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<p>Elton John - 'The Diving Board'</p>

Elton John - 'The Diving Board'

Album Review: Elton John's 'The Diving Board' proves the perfect platform

Superstar's 30th studio album takes a cinematic look at America

Improbable as it may sound, 30 albums in, Elton John has made the most piano-focused album of his legendary career.

On “The Diving Board,” John’s first solo album in seven years, out today, John’s piano playing is center stage in a way he’s never presented so fully on record. The album opens with a rarity: “Oceans Away” is John alone with his piano and the song, about WW1 and WW2 war veterans, serves as an invitation for what’s to come in the next 14 tracks.

Although occasionally augmented by strings, guitars and horns, “The Diving Board” primarily consists of John on vocals and piano, Raphael Saadiq on bass, and Jay Bellerose on drums and it’s all he needs. That trio (with Nigel Olsson on drums and Dee Murray on bass) is how John started more than 40 years ago and when producer T Bone Burnett suggested that John revisit it, he readily agreed.

At 66, John’s voice and playing is still so strong and nimble that he has no need to hide behind superfluous backing vocals or tracks crowded with unnecessary fillers.

Bernie Taupin’s lyrics are among his most cinematic. The Brown Dirt Cowboy has always had a fascination with America and Americana and his stories here reflect that, especially such tracks as “The Ballad of Blind Tom,” where he addresses Jim Crow laws. On “Oscar Wilde Gets Out,” Taupin writes about the year the exiled writer spent lecturing in the U.S. in the late 1800s. “The New Fever Waltz” addresses WWI soldiers in the trenches.

John’s  rollicking playing on “Jubilee” is a staccato delight, as is his barrelhouse turn on the jaunty, “Mexican Vacation (Kids in the Candlelight),” the albums most upbeat track. The classical, taut intro to “The Ballad of Blind Tom” jumps off the album. On “My Quicksand,” he turns the middle section into a jazz improvisation.  The swaying, breezy “Can’t Stay Alone Tonight” will remind longtime fans of “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues.”  “Take This Dirty Water” starts out like a saloon-hall rag before morphing into a gospel number.

First single, “Home Again,” is a wistful, haunting ballad about longing to return to the place we’re from. “We all dream of leaving but spent all our time trying to get back home again.” Though John has made it clear that he is not chasing radio play again, the song is his 69th entry on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart, far and away the most of any artist in the chart’s history.

To drive home the point that this is a piano-based album, John includes three instrumental interludes, none longer than 97 seconds, titled “Dream # 1,”  “Dream # 2,” and “Dream # 3.”

John has said the languid title track, which closes the album, is about the troubles that starlets like Lindsey Lohan find themselves in as they seem to spiral downward. “Sink or swim,” he sings in the cautionary tale, “in your lily white skin, high above the diving board.”

To his credit, John has no interest in trying to recapture the days of “Crocodile Rock” or “The Bitch Is Back," although the album could have used a few more uptempo tunes.Instead, he’s made a record that captures where he is today. And as the album proves, he’s definitely still standing.


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<p>Drake, &quot;Nothing Was the Same&quot;</p>

Drake, "Nothing Was the Same"

Album Review: Drake, 'Nothing Was the Same'

Why does Drake wear his chains around the house?

Listening to Drake’s “Nothing Was the Same” in the context of the rapper/singer’s other albums is a far richer experience than taking it in alone. The Young Money star is continually earning his stripes after two acclaimed, chart-topping albums that made his money off similarly dark and hungry productions, emo lyrics and electrifying bluster. Drake’s a better rapper now, and his multiple personalities – each in orbit around the same, central “I’m famous and I’m lonely” hangups – are more keenly expressed, sometimes in shameless pop gems like “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and others like gnashing, bitchy “Own It.”

Drake’s combo with longtime producer Noah "40" Shebib has been a fruitful one. On “Nothing Was the Same,” the sequencing of these 16 songs show a mastery of facing Drake off with other versions of Drake, synth for synth, beat for beat. (Part of the problem is 16 full songs is a lot coming from Drake.)

Songs like “Worst Behavior,” a hating haters anthem, competes against stronger beats and rhymes from this album, though it offers up classic Drake-onian cognitive dissonance. “This ain't the son you raised who used to take the Acura / 5 a.m. then go and shoot Degrassi up on Morningside / For all the stuntin', I'll forever be immortalized” runs in direct contrast with the album’s first single “Started from the Bottom” plus “All Me” which has the former television child-actor bowing to the fantasy that he started from the most modest of means in his rise to rap fame.

There, that’s part of why Drake has become not just a successful name in hip-hop, but became an idea in hip-hop, or “Somewhere between psychotic and iconic” as he says in the second track. “I wear every single chain, even when I'm in the house” he raps in “Bottom,” like he even needs to convince himself sometimes of his making-of mythos when he’s alone in his jammies. Psychotic he’s not, but self-awareness can be its own mental curse.

His insecurities worn plainly on his sleeves, he’s proclaims his imperfections “on the low” in “Furthest Thing,” “…just like everyone I know.” Everyone he knows is imperfect, so at least all of you (the audience) can relate. He does the petty naming-of-ex-lovers again all over “Nothing Was the Same” including “Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree” in “From Time,” intentionally inflicting his exes and with the same spotlight that so alienates him. The slow-grinding trap of “305 to My City” has Drake sympathizing with his stripper, from one performer to another. Again, Drake is not as alone as he thinks.

For every “good girl” (“Hold On…”) and sexytime passer-by (“Come Thru”), there are women he rejects with the same toss-offs, like in “The Language.” “Come get your girl, she been here for three days and she way too attached to me,” he sing-raps over a melody that sounds like a horror film interstitial. “She just want to smoke and fuck / I said ‘Girl, that's all that we do’… it could all be so simple.” He demands conformity to his romantic longings, and when they’re fulfilled, he can’t even nut up to throw her out himself.

Women as a commodity is no new concept in hip-hop, but the boredom and loathing by which Drake casts off and puts on his ladies all plays into that whole “icon” status. I – the listener – may not like his “realness” IRL, but those fantastical flaws are interesting, especially when the music is oh-so-chilly, his delivery so moody, the humble-brags so ballsy up next to his most bombastic indulgences (see chorus-less “Tuscan Leather”). He and his bros can fill their Benzes with bad bitches but he’s still the guy who’s panting all over “Marvins Room”: emotional crookedness is an elegant selling point. Jay Z’s verse in lumpy “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” is almost like a betrayal of that realness, what with all that joy Hov expels. Fun has no place next to stunner “Too Much” featuring melancholy Sampha, Drake waxing that being the best in the rap game means “No dinners, no holidays, no nothing.” Is Drake asking for pity? Is he asking for understanding? Hey, Drake, do you want some company?

Not all rap records invite these questions, and not many have the listener assenting to that latter question. That’s in part why “Nothing Was the Same” works, because by exposing his vulnerabilities, you’re invited in (while Kanye West’s "Yeezus" victory is in kicking you out).  The-Dream made a whole album this year of screaming out for pussy like Dennis Hopper in “Blue Velvet,” while Drake’s pinings are an exposure of self and worth, elements of a truly successful rapper and this mostly successful album.

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'Army Wives' canceled, will conclude with a 2-hour retrospective special

"Army Wives" canceled, will conclude with a 2-hour retrospective special
Season 7, ending in June, will be the last season. A special on the Lifetime drama will air early next year.

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<p>Zhang Ziyi in &quot;The Grandmaster.&quot;</p>

Zhang Ziyi in "The Grandmaster."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Foreign Oscar update: 'The Grandmaster,' 'Broken Circle Breakdown,' 'Neighboring Sounds' join race

India surprises, while Agnieszka Holland represents for the Czech Republic

We’re in the home stretch of the submissions process for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. With one week to go until the official deadline, we currently have 52 entries – which, to use past years as a yardstick, means we probably have about three-quarters of the final field confirmed. Of course, it’s at this stage that you fall way behind if you turn your back for a day or two, so I’ve got a lot of submissions to catch up on.

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<p>&quot;Approved for Adoption&quot;</p>

"Approved for Adoption"

Credit: GKIDS

GKIDS sets animated documentary 'Approved for Adoption' for Nov. release

But it won't qualify for this year's Best Animated Feature Film race

We'll be analyzing the incredibly lackluster Best Animated Feature Film field in due time. Pieces are still falling into place and the race for the win looks to be another Pixar vs. in-house Disney showdown. A press release landed today announcing what at first looked to be another potential player, but it turns out Academy rules will actually keep it from qualifying.

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Watch: Drake goes all gangster in new video for 'Hold On, We're Going Home'

Watch: Drake goes all gangster in new video for 'Hold On, We're Going Home'

He turns back the clock to 1985 to rescue his girl

Drake goes all “Miami Vice” in the new video clip for “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” the latest single from his new album, “Nothing Was The Same” (out today).

The first three minutes of the clip are all exposition as we see Drake as a member of a gang in 1985. They are celebrating their latest feats when Drake gets the call that his girl, who just happens to be in lingerie, has been kidnapped by rival gangsters.

Drake goes all commando, complete with machine guns and black masks and attire, to rescue his lady.

The ballad gets pretty much lost in the narrative and the “Scarface”-like gunfire and explosions.
True love prevails. In fact, Drake is such a gentleman that he wraps his girl in his jacket once he’s done away with the enemy.

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<p>Godspeed You! Black Emperor</p>

Godspeed You! Black Emperor


Godspeed You! Black Emperor wins the Polaris Prize, turns money over to charity

Montreal band takes jury to task for 'holding a gala' and much, much more

Godspeed You! Black Emperor has said “Thanks, but no thanks,” to the Polaris Prize...sort of.

Last night, the left-leaning Montreal band was named winner of the Polaris Prize, the Canadian equivalent of the U.K.’s Mercury Award, for its first album in a decade, “Allelujah! Don’t Bent! Ascend!.”

The band decided to take the roughly $30,000 that comes with the prize and use it to buy instruments for school children, but otherwise, after a few niceties, told the Polaris Prize committee why they were so boneheaded to even be thinking about albums when the world is going to hell in a hand basket. The tone, of course, is relatively polite because, well, they're Canadians.

In a missive posted on the website of its label, Constellation, the band wrote:

3 quick bullet-points that almost anybody could agree on maybe=

-holding a gala during a time of austerity and normalized decline is a weird thing to do.

-organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn’t serve the cause of righteous music at all.

-asking the toyota motor company to help cover the tab for that gala, during a summer where the melting northern ice caps are live-streaming on the internet, IS FUCKING INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.

But as we mentioned, Godspeed had some nice things to saw before the 8-member collective lowered the boom. Here’s the letter in its entirety:


hello kanada.?

hello kanadian music-writers.

thanks for the nomination thanks for the prize- it feels nice to be acknowledged by the Troubled Motherland when we so often feel orphaned here. and much respect for all y’all who write about local bands, who blow that horn loudly- because that trumpeting is crucial and necessary and important.

and much respect to the freelancers especially, because freelancing is a hard fucking gig, and almost all of us are freelancers now, right? falling and scrambling and hustling through these difficult times?

so yes, we are grateful, and yes we are humble and we are shy to complain when we’ve been acknowledged thusly- BUT HOLY SHIT AND HOLY COW- we’ve been plowing our field on the margins of weird culture for almost 20 years now, and “this scene is pretty cool but what it really fucking needs is an awards show” is not a thought that’s ever crossed our minds.

3 quick bullet-points that almost anybody could agree on maybe=

-holding a gala during a time of austerity and normalized decline is a weird thing to do.

-organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn’t serve the cause of righteous music at all.

-asking the toyota motor company to help cover the tab for that gala, during a summer where the melting northern ice caps are live-streaming on the internet, IS FUCKING INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.

these are hard times for everybody. and musicians’ blues are pretty low on the list of things in need of urgent correction BUT AND BUT if the point of this prize and party is acknowledging music-labor performed in the name of something other than quick money, well then maybe the next celebration should happen in a cruddier hall, without the corporate banners and culture overlords. and maybe a party thusly is long overdue- it would be truly nice to enjoy that hang, somewhere sometime where the point wasn’t just lazy money patting itself on the back.

give the money to the kids let ‘em put on their own goddamn parties, give the money to the olds and let them try to write opuses in spite of, but let the muchmusic videostars fight it out in the inconsequential middle, without gov’t. culture-money in their pockets.

us we’re gonna use the money to try to set up a program so that prisoners in quebec have musical instruments if they need them…

amen and amen.

apologies for being such bores,?we love you so much / our country is fucked,
godspeed you! black emperor

What do you think? Were they right to lambast the committee?


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Cote de Pablo: Leaving 'NCIS' wasn't planned -- it was 'personal'

Cote de Pablo: Leaving "NCIS" wasn't planned -- it was "personal"
She wouldn't divulge details to TV Guide, only saying: "As far as my decision to leave, that's a personal thing, and I'd rather leave it at that," she says. "The idea of leaving was not something I toyed around with for a long time. It was an overwhelmingly hard thing — at times terrifying."

Anna Gunn: Why I looked so thin at the Emmys

"I was actually ill while I was filming the show and it affected my weight," the "Breaking Bad" star tells People. "They gave me cortisone and I puffed up and gained weight. Now I'm better, thank God."

"Boy Meets World" debuted 20 years ago today
"It was a silly show," says Kevin Fallon "It never did particularly well in the ratings. It wasn’t particularly well reviewed. But those who watched loved it. Twenty years later, they still do. A lot."

Ellen Pompeo: My comments criticizing the Emmys weren't supposed to be made public
Nevertheless, the "Grey's Anatomy" star is sticking by her criticism of the award show's lack of diversity, even though she says they were made off the record.

Cancer-stricken teen who died had a big impact on this week's "Breaking Bad"
Kevin Cordasco, 16, told Vince Gilligan what he wanted to see. And Gilligan made it happen in "Granite State."

Check out "Homeland" -- The Musical"
Above Average Productions takes on the Showtime series.

Krysten Ritter: I'm rooting for Walter White even after he killed off my "Breaking Bad" character

"In this case," she explains, "it's as if I've forgotten I'm the actress who played Jane. You'd think I'd bear Walt some serious ill will considering he sat there and watched Jane die, but I'm still rooting for everything to work out for the guy."

Seth Meyers doesn't know if he'll stay on "SNL" the full season

A decision has yet to be made, he says, adding that he was surprised that Lorne Michaels hinted at him staying on Weekend Update in an interview with the NY Times.

Miley Cyrus: My VMA performance could've been much more controversial

"Honestly, that was our MTV version," she tells Rolling Stone. "We could have even gone further, but we didn't. I thought that's what the VMAs were all about! It's not the Grammys or the Oscars. You're not supposed to show up in a gown, Vanna White-style. It's supposed to be fun!"

"Walking Dead" alum joins "Shameless"
James Allen McCune, who appeared on Season 2 of the AMC hit, joins Season 4 of "Shameless" with actress Danika Yarosh.

Aziz Ansari promoting his standup special with Bugles?

Watch the promo he shot with Seth Rogen.

TBS offered a peek at post-"Conan" talk show "The Pete Holmes Show"

Pete Holmes makes debut Oct. 28.

NFL stars often do very well on "Dancing," but not this year

This year, it was the NFLer, former wide receiver and ESPN star Keyshawn Johnson, who was eliminated first.

Watch Gina Gershon in "House of Versace" trailer

The Lifetime film premieres Oct. 5.

HBO buys comedy from "The Newsroom's" Emily Mortimer
"Doll & Em" is a semi-autobiographical comedy based on her real-life best friend.

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 202

Dan and Alan talk 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,' 'Dexter' finale, 'Breaking Bad' and more


Happy Tuesday, Boys & Girls.
We went podcast-less yesterday due to Alan's ongoing hospital adventures -- He's improving! -- and also because of communication SNAFUs caused by Gmail problems. Sorry!
But we've got you covered today, with a fairly long podcast that includes brief chatter about Sunday's Emmys, reviews of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.IE.L.D.," "Trophy Wife," "The Goldbergs," "Lucky 7" and "Back in the Game," plus discussion of Sunday's weak "Dexter" finale and strong "Breaking Bad" penultimate episode.
Maybe we'll have one more podcast later this week. We'd like to have one more podcast this week. However: Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht.
Here's today's breakdown:
Emmys (00:01:10 - 00:13:45)
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.IE.L.D." (00:14:00 - 00:23:50)
"The Goldbergs" (00:23:55 - 00:28:45)
"Trophy Wife" (00:28:50 - 00:35:30)
"Lucky 7" (00:35:35 - 0043:25)
"Back in the Game" (00:43:30 - 00:48:50)
"Dexter" finale (00:49:15 - 01:04:30)
"Breaking Bad" (01:04:30 - 01:27:30) 

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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<p>Miley's new video honors Jordan</p>

Miley's new video honors Jordan

Credit: Vevo

Watch: Miley Cyrus pays tribute to Michael Jordan in Mike Will Made It's '23' video

High school sure has changed

Move along, there’s nothing to see here or, at least, nothing you haven’t already seen.  In Mike Will Made It’s video for “23” featuring  Miley Cyrus, Juicy J and Wiz Khalifa, the producer and his buddies take over a high school.

The song is ostensibly a tribute to Michael Jordan (23 was his now-retired number for the Chicago Bulls) and his shoes.

Yes, the guys are in the clip, but, let’s face it, all anyone is paying attention to is Cyrus, who wears cut up No. 23 Bulls jerseys in various revealing states. Of course the guys all manage to pay tribute to Jordan without having to wear tiny little shorts and rubbing their asses, because, well, that would look ridiculous.

So by now, seeing Cyrus with her legs spread, in very little clothing, sticking out her tongue, running her hand over the top of her head isn’t really anything new, but if you haven’t quite gotten enough yet, there’s plenty for you here. There are even a few quick shots of Cyrus with a foam finger just for continuity from her Video Music Awards performance, y’all.

Her rap carries the song, though Khalifa’s mad scientist routine is mildly amusing. We reckon that chemistry lab will blow up before 4th period.

So not that high school kids aren’t aware of all this stuff, but the video features Cyrus smoking cigarettes, references to Molly, pot, purple drank, and blow jobs. Just a typical day in the life of your average teen and we're sure it's exactly how Jordan would like to be honored.


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FX renews 'The Bridge'

FX renews "The Bridge"
Season 2 will air next summer, FX announced today.

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<p>Demi&aacute;n Bichir and Diane Kruger in &quot;The Bridge.&quot;</p>

Demián Bichir and Diane Kruger in "The Bridge."

Credit: FX

FX renews 'The Bridge' for season 2

Diane Kruger/Demian Bichir border cop drama has had uneven first season

FX has ordered a second season of "The Bridge," the cop drama set on the El Paso/Juarez border starring Diane Kruger and Demián Bichir.

Even by FX's patient standards, this is a pretty late renewal, with only two of the first season's 13 episodes still to air. I've been reviewing the show all summer, and while I like a lot of the performances and the way the show has dealt with the world on the border, season 1 went off the rails the last few weeks with the denouement of its evil serial killer mastermind story arc.

That said, there is excellent raw material here, and the serial killer stuff was largely adapted from the original "Bron," and simply didn't translate here. I've seen tomorrow night's episode, which gets back to a lot of what the show was dealing with in its early episodes, and it's much stronger than any other recent installment. It fits with what producers Meredith Stiehm and Elwood Reid have said is the direction they want the show to go in, and if that's the case, I'm back on board.

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