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<p>The Civil Wars</p>

The Civil Wars

Credit: AP Photo

The Civil Wars cancel tour citing 'internal discord'

Grammy-winning pair abruptly ends European outing

We guess it wasn’t so civil after all.  After one celebrated full-length album and two Grammy Awards, The Civil Wars have announced the cancellation of their current tour because of “irreconcilable differences.”

In a statement posted on Facebook, Joy Williams and Paul White wrote: “We sincerely apologize for the canceling of all of our tour dates. It is something we deeply regret. However, due to internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition we are unable to continue as a touring entity at this time. We thank each and every one of you for your amazing love & support. Our sincere hope is to have new music for you in 2013.”

Additionally, they offer to refund anyone’s non-refundable charges incurred with the cancellation, including service charges and travel reservations. The pair were in the middle of a European tour with dates in Australia and New Zealand to come in 2013.

The last line about new music is a nice idea to hang one’s hopes on, although it’s hard to imagine that they could overcome whatever “internal discord and irreconcilable differences” they have that are intense enough to make them quit in the middle of a tour. But bands have certainly reunited after far more acrimonious situations.

White and Williams met in Nashville in 2008 and began writing together. They released an EP, produced by Charlie Peacock, that featured title track “Poison & Wine.” The song was featured on “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2009. 

The Civil Wars released their first and only full-length set, “Barton Hollow,” in February 2011. The plaudits came fast and furiously as the duo was nominated for CMT Awards, Americana Music Awards, CMA Awards and for two Grammys for best folk album and best country dup/group performance. The group won both Grammys.

The Civil Wars were also featured on “The Hunger Games” soundtrack on the tune “Safe & Sound” with Taylor Swift.  The soundtrack’s producer T Bone Burnett more recently used one of their songs, “If I Didn’t Know Better” to close the first episode.

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Credit: AP Photo

Hail, Hail Madonna: Our all-time top 10 Madonna tracks

We celebrate Madge on the 30th anniversary of her first Billboard chart appearance

It’s election day, but today is special for another reason. As Madonna fans/obsessives know, today marks the 30th anniversary of the Material Girl’s first appearance on a Billboard chart

Billboard chart editor, No. 1 Madonna fan and all-around good egg Keith Caulfield put together a great primer on Madge’s chart history starting with her Nov. 6, 1982 debut on Billboard’s Dance/Club Play Songs chart at No. 40 with “Everybody.”

Since then, she amassed some amazing stats, including 156 No. 1s culled from her appearances on all of Billboard’s charts. Madonna has logged 56 Hot 100 hits, 38 of which have gone Top 10.

For fun, I compiled my own Top 10 list of Madonna songs culled from her 38 Top 10 hits. See if you agree and post your top 10 in the comments section below.

[More after the jump...]

10. “Hung Up” (2005) The perfect blend of Madonna and Abba (the song samples “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight).” Two of the biggest artists in the pop pantheon coming together for this twirling dance hit. What could be better?

9. “Cherish” (1989): A return to the light-hearted dance pop of Madonna’s very early years.  It’s a skip-down-the-street kind of song. This is what pure joy sounds like.

8. “Material Girl”
(1985)  Madonna poked fun at her image perfectly with this peppy ode to all things materialistic. The video turned a catchy song into an iconic one. Plus, her delivery is delightful.

7. “Ray Of Light”
(1998) Simply groundbreaking at the time as it helped usher electronic music into the mainstream. If you weren’t into the dance scene, you’d never heard anything like this before coming out of your speakers. It’s also worn very well.

6. “Open Your Heart”
(1986) Again, not a great vocal performance from Madonna, but she strikes a convincing vulnerability as she pleads for a little consideration.  Yes, it sounds dated, but in the best possible way in that you remember where you were when you first heard it.

5. “Don’t Tell Me” (2000): A great change of pace for Madonna, this country-tinged track, written by Joe Henry, combines a classic country feel with a dance production by Mirwais. Throw in the lack of effects on Madonna’s voice and the occasional silence pauses and it shouldn’t work, but it does. Brilliantly.

4. “Secret” (1994): She’s not really comfortable in that low range, but there’s a wonderful aura around this mysterious, hypnotic long song. This one’s all about the slinky, sultry production more than Madonna’s vocal performance.

3. “Express Yourself” (1989)” One of the greatest female empowerment pop anthems, despite the fact that she’s chained up in the video. But as she explained at the time, she’s the one doing the restraining, so it’s still empowering.

2. “Like a Prayer”
(1989): Everything about this single is perfect: Madonna’s delivery, the production, the shifts in tempos and instrumentation throughout.  One of the best records ever made. The choir: perfection.

1. “Borderline” (1984): It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Madonna still had a sweet innocence that  was soon left in the dust, but here it’s present and delightful. Besides, who hasn’t had a love who deliciously makes them feel like they’re going to lose their mind?


Which songs make your top 10?


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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 156

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 156

Dan and Alan talk 'Witness,' 'Wedding Band,' 'Walking Dead' and more


Happy Tuesday, Boys & Girls!
Due to Hurricane Sandy, we [Sepinwall in particular] were off the grid last week and then, after we settled in and recorded a half-hour of a podcast yesterday, we [Sepinwall, really] got power back and the migration led to a one-day delay.
That means that the podcast begins with a review of HBO's "Witness," which actually premiered on MONDAY night. It's very good, though, and we recommend you watch it in some form or another, so it's OK. 
We also talked about TBS' "The Wedding Band," revisited ABC's "Nashville" and "Last Resort" and had spoiler-heavy discussion of both "The Walking Dead" and two weeks of "Homeland."
And, somewhere in the middle, we talked about NBC's midseason schedule and plans to revamp "Up All Night." So it was a busy podcast.
Here's the breakdown:
"Witness" (00:01:55 - 00:11:05)
"The Wedding Band" (00:11:05 - 00:23:25)
NBC's Midseason Schedule (00:23:25 - 00:37:30)
"Nashville" (00:37:30 - 00:44:15)
"Last Resort" (00:44:20 - 00:52:05)
"The Walking Dead" (00:52:20 - 01:10:30)
"Homeland" (01:10:30 - 01:31:30)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 156: 'Witness,' 'Wedding Band,' 'The Walking Dead,' 'Homeland' & more

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 156: 'Witness,' 'Wedding Band,' 'The Walking Dead,' 'Homeland' & more

Dan and Alan also discuss NBC's mid-season schedule, 'Nashville' and 'Last Resort'


A hurricane can postpone the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, but Sandy couldn't stop it forever. After I spent the last week either powerless or as a nomad in the wilds of Connecticut, I was finally able to return home last night. In fact, the podcast was supposed to be finished yesterday, but midway through recording it, I got the call that our power was back on, and had to hastily pack up the family truckster for the drive home to Jersey, so we're technically reviewing HBO's excellent "Witness" a day late. That's what On Demand and HBO multiplex channels are for. In addition, Dan and I review TBS' "Wedding Band," discuss NBC's mid-season schedule, the "Up All Night" format change, how we feel about "Nahville" and "Last Resort" these days, and the latest episodes of "The Walking Dead" and "Homeland." 

The line-up: 

"Witness" (00:01:55 - 00:11:05)
"The Wedding Band" (00:11:05 - 00:23:25)
NBC's Midseason Schedule (00:23:25 - 00:37:30)
"Nashville" (00:37:30 - 00:44:15)
"Last Resort" (00:44:20 - 00:52:05)
"The Walking Dead" (00:52:20 - 01:10:30)
"Homeland" (01:10:30 - 01:31:30)
As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
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<p>J. Cole</p>

J. Cole

J Cole sets release date for second set, 'Born Sinner'

Guests include Melanie Fiona

J Cole, whose 2011 debut, “Cole World: The Sideline Story,” bowed at No. 1, will release his sophomore set, “Born Sinner,” on Jan. 28, 2013.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Spielberg's 'Lincoln' has a haunted quality that I found engaging, and a burnished faded photo look that is very striking.</p>

Spielberg's 'Lincoln' has a haunted quality that I found engaging, and a burnished faded photo look that is very striking.

Credit: Dreamworks/20th Century Fox

Review: Spielberg and Kushner craft an important and emotional 'Lincoln'

Daniel Day-Lewis finds the soul of the icon in a great lead performance

So far, one of my favorite strange digressions of Steven Spielberg's career has been his collaboration with Tony Kushner.  I love it because it is so very unlikely, and because both of the films that have resulted from this creative conversation are so unlike the rest of Spielberg's work. 

Kushner blew me away with "Angels In America" when it first opened on stage, and I think he's got a very specific, very beautiful voice as a writer.  "Munich" is a film that I like more as I return to it, and I think Spielberg's sentimental streak has found a perfect antidote in the frank and observational voice of Kushner's words.  While I'm not a fan of biopics in general, I was curious to see what these two would make of Abraham Lincoln as a subject.  It's about a big a canvass as there is in terms of American characters.  He has passed the point of icon and become a mythic figure at this point, and so making a film about him requires a point of view, a reason beneath the history, and Kushner and Spielberg found a pretty tremendous way into the film.

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Credit: AP Photo

Rihanna's 'Unapologetic' tracklist features Eminem and Chris Brown

Who else is on the Nov. 19 release?

Rihanna’s “Unapologetic” doesn’t come out for two weeks, but today she tweeted fans a hand-written track listing.

And yes, the album includes the tune “Nobody’s Business” featuring Chris Brown. Can’t wait to hear the lyrics on that one. God bless her, she knows she’s just ratcheting up the hype at this point and that we’ll all get our panties in a twist about her collaborating with him again following their partnership on “Birthday Cake” and “Turn Up The Music.”

She reteams with Eminem on a track called “Numb,” which would be awesome if it’s a sequel to “Love The Way You Lie.” Other guests include Future on “Loveeeeeee Song” and Mikky Ekko on “Stay.”

The album contains 14 tracks, plus a bonus track called “Half Of Me.” First single, “Diamonds,” has already hit No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B Songs chart.

As we previously reported, a few different versions of “Unapologetic” will be released including a limited edition box set for $250 that includes a diamond bracelet and exclusive photos.

Tracklist for Unapologetic


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<p>Kid Cudi</p>

Kid Cudi

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: Kid Cudi and King Chip need to smoke in 'Just What I Am'

Lead single from Cudder's third rap album

"Just What I Am" is the lead single from Kid Cudi's new hip-hop album. And just what is Kid Cudi about?

"F*ck yes, I'm so odd... I need to smoke," he raps, with co-partier King Chip on the track. From there, it's all red solo cups, pretty firls and puffs, as the guest rapper (formerly Chip tha Ripper) rolls regular smoke-blowing and Cudi brings something a little more real.

Any way you toke it, it's an easy song to listen to, and a good sample of what might be off of "Indicud," which follows Cudder's rap-rock record WZRD. The new set will be out some time in 2013 via Universal/G.O.O.D. Kanye's imprint also feature Cudi on a some "Cruel Summer" tracks as it was released last month.

Kid Cudi's last rap album was 2010's "Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager."

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'Skyfall' star Javier Bardem explains his hesitation to face off against James Bond

'Skyfall' star Javier Bardem explains his hesitation to face off against James Bond

Oscar winner also notes how Silva and Anton Chigurh are different
NEW YORK CITY - It's no surprise that Javier Bardem, an Oscar winner for crafting one of the past decade's most memorable villains, has been able to return to the dark side with such success in "Skyfall."
As Silva, James Bond's newest deadly adversary, Bardem creates such an indelible impression that he towers over a movie he doesn't enter until roughly an hour in.
I sat down with the "No Country For Old Men" star in New York City last month and he admitted his early misgivings about taking on the "Skyfall" role.
"When I feel that I'm really attracted to some material, then I start to feel insecure," admits Bardem, who credits director Sam Mendes with convincing him to sign on.
Bardem also discusses the key difference between Anton Chigurh and his new character.
"In 'No Country For Old Men' it was an iconic, symbolic idea of fate -- bad fate, horrible fate and violence. There was no humanity behind that. In this case, it's a human being. It's a person," he explains.
In the interview, Bardem also touches on Silva's distinctive look and the important of making sure that in addition to being terrified, he's also quite funny.
"Skyfall" opens domestically on Friday, November 9. You can also check out my interviews with Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench.
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<p>This is what Harrison Ford said to me when I asked him if he was serious about playing Han Solo again.</p>

This is what Harrison Ford said to me when I asked him if he was serious about playing Han Solo again.

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm

Signs of interest from Harrison Ford send 'Star Wars' fandom into hyperspace

Will we see Han Solo again? It's a safe bet, but maybe too safe.

We're going to see Luke Skywalker again… right?

I'm not sure how old you were in 1999, but for those of us who were first generation "Star Wars" kids, there has never been anything like it in terms of hype.  The crazy part is that a good 50% of the hype had nothing to do with the studio and everything to do with our own expectations and a powerful sense of nostalgia.  By the time "The Phantom Menace" opened, I'm convinced that even the single greatest movie ever made would have been a disappointment simply because of the weight of expectation.

One thing that made it hard to accept the prequels as real "Star Wars" films was the lack of familiar faces.  Sure, the characters were related to other characters or they were younger versions, but for the most part, you're talking about a brand-new cast, and one of the basic mandates of a sequel is giving the audience more of the thing they've already enjoyed.  As a result, there is a chance that all of that crushing, vocal "Phantom Menace" frenzy is just going to look like a warm-up to the deafening buzz as we build to the release of a true sequel to the original trilogy, complete with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and, yes, Han Solo.

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<p>Barney (Neil Patrick Harris)&nbsp;gets to know the local dog population on &quot;How I&nbsp;Met Your Mother.&quot;</p>

Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) gets to know the local dog population on "How I Met Your Mother."

Credit: CBS

Review: 'How I Met Your Mother' - 'The Autumn of Break-Ups'

Victoria gives Ted an ultimatum, Barney gets a canine wingman, and Nick needs a catchphrase

Before we get to the reviewing, a bit of housekeeping — as in, my house finally got power, heat, cable, etc. last night, which meant we could return from our post-Sandy exile to the lovely, well-powered streets of West Hartford. There will be a podcast sometime later today (Dan and I were interrupted yesterday by the news that I could return home), and hopefully everything else will return to schedule (give or take a Nor'easter later in the week).

And now a few thoughts on last night's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I channel my inner goddess...

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Reese Witherspoon in "Election."
Reese Witherspoon in "Election."
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Roundup: Hollywood's stake in the election

Also: Budweiser wants out of 'Flight,' and the many film faces of Lincoln

Well, given what's going on out there, it'd seem inappropriate to lead with news of some minor precursor award announcement or random pre-release bumf for "The Hobbit" -- it's Election Day, and that weighs as heavily on Hollywood's mind as anyone else's. Variety Ted Johnson breaks down the implications for the film and entertainment industry of an Obama or a Romney victory, which could have a significant impact on issues ranging from piracy to censorship to same-sex marriage, and also examines the California propositions, some of them with starry cheerleaders, pertinent to showbiz folk. Good luck, America. Do the right thing. [Variety

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