour's Kevin Lyman says 2012 is for the ladies

Founder talks fest history, Warped doc 'No Room for Rock Stars,' stupid punk dance moves

Recent documentary “No Room For Rock Stars” makes and twists evidence that, during Warped Tour, everybody and nobody during the fest are rock stars. 

If there’s anybody who would be, it’s Kevin Lyman, at least in his field. The festival founder has experienced the ups and downs of an all-ages roving festival during the pre- and post-internet music business wipe-out. He’s adjusted his lineups and caps from year to year, emphasizing that success is in the ability to adapt to tastes and costs; he’s followed that demand into other touring festival sectors, with events like Taste of Chaos, Country Throwdown and Mayhem tours.
 
“No Room For Rock Stars,” in following 2010 Warped acts from rising radio star Mike Posner to deafening Suicide Silence to PLUR-like-harbinger heartthrob NeverShoutNever, outline how some Warped lineups have been more pop than others, some more hardcore or hip-hop. In the last five years, especially, it’s been a bit of everything to every kid who couldn’t otherwise be able to see their favorite band in their hometown club.
 
But that’s the thing. Kids who went to Warped when they were kids… now have kids. Its success has wavered and depended on all brands and demos, particularly finding a balance between male and female attendance.  
 
So this year, Lyman has lined a little something up for the ladies, for the kids-now-women. Taking Back Sunday has been announced as the fest headliner, and bigger bands like New Found Glory, the Used and Yellowcard have been added, all of which will appeal to a particular concert-goer, aside from the regular crew of teenagers expected.
 
“This year will be a pretty female-heavy crowd, a decision we consciously made. The 23-to-27-year-old female is out of college, starting a new job… when she was 13 to 19, Warped was a rite of passage,” Lyman explained. “When kids are 19 to 23, I’m gonna lose them, to Electric Daisy or Coachella. Three-day festivals are where college kids go, as they should. But when you’re around 23 or 24, money gets tight again and Warped might appeal to them again, because all those bands had hits during their teens.
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<p>The cover for Regina Spektor's &quot;What We Saw From the Cheap Seats&quot;</p>

The cover for Regina Spektor's "What We Saw From the Cheap Seats"

Credit: Sire/Warner Bros.

Listen: Regina Spektor releases 'Ne me quitte pas,' rants against leakers

Sunny new material met with tempestuous back-end promotional problems

Regina Spektor's cover of "Ne me quitte pas" is awfully upbeat, but the singer-songwriter's weekend felt more like her harrowing new single "All the Rowboats" sounds.

The singer-songwriter went on a brief rant addressing the fact that bits and bobs of her new album "What We Saw From the Cheap Seats" -- like demos and art -- have been leaking. On her Facebook page, she questioned motive: "So sad to have art/photos/videos/music keep leaking online unfinished and at the wrong time... The strange thing is that if it's getting stolen and put out by someone who likes me and my music- why would they want to put me through this?" she wrote. "[A]nd if it's someone who doesn't like me- why would they waste all that precious time on me... it's confusing/feels sh*tty/takes much of the fun out (there's too much fun to take all of it out, though) Feels strange just waiting for things i'm working on to get stolen one by one."

It's a losing battle many artists have fought for years, a small war that only acts like Madonna and Watch the Throne (Jay-Z and Kanye West) have the control and resources to prevent. It's also an inevitable part of the promotional process and album cycle that announces new albums three months out, release a single or song at that time and then have that awful waiting period super-fans must endure during that time, especially if a tour starts only a month out from that.

It's still no excuse. Spektor has the backing of Sire/Warner, but her profile is still small enough that every blow counts.

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<p>Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' Alexander Ebert</p>

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' Alexander Ebert

Credit: MySpace/AP

Listen: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' new single, plus... a companion album?

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
'Man on Fire' is a humming, Alexander-led spiritual; group unveils 'Here' tracklist

He's a man on fire. Go dance with him.

At frontman Alexander Ebert's urging, do a little hippie dance to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros new single "Man on Fire," the first recorded track available from the group's forthcoming new album "Here."

This easy spiritual number moves between gospel and a country shuffle, spreading the message of safety and comfort with the occasional help of a didgeridoo. Like some of the band's best songs, "Man on Fire" succeeds with simplicity and earnestness, a single mind from the Magnetic Zeros seemingly numberless mass.

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