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<p>Cat Power's &quot;Sun&quot;</p>

Cat Power's "Sun"

Credit: Matador

Review: Cat Power's 'Sun'

Transition from basement records to patio pop complete

Gone are the days of Cat Power's personal anxieties and “small” records. Chan Marshall has moved on from those with exuberant “The Greatest” as the nail in that particular coffin, and now with “Sun,” she waxes on larger-scale woes over skittering beats, weighty electronic arrangements that make it obvious this album is beloved in its songwriter’s eyes.

Opener “Cherokee” is the biggest and best indicator of this inside-out reflection, banging out whopper lyrics like “[I] never knew pain like this, when everything dies” but then maturing into musings on the American education system through a veil of pop-trip-hop (remember trip-hop?). Standout “Manhattan” tip-toes on the same three notes as Marshall remembers her earliest troubadour days, when she played decimated cafes, lived in sh*tboxes and the New York political atmosphere was not yet pock-marked by neo-patriotism, but by classicism and the struggle for “authenticity.”

And that’s been one of Marshall’s strength, all along, is that originality and realism, to have her foggy voice transition between bedroom bastard music to boppy, aggressive patio pop. Even on tracks like boozy “3, 6, 9” – which irritatingly repeats the same refrain 10+ times to little philosophical effect – Marshall’s narrative is still captivating enough to bear with.

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<p>Michael Haneke, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant on the set of &quot;Amour.&quot;</p>

Michael Haneke, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant on the set of "Amour."

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

'Amour' wins FIPRESCI Grand Prix for Film of the Year

International critics' prize honors best film premiered in the past 12 months

It's been a great week for Michael Haneke's "Amour." Not only was it confirmed yesterday as Austria's official entry in the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race, but it played to predictably rapturous responses at Telluride -- reheating the Cannes buzz enough for us to place it in our Best Picture predictions on the sidebar. (We've had it listed in Best Director for a few months now.)

Now comes further good news. Sealing its status as the de facto critics' darling of 2012 so far, it was also just emerged as the winner of the FIPRESCI Grand Prix -- an annual award voted on by the 200-plus members of the international critics' federation, given to the best film premiered in the last 12 months. Haneke now joins Pedro Almodovar and Paul Thomas Anderson as the only two-time winners of the Grand Prix, which has been awarded since 1999. The award is presented every year at Spain's San Sebastian Film Festival in late September -- which is why it isn't detemined on a calendar-year basis.

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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: Big Machine

Five things we learned from today's CMA Awards nominations

Eric Church, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift lead the nominees

Eric Church garnered the most nods this morning as nominations for the 46th annual Country Music Association Awards were announced by Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan (who subbed for Lady Antebellum, who could not get there because of weather delays). The gruff, rowdy singer received 5 nominations, including single and song of the year for “Springsteen.”

Married couple Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton have four nominations each, including a shared one for co-writing Song of the Year nominee “Over You.”  Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift and Little Big Town collected three nominations apiece.

The CMAs will air Nov. 1 on ABC live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood will host for the fifth time.

As always, there were some surprises among the nominations. Below are six things we learned from the nominations. 

For a complete list of nominees, go here.

Boys Club: Taylor Swift, who has won the award the past two years, is the lone female in the group of solo male artists. Where’s Lady Antebellum, who served as country goodwill ambassadors this past year with a sold-out worldwide tour? Or Miranda Lambert, who, no offense to Blake Shelton, deserves the award more than her husband this year.

Odd Bedfellows:
Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion as he’s referred to as now), is nominated for a CMA Award. It’s in the Musical Event of the Year category, which is usually where you’ll find interlopers (both Robert Plant and Jimmy Buffett are past winners), but it would be a blast to see Snoop on the show performing his nominated song, Willie Nelson’s “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” In addition to Snoop Dogg, the song also features Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson.

Duo shortage: Country music has a shortage of strong pairs. For years, Brooks and Dunn dominated the Vocal Duo of the year category, and then Sugarland, after they kicked out Kristen Hall, took over the mantle. This year’s slate is stronger than it has been in the past, when acts whose singles had bombed were nominated just to pad out the category, but it remains one of the weakest categories.

Female Troubles: If we’re going to come down on the Academy for a poor slate for Vocal Duo of the year, then we can’t let the fact that Kelly Clarkson is nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year slide. Yes, she dabbles in country music and has even won a CMA Award for “Don’t You Wanna Stay” with Jason Aldean and duetted with Reba McEntire, but come on. It’s too bad Faith Hill’s single flopped and that left her pretty much ineligible, but fellow “American Idol” finalist Lauren Alaina should have gotten the nod before Clarkson.

Turn a Blind Eye: Lionel Richie’s “Tuskegee” is the highest selling country album released in 2012 (or will be until Taylor Swift’s “Red” comes out). However, the CMAs totally ignored the collection, which featured Richie performing his classic hits with country stars, other than in the Musical Event of the Year category, where “Stuck On You,” his duet with Darius Rucker, received a nod. The CMAs helped Richie debut the album last year with a long performance segment so voters must have figured they’d done their part in supporting the blockbuster set. Speaking of, the CMA voters really did not like Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away.” Neither the album nor any singles received nods, although Underwood was nominated for Female Vocalist.


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<p>Single artwork for &quot;Clique&quot;</p>

Single artwork for "Clique"

Listen: Kanye West raps about Kim Kardashian's sex tape on new track, 'Clique'

Track also features Jay Z and Big Sean

Kanye West can’t stop rapping about his lady love, Kim Kardashian. On this newly-released snippet from “Clique,” which first surfaced on TMZ,  he boasts about her past, including her infamous sex tape with Ray-J. Yeah, you heard that right. As you recall, he also declared his love for her months ago on “Theraflu” (later retitled “Cold”). He's also paid ode to her in a track called "Perfect Bitch."

[More after the jump...]

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<p>His role in 'The Slammin' Salmon' gave Duncan a big showcase for his big personality.</p>

His role in 'The Slammin' Salmon' gave Duncan a big showcase for his big personality.

Credit: Anchor Bay Entertainment

A personal goodbye to 'Green Mile' star Michael Clarke Duncan

A look back at the moment that gave him the rest of his career

The term "gentle giant" is a cliche, but in the case of Michael Clarke Duncan, it was completely appropriate.

I find it difficult to believe that Duncan is gone.  I find it hard to write about his passing, because it doesn't seem real.  Duncan was one of the most genuine wide-open souls I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, and my many encounters with him over the years all left me convinced he was someone who would work for the rest of his life, always in demand, always good when he's hired.

I remember hearing about him first.  Harry Knowles came back from his visit to the set of "Armageddon" completely and utterly in love with him.  No other way to put it.  Harry was convinced that of the entire sprawling ensemble, positively dripping with testosterone, Michael Clarke Duncan was the biggest personality, the guy he couldn't stop watching.  He was doing other films, busy with TV work, but "Armageddon" was a major jump into the foreground for him.  You can see him in "Bulworth" and "A Night At The Roxbury," and he's good considering what he's given to play, but he had to find the right thing, something that really showcased him.

Then came "The Green Mile."

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<p>Bradley Cooper seemed excited to discuss the possible film version of 'Hyperion' which he's co-writing when we spoke at the press day for 'The Words'</p>

Bradley Cooper seemed excited to discuss the possible film version of 'Hyperion' which he's co-writing when we spoke at the press day for 'The Words'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Bradley Cooper talks about adapting the science-fiction classic 'Hyperion'

The 'Hangover' star doesn't think of himself as a writer

It is fitting that Bradley Cooper plays a writer in his new film "The Words."

To be more specific, he plays a frustrated writer, a man whose attempts to break into the world of publishing are met with indifference until he stumbles across a long-lost manuscript, known to nobody, and decides to claim it as his own.  He ends up winning acclaim for the piece and falling into a life that he doesn't earn, even as the real author of the piece stumbles across his own words, finally in print after having disappeared for almost a half-century.

It's a really nice performance by Cooper, but these days, he's not pretending to be a writer.  He's doing it.  He's working on adapting the Dan Simmons novel "Hyperion" into a film, something that's been frustrating filmmakers for a while now.

When I sat down with Cooper and Brian Klugman, one of the writer/directors of the movie, I didn't intend to bring up the project, but it seemed like a natural progression in the conversation, and I was curious to see what he had to say about the state of the script right now.

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<p>&quot;What's a Google+&nbsp;Hangout?&quot;&nbsp;Abraham pondered.</p>

"What's a Google+ Hangout?" Abraham pondered.

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Steven Spielberg's 'Lincoln' trailer coming September 13

Google+ event to be broadcast in Times Square

Trailer for trailers and press releases for trailers. What a world. Though I guess Disney's big brou-ha-ha around the trailer for Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" is a little more understandable given the robust pomp and circumstance they're bringing to its debut.

According to a press release this afternoon, plans have been set to -- stay with me -- launch a Google+ Hangout (for those who didn't abandon the social networking attempt two days in) and premiere the trailer there on September 13. A live conversation with Spielberg and "Lincoln" star Joseph Gordon-Levitt will also be featured. The event will also be broadcast on the ABC SuperSign in the heart of New York's Times Square, and somewhere in there, my head just exploded.

Fans interested in participating are asked to upload a short video to their own YouTube channel with the #LincolnHangout tag explaining who they are, why they are interested in the film and what they would like to ask Spielberg and Gordon-Levitt about the film. And oh, here's the website:

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<p>Justin Bieber</p>

Justin Bieber

Listen: Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen on preview of 'Beautiful' single

Also: Biebs' manager Scooter Braun signs the 'Gangnam Style' guy

The prince of every pre-teen girls' dreams combines with the pop princess of summer jams: Justin Bieber's Schoolboy Records signee Carly Rae Jepsen will have her label boss on "Beautiful," a new Jason Mraz-style jam from her next solo effort "Kiss."

A minute-and-a-half snippet of "Beautiful has been "leaked" to varying degrees ahead of "Kiss'" Sept. 18 drop date, and it features shared vocals from the pop stars.

Biebs, in the track, extols the virtues of friendship and modesty: that his beauty is beautiful because "you don't know how beautiful you are."

Considering the girth of El Bieberino's fame, don't pass this buy as a top 40 radio single contender. The full-length song will likely drop in the coming days.

The title was laid bare as Jepsen Tweeted the "track list" for her album, which resembles the word-art doodlings of a freshman in Algebra II class. Jepsen is 26 years old.

Anyway, Bieber's own "Believe" is still in in the top 10 of the Billboard 200, and Jepsen's hit "Call Me Maybe" is still in the top 5 of the Hot 100. Both are in heavy rotation and out to help the climb.

Speaking of climb, as the video to "Gangnam Style" by South Korean artist Psy leaps past the 100 million view mark on YouTube, Bieber's manager Scooter Braun has decided nothing good and pure and perfect can last and has actually signed the rapper/vocalist for an American deal. I insinuate "ruin" because it's less fun when a crazy conflagration like that LMFAO-loving song and viral video have the Bieber name attached to it. If Schoolboy, Interscope and their ilk try to recreate the organic, crowd-built success of YouTube hits like "Gangnam," it's going carry a phony air. That horse trot is jumping the shark.

Anyway, here it is for 102 millionth time, for those who haven't checked it. My favorite part is when he's screaming over the yoga girl's ass.

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<p>Milla Jovovich wanted to show me how she's approaching the title role in the inevitable action science-fiction reboot of 'I Love Lucy'</p>

Milla Jovovich wanted to show me how she's approaching the title role in the inevitable action science-fiction reboot of 'I Love Lucy'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Milla Jovovich is giddy to go back to battle in 'Resident Evil: Retribution'

The delightfully daffy star of the franchise is on fire for our interview


Pretty much the moment Richard Linklater cut to the extreme close-up of Michelle, the character played by Milla Jovovich in the wonderful "Dazed & Confused," as she rolled a joint, I was smitten.  Smote.  However you want to say it.  Same thing happened when she held up that ID to the security guard and insisted that her name was "LeeeeelooDallasMoooolteeeepass."  It's absurd how adorable she is as the divine being in Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element," and she gives one of those performances that is so dedicated that even if you don't like it, you have to marvel at it.  Throw in the album she recorded in her teens full of personal, lyrical doodles, and I never really stood a chance.

I am fascinated by the way Screen Gems has essentially been handed over to two married couples at this point.  I recently chatted with Kate Beckinsale about working with her husband, Len Wiseman, in the "Total Recall" remake, and Jovovich has a similar set-up with her husband, Paul W.S. Anderson.  They seem like a pretty self-contained unit, happy to keep cranking out these increasingly strange and oddball zombie epics, and she seems like she loves the fans whenever I see her talking about these movies or showing up on a Comic-Con panel.  I may not like these films very much (and I'll have a review of the new one for you on Friday), but I like her enthusiasm, and I like that she's found a niche where she seems really happy.

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<p>David Byrne and St. Vincent in &quot;Who&quot;</p>

David Byrne and St. Vincent in "Who"

Watch: David Byrne and St. Vincent bust a move in mysterious 'Who'

Martin de Thurah strikes again

Martin de Thurah's work with Feist already had me boo-hooing (and singing praises), and now he has me scratching my head.

The Danish director tackled St. Vincent and David Byrne's first collaborative single "Who," which has the legendary Talking Heads frontman showing his latest compadre how to bust a move in the streets.

After he hits her with his car.

Or was she already in the road?

The "fault" lies with the listener, who toils with the song's question "Who is this man?" as Byrne shimmies in his jacket and Annie Clark makes for a beautiful victim/victimizer.

"Who" is off of Byrne and St. Vincent's collaborative full-length album "Love This Giant," which promises many of the little angles and big instrumentation as this song. It's out on Sept. 11.

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<p>Hal David</p>

Hal David

Credit: AP Photo

What made lyricist Hal David so special?

Plus, his 10 best lyrics

Hal David, one of the best lyricists of the 20th century, died on Sept. 1. Other than John Lennon and Paul McCartney, David and his songwriting partner Burt Bacharach were the preeminent purveyors of pop song craft in the ‘60s.

Bacharach’s melodies were often complicated, but David’s lyrics never were and therein rests their beauty. His words were simple, but never obvious: The line “one less egg to fry” in “One Less Bell To Answer” spoke volumes about despair and loneliness. He expressed vulnerabilities that would have sounded hyperbolic coming from a less-skilled pen, but from him, sounded like truths:  When Herb Alpert sang, “Say you’re in  love, in love with this guy, If not, I’ll just die,” in “This Guy’s In Love With You,” who didn’t believe that he would perish into thin air without her love?

There was also a specificity to David’s lyrics. They were spare and direct. Think about “I Say A Little Prayer,” one of his best from start to finish (which is why I left it out of the selections below): The protagonist very deliberately is putting on her make-up, combing her hair, running for the bus... the actions are mundane and serve as a contrast to the drama of the thought of not being together with her beloved forever and ever.  In “A House Is Not A Home,” he doesn’t just yearn for her to return, he needs for her to still be in love with him as well.  He knew heartbreak didn’t need a lot of explanation, it needed precision.

Even the lyrics that seem dated now, like “Wishin’ & Hopin’s” “Wash your hair just for him,” capture a moment and thought in time. Though there are hundreds to choose from, below are what I consider to be 10 of David’s finest lyrics.

"Foolish pride, that's all that I have left/So let me hide the tears and the sadness you gave me/When you said goodbye"— “Walk On By”

"One less bell to answer/One less egg to fry/One less man to pick up after/I should be happy/But all I do is cry" —”One Less Bell To Answer”

"I need your love/I want your love/Say you're in love, in love/With this guy/If not I'll just die" —-”This Guy’s in Love With You”

"The moment I wake up/Before I put on my makeup/I say a little prayer for you” — “I Say A Little Prayer”

"Anyone who had a heart would take me in his arms and love me too/Why won’t you?”—”Anyone Who Had a Heart”

“Darling, have a heart/Don’t let one mistake keep us apart/I’m not meant to live along/Turn this house into a home/When I climb the stair and turn the key/Oh, please be there still in love with me.” —”A House Is Not A Home”

"What the world needs now is love, sweet love/It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of"— “What the World Needs Now”

"On the day that you were born the angels got together/And decided to create a dream come true" —”Close To You”

“And if the way I hold you/Can’t compare to his caress/No words of consolation/Will make me miss you less”— “Make It Easy On Yourself”

"What do you get when you fall in love? You only get lies and pain and sorry/ So for at least until tomorrow/I’ll never fall in love again" —”I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.”

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<p>Matchbox Twenty's &quot;North&quot;</p>

Matchbox Twenty's "North"

Album Revew: Matchbox Twenty moves in right direction on 'North'

FIrst studio album in 10 years from pop stalwarts delivers some twists

It’s been 10 years since an album of all new Matchbox Twenty material, although the pop-rock band’s legion of hits remains in such heavy rotation on many adult contemporary stations that their absence hasn’t been felt. Also, a greatest hits package with six new songs and two solo albums from lead singer Rob helped fill the void.

Having said that, “North,” out today, feels like a welcome return from an old friend who has kept all of the qualities that made you like him in the first place, but picked up some new tricks to keep things from getting stale. Matchbox Twenty’s strength has always been its strong grasp of the basic pop dynamic where catchy choruses are bookended by verses that propel a story and mood. Early hits like “Push,” “3AM,” “Bent” and “If You’re Gone” all carried a certain darkness with the lyrics, no matter how bright the melody. 

The band’s writing dynamic shifted for “North,” and it’s a move that suits them well: Instead of writing everything primarily himself, the gifted Thomas shared the wealth with his bandmates and collaborations rule the day. That allows for more textures and nuances to the songs, such as on “English Town,” which starts out delicately before exploding into a swirl of guitars.

So it goes on much of the album: the band isn’t breaking its mold, so much as flexing some muscles in a way they haven’t before: On “Put Your Hands Up,” a dance-flavored track whose lively beat defies the dark lyrics,  MB20 veers into Cobra Starship or Fall Out Boy territory. On first single “She’s So Mean,” which deserved a much better shot from radio than it received, handclaps bolster a power pop tune about a girl that just gets the better of every man who’s drawn into her web.

When Matchbox Twenty first hit  in 1996, the members were in their early 20s. Now, more than 15 years later, they’ve grown up, gotten married, and had families. There’s a maturity to some of the material that couldn’t have occurred until they got some more life under their belt.  The gem on the album, the understated “I Will,” beautifully reflects how time passes at a startlingly rate of speed: “Tonight looking back on all this life, it’s funny how the time goes by and how, sometimes, it slides away,” Thomas sings, as half of a  couple who will figure out life’s foibles together, filling in each other’s gaps. The simple arrangement adds to the song’s beauty. Current single “Overjoyed” uncynically looks at love in a fresh, inviting way, well aware that the chance for true happiness doesn’t come along every day. Conversely, “Like Sugar” addresses a temptation that comes on like the sweetest, most addictive, yet toxic, substance.

Not every song is a winner: “How Long” starts of nimbly, but loses its way;  “Radio” sounds like the band is pandering for airplay, but there are far more plusses on “North” than negatives from a band that continues to move in the right direction.

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