<p>Jack White, &quot;Blunderbuss&quot;</p>

Jack White, "Blunderbuss"

Credit: Third Man/Warner Bros.

Review: Jack White's solo debut 'Blunderbuss'

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What it sounds like to fight

It’s a struggle to evaluate Jack White’s album output independent of what he’s done with his storied music career thus far. His former flame The White Stripes have now dissolved, evidently from bandmate/ex-wife Meg White’s reluctance of the lifestyle. He continues playing in on- and off-again brotherhood in the Raconteurs, and barks back at The Kills’ Alison Mosshart in Dead Weather. Aside from his bands, he’s built a Nashville-based vinyl/singles mini-empire and produced for a bevy of new and veteran artists – from Loretta Lynn to the Black Belles, Wanda Jackson to another ex-, Karen Elson. Of his contemporaries in influence and confluence of skill, White champions more women than most, and to electrifying effect.

One could even say that White’s output has been dependent or at least informed by whom he’s working with -- or against. White explained in the guitarist doc “It Might Get Loud” that he opts to play difficult guitars he has to fight.
 
White in solo debut “Blunderbuss,” however, opts more for piano/Wurlitzer (played by Brooke Waggoner) than guitar to fill in spaces or take the lead on lines. So, instead, he has-it-out in his lyrics and with his voice. White battles an invisible “other” in many circumstances, most frequently the lovers that burn him or whom he likes to burn in his songs. And it’s worth noting that he sings like a woman some of the time.
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<p>Beck</p>

Beck

Listen: Beck releases ‘Corrina, Corrina’ cover for 'mothers'

Check out Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros' contribution to 'Every Mother Counts," too

Mother’s Day may not be for another three weeks, but Beck’s got a nice, soft gift for non-profit organization Every Mother Counts.

The songwriter goes the ballad-slow route in this oft-covered folk classic, though no telling when exactly he recorded this one – perhaps about the same time as “Sea Change?”

Listen to the song here.

Regardless, Beck shares a tracklist with other big-named artists who contributed previously unreleased songs and song versions, like Eddie Vedder, David Bowie, Coldplay, U2 and Dave Matthews. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros loaned “Mother,” which you can stream here.

“Every Mother Counts” will be available for purchase at Starbucks starting on May 1.

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<p>Tom Waits</p>

Tom Waits

UPDATED: Tom Waits postpones 'Letterman' and 'Fallon' appearances

Songwriter skeds late-night TV dates

UPDATE APRIL 23: In a Tweet posted last week, Waits' team announced that these forthcoming late-night TV appearances are off, for the moment: "Tom is postponing his appearances on Letterman and Fallon and will reschedule at a later date TBA"

ORIGINAL REPORT APRIL 9: Tom Waits is trotting out his songs from "Bad As Me" for the first time since the album release with a couple of performances lined up on national television.

The veteran songwriter head to the "Late Show With David Letterman" on April 24 and to "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" the next night on April 25. He'll be sitting down for an interview with each, too, which might prove to be just as entertaining as the songs themselves.

He's visited with Letterman before, but this will be a first for "Fallon"; considering that host's rivalries, I'd expect a stop-off at "The Colbert Report," or maybe just a return to "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart.

Waits has yet to announce any tour dates behind "Bad As Me," but this may signal that organizing may just be ramping up for a trek. He only played eight shows in support of his 2006 album "Orphans," then took up a much more complete itinerary two years later. He's known to play with the dates surrounding his album releases, and in a series of stops that don't always land in major cities.

These performances may also answer the question of: if Waits were to tour, what cracker-jack band would he take with him? During the 2008 Glitter and Doom tour, it was with backers like Vincent Henry on woodwinds, his son Casey Waits on drums, Omar Torrez on guitar/banjo, Patrick Warren on keyboard and Seth Ford-Young on bass. On this record, Casey was all over the thing and Warren was on half; Ford-Young, Henry and Torrez are nowhere to be found; andclassic collaborators like Marc Ribot and special guests like Keith Richards and Flea abounded.

This is all speculation of course. Waits may be already hard at work on something else as soon as the cameras hit "stop."

<p>Fiona Apple's &quot;Every Single Night&quot;</p>

Fiona Apple's "Every Single Night"

Listen: Fiona Apple reveals firey 'Every Single Night'

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That's where the pain comes in

Fiona Apple has been performing new track "Every Single Night" at many of her tour stops this spring, and now the song is officially available to stream.

As previously reported, "Every Single Night" features a refrain of a disturbed war cry, "I just want to feel / everything." Apple's voice is mixed and recorded so close, like fractured and delicate china, her breaths moving over spare plunks and chiming keyboard parts. This is no "single" in the traditional sense, but it carries a lot of weight and personality. Again, the songwriter proves that one of her biggest strengths is her vulnerability.

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<p>Liars</p>

Liars

Credit: Mute

Watch Liars' murderous new music video

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'No.1 Against the Rush' pairs something very creepy with the sentiment 'I want you'

For all you fans of "Criminal Minds," quick: why would a dry cleaner murder the band Liars?

There are a few answers but mostly questions in the music video for Liars' "No.1 Against the Rush," as a killer finds a few ways to capture the three-piece band. It's not cute, though. It's all disturbed blue hues and everyday circumstances to the weird lyrical sibling "I want you." Tonight's an Ambien night.

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<p>Levon Helm in 2010</p>

Levon Helm in 2010

Credit: AP Photo

Levon Helm: Listen to the late legend

Check out some clips of the songwriter and consumate working musician

The thing I've heard most this week when talking about the imminent passing of Levon Helm is that the lifelong musician was still playing shows even a few short weeks before he was hospitalized in New York. As he battled his last against cancer, the Midnight Rambler was still rambling in Woodstock, N.Y., as a host, a part of the whole in addition to being a centerpiece.

You could say similar things about The Band, whose communal strength in the '60s in '70s was in its individuals, and the group's ability to be its own centerpiece or to play well with others. Backing Bob Dylan or -- in its earliest incarnation, Ronnie Hawkins -- the Band stepped out with brilliant "Music from Pink House" and went on to define, reform and inform roots-based rock music of the era from within the band and through those they worked with outside of it. Despite the loss in gravitational pull that brought Helm and other Band members together with Robbie Robertson, the group's legacy was firm by time they broke up in 1976.

That bust confirmed at least a couple of things: one, it put "The Last Waltz" firmly into the living curricula of any music lover and, two, it was a proven moment that Helm would continue to be a lasting, working musician, solo or in a group.

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<p>Vampire Weekend</p>

Vampire Weekend

Credit: XL

Listen: Interpol and Vampire Weekend members releasing solo albums

System of a Down and Das Racist too, plus: One of the Ramones resurrected

Sometimes you gotta go it alone. That's what members of Interpol, Vampire Weekend, System of a Down and Das Racist are saying this week. And wouldn't you know it? Joey Ramone, were he alive, would agree. Or at least, that's what BMG would have you believe.

The record label will be releasing the Ramones frontman's long-gestating second posthumous solo album "...Ya Know?" on May 22, with its 15 tracks featuring collaborations from " Joan Jett, Little Steven Van Zandt, former Ramones drummer Richie Ramone, Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, Dennis Diken of the Smithereens, Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye and members of the Ramones' punk-era contemporaries The Dictators."

"Joey Ramone was one of the key figures in a musical revolution whose impact is still being felt today. We are honored that Joey's brother Mickey and his estate have entrusted this album to BMG," BMG exec Jason Hradil. "The album represents the very best of the recordings Ramone left behind and assembled by his brother Mickey Leigh, manager Dave Frey and trusted producer Ed Stasium."

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<p>&quot;Oh thank GOD, I'm so hungry...&quot;</p>
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"Oh thank GOD, I'm so hungry..."


Watch: R. Kelly suggests how to re-populate the world in 'Share My Love'

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I know it's hard to believe, but...

I know conceptually, the music video for R. Kelly's "Share My Love" will be difficult to comprehend, but bear with me.

Girls with big boobs and small waists are romanced by Kelly in his mansion and then join the R&B singer at a party that is also mostly populated by girls with big boobs and small waists and they all dance for and with him. There is a brand name liquor product placement. Kells looks satisfied with all his achievements, he makes love to the soft edges of the '70s, the end.

Hell, at least I liked the song.

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<p>Spiritualized's &quot;Sweet Heart, Sweet Light&quot;: really?</p>

Spiritualized's "Sweet Heart, Sweet Light": really?

Review: Spiritualized, 'Sweet Heart, Sweet Light'

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Can Jason Pierce find new converts or is he preaching to and with the choir?

Spiritualized’s head pastor Jason Pierce, after 20 years of album-making, has forced himself into re-working well-trod scripture and reiterated motifs. Because it’s not broken, he doesn’t fix it. It’s hard for these new tunes on “Sweet Heart, Sweet Light” to not sound like something that’s been made before. 

The group boasts the same confluence of influences from the ‘60s and ‘70s into a pop pickled in psychedelia. Sonically skronky songs like “Headin’ for the Top Now” and Dr. John co-penned “I Am What I Am” drone into musical wallpaper, sitting instrumentally on top of a single note or oscillating between two as J Spaceman (Pierce’s other name) slides off-key up and down his easy melodies, a pack of wild cheerleaders leading the way. On single “Hey Jane” and “Get What You Deserve,” he again gives way humping Lou Reed’s grave even before the Velvets’ main man is even dead (something to which Mr. Reed may not be all that averse) with climactic bursts of blissed-out white noise.
 
And I don’t mean the sexual metaphor purely provocatively: violence and pleasure, death and life and borrowing and taking are among Pierce’s favorite lyrical themes, with a couple cameos from recurring character Jesus, on whom Pierce places some of his most despairing and simple lyrics. These sometimes border on false profundity, like on woozy “Freedom” and sing-song ballad “Too Late” (which is a perfect partner with “Baby I’m Just a Fool” from 2008’s “Songs in A&E”).
 
All these are good for collectors to hear, but it’s the clincher – album closer “So Long You Pretty Thing” – that could make new converts. The track’s epic proportion still feels familiar, with Spaceman’s inviting vocals paired with his instrumental kindred in a plonky-plonk banjo, the slow-burn swelling into a choir of “help me Lords” and schemes that put rhyming bedfellows radio/souls/and rock ‘n’ roll together.
 
This current Spiritualized devolution of genre is still blurry, but bright, tied together with cacophony and clarity. Pierce’s ability to write lasting songs is still skillful and strong, and will doubtless keep his patrons coming back.

 

<p>Fitz &amp; The Tantrums</p>

Fitz & The Tantrums

Credit: Dangerbird

Interview: Fitz & the Tantrums on Coachella crowds and crying on stage

'I don't want to suffer from the sophomore slump'

After years and years of what Michael Fitzpatrick calls “failing,” Fitz & the Tantrums are finally having good years. In fact, 2012 is already shaping up to be their best. 

As of today, the soul-rock band is officially part of the 2012 Outside Lands music festival lineup in August. This week, the six-piece is in between weekends playing at Coachella, the kickoff to their spring tour. That stint segues directly into stints opening for Dave Matthews Band and recent Immaculate Noise interviewees the Flaming Lips and performing at major festivals like Bonnaroo and newly minted The Great Googamooga in Brooklyn. Palladia is airing concert film “Fitz and the Tantrums: Live at the Metro” starting this Saturday (April 21). All this, and the band will be releasing their second effort for indie Dangerbird later this year.
 
Fitzpatrick and his cohorts – co-vocalist Noelle Scaggs, saxophonist/flutist James King, bassist Joseph Karnes, drummer John Wicks and keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna – have exhibited an astonishing devotion to the road and to the social mechanics that normally destroy bands half their size. There’s just a rare commitment and collection of talent that has resonated with fans, beyond just their outta-nowhere hit “Moneygrabber” from their debut “Pickin’ Up the Pieces.”
 
Below is an abridged interview I had with Fitzpatrick at the end of this winter. For aspiring bands, it’s almost a check-list or outline of what it is to slog, and to succeed in slogging.
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