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<p>Giant Giant Sand</p>

Giant Giant Sand

Interview: Howe Gelb's Giant Giant Sand country rock opera mistake

Check out the EXCLUSIVE first-look at the album and storyboard artwork

A friend suggested I wait to publish anything on Howe Gelb’s latest project until I saw the guy play piano. Last night, the Giant Sand (now Giant Giant Sand) mastermind performed solo at Joe’s Pub in New York. I’d seen Gelb play a handful of other times – mostly when he’s on guitar, mostly with other people.

My friend was right, though. Gelb is a divine piano player, it brought in a new dimension. He has an ease around the keyboard. He likes to lay an object on some of the strings so there’s vibration and a ping when the hammer hits.
 
What I like about his playing – and his singing, and his songs – is that it’s unpretentious with a dash of tension. Gelb has made a lot of records over the last three decades, and now he’s prepared his first “country rock opera,” “Tucson.” It, too, is unpretentious; in spite of the daunting narrative structure that the term “opera” can bring to a traditional singer-songwriter, Gelb thrives in those kinds of constraints.
 
Giant Sand records have been written on the spot, in the studio or on the drive on the way to the studio. He’s played consistently with Denmark musicians Thøger T. Lund, Peter Dombernowski, Anders Pederesen and Nikolaj Heyman over the last ten years, but he’s also mixed in elements like a gospel choir or a horns sections from album to album. Or, y’know, made some sessions into an opera.
 
“Music has always been about handing it over -- music as evolution, it has to keep changing,” he said in our recent interview. He spoke from his longtime home of Tucson, the album’s namesake. “I dared myself to plan a concept, and to strip away the stuff that isn’t ‘it’ or meant for ‘it.’ I took a pretty good gamble that the songs we were gonna write are already inside of us.”
 
Gelb first had the “nagging notion” of making an opera around 1978, but like so many of his projects, he didn’t want to force it. Last year, he played music festival in Berlin, with “this big band which manifested itself by accident or by fate. None of us had gotten together until the moment we were on stage.” The event commissioned artists that represented deserts from around the world, a construct for which Gelb is well-suited. The group – who barely knew each other but tangentially all had connections to Denmark and Tuscon – began jamming on a cumbia, a seed planted that would later become “Caranito” on “Tucson.”
 
“If you’re hittin’ it, it’s gonna have a zing that you can never plan for. It got higher and higher in our set. It was wonderful night, and it was evident that something was in play.”
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Sacha Baron Cohen punks Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet at the Oscars in February.
Sacha Baron Cohen punks Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet at the Oscars in February.
Credit: E!

With Sacha Baron Cohen's 'The Dictator' on the way, let's not forget poor Ryan Seacrest

Plus: The prankster talks the Oscars and awards shows on Howard Stern

"Oh yeah. 'The Artist.'" Cheap shot but that crossed my mind the other day. It wasn't until a press release hit earlier this week announcing a theatrical re-release for the film* that I gave much thought to the season we just concluded in February. It's interesting, sometimes, to note the quick burn-off takeaway...if there is one.

But with Sacha Baron Cohen's "The Dictator" (all 75 minutes of it) making its way to theaters next weekend, I can't help but recall poor Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet -- covered in the "ashes" of Kim Jong-il. I might have mentioned it while live-blogging that night (ugh), but I don't think we ever posted it, so we might as well now.

Meanwhile, Cohen was on Howard Stern earlier this week promoting the film, touting it as one of few out-of-character interviews he's done. In true Stern fashion it was a fantastic interview and covered a wide range of topics (including the since oft-reported news break that the actor is no longer a part of Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained.")

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<p>No need to worry anymore, Andy Dwyer:&nbsp;&quot;Parks and Recreation&quot;&nbsp;will be back on NBC next season.</p>

No need to worry anymore, Andy Dwyer: "Parks and Recreation" will be back on NBC next season.

Credit: NBC

NBC renews 'Parks and Recreation' for season 5

We'll get another year in Pawnee with Leslie Knope and friends

NBC has renewed "Parks and Recreationfor a fifth season.

As of now, the order is only for 13 episodes -- which is the same amount that "30 Rock" (definitively entering its final season) and "Community" (long-term future up in the air) got yesterday -- but I'm hearing that "Parks" will be on NBC's fall schedule, which means there's still very much a chance that the show could get a back 9 order, continue, etc.

UPDATE: Scratch all that above. The order is now for the full 22 episodes. Among other things, that'll get the show (which NBC owns) up to 90 episodes total.

Though the renewal came a day later than several of NBC's other decisions, I hadn't worried too much about the future of "Parks" being in doubt. NBC owns the show, and as modest as the numbers have been, it's done better than several other shows, and it's a known quantity in terms of what its floor is. NBC has ordered a lot of new comedies, but it's entirely possible those shows will do worse than Leslie Knope, Ron Effing Swanson and friends.

So rejoice, people of Pawnee. All is right with the world once again.

UPDATE: According to several published reports, NBC has also renewed "Up All Night." So a very good day in the Poehler/Arnett household.

RELATED: Season 4 finale review | Interview with co-creator Mike Schur

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<p>Joss Whedon at the Los Angeles premiere of &quot;The Avengers&quot;</p>

Joss Whedon at the Los Angeles premiere of "The Avengers"

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

‘The Avengers’ director Joss Whedon is a contemporary pop mythologist

A self-professed fangirl's foray into the work of the man behind the blockbuster

Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” was released in U.S. theaters last weekend and is already breaking records, having usurped the all-time opening weekend crown held by “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” with $700 million worldwide already in the bank. Many predicted the final culmination of the seeds Marvel has been planting the past four years would be a success, but few foresaw the magnitude of the appeal.

Of course, Whedon has had a loyal cult following for years, but “The Avengers” in particular seems to have tapped into something audiences have been craving in their summer blockbuster fare. If we look at the films of a similar ilk that have enjoyed this level of success, they are often expansive visually and strike at one or two simple but resonant archetypal themes. Joss infuses the film with the addition of an infectious sense of humor.

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<p>Johnny&nbsp;Depp in &quot;Dark&nbsp;Shadows&quot;</p>

Johnny Depp in "Dark Shadows"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'Dark Shadows'

The film hits theaters today

Tim Burton is back in the multiplex this weekend for the first time since 2010's "Alice in Wonderland" raked in a billion dollars worldwide. Will "Dark Shadows" be such a hit? Uh...no. But now that the film has moseyed on into theaters, it's time to hear what you thought. I'll say it was amusing and harmless enough until a third act that is deplorable. Not that the rest of the script is that much better. It's actually awful and repetitive, but at least it has great art direction (natch). If/when you get around to seeing it, rifle off your thoughts in the comments section below.

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<p>&nbsp;Adam Lambert</p>

 Adam Lambert

Credit: AP Photo

Interview: Adam Lambert on 'Trespassing,' fierceness, and a memorable fan

Has living in the spotlight gotten any easier for the former 'American Idol' contestant?

On May 15, Adam Lambert’s second post- “American Idol” comes out. “Trespassing” is an extremely ambitious song cycle that takes the listener though life’s highs and lows. For Lambert’s fans, it come as no surprise that he holds nothing back whether he’s leading the party or in the depths of despair, aching to be understood.

Lambert talked to Hitfix about creating the follow up to 2009’s platinum “For Your Entertainment” and how, even though he makes it look easy, sometimes he struggles to be “fierce.Read his comments about fellow "American Idol" contestant Kris Allen's new single here.

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<p>Andy acts out a revenge fantasy on &quot;The Office&quot;&nbsp;finale.</p>

Andy acts out a revenge fantasy on "The Office" finale.

Credit: NBC

Season finale review: 'The Office' - 'Free Family Portrait Studio'

Andy plots his return, Robert plots his exit and Dwight plots against Angela

A review of "The Office" season finale coming up just as soon as the coconut is pretty subtle...

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<p>Alec Baldwin and Elizabeth Banks in &quot;30 Rock.&quot;</p>

Alec Baldwin and Elizabeth Banks in "30 Rock."

Credit: NBC

'30 Rock' - 'The Return of Avery Jessup': Back to normalcy

Elizabeth Banks comes back, Liz and Criss fight, and Jenna runs from her roots

A quick review of last night's "30 Rock" coming up just a soon as Siri brings Jessica Tandy back to life...

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<p>Jay Jackson as Perd Hapley on &quot;Parks and Recreation.&quot;</p>

Jay Jackson as Perd Hapley on "Parks and Recreation."

Credit: NBC

HitFix First Look: 'Parks and Recreation' presents the best of Perd Hapley

Ya heard about Pawnee's number one anchorman?

The town of Pawnee on "Parks and Recreation" is often compared to Springfield on "The Simpsons" in the way that it's given the show such a deep bench of ancillary characters while also creating a recognizable community for our characters to live and work in.

Springfield has a busy but clueless news media, and so does Pawnee, where the man behind the anchor desk is Perderick L. "Perd" Hapley, marvelously played by Jay Jackson. Personality-wise, Perd probably owes more to Dr. Hibberd than to Kent Brockman; where Kent Kent is a relic from the days when news anchors were expected to be the Voice From the Mountaintop, Perd is an idiot getting by on an amiable personality and a propensity to laugh (even if he doesn't always understand your humor, he can recognize the cadence of a joke), and he's also changed his hairstyle over the years.

NBC's online team has put together another of its "Parks and Rec" character mash-up videos — which is exclusive to HitFix for the next few hours — this time highlighting the cheerful inaninty of Perd. SPOILER WARNING: The clip reel contains a few scenes from last night's season finale, so if you haven't seen it yet, don't watch.

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<p>Rachel and Dave celebrate their &quot;Amazing Race&quot; win</p>

Rachel and Dave celebrate their "Amazing Race" win

Credit: CBS

Interview: Dave & Rachel talk 'The Amazing Race'

The Season 20 winners discuss their dominant and bickering run
Husband-and-wife Rachel and Dave Brown didn't just win the 20th installment of "The Amazing Race." They dominated from wire-to-wire. 
 
Rachel & Dave won the season's first two Legs and its last four Legs and posted two additional Leg victories in the middle (along with two second places) for a record-breaking total of eight.
 
They were so good at winning that they actually got to run through the final gauntlet to host Phil Keoghan twice. The first time, they accidentally skipping a climactic Roadblock, earning awkward stares from their fellow competitors and Phil alike. Only briefly deterred, Dave & Rachel went back to the Roadblock, whizzed past a frustrated Art & JJ and returned to the deserving adulation of all and sundry at the mat. 
 
When they weren't toppling the competition, Dave & Rachel were bickering their way around the world, getting into heated shouting matches on several continents. 
 
In their exit interview, Rachel & Dave stake their claim as the best team in "Amazing Race" history, offer their take on the high-volume bickering and clarify whether or not they let Mark & Bopper win the 8th Leg.
 
Click through...
 
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Should the Grammy Awards expand to 10 contenders instead of five?
Credit: National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences

Should the Grammy Awards expand to 10 contenders instead of five?

Will they follow the Latin Grammys and Academy Awards' lead?

Following the lead of the Academy Awards, the Latin Grammys have now decided to expand the field for album of the year from five to 10 contenders. The Latin Grammys come under the same umbrella as the Grammys: the National Academy of Recording Artists and Sciences (NARAS), though the two have separate boards of trustees. Should the Grammys follow suit? 

The Latin Grammys will also expand the nominees to 10 in the other three general categories: song, record and best new artist.

While a representative of the Recording Academy told the Los Angeles Times that the move does not mean the Grammy Awards will do the same, you can bet that the idea is being floated around.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>The Britten family right before their tragic accident on &quot;Awake.&quot;</p>

The Britten family right before their tragic accident on "Awake."

Credit: NBC

'Awake' - 'Say Hello to My Little Friend': Is this the real life?

Mike is forced to confront his grief, and a mysterious stranger, in a dynamite episode

A review of tonight's "Awake" coming up just as soon as I destroy a sacred song from your childhood...

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