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Lupe Fiasco Talks The Cool, Cheeseburgers, Retirement
"I'm in a dark, melancholy mood. I'm not a happy camper right now."

Lupe Fiasco's got a mind that runs a mile a minute, and a mouth that can keep up with it. The sharp-tongued Chicago MC will follow-up last year's well-received Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor with Lupe Fiasco's The Cool, due December 18 from 1st & 15th/Atlantic. We phoned Lupe and did our best to keep up as he talked about the character-based concept behind The Cool, the album's darker hues, the infamous cheeseburger track, radio and comic book spin-offs, Child Rebel Soldiers, Cornel West, and his plans to "retire" after his third album.

There's a lot going on on The Cool, but the basic idea revolves around three previously mentioned characters-- what Lupe calls his "three evil angels"-- depicted in symbol form on the record's cryptogram cover. The first character, the Cool, is a zombie hustler of sorts based on the Food & Liquor song of the same name.

"I expand on the story," Lupe explained. "I introduce two other characters, the Game and the Streets. The Streets is a female. She's like the action personification of the streets, the street life, the call of the streets. The Game is the same way. The Game is the personification of the game. The pimp's game, the hustler's game, the con man's game, whatever."

He continued: "Then they've got supernatural characteristics. Like the Cool, his right hand is rotted away. The only thing that rotted away was his right hand. It represents the rotting away of his righteousness, of his good. And the Streets and the Cool kind of have a love affair going on. So she's represented by this locket. And the locket has a key and it's on fire. And as a gift to the Cool on his rise to fame, she gave him the key. And the key represents the key to the Streets. So she wears a locket around her neck at all times.

"And the way the story goes, she has given that key to tons of people throughout time. Al Capone, Alexander the Great, whatever. She's giving them the key to the Streets. Fame and fortune-- but also the prices.

"The Game, he's represented by a stripped-down skull, a skull with dice in his eyes and smoke coming out of his mouth. The billowing smoke is actually crack smoke."

"It's not a full concept album; it's more spread over like five [tracks], really abstractly."

It's also apparently going to spawn a franchise. According to Fiasco, there are plans afoot to spin The Cool into a horror-themed radio program, complete with Vincent Price-inspired voice-overs. "To really tell it," says Lupe. "Because I think it would be corny to try to be spooky on a hip-hop record. We're actually going to tell it as it is, like a horror psycho-thriller kind of situation."

Indeed, folks will notice a less-than-sunny vibe to the new disc on the whole. "This album was influenced more from the dark side. It's more because of the loss I experienced at the beginning of the year," Lupe explains, referring to the deaths of several loved ones. "I'm in a dark, melancholy mood. I'm not a happy camper right now."

After the radio show, according to Lupe, "we're going to do a comic book." [MORE...]

Mahjongg to Finally Issue New Record on K

The last time we spoke of Mahjongg (right after they'd signed up with K Records), Chicago's herkiest, jerkiest, motleyist crew of post-punkers, we mentioned how long it'd been since the last time we spoke of Mahjongg. That was nearly twelve months ago.

The time away from these pages has paid off in spades for the band, and-- like a well-played round of the game for which they're named-- Mahjongg have methodically stacked all their tiles and victoriously emerged with Kontpab, their sophomore set, due on K February 12.

A brief tour will go down next year in the weeks leading up to the album's release, with dates conveniently located under the jump. I guess this means goodbye for a little while, Mahjongg? Don't be strangers, now. [MORE...]

Blood on the Wall Ready Third Album
This album is brought to you by the letter "Z"

Blood on the Wall, that trio of Brooklyn buds (and, in Brad and Courtney Shanks' case, siblings) with impeccable taste, have combined their powers once again for their third full-length. In keeping with previous LP Awesomer's slightly askew but kinda great title, the album is called Liferz. The Social Registry will release the record on January 22.

And that's it! There's no news of tour dates or a Girl Talk remix or a green screen video contest in sight. Maybe that's kind of refreshing, but man, you three could at least play a couple shows, no? [MORE...]

Sufjan's Literary Event Back On for December 17

Well, that didn't take long. Sufjan Stevens' on-again, off-again PEN American Center-hosted literary event, originally scheduled to take place this past Wednesday, November 28, has been rescheduled. It's now taking place December 17 at Brooklyn's Southpaw. There, our boy Sufjan will chat with Wesley Stace, aka songwriter John Wesley Harding, in an evening hosted by author Rick Moody. (Thanks again to BrooklynVegan.)

This nice little tidbit brings us again to the Cliff's Notes edition of all that is Sufjan in late '07: he's fresh off "The BQE", he's got a little tour in the works, he's got some stuff up for auction tonight, and that song contest ends tomorrow. [MORE...]

Klaxons Go Crazy for France on Latest Single

And here you thought the last Klaxons release we reported about was a little bugged out. The latest single from the Mercury Prize-winning Myths of the Near Future is "As Above So Below", and though the single confounds many an expectation, it looks like it's plenty awesome regardless.

The A-side features a remix from Klaxons' pals Justice. And the b-side? It's Klaxons doing "As Above So Below" in French. Zut alors!

Oh, and though the single is out now, don't go running down to the record shop just yet, unless you live in France. Because that's the only place Because is releasing it (though it is available elsewhere on import).

So, to recap: it's a record sung partially in French, with a remix from a French dance act, sold only in France. Mais oui! Erm, rather than continuing to exhaust my single semester of middle school French, I'll just stick the Klaxons' current live schedule after the jump. [MORE...]

Foals Sign to Sub Pop in U.S.
Collaborate with Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) on single, album produced by David Sitek

Congratulations are in order for Oxford, England quintet Foals, who recently joined the Sub Pop stable of artists in the U.S. Hmm...between these guys and Band of Horses, Sub Pop's roster is looking more and more like an actual stable. Zing!

Thanks to Dominique Lazanski for the tip.

Foals recorded their debut album with TV on the Radio's David Sitek this summer, and the record's first single, "Balloons", is due in the UK via Transgressive Records on December 10. The single comes in four formats: download, CD, 7", and an etched 12" limited to 2000 copies. Featured on the latter is the first of a series of Foals collaborations with Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet. The other Foals/Hebden collaborations will also take the limited edition, etched 12" form accompanying the rest of the album's single releases.

Foals have quite a few dates in their feed bucket for both this year and next, continuing tonight, November 30, in Nottingham, England. [MORE...]

The Mars Volta Reveal Dates, Puzzling Download

As if their music weren't enough of a brainteaser, now the Mars Volta have made a puzzle of the cover art for their forthcoming fourth album, The Bedlam in Goliath (January 28 in the UK, January 29 in the U.S., via Universal). Anyone who solves the puzzle, which they have placed online here, also gets a free mp3 from the band.

The mp3, however, is not a track from Bedlam. It's a cover of the Circle Jerks' "Back Against the Wall" (the Mars Volta call it "Back Up Against the Wall"). Even weirder than an album cover puzzle: a minute-and-a-half-long Mars Volta track.

The puzzle took me 304 moves to complete (it's one of those annoying bastards where you can only move one piece at a time within a fixed square), so it doesn't seem like there's an upper limit at which point the download suddenly becomes unavailable. Never let it be said that the Mars Volta weren't plenty generous to the doofus population.

The band has also gone and supplemented its New Year's Eve show in San Francisco with a bunch of European shows in February and March. [MORE...]

The Mary Onettes Issue Debut in the States

Photo by Peter Mogensen

The Mary Onettes
list "mostly music from the eighties" as their only influence on their MySpace page, and, well, no one's gonna accuse them of any lack of self-awareness. The Swedish popmakers make some sweetly skuzzy sounds nestled somewhere between the stickiest new wave tunes and those early synthpop-indebted Magnetic Fields LPs, and their "Pleasure Songs" ought to please most ears already tickled by the recent Swedish explosion. The band's self-titled debut came out last year in their homeland, but is due in the U.S. December 11 on Labrador Records. The band recently wrapped a handful of Swedish dates, but no future shows are lined up. [MORE...]

The Teenagers Lust for Scarlett Johansson on Single
Indie girls still waiting for someone to pay musical tribute to Michael Cera

Ah, puppy love. Who hasn't felt its pleasurably painful pangs? And who better to communicate those feelings in MySpace-style "melodramatic popular song" than teenagers? No one, that's who, and that's where London/Paris trio the Teenagers come in.

The band's newest single, a follow-up to this year's "Homecoming", is "Starlett Johansson". It's a paean to indie heartthrob/Tom Waits interpreter Scarlett Johansson, and who's to say that when she's done hanging out with Bob Dylan, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, David Sitek, and Justin Timberlake, these three couldn't be next?

Okay, so it's unlikely the Teenagers will get any alone time with the actress, but at least the rest of us can join the fantasy on December 4, when XL releases the single.

Currently, the Teenagers are recording with producer Gordon Raphael (the Strokes), and they have a couple shows in the UK to close out the year. Then next year, they'll head over to North America for a tour in January/February. [MORE...]

Jackson Reissues Thriller With Kanye,, Akon
T-Pain feels left out

Michael Jackson's bazillion-selling Thriller album turns 25 today, but the folks at Epic/Legacy are giving themselves a few extra months to plot a party befitting such a milestone. On February 11 the world over, and the following day in the U.S., the label will issue Thriller - 25th Anniversary Edition, which features the original album boosted by the usual slew of unreleased tracks, rarities, and music videos. It's a must-own LP in any form, but this gets us especially excited: Kanye West will provide a remix of "Billie Jean" for the set. Sounds really good, doesn't it?

The disc also sports remixes of "P.Y.T." and "The Girl Is Mine" from, and a new take on "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" from and Akon. As for the strictly Jacko bonus material, this new Thriller has it in spades: Michael's original demo version of "Billie Jean", non-album tracks "Someone in the Dark" and "Carousel" (all available on 2001's Thriller Special Edition), and the previously unreleased "For All Time", recorded during the original Thriller sessions. The disc also includes a DVD featuring the iconic clips for "Thriller," "Beat It" and "Billie Jean", as well as Jackson's star-solidifying performance of "Billie Jean" from the "Motown 25" TV special in 1983. To top it off, Michael's checked in from CrazyworldNeverland to pen a "personal greeting" exclusively for this release.

In related news, rumors have been swirling that the Jackson Five will reunite for a tour next year. [MORE...]


Band of Horses Sandwich Tour With More Dates
All BoH sandwiches made with secret-recipe reverb

For Band of Horses' album, Cease to Begin is a fine name, but when it comes to their ever-expanding tour, we wish they'd make a reunited-hair-metal-band move and call it "The Cease to End Tour." (Dudes, we're totally willing to sell you that idea. Call us!)

The name is now even more accurate, as Band of Horses have added a big chunk of U.S. dates to go in between their previously reported New Year's shows and European dates in February and March.

Next up for the Horses is a December 14 performance on British TV show "Later With Jools Holland". And since it's finally seasonally appropriate, don't forget to pick up one of the band's Glass Casters Union charity ornaments for the old Christmas tree. [MORE...]


New Portishead Album Due in April

Photo by Grumpy Man DJs

We knew they were working on it, and then wrapping it up, and now we know they're actually going to release it this time. We even know approximately when! According to an Island Records rep, the as-yet-untitled new studio album from Portishead will arrive in April in the UK, a mere 10-odd years after the one before it. Patience pays, people!

The long-overdue full-length will be the Bristol trio's third. No word yet on a U.S. release, nor all those friendly details we like to pepper these pages with. Here's hoping they give it a better name than Alien, the rumored Portishead album title that was all the rage circa 2003.

Portishead will, of course, play two gigs at the upcoming Nightmare Before Christmas ATP event that they've also curated. Those visions of sugarplums turn deadly from December 7-9. Guitarist Adrian Utley is also set to join Goldfrapp's Will Gregory and others in Bristol and London over the next couple days to premiere Gregory's score for the silent film He Who Gets Slapped. [MORE...]
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Do you have a news tip for us? Anything crazy happen at a show you attended recently? Do you have inside info on the bands we cover? Is one of your favorite artists (that's not somebody you know personally) releasing a new record you'd like to see covered? You will remain completely anonymous, unless we are given your express permission to reveal your identity. (Please note that publicists, managers, booking agents, and other artist representatives are generally exempt from this rule, but will also be granted anonymity if requested.)


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