Pop & Hiss
The L.A. Times music blog
Watch: Pharrell Williams recruits Takashi Murakami for 'It Girl' clip

Pharrell Williams and Takashi Murakami are at it again.

Just months after the prolific singer and producer remixed the theme song from Murakami's film "Jellyfish Eyes," the equally prolific Japanese artist has returned the favor by producing a music video for Williams' song "It Girl," which appeared Tuesday on YouTube.

It's a trippy, boldly colored clip in keeping with Murakami's signature style, with visual elements borrowed from anime and video games.

"It Girl" is the final track on Williams' album "G I R L," which came out in March following a series of huge hits he helped create for other artists, including Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk.

On Monday, Billboard reported that Williams is currently working with Gwen Stefani on songs for a new solo album from the No Doubt frontwoman, with whom Williams co-stars on "The Voice."

Twitter: @mikaelwood

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Watch: Daniel Lanois' abstract, pastoral 'Iceland'

Producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Lanois will release his latest solo album, “Flesh and Machine,” on Oct. 27. Pop & Hiss is premiering the video for the instrumental track “Iceland.”

The gently unfurling tune, based on a wandering seven-note melodic motif, is accompanied by film imagery assembled by Jim McKay, who has directed episodes of TV shows including “The Wire,” “Treme” and “Big Love.”

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FOR THE RECORD

An earlier edition of this post listed the release date of "Flesh and Machine" incorrectly. It is being released Oct. 27.

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The film echoes the piece and feel of the ambient music with a single take showing McKay’s daughter moving around a woodsy pastoral environment, her actions accelerating and decelerating in an unusual way.

“The invitation to find or create images to accompany one of Daniel Lanois' songs was exciting for me,” McKay said in a statement. "I was especially drawn to the track, 'Iceland,' firstly because it's absolutely...

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Watch: Shelby Lynne's vintage 'Thought It Would Be Easier'

Pop & Hiss is premiering a vintage live performance of the song “Thought It Would Be Easier” from the forthcoming 15th anniversary reissue of Shelby Lynne’s breakthrough album, “I Am Shelby Lynne,” which helped her win the Grammy Award for best new artist of 2000, the year the album came out in the United States.

That win became one of the great head-scratchers in Grammy Awards history: The Alabama-reared singer and songwriter had been recording and releasing music for a major label -- Epic Records -- for a dozen years when Grammy voters finally discovered her and anointed her with the new artist award.

The quirk of long-overdue recognition notwithstanding, the album was important in solidifying Lynne's artistic voice after years of attempting to fit a square peg into the round hole of Nashville convention.

After leaving Epic, Lynne found a new home at Island Records and recorded “I Am Shelby Lynne,” an album that explored emotionally deep terrain in “raw, deeply confessional numbers,...

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Nicki Minaj to host 2014 MTV Europe Music Awards

Nicki Minaj just scored her first No. 1 in the U.K. for her role on Jessie J’s ladies anthem “Bang Bang” and the rapper is set for another European milestone.

Minaj will host the 2014 MTV Europe Music Awards, the network announced on Tuesday. She will also perform on the show that will be beamed from the Hydro in Glasgow on Nov. 9.

“I will not only perform, but I have the honorable task of HOSTING this year’s #MTVEMA!!!!!!! AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!,” Minaj tweeted to her more than 18 million followers.

Minaj is tied with One Direction, Eminem, Sam Smith and Iggy Azalea with four nominations. She’s in the running for best female, hip-hop, biggest fans and best look.

At this years Video Music Awards, Minaj opened the show along with her “Bang Bang” co-stars Jessie J and Ariana Grande and gracefully handled a wardrobe malfunction that had her spilling out of her black dress.

Katy Perry leads the pack of nominees with seven nods, including song and female honors. Grande is right behind with...

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Thom Yorke's 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes' holds few surprises

If you’ve been following the arc of Thom Yorke and Radiohead, it probably doesn’t need to be said that his latest solo album isn’t a back-to-basics affair. Put another way: No, Yorke still isn’t interested in guitars.

Vaguely hinted at by Yorke in a few cryptic tweets -- including one of a rotating white LP -- this eight-track album debuted Friday. It's the first recording sold amid the file-trading wilds of BitTorrent,  at the cost of $6 and the time to install some software (that vinyl version is also available, for nearly $50 at the current exchange rate).

Given that Yorke helped reset the template in 2007 with the “pay what you want” offer for Radiohead’s “In Rainbows,” his album's surprise release is consistent with what’s come before -- and the same goes for its sound. With typical ominous atmosphere, "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes" recalls the melodic tangle of Yorke’s 2006 album “The Eraser,” with nods toward the impressionist dance pulse of his 2013 project with Flea, Atoms for...

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Listen: Lorde's new single from 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1'

Lorde was an appropriate choice to oversee the soundtrack for the film "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1." Both the film and her music are full of tales of young women in peril, navigating strange new worlds.

Now the New Zealand singer-songwriter has released her first bit of original music from the film, a new single called "Yellow Flicker Beat."

It's a little more dramatic and maximalist compared to some of her spare electronic-centric singles, but fits the movie's high tensions. Its starts with a  slow, torchy vocal with little more than backing coos and a deep bass tone to underline it. But by the chorus, the song bursts into a storm of digital drumming, ominous reverb and trancey snyth stabs. 

The film is out Nov. 21, with the soundtrack released on Republic later this fall. She also headlines the Greek Theatre in L.A. Oct. 6-7.

Lorde posted some thoughts on the single and the one-year anniversary of her album "Pure Heroine" on her Tumblr:

"i’m sitting up in bed, moving...

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Aretha Franklin covers Adele for new album out Oct. 21

As the undisputed Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin has contributed countless classics to the great American songbook and collaborated with an endless list of greats. 

For her next album, Franklin found inspiration from her fellow pop divas, a title she’s helped define. 

“Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics,” will see the singer tackle songs from Barbra Streisand, Gladys Knight, Alicia Keys, Dinah Washington, Chaka Khan and Etta James. 

On the album, out Oct. 21 through RCA Records, Franklin plays the piano on a version of the Supremes’ classic “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” mashes up Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" with Destiny's Child's "Survivor” and offers a take on Sinead O’Connor’s signature “Nothing Compares 2 U.” 

The lead single is Franklin’s ferocious take on Adele's megahit "Rolling in the Deep” – it’s dubbed  “The Aretha Version" (you can stream it above) – which she effortlessly turns into a sermon with an assault of vocal runs. She also adds in Marvin Gaye and Tammi...

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Listen: One Direction journeys to the '80s in new song 'Steal My Girl'

One Direction is going dad rock. Again.

After more or less borrowing the intro of the Who's "Baba O'Riley" for last year's "Best Song Ever," the British boy band cribs from Journey in its brand-new single, "Steal My Girl," which starts out almost exactly like the older group's hit 1983 power ballad "Faithfully." (Listen to the song above.)

"Steal My Girl," which appeared early Monday on YouTube, is the lead single from One Direction's upcoming album, "Four," due out Nov. 17.

But it's not the only sign that the band turned to the early '80s for inspiration this time around.

In "Fireproof," which One Direction released early this month, the group's members harmonize coolly over a rolling soft-rock groove that strongly recalls Fleetwood Mac's 1982 hit "Gypsy."

Stay tuned, hopefully, for one where they rip "Owner of a Lonely Heart" by Yes.

Twitter: @mikaelwood

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Dublab celebrates 15 years with party, new projects

Over the last 15 years, thousands of web startups have come and gone. In 1999, Dublab was one of them, a new kind of radio station that only broadcast online. While others crashed, Dublab transformed itself into a nonprofit that earns its keep through listener support, grants and wildly inventive fundraising events. 

More than a bunch of coding, the Dublab site has become a thriving community and an essential voice of Los Angeles music. Dublab celebrates these 15 years on Saturday with a typically diverse, typically inspired collection of music, food and art. (See the full line-up here.)

It's been a busy year, Dublab's cofounder Mark "Frosty" McNeill told me. The group, which has studio space on the outskirts of Silver Lake, recently revamped its website, and in the process reorganized its vast library of live and studio recordings. Long a proponent of electronic music of all forms, a quick search in their archives reveals DJ sets from an array of artists, including Flying Lotus, Andy...

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Thom Yorke's surprise album, 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes,' hits BitTorrent

Here we go again.

Or not.

Less than three weeks after U2 dropped a new album, "Songs of Innocence," into the iTunes libraries of an estimated half-billion people -- touching off widespread controversy about possible digital overreach -- Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke released a solo record online early Friday with little advance warning.

But he didn't use Apple's help to get the music out.

In a statement signed by the singer and his longtime producer Nigel Godrich, Yorke said "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes" is being made available through BitTorrent, the peer-to-peer file-sharing software, in an attempt "to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around."

"If it works well it could be an effective way of handing some control of Internet commerce back to people who are creating the work," the statement continued. "Enabling those people who make either music, video or any other kind of digital content to sell it themselves. Bypassing the self...

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Watch: Mindy Smith's 'Shelter Me' video for PBS pet adoption series

“Shelter Me,” the public television series highlighting animal shelters and pet adoption, is ramping up for its fourth episode premiering in October with a promotional video set to a newly commissioned theme song by singer-songwriter Mindy Smith.

Beyond writing and recording the title track, Smith in turn invited several other indie musicians to provide songs that would touch on themes of hope and redepmtion for a companion album, “Songs For Shelter Me,” that also will be released next month.

Other artists on the album, due Oct. 7, include Kris Allen, Peter Bradley Adams, Trent Dabs, Maggie Eckford, Jenny & Tyler, Korby Lenker, SHEL, Kate York and Matthew Perryman Jones. Proceeds from sales of the album will benefit shelter pets.

In “Shelter Me,” as images from various shelters show animals being paired with new owners, New York-reared, Nashville-based Smith sings: “I will always walk, I will always walk beside you/You can count on me to be true/I’ll be there to give you comfort…”...

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Listen: Three versions of Neil Young's 'Who's Gonna Stand Up?'

The first single from Neil Young’s forthcoming “Storeytone” album, due in November, has been released, and in characteristically idiosyncratic fashion, the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member has simultaneously released three different renderings of the new song, “Who’s Gonna Stand Up?”, through his website, NeilYoung.com.

Young performed "Who's Gonna Stand Up? (and Save the Earth)" while on tour last summer with his longtime collaborators in Crazy Horse and has released that version, along with a solo acoustic rendition and a large-scale arrangement featuring a 92-piece orchestra he recorded recently with veteran producer and engineer Al Schmitt.

The song is a screed against corporate forces and pollution, with Young spinning out questions:

Who’s gonna stand up and save the Earth?

Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?

Who’s gonna take on the big machine?

Who’s gonna stand up and save the Earth?

This all starts with you and me.

Links to each of the three tracks can be found on ...

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