<p>Leonard Cohen's &quot;Old Ideas&quot;</p>

Leonard Cohen's "Old Ideas"

Review: Leonard Cohen's 'Old Ideas' reads better than it sounds

HitFix
B-
Readers
B+
Songwriter's first album in eight years is almost too perfect

 

For fans of Leonard Cohen’s songwriting, there are plenty of reasons to love “Old Ideas.” But for those eager for a great-sounding Leonard Cohen album, prepare for some disappointment.
 
At 77, the Canadian songsmith remains one of the most gifted lyricists and folk poets in pop music history. It’s taken eight years for this new studio release, its sites set on eternal bedfellows sex and death, and  it appears the bard is feeling his age advance.
 
“I love to speak with Leonard / He’s a sportsman and a shepherd / He’s a lazy bastard / Living in a suit,” he jokes in the first lines of album opener “Going Home,” an apparent start to that home-bound journey. He published all the lines to the song in the pages of The New Yorker – not Rolling Stone or the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame website – like managing his own expectations.
 
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<p>Jozef Van Wissem and Jim Jarmusch</p>

Jozef Van Wissem and Jim Jarmusch

Listen: Jim Jarmusch prepares 'Eternal' music album, releasing 'Firey' song

HitFix
B+
Readers
A+
Filmmaker and music-man-about-town collaborates with lute player Jozef Van Wissem

Jim Jarmusch is getting closer and closer to that inevitable solo project, but in the meantime, he's linked up again with lute player/producer/composer Jozef Van Wissem for a collaborative, experimental album "Concerning the Entrance Into Eternity."

The set, due out on Feb. 28 through Important Records, features the famed director on guitar and is preceded by a new track "The Sun of the Natural World Is Fire." Check it out below (via SSG).

It's all texture and clock-like repetitions, with static and dissonance dominating the lute's structures. From a visual standpoint, I'd say its more interstitial than narrative, but a gorgeous, melodramatic piece nonetheless.

The duo will be promoting the set with two shows at the Issue Project Room (110 Livingston in Brooklyn) on Feb. 3.

Jarmusch has previously worked with Wissem on other projects, and lent other talents to music acts like Bad Rabbit and the Wu-Tang Clan. His last film was 2009's "The Limits of Control."

Will any of his musically inclined actors from previous films -- like RZA, Jack White or Tom Waits -- show up?

Jim Jarmusch & Jozef Van Wissem - "The Sun of the Natural World is Pure Fire" by SSG Music

<p>Lana Del Rey's &quot;Born to Die&quot;</p>

Lana Del Rey's "Born to Die"

Review: Lana Del Rey's 'Born to Die' slumps on impact

HitFix
C-
Readers
A-
Is she gangster, gay, campy, sexy or slouchy?

I don’t have a problem with Lana Del Rey’s scarlet-harlot-starlet get-up. I don't mind a little peril. My hope was that she wore it well.

The issue of “wearing,” too, is apt in that female pop stars frequently face the demand to “put it on” or risk derision, more so than their male peers. But, no, in this case she wears it out – thins, shrinks -- on “Born to Die,” her debut album.
 
The 12-song set is like a prism through which we view the same dour, half-lidded persona, masochistically bed-bound for her flawed-but-handsome lover to the tune of some very silly rhyming schemes. Each production boldly attempts the same arc and faithful malaise of “Video Games,” her breakout single from 2011, but Del Rey’s vocals and words frequently fail her.
 
She experiments with a variety of vocal affectations, like the squeak toy on “Off to the Races,” pooling her “tiring’” coo behind the beat on “Carmen” and blum-drumming her “standing oh-vay-sha-ah-ahn” on unbearable “National Anthem.” The easy vibrato on “Blue Jeans” warps into a heaving toddler-trill when she’s forced into her higher register. Her pretty lower-middle range is where she should revel, like on “Dark Paradise,” “Video Games” and “Summertime Sadness" (give me a dub remix of this any day). Instead, she often sounds bored, like she could just as easily be asking for directions to the closest subway station as she could be crawling across dirty bedsheets.
 
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<p>Feist in &quot;The Bad In Each Other&quot;</p>

Feist in "The Bad In Each Other"

Watch: Feist warns of 'The Bad in Each Other' in heartbroken new video

Canadian songwriter finally paired up with Danish James Blake collaborator

Man, nothing breaks your heart like seeing somebody bury their dead dog.

That's how Feist's "The Bad In Each Other" starts out. Celebrations situations go sour, family relationships are hurt by jealousy, a one-night-stand gets to the sad part: examples of people bringing out "the worst in each other." This high-tension song pairs sweetness with noise, and God love that bari sax because it feels like everything is crumbling by the end.

Quoth Leslie Feist, via her website:

This video captures glimpses of something human, we get a peek inside something real between people - could be loss, longing and love. A lot of things which is about being a human being.... It is told in a way where it opens up more aspects than it concludes. Maybe something we can't grasp, but it points at it or touches it and leaves us with different kinds of emotions. You could think about the video like a song or a poem, and different people will connect to different things- and those connections might be different from time to time when they watch it.

Yup, will repeat this viewing tomorrow when I won't feel so badly for the little girl with the recorder.

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<p>The Civil Wars </p>

The Civil Wars

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Civil Wars talk T Bone Burnett, 'Hunger Games' and the Grammys

Folky duo set Sundance time aside for tour talk and 'Finding North'

Joy Williams and John Paul White -- known as The Civil Wars -- released "Barton Hallow" one year ago, almost to the day. Aside from making a lot of critics' year-end lists, the album was also a springboard for dozens of other unique opportunities in the past months. And by "unique opportunities," I mean they earned a couple of Grammy Award nominations, recorded with T Bone Burnett from some film soundtracks, toured extensively around the country, collaborated with the Chieftans and Taylor Swift,  played Nashville's Ryman, late night television shows and "Prairie Home Companion." It's sold healthfully. The year 2011 wasn't just good: it was gangbusters.

"The sky's the limit," Williams said during our interview during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival last week. The Civil Wars were on hand to promote "Finding North," the documentary film on hunger in America, with a score  featuring T Bone Burnett.

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<p>M.I.A., &quot;Bad Girls&quot;</p>

M.I.A., "Bad Girls"

Credit: N.E.E.T./Interscope

Listen: M.I.A. releases new 'Bad Girls' single in advance of Madonna video

Quirky and fierce songwriter taking the stage with Madge and Nicki Minaj at Super Bowl

M.I.A. is capping on her recent collaboration with Madonna for a little extra fame of her own. If I were her, I'd do the same too.

The talk-singing-rapping songwriter has revamped a "Vicki Leekz" mixtape track into "Bad Girls." And what do bad girls do well? Live fast and die young, apparently. Gunshots included. (Via Pitchfork)

But what is it with the mix? Or rather, what's with the lack of low ends today? I want this to be the banger it aspires to be, but there's a lot of overpowering treble squibbles flopping between what should be bigger beats. As is M.I.A.'s M.O., she relies heavily on lyrical repetition so it's always a joy to hear an actual, y'know, verse. Maya's attitude remains fierce.

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<p>Jack White</p>

Jack White

Credit: Third Man Records

Listen: Jack White announces debut solo album with a 'Love Interruption'

HitFix
B-
Readers
n/a
Third Man Records founder and former White Stripes leader is headed out alone

I'm almost surprised it's taken this long, but Jack White has finally prepared his solo debut. "Blunderbuss" will be the former White Stripes leader's first album under his own name, out on April 24, and from his description of it, it's will be all Jack White, all the time, and maybe on all instruments.

"I've put off making records under my own name for a long time but these songs feel like they could only be presented under my name. These songs were written from scratch, had nothing to do with anyone or anything else but my own expression, my own colors on my own canvas," he said in a statement.

To kick things off right, the Nashville-based songwriter's released the track "Love Interruption," streaming now on his newly launched website. He's joined by a female vocalist -- or treated his own vocals to a shot of estrogen -- but for the rest of it, it's a pretty stripped-down, burning bluesy song. There's no low end, and an acoustic guitar joined by a keyboard are the only accompaniment besides. I like it, it's catchy, but perhaps I expected something more bombastic?

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<p>Gina Rodriguez as &quot;Filly Brown&quot;</p>

Gina Rodriguez as "Filly Brown"

Sundance Review: Emotional ‘Filly Brown’ could be stronger

HitFix
C+
Readers
A+
Gina Rodriguez is a natural star: is this her ‘Behind the Music?’

No doubt, Gina Rodriguez is a star in the making. The rising actress spent months getting down a flow -- a hip-hop flow -- for her starring role in Sundance flick “Filly Brown.” In the title role, the Latina MC is trying to “make it” with the help of a local hip-hop podcast, her ever-loving crew and by spitting her own nasally L.A. fire. As Majo Tonorio, the Real Girl behind Filly, she’s plagued with the stuff of VH1’s “Behind the Music”: A fiercely imploring and manipulative mother Maria who’s serving jail time on drug charges (Jenni Rivera); a naïve and bratty teenaged sister Lupe (Chrissie Fit); a hard-working dad Jose barely making ends meet at a construction job (Lou Diamond Phillips).

Filly Brown aspires to stardom for more than just the starry-eyed reasons. She needs the money, to help her mother out of jail – or is it money to just get her out of trouble? Through the Great Green Struggle, Filly discovers that she’s becoming more and more like her mom, for better and for worse.
 
It’s a good flip on the script, where we’re used to seeing male protagonists try to live up to their fathers’ expectations. But in this case, the beautiful Latina lead is trying to carve her own when it seems everybody – her family, her friends, her boyfriend and her “handlers” – have their own reasons for why they want Filly Brown to succeed in the entertainment biz.
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<p>&quot;Who me? Oh I was just standing here plotting a comeback.&quot;</p>

"Who me? Oh I was just standing here plotting a comeback."

Watch: D'Angelo makes first concert appearance in a decade, debuts new songs

'The Charade' and 'Sugar Day' wedged between 'Chicken Grease'

R&B crooner D'Angelo celebrated the 12-year anniversary of "Voodoo" in a big way. For the first time in more than a decade, he took to the stage this week, at Stockholm's Filadelfiakyrkan church. Of course, Filadelfiakyrkan!

He performed beloved tracks like "Sh*t, Damn, Motherf*cker" and "Chicken Grease." The even bigger news is that he bowed two new songs: "The Charade" and "Sugar Day."

Check out those songs below.

The Roots' ?uestlove previously alluded to the fact that D'Angelo would be back into action this year, with a new album. Then there was that whole Soundgarden "Black Holed Sun" cover, and the announcement of forthcoming rare tour dates.

It's all very weird. I feel like I'm floating, and that I'm 18 again.

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<p>Tim Heidecker in &quot;The Comedy&quot;</p>

Tim Heidecker in "The Comedy"

Interview: Jagjaguwar shape-shifts as Sundance's ‘The Comedy’ gets a pick-up

Chris Swanson’s one-stop shop triumvirate indie label universe

One of the most defiant films I saw at the Sundance Film Festival this year was director Rick Alverson’s “The Comedy,” a title oozing irony but boasting a weird, wooly ensemble that includes Tim & Eric, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, actress Kate Lyn Sheil and comedian Jeff Jensen. The film itself was sort of a f*ck-you to traditional, protagonist-led dramatic narratives. It was built off of an 18-page treatment with almost all of it room for improvisation, and little-to-no script .

It is funny, yes, but loosely angers, too, with Heidecker’s perfectly portrayed 35-year-old Williamsburg ass-clown who won the birth lottery and has a boat. He and his idling creative division of friends fill their time amusing themselves sometimes to the discomfort of others – not because they’re malicious people, mind you, but because otherwise they just might get bored. Heidecker’s dead-eyed lead voyeuristically dabbles in the world of hard labor and “normal people” jobs like washing dishes in between drinking, screwing and playing wiffle ball.
 

Just because the film is largely unpleasant doesn’t make it a bad film. It’s not. Heidecker’s numb repugnance also reveals a child-like soul. He’s the sort of guy I wouldn’t be friends with but, yeah sure, I’d go to his party if he threw one. It darkly reveals something in the viewer, which required such a strangely familiar cast and, even more so, the backing of its vision.
 
Independent record label Jagjaguwar was that backer, in conjunction with Glass Eye Pix and Greyshack Productions. And after “The Comedy” bowed at Sundance this week, it found a partner in Danny McBride’s Rough House Pictures, which formed in 2009 to produce/present high-end comedies.
 
Jagjaguwar, mind you, isn’t known for movies. It and its sister labels Secretly Canadian and Dead Oceans count Bon Iver, Okkervil River, Dinosaur Jr., Antony and the Johnsons, Akron/Family and Yeasayer among its powerful ranks. Last year, SeCa released its first comedy album, Tig Notaro’s “Good One.” The labels’ co-founders linked with Ami Spishock last year to form Fort William Artist Management, with the likes of Grizzly Bear, Beirut and Van Dyke Parks, among others under its arm. The labels have their own distribution company (SC Distribution, which is also works with many, many other indies), their own publishing and do deals not just in the ‘States but also internationally.
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